- Shop in second-hand stores. They have beautiful bridal gowns that look like new; after all, most of them have only been worn once. You can pick one that suits you and not have to pay a fortune on a dress that you will only wear one time also.
- Remake an old dress. If you have a nice dress that you bought for an event that is just hanging in your closet gathering dust, remake it into a beautiful wedding dress. There is no need for it to even be white, you can add white tulle to the underside if you want to have color showing. You could even tack it on top to make it a cheap wedding dress that will express who you are.
- Use your mother’s wedding dress. If your mother doesn’t mind you changing the look of her dress, you could even add some updates to it, like putting in a hem to make it a shorter gown. Using your mother’s wedding dress is actually an honor, knowing that she has kept it that long in order to pass it along. This is one of the best ways to get a cheap wedding dress.
- Borrow one from a friend, if it isn’t one of your very close friends. Otherwise, everyone that you will invite probably came to her wedding and will possibly notice the dress that she wore. Distant relatives, cousins and aunts, are good choices from which to borrow. The minute that you announce that you are planning your wedding, start asking around for a used wedding dress.
- Sew your own. This option is only for those women who either know how to sew or know someone who knows how to sew. There are beautiful patterns in the fabric store to choose from. Spending money only on material, patterns and trim is another way to get a cheap wedding dress.
- Create a wedding checklist. Write down all of the items that need to be completed or purchased. Determine what your budget is and write it at the top of the checklist. Allocate a dollar amount to appropriate items on the list. Make a commitment to follow the list as closely as possible.
- Plan a civil wedding. Go to your local court or city hall to determine what is required for a civil wedding. Certain states may require blood tests; and pre-marriage counseling may also be mandatory. Obtain your marriage license. For last minute weddings, travel to states such as Nevada where no wait or blood testing is required for a quick ceremony.
- Send email invites. Go to websites such as Evites and send out low cost or free invitations to your friends. Personally deliver handwritten invitations to friends who live within driving distance. Pick up the phone and call anyone who may not check their email or who you are unable to reach in person.
- Save on your dress. Borrow your mother’s or grandmother’s wedding dress. Have alterations done by a friend or family member who is talented in sewing. Forgo a traditional wedding dress and buy a formal gown instead. Shop the discounted rack at bridal stores for inexpensive or clearance gowns.
- Recruit the help of friends. Involve as many close and talented people as you can to help you pull off your wedding within your time frame. Ask friends or family member to DJ, sing, decorate or cook.
- Plan a modest reception and keep your guest list small. Take advantage of a big backyard and plan your reception. Purchase discount decorations such as string lights, candles and flowers from discount warehouses or stores. Buy potted flowering plants versus cut flowers. Have a small reception at your favorite restaurant and ask permission to bring extra candles or flowers to decorate your table.
- Cut costs on your wedding cake. Look through magazines for pictures of cakes that you like. Take the picture to your grocery store, pick a flavor and ask if they are able to make it within your time frame. Buy separate pre-made cakes and place them on decorative tiers or have cupcakes made.
- Skip professional photographers. Have fun with your photographs and buy cheap disposable cameras for guests to take pictures of the event. If time and money allows, hire student photographers and offer to pay them at a cost that will be significantly lower than what you’d pay a professional.
- Pick your flowers from the place they are growing or pick them up from the local florist, the morning of the wedding.
- Place the flowers in a vase with water and put the vase in a cool location, out of the sun until you are ready to prepare the bouquets, at least a few hours before the wedding.
- Pull the flowers from the vase and blot them dry with a towel.
- Strip the flowers of any excess foliage, thorns or other roughage. If you want greenery in your bouquet, leave a few leaves on the top, near the blooms. Use the scissors to clip off any excess greenery, instead of pulling on the stems and potentially breaking them.
- Pull together the flowers stems together, bunching them together into a cylinder shape in your hand. This should create a round, half-spherical shape of the blooms. Pull the middle blooms higher and the side blooms lower, to create the rounded shape in the blooms.
- Add any additional greenery by setting leaves’ stems or other accessories against the side of the stem cylinder, pushing the leaves up under the half-sphere of the blooms.
- Tie together the bouquet with a rubber band or a piece of floral tape, near the base of the blooms and the top of the stems.
- Cut the bottom of the stems so they are uniform and even.
- Place the end of the ribbon over the top of the rubber band or tape, covering it. Secure it with a pin.
- Wrap the ribbon around the stems, tightly, moving down the stem and covering all the tape.
