Who doesn’t like free stuff? If you are planning a wedding, you know just how expensive it can be, and to get anything for free not only helps your wallet and your budget, but also helps to lower your stress level. Getting something for free (or discounted) means it’s one less thing you have to worry about, and who doesn’t want that? You have enough to deal with.
During each stage of your wedding planning, there are free or discounted things you can get, from fun to functional, and so to make it easy for you, I’ve broken them down into different categories:
If you are a couple who plans to register for gifts, it can be a daunting experience especially if you need everything from a can opener to a couch. There are, though, perks to registering that will make it easier for you and your guests:
When you sign up for a wedding registry, each store will give you a list of the most commonly needed gifts a newlywed couple should register for — everything from pots and pans, to bedding, to china — and you can use that checklist to create a perfect wedding registry.
After your wedding, most stores will give you a discount on any item you purchase off your registry, that wasn’t purchased as a gift, up to a year after your wedding.
Some stores may offer you free gifts just for signing up for a registry and may even give you a gift once a group of items, such as a full setting of china, or a full collection of pots and pans, is purchased.
Your guests may also get discounts or free gifts if they purchase over a certain dollar amount.
Showers, Bachelor and Bachelorette Parties, Engagement Parties, Rehearsal Dinner
Part of the wedding planning fun is the events leading up the wedding such as bridal showers, bachelor/bachelorette parties, engagement parties and rehearsal dinners. What makes them fun are the games guests play, and the food, but when the people planning these parties are usually in your bridal party, or your parents, they may not have a lot to spend on anything too fancy. But fancy doesn’t always mean better. Here are some great tips for awesome party games and discounts:
If you do a quick Google search, you can find websites with amazing FREE downloadable game ideas or templates, that all you need is a printer to make.
If you are having a party at a restaurant, ask if they have special rates for parties, or set menus for parties that may bring the cost down.
If the restaurant doesn’t offer any of that and the guests are left ordering off the main menu, ask the restaurant if you can limit the menu by choosing three or four items off that menu, and printing your own menus, this way guests can still get the great food, but you aren’t left covering a bill with 20 guests ordering the lobster or filet mignon.
It’s impossible to plan a normal day, much less your wedding, without a to-do list or a checklist to make sure you are getting everything you need to get done, done. Here are some tips to help you get through your planning checklist, including checklists themselves:
Wedding websites are a great way to inform guests about any wedding information you have to share. I highly recommend making one for your wedding, but make sure that you get one that is free AND password protected.
Planning checklists are a must! There are books you can purchase that help you plan every aspect of your day with timelines as to when to get them done, such as sending out invites. However, most bridal magazines will provide these checklists in the back of their publication for FREE. Yes, you still have to pay for the magazine, but a few dollars on a magazine is better than $20 or more on a book or binder. In addition, your wedding venue can provide you with one as well.
If you are crafty and are looking to print your own invitations or anything else that is going to need fonts you can’t find in your standard word processing software, you can find free fonts that you can download that meet the aesthetic you are looking for.
Your wedding venue is so much more than a place to hold your wedding ceremony or reception, they are an invaluable resource for tons of wedding freebies:
Photo Credit: Majestic Studios
When you send out your invitations, your guests need directions on how to get there. While most people just need an address to plug into a GPS, some people may not have a GPS. There’s no need for you to drive the course or figure it out yourself because your venue can provide direction cards for you. You just tell them how many invites you are sending out and they’ll provide you with however many cards you need.
Another thing your venue can provide you with is a seating chart template that you can use to plan your venue space. Write everything out in pencil so that you can change things around or make a bunch of photocopies so that you can make changes…and believe me, there will be changes!
I’m sure you’ve seen really interesting and very personalized escort card for guests on Pinterest, but what you have to remember is that you either have to buy them or spend time making them. What you may not realize is that your venue can provide them form you. If you don’t really care how fancy they are, you can get them for free and all you would need to do is write or print names and table numbers on them.
In addition to escort cards, your venue will also provide you with table numbers, so you don’t need to worry about them at all, unless you want something really personalized
Day of Freebies
On your wedding day, you still need one more checklist, and that has everything you need to bring with you on the day of your wedding and your wedding night. There’s more to bring than you think. You can download your free wedding day packing checklist here
Miscellaneous Fun Free Stuff
If you are a lover of pop culture and the celebrity scene, you can send extra wedding invitations to your favorite celebrities. Believe it or not, doing this is actually a “thing” and many people love to do this because of the cool keepsakes they get in return. The most popular places to send wedding invitations to are the White House and to specific Disney characters. You can get a special greeting with stamped autographs of the First Family when you send an invite to the White House and from Disney, you can address your invite to your favorite Disney character and get specially signed postcards or trinkets from them. Everyone knows the address for the White House, but if you want to try sending an invite to any character at Disney, the address is Walt Disney World Communications P.O. Box 10040 Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830-0040
What free stuff or discounts have you received so far during your wedding planning?
