Here are some awesome tips and tricks from Michelle. Good luck in both the contest and the rest of your wedding planning! Thank you so much for your entry.
 
I struggled with the idea of a wedding for a lot of reasons. For one, I’m still in college, and my groom-to-be only just graduated. For another, a really small wedding just isn’t in the cards, as it’s important for us to have our families there, and the groom’s side of the family is huge. We will have to pay for the bulk of the wedding ourselves, and I’m a little terrified. Most of what little savings we have are being channeled into one day, and not only was I a little appalled by how much some weddings can cost; we don’t have the funds to have an all-out bash. I’m still in the early stages of planning, but I wanted to share with you what I have so far!
 
When we started planning, we sat down and considered what we could do without. By consuming less, we’re not only helping the environment; in many cases, we’ll also be saving money. High fives all around! Neither of us cares about a bouquet, a garter, a veil, wedding favors, boutonnieres, or paper save-the-dates, to name a few. We are not including response cards with the invitations, instead of inviting people to respond on our wedding website or to give us a call. We decided on a daytime wedding, between lunch and dinner, with heavy hors-d’oeuvres and a gorgeous cake spread. Besides saving on food, I won’t have to worry about escort cards. I plan on buying a used wedding dress and wearing fabulous black heels that I already own.
 
Finding little ways to save everywhere can add up, and it helps us remember that the wedding isn’t about what so-and-so had at theirs, but what’s really meaningful to us. I plan on borrowing whenever I can. I have a huge affinity for white Christmas lights, and since we’re getting married after Christmas, we are asking all our friends and relatives if we can borrow theirs. I’m also starting to know a lot of people who either have just gotten married or are planning to get married, and I plan on asking if I can borrow things they used in their wedding, like clear vases for centerpieces or white paper lanterns. At the very least, they may let me buy them for much cheaper than they had to! I am also involved in a not-for-profit organization that has a banquet every year, and they have their own white tablecloths. I’m asking to rent from them, and they’ll be much cheaper than anywhere else if they won’t let me borrow them for free.
 
Since I knew almost nothing about weddings before planning my own, I’ve done a lot of research. Blogs, of course, are extremely helpful, and books are another wonderful resource. If you read the right ones, they’ll keep things in perspective, so you won’t overspend on something you don’t need. There are lots of great ones out there, but my current read is The DIY Wedding: Celebrate Your Day Your Way by Kelly Bare. Kelly, a DIY bride herself, not only outlines how you can plan your wedding in a sane, organized, budget-friendly way but has a few easy and creative projects throughout the book. A tip I got from her was to choose your venue wisely. If you pick a beautiful venue from the start, you’ll need fewer decorations, which means less money spent. I also plan on negotiating prices. It doesn’t hurt to ask for a discount and can save a lot of money, especially on big-ticket items like the venue.
 
Of course, we are DIYing a lot. I like to design and food, so I’m tackling the invitations, programs, and the cake. My groom-to-be is a computer programmer, and he’s writing a photobooth program that we can run off his laptop. Not only will it be free, but it will also exactly suit our vision and needs. I briefly toyed with the idea of paper flowers, as they can be cheaper than real ones, but I realized that I really, truly love real flowers. So, to keep costs down, I will be arranging them myself. If it is cheaper than renting, I’m also willing to sew table runners and napkins. We will be our own DJ, playing music off our iPod, and we’re getting the advice from one of our friends, a professional DJ, about how to plan a reception’s worth of music.
 
Another small way I plan to stay on budget is to stay on top of what I’m spending. After some research, I constructed a budget on a spreadsheet. I plan on keeping track of everything I spend as soon as I spend it, so I know exactly what I’ve allotted for myself and what is out of my range. That way I can’t accidentally go over our budget.

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