Weddings certainly aren't cheap, and pretty much every detail will end up costing more than you'd think. Having planned my own wedding last year, I know how tempting it can be to take some tasks on yourself to cut costs, but luckily I had friends who'd recently been through the planning process to warn me away from anything too overwhelming. (I also had a really great event planner.) These are a few of the most important tips that served me well.
* You should try to avoid spending big bucks on anything that typically ends up in the trash, including your invitations. While I love traditional engraved invitations and good quality paper, they can easily add thousands of dollars to your budget, and having them hand-addressed by a calligrapher adds several hundred more. Since no one really saves the envelope, opt to address them yourself, which you can do over the course of months while watching TV, or recruit a friend with lovely handwriting to do the job.
* Welcome-bags are fun and relatively easy to put together yourself, and doing so lends them a more personalized touch. Put together a packet of useful information, such as tips on things to do and places to eat to keep guests occupied when they aren't busy with wedding festivities. Other possibilities are Chattanooga-themed items such as Coke and MoonPies (though you may want to skip these if you're getting married in warm weather, as they melt easily), or thumbprint cookies frosted in your wedding colors.
* Place- and escort-cards are probably the easiest things to handle yourself (or to delegate to the same friend with beautiful writing who did your invitations). Don't be afraid to think outside the box. At one wedding I recently attended, the couple had a thing for dinosaurs, so in lieu of table numbers, they picked up plastic dinosaur toys from the dollar store, spray-painted them gold and placed one on every table. Another set was matched with lists of people to be seated at the table adorned with each particular dinosaur.
* Don't be tempted to ask a friend to do your photos on the big day. For one, you want your friend to be able to enjoy the wedding. While it's not a bad idea to have a friend do your engagement shoot, do keep in mind that having your wedding photographer take those photos will help you get to know him or her and get a feel for his or her style before you make a big commitment. Depending on how much time you have and how crafty you are, choosing to put together your own photo album after the big day could be a fun project or a totally overwhelming nightmare. Only you can make that call.