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As an Editor for the Southern Weddings’ team, I’ve had the privilege of making Southern Weddings and chatting about Dating Well on the blog. Since getting engaged almost three months ago, I’ve gotten to experience Southern Weddings’ from a new perspective: a bride-to-be!

Emily will be the first to tell you I’ve always been a closet crier, and I often find myself tearing up reading our real wedding interviews or watching a wedding day video. But flipping through the pages of our tenth anniversary issue as a bride-to-be this year was different. For the first time I was imagining OUR wedding and OUR marriage, and let’s just say I used quite a few tissues during our launch season!

My fiancé, Logan, and I got engaged on October 21, 2017 while apple-picking in the NC mountains, and we’re planning an April 14, 2018 wedding. You likely just did the math on your fingers, and thought, “Wow, that’s quick!” Indeed! It’s been a whirlwind of planning a wedding, adjusting to a new city in a new state, continuing to serve in my job, and preparing for marriage–not just a wedding–alongside my fiancé, Logan. Our shorter engagement season has helped us learn how to prioritize what’s most important to us, and it’s teaching us skills that we know we’ll carry into our marriage.

Knowing we were working on a shorter timeframe, I’ve developed an even deeper affection for our Joyful Wedding Planner! It’s been my right-hand guide for this entire wedding-planning process! Whether you’re already engaged or have a sneaky suspicion that ring is coming (no one has to know; mine was tucked under my couch and if Logan ever saw it I’d just chalk it up to needing it for work!), go ahead and snag one for yourself from our shop!

Our very first wedding planning conversation? The budget! While both sets of our parents are generously contributing to our wedding, we are paying for the majority of our big day ourselves. It’s important to note that we established our budget based on the amount of money we have, not the amount things cost. While we hope our wedding day is a celebration of our marriage, we also know it’s one day, and we want to be good stewards of both our finances and the finances of our families. No one day, no matter how happy, is worth starting our marriage off on the wrong foot financially.

Identifying our biggest priorities early on was a huge help in determining where to direct our attention, time, and budget. Our goal for our wedding is to celebrate our marriage and say thank you to all of those who have loved and supported us–both individually and as a couple–over the years!

To better help us do that, we’ve been running each of our financial decisions through a few questions we came up with to help us align our budget and priorities:

  • What is motivating this decision? Is it what we want, or are we doing it because others expect it?
  • Will this make people feel loved?
  • Will this have a lasting impact?
  • Does this say “thank you” to people?
  • Is this a place we can save money and add value elsewhere?

These questions have helped us choose most of our vendors: our venue and caterer, our photographer, our florist, our paper goods, our bakery, and many more!

In the same way that Logan and I are trying to be good stewards of our finances throughout wedding planning, we also know that vendors are doing the same. Approaching each potential vendor with a grateful heart and without expectation has helped us graciously ask for referrals if they are out of our budget.

As my coworker Emily says, it’s possible to have a wedding on any budget, but it’s not possible to have any wedding on any budget. At the end of the day, regardless of budget, your wedding will be gorgeous and meaningful and memorable because you at are the center of it–blissfully happy and in love–no matter how much you spend or don’t spend, and that is what your guests will remember years from now!

I’d love to hear from you! What areas of your wedding did you prioritize in your budget, and why? Is there anything you wish you’d prioritized differently?

Written with love by Jess Metcalf
  1. avatar Emilee Renwick reply

    Jess!! April 14 is my birthday! It is always my favorite time not only because of the obvious, but because in the spring the whole world blooms! Baby animals are born, flowers begin popping up and the Lord is risen!
    Thank you for these 5 big questions! My fiance and I are just now going over all things budget and guest list so this is beyond helpful.
    Happy planning and much joy to you both!

    • avatar Jess Metcalf reply

      How fun, Emilee! I’ll have some cake on April 14th to celebrate you! I’m so grateful it was helpful, and I wish you and your fiancé the best! What a sweet season!

  2. avatar Brittany Worthen reply

    Love love LOVE this post! When Ryan and I got married back in 2010, we had a very small budget and we knew we were going to have to make some very hard decisions for our wedding. We knew we wanted beautiful photos, but we couldn’t afford a top-tier photographer. Thankfully, we found an up-and-coming boyfriend and girlfriend photo team that absolutely crushed it and we LOVED our wedding photos! Also, considering Ryan had started his own wedding video business back in 2004, his wedding gift to me was to surprise me by hiring a wedding videographer friend of his to capture our day and that footage is such a treasure to us today!

