Most women have been dreaming of their wedding day since childhood, planning the perfect and most magical day of their lives. Even though it is every couple’s (read: woman’s) dream to have an extravagant wedding, unfortunately with the financial situation nowadays, couples (read: men) are trying to set strict budgets for their weddings. “Trying” is the keyword, as I imagine this to be as difficult as proposing and getting a “Yes, of course I will” with an empty engagement ring box.
Though it may seem by setting a budget, it will be hard to plan a wedding, in fact it may help you by allowing you to stay on track and focus on the essentials. There are many different ways to plan a wedding on a budget. Here’s a how-to guide on staying within that budget while you plan a beautiful, memorable wedding day.
Set A Budget
First off, set a realistic budget. The last thing you want to deal with as newly weds is having to pay off debt. Maybe your better half believes the wedding is an investment in your future happiness, but let’s be honest, it isn’t. That is unless you are a part of my community, where it seems happy couples actually profit from their weddings.
Choosing a date that is not during the typical wedding season (May through October) would help cut costs. Most venues and vendors raise their prices significantly during those months. Also, avoid Saturdays and evenings to get the best deals possible. A Friday or Sunday wedding versus a Saturday during off-peak months like November and January through March will usually save you about 20% to 30% on the venue, as well as help you find cheaper food, flower, and service costs.
Opting for non-traditional venues such as parks, private homes, botanical gardens, beaches, and even museums can save the cost of paying for the exclusive and private use of a venue. Though you may come across some rental fees for chairs, tables, linens, you’ll probably end up saving compared to hotels or high-end banquet halls and event spaces.
In addition, couples should look into hotel packages during the off-season as some resorts may offer a reasonably priced location plus floral, décor, catering, etc.
Wedding Dress, Tux and Attire
For the wedding dress, I am reminded of a story I recently read about a woman who purchased a $7,000 Vera Wang wedding dress, used it for her wedding, and then sold it online, recouping nearly half her investment.
Maybe consider reselling your dress after the wedding as a way to get the perfect, beautiful dress for your special day at nearly half the cost. Another alternative is doing your research and planning for well-known annual sales, or even sample sales, where you can save nearly 70% on gowns, veils, headpieces, bridesmaid dresses, and shoes.
Renting wedding attire is also an option, especially for the groom and groomsmen. If you have a large bridal party, come up with a budget that is comfortable for all those involved and have them purchase their own attire, rather than you paying for all. For jewelry and other accessories, borrow them from a local jeweler, bridal shop, or even friends and family.
Decorations and Flowers
Choosing flowers that are in season is a great way to save yet have amazing decorations and centerpieces for your special day. You can create beautiful floral arrangements by selecting a few flowers and filling the rest with greenery. Even check out do-it-yourself floral sites that offer step-by-step instructions on how to make beautiful, but cost-effective floral decorations.
Another option would also be to alternate between multiple centerpieces (i.e. flowers on half the tables and candles on the other half). Make centerpieces and decorations with easy, inexpensive and eye-catching items such as potted plants, fishbowls with real fish, seashells, candles, fruit bowls, paper lanterns, and flowers from the wholesale shops.
If you have your heart set on actual flowers, make sure to pick only 1 or 2 types so your florist can place a bulk order and get you discounts. In addition, buy local and seasonal flowers for your reception to avoid importing exotic or out-of-season blooms, and lastly, avoid labor-intensive arrangements because it will mean higher costs.
Dinner and Drinks
If possible, try to get the reception scheduled at lunch as a daytime reception will cost much less than a dinner. However if you decide that you want a dinner, consider a buffet, a three-course meal instead of five courses, and choose ingredients that are in season. Setting a menu with chicken or pasta will cost much less than steak or fish.
Try to opt out of a full-bar and go for a limited bar with soda, beer, wine, champagne and one signature cocktail to avoid running up a huge liquor tab. Because most venues and caterers will charge for every open bottle, even if it was used to make just one drink, offering a drink menu that focuses on one type of alcohol, for example vodka, can help save on expenses.
Don’t skimp on hiring a photographer, as the images will be the lasting memories from your special day. However, ask for the package that offers the best value, avoid the fancy albums and make albums on your own (a fun day with your new spouse).
You can even agree with the photographer to only attend the reception for a few hours rather than the whole time and use your guests’ candid photos since photographers usually offer packages based on the number of hours they’ll be working.
Sometimes a skilled photography-school student will do a great job at a fraction of the price – just ask to see their portfolio. Lastly, talk to former brides and get their take on whether a 500-picture package is enough before you opt for a 1000-picture one.
If you can’t find a DJ for a reasonable cost, create a playlist of songs that can be set up on an iPod and played during the reception. Though you may have to rent a speaker system, it will still be cheaper than most bands or DJs.
Skip The Little Extras
Instead of mailing out “Save The Dates”, email them. Don’t make ceremony programs, monogrammed cocktail napkins, or over-the-top guest favors. Stick to the simple invitations that won’t cost a lot to make or mail. You can make your own invites to add a more personal touch, and you may skip favors altogether. If you want to serve hor d’oeuvres at your reception, think about simple homemade recipes that can be scaled, such as deviled eggs.
Try to keep the guest list limited to the important people in your life, inviting those closest to you and your fiancé. As much as you want everyone to celebrate your special day with you, remember that you pay for every extra person who attends. Costs associated with guests aren’t just limited to catering, but extra tables, centerpieces, favors, liquor, and the venue size.
- You don’t have to let single guests bring a plus one.
- You don’t need to invite your friend’s children.
- You can not invite relatives beyond first cousins or friends you see once a year or only at work.
Plan A Wedding On A Budget
Ask your family, friends and bridal party for their help. They may know people/vendors and will be able to get you discounts or even offer to contribute decorations, centerpieces, invitations, etc. Always do your research and be prepared when going to a meeting with a vendor. Many will try to sell you things you don’t need, so have a firm idea of your budget, vision and most of the things you need and their costs.
Planning a beautiful wedding doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Do your research, plan wisely, think creatively, and your wedding can be a rewarding experience that will provide memories for a lifetime.