Pull it together

From DIY to shabby chic, tips and trends for any budget

Wedding planner Liane McCombs stands beside a table laden with some “shabby chic” ideas.

Wedding planner Liane McCombs stands beside a table laden with some “shabby chic” ideas.

Photo By kat kerliN

Planning a wedding can be a daunting task. Making all the pieces come together, remembering all the details, meeting everyone’s needs and wants, and keeping it all within budget can seem nearly impossible. But, with a little creativity, you can have the wedding you’ve always dreamed of and keep it within your means. Local wedding planners and brides have some tips and trends that work for any budget.

Get your priorities straight

The best place to start when planning your wedding is to prioritize what is most important, says Beth Jones of My Wedding Library. “Some things you just can’t redo, and sometimes what you think might be cheaper isn’t.”

If capturing the day is important to you, maybe you opt to spend more money on a professional photographer who you trust will capture all of the details elegantly. Or, maybe that one thing you can’t imagine not having at your wedding is the three-tiered layer cake with elaborate icing or chiavari chairs—high-backed, Italian-style chairs are in right now. Make sure you know what those things are so you can budget appropriately.

Make it unique, make it yourself

A big trend local wedding planners have seen is the rise of the do-it-yourself bride. Of course, you can blame it on the economy, but Liane McCombs, a local wedding and events planner, says it seems to come more from a desire to have handmade elements that are personalized.

“I think that’s what most brides and grooms want,” she says. “By pulling in special elements that they have at home or that they can actually create themselves, it gives it that unique element that makes it their own.”

These days, brides and grooms are taking a lot of planning into their own hands—from flowers to food to décor and entertainment.

“The biggest thing I’m seeing with my brides this year is shabby chic, or something I like to call European vintage,” says McCombs, who also says it’s a great style to embrace because people are spending less, and it provides a juxtaposition between polished and rustic.

A lot of the décor for shabby chic can be found at home: old hardbound books, wood, and burlap for table runners. Some brides have used pictures from their parents’ and grandparents’ weddings as part of their décor or as centerpieces. Instead of everything matching, there is more of an eclectic mix of elements.

“One bride collected 300 different plates and bowls from estate sales, thrift stores and vintage stores and used them for her dinnerware at the reception,” McCombs says. “After she was done with it, she sold it to another bride who then passed it on again.”

Food of love

Food is another area where brides are taking the DIY approach. Gail Early, who started a business seven years ago helping plan wedding menus and walking brides through every step of the catering process, wrote a book about her experiences, Frugally Fabulous Wedding Receptions.

“What I found was that people were very selective about where they spent their money,” says Early. “By doing the food themselves, it gives them more money to spend in other places.”

Her book guides people through the process of catering their own reception. Tips for organizing, creating menus, shopping guides, timelines for food preparation, and presentation ideas are included in the book.

Early offers lots of strategies that will save you money without looking like you are cutting costs.

“If you want to use paper plates—because you won’t see them once the food is on them—then use rental silverware and linen,” she suggests. “That will give you a very finished look.”

While do-it-yourself catering pretty much has to be buffet, there are many options for how it can be done. Sometimes, you can find people who will help with the final preparation and presentation if you don’t want to do that part yourself. And, you can always have food preparation parties with friends and family for things that can be made ahead of time. Picking up fresh, seasonal produce at farmer’s markets can also be a green way to go cheaper.

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Down-home decorations

In line with thinking environmentally, McCombs is also seeing a more comfortable, natural feel with décor and atmosphere at weddings. Decorations include more natural elements. such as feathers in centerpieces and bouquets.

Caitlyn Wallace, a local bride who had an outdoor wedding in October, didn’t want to make a huge environmental impact. For décor, she collected and pressed fall leaves and placed pumpkins on tables that were then given to guests to take home at the end of the night. As a wedding favor, she and her husband gave away jars of homemade blackberry jam from wild berries she and her friends had picked.

Wishing trees are also a popular twist on the guest book, says McCombs, and fit right into the natural theme. The tree, usually a manzanita, has a basket with little cards attached to ribbons next to it. Guests can write wishes to the bride and groom and hang them from the tree.

How sweet it is

Alternatives to wedding cakes are also in. Brooke Smith, assistant librarian at My Wedding Library, has seen all kinds of themes when it comes to dessert, including cupcakes, an all-white dessert bar, root beer floats, and cookies and milk.

“There is more of a vintage homey feel to it,” she says, also adding that bundt cakes can double as centerpieces. Dessert bars can be fun because there is a larger selection to choose from, and they can again provide that unique element.

Vendor benders

Because brides are getting more creative with their weddings, vendors are presenting a variety of alternative options to the traditional services. Florists may offer flowers at reduced costs so that brides can put together their own bouquets. Sparks Florist, for one, has classes where they teach brides how to do this. Full-scale DJ services are coming up with alternatives for people who don’t have money for that—such as iPod weddings. Savoye Entertainment, for example, offers different packages that come with sound equipment and pre-loaded playlists on your iPod.

“This is neat because there are more options for people who need or want to economize,” says Early.

McCombs adds, “There are so many ways that you can have a wonderful wedding and not break the bank.”