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How To Plan a Wedding in a Month...

And While on a Budget

Don't worry. It can still be classy AF!

(Photo credit Annie Gray @unsplash

Whether you've been engaged for three years or three seconds, who says you need to spend a fortune on a wedding? Think about, it's ONE day and some people end up putting themselves in debt for YEARS for it. If you want a big wedding, that's fine but that still doesn't mean you need to spend $50,000. All for the show, for (let's face it) your family. AKA your mother or mother-in-law. Why do that when you can take a sweet honeymoon or hey, buy a home? Makes a little more sense now, doesn't it?

Maybe you just need to get married in a hurry (I'm looking at you Army wives) but still want a little frill involved without breaking the bank. In our case, my husband and I just couldn't wait to be married to each other and we both agreed that splurging on a wedding to please other people was just not our style. It's about US after all, and we'd rather take an awesome vacation. Not to mention we were trying to buy a home at the same time (trust me, tough as it sounds, you can also do both at the same time rather successfully.)

We planned the ceremony ourselves, found a beautiful location that we rented for an hour, and had a lovely dinner at our favorite restaurant Sex and the City style. So, here's some tips and tricks for the off-beat, not quite traditional couple (even if you are, that's okay too, this formula works for anyone!)

1) Diamonds probably are not a girl's best friend.

Most of us today know all about the blood diamond mines, the diamond advertising sham that took form officially in the 1950s, and that in reality, diamonds aren't all that rare. I don't know about anyone else, but I'm not about buying something a six-year old is nearly killed for everyday while being paid in pennies. It's sickening, and the compassionate, spiritual creature in me calls bad juju on such a thing. I don't want that on something that's meant to represent my love!

There are several alternatives to diamonds, just because it's not a trillion dollar ring doesn't mean your spouse doesn't love you. Do your research and find the kind of gem you would like. Keep in mind, the one draw back is most gemstones are not as strong as diamonds, so you'll have to be careful and take extra care of them. For example, I have a tanzanite engagement ring and take it off in the salon so as not to ruin it. If you like diamonds fine, but try to get rings that won't break the bank.

2) Go get your marriage license!

It's not that hard, some states/counties allow you to pre-apply online. Though, you and your spouse still have to apply in person to your local courthouse. Google "How to get a marriage license" in your state/county.

3. Find a Dress/Pant Suit/Whatever You Want to Wear

What ever you decide to wear, don't breathe a word (or type) anything along the lines of "bridal" or "wedding" unless it's simply for ideas. Otherwise you'll see that price tag jump up. Figure out what style you like (example vintage, Edwardian/Victorian, Flapper, Medieval, Fantasy, Bohemian, etc.) If you sew, get a pattern and some amazing fabric! Patterns can act as a blank canvas, allowing you to add to it what you will. If you have friends/relatives that sew, ask them if they'll do it for you! Be civil, compensate them for their work. You can also scope out sights like Etsy, Modcloth, Rosegal, Unique-Vintage, Dress Lily, or even local shops. I know of a woman who bought a beautiful dress at Ross for ten bucks!

  • Groom—Same idea applies for our guys (and/or gals, I don't discriminate.) You can find lovely dress shirts, pants, and suit jackets anywhere from H&M to a thrift shop. Never underestimate the power of Goodwill.
  • Shoes—My dress was Edwardian, and I found an awesome pair of period-appropriate boots to match. At Goodwill... for nine dollars. Don't rule out any options, you never know what you'll find or where.

4) Hair and Makeup

If you're a stylist like me, you may not want to do your own hair and make-up out of sheer laziness. Luckily, I have a makeup artist for a mother, so if you know someone who will do it willingly for free or way cheap, go for it. Otherwise, check out your local salons and don't breathe a word about a wedding to them, or once again, that price will skyrocket. Everything for a bride or wedding is more expensive.


Trying contacting beauty schools. They're less expensive than regular salons, and many of them do Group-On deals. Just remember to always tip.

Always, always, always bring photos! They work wonders for stylists (most of us are visionaries).

To further keep a tight fist around your wallet, don't bring "wedding hair or make-up photos" or you may give yourself away. Bridal make-up tends to be on the more natural side, but then again it's your day and you can go out looking like Siouxsie Sioux if you want.

If you do want a more natural bridal look, stay away from heavy contouring even if your stylist recommends it because it's "trendy." Trust me, unless you're a drag queen, you don't need it.

