- Keep your guest list small
- Choose flowers that are in season
- Consider a Friday or Sunday wedding
- Create & print your own invites- here’s a discount code for Minted
- Get married on off-peak season (November-April)
- Skip the plated meal and do a buffet
- Have more comfort food and snacks vs formal food options
- Rent certain items vs buying them
- Choose a non-traditional wedding venue: municipal park or beach
- Google local sample sales and trunk shows for your wedding gown
- Shop local outlet stores for bridesmaids’ dresses
- Purchase handmade items directly from the seller e.g. Etsy
- Ditch favors or limit them to 1 per couple
- Keep the ceremony and reception at the same place to cut down rentals, transportation and décor
- Rent your wedding dress
- YouTube makeup tutorials or go to Sephora for a makeup lesson then do your own makeup
- Swap in a sweet table instead of a dessert course
- Buy your own booze for the wedding
- Only serve appetizers during the cocktail hour
- Find a music student(s) to entertain during cocktail hour or for the ceremony (have them audition first!)
- Find a newer cake artist to make your cake
- Swap your cake for smaller cupcakes or tarts
- Limit the bar hours or have an alcohol-free wedding
- Instead of multiple shooters, only have 1 photographer
- Use wildflowers as fillers in your centerpieces
- Opt for sparkling wine over champagne
- Use a credit card to pay for vendors etc that has points or rewards so you get something back
- Google local wedding shows to get deals on potential vendors
- Use coupons or Facebook Marketplace to score deals on accessories or décor items
- Hire a wedding planner; what you pay them to do will end up being made up in savings because they can negotiate contracts and save you time
- Schedule to do cake cutting and first dance earlier in the evening to cut down on photography hours
- More than 3 courses for dinner might be excessive, guests should be fed but don’t overdo it
- Have a smaller cake created for display and cutting and have a larger slab cake in the back that gets served to guests
- Have a smaller bridal party to cut down costs and possibly hassle
- Ditch the bridal party altogether and just have a flower girl and ring bearer to save on gifts
- Use a playlist for the cocktail hour and dinner and a DJ for the reception party
- Cocktails and mixed drinks are usually more expensive at the bar so limit the options to beer and wine
- See if the venue has larger tables so you cut back on the amount of centerpieces
- Use something other than flowers for your centerpieces such as candles, picture frames, lanterns
- Elope or do a pop-up wedding
- Consider emailing your “Save the Dates”
- Only invite people you are close to you (you’ve seen and hung out with them in the last 5 years)
- Stick to the house wines offered instead of specialty ones
- DIY certain wedding items
- If one of your friends recently got married and kept some of their décor, ask to borrow it
- Buy things like candles and favors in bulk, the price is usually less (buy more than 50 pieces)
- Have your shower or rehearsal at home instead of a restaurant
- Naked cakes look lovely or instead choose buttercream icing over fondant
- Kids meals are cheaper so be sure to ask for a kids menu if you plan to have kids at the wedding or have no kids at all
- Only have 1 or 2 options for vegetarian or vegan meals, the more choices the more money
- Borrow accessories from friends or a family member instead of buying them
- Have the wine at dinner served rather than sitting on the table so consumption is staggered during the evening
- Don’t forget tips, shipping fees and taxes and gratuity to be factored into your budget
- Decide if you are allowing +1’s or not, additional guests can impact your budget greatly
- Negotiate pricing on some contracts
- Read over contract carefully and ask questions, it’s very easy to misunderstand something and then get overcharged
- Enable people to RSVP on a website instead of traditional paper RSVP’s, plus it’s easier to track
- See if your venue has a list of preferred vendors, sometimes they want you to use them but it might cost you. Ask if you are permitted to use outside vendors. They may require approval
- Find a venue that needs minimal décor
- Get married in a backyard garden to save on venue and décor costs
- Price shop for vendors to before booking anything to see if there are comparable prices available
- Avoid getting married on a Saturday or a long weekend, it’s the most expensive day to get married
- Keep appetizers between 2-3 pieces per person and keep in mind the caterer will likely try to up sell you
- If you are wearing a longer dress, no one will see you shoes so why splurge?