    • avatar Jess Metcalf reply

      What a great way to save money, Brittany! And what a sweet gift from Ryan! I’m so grateful you’ll forever have that memory of your celebration on film!

  3. avatar Taylor reply

    I’m currently planning a wedding too, I got engaged November 18! I love the southern weddings planner, my fiance and I had no idea about the different wedding costs and this is so helpful! We are prioritizing the guest list, with big families a small wedding wasn’t an option so we knew catering would be a large part of our budget. To compensate we chose other areas we could save on. And a coiple things to splurge on!

    • avatar Jess Metcalf reply

      Sounds like you and I might be planning the same wedding, Taylor! Lots of family on both sides makes cutting the guest list difficult, but we’re finding other areas to save (like florals!). I’m so excited for you and your fiancé!

  4. avatar Katie reply

    What are your wedding must have priorities? What is a good budget to start with?

    • avatar Jess Metcalf reply

      Hi, Katie! Great question! Our top priorities are a photographer and venue/catering (the venue we chose includes a great restaurant that handles catering). I’ll be sharing more about those two choices in my next post! Our Joyful Wedding Planner offers a great suggested budget breakdown, but your final budget will depend on a lot of factors. The surefire easiest way to cut your budget? Cutting your guest list! It’s hard, but the savings will add up!

Southern Weddings reserves the right to delete comments which contain profanity or personal attacks or seek to promote a business unrelated to the post.  And remember: a good attitude is like kudzu – it spreads.  We love hearing your kind thoughts!

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To round out the last few weeks of wedding budget advice (in honor of our newest e-book!), we’re going straight to the source: the smart, talented, creative, resourceful couples that grace our site day in and day out! I combed through several years of real wedding interviews to find 20 of my favorite ways our readers have saved money on their weddings, allowing them to have the celebrations of their dreams without sacrificing their budgets. Whether you’re a DIY-er or not, I know there’s an idea (or two!) here that will get your wheels turning!

Photo by Kelli Durham from Elle and Kegan’s wedding

“Rather than hire a popular cake baker, we hired a local lady who makes delicious cakes! She saved us a fortune!” – Elle and Kegan

“I found it helpful to make a dream ‘wishlist’ of things, from special foods to flowers to specific materials you want to incorporate into the weekend, and see it all listed out in one place. From there, it’s easier to figure out what you can afford to let go of and what’s an absolute must-have. The vendors are experts, so if there’s something you don’t want to compromise on but you don’t have the budget for, they likely have another idea on how to get the same point across for less money.” – Brent and Graham

Photo by Anna Paschal from Olivia and Scott’s wedding

“Having a custom invitation suite and calligraphed envelopes was really important to me. In order to stay within my budget for invitations and paper, I decided to forgo paper items like individual menus and programs. I also decided to learn the art of modern calligraphy so I could address the invitations, create the place cards, and hand-paint the table numbers and signage myself. I walked away from my wedding day with the man of my dreams and a new skill to boot! – Olivia and Scott

“We used a ticket system for our bar, where every guest was given three drinks. After that, they could purchase more (or use a friend’s ticket)! This was great because it allowed us to serve our guests while also having a budget and no surprises.” – Whitney and David

Photo by Jenna McElroy from Madeline and Jordan’s wedding

“We used acrylic plates, flatware, and cups, as well as paper napkins (cute ones, of course). I couldn’t even remember this stuff from other weddings I had attended, so I felt it was a great way to cut costs. I also did not make programs for our ceremony. Instead of lots of florals for our ceremony background, I chose to spend only $300 having a banner made, and used it as our only ceremony decor. I felt that God’s creation surrounding us in the Texas Hill Country was the best decor we could have asked for.” – Madeline and Jordan

“For the ceremony, we used a lot of greenery and candles for the front of the church, instead of large floral arrangements. Central Presbyterian Church’s sanctuary has massive, colorful stained-glass windows throughout and lots of natural light, vaulted ceilings, and large lanterns; it’s a beautiful place and didn’t need much extra.” – Anne Elise and Nick

