The Bride With No Vendors

I don’t think it’s a secret that weddings are expensive. In fact, at www.costofwedding.com, you can enter your zip and come up with the average wedding cost in your city. For mine, it’s $35,140. Ouch.

When I got engaged, I knew that my budget would be a small fraction of the average wedding cost, so I immediately started scouring the internet and bridal magazines for cost-saving tips. It’s really ridiculous how many bridal magazines I’ve bought because the cover said “50 ways to save money on your wedding!!!” ”“ and yet, how much have I spent on the bridal magazines??

From all my scouring, I found some good, consistent tips:

  1. Get married off-season: approximately 70% of weddings are held between May and October ”“ so from November to April, vendors will be more willing to negotiate prices.
  2. Skip Saturday: since Saturdays are more popular, they usually have higher minimums and higher prices ”“ opting for a Friday, Sunday, or even any other weekday, could save you significant coinage.
  3. Cut down on guests: obviously, most prices are per person, so fewer people = fewer dollars spent. I didn’t have to tell you that.
  4. Skip dinner: people like to be fed, but most would be perfectly happy munching on hors d’oeuvres all night. Hors d’oeuvres are cheaper than dinner, so why not?
  5. Daylight wedding: just like Saturdays, evening weddings are the norm, so marrying earlier in the day can really cut costs ”“ especially because, who eats dinner at 11 am?

Like I said ”“ all great tips that I’ve heard again and again. But what happens when you want to get married in May, on a Saturday, with 130 guests, and a seated dinner in the evening???

Well, if you’re like me, you become: The Bride With No Vendors.

I exaggerate. I have a vendor ”“ because I have a venue. But aside from that, this wedding is oddly vendor-less.

  1. Photography: Mr. BG’s cousin’s husband is an amateur digital photographer ”“ and since he is SUPER AWESOME, he has agreed to shoot our wedding. I know that photography can be a huge expense for a lot of people because it’s hugely important to them (which I fully support). For us, I guess I just think ”“ not only do we have great confidence in our guy, but all of our guests will be coming, camera-in-hand, so I don’t think we’ll have trouble remembering what we looked like.
  2. Cake: As I’ve mentioned, I am making my own cake. The way I see it, cakes are meant to be eaten, so even if my own creation isn’t perfect, life will go on ”“ and do you know how CHEAP cake is? It’s 88 cents a box at Walmart!!!
  3. Flowers: I’ve bought my bulk vases, I’ve done my cost comparisons, and so when it comes time, I will be ordering my flowers from a wholesale flower distributor such as www.fiftyflowers.com.There are actually tons of sites that do wholesale flowers ”“ www.onlinewholesaleflowers.com, www.growersbox.com, and www.costco.com to name a few more. I can’t vouch for the quality, but I’ve heard good things about fiftyflowers, so I think that’s where I’m leaning.
  4. Music: I have no hesitations about jumping on this bandwagon ”“ Mr. BG and I will be putting on an iPod wedding (to be fair, Mr. BG’s mp3 player is made by Creative, but iPod is one of those words whose brand name has taken over for the generic ”“ like Kleenex or Q-tips). My brother and SIL pulled this off beautifully back in ’03, and now it’s our turn. In fact, this is Mr. BG’s big project, so wish him luck. J
  5. Invitations: This has been a lonnnng and difficult process. But I am proud to say that, for the cost of an inexpensive invitation, we’ve been able to put together a whole suite of paper goods ”“ Save the dates, invitations, insert cards, etc. ”“ that all match! And if you don’t have your heart set on letterpress (but believe me, I don’t blame you if you do), printing your own invitations can extremely cost-saving.
  6. Other: We have quite a few other projects going on ”“ favors, escort cards, programs, OOT bags, etc. ”“ but we’re finding deals all over the place, and it’s kind of nice!

As strange as it may sound, the DIY-intensity of this wedding has me surprisingly at ease. I don’t have to regularly call vendors to catch up. I’m not running from appointment to appointment. We’re doing as much as we can up-front, and we’ll be ridiculously busy right before the wedding, but personally, it puts me at ease to have this much control.

Anyone else skipping the vendor-madness to cut costs?