- Go through each item on your budget to see if there are ways to trim it down
- Everyone loves a good wedding trend but they are usually pricey because they are in high demand
- Hand write your place cards/escort cards or design them on Minted
- Research various wedding budgets and revise yours based on what your research finds
- Thank you’s to the bridal party are lovely but don’t have to break the bank
- Consider one big single bloom for the bouquets
- Don’t let vendors rope you into more than you want too (a planner can help with this) you can politely decline any add-ons
- Florists typically charge more for labor so buy your own flowers in bulk to save
- Stick to a signature cocktail during the cocktail hour and have it passed around. It will not only save on alcohol but will add a nice personal touch as well.
- Can we say: “Free wedding stationary printables” We said it.
- Instead of renting a nice car, can you borrow one from someone you know?
- Keep all of your receipts so you can monitor what you’ve spent
- Ask guests to email their RSVPs to you directly and keep an email file folder of them
- Choose a venue outside of a major city. Costs of downtown venues and parking can make sticking to your budget difficult
- Wait for a good deal to take your honeymoon instead of right afterwards. Check out Skyscanner or Next Vacay
- Get a dress that actually fits instead of off the rack and needing expensive alterations
- When in doubt, don’t buy a dress a size or two too small, it’s easier to make a larger dress smaller than the opposite
- For any out of town guests, ask hotels close by the wedding venue for reduced rates based on rooms booked
- Instead of expensive centerpieces, have empty vases on the tables and use the bridesmaid’s bouquets as centerpieces
- Troll Instagram and wedding websites for contests and giveaways
- Go to Wedding Wire and see if any vendors you need are offering discounts on their services
- Buy as much as you can in bulk (food, flowers, candy) rather than specialty stores that will have higher prices
- Shorten your planning time, you will be much more decisive with a strict timeline
- Only have the photographer and videographer cover just the ceremony
- See if videography can be added to your photography package instead of hiring 2 separate vendors
- Any leftover wedding items you have, sell them online
- Use the word “wedding” only when necessary (like with venues and photographers) sometimes there’s an up charge
- Only splurge on ONE thing like good food or music
- Find out if there is a minimum spend at the venue if they have in house catering. Usually if you make the minimum spend, they waive the venue rental fee
- Keep your invites to a singe sheet, pretty but simple. It will save on postage
- Ask friends to help where they can, as ushers, officiant, MC, DJ
- Sew your own table runners with fabric you purchase yourself
- Silk and paper flowers go a long way
- Skip the traditional wedding dress shops and go to major retailers like Le Chateau or Etsy for your dress
- Consider a different time of day: Morning or afternoon so you save on dinner food
- Make sure you and your partner are both on the same page on where to splurge and where to cutback!
How to avoid bride tribe drama
Choosing your bridesmaids and MOH is supposed to be the easiest part but the reality is, sometimes it doesn’t turn out the way you thought it would and there’s drama. What would cause something like this to happen and if it happens, how do you handle it?
Let’s talk prevention, this isn’t to say everything will go perfectly but a first step for you is to look at each of your potential wedding party candidates and their current lifestyles and circumstances. I guarantee taking the time to do this one thing will eliminate 60% of potential problems. Take comfort in knowing that none of your girls will turn down the opportunity to support you on your big day they love you! But it’s possible that depending what they are juggling in their personal lives can and will interfere with them living up to the expectations of their role in the bridal party. They would never do it on purpose but most of us at some point in time have bitten off more than we can chew and over-promised to someone what can or can’t take on. So, look at what they are dealing with in their lives, if any of them have circumstances that at times are all consuming, or perhaps they aren’t organized or consistent, you might want to rethink giving them a large role. Doing this from the start will help minimize potential issues tremendously.
