I'm looking back today on our romantic greenhouse wedding, and putting together my vendor list and advice for all you DIY wedding planners!
First, decide what's most important to you. Is it the dress? The venue? The band? The photographer? Think about the element that you don't want to compromise on, and start there. For example, if you've already "said yes to the dress", you'll be able to narrow your venue search based on the style of your dress (i.e., a full-skirted tulle dress won't work well for a beach wedding.) If you are obsessed with a specific photographer, check with them first to see when they are available (great photographers book up fast!) Or if you have your heart set on specific flowers for your bouquet and reception, start by checking with a florist on when they are in season before you set your wedding date. Once you have your most important wedding element chosen, you can start building everything else around it!
Next, decide on a budget and prioritize. In our case, we were paying for most of the wedding ourselves and didn't want to blow through all of our savings for one day (it's a special day, but not special enough to go broke over!) We were really fortunate to win a contest with Black Diamond Gardens which meant we had a beautiful wedding venue free of charge! Before finding Black Diamond Gardens, though, we looked at A LOT of venues and let me tell you, they are not cheap. The venue may easily be the largest single expense for your entire wedding. If you're working with a limited budget, consider less commercial venues. Maybe a family member has a little acreage or a sprawling backyard, for example. Rent a houseboat! Reserve a campground! You have options that won't leave you scraping together cash to pay for the rest of the wedding.
Which leads to: the details! This part of planning is probably the most fun, but also the most tedious. Once you have a guest count for the wedding, you can start deciding on design elements. Don't get ahead of yourself and go crazy in Hobby Lobby before you know your (approximate at least) guest count! Everything will add up, so wait until you know how much of everything you need to avoid overbuying. Some questions to consider: does your venue provide tables? Chairs? Linens? Serveware? The answers will vary venue to venue. In our case, the venue provided tables and chairs, but I opted to rent chairs instead because I really, really wanted to use gold chiavari chairs :). (By the way, these chairs were a significant expense that I had to make up for in other areas, but they were worth it!!)
In our geographic area (Seattle), it was more expensive to rent table linens than to buy them direct from a wholesaler online. I purchased tablecloths from CV Linens and cloth napkins from Table Linens for Less for about half of what the local event rental businesses were renting them for. Bargain!!
I DIY'd several elements for our wedding, which not only saved us some serious cash but also allowed me to design everything to my specific vision.
I found the candle votives for free in my local Buy Nothing group (if you're unfamiliar with the Buy Nothing Project, find your local group on Facebook! It's amazing!!). A neighbor of mine had hundreds of black frosted glass candle holders from her wedding with wax melted halfway down in each of them that she was ready to get rid of. So I took them off her hands, scraped out the old wax, spray painted them gold and refilled them with fresh wax and wicks (also from Buy Nothing), and for the cost of a couple of cans of spray paint and about five hours of my time I had a ton of gorgeous candles which made our evening reception beautiful and romantic! I just love the simplicity of candles at a wedding--something about that glowy, flickering light makes everything so much more romantic!
My last big DIY project was the flowers. Let me tell you, flowers are a big project. Do not underestimate the time it will take to put together bouquets and centerpieces. If you're using fresh flowers, you'll need to allot enough time to put the arrangements together but also make sure that the flowers won't have time to wilt before the big day. I spent a couple of hours driving around to my local supermarkets the day before the wedding to get the blooms I needed (Fred Meyer has a recurring coupon every few weeks for Buy One, Get One Half Off on fresh floral bunches that I took advantage of!) I added a few inches of water to a big storage tub and put all of the stems in it to keep the flowers fresh, then spent several hours putting the arrangements together. I think I ended up making twelve table arrangements and five bouquets (a large bridal bouquet, two medium sized bridesmaid bouquets and two small bouquets for the flower girls) for about $200. That's less than $12 per bouquet! We saved a HUGE amount on wedding flowers doing them ourselves versus paying a florist. If you have a knack for floral arrangement (or know someone who does), I highly recommend going the DIY route!
I almost forgot--THE DRESS!!! I LOVED my wedding dress. ADORED it. Would LIVE in it if I could. It's timeless but unique, a flattering fit, and wearing it made me feel like the best version of myself. And guess what? I bought it second hand!!! What would have been a $2200 wedding gown cost me only $400 on Once Wed! The bargain hunter in me was ecstatic about this find (as you can imagine), and I still got to wear my dream dress without the insane cost of a brand new designer gown. If you're willing to take a chance on purchasing your dress online, I highly recommend Once Wed!
I have to mention our superbly talented (and very patient) wedding photographer, Jenn at Spotted: Stills! Not only did she give us a great deal, travel from Portland and step in on short notice when we had a scheduling snaffu with our original photographer, but she was endlessly patient through the chaos of the day and gifted us with the most beautiful wedding photos that we will cherish forever <3. I can't recommend her enough! All photos pictured here are her impeccable work :).