by Ashton Borden
Cinderella ruined my idea of what a wedding should and/or could be. I was led to believe that I would be swept off of my feet by a hunk of a man and have the most beautiful, intricate details – diamonds, castles, cheering crowds, and most of all – magic. As it turns out, planning a wedding is very difficult, stressful, and there are constant looming financial calculations waiting behind the glimmer of catering, open bars, vendors, and gratuities, etc. Double that stress when you factor in the global pandemic destroying every shred of normalcy in our lives and waiting for the ring! I have found the man, yes – but it is awfully inconvenient of him to not have proposed yet, especially when I have gone to such lengths to ensure our wedding will be perfect! (Do not worry – he is totally on board. We are just broke twenty-somethings.)
If there was one positive outcome of quarantine, it must be that I was incredibly productive when it came to wedding planning. I scoured Pinterest boards for hours, I binged DIY décor and food videos on YouTube, and I watched. So. Much. Say Yes to the Dress. I have discovered all the elements that will make my day perfect and (relatively) affordable. Here is how I did it.
To plan your wedding, you must first be fully armed: before devoting countless hours to research, grab your preferred writing utensil, highlighters, and a trusty computer – you’ll be using Excel way more than you think.
1) Set a (somewhat) realistic budget and a timeframe for reaching monetary goals. You can finetune it later.
2) Determine what is most important to you. Do you have a specific dress in mind? Are you insistent upon a Tuscany wedding? Since I personally wanted to cut costs wherever possible, I ditched the cake. I don’t even eat it on my birthday – why would I pay thousands for one at my wedding? Hello, chocolate fountain!
3) Select a season and date range. This will help you select a venue. This was by far the most exciting part of my planning experience – I found the most beautiful castle in North Carolina that is nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains that is to-die-for: The Castle of Joy. I might have blown half the budget on it, but…it is a castle. Come on.
4) Draft a guest list. This is, in my opinion, one of the most important things to do first because this will determine nearly all other expenses. (Seriously, though – do not invite everyone you have ever met. Your wallet will thank you.)
1) Begin research with whatever is most important to you: I recommend the venue because this will eat at a large chunk of your budget and may cause you to rethink your guest list! (I’m looking at you, $8k castle).
2) Find your style.
3) Research vendors. It is imperative that you select 2-3 options in your area (or travel vendors, if applicable) in case your preferred vendors are unavailable on your selected date. These include caterers, bartenders, photographers, videographers, etc. ALWAYS keep in mind you do not have to utilize every service available. I am personally not interested in hiring a DJ. In my plans, I opted for renting audio equipment and having a playlist ready to go, but it truly does depend on the size of your event.
1) Contact vendors for pricing. You may conclude that some items are more important than others: spend more money on those; it will be worth it. I cut most floral décor and the cake from my budget: my venue offers its own décor that is included in the price, and I hate cake. Pretty simple!
2) Determine a theme and color palette (if desired).
3) Look into bridal accessories and wedding party gifts. Your wedding party will be helping you every step along the way – at the very least, buy them a bottle.
4) Determine the atmosphere of the event: will there be a strict schedule or loose structure? How should guests dress? Will there be seating charts? Seriously, Aunt Deb should not be anywhere near Uncle Rick. Please plot carefully.
5) Look into décor – does your venue offer décor items such as alters, floral arrangements, and/or lighting? My venue offers all the above! (Side note: I do wish I could cut a check from this free advertising I am doing for them, though).
1) Find a vendor for stationary design or create your own. I found several Etsy shops that create templates for you to buy and print to your customization that were relatively affordable, and extremely
1) Fine-tune details.
2) You are done! (Mostly. I do not know if you are ever truly done.)
Yes, I did all these things. Of course, I changed my mind 5 million times during the process, but you can totally do it all if you have a good vision and a knack for organization. Remember, each wedding is special and unique, and you do not have to check all these boxes to have an amazing wedding. It can be as simple or lavish as you would like, and that is the beauty of it all!
I had a great experience planning my wedding (perhaps because it’s not technically in sight yet and the bills don’t seem so real yet), and I hope this guide helps you as well. I don’t know though. Maybe there is a reason people spend a year planning these things. Happy planning!