This is something that every couple planning to get married faces: the budget. Some couples are lucky enough to have oodles of money that they can spend on anything they want for their wedding, but the majority of couples have limited finances and need to create a strict and sometimes very small budget to which they must adhere if they don’t want to start off their marriage with lots of debt.
My husband and I fall into the second category. We are both post-secondary students and as a result have very limited finances. For the first 8 months or so of our engagement, we both had full-time overnight jobs making just over minimum wage (at the same location too). But, after several months of this, my health was very deteriorated and both of our marks in school were dropping, so we changed our availability at work to part-time hours. Our manager said that we would be part-time on the new schedule when he posted it, but when it was posted we were NOT changed to part-time. There’s something you need to know about me now, I make snap decisions sometimes and I’m very stubborn. Also, my husband had applied for a transfer to a day-job at another location and was waiting for . I was quite angry with the manager and as soon as I saw that new schedule I grabbed a pen and paper and wrote my 2 weeks notice. My husband (fiancé at the time) did the same. He ended up not quitting because his transfer went through, but I quit and have remained unemployed since then. We saved absolutely no money for the wedding while I was working, but we had no debt anymore. My husband had transferred to a part-time position so that a day job wouldn’t interfere with his schooling. So, we were going to have to have an even more budget wedding than we had originally anticipated.
In today’s terrible economy, budget weddings are becoming more and more common as people decide to get married anyways instead of waiting until the economy recovers and they can save money.
What can a bride do to keep the wedding budget at a minimum?
1. Make a list of the things that are important to you and your fiancé.
We decided that the dress, the kilt, and the venue were what were important to us. We would get what we wanted in those categories and we’d make do with what money we had left for the rest of the categories.
2. Invite only those people who you can’t imagine not being at your wedding.
My husband wanted a small wedding of 50 people while I wanted a large wedding of 300-or-so like my parents had (they had a completely potluck supper and a drop-in reception). In the end we couldn’t afford the huge wedding I wanted so we decided that it was important to us to have family and close friends at our wedding. This number came to about 100 people on our first brainstorm, so we decided to set ourselves a 150 guest limit. We also made it so that the ceremony was open to the public but only those who received an invitation to the wedding could come to the dinner. Then we made the dance portion of the reception open to the public too.
3. Make things for the wedding instead of buying them.
I am a person who loves to make things rather than buy them. I’m artistic and crafts are so much fun for me. I know that there are other brides like me out there who would rather make things themselves than spend an arm-and-a-leg on them, but I also know that there are those brides out there who couldn’t craft to save their lives. For the first category of brides, I say kudos to you and I will post as many DIY tutorials and projects as I can for you to get inspiration from. For the second category of brides, maybe you have friends or family who are great crafters and have been begging you for something they can do to help. Maybe you can ask those people if they’d like to help you with making things for your budget wedding. Or maybe there are people in your life who are great crafters who haven’t offered their abilities up for your use but who you’d love to ask to help you with making things for your budget wedding. Perhaps you can make deals with those people that they could help you out by crafting instead of giving you guys a present from your registry. There are all sorts of options out there for brides to cut back on the cost of buying things for their weddings by making things/having them made by friends/family.
4. Have a potluck or semi-potluck buffet dinner instead of a catered, served dinner.
Some people consider asking people to bring food to your wedding to be insulting and tacky. If you are one of those people, skip over this. If you think it’s perfectly ok, read on. I come from a community where potluck events and get-togethers are the norm and my parents had a full-out potluck reception. I didn’t want to leave things that much up to chance since there are food allergies among the guests and my husband and I are very picky eaters. So instead we decided to have a semi-potluck reception. What’s semi-potluck you ask? Well, it’s when you supply the main portion of the meal but ask others to bring things like finger foods, desserts, and salads. That way, people can bring food or they can forget to bring food, but there will still be something there. We decided to barbecue up hotdogs, hamburgers, and sausages for our guests and they brought things like cheese and cracker trays, veggies and dip trays, fruit trays, salads, and all sorts of desserts (so we had a dessert bar of sorts).
