You have asked, “Is there a way to have a cheap, elegant, green beach wedding ?” I have your answer. I worked as a wedding planner aboard cruise ships and other exotic destinations so simplicity with impact is a vital mix for a successful event. A few years ago we decided to celebrate a 10-year vow renewal on our anniversary. Our first wedding was small so beating that budget was going to be a challenge. Also, after living in Europe for a year we went back home to South Beach, I knew I just had to embrace the its beauty and give back to this beautiful place by being as ecological as possible drawing knowledge from the ecological minded culture in Italy and Western Europe. I must disclose, I have a VERY talented family so this helped keep costs down but overall I think ANYONE can get a really beautiful, tasteful wedding for under a couple of thousand dollars. Here’s the break down on ways to save money on your dream wedding:
1) Repurpose things you already own: I loved decorating my home with glass, so I had several vases around the house in various sizes and shapes. I used them to create arrangements to decorate the hall. My mom is a talented florist, so she helped me with the arrangements, especially the big ones. However, I think you can do simple, elegant, modern arrangements that can be done with little effort and still look good, more on that on tip #2. I also used old photos from our life together, frames I had on my wall, paper lamps I had in my home (ones from IKEA you can get for a few dollars/euros) and Instead of hiring a DJ we purchased a great Bose system, something that we needed, and created a playlist of our own. I borrowed my dress from a friend and made the sash by hand. I also did my own makeup and hair. I also cooked lasagna for everyone, a recipe I learned in Italy.
2) Make a “green” choice of flowers and vases: Flowers can be the most expensive part of a wedding. I selected flowers that filled in a lot of space at a low cost. This also makes for lower environmental impact. Hydrangeas, Gerbers, Peonies are all big flowers that are easy to arrange, but by far Hydrangeas fill up the most space for the least cost. Although Calla Lilies are my favorite, they were not practical. I found that my choice of “green flower” was still beautiful and elegant without spending too much. For a more dramatic effect you can try doing some large paper flowers you can make yourself. Overall, think size and drama. For the other arrangements I chose small vases with one single flower for that pop of color. For several months I kept pasta sauce jars and decorated them with a simple ribbon. I love orchids too, so for maximum impact my mom simply immersed the flower inside a rectangular vase filled with water. The result was stunning.
3) Keep the table settings simple: For small weddings some people purchase some elegant plastic plates thinking it’s the cheapest way to go. In reality you can find local rental places where you can get plates, cups, table cloths and silver ware for way less and the best part is they do the cleaning! You may have to pick up and drop off to keep costs low but for the sake of a beautiful table it’s worth it. I stuck with classic white plates that can go with almost any decor. This is a beach-themed wedding so I drew from the environment for decor. I collected shells and purchased some starfish from a local souvenir shop. I later donated these items to a local park that does crafts with the kids. I also added a delicate burlap runner that cost less than a dollar a yard at a local party store.
4) Find one dramatic, inexpensive focal point: For under 60 dollars I purchased a decommissioned ARMY parachute that served great purpose as dramatic ceiling decor. Without that, my room would have fell flat. Balloons, paper lanterns, branches, and fabric can make a big impact for little cost. Here’s how…
5) Rummage a bit: I spent some time shopping at thrift stores, garage sales, and online for used items. Some of the things I saw were old chandeliers, table cloths, pieces of fabric. accessories and clothing that can all be repurposed for a wedding with a little paint and creativity.
6) Enlist the help of friends and family: My niece took the photos, my mom helped with the arrangements, my sister officiated the wedding, a friend made the cake and everyone pitched in with set up. In your list of friends there must be a ton of talented people from amateur to experts. Instead of asking for wedding gifts ask them to donate their time and talents to make your wedding a success!
Remember, the wedding is one day, marriage will be forever so invest your money in building your new life together instead of blowing it all in one day! It can still be memorable, classy, lovely and fun but it doesn’t have to bankrupt you!