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When planning my own wedding, I read some very good advice about keeping to budget. Set your priorities together before you plan a single detail. What is it that you focus on in your daydreams for your wedding? How do you want to remember it, and how do you want your family and guests to remember it?

Write down your 3 or 4 priorities and refer to them on every decision. It is so easy to fall into the wedding industry craziness. Do you need personalized M&Ms with your names? Does this purchase support your priorities.

I’ll give you an example with my own wedding.

Our Priorities:

  • Family
  • Dancing
  • The ceremony
  • Eco Friendly

Family is the most important thing to me. I didn’t view my wedding as “My Day”, I viewed it as two families coming together. I am the first of my siblings to get married and Michael is an only child. Because of this, I felt this was as much a big day for our parents as it was for us. I also wanted as much family to be able to attend as possible. This led us to choosing our location: Dallas. While we lived in Chicago at the time, the majority of our family is in Texas and Oklahoma. Michael tempted me with the thought of a wedding in Hawaii, but I know that most of our family would have been unable to attend.

I have been dancing my whole life. I always knew I wanted swing dancing at my wedding. Having this as a priority led to expensive, but necessary lines in the budget. You have to have good music for dancing and I didn’t want a DJ. My mother was actually able to pull from her network to get a good deal on a jazz band. Worth every penny. Also, if dancing is your priority, you have to have an open bar and dinner. You might think that’s a given, but in Texas with our backgrounds it doesn’t have to be.

Some people want a ceremony to be short and sweet. That is not me. To us, the ceremony was an important religious experience. We had it in a church (Michael’s priority) and my grandfather officiated (my priority). We had an amazing organist at the church who was happy to learn five songs that were special to me for all parts of the ceremony. Michael’s cousin sang a benediction my high school choir sang at the end of every year.

I made my own invitations out of recycled paper. I’m sure there are better options on the market now for the eco friendly bride who still wants a chic look. It didn’t exist for me. I bought my dress from a Brides against Breast Cancer event. One way to have a “green” dress is by buying used. I went even further by buying a used dress that supported an amazing cause. I highly suggest you check out their dress events. It also was great on the budget, only $500.

So what did my priorities help me cut back on? We kept our guest list down to under 100 for dinner. Our priority was family and very close friends. We didn’t pay for large numbers of our parents’ friends who we didn’t know. I made my own flowers, with help from my aunt. My entire flower budget was under $300. I also made all the decorations. All. Did I mention I’m an artist? I really did too much. The cost of the “cake” was also very cheap. We did mini buntinis from Nothing Bundt Cake. A giant, elaborate cake was not a priority for us. Also, this allowed for multiple flavor options, and they were delicious. We had one 8 inch bundt cake to cut. My mom froze it for us and we had it on our one year anniversary. It was amazing; we ate the whole cake. Bundt is the way to go!

Remember, what I wrote above was my own priorities and experience with my wedding. Everyone is going to have their own priorities and don't let others judge you for it. I find setting your priorities at the beginning can be very grounding and helps from being overwhelmed by the wedding culture trying to tell you what you need. It could be that you have a perfect dress in your mind and that is where a larger part of your budget goes. Making your day about just you as a couple could be your direction or being married at the top of a mountain is most important. You plan around your wishes.

So I encourage you to name your top 3-4 priorities. Write them down and share them with your family so everyone is on the same page. Weddings can spiral out of control easily, hopefully you can keep your head.

Happy Planning!