Bride Sarah DeBruyn Williams has some advice for couples planning a wedding on a budget: Devote most of your money to the aspects most important to you. Sarah and her groom, Ridge, married on Aug. 2, 2008, in a dream wedding with a $30,000 budget. But with some creative planning and help from crafty family members, the couple was able to skim $5,000 from the final bill. They made their own invitations, bouquets and bridesmaid gifts. They bought instead of rented their linens. Sarah spent only $100 on her wedding dress, which she found on eBay. They served $2.99 wine from Trader Joe’s, saving about $10 per guest on their catering bill. And this was no small wedding – there were 10 bridesmaids and 180 guests. Sarah and Ridge married at Belk Chapel, located just outside of uptown Charlotte in Myers Park. “The chapel has natural beauty so we didn’t have to do a lot of decorating,” Sarah says. “We love natural lighting, which this chapel has a lot of.” The reception was held at Roof With a View on the fifth floor of an old building on Cedar Street about a mile from the chapel. “The skyline of Charlotte was a beautiful scene for our guests to look at,” says Sarah. Sarah met Ridge on a Friday night in January 2005. She and her friend were going uptown for dinner. As they prepared to leave, Ridge stepped out of his neighboring home, headed out for wings with friends. Sarah’s friend wanted to set them up. “I wasn’t sure if I really even wanted to date anyone or even have a boyfriend since I was fairly new to the area,” says Sarah, who had moved from Michigan to Charlotte to take a teaching job. She is a first grade teacher for Gaston County Schools. Ridge is a senior computer engineer with Data Networks. “Everyone kept telling me Ridge was the nicest guy they knew,” she says. “I soon found this out and started to fall for him.” About two years later, Ridge planned a weekend getaway so the couple could relax. He didn’t tell Sarah where they were going, but he told her what to pack. Just before they left, Ridge said, “I have something that I need to talk to you about.” Sarah thought he was going to tell her about the trip, but he began telling her how he remembered what she was wearing the first time they met – a pink pea coat and jeans ripped above the knee. “He said he remembered how pretty I was, but he didn’t know until he got to know me how beautiful of a person I really was,” she recalls. “At this point, I was already in tears. I knew what he was going to ask me.” The couple spent the weekend celebrating at the Spring Valley Farm, a mountain house on 96 acres of land. They had massages on the deck overlooking a pond and then champagne and strawberries. “It was the most romantic day ever,” she says. The bar was set high for the wedding, but there are ways to save that will also add meaning to your ceremony, Sarah informs. For example, her mother-in-law, Breeze Williams, learned from her own daughter’s wedding three years earlier how to make bouquets. She bought a bouquet for $100, took it apart and pieced it back together. For Ridge and Sarah’s wedding, Breeze sent away for fresh flowers from an online company in California and made all the bouquets for the bride and her bridesmaids. Sarah recruited her mother-in-law for help with the bridesmaid gifts as well. Each bridesmaid received a canvas beach bag embroidered with their initials, and necklaces hand-beaded by Sarah using Swarovski crystals. For table decor, the Williamses purchased the 30 round, 120-inch white linens they needed for their reception. Sarah found them on eBay for $18.50 each – renting would have cost $18 each. The linens have all been washed and line dried, and now the couple is hoping to recoup some of the $555 expense by reselling them. Sarah also saved money on her invitations, save-the-date and thank-you cards by going to www.vistaprint.com. She used the first photograph ever taken of the couple for the save-the-date cards and a picture from the wedding for the thank-you notes. The 200 thank-you notes cost her $22.58, which saved money while providing guests with a keepsake photo. The Williamses are just one of the many couples who have saved money with a little creativity and ingenuity. As you plan your own wedding, spend time researching cost-saving alternatives that will not only save money, but bring your families closer together in the process. As with any wedding, the memories you make are the most important bottom line of all.