Second step, when you finally have your bride tribe in place lay out your expectations. 9 times out of 10, miscommunication is at the root of most planning faux pas. When everyone is fully aware of and understand their responsibilities, there’s less room for error. It’s not entirely a bad idea to even sit down with all of them and work on a little timeline for example, what month you would prefer to have your bridal shower, ideas on your bachelorette- get it all out while you have everyone there. Side note: have the money talk. It might be uncomfortable but the bottom line is, being part of a wedding costs money. Be transparent about this and make sure that everyone is able and willing (yes, I said willing on purpose) to put money aside for wedding related events, trips and attire etc. If one of your girls isn’t in the position, ask them privately to let you know. You wouldn’t believe the strain money causes on friendships and bottom line, if your friend can’t pull her weight, it complicates so many things. Your other bridal party members have to pick up the financial slack, the cost of their dresses will be cause for contention- the list goes on.
Third step, try your best to spend time with your bridal party members, all of them altogether AND separately. Keep in mind, if some of your bridal party members don’t know one another, breaking the ice is a good idea. Not all personalities jive and don’t expect it from your girls and it’s okay as long as there is still respect. This is a time where you want to strengthen the bonds of your friendship and enjoy the journey of this upcoming new stage in your life. It makes them feel important and appreciated, yes this is your wedding but don’t get so caught up in the planning that you forget about the people you care about most and who are taking on a lot to support you. Do something special for each of them and do your best to always acknowledge their efforts.
Once you are engaged the next most exciting part is getting your bridal party chosen and why wouldn’t it be your nearest and dearest? It should be! But do your homework, don’t have unrealistic expectations, be transparent and spend time with them. Keep your friendship at the focal point and all of you will have a beautiful experience planning your wedding.
How to rock a venue open house
If you are recently engaged, living in the big TO and still shopping for the perfect venue, this blog post is for you! January-March are the months when venues host an event called an “open house” to showcase the venue’s potential for a wedding. They hire wedding vendors such as a DJ, catering company and sometimes an entertainment company for the evening. You will get to enjoy wine, finger foods, a band or a DJ while getting to check out a venue that might work for your wedding day.
What to look for
When you look around the room, do you see any large pillars that disrupt a clear line of vision? This is one of the most important things you need to look for when searching for a venue. When you imagine the set up, will anything block the guests view of the ceremony or honor table during the reception? Will photographs look strange? If the room is open concept you are good to go but if it’s a venue with a bit more of a rustic/industrial look, its not a “all bets are off” scenario but careful consideration of the setup will be required.
Besides cold food, nothing is worse than a 200 plus wedding guest count and a one stall washroom…that the bride can barely fit in. Washrooms are a big deal ladies; are they properly cleaned and well stocked (yes snoop those cupboards!!) Does anything look like it’s in need of maintenance? Do the toilet’s flush properly, is there hot water to wash hands, are the soap dispensers full? How many washroom stalls are there and is it wheelchair accessible?
Another great thing to peep is aspects of the venue that are unique and special. Some venues have an outdoor patio which is great for when you need to get some air. What a about a rooftop patio, who doesn’t love a view? Is there any natural lighting that you love which will translate into beautiful city lights at night and add to the ambience the evening? If you have a summer wedding, do they have a garden area you could gain access too? Parking anyone?!
Whether it’s when you first walk in, or are walking out, someone should be handing you a cute little gift bag with a cookie, business cards, gift cards and a wedding package from the venue. It will give a very detailed outlining of what they offer, what’s included and not included in their packages and pricing.
So, call up a few of your girlfriends or bridal party for that matter, when you RSVP include how many will be accompanying you. Don’t eat a heavy dinner since there will be plenty for you to munch on when you get there. Enjoy the entertainment, music and wine and look out for these 4 things I mentioned. It’s a great way to have a nice free little girls’ night out while searching for your wedding venue.
Below are a couple of upcoming venue open houses this month and next, so if you haven’t chosen a venue yet, now’s your chance to see it completely done up and at it’s full potential!
Royal Wedding: Updates on Meghan & Harry’s big day
It’s been a whirlwind these last few weeks leading up to what will be the biggest wedding of our time- Prince Harry and Meghan Markle!
I can’t tell you how excited I am- she’s lived in our city, is a talented actress, she’s half-black and beautiful, down to earth and essentially “one of us” in the sense that she has zero royal blood.
