One of the biggest challenges of planning a wedding can be the myriad of options you have for pretty much everything. And as much as you may want the best of the best in every category, most people in the world operate on a limited budget, which means you’re going to have to be selective about which things to spend more money on and which ones to DIY or find a cheaper alternative.
So, what things are worth putting at the top of your list? Obviously the list will vary for each individual based on personal preference, but I feel quite strongly about mine and would not hesitate to tell any bride to consider putting more of their budget toward the specific things listed below. Keep in mind that this is NOT a list of “what is most important” on my wedding day – that would be a very different list! This is just a list of the top 6 things I am glad I spent a bit more money on as opposed to finding the cheapest option available.
I love photography and looking at beautiful, artistic photos. Great photographers are hard to find, especially at an affordable rate. I looked through a LOT of portfolios for different photographers and rejected most of them for two main reasons – poor composition (no artistic perspectives, boring shots, bad poses, lacking in variety, looks like anyone can take take these with their phone) and poor color (too yellow, too dull, too unnatural, bad lighting). If there’s ever time to hire a great photographer to capture a special occasion, it’s on your wedding day.
I finally found my top three choices. One of them was way out of our budget (the starting price was $10,000!! I think she shoots Hollywood weddings), one was already booked the day of our wedding, but one was available and at a price we could afford! Thank you, Gregory Woodman of Woodman Weddings! He and his wife run their business and their portfolio showcased excellent compositions and fantastic colors and lighting. The photos we received from our wedding day absolutely met our very high expectations. Check out a few of them:
Gregory so wonderfully captured the beauty of our wedding day and I will enjoy going through all of our pictures over and over again.
So if you want to enjoy looking at beautiful photos from your wedding day for the rest of your life, do yourself a favor and hire a fantastic photographer who is dedicated to their craft. People who are very passionate about their photography will often go above and beyond to get that perfect shot. Our photographer was so committed that he jumped into a river to get us shots like this (I’m exaggerating, he climbed onto some rocks in the middle of a creek):
2. Professional Hair and Makeup:
Before our wedding, I would have never thought that this would be one of the top things on the list. I mean, I do my hair and makeup all the time when I go to formal events and it’s not that hard, so why not do it myself or ask a friend to do it on my wedding day and save several hundred dollars? I debated for a while but BOY am I glad I hired a professional. She did a much better job than I could have done, and at twice the speed too. Your wedding day look will affect every single picture that you will be in and it’s not a crime to want to look stunning that day.
If you want to look your absolute best for one of the most important days of your life, hiring an excellent professional makeup artist and hair stylist is the way to go. My number one tip for finding a good one is to look at their online portfolio before you hire them to see if you love their work. I found mine by asking my cousin (who looked gorgeous on her wedding day) who her stylist was. That stylist was part of a network of other stylists, so I found mine by comparing all of their portfolios and prices.
The woman I picked was amazing and there was no way that I or any of my friends could have done what she did. Now I understand why there are professional stylists in the world. I paid for an hour long hair and makeup trial session with her a few weeks before the wedding (I also recommend doing that if you can) and during the session she crafted my hair into a number of different styles so that I could compare them and see which ones I liked most (they all looked really nice). What was impressive was that she was SO FAST and her hair and makeup work was beautiful, flawless, and very adaptable. Did I want tighter curls or looser curls? More volume or less volume? Did I want the makeup to be more bold or more natural? She even told me that if I couldn’t decide yet how I wanted my hair done, I could make that decision on the day of the wedding and we would have time to try different hair styles. Impressive.
I definitely recommend hiring a talented professional hair and makeup artist for your wedding day. As an added bonus, you get to just sit and relax while you get beautified, rather than worry about whether the back of your head looks right or if you will be able to finish everything on time.
3. Wedding Dress
I’ve never been the kind of girl to dream about her perfect wedding dress because white wedding dresses seemed rather boring to me. I love color so I had seriously considered getting a vibrant blue ball gown to wear on my wedding day (something along the lines of the stained-glass style gown that a certain model wore to the 2018 Met Gala but without the leg slits and sheer fabric). And before the mid-1800’s, white wasn’t even a common color for wedding dresses (Sarah Edwards, the wife of pastor Jonathan Edwards, notably wore a “pea green” dress on her wedding day in the 1700’s).
However, I finally decided to get a white dress because Revelation 19:7-8 says, “…the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure—for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.” The ultimate purpose of marriage is to be an illustration of the relationship between Jesus Christ and his church (see Ephesians chapter 5). The word pure in this passage has the connotation of clean, unsoiled, guiltless, and innocent, and that purity can only be given to someone who has had their sins forgiven by God through receiving Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
Isaiah 1:18 talks about God making the scarlet sins of his people white as snow and Revelation 7:14 talks about Christians who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb (Jesus), because the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross cleanses us from all our sin and unrighteousness. Since white is the symbolic color of purity in the Bible, and since the bride of Christ is clothed in “pure linen” I figured white would be a poignant color to wear on my wedding day. So no blue wedding dress for me! Even though it would have been totally okay to get a colored dress (go for it, if you want).
