Thus far, in our year of wedding planning, I'd say we've done pretty well in keeping wasteful spending to a minimum. In fact, with the exception of a blue sweater I bought for our engagement shoot that I didn't end up wearing more than twice, I'm not sure we have wasted money. 

People who've been there, done that, certainly had viewpoints on which wedding expenditures are a waste. Favors were cited most often. And one friend replied: "Speaking as a server, imprinted cocktail napkins, matches, etc. Anything that gets thrown out anyway. And really think about whether people will actually take your favor home and do something with it. When the favors are flimsy, people leave them and we end up throwing them out at the end of the night."

The only wedding favors I still have serve as jewelry storage on my dresser, so I guess they're serving a purpose. But, I hope no one paid an arm and a leg for them.

The husband-to-be and I decided early on not to do favors. In lieu of favors, and right along the lines of others' suggestions, we will donate to the Cleveland Animal Protective League. It would have been enough that we're both animal lovers. But, not long after Steven moved in with me, we adopted this ridiculously sweet cat -- whom we renamed Cora -- from the organization:
Can you stand it?! She even fetches her toys. Like a dog.

Our thinking: If we can help ensure that other animals are cared for until they find their forever homes, it's a much better expenditure than favors.

And, she's not the only adorable animal inspiring this donation. This is Charlie, whom I adopted five years ago from a Pennsylvania farmhouse. When it's cold outside and the radiators are hissing, we know where to find him, lol.
Back to the topic at hand: Where else have others realized that a wedding expenditure was a waste of money? One woman said hiring a limo (because she just found it to be unnecessary), and another journalist friend of mine called the sit-down dinner a waste.

It surprised me how many people chimed in to say they agreed. Here I was, thinking we'd be lepers if we dared have buffet dinner service, and here they were, saying nix dinner altogether. They said this namely based on what they say their friends' preferences are (to get up and mingle, rather than wait for dinner to be served) and they said this because from their perspective, the typical rubber chicken, vegetable and starch isn't memorable and isn't worth the price you pay.

After a lot of thought and deliberation, and a big change in our plans, Steven and I have chosen our caterer and decided our menu. More about that on the blog soon.

I've learned that a lot of wedding planning follows the old adage, "to each his own." If you don't want to serve dinner, don't, but make sure you say so in your invitations, my peanut gallery advised. Guests who show up hungry for dinner only to find finger foods may end up hungry later, and leave earlier. (To that point, you also should include it in your invites if your event is adults-only and if it's outside so guests can plan accordingly, I'm told.)

Another Facebook friend of mine said that spending a lot on invitations doesn't make sense to her because most will throw them away. I've been lucky to have a sister who's a designer who crafted my invitations as her gift to us, and I've ordered them on Vistaprint using Groupons. Keep your eyes out: Vistaprint Groupons are offered fairly frequently.

Other former brides also noted that they purchased their gowns at David's Bridal rather than potentially spending more at private boutiques, and a few urged me not to overspend on a veil because a person can make one pretty cheaply or borrow one. One man also suggested we make our own decorations (in the works!) and host our ceremony and reception at one venue (presumably because it saves on transportation and because it's more convenient for guests). We're doing that, too.

One of my favorite responses was this one, from a former colleague of mine who actually threw a surprise wedding when she married: "The good news is that guests really appreciate anything that makes the wedding unique."

What was the most unique touch to a wedding you've ever seen?
It's striking the number of times I go to share one of the 30 Days of Wedding Questions I wrote last year, only to find that the topic and advice are really relevant to decisions Steven and I are making right now. Re-reading the advice of others, I want to share a realization this Type A bride came to recently:

Go with the flow. Listen to vendors when they tell you your expectations are unrealistic, or when they disagree with something you want done. Listen to YOURSELF, too, even if it means making changes with only months to go. We just changed our menu plans and our bridesmaid dress colors, one, because we listened to a caterer who asserted that our initial plan would result in guests waiting up to 40 minutes to eat (yikes!), and two, because Steven and I (and my bridesmaids) agreed that plum seemed a bit ... gloomy. I'll reveal more about the much brighter color we've chosen instead on my blog in coming weeks.

Enough about me; you came here for advice! 
  • Choose colors that reflect you two -- your favorite color, for example. One woman chose flowers, too, that reflected the blooms associated with her sorority and her groom's fraternity.
  • Keep your venue in mind when selecting your colors. Don't choose a color for the dresses and tables that would clash with the room. The same person advised me to beware of demanding a specific type of flower because you could end up spending a fortune to get a specific flower if it's out of season. Additionally, be careful about the size of your bouquets: They get heavy for your bridesmaids and you during the ceremony.
  • One woman went with ivory and navy because they're timeless colors, and had textured florals in the bouquets, such as berries and hydrangeas. The florist I'm thisclose to contracting with is doing something similar for me. The same woman said in hindsight, she probably would have included more flowers with a bigger pop of color against the dresses, even if they weren't her official wedding colors.
  • Another said she went with black and ivory to keep it classy and to save money because her groom and she didn't need to upgrade napkins, tablecloths and other items to be coordinating colors. Plus, she said it was easier to find decorations in ivory and black, and more options resulted in better pricing.
  • Consider time of year, too. Blues, silvers and whites are fitting for winter, for one.
  • I liked this idea: One couple went with orange and blue, but they didn't limit themselves to just one shade of each color, opting instead to incorporate the whole spectrum of the colors.
  • As for bridesmaid dresses, one person recommended having straps because they make for a more comfortable top for more body types. Another bride said she had her girls wear black dresses because they're classic and so versatile. She had red flowers, too.
  • Here's a response you don't hear every day: One friend chose her colors based on her husband's kilt. He's Scottish. "Everything we did was a direct reflection of us," she wrote. "We did buckeyes for a favor because he loves OSU football and I love chocolate. These little things made the day that much more special!"
  • Choosing dresses based more on their fit than on their color worked well, one woman noted. Her groom and she named each table after significant places in their relationship. "That was pretty much our strategy for a lot of decisions: to make them meaningful to us so the wedding was reflective of who we are together," she explained.

