How did you start your wedding planning? What were your first steps?

The very first thing you have to do, and it was painful for this girl who hates asking of people, is to talk to whomever is helping you financially. For my husband and me, that was our families. They might need help knowing what is appropriate to spend on a wedding, and rather than be demanding, it’s best to have them talk to their peers (whether that be friends or siblings) on what is appropriate for them. If their peers don’t feel comfortable talking money, or if your “backers” don’t feel up to asking, perhaps show them some pricing for vendors you are interested in. Weddings are expensive, and in all honesty, the pricetag might be shocking to them, but don’t get discouraged. There are vendors who can accommodate every price point.
If you aren’t receiving any monetary help, talk to your future spouse about what you can dedicate financially. The budget is the very first thing that needs to be set. The number of guests—not the guest list, but a general number—should probably be second.

How would you describe your wedding day? 

Perfect? Seriously, our wedding day was really pretty stress-free, and I owe a lot of that to my husband. I figured he didn’t have to spend the day getting hair and makeup done, so he could help pick up and transport supplies (like our flowers, my dress from the dry cleaners, lunch for the bridal party, etc.). It sounds demanding of me, I know, but all of that really took him just an hour that day.

Everything went as planned, and if it didn’t, my friends and family were kind enough to keep me out of it.

How would you describe your wedding day style? 

I would say my wedding day style was modern and minimalist. I was of the mindset that if it wasn’t necessary, don’t do it. Our colors were black and white. My bridesmaids wore their own black cocktail dresses and our groomsmen wore their own black suits. White tulips. Black suit and tie for him. Simple, modern dress for me–no veil. Clean lines. That kind of thing.

What was your favorite memory from your wedding day?

I think my very favorite memory from the wedding day was seeing my now-husband just before the ceremony. All of the stress of the day was over—I was dressed and ready, the venue was prepared, my friends and family were all organized, and all we had to do was walk down the aisle. It was just a feeling of total relief, relaxation, and happiness.

And of course, spending the evening on the dance floor with friends and family was a close second.

Looking back on your wedding day, is there anything that you would do differently?

I definitely would have thought more about what photos I wanted taken. Although our photographer did a fantastic job, I look back and think, “Oh! That would have been a great shot!” But it’s nothing that I lose sleep over.

During your wedding planning, what were the tasks that you found to be the most daunting?

The aspect of planning that I found to be the most daunting was finding a venue. Seriously, we must have gone to at least 10 places and spoke with more than 20. Without a venue, you can’t really go on with the rest of your plans (catering, decorating, invites, etc.). When you’re on a budget and looking for a unique venue, it can be tough, but if you do the leg work, it can be very rewarding in the end.

If a bride was going to splurge on one thing, in your opinion, what should that be?

Wow, tough question. I’d say the dress is the one thing I’d splurge on. If you don’t feel absolutely gorgeous on the one day of your life that you’re supposed to feel absolutely gorgeous, nothing else is going to feel right.

Did you and Kirk stick to your budget? If so, how? What areas were you able to trim costs?

We did stick to our budget (with no thanks to me!). I knew that we would need to cut corners because our venue was more expensive than our budget would allow. So, we took a night to brainstorm on ways to save. For example, we designed our own invites and had them printed at a local printer (BIG money saver!).

We also focused our floral budget on the bridal party bouquets, since those are the pieces that are most photographed, and divided our centerpiece budget between candles and less expensive flowers. Bonus: We were able to sell our centerpiece vases after the wedding.

We also cut costs by going with a buffet at dinner rather than a plated option and served beer and wine only, rather than a full-service bar.

We found our photographer on Craigslist—he was up-and-coming talent and needed to expand his portfolio. He offered us discount pricing and a free engagement session.

A lot of the wedding decorations (the seating chart, the placecards, church door decorations, etc.) I did myself because, picky me, I couldn’t find exactly what I wanted.

I also didn’t do much decorating at the church itself—just candles along the aisles and two alter floral pieces. It was so beautiful, it really didn’t need it!

I think the big thing to do is keep perspective: Do you REALLY need all those $600 shoes that you’re just going to take off at the reception? Is a $2,000 DJ really necessary? Maybe it is—it’s all according to what’s important to you.

During your wedding planning, what online tools did you use/rely upon?

I loved, Real Simple’s wedding page, and of course I also for DIY ideas and projects.

Which blogs did you read?

In terms of blogs, I only really checked out (April Foster, local event planner).

Which magazines did you find the most helpful?

To be honest, I didn’t buy a single bridal magazine—I was given a whole heap of them secondhand from a friend (those suckers are expensive!). The magazine that I found most useful was Martha Stewart Weddings. I also ordered free product magazines from vendors for ideas. For example: I ordered magazines from stationery vendors and used the ideas to design my own save the date cards and invites.

Of the Indy-based vendors you used, is there anyone that you would recommend to another bride?

Absolutely! When you’re on a smaller budget, research is key—not only to know what’s out there, but to be able to bargain with local vendors. I went to five different florists, and the one that was most accommodating to my budget was Posh Petals. When I gave them my budget ($1,500—not a ton in the floral industry), rather than scoff at me, they said, “OK, tell me what you want and we’ll tell you what we can do.” They told me how and where to cut and were realistic about what they could offer right off the bat—trust me, not everyone is.

I must say, wedding cake is my absolute favorite food, but when it came to my budget, I thought spending $3.50+/slice was a tad bit much. During my research, one name kept coming up: Amazing Cakes. Millie, the owner, used to compete in cake competitions on the Food Network and is still close with many of the judges. When I told her my budget (again, not astronomical), she said, “We can definitely make this work!” She did a display cake that looked exactly like my photo, and several kitchen cakes. Her butter almond cake was phenomenal!

What advice would you give other Indy brides?

This is very sad to say, but I really wouldn’t go to any bridal shows. I didn’t get any ideas and random vendors called me up to a year after the show. Aside from the cake samples, it was a waste of my time.

Also, definitely ask vendors for advice on other vendors outside of their industry. Florists see the work of bakeries. DJs work with caterers (and eat their food!). They’ll give you an unbiased opinion.

I guess the most important piece of advice is to be overly organized in advance—that way, you can just relax the day of.

Laura Stelsel is the associate editor for Kappa Alpha Theta Fraternity. She married Kirk Stelsel in April 2010 in Indianapolis. Follow Laura on Twitter at @LKStelsel.