BLOGGER

Mrs. Bubblegum

Location:
Exeter, NH
Wedding Date:
May 2008
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  1. Member
    gaudior23 205 posts, Helper bee @ 10:36 am

    I’m DIYing invitations and flowers. I’m doing ice cream cakes – in sheets so I’m avoiding the appts with that.
    I wanted to get a friend to do the wedding because I’m on the same page – if we have some pictures that’s good enough. But I had to suck it up and get a photographer because I don’t have a cousin’s husband…
    Great for you ! Its nice to hear photography isn’t the end all and be all for someone else too. I feel like I’m missing the point sometimes in the discussions.

  2. Guest Icon Guest
    Tressie, Guest @ 11:10 am

    Yes, I am all about it! A wonderful art director friend has designed our invitations and programs. We are serving our favorite bite sized foods, and I am paying a family friend $100 to pull off the ipod dj:) I wanted to have a photo booth, but it was $1,800. So I am setting up a backdrop and having a friends take turns with Polaroids. I’m nervous about the DIY flowers- can’t decide on that one!

  3. Member
    Angel 1263 posts, Bumble bee @ 11:22 am

    I just wrote my very first article on saving money, and one of my tips was to cut back on the amount of wedding magazines. Those things are pricey!

    I didn’t have a lot of vendors either since I made my own cake, friends paid for flowers, limo, and first night hotel, I did my own invites we catered it differently (BBQ and potluck), my dress was ebay, and my bonus mom married us. I had a videographer/photographer and the venue. Everything else seemed to be outside the box which was kind of cool.

  4. Member
    MsShamrock 26 posts, Newbee @ 11:30 am

    I have a question: I would like to do my own flowers also, but I’m confused how this works. If I provide the flowers/vases, does my caterer or site coordinator put them together for me and set them out on the tables? Do I have the flowers delivered to the site the morning of the reception? Or am I going to be delivering and setting up flowers a few hours before I have to walk down the aisle? Or, if not me exactly, the bridesmaid who pulled the short straw???

  5. Guest Icon Guest
    mhb, Guest @ 11:32 am

    We did save-the-dates via e-mail, invitations through Costco (elegant, classy and cheap!), Wholesale flowers (got ours through organicbouquets.com – a little pricier, but I wanted to go organic), a friend made our beautiful, delicious cake, we didn’t have limos – my brother drove us from ceremony to reception in my car, two of my creative friends designed our centerpieces, which ended up costing about $4 per table – and turned out so beautifully, two other friends performed the ceremony music, and our DJ, though hired, was a friend of a friend who cost about a third of the going rate and was AWESOME!
    Oh, and no tux rentals: the guys (groom included) all wore black suits that they own.
    It ended up being a group effort, which I think made the party that much more fun!
    We did hire a photographer, an affordable up-and-comer I found on Craigslist – but we also strongly encouraged friends to take pictures, and we have hundreds of great shots, as well as a video my brother decided to film at the last minute.
    If you have a couple of trusty friends helping you out, you’ll have a blast! Good luck!

  6. Guest Icon Guest
    Joyful2, Guest @ 11:54 am

    Another tip – get married in the early afternoon. That way you don’t have to feed your guests a meal. We’re planning a 2pm wedding with a finger food reception.

  7. Member
    briannie 273 posts, Helper bee @ 12:22 pm

    We’re DIY all of our paper goods (STDs, invites, programs, placecards, favor bags/tags/stickers and menus… if we even do menus). Our good friend/groomsman is a computer animator and is gonna design them for free! Just gotta buy the cardstock from Paper Source or Michael’s and get them printed off at Kinko’s.

    We might DIY centerpieces, but not all floral. I want perfect bouquets and bouts for myself, FI, the wedding party, and our parents, and I’m not willing to risk that with my non-existant flower arranging skills.

    Our ceremony will also be DIY! This one kind of worries me… the venue we’re having it at doesn’t have a ceremony fee, but they’re also not including anything… not even chairs! So we might have chairs, pillows, benches… our friend also got ordained online and so we’re figuring out everything on our own. Luckily, it’ll only be a 10-15 minute ceremony, so it shouldn’t be TOO difficult.

