Some brides dream of their wedding day from the time they're old enough to play dress-up. Some even start making plans before they're engaged. But plenty of couples find themselves wanting to get married on a time-table that doesn't allow for meticulous planning.
If you're planning a wedding -- whether three weeks or three months out -- here are some challenges you'll face, and how to address them in a budget-friendly way. It's still one of the biggest days of your life, no matter how much time that goes into planning, and you deserve to have the most memorable and beautiful event you can imagine.
Challenge #1 - Venue
One of your biggest challenges will be finding a venue that's not already booked. However, you may find that some of the most economical places to marry aren't traditional wedding venues. Think private homes, city parks and even city hall. Contact your local visitors' bureau for ideas.
Challenge #2 - Dress
You won't have much time for alterations, which are costly anyway, so pick a dress that fits off the rack. David's Bridal often has a clearance section where you can pick a dress for $99. A bride friend of mine purchased two dresses off eBay in different sizes and simply returned the one that didn't fit. The other fit perfectly. (Make sure to check return policies first.)
Challenge #3 - Photography
Since many wedding vendors, including photographers, often book up to a year in advance you might have trouble finding one available on your day. Ask for recommendations from friends, but don't overlook local college students, who are more likely to shoot your wedding on a dime, work really hard and try newer, more modern treatments on your photos (if you'd like).
Challenge #4 - Food
The reception is always the most expensive and hard-to-plan-for part of your big day, so take the sting out by getting married in between meal times (afternoon, perhaps) and giving your reception a theme: like a dessert buffet. Or stick with cake, punch and simple finger foods. Instead of using a catering service, order from a local grocery store or, like bride Becki Fowler, from a big box retailer like Costco. "Everyone was surprised to hear our wedding was catered by Costco!" she told the retailer.
Challenge #5 - Registry
If you're marrying in a hurry, you probably don't have time to think about setting up a traditional registry. Spread the word among family and friends that you'd really appreciate cash (perhaps toward a large purchase you're hoping to make), or sign up for a gift card wedding registry at CardAvenue, where you can select gift cards to hundreds of national chains, like Home Depot or Crate&Barrel.
Challenge #6 - Officiant
If your state laws allow it, have a mutual friend get certified online. Other states let you marry yourselves but you can still have a friend (not certified) conduct the ceremony. Just check the appropriate box and the marriage license and voila! Husband and wife.
Challenge #7 - Flowers
Pick up stems from the grocery store or florist (which are cheaper than a formal bouquet) and arrange in mason jars (look at stores like Big Lots or Walmart for discount jars). Hand-tie bouquets to save on costly arranging.
Challenge #8 - Invitations
There's no shame in your game if you use e-vites or Facebook to get the word out about your last-minute wedding and ditch mailed invitations. Evite.com has some great designs to elegantly convey your message without the cost. Keep in mind some folks might not use email or social media (like Grandma), so delegate a family member to make the necessary phone calls to relay the details.
Challenge #9 - Guest List
After the wedding you can send out formal wedding announcements (with a pretty photo from the big day) to everyone you know, but keep the big day itself small. The smaller your guest list, the cheaper your wedding will be, the less stress it will be to plan and the more intimately it will be remembered. If you want to include a large crowd in your celebration, organize a reception party when you have more time.
Challenge #10 - Travel
Don't feel pressured to jet off to your dream honeymoon when you barely have time (and money) to plan your wedding day. Just wait. Take your time to plan your dream vacation when funds are replenished and you've got the space to relax, plan and enjoy.
Additional Budget-Friendly Wedding Resources:
Weddings expert Cara Davis is the author of Cheap Ways to Tie the Knot and blogs from her home in Orlando, FL, about cheap ways to spend and save at CheapWaysTo.com.
I'm a former 7th grade Science teacher turned stay-at-home mom that lives in Houston, Texas. I am married to my college sweetheart and have a beautiful daughter named Riley, who definitely keeps me on my toes! I am also involved in starting a small business which would both manufacture and sell an invention that I've patented, called Toothpaste 2 Go. I love interacting with my readers and hope to learn as much about you as you learn about me!