It's a good reminder for me. I don't want to become so consumed and obsessed with our theme that we don't have elements of the day that make guests smile and reflect, "That's totally those two."

How are you making your day YOU, or how did you make it very you? 

Coincidentally, I'm posting this bridesmaid-related question only weeks after I asked my little sister to be my maid of honor and went dress shopping with my girls. Drawing from my own experience being a maid of honor a few years ago and from my experience as a bride so far, here are a few tips of my own:

  • Be grateful that your friends and family are willing to take on the cost and responsibility of being a bridesmaid or maid of honor. Also, be clear about your expectations for them. I've already explained to my maid of honor that I expect her to pay for a stretch Hummer and to hand-capture doves for releasing. (I'm also being a tad sarcastic here.) In seriousness, I do intend to ask my bridesmaids if I may delegate certain tasks to them, such as arranging for breakfast on our big day. 
  • Bring drinks, snacks and even meals when you're asking your bridesmaids to spend a large portion of their day with you. It demonstrates to them that you've thought about the time commitment and appreciate them. Besides, a well-fed woman is a happy woman, at least from my point of view. ;]
  • As I wrote in my bridesmaid blog, I individually asked the girls what they wanted to spend on dresses so that no one felt awkward saying it in front of everyone else. Then, I provided the number to our dress consultant.

Plenty of other people offered insights on this topic, too:
  • Letting the bridesmaids choose different styles and colors is an option that has a lot of fans, that's for sure. "That way, everyone (looks) about the same, but each (gets) to add their own flair to the party," one of my friends wrote. She's been in four weddings. That said, one person said it looked "awful" when a bride left color selection to her maids, only to have two in lilac, a third in dark purple and another in a third shade.
  • Another former bride encouraged me to keep budgets in mind and noted that a number of bridal and menswear stores offer discounts to attendants if the bride or groom has purchased their getup from said stores. (David's Bridal offers a $20 discount to each bridesmaid if the bride has purchased her gown there, for example.)
  • My bridesmaid, Amy, said she's seen brides simply name a color and ask their bridesmaids to choose a dress that was their style. While Amy said these brides always asked to see the dresses before purchase, others noted they've known brides who required no pre-approval. One friend of mine said a bride she knew tied mismatched dresses together with a matching sash. (Oh, and another useful tip: Some bridesmaid dresses are two pieces, which improves the likelihood that one or both pieces can and will be worn again.)
  • A recent maid of honor couldn't believe how expensive a "no-frills" shower cost. She said it cost $400 for 40 guests, even with them cooking the food themselves. Given a do-over, she would have had a restaurant cater the event, she noted.
  • As for shoes, if you want to spare your bridesmaids and groomsmen additional cost, ask them to wear shoes of a common color, such as black, that they may already own. Also, a lot of women said they purchased matching jewelry for their maids, and others said they gifted their bridesmaids a day at the spa to get their hair, makeup and nails done for the wedding day.
  • When I asked on Facebook for less predictable bridesmaid dress options, one person suggested taking one's bridesmaids to a vintage store. Pick an era, she suggested, rather than a color or style.

Your turn, former bridesmaids and groomsmen: What made participating in someone's wedding day a fun event for you, and what made it less enjoyable?
The advice that rolled in:

*Be sure to sit down in the dresses you're considering. You'll want to be comfortable while seated, too.
*While it's beautiful, heavy beading at the top of a dress can be a pain, literally. One woman said her sister's underarms were RAW because of her gown's beading. Yikes!
*Make sure the dress is easy to pick up (for restroom break purposes). I do believe I failed myself on this one, but I also believe it'll be worth it. :]
*One woman wrote, "Do not let them talk you into that undergarment garbage!" She noted that a good dress fits a body without the need for those things.
*A former boss of mine advised me (and other brides-to-be, since this has never been just about me) to not limit oneself to bridal boutiques. A friend of hers, she said, found her dress at Nordstrom. This former boss also mentioned that she'd just sold her dress, something I think I might consider if Steven and I do not commit to a tradition of wearing our wedding wardrobes once every year or five years.
*A wedding planner I know, Angela Wish of A Wedding Wish, suggested not using the alterations department in the bridal shop itself. Way overpriced, she advised.
*Finally, another girl mentioned that she's heard a number of brides complain about how heavy their gowns were.

What would you add?