  8. Member
    tea 2410 posts, Buzzing bee @ 12:41 pm

    i plan on diying the paper products as well. if we get married in my home state, our ceremony venue [my home church] will be free so that’s a huge help. my sister has been hinting around about doing our cake [she's a trained pastry chef] plus i know another awesome baker as well. i am thinking about doing our own centerpieces while outsourcing the bouquets and stuff. i’m basically going to try to do as much as i can on my own and then hiring the professionals for the other stuff.

    that and i just borrow wedding mags from friends or read them at the bookstore so i don’t have to buy them. lol.

  9. Member
    tberry 488 posts, Helper bee @ 12:44 pm

    I am DIYing as much as possible. We are doing our own flowers and invitations (programs, etc). We are making our own favors and so many other things. We are not IPod savy so we will probably have someone else do the music and I want a professional photog since that is really important to me. We haven’t settled on a caterer yet, but if ours does not include the cake we will be DIYing that too!

  10. Member
    peony 314 posts, Helper bee @ 1:04 pm

    Haha when I entered the zip code where I live into that website it came out to about $45k….when I entered the zip code where I’m getting married……. $102,240!!!!! OMG.

  11. Guest Icon Guest
    Brandi, Guest @ 1:08 pm

    We’re DIY with our little urban family as much as we can. The venue is a friend’s house, all the guests will be the photographer (we have some art-piece like ideas for that as well), several friends have offered to help with the food (though we’re still exploring the options). I’m going to utilize the LA flower market for the flowers, it’s great to have options like that available. I want this day to truly reflect who we are, in all our dorky glory and the only way to guarantee that is to have our hands in as much as possible.

  12. Member
    staceyb 262 posts, Helper bee @ 1:08 pm

    I’m DIYing almost everything because we’re paying for almost everything… we’re doing the dress, cake, invitations, centerpieces, favors, iPod music… we were getting a friend to do photography, but my dad started worrying about having pictures, so he hired a photographer, but that’s all on him. :)

    the only thing we have a vendor for is the ceremony site (our church), and then the reception site, which comes with a caterer. :) it’s good for me not to have choices… and to be doing everything myself. not only does it save us money, it lets me be picky! :)

  13. Guest Icon Guest
    Fox&theHound, Guest @ 1:13 pm

    I did 90% of the flowers DIY. I would suggest to anyone looking to go that route to check out your local farmer’s market for flower vendors. I was able to get mini calla, oriental lilies, dahlias, and peonies all for a fraction of the cost of buying them through a floral shop even a wholesale one.

    I did the BM bouquets, the corsages, the bouts, the centerpieces, and some of the ceremony decor. I had our florist do my bouquet, the head table arrangements, and some of the ceremony flowers. I also bought some spider mums from our florist. At first I was having a hard time finding a florist that would let me DIY most of the flowers but I found an up and coming florist shop that was very helpful and even gave me some tips. My grandma was a florist so I used to make corsages when I was over at her house.

    I specifically picked 5 different types of white flowers so that if any one kind wasn’t blooming at that time I could just get more or less of a different kind. That’s what ended up happening. The peonies bloomed early (my wedding was in late June) so I ordered more of the other flowers and no one was the wiser. Also, by staying with one color per vase makes “messing up” a centerpiece almost impossible.

    We put everything together the day before the wedding. The centerpieces were made really fast with the couple people I had over to help. The bouts and corsages took a little longer because they are more involved and because I was the only one making them. We put the bouts and corsages in the fridge and put all 26 centerpieces on the kitchen floor and counter. We also cranked up the AC. My grandpa picked up everything the morning of the wedding and delivered it to the church. We had made holders for the centerpieces out of the top of boxes with the vase shape cut out of them. Since our reception was at the church hall everything was in one spot so it made setting everything up and getting ready easier.

    Sorry that took so long to explain. Everything turned out great though. You can see pictures in my knot bio (click the link from my name). I’m working on writting out how I did my DIY flowers since I’ve had so many questions about them. So hopefully I’ll have directions with pictures in my bio soon. I’ll post it on the WB boards if anyone is interested.

    Good luck on all your DIY projects!

    Robin

  14. Guest Icon Guest
    AMK, Guest @ 1:17 pm

    We had a small wedding, so we were able to skip the caterer. Our family cooked instead and we had a ton of great food at relatively low cost. My mother was my dressmaker and my sister made the bridesmaids’ dresses.