- Fold the ribbon over the bottom or just continue wrapping, moving back up the stems, once you reach the bottom.
- Cut the end of the ribbon and secure it with a pin, at the top of the stems.
- Leave the bouquet in a cool place, in the vase until the wedding. If the bottom of the stems are exposed, you can place a wet towel at the bottom of the vase to keep the stems moist. Be careful to wet only the exposed stems, not the ribbon.
- Dry the stems of any water or moisture before handing to the bride or other wedding party members.
- Develop a mini-marketing plan.
Your first step is to develop a 3-5 page mini-marketing plan. In your plan, you’ll need to write down your business overview, what sets you apart from other wedding planners, target audience, marketing budget, current marketing methods (online-offline or a combination of both), etc.
- Scope out your competition.
Figure out how your competitors are marketing their services. Do they use print advertisement, word of mouth or viral advertising, full color brochures, business cards, or something else? Whatever your competitors use, you need to write down their advertising methods and then plan to add those same methods to your arsenal of marketing methods.
- Set up a basic website.
You’ll need to set up a basic wedding planner website. Your basic website doesn’t have to be anything fancy – a simple 1to 5 page site will do fine. Make sure that you include an About Me page, price list, contact information and FAQs. If you are not technically savvy, you can hire a designer off Elance or Get a Freelancer to create one for you.
- Market your wedding planner site and services.
Now that you have your website, make sure that you market it on a regular basis. To do so, you should include your site URL on any business cards, brochures, etc. Draft up tee-shirts with your URL and pass them out to friends and family members. Write articles and blog posts and place them online. In essence, do what you have to do to get targeted traffic to your wedding planner site.
- Contact wedding halls.
Visit local wedding halls and introduce yourself to the owners. Tell them that you are offering a referral fee to any banquet halls that make a valid referral. By doing this, you will attract a steady stream of clients.
- Partner up with photographers.
Another great way to market your wedding planner business is to pair up with wedding photographers. Often times, they meet clients that also need a wedding consultant. Therefore, by pairing up with them, you can get more clients and can cross-promote their photography services as well. Two great sources to find local photographer partners is Wedding Photo USA or Wedding Photography Directory. See “Resources” for link.
- Advertise to other wedding planners.
Many wedding planners get booked and need help. Therefore, by marketing yourself to them, you can ensure that you have a steady flow of business. You can meet them at conferences and other weddings. Always be willing to pass out your card and offer your services at a discount so that they can make a profit off your services.
- Remove the top tier of the case, and store it in a cake box. Many couples like to save the top tier to enjoy together on their first wedding anniversary. Remove and lay aside the pillars that support the top layer.
- Remove the next tier, and set it directly on the table. Trying to cut the cake while it is still supported above the tier below it is a disaster waiting to happen.
- Cut a round cake with a sharp, thin-bladed knife. Measure 2 inches in from the edge, and cut a circle that follows the circle of the cake. Cut the outer circle of the cake into 1-inch slices, frequently wiping the blade of the knife to prevent buildup. Once that portion has been served, measure in 2 additional inches, and cut another circle. Repeat the the process until you’ve cut the entire tier.
- Cut a square or rectangular cake by measuring in 2 inches and slicing the cake from one end to the other. Start at the corner of the 2-inch strip you’ve just cut, and begin cutting it into 1-inch slices. Once you’ve completed that strip, measure in an additional 2 inches, and repeat the process until the cake is completely cut.
- Remove the pillars from each successive tier, and place each tier on the table before you begin cutting. Work your way through the entire cake.
- Take a look at your guest count. First and foremost you want to be sure you’ll have enough cake to serve all your guests. Remember, the top tier of your cake is traditionally reserved for your first anniversary.
- Visit the bakery and do some cake tasting. Most bakeries have no problem with clients reserving times to come in and taste a few cakes. There are so many flavors to choose from, the tasting will be a very enjoyable way for the bride and groom to bond.
- Now that you’ve decided what flavor of cake you want, it’s time to decide what you want it to look like. Do you want round or square tiers? Do you want the tiers to be stacked atop one another or separated? There are many questions to be answered. Bridal magazines and bridal web sites are great resources for inspiration. The bakery you choose will also have sample photos of cakes they’ve done in the past.
- Go shopping for your flowers. At the store, hold a selection of flowers in your hands, as if it’s a bouquet, to see what looks right for you. Buy one or two stems extra for each type of flower you have chosen.
