When my cousin and her fiance decided to move the date of their wedding up three months, all of a sudden the whole game plan changed. Her father had been diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer, and it was important to them that they have the wedding before he began intensive chemotherapy. Instead of having the wedding and reception in Florida, they would have the wedding in her hometown and the reception in my parents' backyard.
These are a few of the money-saving strategies that worked the best for us:
1) Be flexible! - I am not saying you have to totally scrap all your childhood dreams of the perfect wedding, but if you are a slave to a certain picture of your wedding you will end up spending more.
2) Shop your own stuff - Most of the materials for the table decorations came from my house or from my mom.
3) Get a little help from your friends - People buy decorations for weddings and then it sits in the basement for a decade. If you ask around, you might be able to borrow some great stuff, and your friends will just be happy to get it out of the house for awhile.
4) Put up a wanted ad - It may amount to nothing, but it never hurts to ask. I put up a wanted ad for white Christmas lights on Freecycle and got multiple results the first day!
5) Shop the sales - We got all the flowers for the wedding from Hobby Lobby during one of their 50% off floral sales.
6) Use coupons - Most big chain craft stores post weekly coupons in the paper or online for up to 40% off an item. For my wedding, my mom made weekly trips to Hobby Lobby to purchase 1 package of votives in candleholders until we had enough.
7) Use everything - Pretend you are a Native American who hunted down a buffalo. Every part of that craft supply can be useful, you just have to put your thinking cap on.
8) Steal shamelessly - No, I am not advocating shoplifting. Steal IDEAS! Take the time to surf the web or flip through all those beautiful wedding magazines for ideas.
9) Delegate - If you have a family like mine (and you should count yourself blessed if you do), they want to help in whatever way they can. Give them jobs! Let a brother be the DJ, put an aunt in charge of dealing with the caterer, ask your cousin to be a ceremony musician.
10) Keep things in perspective - It was easy for us to keep priorities straight for this wedding. My uncle was able to dance at his daughter's wedding, and that was more important than what the cake table looked like. But even for "normal" weddings, decide what is important to you. Would you rather have impeccable centerpieces, or do you want to make sure your guests have a great time?
I found the inspiration for the guest table centerpieces at the Every Day with Rachael Ray website.
For the table decorations that flanked these centerpieces, we used wineglasses filled with glass marbles (both borrowed from friends), mirror tiles left from my cousin's wedding, and more of the infamous votives. Free, free, and free.