Your guide to a Crossroads wedding (Video)

When Samantha Stirneman was asked to sit Black Friday out this past year, she wasn't thrilled.

Her then-boyfriend Justin Wesley came home hours later wearing a smile and - much to her chagrin - carrying a gun case.

She was certain that when he popped it open, her annoyance wouldn't dissipate.

She was wrong.

"He tricked me. Good," the 25-year-old Cuero native said, chuckling. "But there it was. There was the ring inside."

Stirneman was one of hundreds of Crossroads brides-to-be to attend the 23rd annual Pilot Club Bridal Showcase Sunday afternoon.

Rapidly running out of free hands with a red velvet cupcake and business cards galore, she and her mother, Patty Gott, meandered through the many booths set up in the Victoria Community Center in search of ideas for her November wedding.

"I just want everyone to have a good time," she said, weighing the benefits of adding a tent to her outdoor venue and grading caterers in order of tastiness.

"You have to have the mentality, though, that nothing will go the way you planned," Gott reminded her.

The pair then watched a wedding dress fashion show, oohing and aahing in unison with a crowd that favored more traditional looks.

"I don't want to pay an arm and a leg," Stirneman said, adding she intends to make a lot of the items that were displayed in her free time.

Gott said no budget has been set.

"We're blessed with the oil field. We're all excited about it," Gott said.

But not everyone is so lucky. Here are some tips to help make a bride's big day a bit more affordable.



THE VENUE:

•  WHAT PEOPLE SPEND ON AVERAGE: Generally more than $1,000

•  WHEN TO BOOK: A year to a year and a half in advance

•  HOW TO ORDER: Ask questions. How many people will the area seat? What amenities are included in the space? Some venues provide chairs and tables at no cost. Others charge a fee if you don't use their in-house caterer. Will the venue shut down to the public during your party? Do you need bartenders to serve alcohol? Sharon Kleinecke, an employee at Schroeder Hall in Goliad, said some brides opt to order a keg for their guests. "Either that or they have a beer tab with a limit," she said, noting some venues also offer discounts on days where business is otherwise slow, such as Fourth of July.



THE DRESS:

•  WHAT PEOPLE SPEND ON AVERAGE: $1,500 to $2,000

•  WHEN TO ORDER: As soon as possible or after the location has been set "The dress really depends on the venue. You don't want to wear a cocktail dress in a cathedral," owner of All About the Dress, Christina Cook, said. Also, the gown of your dreams may go out of production as the fashion season changes, so act fast.

•  WHAT TO ORDER: Shy away from long, sewn lace in favor of the more affordable flowing material, organza, which is more commonly used in destination weddings. "Sometimes, though people want what they want," Cook said.



FLOWERS:

•  WHAT PEOPLE SPEND ON AVERAGE: $1,500 to $2,500

•  WHEN TO ORDER: Six months to a year in advance

•  WHAT TO ORDER: Purchase flowers that are in season. Peonies, which only bloom in Texas for six weeks out of the summer, will have to be shipped in from another country, costing a bride time and money. Carnations, daisies, Ecuadorian roses and tulips are least expensive right now. Lilies of the valley, calla lilies, hydrangea and garden roses are most expensive right now.

•  HOW TO ORDER: Equip the florist with pictures and color combinations. Be able to provide an attendance estimate and say how many tables will be used. Get more mileage out of the flowers decking the aisles during the ceremony by also using them as centerpieces during the reception. December is a great time to get married because brides can use the Christmas decorations already provided in the venue. "Weddings are a life experience. Fresh flowers should be a part of it," said John Moraida, a wedding coordinator. Also, think about buying balloons instead. They are becoming more popular in the Crossroads and are just as customizable. Christine Swanson, owner of Life Celebrations, molds them into bouquets, arches and columns. Costing anywhere from $100 to $800, depending on the arrangement, they fill up big spaces and don't take long to assemble, Swanson said.



PHOTOGRAPHY:

•  WHAT PEOPLE COULD SPEND: About 10 percent of your overall wedding budget. Area photographer Danny Vivian said the packages most likely include five hours worth of work.

•  WHEN TO BOOK: As soon as possible. Waiting until the last minute not only drives up the price but may not get a bride the photographer who most identifies with her style.

•  WHERE TO BOOK: Regional. It's an ordeal for out-of-town photographers to lug their equipment long distances, and they'll ask you to compensate them for it.

•  HOW TO ORDER: A "Save the Date" photo to send out as a postcard to friends and family doesn't have to be its own separate photo shoot. If a customer asks, some photographers will throw it into their engagement photo package. Make your own wedding album. Leather-bound books take a long time for a photographer to assemble and can cost anywhere from $300 to $1,500. Also, most professional photographers don't offer a photo CD because that means giving up control over the quality of their work, but they can resize the photos for Facebook so those far away can share in the wedding bliss. "You can get somebody cheap, but if something goes wrong, it's not like you can do it all over again," Vivian said of how checking references is a must.



ENTERTAINMENT:

•  WHAT PEOPLE SPEND ON AVERAGE: $650 to $800 for anywhere from six to eight hours of playing time

•  WHO TO HIRE: The plethora of DJs in the region can play music to suit every guests' taste, and they now boast the equipment to broadcast the sound crystal clear. A band may be limited to their specific genre, Clifford Crump, co-owner of Platinum Sounds Entertainment, said.

•  HOW TO HIRE: Get on Facebook and ask the vendor for videos and pictures of his or her work. Smiling faces are a good sign. Meet with them to gauge their personality. A light show, which often sets the ambience, should not be charged for separately. Making your own mix tape also doesn't typically get a bride any discounts, Crump said.



CAKE:

•  WHAT PEOPLE SPEND ON AVERAGE: $150 to $300

•  WHEN TO ORDER: Depends on the vendor. Some ask that brides order far in advance, while others are okay with two weeks notice.

•  WHAT TO ORDER: A $180 12-inch by 9-inch by 6-inch round cake, which serves 80-90 people, should be the more of a decorative piece, and a $40 white or chocolate sheet cake is perfect for those who want to go back for seconds.

•  HOW TO ORDER: Choose a trusted baker - not your next door neighbor. They might back out on the job at the last minute. Pick out a design and bring a photo to the taste testing. Embellishments shouldn't cost extra, but specialty flavors, such as Italian cream and red velvet, may set you back a bit. In the past two to three years, brides have started ordering cupcakes instead. Without filling inside, they are more wallet-friendly and can be self-served.

• "It's not so much what you've done before," Barbara Halepaska said, while flipping through a book full of pictures of the bakery's frosted work. "It's what you're doing now."

SOURCES: Danny Vivian Photography, Main Course Catering, Halepaska's Bakery, Platinum Sound Entertainment, Devereux Gardens, All About the Dress and Life Celebrations