  15. Member
    beanchar 549 posts, Busy bee @ 1:20 pm

    I’m so impressed with all you are doing! I found some DIY wedding cake info that might be helpful here:

    http://www.wilton.com/wedding/cakeinfo/cakedata.cfm

    The Cake Mix Doctor (http://www.cakemixdoctor.com) has all kinds of info on fancying-up those 88 cent boxes and this tip for transporting cake on warm days:

    “refrigerate the cake until ready to move it, place it in a large box that fits the base of the cake but high enough that you can tape ice packs on the sides to keep the inside of the box cool”

  16. Guest Icon Guest
    sassyb2b, Guest @ 1:21 pm

    RE: online flower wholesalers. I found that my local florist could get me the same flowers for cheaper and without those minimum orders. I ordered a few weeks in advance, brought in a few buckets and collected my non arranged flowers. Plus you support local businesses. You would be surprised how cheap they can be without having them arranged.

  17. Member
    MissRojoOso 255 posts, Helper bee @ 1:26 pm

    Take out! I’m using my old catering chef for most of my reception, but I am using some Semi-Catered cheats. I’m not having a huge wedding (under 100) and it will be family style. I used to be a catering director so some things I don’t mind undertaking. Its all about presentation.

    1) pre-plated salad. Get your salad plates a day early, go to costo pre make your salad. Spritz with water, put a damp towel, wrap tightly with Seran Wrap on metal trays.

    2)Grocery store anti-pasta – Great for bulk then add a few chic items like figs, prosciutto, and expensive cheese

    3)Intermezzo- Hollowed out lemons from costco with lemon sorbet. Pack in single layer in a pizza box. Transport in a ice chest with dry ice.

    4)For my entree – Getting a few trays of Chakhokhbili delivered from my favorite russian restaurant. Their 1 serving actually feeds 2 and I’m not going to breath the word wedding.

  18. Guest Icon Guest
    sillyinphilly, Guest @ 1:32 pm

    we’re DIY-ing all the paper materials – stds, invites, programs, table and placecards, etc. Also the flowers for 2 bouquets and centerpieces (only 9, so not as big of a deal). Going the ipod route for the reception music. and my FMIL is baking a couple of her award winning pies to go along with a small wedding cake that we’re buying – we’re having a brunch reception and i like pie better, but had to have a compromise with FI. I’m letting my MOH pick out/sew whatever dress she wants and FI and his best man are wearing their own black suits. We did hire an awesome photographer through craigslist.com and booked our reception at a site that also includes catering. So, yeah, a few vendors, but very much DIY, too. Mostly to cut down on costs, but also cause I’m a huge artsy control freak.

  19. Guest Icon Guest
    lou, Guest @ 1:35 pm

    Making your own cake is fine, but please don’t make it out of a box! :o

  20. Member
    FoxtheHound 29 posts, Newbee @ 1:57 pm

    Um, don’t bother trying to look at my bio. I was just informed that Imagestation where I had my pictures uploaded to has shut down. I’ll have to redo my whole bio again. : (

  21. Guest Icon Guest
    Amanda, Guest @ 2:36 pm

    Those of you that are diy-ing food – how are you handling this with your venue? I’m interested in making my cake and some hors d’oeuvres, but all of the places I’ve looked at want food to be provided by a licensed caterer. Some won’t even allow you to bring in candy or mints from home.

  22. Guest Icon Guest
    Sarah, Guest @ 4:25 pm

    I was the photographer for a coworker’s wedding about two years ago. Another coworker did the food, one DJ’ed, one guy’s wife did the dress alterations, and one woman’s husband was the officiant. All the paper stuff she did on her home computer.

    I think she had a tent and rental company, and that’s it. And she’s just as married as I am, for a tiny fraction of the cost.

  23. Member
    julieulie 266 posts, Helper bee @ 4:27 pm

    My zipcode is $61,920. We’ll be coming in under (albeit only slightly under) and I’m still DIY-ing a lot of things to save money — making all my own invitations, made my own save-the-dates, made my own wedding website from scratch rather than “buy” one, crocheting all the yarmulkes rather than purchase them, etc. I can’t imagine how much our wedding would have totaled had I not been doing all that on my own to cut down on cost.