Whatever color you decide on for your wedding dress, I highly recommend getting a dress that you love and are excited to wear. I liked many dresses that I tried on, but when I put on the one I ended up buying, I knew it was the one. It was very much my style – a combination of modern bold shapes and dramatic lines while still being simple, classic, and soft. Lucky for me, it had just arrived in the store the day before I got there (it was supposed to be a sample dress for “next year’s collection”) so when I tried it on it was still brand new and fit me perfectly! It cost a pretty penny but it was worth every cent since I loved it so much! Here’s me in the dress on our wedding day:
So whether it’s borrowed, rented, bought at a thrift store, gently used off the rack, brand-new or couture, get a dress that you really love and not just “like” because it’s your wedding day! And actually, I think the same attitude should apply to clothes that you buy on a regular basis. We live in a day and age with so many options – for wedding gowns and regular clothes – so the clothes you love probably cost similarly to the clothes you like, which means you would save money (and closet space) by only selectively buying the clothes you love instead of a whole bunch of outfits that you would rank a 7 instead of 10. Stop buying clothes you don’t really love just because they’re cheap or on sale – save that money for an outfit you really enjoy. Rather than quote Marie Kondo, I will quote my husband, who says, “It is better to get one shirt that you love than nine shirts that you like.”
4. Wedding Venue:
Ultimately, a wedding is not about the aesthetics of everything but is about the celebration of the permanent covenant that two people are making to become one in marriage. However, a beautiful venue can very much complement and honor the beauty of the covenant you are making because beauty reflects the glory of God, who is the creator of all things lovely.
Our wedding venue was one of the things that my husband and I are both glad we spent a bit more money on. Originally he was thinking of having our wedding at a church, which I was not against (we are Christians after all). But my main issue with some church weddings is that outdoor lighting is often much better than indoor lighting (which can be a bit yellow and dark), and I think nature is a beautiful backdrop for such a special occasion. And getting married in nature isn’t any less spiritually focused than getting married in a church – the first wedding in human history happened in an outdoor garden after all (see Genesis chapter 2). I’ve always wanted to have an outdoor wedding and when we visited this venue, we both loved it and it was affordable – so we booked it!
You don’t have to break the bank to get married in a beautiful location, whether you choose indoors or outdoors. Do your research. Some venues are cheaper at certain times of the year during their “off season” and many venues cost less on days that are not as in-demand. We got married on a Friday because Saturday or Sunday would have cost significantly more. We also attended a wedding once that was in someone’s backyard, and it was very nice.
Just remember that if you choose an indoor location, pay careful attention to the lighting (the source, the strength, and the color) when you visit the venue. And if you want to get married outdoors, remember to consider the weather and have a Plan B in case of rain or high winds.
I had never considered having a videographer document our wedding because they seemed too expensive on top of everything else. But my husband thought it would be a great idea so I let him run with it. To my surprise, he found one on Craigslist with a good portfolio and at an amazing price. Since his price was significantly cheaper than what some of my friends paid for their wedding videographers, I had pretty low expectations for his work. But he REALLY surprised me and far exceeded my expectations. I think he was also very intense about his craft, so his excellence and artistry came through in the video. My husband and I love re-watching our wedding day video (and short highlight reel) and reliving all the special moments. I am so thankful that my husband found this guy to record all of them!
So if you can afford it, get a videographer. Especially if you can find one at a great price.
6. Bridal Bouquet:
Planning our wedding was like working on a massive art project. I really enjoyed planning all the details and had decided to DIY many things (some of which I had help from friends) to save money and just to have some creative fun. All that DIY was completely worth it and I loved the results but it took a lot of time, energy, and coordination so one of the things I wanted to outsource was my bridal bouquet. I wanted it to look fresh and perfect the day of the wedding and knew I wouldn’t have time to make it with everything else I was doing (which included creating the floral decor and bridesmaid bouquets from flowers I ordered).
I actually designed my bridal bouquet and gave very detailed instructions to our florist on how it should look (see my post here about how I designed it). Since I had never made a bouquet that structured before, I figured it would be best for an expert to do it. I probably gave the florist a headache with how specific my directions were but I am so glad I had them construct it, because they followed my directions to a T and it came out perfect and exactly like how I had imagined.
Whether you decide to make your own bouquets, floral accessories, and decor or hire a florist to do it is entirely up to you. Just know that if you do it all yourself, it is actually a lot of work and cannot be done too far in advance because of the nature of fresh flowers. And then you have to keep them looking nice until the day of the wedding by keeping them cold, feeding them flower food, changing the water, and misting them. And then you have to get them to the venue and set up the day of the wedding (thanks, friends and family!). Looking back, I am still glad I DIY’ed so many of the bouquets and floral pieces because they were gorgeous and it would have been way out of budget to hire a florist to do it all. But it did add significant stress to the days right before the wedding, so I’m glad I at least hired a florist construct my own bouquet. Here it is:
And that concludes the list of the top 6 things I do not regret spending money on for our wedding! If you have a wedding coming up, I hope my opinions were helpful to you for the planning of your big day. Have fun planning!