When planning a wedding, you must first have a budget. How much can you spend on your big day?  Begin with a starting number or at least a range. Don’t avoid discussing the money directly with each other and whoever else may be contributing to the budget. But do remember that money is often a touchy subject so be respectful and flexible. Really think about what is important to you. If it must be the hottest venue in town and it must be a Saturday night at the most popular time of year, be prepared to pay top dollar. All other decisions are made from knowing “where” the ceremony and reception will be. The location helps determine what budget you will need for food, beverages, flowers etc.  Some banquet rooms are all inclusive as far as the food, the bar, the cake, DJ , tablecloths, and centerpieces. Other places may be a total DIY situation where nothing but the facility, tables and chairs are included. Those places are usually the best for a smaller budget but lots of work!  A tent in a backyard seems budget friendly but you have to rent everything and that can get pricey. Unless you have your heart set on a particular florist, photographer, or caterer, it is best to shop around and compare prices. Compare apples to apples though so you know who has the best price and remember that the cheapest apple isn’t necessarily the tastiest. Make the most of the location that you choose, if they provide table linens and china, then use it. Be flexible wherever you can. Consider a less busy time of year such as the winter season. I have done many flower packages for winter weddings and have decorated tables with Christmas ornaments and greenery. As far as flowers, silk flowers are usually the cheapest, but if doing fresh flowers, ask your florist to use one or two types of flowers instead of many mixed arrangements. Its cheaper to buy flowers in bulk. Stay true to your mood of the day. If you are having a backyard wedding, limit the liquors you serve to white wine, sparkling water and a few microbrews. If you want a beautiful seafood buffett for your beach wedding, skip the fancy apps and focus on a luscious but simple presentation. Trim the fat where you can. For example, instead of pew swags on every pew, focus on two absolutely beautiful altar arrangements or a large unity candle arrangement that can be relocated to the head table at the reception. Keep centerpieces simple and elegant with lots of candles and a few well placed silk flowers, greenery or other props such as pinecones, ornaments, books, etc.  If you have time, design your own invitations and place cards on your computer. You can buy invitation kits or buy cardstock and design your own. Embelish them with ribbon and paper flowers or stick on gems. Ask friends for help with wedding favors. Craft stores have really cute little boxes and bags to put wedding favors in. They don’t have to be elaborate but guests do appreciate a little treat. I once found tiny Chinese takeout boxes with a beautiful pattern on them to use for favor boxes. They were just big enough for 2 butter cookies and they gave a pop of color on the table. Remember, creativity trumps luxury. Infuse your celebration with sentiment rather than a lavish display of stuff. Focus on your budget and remember that a handwritten note, a great well crafted toast, even a single flower in a well placed vase will always be stylish, elegant and meaningful.