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How to Have a Lavish Chicago Wedding Under $5,000 – Part III

Money-Saving Tips For Your Chicago Dream Wedding!

by Rea Frey – January 26, 2011

Recently having attended a wedding at The Palmer House, I marveled at the extravagant beauty, the elite crowd and all of the personal touches. However, I also knew this kind of elegance comes with a hefty price tag, hours of debate, endless meltdowns and a sense of relief when it’s all said and done. People chugged alcohol, ate the food and if they were lucky, said hello to the bride and groom. Alex and I left five hours in, when the dancing was just getting underway. I hoped that the bride would remember her special day, that it wouldn’t be one giant blur as the years went by, those memories dimming with time. When you think back on your wedding, you want that sense of having the wedding of your dreams, not someone else’s. This week’s tips for the journey towards wedded bliss? See below:

1. Get married in an “off” season. Alex and I happen to love winter, so the idea of a romantic winter wedding was perfect for us. Christmas lights, the possibility of soft snowfall, piping hot chocolate, a warm fireplace and endless cups of coffee… it was exactly what we wanted. Because spring and summer are more popular for weddings, we had free reign on venues. The rates are often much lower (especially for honeymoon options), so you can find great winter deals. But what if you hate cold weather? Pick a venue where you can have the ceremony and reception in the same place, so you and your guests won’t have to trudge through bad weather.

2. Tungsten rings. I don’t like diamonds. No really, I don’t. I’ve always found it odd that women wear thousands of dollars on a single digit, and sometimes complain about not having enough to buy healthy groceries or go on a vacation. To us, we’d rather spend money on our lives, not a gem. However, I’m still a girl and love a bit of sparkle, so a great, affordable option? A Tungsten ring. This hard grey metal has a high melting point and won’t tarnish, scratch, break or dim – ever. I was able to get a gorgeous wedding band with all the sparkle of a diamond in just a $30 purchase. Alex has the exact same ring, but in black, and he gets more compliments than I do! Tungsten is not only more affordable, it’s much more sustainable and if you ever need to replace it, a quick trip to Amazon will take care of it. In so many styles and colors, the options are endless. Total cost? $60.

Tungsten rings

3. Find the attire of your dreams. Since Alex and I were economical in every other aspect of our wedding, what we wore was very important. Alex does not enjoy the tuxedo look (and neither do I), so we splurged on a gorgeous charcoal gray Theory suit for him that we found at Macy’s. He saved money by purchasing his shirt and tie at Nordstrom Rack (under $50) and he had some beautiful Cole Haan boots to complete the outfit. He looked like a million bucks and can wear that suit for the rest of his life. Total cost? $700. I lucked into my Spanish dress on my first trip to WhiteChicago. The most stunning wedding shop I’ve ever seen, its pristine runway and startlingly white décor are accentuated by the incredibly friendly and helpful employees. You can look through the racks yourself, and all dresses are 30-40% cheaper, as they are either samples or once worn. You can also sell your dress back to them (or sell it online) once you are done, so another bride might benefit. I found my Pronovias dress immediately for $1100. To me, it looked like a $5,000 dress. The best part? I could take it with me that day, and they have an amazing alterations woman you can pay directly.

wedding appearance

4. Inexpensive accessories. Because my dress was so extravagant, I decided I only wanted a pair of earrings (and I got more compliments on my earrings than even the dress that night!). I knew what I wanted, but after browsing Macy’s and other fancy stores, I decided to pop into Forever 21. In a moment, I saw them. Gorgeous and dramatic, they were the perfect set. The best part? They were $3! I got a similar pair just in case those broke, or I wanted to change my mind and try something new. For my shoes, I found some decent size heels at DSW for around $40. Everyone knows I hate heels; after standing in them for more than two minutes, my feet hurt. On the day of the wedding, my father grabbed the new Dr. Scholl’s inserts for high heels, which worked like a charm.

wedding accessories

5. Whole Foods Bouquet. Yes, you read that right. I got my bouquet the day of the wedding from Whole Foods. My mother popped in and bought a gorgeous bouquet of white hydrangeas with a few white roses mixed in and tied them together with simple black and charcoal ribbon from Hobby Lobby. Total cost? $15. It ended up being the perfect bouquet, and no one would have guessed it didn’t come from a fancy flower shop. Don’t be afraid to look in normal, everyday places for your bouquet.

6. Personal Touches: An empty picture frame for people to sign upon entering the wedding is inexpensive and gives a personal touch to your event. Because you don’t always get to talk in depth with every single guest, it’s nice to receive a personal message of good luck from family and friends. Pop in a wonderful picture from the wedding, mount it on your wall, and you have a memento to remember the evening by. For cocktail napkins, my mother found a beautiful set with the letter “H” (my new last name!) on them at Hobby Lobby. I got asked repeatedly if they had been specially made. My mother also had Champagne flutes embossed with the letter H so we could drink our first sips of Champagne from these special flutes as a newly married couple. I’ve known many brides to have a card full of interesting questions for their guests at tables (if it’s a sit-down dinner) as a means of “breaking” the ice. These questions can be random, or pertain to the couple, and can allow the guests to engage in a fun conversation. Disposable cameras are also an inexpensive way to capture candids of the night, so the bride and groom can have many different perspectives from their evening.

personalized cocktail napkins

7. Decorations: Again, if you pick a place that is gorgeous all on its own, you can skip the need for heavy decorations. For us, we picked up a few hurricane candle holders and tea lights. Sofitel supplied votive candles for free, and we got a few more bouquets at Whole Foods. Because the grocery store is just two minutes away from the hotel, and they always have fresh flowers, there was no panic that they wouldn’t have a huge flower selection on the day of the wedding. Once we were done, we donated the flowers to the hotel and took the hurricane holders home to burn our own candles (or use as vases). Candles can work wonders, especially if your event is in the evening. Total cost? $50.

8. Bring your own music. Though a live band can be part of the fun, it can also be stressful trying to book someone not knowing if they will really mesh at the event. Our intimate event didn’t call for a lot of music. We wanted to be able to talk and mingle – not shout and dance beneath disco lights. Instead, we brought an iPod docking station, made a massive playlist and had that on a loop instead (and the hotel also supplied their own music if we opted to go that route). The song “Hallelujah” played as I walked down the aisle, and our playlist continued the entire night with songs that we loved and wanted to hear. Total cost? $0.

Stay tuned next week for the final installation in having a budget-friendly Chicago wedding! What’s the best wedding you’ve ever attended, and why?

To see part I of this journey, please click here. To see part II of this journey, click here.

To read more about Rea Frey and why she is so Cheeky, please click here.

About the Author: Rea Frey

Rea Frey is a lover of food, words and relationships (possibly in that order). She is the author of two books, Power Vegan: Plant-Fueled Nutrition for Maximum Health and Fitness and The Cheat Sheet: A Clue-by-Clue Guide to Finding Out if He's Unfaithful.

Posted in Wedding Bells