- Put the bouquet holder in a vase on your work table. This will keep both of your hands free to work with the piece. Set the silk flowers to the side.
- Cut the stems of the silk flowers down to 3 or 4 inches long. Cut any foliage stems to this size also.
- Insert a main flower stem, such as roses, lilies, irises or carnations, into the center of the foam in the bouquet holder.
- Insert 4 more main flower stems at slight angles to the top, bottom, left and right of the main flower.
- Insert leaves around the sides of the foam where the foam meets the top of the plastic holder.
- Insert secondary flowers such as carnations, daisies or rosebuds into the sides of the foam near the rim of the bouquet holder, next to the leaves.
- Fill in the foam with stems of smaller blossoms. Check to make sure that there are no gaps in the flowers where the foam will show through.
- Hold your bouquet in front of a mirror to check all angles. Add more flowers or leaves to fill it out, if necessary.
- Insert a ribbon bow on a wired stick into the foam at the center of the bottom edge, if desired. Add a strand or wired spray of pearl beads or rhinestones to your bouquet for a stylish touch.
- Pick 10 plumerias for your bouquet. Make sure they are fresh and crisp, vibrantly colored and roughly the same size.
- Trim the ends of the plumerias to make the stems as long as you desire, but make sure they are all evenly cut at an angle. Do a test to make sure the stems are long enough: Hold the plumerias in a bunch with both hands, as you would a bouquet, and make sure that there is at least 5 inches of flower stem below your hands.
- Arrange the flowers as you choose, making some lower or higher than others. Make sure to create the bouquet exactly as you want it to be for the wedding, as once you wrap it with the wire and ribbons you cannot change it.
- Take the flower wrapping wire (available at most craft and flower stores) and put the end of it 2 inches down from the bottom of the plumerias. Start wrapping the wire tightly around the stems, slowly working downwards. Keep wrapping until you run out of wire, then secure the end by tucking it into the last wrap. Make sure the flowers are securely bundled so none fall out or to the side.
- Choose the color of silk or satin ribbon you want to wrap around the stems of the plumerias. Cut the 8 ft of ribbon into 4 equal pieces of 2 ft each.
- Take the first piece of ribbon, and place the end of it where you first began wrapping the wire. Dab hot glue to the wire and firmly press the ribbon onto it. Let it dry. Wrap the ribbon around the wire in a downwards motion. When you get to the point where there is only 2 inches of ribbon left, dab hot glue to the ribbon and secure it, so the last 2 inches are hanging freely.
- Take the second piece of ribbon, and use the hot glue to secure it to the first ribbon, about 1inch below where the first ribbon was glued. Repeat Step 5 with the second, third and fourth ribbon. There should be four pieces dangling once you are done. Arrange these pieces how you desire, gluing and trimming the edges if necessary.
- Determine how many people will be attending the reception; then you will know what size space you need to rent. It doesn’t have to be a fancy restaurant or country club. It can be a simple town hall, community meeting space or place of worship.
- Catering the reception can be expensive. Consider alternatives such as meat and cheese trays from your local grocer or fast-food restaurant. Fried chicken with mashed potatoes and rolls would work. Order your cake from the grocer as well. Cupcakes work well when small children are guests. Clear plastic plates and utensils work fine — don’t forget the wedding theme decorations at your local dollar or craft store.
- Decorating the hall depends on how much time and money you want to put into it. To make it a little fancier, put bows or balloons on the chairs, or cover with cloths. If using balloons, consider buying a helium balloon kit. You can purchase white paper tablecloths with plastic backing for the tables. If the hall you decide to rent does not provide tables and chairs, these can be rented. Order or create a small bouquet of silk or fresh flowers for each table in the bride’s colors. Buy or collect small plastic bowls to put nuts and mints in for each table.
- Putting up white or colored Christmas lights adds a nice touch. If allowed, you can staple, nail, or tape the lights to the walls. As for music, depending on the size of the room, place one or two CD players in the hall so the music isn’t overwhelming, but can be heard.
- Have large plastic garbage bags on hand so cleanup will be very easy. Ask the wedding party or guests if they would like to keep the flowers — then throw anything you can away.
- Place your chafing dishes on the buffet table.
- Pour hot water into the bottom portion of the dishes that will hold hot foods.
- Remove the caps of your Sterno fuel canisters.
- Place the fuel canisters underneath the hot-food chafing dishes.
