Weddings are a joyous occasion, and not just for the two people saying “I do” before saying “See you later” and heading off on their honeymoon. But they can also be stressful, particularly when the trappings of the big day start happily-ever-after with a load of debt.
Really, what’s more stressful: Doing more things yourself on the cheap, or looking at your bank statements when the honeymoon’s over?
Here’s a secret — you don’t have to pay someone to do everything for you (which might explain why an otherwise available wedding planner we reached out to declined to return a message seeking budget wedding tips).
“It’s more work when you do it by yourself, but it pays off in ways, because you know you can get exactly what you want,” said Zoe Murphy, co-owner, with her now-husband Jason Pacioni, of Black Diamond BBQ in Elmore.
Going whole hog
Black Diamond caters more than 30 weddings each summer, and offers something for all kinds of budgets — from dinner drop-offs and small backyard pig roasts to full-service plated meals with white linens and china. Murphy said the pig roasts and buffet-style meals are a much more affordable way to feed the wedding party and their guests.
When she and Pacioni decided to tie the knot, they knew what they wanted — and also knew how much work goes into these things. For instance, when they deliver a pig roast for an event, they stay up all night with the animal as it smokes, slow and low. So, how did the meat-loving couple convince a bunch of their friends and staff to pick up the slack while they were otherwise occupied?
Beer. Plenty of beer.
“Ply them with food and some cold beverages and we’re good to go,” Murphy said. “It was all hands on deck the whole time, but we had fun with it.”
Since their own company was supplying the feast for 180 wedding guests, they made sure all their favorites were on the menu: smoked meats, lobster salad, rack of lamb lollipops, a raw shellfish bar, and plenty of salads and sides. As a bonus, after the celebration ended, they had plenty of food left over for late-night noshing.
Murphy has some practical advice for creative corner-cutting for a large gathering: plan ahead and prioritize.
For instance, you might not want to drop a lot of money on party favors, because a lot of people forget to take them home. And here’s another no-so-secret observation: that big, traditional wedding cake hardly ever is completely eaten. The couple compromised by getting a small, decorative wedding cake from Vermont Sweet Tooth for the guests of honor, and cupcakes for everyone else.
As another creative and festive way to save money on decorating, the ladies held a craft-making party as part of the wedding shower. And how’s this for planning ahead: Murphy’s mother, aunt and friends did the flowers themselves, planting them in the spring so they’d be ready for the ceremony.
“They were pretty and colorful, whatever we could grow in the Vermont climate,” she said. “That saved thousands of dollars right there.”
Kristen Miglinas and Elliot Rocheleau went even more bare-bones with their wedding last fall, and it was still a magical day for the couple and the 22 guests in attendance at a family member’s home in Hyde Park. Everyone had a role in their nuptials.
“We decided that this was about marriage, and not about me being a princess,” Miglinas said. “And we don’t have a single bill. No debt.”
Photos? The groom’s best friend, Jeremiah Johnson, is a photographer, and he captured most of the moments — except for the parts when he was marrying the couple. That’s right, Johnson was also the officiant and all-around best guy.
Music? Press play on Pandora’s “dinner party” mix.
Décor? Pumpkins and hay bales and a built-in backdrop of Whiteface Mountain, something for which out-of-towners shell out big bucks.
Heat for the tent? The couple is friends with fuel oil dealer Griffin Corse, who donated a heater for the event.
The couple chose to splurge on a couple of things, such as flowers and decorations.
“Elliot’s dad really prides himself on his meat-cooking abilities, and my mom made ricotta pasta roll-ups, and she made mashed potatoes, because that’s my favorite thing to eat,” Miglinas said. “Everyone helped out with making food.”
One more money-saving tip: Get a really good local bakery, such as Sweet Crunch in Hyde Park, to make one of its regular cakes, and add a few flower-frosting flourishes. If it’s a delicious cake that just happens to be served at a wedding, it’s a wedding cake.
“We were both very conscious about what this day meant, and we both just wanted our families there,” said Miglinas. “It was the closest thing to eloping without actually eloping.”