  24. Guest Icon Guest
    Lupakitty, Guest @ 5:01 pm

    Mrs. Bubblegum, you are my idol!
    We are going to try so hard to keep everything at a low cost. I can’t wait to see how your wedding turns out. :D

  25. Guest Icon Guest
    eringoblog, Guest @ 5:19 pm

    I think we have a lot in common!

    We are also going sans-DJ. We have a friend who is willing to keep an eye on the iPod/laptop for us, as well as serve as emcee when necessary.

    AND a friend is going to do our photos. She’s an excellent amateur digital photographer, and I’m very confident in her ability. I know lots of people have issues with this, but I’m not concerned!

    Our big cost is going to be food and drink, because I’m not willing to cut the guest list to a reasonable number. ;)

  26. Guest Icon Guest
    Stephanielee, Guest @ 5:23 pm

    Photographer – importing from Phoenix, AZ to Minnesota for a heck of a lot cheaper

    Music – friends make up the ceremony string music; iPod for the reception; renting a sound system

    Flowers – http://www.flowerbud.com (I’m really excited about this)

    Cake – Renting a chocolate fountain for cheaper, having a friend make the cake “to cut”

    Paper stuff – through my connections, buying stamps will almost be more expensive than what I’m paying for STDs and invitations combined!

  27. Guest Icon Guest
    cindy, Guest @ 8:22 pm

    My own wedding was extremely DIY. I wore my Mom’s dress, was married by family members, music and photography was provided by friends, and as a graphic designer it was no problem to design my own invites, centerpeices, favors, etc.

    However, I’ve seen the flipside of hiring non-pros for weddings at some other weddings I’ve worked at. I’ve seen the remnants of a wedding cake done by someone’s aunt that melted and imploded on the way to the venue. It was not baked correctly. The only pictures that could be taken were of the topper. We’ve attended a wedding where the groom’s sister volunteered to be the photographer. She had no backup gear or even batteries and her battery ran out during the processional. We’ve heard countless people complain about wedding photographers who were friends and the images were very poor quality. And, we were once hired for a wedding where a friend “photographer” backed out less than 2 weeks before the wedding. So I think it’s great to be creative and DIY with your wedding plans, but consider hiring professionals for some of the areas that are most important to you.

  28. Guest Icon Guest
    Liene, Guest @ 9:25 pm

    Ms. Shamrock – your caterer/site coordinator will most likely NOT put together your flowers for you. They may be willing to set them out on tables, but definitely check and get it in writing before going that route. If you do DIY flowers, it will be you and/or your bridesmaids/family doing it the day before and the day of your wedding. Also check to see if you can put them together at the venue – chances are you will have to arrange them at your home (or wherever you are staying) and transport them to the wedding site yourself.

  29. Guest Icon Guest
    Weddingbee » Blog Archive » Watercooler, Guest @ 1:09 pm

    [...] The Bride With No Vendors by Miss Bubblegum, Welcome To Engaged by Mrs. Peppermint [...]

  30. Member
    sphbride 154 posts, Blushing bee @ 9:45 pm

    Holy smokey, for my zip code is $42K. I think mine comes out to be around $17K. I think I’ll be saving because I rented city owned park & community center instead of luxury hotel or other places specialized in weddings.

  31. Member
    meelahj 134 posts, Blushing bee @ 8:30 pm

    two friends of ours are doing all of the paper stuff (invitations, place cards, programs, STD, table numbers, etc)…

    my aunt is making the cake :)

    my dad and my friend’s husband are amateur photographers that have done weddings and other events so they will be handling the photography…my friend’s husband will do the ceremony since my dad will be walking me down the aisle…and my dad will be doing everything else…

    one of my dad’s friend is the videographer…

    we’re putting together the centerpieces ourselves…they’re wheatgrass so it shouldn’t be a problem…

    a friend is doubling as wedding singer (to sing the Lord’s prayer) and hair dresser (and possibly makeup artist)…

    another friend who DJs in the area is going to be our DJ…

    the only thing i’m up in the air about are the flowers…all we need is 1 bouquet, 10 bouts, and 3 corsages…it seems doable but i’m not sure how confident i am…

    oh, and how can i forget, my FH’s father is our officiant….

  32. Guest Icon Guest
    aa, Guest @ 1:13 am

    I’m a photographer based in the NYC metro area. please visit my site for my portfolio and book me for excellent wedding coverage. Thx!

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