Love Don’t Cost a Thing

Personal touches can add bang to a wedding without the bucks


Leave the eye candy—and the drama—to TV

Television—women’s television, specifically—is overrun with weddings. In the past few months, I’ve seen episodes of at least nine different shows. Some focus on finding a gown, some profile the planners, one even makes over the entire affair just weeks before the big event. Most attract viewers by offering either lots of wedding-related eye candy or lots of drama. But a few are all about the money.

At one end of the spectrum is Platinum Weddings, where couples spend the equivalent of a house, or two (the slide show of current couples on its website lists budgets up to $1.6 million). At the other end is Rich Bride Poor Bride, where each episode hinges on the suspense of whether or not the couple will break the bank.

Although the two shows send opposite messages—Platinum Weddings’ tagline is “If it’s perfect, it’s platinum” whereas Rich Bride Poor Bride sports a more responsible “It’s ‘I Do’ but at what cost?” mentality—both shows fail to focus on what I think are the most significant elements of a wedding.

Where is the emphasis on the meaningful details that celebrate the uniqueness of the couple and their love? The most memorable things about the weddings I have attended aren’t imported flowers, gourmet favors, or elaborate lighting design. They are the childhood stories of the groom told by the preacher, or the lighting of candles in remembrance of departed grandparents. Those are the things that linger.

My college roommate, whose beautiful voice always brings tears to my eyes, will be singing at my wedding. I hope it’ll be a powerful moment not just for me but for all of my guests, and it’ll cost me absolutely nothing. In that spirit, I asked Lisa R. Nelson of Elegant Event Planning and Design in Maryland to share her top three no-cost ways for couples to add something special:

Family pictures: Pictures of grandparents or parents at their weddings. Also, pictures of family members, or a montage of photos of the bride and groom growing up. It takes time to get them together, but guests really love looking at them.

A wedding scrapbook: Display a scrapbook of all your adventures while planning the wedding. For example, pictures of you in the different dresses you tried on, toll receipts you incurred visiting different reception sites, tickets to bridal shows, pictures from your bachelorette party, etc.

Incorporating loved ones: Ask special people to read for the ceremony. Ask a close relative or friend to offer the blessing at the reception. Maybe you are having a civil ceremony, and you can ask a friend to officiate (make sure to check on state requirements).

“The point,” Nelson says, “is to make your wedding personal, not only about you and your fiancé, but also about the love you share with the special people you’ve asked to participate.” Exactly!

For more tips, read the other blogs in this series: How to Plan a Wedding During a Recession and When Your ‘Something Blue’ Meets the Pink Slip. Also check out “Here Comes the Wedding Day” in the Lifestyle section of our June 2009 issue, on newsstands this month.

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