Planning an Eco-Indie Wedding

Archive for the ‘Budgeting’ Category

You probably remember the extensive list of cost-cutting wedding ideas I posted, thanks to Snippet + Ink. Though very crafty, Martha Stewart isn’t always the biggest promoter of money-saving concepts. Delightfully, that seems to be changing, by way of her 50 Ways to Trim Your Budget list on Martha Stewart Weddings.

Here are some of my favorites (many of which do overlap my previously-posted list):


  • Limit alcoholic beverages to wine and beer, choices that will satisfy most of your guests.
  • Breakfasts, brunches, and afternoon teas are usually more affordable than evening receptions: They’re shorter, the fare is lighter, and guests tend to consume less liquor early in the day.
  • Buy your own wine wholesale. You’ll pay your caterer a corkage fee to pour it, but wine purchased through him can cost twice as much.
  • Most merchants offer a 10-percent discount for buying wine by the case, and they’ll often increase that if you purchase several cases at once.
  • If your caterer’s contract will permit it, hire an outside baker to provide the wedding cake. Even though you’ll have to pay a cake-cutting charge, you will likely pay less overall if you shop around.
  • Use expensive ingredients, such as lobster, in hors d’oeuvres rather than in a main course.
  • Dispense with a separate dessert course, and just present the wedding cake as dessert with coffee and tea to end the meal.
  • Order a moderately priced, plainly decorated cake, and make the focal point the cake topper. Vintage bride-and-groom figurines, wedding bells, horseshoes, a basket filled with fruit, or a pair of doves (from an antiques shop or handmade) are classic symbols that can make a cake memorable.
  • Instead of pouring Champagne all night long, serve just a single glass to each guest at the appropriate time to toast the bride and groom.

Flowers +Decorations

  • Mix berries, pinecones (for winter), and other economical nonfloral embellishments among costlier blooms to fill out bouquets and displays.
  • Bowls or compotes filled with seasonal fruits from a farmer’s market can take the place of expensive floral presentations.
  • A single pillar candle in a hurricane lantern is a wonderful centerpiece, as is a casual display of votive candles in the middle of a table.
  • Flowering bulbs — amaryllis, narcissus, and hyacinth among them — often cost less than regular flowers and are dramatic rising from a layer of stones set in clear containers.
  • Your florist won’t have to supply vases for your centerpieces if you have a collection of containers, such as jelly jars or milk jugs. Filled with flowers, such vessels make pretty displays.

Other Budget Tips

  • Try to keep the number of attendants as small as possible: The larger the bridal party, the more you’ll spend for gifts and flowers.
  • To minimize the guest list, refrain from inviting children and coworkers. Include your friends’ significant others but not casual dates.
  • Before signing a contract with your caterer, photographer, or florist, try to negotiate a lower, yet still reasonable price.
  • Borrow accessories from family and friends instead of buying them; this can also provide your “something borrowed.”
  • Ask talented friends or relatives to help with your wedding. An artistic friend, for instance, might design your stationery, or a baking enthusiast could make cupcakes or cookie favors.
  • The nicest wedding sites — parks, museums, public gardens — may be the most affordable.
  • Pay wedding costs with a credit card to earn frequent-flyer miles toward your honeymoon. Just make sure to avoid incurring interest charges by paying the balance in full each month.
  • After the event, donate your flowers to a hospital or nursing home; it’s a thoughtful thing to do and also a tax deduction.

Budgeting has been one of the biggest things on my mind lately. With the locations that we hope to hold the wedding at, wardrobe, the reception … this is all quickly adding up to cost over $10,000. Yes, it is a very special day that we will remember for the rest of our lives … but that is still really f*cking expensive!

I have oodles of ideas on how to cut down on costs, but I still want to be able to have a memorable shindig that doesn’t look completely bare bones and, well, unfriendly.