Photo by Jennings King from Kristen and Rick’s wedding

“We married on a Friday evening and saved an enormous amount! I also replaced some florals with lanterns (and pineapples, of course!). Lastly, instead of renting a dance floor, we arranged the tables so that there was enough space to dance on the venue’s existing patio.” – Kristen and Rick

“Music is very important to Andrew especially, and we went with a DJ over a live band to cut costs; however, with a live performance for our first dance and the harpist at our ceremony, we were able to get the feeling of live music without a band’s price tag. Our first dance was performed by Andrew’s brother-in-law, professional musician Will Evans. “Life is Just a Photograph” is one of our longtime favorite songs written by Will, and it speaks to lifelong love and commitment. It was very special and emotional to have one of our close family members perform this song live as we danced together for the first time as a married couple.” – Lauren and Andrew

Photo by Jen Fariello from Janie and Adam’s wedding

“We cut costs by choosing a venue in our family and performing the landscaping ourselves. We spent two months beautifying the grounds of the house. Although we worked tirelessly, we recognized that any imperfections would hopefully just make the outcome even sweeter! We also cut costs by having close friends play the processional and recessional music, as well as by having an iPod and speakers for music at the cocktail hour.” – Janie and Adam

“There was a bride getting married at our venue the Monday following our wedding, so we tried to find ways to share items and split the costs. Our lighting company was nice enough to extend their pickup so we could do just that!” – Tracy and Ryne

Photo by Becca Lea from Callie and Chris’s wedding

“My grandma and mom made all of our napkins. They sewed fabric that fit into our blue color scheme and worked on them over the course of our engagement. My mom also started buying Walmart out of all their silver utensils so we would have plenty for our family-style meal without having to rent them.” – Callie and Chris

“One thing I did to save money was to do all of the hair and makeup myself! The morning of the wedding was so fun–we relaxed and the bridesmaids did each other’s makeup while I curled everyone’s hair, including my own. I’ve always been notorious for playing with my friends’ hair while hanging out, so why would I do it any differently on my wedding day?” – Julie and Jonathan

Photo by Elisabeth Carol from Brittany and Eric’s wedding

“We knew from the beginning that we wanted a small wedding with just our closest friends and family, and although our decision had nothing to do with cost, it ultimately did help out quite a bit. Since we had a much smaller guest list, it became easier to put the emphasis on the quality of the experience rather than the quantity of guests in attendance.” – Brittany and Eric

“A great feature of our venue was that we could bring in our own alcohol. Instead of doing an open bar with our caterer, Michael and I selected and bought all of the wine, champagne, liquor, beer, and specialty cocktails. Not only did this save money, but we were able to select top shelf and the drinks that we enjoy. What bottles we had leftover (since we definitely over bought), we were able to return to Total Wine and Costco for even more savings.” – Lauren and Michael

Photo by Sarah & Ben from Dacie and Dennis’ wedding

“We purchased all of the vases, glasses, and plates for the wedding. In addition to the fun look of it all, each item was less expensive than if we had rented it. My mom set a strict budget for each plate/ glass/etc. so we wouldn’t spend more than it would have cost to rent. The effect was great, cost-effective, and it gave us dishes to hold on to as a fond memory! – Dacie and Dennis

“Sterling and I decided early on what was important to us: a lively band, delicious Southern food and an open bar, transportation for all of our guests, and having the venue in Linville. Beyond that, our response to most decisions was, “Which is cheaper?” Sometimes, our moms had other opinions, but for the most part, we invested in the things we cared about and cut costs elsewhere. We also decided not to have a bridal party, which ended up being one of the best decisions we made. It allowed us to cut costs and save some headache around logistics (pictures, timelines, hair and makeup, dresses, gifts). But, most importantly, our amazing friends still made us feel so supported and loved throughout the whole process, and isn’t that the main reason for a bridal party? Whether or not to have a bridal party is a really personal decision, but one that proved right for Sterling and me over and over again.” – Leila and Sterling

Photo by Lynnesy Catron from Libby and Matt’s wedding

“My bridesmaids were amazing. They would come over for movie nights and sit on the floor putting programs together or helping to assemble table numbers. I would have been far more stressed and spent far more money without them!” – Libby and Matt

“One of the simplest but most effective ways we saved money at our wedding was prioritizing what I had always dreamed of including vs. things I had never given much thought to.” – Lindsay and Ty

