When people hear you are getting married, at least in my experience, a constant influx of questions and offers of help begins. I was blessed with many selfless and sacrificial family and friends who were practically begging to help. Which is good, because I am SO UNCOMFORTABLE asking for help! I’m not sure what it is, but I just feel like I’m imposing on others. If you feel that way, you’re not alone.

So, you’re getting married. He asked, or she asked, and you are sporting a new ring. People are always asking you who/what/where/when/why?! Mostly, when. For me, that was one of the hardest parts of the wedding. When am I off of school and when could our honeymoon work? Will our venue, photographer, caterer, etc all be available on one single day that I choose at random? I picked our date by picking our venue.

When I was researching venues online, I was shocked. My budget was around $10,000, which seems like quite a bit of money to spend on one day. Since I’m a photographer, I knew that more than a quarter of my budget was going towards a fantastic photographer. Two thousand dollars are budgeted for my honeymoon. So. I’m left with around six grand to house, feed and entertain 200+ people while also trying to look fantastic. Many venues are at least a couple of thousand dollars and also require that you use their caterer, who usually charges around $20 a plate for food. (This is just my experience, yours may be entirely different!). I can’t in good conscience pay $4,000 for dry chicken and a wilted salad. It just wasn’t happening.

And now, I present to you my WEDDING MANTRA.

Keep looking until you find what you want.

I can’t say that it will work for everyone. You have  to have some time to invest into research and I might have been exceedingly lucky in my wedding finds. But when I couldn’t find a suitable venue in my price range, I refused to stop looking. When I couldn’t find invitations that were moderately DIY and cost less than my budgeted goal, I went to every invite section in the store. When I couldn’t find a ready made favor that really encapsulated what I wanted to give to my guests, I came up with my own idea. There are very few places in which I had to compromise because I refused to give up.

I was blessed with the offer of an amazing house built into Fort McDowell’s mountainside. For free. I can’t say that everyone will be able to get that. But I had several fall back options that would have worked perfectly for me for a price. And remember, a backyard wedding isn’t free either. Table, chair, tablecloth rentals…those all start piling up.

Find your venue first. Unless your entire wedding vision hinges on a specific photographer or DJ or pastor, find your venue first and then find other professionals that are available on the date you need. Once you have your venue, you can appropriately budget for space, decor, music, food, etc.