Royal weddings — from the Charles and Diana 1981 extravaganza to Kate and William’s elegant 2011 affair (above) — still capture headlines and inspire fashion trends from London to Los Angeles. As American Meghan Markle prepares to wed William’s younger brother, Prince Harry, on May 19, the wedding obsession is about to sweep down the global aisle once again.
But what if you’ve got a wedding to plan yourself and only a fraction of the royal family’s budget? Following are some tips from royal weddings past that even a normal bride and groom can incorporate into their big day. We also learn about a few things royals do that we don’t even want to consider.
Here come the bridal bargains!
1. Skip Saturday
Meghan and Harry will wed on a Saturday, the most popular — and priciest — day for weddings, according to The Knot website. But if you can choose any other day of the week, you might be able to get better deals on everything from services to venues.
Harry’s dad and mom, Prince Charles and the late Diana, Princess of Wales, wed on a Wednesday — as did Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson. We’re pretty sure the day of the week had nothing to do with the fact that neither marriage lasted.
2. Consider a wedding planner
Meghan and Harry probably are not combing through Yelp reviews of caterers and looking up honeymoon options online. While you may not have their resources, you still can take a tip from their delegation of wedding-planning duties. Wedding planners cost money, but they often have deals with vendors and venues that can save you more in the end.
3. Use family heirlooms
Talk to parents and grandparents about any heirlooms they can pass down to the newest couple in the family. Kate Middleton (Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge) lovingly wears the world-famous engagement ring of her husband’s late mother, a stunning sapphire surrounded by diamonds. You may not be as lucky, but Grandma may have a vintage piece of jewelry she wants to keep in the family.
Jewelers can restring vintage necklaces or take gems from older rings and create a modern look that’s right for you. That’s what Harry did — he took some diamonds from Diana’s jewelry and used them to surround the giant diamond in the center of Meghan’s ring. “The little diamonds on either side are from my mother’s jewelry collection, to make sure she’s with us on this crazy journey together,” he said.
4. Choose a regular gown
Here’s where we differ from the royals, who ask designers to carefully and exquisitely create their wedding gowns. We commoners should know that any gown labeled a wedding gown is likely going to be marked up just for that reason.
Instead, check out the formal gown section of your favorite department store for a dress that will work for your big day. With all the different styles brides wear today, no guest will know her dress wasn’t labeled a bridal gown.
For more ideas, check out: “Pay Less for Your Perfect Wedding Dress.”
5. Tuxes aren’t necessary
In America, grooms often rent tuxedos for their weddings, but the royals usually don’t do that. It’s traditional for royal grooms to wed in military dress. Prince William wore the dashing scarlet uniform of an Irish Guards officer (he is an honorary colonel in that unit), although he also could have worn his Royal Air Force uniform. Prince Harry would have the right to wear military dress, although we’ll have to wait and see if he does.
If military isn’t an option for your groom, matching or even just similar-colored suits may be a cheaper choice for the groom and his groomsmen.
6. Keep your invites simple
Look for wedding invitations, and you’ll quickly see just how over the top they can be. You can mail your guests a seedling to plant! You can select trifold, gold-edged, gem-encrusted invitations!
The royal couple kept it simple — relatively speaking, of course. Meghan and Harry’s invites are a classic white card with gold trim and black ink. You can design your own subtle and classy invites on your home computer and save plenty. Some even send their invitations by email, but that’s going to depend on your audience — is Great-Grandma online?
Note that the royal invites take two tentative steps into the modern world: Meghan is labeled “Ms.” Also, an email address is listed under the RSVP details.
7. Pick seasonal flowers
Obviously, the queen could afford to have flowers sent in from the world’s most exotic greenhouses for a royal wedding. And Meghan and Harry are reportedly using a fashionable London florist to brighten up their big day with blooms. But they’re opting for seasonal flowers, which keep the blossom bill down, and also using flowers from the royal estates.
You may not have a royal estate of your own, but if Mom or Dad has a green thumb, carrying flowers that they lovingly cultivated adds a special touch to the bouquets.
8. Don’t invite everybody
You may have heard that such famous names as President Donald Trump, former President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister Theresa May are not on the royal wedding’s invite list. Don’t take it personally, people of power. Kensington Palace, which is home to Harry and Meghan (in the two-bedroom Nottingham Cottage on the palace grounds), announced that the guest list would be limited to personal friends of the couple, not people who just happen to hold important political positions.
See if that argument will work when you explain to Mom that her neighbor’s former co-worker’s dog sitter doesn’t make the list. Limiting the guest list means you can spend more on the guests you do have, and opens up the choice of venues to smaller, more intimate places.
9. Host the ceremony and reception in one spot
You’ve doubtless attended a wedding where the ceremony was held in one place, and then you had to get in your car and drive somewhere else for the reception — with maybe a few empty hours in between while the bride and groom have their photographs taken.
Save money, and your guests’ sanity, by holding the wedding and reception in the same place if you can. Your church may have a hall connected to it for events, and your guests will be thankful they don’t have three hungry hours to wait until they drive to a new location.
Or, perhaps do as the royals do, and bring your reception back to a family home. Meghan and Harry will be wed in Windsor Castle’s St. George’s Chapel, where Prince Harry was christened. That will be followed by a lunchtime reception at the castle’s St. George’s Hall given by the queen, who lives at Windsor Castle, and an evening reception given by father of the groom Prince Charles at nearby Frogmore House. Granted, not all of us have access to a palace, so the size of your wedding and the availability of your family home will vary.
