How to Thrift for your Wedding Decor like a Pro
I started my business to help the thrifty, crafty, DIYers and vintage lovers. I liked to do things that weren’t “on trend” and that people truly enjoyed.
I enjoyed working hard on someone’s wedding day to make sure they got to enjoy it.
Before I became a wedding coordinator, I worked at venue. Many of the weddings I watched looked absolutely stressful to the family and friends working so hard to make their loved one’s vision happen. One that they did not understand. Some weddings who did have a coordinator, I was never reached out to the venue side of things. That means these coordinators were working blind at a venue that they had never worked at before. There were mistakes or overlooked details that would have been avoided with a conversation.
I became a coordinator to fill the need for a wedding coordinator who paid attention to details. Who showed up in the office, not just the wedding day. A coordinator who takes care to ask as many questions as possible to get to know the vendors they will work with and the requirements and limitations of the venue space. And who truly cares about your vision overall.
And because I wanted an excuse to thrift.
I started thrifting in my teens. I remember pulling into Value Village one day after graduating high school, to walk in an find a Marmot windbreaker (which are stupid expensive when you are 18 and work at the YMCA) for $7.99. I was hooked.
I spent a lot of time shopping at second hand stores. I have learned how to go into a store and come out with items I need. I know how to quickly navigate through a rack of hundreds of clothes, scour through shelves stacked with dozens of different items, and see just the right thing when I could have easily overlooked it. And man, if I could use that skill to decorate weddings on a dime, then hell yeah I will learn to be a kick ass wedding coordinator so I could plan and design weddings that are meaningful, intentional, and unique.
Although I can’t thrift for every wedding I work, I want anyone to be able to have a unique and thrifty wedding. It would be a crime to keep my knowledge to myself.
With that, here are the five steps to thrifting like a pro.
1. Know what you are looking for.
If you go in to a Good Will without a plan you will be either overwhelmed or buy a whole lot of stuff you don’t need (rule number one to have an #uncomplicatedwedding is don’t buy shit you don’t need). Always go into the store armed with a “this is what we are here for” list. How do you know what needs to be on that list? You first need to know what spaces and tables you are decorating and what your common décor theme is (need help with this? The Planning Gathering will walk you through it all). With that, you’ll know what type of pieces you are looking for to decorate your reception tables, your ceremony space, welcome table, or even find your wedding party’s attire. Make a list of item types, then don’t shop outside those lists.
Stephanie Walls Photography
2. Learn to scan the shelves.
It may take a few trips before you are quick at scanning the shelves or racks, but once you have it down it will become second nature. When you are in the section of the item you are browsing for, the only way to not miss it is to get your eyes on everything. Tackle one shelf at a time, specifically looking for shape, size, color and textures that are pleasing to you or match the description of what you are looking for. Scan quickly but be sure to intentionally look at each piece on the shelf.
When browsing for clothing items, you don’t need to touch or move every hanger to see every item. You can quickly find what appeals to you with a slow walk down the aisle. First, look for colors first, then texture, and then pull the item off the rack to look at the shape and style. If you don’t immediately love it, put it back. Never buy something that doesn’t scream “yes” to you.
3. Be open to “mismatched.”
If you are decorating your whole wedding with items you’ve thrifted, borrowed, or found for free you will likely not have items that match entirely. Colors may be a slightly different shade or vases a variety of shapes. But if completely uniform (aka, boring, in my opinion) is not your thing, then thrifting is the way to go.
Stephanie Walls Photography
4. Go often.
Plan to hit up multiple stores once a week for a couple months if you are thrifting all the décor for your wedding. Schedule a day where you can go during the least busiest times (mornings on the sale markdown days except for Good Will’s Monday sales are usually a great time). If you must go during busy times, be prepared to be calm and patient.
5. Search wide.
You will want to shop at a variety of stores, both small, locally owned second hand stores and the national chains. You’ll also want to keep your feelers out on places like Facebook, Craigslist and Offer Up for scores. If you need table linens, you can score some polyester linens in a variety of colors for under $5 a table by purchasing used. Buy/Sell/Trade sites are also a great place to look for sets of matching or complimenting items. The best time to look for these previously used wedding décor sets is in the fall and winter.
Bonus Tip: Use what you already have available to you. Think about the decor you have in your house that represents something you have done together, or that shows your personality. There is definitely a way to use what you already own (or what you could borrow) in your wedding decor.
If your wedding location is naturally gorgeous and you are in love with it as it is, then don't stress too much about decorating it.
Anyone can thrift for their wedding décor and create a beautiful, cohesive, thoughtful design like a pro. Have patience, have a plan, shop consistently and be open to the possibilities that are out there! When you find something cool, share with us! I love a great secondhand score!
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