I am a bit of a traditionalist. I like the formal celebratory traditions that weddings bring with them…to a point. I do feel some of them are outdated, so my wedding was a nice mix of traditional and non-traditional elements.
Many couples today may want to mix it up a bit, and forgo some of the traditions their parents or grandparents grew up with, but may feel guilty doing so. I’m here to tell you that it’s OK. Traditions are just that, traditions, not rules. Rules are very different. Rules you have to follow or else you may face consequences. Traditions are just elements passed down through the years, so far passed down that you may not even know why or how they began.
I’ve been writing about wedding for a long time and I can tell you that in my research, many wedding traditions started centuries ago, so it’s time for a change. Here are some of the traditions you shouldn’t worry about skipping:
Wedding Tradition: The white gown
Photo Credit: Hannah Nicole Photography
Tradition has it that the bride wears white as a symbol of purity. While history books are unclear really how this trend started, many say Queen Victoria was the first one to popularize white wedding gowns, as that’s what she wore at her wedding in the late 1800s. But many brides, for decades after, even as late as the early 1900s wore colored dresses. So, if you want to buck tradition and go for something not white, feel free. As is, when you shop for wedding dresses, you may end up with a gown that’s not white anyway. White is a very harsh color and washes some people out. You may end up with off white, ivory, or even a blush colored dress.
Wedding Tradition: Having your father walk you down the aisle
This can be the cause of a lot of stress for some brides. It’s something of daydreams and the moment everyone in attendance waits for, seeing the bride walk down the aisle. However, if a bride doesn’t have a traditional “father” in her life, for whatever reason, it can be a very bittersweet walk. Every family dynamic is different and if you are a bride who, for any given reason, doesn’t have a “father” to walk down the aisle with, choose the person in your life who has been like a father or role model for you, or who helped raise you. Maybe it’s your mother, grandfather, grandmother, uncle, brother, sister, whoever. Maybe you want both your parents to walk you down the aisle, maybe you want to walk down alone or you and your husband-to-be want to walk in together. The choice is up to you, and there’s no wrong decision.
Wedding Tradition: Having bridal parties
Ok, here’s the sad, unromantic, real truth. The only thing that matters is that you have two witnesses to sign the marriage license. That’s it. So you don’t even have to have a bridal party if you don’t want. Some people just have a Maid of Honor and a Best Man, who serve as the witnesses and hold the bouquet and rings and forgo the bridal party. Some have massive bridal parties (which I don’t think is a good idea for many reasons). Some have Men of Honor and Best Woman (instead of Maid of Honor or Best Man). Again, here, the choice is up to you how you want to handle it, but if you decide to forgo a bridal party all together, that’s fine. Some people might actually be relieved because they don’t want the added stress or expenses that come with the responsibilities of being in a bridal party
Wedding Tradition: The wedding cake
Photo Credit: Myles Studio Photography
Who doesn’t love cake? Actually, more people than you think. Me for one. I’d prefer ice cream cake over real cake any day…especially with extra cookie crunchies in the middle. That being said, everyone has seen photos of family members cutting the cake and feel like they want to carry on that tradition, even if they don’t like cake. And that’s fine. However, if you want to change it up, try cupcakes, or pizza, or even donuts instead. The possibilities are endless if having that formal cake-cutting portrait is something you want to skip
Wedding Tradition: Throwing the garter and bouquet
In recent conversations I had with Hudson Valley DJs, they say this is one of the fastest disappearing trends they’ve seen. For a variety of factors, couples just aren’t doing it anymore. Couples are waiting longer to get married and may not have many single friends at their reception. Maybe you get embarrassed really easily and don’t want any part of it, because, as we all know, it can get a bit risqué at times. I didn’t have it because of both reasons, and honestly, no one missed it. I felt a little funny at first not doing it, but nobody cared and it gave us more time to dance. Not only that, but if you are on a tight budget, not doing this could save you money becasue you won’t have to buy a garter or a tosser bouquet.