For more ideas, check out: “10 Awesome Wedding Venues That Cost Less.”
10. Skip the fancy plated dinner
The fanciest and most expensive reception meal is going to be a plated dinner, where guests are seated and served by wait staff. That’s probably how the royals will handle Meghan and Harry’s wedding meal. But some royal weddings of the past have taken place in the morning, followed by brunch or a light offering.
When Harry’s dad, Prince Charles, married Camilla Parker-Bowles, they followed the ceremony with light sandwiches and hot canapes. While the royals doubtless won’t go for a serve-yourself buffet, we commoners might find it’s an easy way to save money and ensure that guests choose the foods they like best.
11. Rethink the wedding cake
Wedding cakes are traditionally tall and fancy, and that shows in the price. William and Kate offered an eight-tier fruitcake decorated with 900 leaf and floral touches. But modern dessert offerings vary widely — and can cost quite a bit less.
Cupcakes and cookies are popular ways to save. William and Kate offered a second, less-fancy, chocolate-cookie cake on their big day. Charles and Camilla served miniature pastries, including strawberry tartlets.
Whatever you choose, personalize it. Charles’ younger brother, Prince Edward, and Sophie Rhys-Jones topped their cake with tennis rackets to honor the fact that they met at a sports fundraiser.
12. Prioritize your top three budget items
The royals can spend lavishly on every aspect of their weddings, but those of us in the real world need to prioritize. Figure out what’s most important to you. Maybe the cake, gown and musical accompaniment mean a lot, or perhaps you would rather spend on a fancy venue, luxurious flowers and a memorable meal.
Once you know where you want your hard-earned money to go, you can more easily economize on other areas.
13. Make pals with Pinterest
In ye olde days, brides and grooms only had magazines and photo albums from family weddings of the past to guide us. Today, online options — including that enormous idea fountain called Pinterest.com — are endless. The site has creative ideas for guest books, reception signage, table centerpieces and more.
We’re not suggesting the royals use Pinterest, but some of their ideas are similar. The site offers plenty of ways to memorialize deceased family members at your ceremony, and Kate and William honored Diana at their 2011 wedding. In addition to wearing Diana’s ring, Kate entered Westminster Abbey to the peals of “I Was Glad” by Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry, the same song used at Diana’s wedding to Charles.
14. Consider your musical options
A live band is the choice for royal weddings with music. The royals can shell out for some big names. British singer Ellie Goulding reportedly sang Elton John’s “Your Song,” among other tunes, for Kate and William’s wedding. William had apparently met Goulding at a festival, so he wasn’t reaching out to a stranger.
You can do the same — perhaps you have a musical friend who is crazy-good at programming recorded music and can run the reception music for you. Or, you may want to choose a disc jockey, or save big with an iPod-laptop setup.
15. Make your own photo booth
The royal family always poses for formal pictures after a wedding, with everyone from the queen to random royal cousins flashing regal smiles. Forget that. Sure, you may hire a photographer to capture all the important moments, but you can also grab some memorable informal moments at the reception.
Set out some props and label a certain area of the reception site a photo booth — you don’t need a real booth. You can ask a cousin or friend to take the photos, or provide a sign asking the guests to email you the photos.
16. Encourage guests to take and share photos
You also don’t need photo-booth-style props to take advantage of the fact that nearly every one of your guests has a camera in his or her pocket these days. And you don’t need the kind of paparazzi that royal weddings attract.
Set up a wedding-specific email address and make sure to spread it around so guests know where to send you their pictures. Many couples also like to invent a hashtag, such as #JandJwedding2018, so their images can be tagged on social media.
17. Enlist family
One of the most famous photos from Kate and William’s wedding was of Pippa Middleton — Kate’s now-famous sister — carrying the train of Kate’s gown.
You may not make your own sister famous, but if you’ve got willing relatives and friends, use them wherever you can. Some bakeries will charge as much as $2 a slice to simply cut your wedding cake. Instead, grab a niece or a nephew who can handle a cake knife, and you will save big-time. Or a relative can monitor the guest book, remind attendees to email you their photos or hand out drinks. It’s a family affair, after all.
18. Curate your drink choices
We don’t know what liquor will be served at Meghan and Harry’s wedding reception, but that hasn’t stopped the Drink Company in Washington, D.C., from planning a pop-up royal wedding-themed bar from May 4 to 20. It will serve 11 themed cocktails, including the queen’s favorite martini and a drink dubbed the Markle Sparkle that includes edible glitter, with a viewing party of the ceremony on the morning of May 19.
You can save money at your own wedding if you choose a couple of special drinks to offer, rather than stock a bar with every kind of liquor imaginable. Pick a few favorites of the bride and groom, and drink up!
19. Bail on boutonnieres
Royal brides always carry beautiful bouquets — which they then leave at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior if they are wed in Westminster Abbey. But royal grooms sometimes eschew floral boutonnieres. Prince Edward did wear one. Since the grooms are often dressed in military uniforms, medals sometimes take the place of a boutonniere.
You don’t need medals, though — a simple pocket square can be just as striking.
20. Park the limo
Limo, schmimo — there are subtler and more original getaway cars out there. Meghan and Harry are expected to have their pick of royal horse-drawn carriages from the family’s fleet.
Not many families have this option, but there may be someone in your family willing to loan out a classic Corvette convertible or 1969 Volkswagen Beetle. Here comes the bride — in a 1957 Chevy.
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