Here we are. Young, in love and 10 pounds lighter. I love this rascal even more today than I did back then.
But I digress. Back to the point of this post. I'm sure there are quite a few people out there who are trying to plan a wedding on a small budget. It can seem very daunting when reading through wedding magazines and looking at all the "over the top" venues, dresses, place settings and designer bridesmaid dresses. You may be wondering to yourself "can I have a beautiful and stylish wedding without racking up tens of thousands of dollars in debt??" The answer is a resounding YES. If you can think outside of the box (SO critical) and keep an open and creative mind, you can style a wedding without going broke. Let's start with the Bride, shall we?
All of the above gowns cost $300 or less! Say whaaaaaa?! I'm not even close to kidding. Here's your first opportunity to think outside the box. You don't have to buy your dress at a traditional bridal boutique. There are lots of other options and some major retailers are even carrying "wedding" lines in their inventories now. Hop onto Nordstrom, Macy's, Dillards, Ann Taylor, JCrew (to name a few) and just do a search for white or ivory (or whatever color you're going for) gowns and dresses. IF you make the decision to order online, make sure they have a great return policy just in case. And make SURE you give yourself plenty of time for shipping and time for alterations. Buying online is not for the procrastinating types. If you have a great tailor or seamstress, they can really make an "off the rack" dress look very expensive. Ask around for recommendations for killer tailors in your area. Another way to make a dress "your own" is by adding a chic belt or sash or......
Another one of my favorite ideas is to find a very simple white or ivory strapless dress and add a beautiful lace "jacket" over the top like this. So stunning and unique!
Alright, now that the wheels are spinning, let's move onto the Bridesmaids. Just as discussed above, try to think outside the realm of bridal boutiques. Bridesmaids hate hearing "and you'll actually wear the dress again!" (as they're staring at a radiant orchid chiffon number) more than anything in the world because...well...most of the time it just ain't true. Think of places like Rent the Runway where you can choose a dress (they even send a backup size), choose either a 4 or 8 day rental (8 days costs a bit more) and they ship the dress to you in a garment bag that you get to keep, along with a self-addressed return envelope you just have to drop in the mail! Because these are designer dresses, I'm not sure exactly how many of each dress they carry and how many of each size, but this would be such an amazing thing to do if you are giving your girls the option to choose their own dress. I totally wish I would have thought of this for my bridesmaids! Check out some of my favorites below. The prices listed are the rental prices. Links for each dress (left to right) below.
Some of my other favorite places to look for AFFORDABLE bridesmaid dresses are Asos, Nordstrom, Ruche (for casual weddings), 6pm, Banana Republic, Piperlime and LOFT. If searching online for ideas, try not to use the word "bridesmaid" in the search...you'll most likely end up with a bunch of links for David's Bridal and a ton of other online bridal boutiques with cookie cutter options and steep price tags. Search for things like "cocktail dresses", "evening gowns", "little black dress", things like that.
Beauty & Hair
As far as beauty goes, if having your makeup done by a professional is just NOT in the budget, here are my top drugstore picks as well as some useful tips for makeup that photographs beautifully that I've learned over the years doing makeup for weddings. There are a few things you want to keep in mind when choosing your makeup for the big day:
1 | Mineral foundations and powders typically DO NOT photograph well. They tend to get a whitish, chalky appearance so stick with liquid, cream or cream to powder foundations.
2 | Even if you don't normally wear blush on a regular basis, you'll want to wear it on the wedding day. It really gives the face a beautiful healthy flush and flash photography tends to wash people out when they aren't wearing blush. Stick to soft, warm pinks and rosy shades.
3 | Wear waterproof mascara and eyeliner. I'm not a "crier" but you never know when something will make you tear up. If not the vow exchange, you never know if one of your college friends is going to get plastered and trip and spill their red wine on your dress, and THAT would make ANY gal cry.
4 | Wear color on your lips. You can go pretty neutral but make sure you have SOME color on your lips. For the same reason as the blush above. Trust me on this one. And make sure you re-apply before any photos are taken.
5 | Get the best powder you can afford. If it's a drugstore powder, just make sure it is very finely milled so that if you have to re-apply, you don't get cakey. It's also a good idea to have one of your bridesmaids keep a package of blotting papers tucked somewhere.
6 | Think of anyone you know that always has flawless makeup and see if she might be available to help you out (if you're really clueless) on the big day. If you do this, make sure you tell her that under no circumstance will you accept a gift from her, her beauty help is gift enough. There are some makeup counters that will do complimentary makeup applications but they typically like you to purchase at LEAST one of the items used. Call around to see what their policies are. I know many of the counters at Nordstrom have a $50 charge for a full makeup application but that $50 goes toward your purchase for whatever you want to buy afterwards. If you really can't come up with anyone to help you, then.....
