Melissa Hofman had heard of Facebook groups for brides to be, so when her fiancé (and now husband) Dan popped the question in March of last year, she turned to the social network.
She was not disappointed.
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The 27-year old, who works as a unit clerk for the Vancouver Island Health Authority, quickly found a few local forums, including Wedding Everything Vancouver Island.
Couples who had just gotten married were selling or renting wedding items — from fake flowers to wedding gowns — that looked like new but cost a fraction of their store price.
Startup vendors would offer their services for far less than their established peers.
And brides would exchange tips on anything from venues to vendors.
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Hofman’s best Facebook purchase was a pearl-white loveseat that she and Dan used for the head table at their reception.
Another couple had just used it at their wedding and were selling it for $325, almost 30 per cent less than they bought it for.
More savings for Hofman came from scrolling through the posts of professional photographers.
“I was surprised by the difference in price between the younger ones and some of the bigger names,” she told Global News.
Though she went for someone else who was a personal recommendation, she used her newly acquired insight into price ranges to negotiate a lower rate.
And when looking for umbrellas for her guests (should they need one during the open-air ceremony), Facebook pointed her toward the best deal in town: dollar stores.
“I wanted all-clear umbrellas for everyone so they would match in the photos,” she said.
It turned out local discount stores had just what she was looking for.
Hofman got married on June 17, but she’s still turning to the Facebook groups.
She is planning to rent the wooden arbour that Dan and his cousin built for the wedding to other couples tying the knot this summer.
And she is hoping to find buyers for a few leftovers, such as gift bags and wedding photo props.
The couple would like to hang onto the love seat, but if they can’t find a good spot for it at home, they will resell that, too.
Ideas and unique finds
Most brides know to turn to Pinterest for wedding inspiration and unique buys, but Facebook can be a great resource as well, said Hofman.
It was through the wedding groups that the couple found the local artisans who made their ring box and guest book.
Hofman asked another craftsman she found on Facebook to engrave the clothes hangers that would carry her wedding gown and bridesmaids’ dresses.
Unlike Pinterest, Facebook also offers moral support, noted Hofman.
“Everybody’s going through the same thing, so it’s good to know that you’re not the only one panicking over your hairpiece,” she said.
Advice from those who’d just gotten married was particularly useful: “Slow down, remember the day, and don’t worry if something goes wrong.”
What one wedding planner says about Facebook wedding groups and other swap and sell apps
Facebook groups can be a treasure trove, said Lynzie Kent, owner of Toronto-based Love by Lynzie, an events and wedding planning agency.
Brides should also check out Bunz, a former Toronto Facebook group that’s now grown into its own company and online bartering app. Users can now trade in a number of Canadian cities, including Ottawa, Montreal and Vancouver, and U.S. locations as well.
Kent will occasionally give away props from her own professionally designed events in exchange for a bottle of wine or a gift certificate on Bunz.
“You get cool wedding decor for mega cheap.”
But the downside of “mega cheap” is that “sometimes you get what you paid for,” she warned.
Telling a good deal from a bad one is easier when it comes to objects — such as ornaments and clothes — that can be inspected on the spot. It’s harder when it comes to evaluating vendors.
Photographers are especially risky because no one can redo the photos of your big day, she noted.
It doesn’t mean brides and grooms should avoid anyone who advertises their services on Facebook — but couples should do their own research before signing up for something that might fall short of expectations.