When I got married 2 years ago, I wanted a beautiful wedding (like most girls do). But we also had to pay for most of the wedding ourselves, which many couples have to do. So one our first big decisions as a new couple was to decide how extravagant, or how stingy, we wanted our wedding to be.
By nature, I’m a pretty frugal person, so spending the least amount of money possible on our wedding did seem appealing. On the other hand, I’d been planning my wedding in my head for years and only plan to have one in my lifetime. So where do we draw the line? That was our burning question throughout the wedding planning process.
I found out that budgeting a wedding is a lot like budgeting your own personal finances. You can go over the top and spend a lot more money than you have (and end up in debt) or you can be wise and work with what you have. The key is to figuring out what is important to you and what you feel is worth spending more money on. The other side of that is determining what you don’t necessarily hold a high value on and wouldn’t mind spending a little less on. This is the harmonious balance that keeps you happy – and within budget.
With that said, only the bride and groom can determine which areas are more important and which are less. But from the experience of planning my own wedding and doing loads of research on budget friendly weddings, I can offer some money saving ideas I found on various wedding expenses.
Invitations: Your wedding invitations do not have to cost a fortune. A little creativity is all you need to keep the cost low. Since we had a winter wedding, we used boxed Christmas cards as our invitations. They had a space to insert a picture in the front, so we had someone take a picture of us in front of a fireplace, printed up a bunch of them at Wal-Mart and inserted them in. Then I bought some vellum paper and printed up the invitation words onto that paper with my personal printer. I punched two holes in the top of the paper and the inside of the card and tied the vellum paper to the inside of the card with some thin ribbon I bought at a craft store. I was able to make 150 invitations for under $100 and they were very personal.
Another plus to making your own invitations is that you can get together with friends to put them together. Plus, it’s nice not having the same wedding invitation as someone else.
RSVP cards: Most wedding invitations have an RSVP card with a postage paid return envelope provided to mail back the completed card. This is nice, but the RSVP cards and the postage both have to be paid for. In order to avoid paying for postage, I set up a wedding website on TheKnot and had people either RSVP via the website, via e-mail or via the phone. That saved me a bundle in postage. Also, I only mailed out a selected few invitations to people I didn’t see on a regular basis and handed the rest out in person.
For my RSVP cards, I bought some shiny card stock and printed 8 cards to a page explaining the RSVP details and took them to Kinkos to get cut.
There are other wedding websites out there that allow people to RSVP online and help you keep track of your guest list. For every RSVP I got via e-mail or phone, I manually entered the info into the website so I could get to my guest list from any computer at any time.
Location: Your wedding’s location has largely to do with the size and style of your wedding. Venues can be very inexpensive to over-the-top-in-debt-for-years. Some inexpensive ideas include having the wedding at your church (many church’s offer member discounts) or at a public park. Even if you choose to have your reception at a nicer venue, you still saved money on half of the event.
For smaller weddings, consider having the ceremony and/or reception at a friend’s house. I’ve been to more than a few weddings that were held in big backyards or in personal homes and they weren’t any less elegant than those held in a church or elsewhere. And if your friend is nice enough, they might not even charge you!
Theme: Having a themed or seasonal wedding can help with your planning and decoration and also save you money. For example, we had a winter wedding with a blue and silver snowflake theme. Our wedding was in January and in December we had NO problem finding decorations with snowflakes on them. In fact, the hardest part was narrowing them down. In addition, after Christmas all the snowflake decorations were REALLY cheap. And we now use a lot of our wedding decorations as Christmas decorations every year.
A friend of mine who’s wedding was in August bought a bunch of Valentine’s decorations in late February to match her red heart themed wedding and was able to save a lot of money. If you plan ahead, you can save a lot of money by buying seasonal decorations at the end of the season or after a holiday.
