This post is written by my dear blogging buddy - Melissa. Here are her tips for planning a wedding ... on a budget!
My husband and I fell in love at first sight, and we knew right away that we'd be married. We dated for only four months before we got engaged, and we were married five months after that. It didn't give us a lot of time for planning the wedding, so it was fortunate that we agreed on nearly everything. We started by trying to keep the right perspective. Our wedding day would be special and important, but what truly mattered was the marriage that followed. Not all of these tips will work for everyone, but my hope is that you'll glean some useful ideas from our experience.
My then-fiance and I agreed that we didn't want to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a one-day event. When I was younger I thought I'd want a Cinderella wedding; but when the time came, I realized that marrying my Prince Charming was the only part of that fantasy that truly mattered.
With that in mind, we considered the guest list. We didn't want to leave anyone out, but we had to draw the line somewhere. In addition, I was more than a little intimidated at the thought of standing up in front of a large group. After much discussion, we decided to limit the list to those who were closest to us: immediate family, grandparents, aunts and uncles. This has had some repercussions--in the form of other family members who, thirteen years later, still carry that grudge--but we would make the same decision today.
Our next decision was to keep it informal. An outdoor wedding wasn't for us--especially in February--but we had a daytime wedding. We decided to do without amenities like limousines. We each chose just one attendant: my sister was my matron of honor, and my husband's closest friend was his best man. I asked my sister to wear any dress she liked, as long as it was hunter green, and I encouraged her to find something that she would be able to wear again. (Who needs another hideous bridesmaid dress in the closet?) She ended up sewing her own dress, which was lovely. Both my husband and his best man wore suits.
My own dress was a fortuitous find. I walked into a department store with a vague idea of what I wanted, and I found the perfect dress. On the clearance rack, no less. It was the only one of its kind, and it was my size. It was a satin off-white one-piece dress that resembled a suit, with a bit of beadwork embellishing the bodice. It was understated, flattering, and on sale for about $80. I checked it over at least five times to be sure that I wasn't missing an ink stain or something. I can't take credit for searching out the perfect dress, but we still talk about what a remarkable find it was.
Obviously a veil wouldn't work with this informal dress. With the help of a friend, I decided to make my own headpiece. From the craft store I purchased a basic hair barrette, some satin flowers, and some sheer ribbon with a wavy edge. I soaked the ribbon in tea until it matched the color of the dress. We glued the ribbon to the barrette, then added the flowers to cover the glue. I'm very happy with the way it turned out, and the total cost was probably about $5.
I consulted a few wedding photographers and got estimates that would exceed the cost of our reception. Then a friend reminded me that one of our coworkers had a side business as a wedding photographer. I talked with him and explained that we didn't want anything fancy--no photos of getting dressed, etc., but just the ceremony and the reception--and he offered to take the photos for a fabulous price. This was a gift, no doubt. I suggest considering whether any of your friends or family have the skills to do your wedding photography.
We ordered our wedding stationery--invitations, notecards, ribbon for favors, and so on--online and saved a significant amount over the cost of purchasing locally. Now it might be even more affordable to print invitations at home, but we didn't have that option at the time.
Another place to save money is on wedding favors. Because they often end up being tucked away or discarded, we chose to spend less on favors that would only be cherished, in the long run, by us. Again with the help of a friend, I visited the craft store and purchased a box of white Jordan almonds, some white tulle, and some green tulle. At the dollar store I was able to purchase two dozen champagne flutes. With those supplies, the printed ribbon that we'd ordered with the invitations, and a hot-glue gun, it was easy enough to fashion inexpensive favors.
For our reception, we chose to purchase a package deal from a hotel. This included everything from the food to centerpieces and cake. By negotiating and making careful choices, we contained the cost in a few ways:
- No open bar. This is certainly not the best choice for everyone, but we knew that our guests would consume little or no alcohol. We decided to pay by actual consumption, which reduced the package price by $20 per person. The actual consumption totalled less than $20, so this decision paid off in a big way.
- Flowers. The in-house florist offered several upgrades, but we chose to keep the floral centerpieces as included in the package.
- No band or DJ. Again, this won't work for everyone, but we knew that our guests would not dance, and would prefer that the room be quiet enough to allow conversation. The hotel provided piped-in background music at no cost. Perfect.
As with a household budget, often the best way to save a lot of money is to find multiple ways to save a little. I hope that you've found a tip or two that will help you save on your wedding!
Melissa traded her career as a chemist for a more rewarding life as a stay-at-home mom. She and her Prince Charming live in New Jersey, where she blogs at Frugal Creativity about cooking, baking, gardening, and living on a budget.