7 | PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE, and then practice some more. Get everything you'll need for the big day (see my picks below) and then spend some time on YouTube searching for "bridal makeup", "wedding day makeup" and things of the like. Here are some of my favorites: click me, click me, click me. Make sure you go outside in natural light when you're finished and have someone snap some pictures of you to see how your makeup looks in photographs.
8 | Invite a girlfriend over, give her some champagne (but don't get her too schnockered), and bribe her into playing with your hair. Make sure you have some pictures on hand that you can see if you can replicate. One of my all time favorite blogs for DIY hairstyles and updos is The Beauty Department. They show you step by step...by step how to recreate the hairstyles in the pictures! Check out these tutorials here, here and here.
Here are some of my favorite drugstore items to use on brides that photograph beautifully. The formulas are long-lasting without being heavy and the colors give that "blushing bride" look for when you want to "look like you....only better."
Milani Baked Powder Blush in colors "Corallina" or "Luminoso". These blushes are the PRETTIEST warm pink colors and they are fantastic dupes for MAC Mineralize Blushes.
CoverGirl Olay Concealer Balm Stick this little guy is the creamiest concealer stick in all the land. It's beautiful for under the eye area but still has enough "oomph" to cover any problem areas.
L'Oreal Paris Colour Riche Lipcolour in "Fairest Nude". OMG. You guys. Hands down the prettiest shade of lipstick for your wedding day. I don't know how they married (see what I did there?) the perfect blend of pink and nude...but they just so did.
Ardell Flare Lashes. I have these bad boys stashed ALL over my house. They are such an easy way to get beautiful full lashes without the telltale sign of falsies all over your lid. They are about 7392% more comfortable to wear than strip lashes and they are so much easier to apply. Again, practice makes perfect. You just apply a bulb of lash glue to the end and gently place them on top of already mascara'ed lashes.
Maybelline Full n Soft Waterproof Mascara is an oldie but a goodie. It's been around forever and has nearly perfect reviews, because, well, it works. Full AND long lashes, doesn't clump and won't run down your face.
My two favorite drugstore foundations Revlon ColorStay for a full coverage virtually no touch ups needed and L'Oreal True Match Lumi for great coverage, but a really pretty "dewy" finish.
Revlon Photo Ready pressed powder sets makeup perfectly and doesn't get heavy or cakey. Looks great in photos.
NYX Eyebrow Cake Powder will forever be my favorite drugstore brow powder. Period. I use it daily. Just make sure you use a good angled brush like this to apply it as opposed to the crappy little crap stick they give you in the package.
NYX Illuminator in "Narcissistic" ohhhhh so pretty. I love this highlighter! Make sure you only apply this to the cheek bone area and maybe a little on the brow bone. You must highlight very carefully (read: sparingly) when you are going to be photographed, otherwise you run the risk of looking like a grease monkey vampire.
NYX Retractable Lip Liner there are a few shades that would work here. "Pretty in Pink", "Soft Pink" or "Pinky Beige".
BH Cosmetics Floral Blush Duos okay if you don't know about BH Cosmetics....y'all better familiarize yo self! Such great palettes for next to NOTHING and they are incredible. These blush/highlighter duos are seriously amazing and they're on sale right now for $4! "Daisy" is my favorite.
e.l.f. Studio Conditioning Lip Balms my faves are "Peaceful Pink" and "Mellow Melon". This is another little drugstore diamond in the rough. The perfect lip balm for brides. Super moisturizing and the prettiest wash of color.
Revlon PhotoReady Perfecting Primer just a really stellar little drugstore primer. I really like how this one feels and it creates a flawless canvas for foundation.
Essence Sun Club Matte Bronzer you know what's hard?? Finding a bronzer with no shimmer! This is a great matte bronzer with a believable color to it. ONLY apply where the sun would naturally hit your face (cheek bones, high points of forehead, bridge of nose, collar bone).
L'Oreal Infallible Eyeliner oh I just love love love this eyeliner. Seriously. It does what it says it will. The black is a must-have but the charcoal is SO lovely on brides. Gives just enough "pop" but isn't too harsh.
BH Cosmetics Forever Nude Palette I totally saved the best for last. This palette is EVERYTHING. It's almost like it was created for brides, by brides. The colors are perfect and it includes 6 eyeshadows, 2 blushes and 2 lip colors! Talk about bang for your buck! And it's on sale for $11.95 right now! You could essentially use this as your entire look book!
Whew! This post is getting looooong. Hopefully like your marriage will be! Man, I'm just full of jokes! I'm going to stop myself here because 1) I'm getting loopy and 2) since I specialize in primarily beauty and fashion, I will leave the other "money saving tips" up to the other professionals like Martha Stewart and The Knot. I really hope you were able to get at least a few ideas here for your big day! If I can offer any advice, it would be this: try to focus on the MARRIAGE and not the WEDDING. Wedding guests never remember what the bridesmaids wore, if your dress was white, ivory or cream or what dinner was served. They remember whether or not the couple looked happy and in love! If you can master that, then the details will fall into place!