Music / DJ: Some people spend lots of money on a DJ who will introduce the various reception activities and choose certain songs to play. Most of time the bride and groom meet with the DJ beforehand to choose the specific songs and genre of music they want played. Instead of paying someone to do that at our wedding, we just had one of our groomsmen who was good on the mic introduce the activities and we picked the songs and put them on CDs ourselves.
Food / Cake: A money saving move we made with our wedding reception was to have it at a non-typical meal time. Our wedding was at 2pm with the reception immediately following. Since it was not at dinner or lunch time, we served light snacks instead of a full dinner, which drastically cut the bill. In addition, we had friends help us make the majority of the food we did have. My sister-in-law made snowflake cookies that matched our decorations while her mom made some delicious salads. We also bought some cookies and vegetable trays from Costco, thus keeping the costs down even more.
And since my husband and I don’t drink, we saved even more by not serving alcohol (we also avoided drunk guests this way). Instead we bought a few cases of Martinelli’s Sparkling Cider for the toast and took the remaining bottles with us on our honeymoon.
I personally couldn’t justify spending hundreds of dollars on a wedding cake that was just going to get eaten right away anyway. So we saved a lot of money by getting our cake made at Wal-Mart! It was a simple 3 tiered white wedding cake and it tasted really good! I also had a friend who just bought a few cheesecakes from Costco and placed them on elevated serving platters instead of a wedding cake.
Honeymoon: Here’s another area where spending can get out of control. A honeymoon should be a relaxing vacation that the bride and groom get to take together after the wedding to spend some time alone. That can be accomplished without spending a fortune.
First of all, consider going somewhere local. Driving instead of flying can save you a ton of money. Plus you don’t have the added stress of making sure you catch your flight the day after the wedding, worrying about what you can and can’t carry on the airline, and possibly getting motion sick from the plane. Not to mention airline overbooking, late flights, missed connecting flights, and the list goes on and on. I had enough stress throughout my whole wedding that I didn’t need any more on my honeymoon.
We decided to rent a beach front condo on the Oregon Coast, which was only 3 hours south of our Seattle wedding. And since we didn’t fly we were able to leave when we wanted, pack as much stuff as we wanted and take our time on the trip down there.
We actually found the condo we booked on CraigsList. We ended up staying in a nice Trendwest ocean front condo that only cost us $400 for 4 nights. We found someone online who had the condo for that week, but couldn’t make it so they basically sold us the stay. It was more beautiful than any hotel could have rented for the same price. Plus we had our own kitchen so we could make our own meals, a DVD player, a fireplace, a deck with a BBQ, a jetted tub, and even a washer & dryer.
Another idea is to register for a honeymoon. Many couples already have the typical household items that people normally register for and now many travel agencies offer the ability for wedding guests to contribute to the honeymoon fund. That way you save money on your honeymoon and aren’t stuck with a bunch you gifts you don’t need.
Pictures / Video: Wedding pictures often come with a hefty price tag if you opt for the photographer to print them for you. We hired a professional photographer, but instead of having them print the pictures for us, we just had them give the pictures to us on a CD and we printed them ourselves. Surprisingly, Wal-Mart has great quality pictures because they offer a matte finish on the pictures that places like WalGreens and Rite Aid don’t offer (at least they didn’t when I got my pictures printed). I chose which ones I wanted printed and which ones I wanted enlarged and I went to the store and picked out a beautiful wedding album that I put together myself. It saved us a ton of money and I had my pictures within a week of my wedding. I’ve had friends who have had to wait over 3 months after the wedding to even see their pictures.
For a wedding video, many professional photographers offer a discount for shooting video and pictures both through them. Either that or you can set up a friend in the back with a tri-pod to capture the whole event.
These are just a few ways you can have a beautiful wedding on a budget. Some of them may not be as extravagant as if you had spent a fortune on them, but in the grand scheme of things it’s a lot better to start your marriage off debt free than to have had the “perfect wedding” (which doesn’t really exist).
Image courtesy of WTL photos