If I wanted to have a fantastically cheap wedding (we’re talking under $3,000 for everything), I could … but I can guarantee I wouldn’t enjoy it. It is not about spending money, I know, but it is about having a day that you feel like is a true celebration of your love. For some of us, that means having great food, a beautiful setting, fresh flowers, sustainable wedding rings, and more.

Despite all that, I’m still inspired by an article I found recently on Portovert – a fantastic “green wedding” website. Called “How to Have a Freegan Wedding“, it is all about being eco-friendly and cheap at the same time. Some of their suggestions for things like invitations, wedding dresses, and flowers make perfect sense, though they do require a bit more DIY on my part (though that isn’t necessarily terrible, of course).

I have to say that some of their suggestions are a bit tough to swallow though. Take locations, where they suggest a backyard or public lands. A great idea, to be sure, but it doesn’t factor in the cost of having to rent tables, chairs, linens, and all the other stuff that is nearly essential for a wedding – that all has to come from somewhere and I know most people don’t have 80 extra chairs in their garage.

There are countless good ideas out there when it comes to lower wedding costs – everything, and I mean everything, can be cheaper if you want it to be. Dropping costs usually means doing more and more yourself than hiring someone to do it for you, so you have to consider how much your own time is worth and be honest about you, your family, and your friends skills when it comes to arranging flowers, cooking, sewing, penmanship … etc.

I do know that one reason I still think so much about the budget is because my fiance and I haven’t talked to either of our parents about how much they will be willing to help with costs. A big factor I know, and once we move back to Connecticut on January 14th, it will be one of the main topics on the agenda (after we get out apartment unpacked). My older sister went to the courthouse and got married – no family, no party, nothing. This will (likely) be the only wedding my mom will get to plan for her kids, so on that note I have a feeling she will definitely want to help out … but I don’t make any assumptions when it comes to money these days.

[Image courtey of Portovert]

Yup, you read that right – I’m writing about my admiration for Snippet & Ink again. Along with their massive collection of inspiration boards, Kathryn of Snippet & Ink also has an extremely useful section of affordable ideas of weddings.

Here’s a collection of my favorite concepts and tips that might work well for the type of wedding we are planning:

  • Branches are a dramatic element that won’t really increase costs. If you don’t want natural branches, just spray paint them the color of your choice.
  • Serving hors d’oeuvres in place of a sit down dinner will definitely save you money. Just make sure to state on your invite that it’s a cocktail reception, and to hold it late enough in the evening that guests have time to get dinner on their own. You can either set up a buffet, several buffet stations, or have servers pass food. (We plan on having a lunch-time wedding, so we’ll definitely have to serve something to eat, but it doesn’t have to be a lot.)
  • Save with one miniature cupcake for each guest, instead of an elaborate tiered cake. (We already plan on having a cupcake tower – yay!)
  • When you have a cocktail party instead of a sit-down dinner, you can fit more people into the same space, which should really increase your venue options. The more options you have, the more likely you are to find a good deal. (The only problem – I don’t drink, but I know everyone else would.)
  • Marijke of Enfin, La Voila! makes the most whimsical invitations, perfect for a garden wedding, and some for as little as $3 apiece.
  • At a brunch wedding, there’s no need to have an open bar. All you need are a twist on the classic mimosa (grapefruit, blood orange, tangerine, or passion fruit are some ideas) and Bloody Mary’s. You’ll save not only by offering fewer alcoholic choices, but also because people tend to drink less earlier in the day. (The ceremony is at 11:30 am, so this is uber helpful!)
  • Ballet flats are just more comfortable! There’s really no need to spend a fortune on shoes for your wedding day, and you save even more if you buy a pair that you can wear again and again. (I actually already planned on this, particularly because my boyfriend is already a few inches shorter than me.)
  • Paper cones are an easy do-it-yourself project, and having guests toss rose or bougainvillea petals is not only pretty, it’s cost-conscious (about $1 per cup of petals). (I like this idea a lot – I know where to get great lavender that can be thrown.)
  • In-season fruit is significantly cheaper than many flowers, and makes sense at a brunch reception. (Since it will be May during the wedding, we’ll have lots of great in-season options for both decorating and eating.)
  • Paper lanterns are one cheap way to decorate, and they’re even better with the added touch of butterflies. Tissue paper poms are another affordable decoration that add lots of color to your venue. (The ceremony is going to be outside and the ceremony might be as well – this is a fun idea.)
  • This idea is sweet, simple, and inexpensive. Clean out two large mayonnaise jars (the economy size) and label one “Take A Wish” and the other “Give A Wish.” Fill the first with folded notes from the couple (or quotes, song lyrics, etc.), and have paper and pens for guests to write notes and place them in the second jar.
  • Whether you have 20 guests or 200 at your ceremony, you can limit your number of attendants. This means fewer bouquets, corsages and boutonnieres, not to mention several friends who will love you for not making them wear matching outfits. (My plan is to have a small wedding [less than 100 people], so this matches that plan perfectly.)
  • Have you always dreamed of wearing a designer gown for your wedding? Then go with a white evening gown (which are usually $1200-900) instead of a bridal gown.
  • Invite just your immediate family to your ceremony, and then have the rest of your guests celebrate with you at the reception. City Hall is one choice, but even at a church, in a garden, or on a beach, having a very small ceremony saves you money on flowers, chair rentals, etc. You and your new spouse will have plenty of time to enjoy being newly married before the party starts, as well as to take portraits without stressing about keeping your guests waiting. (This is exactly what I want to do – keyword: I. My boyfriend has a big family and he is pretty intent on having as many as possible there. I’m going to see how he takes to this idea.)
  • Splurge on your photographer. A good one will capture the uniqueness and beauty in your wedding, no matter how much you spent on flowers or a dress. (Love it!)
  • A cake and punch reception is obviously going to be cheaper than serving a full meal. Not only are you saving on the cost of food and alcohol, but you’re saving by having a reception earlier in the day, and most likely for a shorter time (which means paying vendors for fewer hours).
  • Giving yourself time for do-it-yourself projects will keep costs down. These pinwheels act as seating cards and favors, and your ring pillow is an easy sewing project (or at least easy enough to convince your sewing machine-savvy friend to take it on).
  • For a casual reception, there’s nothing wrong with using your iPod to DJ for you. If you don’t feel confident in your own abilities to create an appropriate playlist, check out Audiostiles – they’ll create a 4-hour playlist for $200, and you’ll have it as a fun keepsake of your wedding day. Instead of renting a fancy car for your getaway, see if you can borrow something fun from a friend – generally anything vintage will make for fun photos, no matter how funky.
  • By hiring an alternative caterer, such as a burger or taco truck, you can feed your guests for as little as $10 per person (check out’s list of ideas). A clever idea for hors d’oeuvres is to fill a clean planter with crudites and dip so that it looks like a miniature vegetable garden, and it will double as a centerpiece. Simple cupcakes are generally cheaper than a tiered wedding cake, and easier to make yourself (you can freeze unfrosted cupcakes for up to three months – for tips go here). If you go with a candy buffet, save by choosing candy you can buy in bulk. You could even use a jar of candy as a centerpiece at each table. (We’d definitely have to have the wedding close to NYC for the “alternative caterer” idea. The candy buffet probably won’t work for us because my fiance really wants to cut a cake of some sort.)
