Now is the time to talk to everyone you know. If you know a DJ, photographer, baker, florist, friend with a nice or antique car (getaway car/ limo replacement), or someone who got married recently, talk to them! Recently married people can tell you who they used, what that individual cost, and may even have things that they purchased that you can borrow (chair covers, tablecloths, cake knives, gift card holders, candles, lanterns, and more). Someone you know probably has chairs, tablecloths, lighting, and more to borrow. Friends who bake, DJ on the side, took floral arranging as an elective in high school can save you lots! Cakes baked out of someone’s home are much cheaper than a bakery one, and with the right person (like that former roommate who went to culinary school) can look just as good.
You might not have a connection to everything, and that’s OK, too. In my case, I didn’t know any photographers. Turns out Craigslist was full of budget photographers looking to build their portfolios, who had a good portfolio with senior portraits, engagements, baby and family photos, but few weddings and were looking to break into the business for 1/10th of what the pros were changing. I carefully corresponded with and looked at portfolios of several until I had the right fit, then used our engagement photos as the audition for our photographer. Use Craigslist and Facebook yard sale groups for the areas where you don’t have a connection but want someone skilled without a pro price tag.