Want to plan a gorgeous weddings like those on “Downton Abbey” but have a budget more befitting the household help? As bride Ashley Sheriff proved, you can plan an elegant Georgian-era-inspired wedding without being a member of nobility.
Sheriff, 27, of Champaign, Illinois, said her wedding plans stemmed from her adoration of the Georgian architecture from the ritzy Henrietta Street in London and the manors, museums and town houses of Bath, Somerset. Luckily, she found a place closer to home to serve as a substitute, the Allerton estate in Monticello, Illinois.
“I remember gawking at the library, dining areas, and gardens after taking a dining etiquette session there for a retreat,” she said. Sheriff and her husband chose the library for their ceremony, because she was working towards her Master’s in Library Science. Having the ceremony and reception in the same place also reduced transportation costs.
By planning the wedding off-season, in early spring, she got reduced prices for the site, the photographer, DJ services, and the florist. The wedding cost under $7,000, out of a $10,000 budget.
“We saved more than $3,000 on DIY projects such as flowers and place cards, and cheaper alternatives on Etsy such as my faux pearl jewelry, wholesale veil, and the personalized wedding tree for guests’ signatures,” Sheriff explained. They kept the guests to 60, along with a small wedding party of only 5 plus an usher.
She recommends “choosing naturally beautiful backdrops such as gardens, old-world mansions and ski resorts,” which offer beautiful settings that require few decorations. Sheriff and her husband, Paul Dykstra, purchased Vendela ivory and green-tea colored roses, white hydrangea, rose petals, and ivory hypericum berries in bulk from FiftyFlowers.com after searching for centerpiece ideas on Pinterest. They borrowed special-event vases from family members. Sheriff used a professional florist only for bouquets and boutonnieres, kept dainty, including a bridesmaid-sized bouquet for herself, saving $300 on the bouquets alone.
Because she’d budgeted well, Sheriff could hire a harpist, Devon Haupt, adding to the lush atmosphere.
For her bird-themed wedding, Sheriff shopped for clearance and on-sale decorative bird cages at Hobby Lobby and Michaels Arts & Crafts stores. She made her own name cards and escort cards on green and ivory card stock using bird-shaped templates from Etsy. She made the table numbers using free clip art, placing them in clearance picture frames from Prairie Gardens, a Champaign hobby and gardening store. Her husband purchased inexpensive tea candles to create a soft glow at the tables.
The coup was her dress: an elegant but simple chiffon, empire-waist dress bought on clearance from David’s Bridal for less than $400. “When modeling a wedding after simple British elegance, expensive or frilly isn’t necessarily the way to go,” she said.