Taryn, thank you so much for this awesome entry! I still can’t get my head wrapped around the fact that you are finishing college and planning a wedding at the same time, this girl deserves a medal! I love that you got your DJ for by “haggling,” and absolutely could not agree more with the advice that you give to other DIY Brides out there… it’s true; your wedding will be one of the best days of your life no matter what you spend! Good luck with everything!

My mother and father each have full-time, stressful jobs, and are currently putting two daughters through college while also carting my younger brother around to high school football practices and the such. Needless to say, when I sprung on them that I would be getting married in March of 2011, a mere 9 months away at the time, I swear I could hear through the phone the beads of sweat rising to my father’s forehead. While neither my mother nor father has ever said anything about a budget or put any restrictions to my dreams in any way at this point, I realized quickly that for my parent’s health and sanity it was important for me to do everything I could to stay within a budget. At this time my goal budget for our wedding day is $8000. When I first started this planning process, I thought this would be more than enough money to have a beautiful wedding. However, upon researching ceremony and reception sites, musicians, caterers, photographers and all the other vendors I thought I would need for the big day, I realized that having an $8000 wedding for 100 guests was going to be much more difficult than anticipated! After a couple of days of stress-eating and a few moments of seriously considering driving to Vegas to get married by Elvis himself, I came to the conclusion that I would find a way to make my budget work, even if it meant getting my hands dirty.

As my parents and siblings currently live in Massachusetts while I reside in Arizona with my fiancé as we finish up college at Arizona State University, I have had to handle the brunt of the wedding planning thus far. I learned early in the process that sometimes you have to shop around for the best deal. I had my heart set on a few different sites that could handle both my ceremony and reception, but everything was so expensive! I was just days away from signing a contract and sending in a deposit when I contacted ASU Karsten Golf Course in Tempe, Arizona. Their website had some information on hosting group events, but it didn’t seem as if they had hosted many weddings in the past. I emailed the food and beverage manager and explained (okay maybe hinted is a better word) that my fiancé and I are both ASU students trying to keep things on a tight budget as we are poor college students looking for a location to have our wedding. The manager, being an extremely gracious woman, obviously understood my not-so-subtle hints and immediately offered the location to us for free as long as we have her restaurant cater our reception. Seeing as how their catering prices were much lower than anyone else I had seen, I was extremely excited to have fallen upon such a great deal.

The next lesson I have learned is that the art of haggling isn’t just reserved for car dealerships. I found the cheapest DJ I could find that also had great reviews from past clients. He was willing to play for 6 hours during my ceremony and reception for $725. I thought this was a great deal and just had to wait for the final word from my father who was out of town at the time. However, the DJ seemed a bit overzealous and would constantly call to talk about what was included with their services and to check in and make sure I was still willing to use their services. I finally emailed him saying that I was talking to a couple of other DJs (I wasn’t really) that were a bit cheaper just to make sure I was getting a good deal. My attempt at haggling worked great as he quickly emailed me back with all new price quotes. I ended up saving almost $200 from the original prices I was quoted!

The final lesson I learned is that DIY projects are my wallet’s best friend! I have done so many things by myself and plan to do much more before the big day. I believe that the biggest savings I have incurred thus far have come from designing and printing my Save-The-Dates and Invitations. There are so many wonderful invitation designers out there, but they do charge a pretty penny for their services (as they should). I decided that there was no way I would be able to order custom invites while staying within my budget and that DIY was my best bet.  I thought there was no way I could create anything that would even compare to the beautiful invitations I found online, but once I got started I actually surprised myself! In fact, I got so into it that I ended up creating five or six different designs before I decided on the ultimate design I was going to use. I plan on also creating all the stationary for the ceremony and reception (programs, table numbers, menus, etc.) using the same design!  Some other things I plan on DIY’ing for the big day include collecting old tin cans left over from family members’ dinners for the next few months to use as vases for flowers for the reception centerpieces, having a candy bar serve as our guest’s favor for joining us at the reception in lieu of a more expensive option for each guest, and buying and arranging all bouquets, boutonnieres and centerpiece arrangements with the help of my bridal party rather than hire a florist. I was planning on using Gypsophilia (more commonly known as baby’s breath) for all arrangements not only because it is a much cheaper option than other more popular flowers, but also because I love the rustic, romantic feel it has. (In fact, I had already bookmarked the Blooms by the Box website as they carry Gypsophilia and their prices are extremely reasonable!)

My best advice for brides out there planning away on their dream wedding is to never underestimate yourself. If you feel that you can get a better deal or that there is room to negotiate, go for it! Do not be afraid of DIY projects, as there are some great websites out there, including Budget Savvy Bride, that have wonderful ideas and tutorials that will guide you every step of the way. Even if you think you lack a creative bone in your entire body, you may just surprise yourself (I did!).  And finally, never forget to breathe and realize that when it comes down to it your wedding day will inevitably be one of the most amazing days of your life whether you spend millions or pennies!

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