Wedding Tradition: Not seeing each other before the wedding
By now we know this is a tradition that many couples skip and opt for the First Look instead. It has many benefits, but is not for everyone, especially if you love tradition. Doing a first look gives you and your spouse-to-be a private moment alone away from the crowd to quietly see each other before the festivities begin. It helps a lot of couples relieve some of the stress and anxiety they feel prior to the ceremony and lets them relax a bit more once the actual ceremony starts. It has a practical function as well. It allows you and the photographer to get some pictures done and out of the way before the ceremony, freeing up time later in the night.
Wedding Tradition: Bachelor/bachelorette parties
I feel this tradition slips by the wayside the older the couple are. For example, some couples feel it’s their last “Hurrah” before being “tied down” and do want a big celebration. However, most of my friends, who are in their 30s, have all forgone that tradition or changed it up. If they do have parties, they are more like a round of golf for the guys and a spa day for the girls.
Wedding Traditions: Wedding registries or bridal showers
Photo Credit: WCHV
Many couples are living together before they get married, and therefore have everything they need. They don’t register for gifts and will sometimes even ask their guests to not even bring a gift, or instead, ask them to donate to a Honeymoon Fund or a local charity instead. Showers are great for couples who really need a lot of stuff, or perhaps are moving in together after the wedding and want new items that they can call their own.
Wedding Tradition: Having a flower girl or ring bearer
Just like you don’t have to have a bridal party, you don’t have to have a Flower Girl or Ring Bearer either. Do they make for a cute photo op, absolutely, but you need to look at your guest list, and your family, and see if it’s something you can even do. Maybe there are no kids available or young enough to be given that role, and that’s ok. Maybe you want to have both your grandmothers be the flower girls…that would be so cute. You don’t even have to have both. Maybe you just have someone who can be the ring bearer, maybe you just have someone who can be the flower girl. It’s best to always check with their parents first to see if they think their child could handle the pressure. Sometimes, it’s too much, so don’t stress about this. If you want it, and can make it happen, great. If you can’t that’s OK too.
Wedding Tradition: Dancing a formal first dance
First dances always make for a great photo op, but many couples struggle to find “their song”, and unless they’ve been a dancer their whole lives, can’t really do much more than what I like to call “the 8th eight grade shuffle”. Many couples choose to take lessons to choreograph a dance, but if that’s not for you don’t worry. The first dance is a great way for the couple to showcase their personality. Everything from the song choice to the type of dance you do. However, It doesn’t have to be a rehearsed, choreographed dance. It can be an upbeat dance to a modern song or even a flash mob. Whatever you choose people are going to love because your personality will shine. Dancing doesn’t come easy for some people, especially when all eyes are on them, so if you are more comfortable doing something fun or even inviting all your guests to dance with you, you can do that. There are no rules.
Wedding Tradition: Getting married on the half-hour
There is an old superstition that says getting married on the half-hour brings good luck as opposed to getting married on the hour. I have no idea where this superstition comes from, but I remember freaking out a bit when we were told our ceremony at the church had to be at 2 pm because they had confession and mass later that evening. The truth is, you should be getting married at a time that is convenient for you and the venue…half hour or not.
Wedding Tradition: Walking down the aisle to Wagner’s Bridal Chorus
Wagner’s Bridal Chorus (AKA Here Comes the Bride) has been a traditional wedding song for decades and is usually the song countless brides have walked down the aisle to. However, it does have a sinister context, which, for those in the know, may have an aversion to having it played at their wedding. My mom couldn’t have it played at her wedding. It was in a church, and they forbade it from being played because of where it came from. So what’s the story? It basically boils down to the plotline in the Opera it comes from, Lohengrin, which has elements of paganism, infidelity, murder and tragedy. Yikes! In recent times, the Bridal Chorus is not always used, not for the reason mentioned above, but because brides just want a fresher take on this tradition. Many brides are opting for other traditional classical pieces or more modern songs.
What wedding traditions did you skip or change? Join us next time when we talk about the 5 traditions that you should consider keeping.
Planning a wedding is expensive, but sometimes being a wedding guest can be extremely costly as well. We love our friends and family, and we love that they are getting married, but if you get invited to several weddings a year, or even one every few years, it can be a source of a lot of anxiety and stress. Between gifts, travel, hotel rooms, showers, and what you are going to wear, being a guest is anything but cheap.
However, take a deep breath and relax. Part of the reason guests may feel so overwhelmed is because of preconceived notions they have about what a gift should be. First, and foremost, know that the rule that you should at least cover your plate is not the rule anymore. So that should make you feel a little better.
Second, you have to remember that most of the time, those who invited you know what’s going on in your life. They aren’t going to expect an expensive gift if they know your budget is strapped. Last, remember that you are invited to a wedding because the couple wants your presence, not your presents. They aren’t inviting you because of the gift they think you are going to give them, and if they are, you may not want to go to that wedding.