5) Veils/Head Pieces

If you decide on a veil or head piece, decide what kind. Birdcage, long, short, pillbox hat, traditional, classic, just a lovely piece of sheer lace across the eyes like Kirsten Dunst in the masquerade scene of Marie Antoinette. With a trip to A.C. Moore, a glue gun, and some inspirational photos, I made my own for under 20 bucks.

6) Venues

I'll tell you a secret. You can get married in almost any public place without dropping your bank account to zero. If you go this route, make sure if it's a battlefield or other kind of historic site, that you call ahead just to make sure it's okay. Some of these are technically private residences and they may very well like some sort of donation. They might even just ask that you sign a contract so that they aren't liable for any injuries or damages. We got hitched in a historic cemetery, and because we only had a guest list of ten people and the ceremony would be under an hour, they charged us a minimum of $250. Not bad, right?

There also some places that'll do elopement packages for no more than $300. Some of those packages include cake, dinner, honeymoon suites, ceremony and a reception with a guest list of up to 25 people.

Depending on the amount of people on your guest list, you could very likely sneak in and out of, say, a historic park.

Then again, there's the good old courthouse or city hall ceremony. Call ahead for these, as they can fill up quickly. Some civil ceremonies at these locations may prohibit things like decorating, photography, and even guests. Others will allow it, it all varies and it's up to you to get all the facts.


Ask about photography if you can, whether you get hitched at city hall, the courthouse, or in a historic flower garden. Some of the elopement packages might provide those as well, depending on where you go.

7) Invitations

Alright, now that you've secured your venue, let's focus on invitations. You can either make your own at no cost to you via Microsoft Word or pay someone like Vistaprint .38 cents per card. Hell, you can even get some construction paper or card stock, and get creative...but honestly who has that kind of time?

Microsoft Word has several templates for you to chose from. You can alter the text, color, etc. Then you have the option of printing them out on nice cardstock paper, sending them on their way by good old fashioned snail-mail. Or getting eco-friendly by gathering your guests emails and sending them off through Adobe.

Other than Vistaprint, you can try going through Minted.

8) Flowers

You can either spend an arm and a leg on something that'll die in the next few days, make something non-traditional (ever heard of a feather bouquet?) or YouTube how to make the bouquet you've always wanted. I toyed with the idea briefly about just getting false flowers so I wouldn't worry about them dying, but I'm too classy for that. Anyway, try ditching the internet for once, pick up a few books about flowers (I flipped through a wedding flower book to decide what colors, what would be in season for my wedding, time of year, part of the country, etc.)

You can even go out to your garden, if you have one, and pick your own depending on the time of the year and where you live.

Wait the week of your wedding, then hit up floral shops or even the grocery store. I know of someone who did just that, and honestly you can't tell the difference. Don't judge, have you seen some of the flowers at Wegmans? Gorgeous! If you do go to a flower shop, just remember not to say "bride."


Bring photographs to give yourself an idea of what you want, and what sort of flowers to get in order to achieve the look. For instance, I wanted a cascading bouquet, and needed sturdy flowers like roses at the top/center and anything trailing underneath it like ivy or other cascading fillers.

9) Photography

Whether you want a small, no frills wedding or not, odds are you're going to want pictures of the event. After all, you're (hopefully) only doing this once. Photographers can be ridiculously priced for weddings, depending on what you want. So, if you happen to know someone who isn't too bad with a camera, have them take the important pictures like before and after your ceremony. You can also have one or two of your guests snap a few shots.

10) Officiants

The internet has changed quite a few things. Finding an officiant is one of them. You can use sites like Thumbtack, or ask a friend who is ordained or certified to perform the ceremony in your area.

11) Have Fun

Seriously, it's your day. If anyone wants to judge you for wanting a no frills wedding in mid-March in a snow storm, they don't have to go. Storms are good luck anyway! Just because you don't have your wedding at the Taj Mahal doesn't mean you don't have class. You just don't like to have class at the expense of being in debt.

Happy Wedding Planning!

Check out my new novelette, "Silk and Shadow" on Amazon!

A lonely heiress returns to her desolate childhood home after the consistent abandonment of her cheating husband. Here, Louisa remembers departed friends she abandoned in their time of need, while making new ones... including Jacob, a dockworker with whom she strikes up a passionate affair. As she loses herself for the first time, Louisa realizes she is spiraling out of control. Accepting that she is no better or worse than the world around her, and that the outcome can hardly mean a happy ending.  

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