The guestlist includes Priyanka Chopra, Sir Elton John, George & Amal Clooney, the Spice Girls and Victoria Beckham will be bringing her husband. Others who will attend are her bestie Jessica Mulroney and her husband Ben and 3 children who’ve been named page boys and flower girl. Serena Williams, her Suits co-stars and designer Misha Nonoo.
As for her dress some speculate British designer Ralph & Russo as the brand designed Meghan’s stunning dress for the engagement photos. Another possibility is a final “bow out” for Christopher Bailey of Burberry. However when her mother arrived on Tuesday, she was carrying a Burberry garment bag- so maybe not. Stewart Parvin, one of the Queen’s dressers, could be in the running as well since he has been personally approved by the royal family. Some bets are on Alexander McQueen who designed Duchess Kate’s lovely gown but perhaps she will go with a Canadian designer? In any case, we are bursting with anticipation!
The most recent and unexpected update is that Meghan’s father will not be attending due to health concerns. I can’t imagine how devastating it must have been for her to find this out just days before her wedding. She made her first statement yesterday from Kensington Palace:
Some have voiced their disapproval of her careful choice in wording when she mentions “I have always cared for my father” but guys cut her some slack. She is a royal now and it has never been encouraged to openly express emotion and is likely considered inappropriate. If you don’t believe me, find clips of Princess Diana’s funeral- you won’t see a tear on her sons faces. We all know she’s devastated.
It was announced earlier today that she has asked her future Father-in Law His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales to accompany her down the aisle of the Quire of St. George’s Chapel.
However, he will not be escorting her the entire way, she will walk most of the processional alone making royal history as she will be the first British royal to enter her ceremony alone. You go girl! She will be met by a clergy member at the doors and walk unaccompanied through the chapel with her bridesmaids, pages and officiant walking ahead of her. Once she reaches the Quire, Prince Charles will walk her towards Harry but will he will not be giving her away- she will walk the last few steps to Harry by herself.
The royal wedding is tomorrow starting at 7 a.m EST so if you are willing to sacrifice your Saturday sleep in sesh to tune in for this- you will be with me!
NEW website and features
The warm weather is FINALLY here in Toronto (it only took us 6 months and an ice storm) it was hard to stay inspired this past winter. However, we managed to redo our entire website which made me very excited!
Of course, there are some tweaks to be made still but overall, I am very happy with it! It’s cleaner, better images, new logo, the ability to book a consultation online and download a planning checklist!
The option to sign up for free advice, tips and special offers is also something I am happy we were able to make happen. I think its important for a website to be more than just a collection of photos and services- we should be able to showcase we have to offer!
That being said, for the month of May we are offering 10% off of all our Partial Planning Packages! We know engaged couples have a lot on their plates and a partial planning gives you 20 hours of my time allotted to areas of planning determined by you.
Some couples use this for things like:
- Budget creation & management
- Vendor recommendations
- Seating chart arrangement
- Booking/attending vendor appointments
- Creation of “day of” schedule
And the best part of this package is that it also includes our Day of Coordination Package.
As a final send off on this post, we encourage you beautiful couples to download our FREE wedding planning checklist to help keep you on schedule!
Black History: Wedding Traditions
In line with the celebration of culture, uniqueness and love, we decided to share some of the wedding traditions in the African American culture that are still celebrated today. Most of these are still practiced today but couples have the ability to put their own personal touch on some of them to make it more special on their big day!
Used for it’s medicinal and healing properties, this nut is important to West African weddings since it represents the families and couples willingness to heal. In some African countries this nut is shared amongst the couple and their family and that is what completes the ceremony.
Tying the Knot
A common phrase we use today when referring to a couple getting married but in African culture- it’s literally tying a knot! Some African tribes have a close friend, family member or officiant ties braided grass or piece of material around the wrists of the couple. This then symbolizes their unity and commitment to one another.
Jumping the Broom
A widely known African wedding tradition that originated in the days of slavery when slaves were forbidden to marry or live together. The broom represented all past problems that have been swept away and jumping over it symbolized publicly and formally their marital union. Today, these brooms are beautifully decorated and often displayed in the home!