- Light each canister with an extended lighter or long matches.
- Allow the water to heat up, then place hot food in the chafing dish.
- Fill the bottom portion of the chafing dishes that will hold cold food with ice and water.
- Place the food-filled chafing pans in the designated racks right before inviting guests to the buffet.
- Spoon the marshmallow creme into a large bowl, then sift and add the powdered sugar to the marshmallow creme. Add 1 cup of sugar at a time, stirring after each addition. Continue stirring until the mixture is thick and forms a ball on your spoon. (The general rule of thumb is to use 1 lb. marshmallow creme for every 2 lb. powdered sugar, but don’t rely strictly on those measurements since humidity plays a large role in the results.)
- Add flavorings at this time if desired. While you can use regular flavoring extracts in fondant, look instead for flavoring oils, such as Lorann. These provide the smoothest results. Use only a few drops of flavored oils since they are highly concentrated.
- Stir the thick mixture until it is too difficult to continue, and then turn it out onto a clean surface that is sprinkled liberally with more powdered sugar. The fondant should hold its shape like a clay ball.
- Knead the fondant, adding more sugar to the surface and to your hands as needed to prevent the fondant from sticking. After a few minutes of kneading, the fondant will become very pliant and smooth. Any powdered sugar lumps will dissolve, and the fondant will take on a satiny appearance.
- Wrap the fondant completely in plastic wrap and place it in a large zippered storage bag, squeezing the air out before closing. Store the fondant at room temperature for at least 24 hours and for up to one week. By allowing it to rest, the powdered sugar is completely absorbed and the fondant becomes smooth and elastic.
- Squeeze the fondant in the bag to soften, then remove and knead it until you are ready to roll it. If you want pure white fondant, there is no need to add anything further because the marshmallow creme is very white. If you want colored fondant, however, add paste food coloring, one small dab at a time, and knead the color into the fondant evenly.
- Use vegetable shortening on your hands, the rolling surface and the rolling pin when you roll out the fondant. Roll to a thickness of one-fourth of an inch.
- Look at the wedding plans before you start decorating. Discuss colors, flowers and themes. Most people want a coordinated wedding and this should include the venue and buffet. Take notes of all the colors and ask for color samples if available. Make a plan once you have all the necessary information. Sketch how you envision the buffet, and make a list of what you will need to fulfill you plan.
- Decorate the tables. Always start with your base by laying out the tablecloths. Wedding buffets can be more formal and more lavish than standard buffets. Consider draping silk or other material to give a regal feel. If you have excess material, create a bow or a ruffle.
- Mark out where the dishes are going to go. Once the tablecloths are down, work out where the food is going to be positioned. Place dishes so they compliment each other. For example, alternate chocolate desserts with fruit desserts, or cluster similar looking things like cookies together.
- Link the platters with your chosen decorations. Once all the platters are in place, make them look like they are all part of the same display. Get your ribbons, flowers or foliage and start at one end of the buffet and work your way to the other end. Swirl the ribbons or foliage around one dish and onto the next so they look like they join. If necessary, secure the decorations with some double sided tape.
- Make edible decorations to help the food blend with the display. Get some Marzipan, color it according to the theme, and use a cutter to make hearts, flowers, animals or stars. Make the same thing but in different sizes and colors. Place the decorations on the display, so the buffet looks fluid and coordinated. If you’re not the chef, check and make sure it’s ok to add detail to the platters and dishes.
- Sprinkle leaves, petals or sparkles over the table once you have completed the display. If you plan add sparkle to the dishes make sure you have edible sparkles. If you are using flowers petals make sure they are not poisonous. Check with the bride and groom or wedding planner to make sure they are happy with the result.
Wedding Etiquette Tips
- The website Wedding Etiquette Tips offers a free basic wedding planning course. This self-paced online course covers basic topics such as wedding budgets, time lines, wedding themes, finding wedding venues and interviewing vendors. The basic wedding planner course from Wedding Etiquette Tips is designed for do-it-yourself type brides but can be used for anyone who is interested in wedding planning.
- The E Learners website offers a mini-guide to becoming a wedding planner. This guide is a basic and straightforward starting point for those who are interested in becoming a wedding planner. Facts and questions covered by the mini-guide include how online bridal consultant certification programs work and what bridal consultants do on the job.
