How to: Wedding on a Budget

(We loved this room in the kind of fits the 1920's theme). Bridesmaids and flower girl dresses from Etsy Shops

On December 17, 2015, our oldest daughter got married. I still don't feel old enough to have a daughter who is married (she was 20) and it still seems weird saying "my son-in-law" (he's a great guy). It was a beautiful wedding (I know, all mothers probably feel that away about their kid's weddings). I was chatting with a friend on FB messenger recently and realized I had never done a wedding post. I did this post in February 2015 about the venue and dress, and then this post in January 2016 about the broach bouquet I had made for her. In my head, I always intended to do a post about the wedding, but it just must have slipped my mind. So, here it is, A year and a month (give or take a few days) later.

One thing that was very important to us as a family was not carrying a lot of debt from the wedding. They were helping pay for it, and the last thing either of them wanted was to start their marriage in debt. We sat down and decided how much they were going to pay, what we were going to pay, who was going to purchase what, and so on. Once we had that nailed down, we started hunting for deals.

The venue had lights and the fabric over pillars but we had to put them up and attach it. Not all the lights worked so we bought our own....which when the wedding was over, the manager purchased them from us! Which put $300 back in our pockets. 
Let me preface by saying; what is a tight budget to one person is like being given a million dollars to another. I admit, people have talked about their tight budgets and I've thought "you don't know what a "tight" budget is" or, "well, I'd like to have your "tight" budget, let's trade" So maybe our tight budget doesn't seem tight to you, but when the average wedding cost is around $26,000 our budget was "EXTREMELY" tight. In the end, we spent a total of $8,000 (that is for everything). I realize some people have an even tighter budget. BUT, whatever your budget is, I hope that this post will give you ideas of how to make your it work and allow you to have the wedding you truly want. 

Now what bride to be doesn't have extravegant dreams? That's okay, but it's also important to keep things realistic so you don't find yourself with the woulda, shoulda, coulda blues. We had a year to save (and had already started saving when we knew that was the direction the relationship was heading). We spent what we spent, but it was all paid for when the wedding was over. There were times of discouragement because of costs, but we got through them.

We stuck with simple flowers for the girls. 
Questions to ask:

1) Who is going to pay for what? (many parents will foot the whole bill, but some can't, so how will you split it)

2) What do you want to spend more money on? Is it an expensive dress, or is it quality pictures and video? Or a full out catered reception with alcohol?

3) What time of year? That can make a huge difference in cost (indoor vs. outdoor).  

4) How big of a reception? What will you serve? Food is not cheap, this will take a large chunk of cash depending on the route you go.

5) Venue? Inside, outside, how much seating? Separate ceremony and reception locations or all in the same place? Venues tend to be more than churches.

6) Bridesmaids and groomsmen? They are also on budgets so how can you cut their costs.

7) Will you have a DJ? 

8) Decorations? Flowers? How much do you want? What can you do on your own or ask friends to help with? Maybe if summer, do fresh cut flower bouquets from friends gardens. etc..

9) How long til the wedding? The longer you have, the more you can save, the more you can potentially spend. 

Reception Dress and headpiece also purchased online. 

Here are some of bullet point thoughts....

* I encourage you to buy or make a planner. We made our own by printing off sheets we found online and putting them in a binder. Often times the store bought ones have a lot of "fluff" and aren't geared towards those on tight budgets. Thank the Lord for Pinterest and 

* Join wedding FB pages. Yep, they're out there and lots of people are selling stuff after they've gotten married. We scored several items for the wedding via these groups, for a fraction of the cost. We also sold some items after the wedding to recoup some of our costs. Win-win!

