This article started when I responded to a message on Twitter about why bloggers seem to only feature expensive weddings, or DIY backyard events. As I said there, sometimes it’s really hard to judge exactly how expensive a wedding was by looking at photos rather than the raw numbers. My wedding looked expensive, but while I would by no means say it was “cheap” we were certainly getting creative making things work when my parents (who graciously paid for most of it) lost most of their life savings in the economic downturn. The conversation with this particular bride made me think that there are probably more of you like the two of us out there – brides who are looking for ways to get a handle on what they’re spending while not looking like they skimped too much. Here’s some of the things I worked through that will hopefully give you some ideas on how to handle the same problem.
- The Splurges. The things that cost the most were flowers and my venue. We had already made contracts with the vendors before we realized that the bigger wedding we had planned needed to be tamed. Head count couldn’t be cut even if we wanted to because of guaranteed minimums, so that firmed up the price tag, as well. My mother is the master of negotiation, though, and was able to get some freebies here and there and was able to get lower prices on the flowers.
- Candy Buffets on the Cheap? I wanted a candy buffet, and ended up doing it myself rather than have the venue do it and charge me and arm and a leg for it. Because of really smart shopping, doing the buffet ended up only costing about $400. This essentially equated to less than $4 a head with a total count of 125 guests. Since shipping is expensive, one of the bulk candy vendors I found offered a flat shipping rate of $9.95 (edited to add: if you were wondering, it was ACandyStore) which saved me a lot of money – and because of that, I bought most of my candy from them. I didn’t buy my glassware from any online source, where shipping would have been outrageous. The containers were rented instead, which saved a lot of money over buying it outright, even locally.
- Rethinking the Ring. My wedding ring was a bigger budget purchase. It’s not the most expensive ring in the world, but not cheap either – and I chose the design to match the band I inherited from my grandmother, so it came with an added sentimental value. I wouldn’t trade my ring for the world, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t feel a little guilt when, after our budgets tightened, I couldn’t loosen up nearly as much money for his ring. My husband found a super modern titanium ring on Etsy for $80 that he absolutely loves. When it starts to wear in six or seven years, we’ll probably be in the financial situation where we could afford something more permanent. For now though, it’s precious to him and that’s what matters, not how expensive it was. Most people were actually floored it was so inexpensive when we showed it to them in person, too.
- Realizing a Designer Name Dress Isn’t Important. I went from a $5-7K budget to “as cheap as possible without looking cheap”. My dress was an absolute stunner by Sophia Tolli and it was all of $900 plus a couple extra hundred (to be expected) in alterations. I’ll be completely honest here – this dress looked better on me than anything I had tried on with a designer name and price tag on it. I felt good to be saving that much money from our initial estimate for it, but I felt even better when I wore that dress. I think we all get wound up in the label equating to the perfect dress for the perfect day, but I learned that it’s more important to worry about how it looks and how it makes you feel. That dress made me radiant.
- It’s All About Reverend Gill. We saved quite a bit of money and made it much more personal by having my friend, Gillian, marry us. If you have a friend who, like her, is writes well and is a great public speaker, enlist them. I still have people telling me what a fantastic job she did, and I really can’t thank her enough for what she did for us that day.
- Keep It Simple. And In One Place. Our ceremony and reception were in the same place. We paid a small fee to have the ceremony at our venue, but the cost was far less than booking a second location. Keeping it in the same location also nixed the need for booking transportation – a big cost savings.
- Premium Paper Goods, Pint Sized Budget. I did get my invitations letterpressed. As many of you know, I am a graphic designer – that little detail in the presentation was really important to me. Because I designed them myself however, I got a fairly substantial discount from the company that printed them. The savings was enough to justify another detail I was hoping for – hand calligraphy on my outer envelopes.
- Getting Crafty – Literally and Metaphorically. I had candy buffet signs, favor boxes, escort cards, and menus that I made totally on my own. I think most people are aware that Paper Source has a wholesale division called Waste Not Paper. The bulk of my paper was purchased through a local paper store that sold that paper at resale prices lower than Paper Source was selling their own stuff. Designing, printing, and assembling everything on my own as opposed to hiring someone else to do it or purchasing it from a vendor saved me quite a bit of money, though it was admittedly time consuming.
Here’s a question for you guys: how are you making it work on a tightened budget? Do you have any suggestions beyond these?
Image of Maddy’s DIYed Escort Cards by Brett Matthews Photography.