In the year since I asked these 30 Days of Wedding Questions, I've learned a lot on my own, particularly when it comes to bargaining. Brides, never be afraid to ask if someone can better accommodate your budget. And wedding vendors, please be upfront. If you know someone's budget isn't what it needs to be to afford you, just say so. (I recently revealed our budget for a particular service to a vendor and exchanged a couple dozen emails with the vendor, only to receive a quote more than $1,000 more than our budget. No matter how you slice it, he wasted his time, and I wasted mine.)

I agree with this advice (offered by a Facebook friend): Go to bridal fairs. I won $100 off videography at the last wedding show I attended, and Story of Your Life (the company I co-own with my sister) distributed 10% off promo codes at the Boutique Bridal Bazaar this year to prospective clients.

As for straight discounts, hosting an off-season wedding (i.e., not during the spring, summer or fall) and hosting it on a Friday or Sunday can save you money. Also, one of my friends (who's also getting married this year) saved money by booking vendors located not in the big city, but in more remote cities. This is logical, given that the overhead costs, such as rent and taxes, in a place such as Cleveland are typically higher than more rural places.

Oriental Trading is great for inexpensive items (bridesmaid and groomsman gifts, for one) that include free personalization, another woman noted, and trust me, the wedding catalogs find a way of finding you. I probably have four or five here at home, and I never subscribed to a single one.

Another person noted that vocational schools offer their baking and hair-styling services at much lower prices than established vendors. And others said they saved by serving pie or cupcakes instead of cake (Steven and I are, too!; feast upon our flavors here), and serving buffet dinner rather than plated. Plated service requires more servers, and thus costs more.

Steven and I are planning on family-style service to avoid buffet lines; family-style puts serving platters of food on each table and has guests serve themselves.


Last but not least, one woman said her husband and she saved big on closing the bar during dinner. (They still served wine and champagne, though.)

Just a reminder: My officiant is offering a bargain. Free wedding ceremony service for anyone who contacts her, mentions The Bartering Bride blog and is getting married in the summer of 2013! See the details (and reasons why we contracted with Harleigh) here.

And, while I'm at it, Story of Your Life is offering 10% off for any project ordered by April 1. Email us here to get started.
 
 
Not a whole lot of feedback for this one, so if you're reading this and have something to add, add away.

One married friend of mine wrote a mere two words: "Better linens." Another said she'd liked the idea of having her bridesmaids hold clutches with decorative flowers instead of bouquets, only to nix the thought as too bold. She later saw the idea done on a television show.

I just researched nontraditional bouquets. Did you know there are button bouquets, doorknob bouquets and blackberry bouquets? Me neither. 

Kim, a wedding planner I know, mentioned she would have had more flowers. What was delivered was not what she expected when she placed her order -- a warning, probably, to all of us to be clear with any vendor about what we're to receive for what price.

Finally, two women mentioned candy buffets -- one who wished she'd done one, and one who said she is having one. 

I find it strange that this question didn't drum up more of a response because I ask this question of the handful of people I meet each week for my full-time job (even those who've been married for a decade or more), and they always seem to have an answer.

The question I ask them: If you had your wedding to plan all over again, what would you most certainly do again, and what would you do differently? One man replied that he would have hired a limo or other group transportation because not having it resulted in some delays in groomsmen and bridesmaids getting to various locations for photography.

Other people have told me that they regretted not having the time, or making enough of an effort, to greet each and every guest.


So, what about you? What do you still smile about doing on your big day, and what would you do differently in hindsight?
 
 
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? 

 
 
The nearly two dozen responses to this question revealed that a lot of people marry at a time of year that they've always loved. The Husband-To-Be and I are no different: We love fall. Football. The changing leaves in Northeast Ohio, accompanied by cooling temperatures. Halloween and frightening movies. It's our favorite time of year, and adding our wedding anniversary to it will make it even more so.

If you've got a date in mind, book early, many of my Facebook friends advised. The longer you wait, the more difficulty you may have in booking the church/pavilion/ceremony place you want AND the reception hall for the same day.

Others noted, too, that they were careful not to schedule their wedding too near holidays and birthdays, and one former colleague of mine noted it didn't hurt that her wedding date included her favorite number. There was one person who has what she calls a family date: the date her mother married and her mother's parents married. Pretty neat.

Others planned their date around their "dating anniversary." Remember to think about the weather, said one woman who did. Her groom had a sweaty time marrying her on their early August date. To that point, asking a venue about climate control (heat and air conditioning) is a must.

A sorority sister of mine gave this advice: "Our biggest lesson was flexibility so we could get the location and vendors we wanted. But it's all about your priorities -- if you want a specific date, you may have to sacrifice on some vendors who are already booked. Or, if you want a specific vendor(s), you'll need to be more flexible on the date."

I do the same: When asking a vendor about their services and/or interest in bartering, I almost always start with: Do you have our date available?

Other date-setting tips offered by the Facebook peanut gallery:
  • Booking your date on a Friday or Sunday can save you money.
  • Give thought to whether you passionately want a certain type of flower, and schedule your wedding when said flower is in season. I've learned through my conversations with our prospective florists that it can increase costs significantly if you're absolutely set on an off-season flower.

Speaking of wedding dates, our save-the-date proofs arrived today! My sister designed them for us, and we're printing them and our other wedding materials with a Groupon we bought for Vistaprint. The side with the picture is altered (for privacy's sake); at the bottom of the calendar on the ones we will send, we shared the location of our ceremony and reception and also wrote "formal invitation to follow."
If you like what you see, my sister is open to designing others... Email me, and I'll make sure she gets your request. My advice, even if you're working with another custom designer: Share images of invitations you like and give a general feel of what you like. Also, if you want to write copy like I did (I wrote the "poem" we used), it's probably best to give a designer that to begin with, too.