Photo by Clark Brewer from Catherine and Hunter’s wedding

“We hosted our wedding on a Friday instead of a Saturday. This simple compromise cut our venue rental cost almost in half and saved us money on several other vendors. We also hired a food truck for dinner, which cut the catering cost per head in half.” – Monique and Tim

“We used my uncle’s Jeep Wrangler, the beloved car I drove during college, as our getaway car! It was a fun, lighthearted contrast to the more formal details of the wedding. We hopped in the car and took it for a drive down Broadway on our way out! – Catherine and Hunter

Elisabeth Carol is a delightful member of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

emily Written with love by Emily

Southern Weddings reserves the right to delete comments which contain profanity or personal attacks or seek to promote a business unrelated to the post.  And remember: a good attitude is like kudzu – it spreads.  We love hearing your kind thoughts!

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Did you feel a little shiver run down your spine just reading this post’s title? If so, you’re not alone! For many brides, talking to their parents about paying for their wedding is one of the most squirm-inducing parts of wedding planning, period. Not many of us love talking about money, anyway, and when you add in all of the emotions, hopes, and expectations around an event as significant as a wedding, well, things can get complicated fast!

The good news? As with most things in life, a grateful heart, a kind demeanor, and an insistence on believing the best about everyone involved will go a long way. Unless you’re set on paying for your wedding yourself or your parents have already told you they’re not able to contribute, this conversation is a must-do, so let’s get to our tips!

Photo by Sawyer Baird with styling and flowers by Blue Ribbon Vendor Jacin Fitzgerald from our ninth issue

First, unless they’ve told you otherwise, it’s helpful to start with the mindset that your families may or may not be willing or able to contribute, but that you are asking because it’s better to ask than to miss out! Here’s how you might start the conversation:

“Hi Mama! Now that we’ve been engaged for a few weeks, we’re excited to begin planning our wedding! We are really hoping to have a memorable celebration for all the people we love most. I’m not sure if you’ve given it any thought, so no need to answer today, but I was wondering if you and Dad are planning to contribute in some monetary way to our plans? We would be so grateful for whatever you’re able to offer!”

It could also be helpful to lead with what y’all are planning to pay for, so they understand you two are also invested in this experience.

Repeat this conversation with both your parents and your fiance’s parents – more than once if anyone is divorced – as well as grandparents, if applicable.

If your parents are looking for further direction or aren’t comfortable giving a lump sum, suggest they pay for a specific item or portion of the wedding (bonus points if you know it’s one that will be meaningful to them!). Try this: “Would it be possible for you to pay for the florist? We haven’t chosen a vendor yet, but the quotes we’ve gotten range from $1,500-$2,000.”

One final tip: It’s best to leave comparison out of this conversation – either with your siblings’ weddings, or your friends’. Trust that your parents will do their best to make things as fair as possible!

As you speak with each supporting party, make a note of their commitments (we have a handy worksheet for this in our wedding planner!). Once you’ve spoken with everyone and noted how much you and your groom will be contributing, you’ve got the beginnings of a budget!

I’d love to hear: if your parents helped pay for your wedding, did you initiate this conversation, or did they?

P.S. Looking for more wedding budget advice? I wrote our wedding budgeting e-book just for you!

emily Written with love by Emily
  1. avatar liam smith reply

    This is an interesting article is it is seldom discussed.

    My now wife and I had the same discussion with our parents, however we decided to approach it differently. We put together what we could afford and culled our guest list to just close family and friends. We then told our parents that any guests that they wanted to add they would have to pay for. It removed the awkward discussion of ‘how much can you give us’ and also placed the politics of who to invite in their hands.

  2. avatar Kirsti Cook reply

    My sweet mama initiated the conversation with my fiancé and I about two weeks after we got engaged and started looking at venues. The funny part during this process is that we are trying to stick as close as we can to our budget and my mama, bless her heart, always says “If it will make your day perfect, then just do it!” While we want to be gracious hosts to our guests, we also know that spending an arm and a leg on our wedding won’t effect our marriage so we are trying to keep it from spreading like kudzu!

Southern Weddings reserves the right to delete comments which contain profanity or personal attacks or seek to promote a business unrelated to the post.  And remember: a good attitude is like kudzu – it spreads.  We love hearing your kind thoughts!

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