* Think outside the box when it comes to dresses. Do you really need that brand new, current trend dress (that probably 3/4 of the people don't even know is the current trend)? There are several non-profit bridal shops that take donated dresses whether from brides or bridal shops who are making room for new dresses. You can purchase these for a fraction of the cost, AND the proceeds go to a great cause. My daughter purchased hers from a store called Brides for a Cause. Part of the proceeds go towards various causes. This store also puts on yearly events to clear their own stock and all dresses are $150. Hello! Yep, we were there, and found a dress. It needed some alterations, but at $150, alterations were just fine. My daughter had the seamstress add a top portion to the dress because she loved the look of a keyhole back. The seamstress also informed us that brand new, this dress was $1200. Ahem. Don't be afraid of used or last years styles. It's worth it. There are also consignment bridal shops with some gorgeous dresses. We did get the dress dry cleaned after purchasing it because it had been in their store for a bit and they recommend dry cleaning. Think. Outside. The. Box.

*  Did you know that getting married during the week can save quite a few hundred dollars? Especially if you are looking at a venue wedding. While not always conventional, it's not a bad option, and it's what we did. I'm sure it impacted some people who could come, but we had to be smart with our money and that was a great option for the venue our daughter chose. 

* We checked out many venues and while maybe the cost was in our range, by the time we had to use their caterers, rent table linens, was out of our budget. The place we found included the price of linens in their fee (and they had several color options) not to mention candle centerpieces we could use (we just had to provide candles). The chapel was so ornate it didn't need decorating. 

*  We made our own invitations, which I believe saved us money, and I enjoy doing those things so while it took time, I didn't mind. 

*  She wanted a broach bouquet. To buy one or have it specially made was outrageous..over $200. I thought "I could make this". So, I did. I hunted thrift stores, garage sales, estate sales, asked friends to look, for a variety of broaches. I refused to spend over $3 per broach (because that adds up fast). We found the flowers on clearance at Michaels and also used coupons to save even more. I purchased a few things at Walmart and had ribbon at home to wrap it in. I'm not sure what our total cost ended up being, but it wasn't much. See the link at the top of the post for how I made it.

* For the reception, since we were having the wedding at 7:00, we decided to do a pie and ice cream bar (no cake, since neither bride nor groom were cake eaters), and then we had carrots and peanuts on the tables, plus cheese, crackers and smoked salmon (my dad smoked some salmon he had caught). We asked friends to make pies and purchased ice cream from Schwans and a few extra pies from Costco. Other items were purchased at Costco or Cash and Carry. We also did individual bottles of water on the tables (we removed labels) and also made a simple punch. 

* We did not do party favors. It's kind of funny how in the US especially, WE are the ones getting married, and yet WE spend thousands and thousands of dollars for people to come be a part of OUR special day. Don't feel certain obligations because of tradition. Make your own traditions. 

*During the reception we had a photo booth. Instead of paying a few hundred extra for the photographer to set this up, we purchased some items, set up a backdrop, had selfie sticks on the table and let people have fun, then upload their pics to Instagram with a hashtag that my daughter and her hubby came up with. What a fun idea and it worked out pretty good. 

* Because of the size of the venue we had to limit the number of people we could invite. It was a hard decision, but we had to request that children under a certain age not attend (unless they were immediate family), and couldn't just invite everyone and their uncle. It's your day, do what you need to do.

* We also purchased items to serve with at Dollar Tree...yep, Dollar Tree. The bowls that held the carrots and nuts, serving tongs, a few other bowls and platters. Other items like the platters for the pies we purchased on one of the FB wedding sites.

I am sure there are many more tips, BUT I don't want to write a book and these were the top ones that we felt saved us the most money. The top two being the dress, food choices and having a weekday wedding. 

As I look back through pictures, it was such a fun night. They love the 1920's so that was the "theme" of their wedding. My daughters reception dress (that she found online) and headband were 1920's looking, the venue fit perfectly and many guests dressed up according to the theme which was fun. 

My biggest takeaways......Feel free to comment if you have any other questions.


#2 Don't be afraid of doing something different! It's okay to break tradition.

With Joy Unquenchable,


Popular Posts