Not as well known as jumping the broom is the crossing of tall sticks between the couple. This wedding tradition also dates back as early as the slavery era. Representing the life force as well as power within the trees, when they are crossed the couple conveys their hopes for a formidable and grounded beginning.
Popular on the West coast of Africa but not limited to a few other cultures, the money spray is the tradition of tossing money at the bride while she dances. This is gift from the guests that help the new couple get their lives started….make it rain! (Couldn’t help it…)
Tasting the 4 Elements
This is a ritual that originated in Yoruba that has the couple taste 4 flavors that symbolize 4 emotions in their marriage, typically bitter, hot, sour and sweet. These flavors emulate the good and the bad that may accompany marriage but ending in sweet if you endure the others.
In Ghana, the groom comes bearing gifts and knocks at the door of his soon-to-be in laws since much emphasis is put on “permissions” or getting the “blessings” of the families that are being joined. If his knock is accepted, the celebration and planning for both family begins!
Black Friday Deals…for Brides!
Black Friday is here and it’s not just about scoring a new tv or bed, this is the time of year to knock a few things of your wedding to do list…and maybe save while you’re at it? Yes!
This is one of the best times to buy in bulk if possible. Department stores like Target, Walmart will have non-perishable favors like sunglasses (beach), tea cups/mugs (winter), passport holders (destination). Once you have them all you can customize them with tags or pretty packaging.
Who doesn’t love a good shoe deal? Have a style and height in mind, comfort will be key so don’t impulse purchase. Trying them on and doing a walk through of the store is important, make sure nothing pinches or is too tight. Be sure to ask about the store return policy if exchanges are permitted and keep your receipt and original packaging!
This might require a bit of digging but start off with your local bridal shop and see if they have any trunk shows to clear out older inventory. If you’ve been checking the price tag of one particular dress; you won’t get it at a lower price before it gets redistributed. This could be the opportunity to fine “the dress”.
Another no brainer. As with shoes, there is always a hygiene issue with earrings so before you buy, get the return policy information. If you scored shoes then look for hair pieces, necklaces and earrings that will compliment them. If you ended up with a dress or already have one, be sure to consider the neckline and how you will wear your hair. Generally, if you have a higher neckline, a necklace might be too much but some longer earrings could work.
Bridal Party Attire
Welp! Black Friday bridesmaid dresses won’t get better than this! What more could you want? Girls day, shopping, saving money and ticking this off your to do list! Be sure to have everyone’s measurements and be ready to buy if the right opportunity comes along that fits the criteria you are looking for! One last time…check the return/exchange policy and make sure you keep those receipts!
With a bit of advance research, this year’s Black Friday can be unbelievably productive for any soon to be bride!
Mona Lisa Bridal Gallery
While I was thinking about who I wanted to work with for my upcoming published shoot in Elegant Wedding Magazine it took seconds for me to know with a certainty that I wanted the dresses to be from Mona Lisa Bridal Gallery.
I had been trying for the better part of a year to go and visit Frances and her hubby over there and of course planning weddings and life in general got in the way so here was my chance!
Tucked away just north of Toronto in Woodbridge, this bridal studio is run by the one of the sweetest women in the industry. I value humility and a genuine caring spirit and Frances personifies all of it. When I arrived, she was finishing up with a client and I was more than happy to wait. I could overhear bits of the conversation and was able to hear the bride speaking with such confidence over her choice in dress.
Customer service is paramount in this industry rather than getting the sale and I have seen so many missed opportunities to bond with clients and create trusting relationships with them. It’s so much more than just the sale and at Mona Lisa Bridal, you are always going to get a very one on one, in-depth consultation- that isn’t rushed.
Once the studio was clear of brides, I went straight to the back happily anticipating the glitter, tulle, crystal embellishment and all things uber girly. They didn’t disappoint. Frances was at the tail end of her Naama & Anat trunk show. I had never heard of this designer, so she explained they were a Israeli mother daughter duo that custom designed bridal couture. Let me just start by saying wow! I was in awe of some of these gowns and my initial choice in gowns from a completely different designer quickly faded away.