American Academy of Wedding Professionals
- The American Academy of Wedding Professionals is one of the go-to websites for information, courses and freebies for those interested in becoming a wedding planner. Learn the AAWP’s 10 Commandments of Wedding Professionals and receive a free wedding planning book by becoming a member. The AAWP charges for its particular course, but you can register to win one of its monthly giveaways for a free course.
The Wedding Planning Institute
- The Wedding Planning Institute provides a free wedding planning service. According to the website, “The program is designed to help aspiring and existing wedding planners start or grow their career while boosting local wedding businesses and reducing costs for brides and grooms.”
- Possess a passion for detail. Wedding planners are detail-oriented people that take pride in doing the small things that most people never even notice. Treating each party or wedding like it’s your own is an essential part of becoming a wedding planner.
- Take some event-planning courses. You’ll probably be able to find event-planning courses at your local community college or as part of an adult education curriculum. Take some business classes to gain valuable insight into running a business.
- Register as a wedding planner. Create a name for your company and register it with the local courthouse. Choose a name that is clever and explains what you do, but make sure it’s a name that potential clients will take seriously.
- Get an umbrella insurance policy. This will protect your business against lawsuits and other things that can occur when emotions are running high.
- Advertise your wedding planning services. Look through your local newspaper for newly engaged couples and send them brochures about your business. Hang up flyers and always have business cards with you in case you run into somebody who needs a wedding planner.
- Create an attractive website, or hire a professional to design your website. Many times, this will be the first impression that potential customers get of your business. Make sure that the services you provide stand out, and include all of your contact information on the site.
- Purchase your dress at an outlet or discount bridal store. Many discount bridal stores have elegantly well made wedding dresses that will make any “bride to be” look beautiful on her wedding day.
- Have a relative, friend or dress maker make your dress. Make sure it’s someone who is known for creating beautiful wedding gowns and someone you sincerely feel you can trust.
- Rent a wedding dress. If you’re not a bride who wants to keep your dress for centuries or pass your dress down to your daughter, renting a wedding dress is a very economical choice and will definitely keep your costs down. You can find bridal rental options online.
- Have your bridesmaids to rent their dresses just as the groom’s men do. This can be less costly than buying a dress that they may never wear again.
- Ask various family members and/or friends who are known for their superb good cooking skills to cook the food for your wedding. This will cut down on the costs. You will have to buy the food for them to cook, of course. It should also cost you much less to pay them to cook the food for you than to hire a professional caterer. You may also be surprised; your family and friends may cook your food as a wedding gift to you.
- Decorate your church and have your wedding and the reception also at your church. The costs should be much less to have your reception at your church. Some may not charge anything and especially if you’re a member of the church.
- Attend as many weddings as you can in Ontario. Do not “crash” weddings of strangers, but ask family and friends if you can observe their weddings. Some wedding planning companies in Ontario may have internship positions available in your local classifieds. Ask wedding planners if you can watch them work. Read wedding and bridal magazines to get an idea of current industry trends.
- Form a habit of organizing your life. As a wedding planner, you will need to create and adhere to strict dates to make sure your planned weddings go smoothly. Get used to keeping a planner and staying punctual.
- Search job listings for paid positions in wedding companies. As a wedding planner, you will need a basic understanding of every aspect of a wedding. You will acquire valuable tools that help you with the catering, design, decoration and other aspects of successful weddings. Look to Ontario country clubs, cruises, resorts and hotels for possible wedding planning positions.
- Ask your engaged family members and friends if you can be their wedding planner. If possible, do not perform the service for a fee. Use the opportunity to add material to your wedding planner portfolio. Take as many pictures as you can of the wedding to showcase your abilities to others.
- Create a wedding planning business. Contact the Canada-Ontario Business Service Centre for start-up information for small businesses. You will need to register your business name, apply for any necessary permits and file documents with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board. You can find a link to the Business Service Centre in Resources below.
- Create business cards and promotional pamphlets with all of your business contact information. You will need material to pass out to potential clients. Design the materials yourself at a printing company, or hire a company that specializes in logos and business cards to make your documents.
- Network with vendors and advertise your services to print and online publications. For example, buy flowers from a particular vendor and talk to the owner. Give the owner your card and talk about a possible partnership where the owner suggests your services to clients. Advertise your services in local Ontario classifieds so the community knows you exist.
- Choose your wedding planner fee. You can charge either a flat rate or an hourly rate. The budget for the wedding, as well as the total planning time, will help you to decide your rate structure. You will need to talk to potential clients about the number of guests and the type of wedding they want to form a total cost estimate.