Sunday, February 28, 2010

Book Review: How to Have a Big Wedding on a Small Budget

When I first started wedding planning, I was super stressed out about costs.  With my expensive tastes in location, I didn't see how I could ever have the wedding that I wanted on our budget.  Add that to the fact that Daniel also has expensive tastes but in different areas, and I thought we were screwed.  Since she was the only person I knew at the time with an interest in weddings, my friend Laura heard most of my complaints, and that is probably why she gave me How to Have a Big Wedding on a Small Budget by Diane Warner.  Now that I've read it, I have to say, "THANK YOU, LAURA" once again because it was definitely helpful for putting my nerves at ease.

I would recommend this book for anyone who is trying to plan a wedding on a budget.  If nothing else, it gives you the sense that you can accomplish your dreams without dumping tens of thousands of dollars into your wedding, and for me, that alone made it worth reading.  At the same time, Warner offers lots of good money-saving tips that are effective without compromising the aesthetic appeal of your wedding, something I have not found through many other venues (especially because I am not a crafty person).

Originally based on planning her daughter's wedding, this book goes through all of the major expenses of your average American wedding and shows you ways to do things on the cheap while still making them look, well, expensive in most cases.  She offers ideas of what to do as well as how to go about finding the places and things that she talks about which is what I really wanted out of this book.  If you really liked her ideas, you could basically plan your wedding following her guide and suggestions, and while that definitely is not something I plan on doing, it's helpful to have someone walk you through a way to plan your wedding without charging for the service (apart from the price of the book of course).

As you might have guessed from this post, I found the chapter on flowers most illuminating.  Her ideal plan, harvesting flowers from your friends and family, costs a mere $206, but the thing that really impressed me was that her "Fool Them with the Real Thing" plan which is basically buy your flowers from the grocery store and put everything together yourself still only costs $700.  And she isn't just talking about flowers for the wedding party.  This price includes decking out the venue in lots of flowers.  That is the kind of thing that really sets this book apart:  it really is how to have a BIG wedding on a SMALL budget, i.e. how to have everything you want for less than $10,000 (which will probably be my budget, more or less).

However, the book did have some problems.  A major thing that lacked helpfulness for me was not really her fault but me and Daniel realizing that there are a lot of things that we want to go all out on.  The biggest one for me is the dress.  As I said here, the dress is one of the most important aspects of the wedding to me, and it is one of the biggest things that I do not want to have to compromise on.  I'm going to spend about $1,200 on a retail dress (including alterations) because I want my dress to be perfect.  If I can find my dress at an outlet store, that's great, but I'm not going to expect it.  However, another thing I liked about the book was that it took things like this into account.  There is a pricing chart at the back of the book that allows you to see how much each thing should cost, and if I were to follow it, I wouldn't have a problem spending a little less on some things to spend more on my dress.  Daniel and I are going to have to be a little more flexible than we would like on things like food and convenience, but it should all work out in the end.

The real problems I had with this book were more regional and generational.  To a large extent, this book is written by someone who assumes the bride lives in a small town.  While she does go out of her way to include things in the big city, it always feels inserted, like she's not really writing for city folk, and much of what she does include about the city does not jive with my experiences.  And the small town stuff really doesn't help me.  Like assuming people have yards, and you have lots of friends and family to help out, and you know people who are really good at sewing, cooking, arts and crafts, etc., and there are places that sell things cheaply.  I'm not saying there aren't people and places in more populated areas that could fit these categories, just that they're a lot harder to find if you live in urban areas, and Warner often does not take that into account.

Another major thing that bothered me was that Warner often assumes you will be married in a church which was completely unhelpful for me since I'll be having an outdoor wedding.  Though she does make a few suggestions for non-church weddings, it is very, very common for her to give advice based on the assumption that you will be in a church, and this is useless for quite a few brides out there.

Also, though she does say in the beginning and end that you should do what's best for you without regard for other's opinions, she also makes certain assumptions about what you MUST have at your wedding that I found bothersome.  For instance, she says a wedding without flowers looks tacky while I know of lots of brides who are providing alternative decorations that look GREAT.  She also assumes that the bride and her mother will be planning the wedding while my family probably won't be involved much, but Daniel and I really want to share the planning burden.  But I think the biggest of these problems for me was that she assumes the classical structure of the bride pays for this stuff while the groom pays for that which is soooo not the way it's going to go down for us.  Even though she has a chapter for the groom's stuff, I felt like I missed out on advice for the stuff the groom is supposed to take care of.  I guess my main problem with this book is that Warner assumes certain things that are contrary to what I need, and it would have been nice for her to cater to a broader audience.

But like I said, the book was really helpful, and I am glad that I read it.  It may not plan my wedding for me, and there are a lot of tips that I won't be using, but it could still save me thousands of dollars which is all that really matters in the end.

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