A Vintage Wedding on a Budget

If you’re rummaging around thrift stores, antique markets, and garage sales for your upcoming wedding, you can easily find fabulous personalized touches. Treasures such as vintage silver-plated tea sets, sugar bowls, and candy dishes are easy finds, inexpensive and oh-so-elegant wedding décor. As a greener alternative to an event typically filled with items that will end up in the landfill, seeking out used decor adds a dash of something soulful to your wedding day.

Photography by Raymond James, I Do Studio

Like every bride-to-be, I spent months agonizing over wedding plans – living and dying by the budget. I will say that nothing I had experienced in my professional life would prepare me for the realities of planning a wedding. The average wedding today costs anywhere from $25,000 to $50,000 and some luxe weddings even double and triple that amount.

When my husband popped the question, there was no question about where the wedding would take place – a winery in Napa Valley we frequented. It was perfect – elegant, simple, romantic and sophisticated. We knew it was the place to celebrate our new life together with close family and friends. According to theknot.com, the venue accounts for about 40 percent of the average wedding budget, a statistic that proved true for us. Knowing that our dream location would stretch our wedding budget quite thin, I did something all savvy and stylish brides on a budget should do – I began to scour thrift shops – especially Goodwill.

With my heart set on the beautiful details of vintage weddings, I noticed that most unique and thoughtful vintage-style weddings had one thing in common – the brides searched thrift stores in the hopes of finding authentic vintage items that fit their theme.

Before I started my trek, and before my Pinterest account, I created an inspiration board of wedding designs I liked and made a wish list of items that would fit my theme. I desired antique silver items (candelabras, champagne coupes, sugar bowls, platters), mason jars, intricate picture frames, elaborate hand-painted tea cups, crystal vases, chandeliers, and lace, burlap and floral fabrics. My journey began on a Saturday a few months before the wedding where I entered one of many Goodwill stores and found…

•    A set of five stunning antique silver candelabras for centerpieces ($40.00).
•    A beautiful hand-painted tea cup with rose design with matching saucer ($0.99).
•    A designer set of 1950s amber glassware for mini floral arrangements ($9.99).
•    Authentic mason jars ($0.99).
•    Several yards of vintage Chantilly lace ($3.99).
•    A brand-new box of clear Christmas lights to wrap around trees ($3.99).
•    Dozens of vintage picture frames of all shapes and sizes for a picture table ($0.50-$9.99 each, depending on size).
•    A vintage silver and bone-handled set of wedding cake knives ($29.99).
•    A designer rose print tea set ($19.99).
•    A standing chalkboard that my husband refinished with drift wood for a vintage flair ($4.99).
•    Four antique chair and ottoman sets that my husband reupholstered in burlap fabric and finished with nail head trim to create unique “lounge” seating near the dance floor at our reception.
•    Three matching silver jewelry boxes used to display cards informing guests where to place their gifts, to take a glass of champagne and indulge in the candy bar.
•    Enough oddly sized and shaped candy dishes, sugar bowls and platters to create a candy bar.

And lots more. After the three months of scavenging, I collected over thirty beautiful and unusual pieces of silver, dozens of beautiful tea cups (which were filled with roses, used as place settings and at the end given as take-home gifts), one enormous (working) crystal chandelier that served as the “disco ball” for the reception, two Faberge eggs (I couldn’t believe it either), enough mason jars and crystal vases to fill twenty dinner tables and high-top bar tables, countless yards of beautiful fabric used throughout the venue and many other discovered treasures. In the end, we created the most beautiful and inspired vintage wedding of my dreams. As I look back on all the things I collected, which now grace my home, I am frequently reminded of the special experience of “finding” them, and giving them new life on one of the most important days of my life.

If you’re considering going chic, green, and vintage for your wedding, here are few tips that will make the process a snap:
Build a collection of objects similar in shape and size, group them together and fill them with flowers – such as tea sets. Make sure your containers are at least three inches deep if you are using them for arrangements and, if need be, consult your florist. If you wish, give your centerpieces as gifts to your special guests can sustain the memory of the day – also, it continues the joy of recycling vintage goods.

Stunning silver
If you are searching for silver, sometimes three-piece silver tea sets can be priced as low as $5.00. Just remember that most used silver requires polishing to truly shine. I suggest a non-toxic baking soda bath to soak the tarnish off or consider an eco-friendly dip such as Earth’s Friendly Silver Polish.

Melissa shares her story with the hopes of inspiring brides on a budget to seek out treasures and create the décor of their dream for their special day. Melissa Rein is a Scottsdale-based public relations professional and owner of public relations, marketing communications and event design firm The Brand Consortium Public Relations. Find Melissa online at thebrandconsortium.com or @MelissaRein.
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