Weddings have been lavish since time immemorial, but they’re also the kind of event that can easily run up a high tab without really meaning to. The wedding industry markup could mean you’re paying nearly 30% more for things like cake, dresses, gifts, bachelorette parties, and even the bridal shower your sister, best friend, or co-worker has put you in charge of planning.
Your bride may have champagne taste on a lemonade budget, but don’t sweat it. You can plan, organize, and host a beautiful bridal shower (on a budget, no less) with meaningful touches that’ll make it a day to remember. Here’s how.
Have a Hard Budget
Budgets aren’t particularly fun to talk about, but in these situations, it’s absolutely imperative to know upfront how much you can spend. If you’re footing the bill all by yourself, it’ll be even more crucial to keep things limited, but ideally, the other bridesmaids, the bride’s family, or the bride’s in-laws can contribute something to the occasion, whether it’s money or time and energy to other necessities for the day. Make a list beforehand of everything you’ll need in terms of food, drinks, alcohol, gifts, and games, as well as who will be responsible for each and an estimate of how much those things cost. Once you have a list, you can take it item by item and tackle how to approach each element as economically (and creatively) as possible.
Don’t Go for the Fancy Invites
Paper invites not only take time to design, but once you factor in the cost of ordering them and printing them, plus stamps and envelopes, you’re out a lot of time as well as money. Fortunately, there are tons of cute online invites and e-vites to choose from, or maybe someone in your friend group is good at designing on Canva. You can text or email the invites to potential guests in a flash. Not only is this the least expensive option, but most e-vite platforms will track RSVPs and send event reminders as well.
Keep It Intimate
Your bride might have 50 sorority sisters that she wants to share her day with, but keep in mind that this shower might serve as part of your gift to her, and that means making things work on your terms. Keeping your guest list short and sweet means you have the freedom to splurge on other items like food and games, rather than having to skimp on those things because your guest list is a mile long.
Bridal showers are traditionally ladies-only, but every couple is different, and you probably have a good idea who the most significant people in your bride’s life are. These usually include sisters, mother, godmother, mother-in-law, co-workers, and other close friends – the key word here being “close.” Your friend’s cousin, who she’s constantly complaining about and lives three states away, probably doesn’t need an invite, and bear in mind when it comes to weddings in general that even if you only send an invite as a courtesy, those people might show up anyway. Remember, an intimate shower is not only more comfortable and less pressure for everyone involved, but more cost-effective too. Make a list of the people who really need to be there, and cap it at a certain number. Then, you can move on to the fun stuff.
Invest in a Simple Menu
Having an accurate gauge of your bride’s expectations will definitely help you in figuring out the food you plan to serve. If she’s expecting a six-course meal and a white tablecloth, sit-down meal, you might need to have a chat. But hopefully, there are ways you can both incorporate her vision and your budget.
Bridal teas are extremely popular, and for good reason. They add a certain amount of elegance to the day, but aren’t usually too complicated to put together. You can also get by serving things like charcuterie, finger sandwiches, cake, and non-alcoholic beverages.
Cake is usually essential at a shower, and again, keeping your guest list small might mean you can splurge on an amazing cake. You might want to add nice, subtle touches, like serving a cocktail inspired by your bride and groom or providing your bride’s favorite food, like tacos or barbecue. There are a million ways to be creative. Outsourcing to other guests who can help and assigning different dishes to each person can bulk up your menu while keeping costs down for everyone.
Scour Facebook Marketplace
Facebook Marketplace is a veritable treasure trove for all your bridal shower planning needs. There, you can most likely find decor, chairs and linens, signage, garlands, or even balloon arches if you need them. Chances are, if you need it, someone else is probably selling it.
Don’t Rent a Space
Potentially a huge cost you might be facing is the prospect of renting a venue, whether it’s a restaurant, brewery, or other spot to host your occasion. But you’re only going to need the space for an afternoon, so spending a huge chunk of change on renting a space doesn’t make a lot of financial sense.
With choosing a location, you have the opportunity to make the shower really special for your bride. You could host it in her parents’ backyard or at the park where she and the groom had their first date. You might even have a guest who has strings they can pull with a restaurant or other connections, which will really elevate the day. From a big-picture perspective, the location isn’t the most important thing. Your additional touches and details will enhance it and make it memorable, even if it’s not the venue you were hoping for but the one your budget demands.
Go In on the Big Stuff Together
Even in the midst of planning a shower, wedding etiquette dictates that you still have to give your bride a gift. You probably wish you could splurge on a fancy spa package or a pressure cooker, but a lot of your funds are already tied up with hosting the shower.
If you know that your bride really wants an espresso machine but you can’t swing it money-wise, split the cost of a big gift with multiple people. This way, your bride will get something she actually wants rather than numerous other things she’d probably trade in for the coffeemaker of her dreams.
Become a DIY Queen
When you’re balling on a budget, as they say, do-it-yourself isn’t just something to think about, it’s a necessity. And DIY means that you won’t have to pay anyone else to do it. Amazon and Etsy already sell DIY balloon arches and other decorations, and you can really get crafty with your decor and how you plan to set up tables. Etsy also sells themed and customizable game sets and signs that you can print at home. Again, it’s the little touches that make the day one to remember, so go for the small details and not just the big, Pinterest-inspired items.
Thrift shops already sell many of the things you’ll need for your shower, including dishes and china to serve food (because even though you’re limited financially, it doesn’t mean you have to use paper plates) and other games, linens, and party items.
If you plan to set up a photo booth, you can also buy picture frames for everyone to take their photos home in, for example. I once attended a bridal shower where the tables were set with an eclectic array of china, including adorable teapots, tea cups, and saucers that each guest got to take home as a party favor. The hostess purchased all of them at a thrift store, and though they didn’t match, the style was definitely fun and very original.
Resell Your Items
If you’re planning a bridal shower on a budget, chances are someone else is too. Look into selling your balloon arch or other props afterwards, and put some of the funds toward your bride’s honeymoon, if you feel so inclined, or toward covering some of your more expensive purchases. Document your planning and organizing through videos and photos so your bride will always have them to remember the day by, or post them on social media to serve as inspiration for someone else. Who knows, your own ingenuity may be the start of a new trend.
Throwing any kind of event on a budget might seem like a daunting task, but all it takes is a little creativity and ingenuity. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention, and even if your bride’s shower isn’t the most opulent and luxurious, it’ll still be a special day for her and one all the guests will remember.
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