With the economy the way it is, quite a few brides have had to rethink the level of grandeur their wedding will encompass. However, you can still have a fantastic fete to honor your nuptials without breaking the bank. Enter: the casual wedding.

Now a casual wedding doesn’t necessarily mean t-shirts, sweatpants, and sneakers with hamburgers and hotdogs (however, if that’s your style, go for it). Rather, it means forgoing the martini luge and the $10,000 flower budget in favor of a low-key party. Here are a few ways to carry out this theme and still remain stylish (and forgo overdraft charges to your bank account).

Venue Victory: Instead of going for a grand hotel ballroom or a banquet hall, opt for offbeat spaces such as lofts, parks, or civic centers. The costs of renting spaces from such venues tend to be significantly lower than going your traditional route and they offer a truly blank canvas for you to decorate. If you have the space (or a generous friend or family member), host the wedding at home in the backyard. In the case of an outdoor space, you can save money on decor depending on the season, as the gardens may be in full bloom on the big day. Also, the time of day could tone down the formality; opting to have a brunch or lunch reception will keep it light and help to save money (more on that later).

Invite Info: Let guests know that they’ll be able to unwind at your event through a fun, colorful invite. Instead of going the traditional route of having insert upon insert with information on embossed stock paper, go with a simplified, 1-piece invite highlighted with a funky print that hints at your color scheme. If you’re the artsy type, you could also make the invites yourself with a kit or start from scratch to get an invitation that really reflects you and your fiancé. Bonus: a lack of paper will cost less and, if you go the recycled route, you’ll go green for your invites, thus aiding the environment, which is always a good thing.

Catered Cool: As mentioned in the first tip, brunch and lunch receptions tone down the formality of your wedding and could save you some extra cash. If you go the brunch route, make sure that your guests have the option to enjoy traditional breakfast fare such as omelets, breakfast meats, waffles, fresh salads of fruits and veggies, and plenty of punch (and, don’t forget the mimosas). Lunch time weddings could call for well-prepared sandwiches with deli meats and vegetarian options as well at various salads (vegetable, pasta, potato, etc), fresh fruit, and sodas. Both could call for the wedding cake, or you could have a dessert table with sweets for all. However, due to the time of day, no one will miss the open bar, so you could indeed have a dry wedding without any objections from your guests or your wallet.
If you truly want an evening wedding, serve a cocktail reception with passed hors d’œuvres. I went to a wedding where all that was served was passed hors d’œuvres-and, plenty of them, both hot and cold. But, keep them fun; mini-hamburgers, macaroni and cheese spoons, won-tons, and the omnipresent meatballs are crown favorites that don’t take themselves too seriously.

Look Lovely: A casual bride can still be an elegant one. Unless you’re hell-bent on wearing that princess ballgown, opt for a simpler frock to celebrate. Go for a simple, breezy gown of organza or go retro chic with a tea-length dress and show off those fabulous shoes (tip: the shoes don’t have to be white-pick a color you love). To further save money, just order a flattering bridesmaids’ dress in white or ivory and embellish it yourself. Only you will know the difference.
Let your leading man break free from tradition too. Forgo the tuxedo and allow him to wear a suit he loves-and, already owns. To tone down the formality even more, just dictate a dress shirt color (most likely one that compliments the bridesmaids’ dresses) with slacks, and all of the guys will be good to go-uniformed, polished, and casually cool.
Let your guests know that ballroom gowns and three-piece suits need not apply by stating that the dress code is “casual elegance” or, in layman’s terms, “Dressy Casual”. Just make sure you dictate what you consider to be not allowed (be it jeans, sneakers, baseball caps, etc).

A Big Favor: While Jordan almonds or chocolates in tulle bags are the dominant types of send-offs for the guests, I encourage you to think outside of the pink favor box. For an outdoor wedding, purchase white paper or palm-woven fans to give to the guests as a token of appreciation and a useful tool to keep cool. If candy is your thing, opt for a candy bar with boxes that reflects your theme, such as miniature picnic baskets. For a relaxed Asian theme, pass out fortune cookies with personalized messages for each guest. These suggestions are limited, but you get the idea: do something different. Just be sure to shop around for the best price on favors.

See, not all weddings need to have all of the bells and whistles to be fabulous. I hope that these tips will help make your casual wedding as unforgettable as any formal event while keeping your finances in the black. Just remember-the wedding is one day, the marriage lasts for much longer, so start out on a good foot with fun a laughter to spare. Have fun!

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