She pulled out a few pieces (they were jaw dropping sort of gorgeous!) and we spent a good half hour going over the look I wanted. Mona Lisa Bridal also has a stunning collection of designer gowns by Julie Vino, Alma Novia, A & J Designers, Liancarlo, Rosa Clara and Sareh Nouri.
Needless to say, I found the “dream dresses” for my shoot and I left a happy little planner! To my dear Frances and her amazing hubby, thank you both SO much for being a part of the shoot and I know we will be working together again sooner rather than later!
3 Major problems you may face with your Bridesmaids
One of the most memorable moments of the beginning stages of planning your wedding is asking the question to your besties “will you be my bridesmaid?” Choosing our bridal party is a big deal for so many reasons but you can and will experience some challenges in the coming months. Even though its your wedding, some bridesmaids tend to make it about them, here are some issues you may encounter and suggestions on how to handle them.
You may not realize how expensive it is to be a bridesmaid but the lower end cost is just shy of $2000. Consider the expense of dresses, hair and makeup, accessories, gifts, travel and accommodations, engagement parties and showers and bachelorette parties. Some bridesmaids may have a problem with the amount of money they may have to spend depending on the “taste” of the bride but may suffer in silence, or they will complain about costs.
Before you choose your bridal party, do your best to analyze their lifestyles, it’s a good indicator as to if they will be able to comfortably afford to really be a part of the wedding. If they have kids, or work part time it may not be feasible for them. It still doesn’t hurt to ask but perhaps when you do, let them know that if they need to decline, they can and that it won’t affect your friendship. The last thing you want is to have your friends resent you because they spent outside of their means.
Or we also call this “planet me” syndrome. You may end up with a bridesmaid who has something to say about every little thing you ask of them to do…or wear. If you are a bride that intends to have all your party wear the same dress, she will be the one to say the color is bad on her, or it doesn’t suit her body type.
The reality is this, it is your wedding and you may have to have a conversation with her about this. Her opinion is valued but if it’s not in sync with the plans you have, part of her job is to do things she doesn’t like. If I asked my bridesmaids to wear a paper bag with a plaid design finger painted by my 5-year-old nephew- they would wear them! You want people in your party who support you, not fight you on everything during the planning process.
Its amazing that you have incredible friends who want to help you plan your big day but taking over when they haven’t been asked or assigned to anything will be stressful. They may start telling you what to do or how to do it or even what you will want to do! This can get overwhelming quickly if you don’t handle it right away.
Calmly thank them for all their suggestions and eagerness to help but then let them know, you would prefer not to get ahead of yourself and still need to time to discuss with your fiancé certain elements of the wedding. You may even tell her you haven’t had the opportunity to think about those aspects yet and would like to wait until you have a clearer idea as to what you want.
Feature image via etsy
Blog images via @robynsrussell www.robynsrussell.com Sasha & Jared 2017
AVP Real Wedding: Miguel & Michelle
Miguel and I go back to high school so when he contacted me and asked me to help plan his wedding naturally I was over the moon happy! His fiancée Michelle was lovely and we got to meet at Kleinfeld Hudson’s Bay downtown Toronto as she tried on a slew of gorgeous gowns.
There were many obstacles these two had to overcome amid all the planning, their daughter Mia was under a year old and that took much time and attention. They had also bought a new house, were renovating and had several setbacks.
Everything came together at the Trent Port Marina, tucked away in a town in the southern part of Ontario on the Bay of Quinte. Very quiet, quaint town where everyone knows everyone (I grew up close to there so it was nice to be “home”). It was an intimate setting of close friends and family for the ceremony and dinner. Michelle and Miguel exchanged vows in the late afternoon and then the party started.
The one thing I won’t forget about this wedding is the way they both looked at each other the entire day. It was with such love and certainty, I was so honored to be a part of their happy day. See more on my website
Planner: Ashley Victoria Productions//Venue: Trent Port Marina//Catering: Tomassos//Linens, Napkins & Chair Covers: Chair Cover King//Photography: Images by Montserrat