So, knowing that, I’m going to share 8 EASY ways to save money as a wedding guest without breaking the bank.
Save money on your wardrobe
Going to a wedding is a great excuse to go shopping for a new outfit, but this can be problematic if you are attending a lot of weddings or don’t have the extra money to spend on a new outfit. Here are some ways to get around that. First, take a look at your closet and see what you have. If you have a little black dress or even a dress you normally wear to business meetings, you can always jazz that up with accessories, sweaters or shoes that are considerably less than buying a whole new outfit.
Also, take a look at whose weddings you are going to. Chances are, most times guests who are at one wedding are not going to be at another you go to, so wearing the same outfit again, is not the end of the world. However, if you know some of the same people are going to be there, that’s where changing up your accessories can be a great help if you are worried that people might notice you are wearing the same outfit.
Photo Credit: JT Sander
Save money by just saying “No”
If your mailbox is getting flooded with wedding invitations and with each one you feel worse and worse, do yourself a favor and just say no. Just because you get a wedding invite, it doesn’t mean you have to go. Choose the ones that mean the most to you and just go to those only. If you are really troubled by saying no, talk to the couple and just explain your situation. You might be pleasantly surprised by their reaction.
Save money by making gifts
Photo Credit: WCHV
If you are crafty, have a special talent, provide services or love to cook, making a wedding gift is a GREAT alternative to buying a gift and is guaranteed to be more memorable than a check in an envelope. Some of the greatest wedding gifts I received were handmade and now decorate our home. If you provide a service, gift the couple a complimentary service. If you love to cook, make them a basket full of your homemade treats or meals that they can freeze and save for a rainy day. If you love to plan parties, suggest throwing brunch the next day at your home. When you think outside the box, there’s several alternatives to keeping your bank account in check.
Save money by taking advantage of hotel room blocks or cheaper alternatives
If you are attending a wedding out of town and need to stay overnight, always ask the couple if they have rooms reserved in a hotel room block. Check out the price before you book. Often times, hotel room blocks do come at a discounted rate, but not all the time. Even so, the discounted rate could still be pretty pricey. If it fits within your budget, great! If not, search the surrounding area for hotels that might be cheaper.
Save money by using coupons or sales on registry gifts
Photo Credit: WCHV
While many couples have a wedding gift registry, it doesn’t mean that you have to get those gifts from those particular stores. There are pros and cons to this. The obvious con is that if you decide to purchase an item from a registry list at a different store, there is no way for that couple, or other guests, to know that item was purchased, therefore the couple could end up with duplicate gifts.
The plus side to this is that by searching for the same gift at a different location, you could be saving a ton of money. Between coupons and sales, an item that costs $100 from the registered store could be half that somewhere else. This does take time to do the research to see where you can find that item cheaper, but if it means saving money, it might be worth it.
If you can’t find a gift anywhere else cheaper through coupons or sales, you might want to look for free shipping options. You could save quite a bit on shipping, particularly if an item is heavy. What you also want to do, if you get free shipping, is have the item directly shipped to the couple, this way, eliminating having to incur the cost of shipping the item you just had shipped to your house, shipped to them.
Save money by “chipping in”
If you and others you know are going to the same wedding, you might consider chipping in, not only with the gift, but with travel fares as well. You can all chip in a get the couple a great gift that all of you might not have been able to afford on your own. You might also want to consider carpooling and chipping in on travel costs such as rental cars, gas, tolls, or even hotel rooms. Consider rooming with those friends instead of getting a room all to yourself.
Save money by literally saving money
Last, but not least, if you do decide to go to all the weddings you’ve been invited to and want to give a gift or money, the best way to save money is by literally saving money. You know months in advance what weddings you are going to. Take a moment to sit down and make a list of all the expenses associated with those weddings and literally just start putting money aside each week to cover all your costs. A little bit each week will add up pretty fast.
What are some of the best ways you’ve saved money as a wedding guest?
Did you know the wedding registry, as we know it today, is a fairly “recent” tradition? It’s been said to have been started in 1924 by Macy’s department store. Can you believe it? However, even though a guest gift exchange is a fairly modern phenomenon, families have been exchanging gifts at weddings in the form of a dowry paid to the Bride’s family dating back to several centuries B.C.
But enough of the history lesson for today. Wedding registries are still a hot commodity, even though they are taking on many different forms. This is because, in today’s world, couples are waiting longer to get married, and there is an increase in numbers of couples living together before marriage. Therefore, they are acquiring many of the items typically seen on a gift registry such as pots and pans, linens, and general household items long before they get engaged.
