Design a wedding for yourself, not the paparazzi.

When my wife and I got married a few years back, we decided that we wanted a big wedding. We wanted to be surrounded by family and friends as we ate great food, drank outstanding libations, listened to fantastic music, and generally had the time of our lives. Because we were paying for it by ourselves, however, we needed to get creative in our realization of our dream. We called out our friends.

For food, we priced caterers, only to discover that professional chefs would have charged us $25 a head for clay-like banquet chicken. Our friend Rich, on the other hand, was able to get us most of our food at a restaurant discount, and was happy to help us prepare it. When it came to music, we hired my wife's friend Paul Herling and his buddies, who had a nice rockabilly sound and charged us about half of their usual fee. For photography, we called upon our friend Richard Alnutt, a professional photographer, who cut us a break. My cousin John Strymish also dropped in and gave us a hand with his own amazing photographic ability. For flowers, my sister Ella, a sculptor, took over and created beautiful bouquets. My wife's friend Sabrina made us the cake practically for free, only requesting that we pay for ingredients and the necessary pans. My aunt Portia covered the wine and beer, my sister Sue paid for the hotel rooms the night before the wedding, and my sister Jen covered the hotel the night after. Some of my friends volunteered to work as waiters and kitchen helpers, and my wife's friend Julie officiated for us.