  • Splurge on the venue. Not only will your guests notice a beautiful venue more than they’ll notice most other details, but a special location requires far less embellishment than a more common one. In general, think about your priorities, figure out what they are, and splurge there. (I’ve been having a hard time deciding on what 1 or few things to splurge on … but the location seems like a very logical one.
  • Instead of elaborate centerpieces, make your own by filling milk glass containers, which you can find for as little as 50-cents apiece on eBay, in antique stores or at flea markets, with a variety of live herbs. Potted herbs can be found at your local nursery, or you can even think ahead and grow them yourself. Use them in your kitchen after the wedding (or give them as gifts to attendants). Another idea is to fill regular household items, such as a cupcake tin, with moss or baby tears.
  • Lunch receptions are a good way to save money: they tend to be shorter and guests tend to eat and drink less than at dinner receptions. Taco trucks and burger carts aren’t the only alternative catering options out there. A panini grill or crepe maker would be fun, and slightly more refined, options. Let guests pick up side dishes at a buffet. To have your cake and eat it too, have one small elaborately decorated cake to display, and sheet cakes in the same flavor to serve to your guests. Buy sparkling lemonade or natural sodas in bulk and arrange them at the bar with skinny straws. (Love love love this idea – very helpful!)
  • If you hold your wedding in a beautiful garden, there’s not much you need to do in terms of decorating, but if you want to, use garden appropriate items such as vintage watering cans and planters. A sweet birdhouse is a unique place for guests to drop small notes of good wishes. Don’t underestimate the simple folding garden chair, which will cost significantly less to rent than Chivari or bentwood chairs, and which will really just blend in to the venue. Once the ceremony is over, let the chairs do double duty by moving them to the tables for lunch. (I want to have the wedding near water or in a garden, so this idea is also helpful.)
  • Garden-themed rubber stamps are a cost effective way to embellish seating cards and other stationery, and even if you don’t have calligraphy skills, writing out names by hand in simple all-capital letters is an attractive alternative – and if your handwriting is illegible, employ someone who is willing to help out to take on this task. Another calligraphy alternative is to print addresses in fun fonts on wrap-around labels for your invitations, which you can find here and here for about 30-cents apiece. (Love the stamp and label idea!)
  • Save on a DJ or band, by having fun activities for your guests instead of dancing. Ask them to bring kites and set up a game of horseshoes or badminton. If you have a knack for sewing, you can make your own picnic blankets.
  • Set the tone for a playful, casual wedding with an invitation meant to look like a hand-written note. Either use your own handwriting, or employ someone with handwriting you like to do it for you, then have it printed and mail it out in a colorful envelope. Simple ceremony programs are trimmed with pinking scissors and tied with ric-rac to give them a fun touch. (It is going to be tough to mix modern casual with vintage fancy tradition, but I think this is a great way to bridge the two at once.)
  • Cover the tables with white butcher paper, and place a bundle of crayons at each seat for guests to doodle. The crayons can even double as a favor. Another fun idea is to set up a photobooth area for guests with a large empty frame in it. (Love both of these ideas! I had really wanted to get a vintage photobooth for the reception, but it is a few thousand dollars; this is a great alternative.)
  • It is always cheaper to print in one color than two (or four), but borrow a tip from the talented ladies at Bird & Banner, and stitch a line of colorful thread across the top of your invites for a little something extra. For your seating cards, sit down in front of a movie and stamp away, using rubber stamps to spell out your guests’ first names. If you feel really ambitious, stamp one letter in color (maybe just the letter “R” or something like that). (Both ideas are fun and playful, just like the elementary school we first met at.)
  • For a detail that’s both charming and cheap, sew little packets of birdseed or confetti for guests to toss as you walk back down the aisle as a married couple. (A creative alternative to the previously-mentioned paper cones.)
  • An afternoon tea is tucked neatly in between lunch and dinner, so you won’t need as much food as you might for another type of reception. Dainty finger sandwiches and scones with jam and cream will look pretty on a tiered tea tray (which can do double-duty as a centerpiece), or you can go with a buffet. Petits fours are an appropriate, and cheaper, alternative to a formal wedding cake. And of course, you’ll want to serve several types of tea. (I love love love this idea, especially since we already plan on having our close friends from SF’s Vital Tea Leaf serving tea at the wedding.)

Holy hell – this ended up being a massively long post! THANK YOU YET AGAIN, SNIPPET & INK! You may have just saved my fiance and I thousands of dollars!