Whether you need everything from a can opener to a couch, here are 7 practical ways to create the perfect registry that is right for you:
Take a good look around your space.
Look at what you have and what you need. If you are going to be moving in together after the wedding, you may need a lot of items. Combining possessions can be a fun, yet arduous task. Perhaps you have a set of pots and pans but need new ones. Maybe you’ve always wanted a fancy coffee maker. Are you getting a larger bed and need new sheets, or even something as basic as an iron and ironing board? Take a good look and start making a list.
Make a list that has items at all various price points
Photo Credit: WCHV
You want to make sure your registry has items spanning a wide range of prices, from $1 wooden spoons to pricier items such linens, a vacuum, kitchenware, or china that could potentially cost well over $200. Why the price variation? Your guests are going to be coming from very different financial situations. Some guest may (and can afford to) splurge on the expensive china or kitchenware, while others may combine some of the smaller, less expensive items into a basket or give you some of those less expensive items with a gift not on your registry. (Yes, just because you have a registry, that doesn’t mean everyone will purchase from it).
Always put more items on your list than what you think you need
Photo Credit: WCHV
There are a few reasons for this. One, like I mentioned before, some people may purchase a lot off your list at once, and you want to make sure that everyone who wants to get something off the registry can. Second, you aren’t going to get everything, but you want to make sure you don’t run out of items, either. You will, most likely, get gift cards to wherever you registered, so, if you do not end up getting that coffee maker or all the sets of china you registered for, you can go back and finish the list at a later date. Think of your registry as the ultimate Christmas or birthday wish list: There are going to be things on there you need, things you want; but you can also put “wish list” items on there, too. We never thought the really expensive items would be purchased from our list, but they were, to our great surprise.
Register at more than one location
Photo Credit: WCHV
Just like you should have items in many different price ranges, you also want to make sure you register at more than one store. Why? You are not going to find everything at one store. Plus, not everyone lives next to a Crate and Barrel, or Bed, Bath and Beyond. Granted, with the Internet, it doesn’t really matter, but some people like to actually see what they are buying before they purchase it. Also, different stores have different price ranges. Some guests may just be able to afford items from the more affordable stores, while others can afford higher price points usually found at high-end niche stores.
What if you don’t need or want any more “stuff?”
If you and your fiancé really don’t need or want any materials items, you might want to consider a Honeymoon Fund or a Honeymoon Registry. A quick Google search will generate sites like these where you plug in where you are going, and they populate a list of things to see and do while you are there. For example, if you are going on a cruise, you might have a spa treatment or shore excursions on that list which people “purchase.” Basically, you are saying something to the effect of “$75 will allow us to get a spa treatment; $150 will allow us to go parasailing,” and so on. Your guests aren’t purchasing that item, per se, but rather just giving you enough money so you can do it.
Make a charitable donation
Again, if you really don’t want or need any more “stuff,” you can ask guests to make a gift to your favorite charity (or charities) instead of purchasing a gift for you. Perhaps there’s an animal shelter that’s near and dear to your heart or a medical facility that has personal meaning for you. Maybe it’s a community organization looking to raise enough funds to build a playground. Whatever the case, asking guests to make a charitable gift is a great alternative.
What if you just want cash?
This is a delicate subject. If you really just want cash, coming out and saying you just want money, is, well, rude. In my opinion, there are only two ways to give guests the hint that you don’t want gifts, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll just get cash. One is to not have a wedding registry at all; the other is stating on the invitation “no gifts please.” Most guests will get it, but it won’t guarantee you’ll only get cash. You might still get gift cards, maybe small tokens. Maybe you won’t get anything at all if you say “no gifts.” However, there are polite ways to work around this delicate subject. I’ve known couples who live out of state who were flying in for their wedding, and because they couldn’t check or ship gifts back, they asked for “no boxed gifts, please.” You may still get people who take that literally and will put a gift in a bag instead, but most people will understand what you mean, especially if they know your travel circumstance.
You might also tell your close family and bridal party to politely spread the word if anyone asks. If someone asks them what they think you’d like, they can say something like, “I know they haven’t registered for anything, so I’m just going to give them a check to add to their down payment on their house (or splurge on a nice meal on their honeymoon, or save it for a new car).” It’s a bit passive, but that will at least put the idea in the guests’ mind that money or a check may be the best option for a gift. Is it a sure-fire grantee? No, but it’s a start.
Did you have a registry and how did you build it? Did you not want any gifts at your wedding? How did you handle that?