5. Have a morning wedding and don’t serve a meal at all (still give them munchies of some sort though).
We didn’t choose to use this option, but we have friends who have done so and it worked out wonderfully for them.
6. Have friendors instead of vendors (photographer, baker, hairstylist, DJ, etc).
We are lucky enough to have friends and family who are very talented people. Instead of hiring a hairdresser I used my Aunt M (my mother’s youngest sister) who is a hairdresser. She did my hair, the flower girls’ hair, and the hair of my MOH/sis and bridesmaid MT/cousin for free and did an amazing job. My Aunt J (my mother’s youngest brother’s wife) is an amateur photographer and we asked her to be our photographer. She then asked two of her amateur photographer friends to help her and we ended up with 3 free photographers and lots of wonderful pictures! We are so grateful to them all! My grandmother makes the most delicious white cake ever, so we asked her to bake our wedding cake which I would then decorate (more on that later). I also have someone in my life who I’ve known since I was a baby who is an amateur DJ! He said he’d DJ for us and we just paid the cost of his equipment rental! The best man’s father is a professional DJ, but we forgot about that until after we had my friend lined up. He would have been a little more expensive, but also a little better. I’m happy with what we had though.
7. Don’t have an open bar.
Open bars can be very expensive. We had a cash bar supplied by our venue. They got all of the money from it and our guests got to drink if they wanted to. We did however supply a bottle of red wine and a bottle of white wine for each table.
8. Don’t invite children.
We didn’t choose to go this route because we have friends and family with small children who we love and couldn’t imagine not sharing our day with (some of those small children include our own siblings). But for some people this is a viable option. Just remember to let people know in a tactful manner and that some people will be insulted that their children are not invited and so may choose not to come to your wedding. If that is the case, then they are simply not people who you need to share your special day with. It’s their loss not yours.
9. Don’t allow plus ones.
We chose not to allow random plus ones. We invited the significant others of those of our guests who were in committed relationships, but did not allow anyone to invite a plus one just so that they would have a date for the wedding. We didn’t want any complete strangers there unless they had potential of becoming regulars in our lives someday. A good way of indicating this to people is to have a spot on the RSVP card indicating how many seats you have reserved for them (something that we should have done since we ended up with a few people bringing plus ones because they didn’t realize we weren’t inviting them).
Image from here. Edited by me.
10. Purchase second-hand attire.
Purchasing second-hand wedding attire is totally acceptable. There are all sorts of websites where brides sell their wedding dresses. They are less expensive than the same dress in a salon and have usually only been worn once. Sometimes a bride has changed her mind about her dress and is selling her never-been-worn first purchase for less than the salon price.
11. Set up an online RSVP on your wedding website.
With the technological advancements of today, this could save you the cost of all those stamps for the RSVPs (it’s not ok to expect the guests to put stamps on their own RSVP).
There are many other ways that you can save money on your budget wedding too. This list is not finite.
Ways that it’s NOT ok to try to save money:
1. Not sending thank you cards.
People spent the money to buy you the present, the least you can do is spend the money to send them a hand written thank you card. They don’t need to be expensive, custom thank you cards. They can just be inexpensive cards from Wal-Mart like we had ($15 for 100 cards with envelopes). Maybe someone you know has left-over thank you cards from their wedding that you can use.
2. Serving sub par food.
Your guests are people you care about and they deserve to be fed appetizing food. It doesn’t have to be super amazing food, just not disgusting food. If you can’t do this, you could: cut back on the number of guests in order to afford a better caterer, have a potluck dinner, have a morning wedding and serve only finger foods, or push back the wedding date so that you can save more money to afford good food to feed your guests.
There are other things that shouldn’t be skipped on as well, but I can’t think of them right now. You can always google lists of things you shouldn’t skimp on or read modern etiquette books.
Are you having a budget wedding? Would you have a potluck/semi-potluck reception? Do you have any friendors?