|Me at my wedding|
I realize that every culture has different types of weddings with different expectations, so what might work in one place won't fly somewhere else, so these are just general guidelines, which you can then work with to fit your needs.
In my culture, men and women tend to get married on the younger end (I was 18.5 when I got married (somewhat young even in my circles, but not unheard of), my husband was 20, and my older sister was 20 when she married), so parents pay for the wedding because the couple doesn't usually have the finances to pay for their own wedding. In many families, there are fights about what one set of parents think it is worth paying money for, and the other may or may not disagree, and the couple's needs and desires get distanced, and the money ends up being money not well spent, and the wedding expenses end up being a big source of stress. My sister, Violet, and I got married 4 weeks apart, and my parents didn't want to deal with the headache of wedding planning two weddings at once, and they wanted to teach us some financial responsibility with which to start our married lives. What they decided to do was figure out how much they could afford to pay for our weddings, and then give myself and my sister the same exact amount of money, and it was ours to do with what we wanted- with no input from them unless we wanted. Whatever money was left after wedding expenses would be ours to keep.
I highly recommend this method of wedding planning. It allowed myself and my sister to make the types of weddings that we wanted to make, and get the most out of our money, and not spend money on things we thought were frivolous or wouldn't enhance our wedding.
Violet decided to make her wedding bigger than mine, but in an out of the way place that was cheaper, and Mike and I decided to make our wedding more centrally located, but to keep it smaller. Violet decided to have a small band come play at her wedding, and Mike and I decided to stick with a one man band, Mike's best friend's brother in law, so we got a discount.
And so on, and so forth. Violet and I each got to have a wedding that represented what was important to us, and at the end of the day, Mike and I were left with a nice bundle of money that we used as a savings account with which to start our married life. It worked out perfectly.
In retrospect, there are things I would have changed about my wedding, but there are things that I am very glad we did.
The first, most important thing that we did for our wedding is prioritize what was important to us, and what was worth spending more money on. (In general, keep in mind that it's usually girls that dream about their wedding, and guys tend to have less of an interest in what exactly happens at the wedding, so it was mostly my planning the wedding, and Mike saying "Whatever you want is ok with me.")
I said that a wedding is maximum a few hours of your life, and it is a shame to spend a fortune on something so fleeting. But what does remain after the wedding, other than the couple itself, is the photos. I decided that it was worth it for me to spend money on a good photographer to capture the event, because that is really all that you have to remember the wedding with, and to share the experience with your children. I had seen so many couples who used a cheap photographer who did a bad job and regretted it, so Mike and I budgeted a greater amount for the photographer than anything else. I have no regrets about this decision- he was worth every penny, and the pictures really make me happy, even now, 7 years later.
I also really wanted to look pretty at my wedding (because that would also remain "forever", in pictures), so wanted to look as nice as I could for as little money as possible. In my area, we have places where you can borrow wedding dresses, just setting down a deposit and paying for dry cleaning, but while I checked out such places, I didn't have any luck because the few dresses my size (I'm very tall and broad) were very non flattering on me. I ended up going with a slightly more expensive option- renting a dress from a place, which I was happy with, because I ended up looking good at the wedding.
I didn't want to do my own makeup and hair for my wedding because I wanted to look extra nice, but I didn't want to spend a fortune. I went, in the end, with someone who recently learned how to do professional makeup and hair, but wasn't ultra experienced, so she didn't charge too much. Before the wedding, before I settled on her, she did my hair and makeup one time, so I could be sure I'd be happy with her work, and I was. (For a different family wedding, my mother in law and the mother of the bride ended up using an expensive makeup "artist" who did such a terrible job that they regretted getting their makeup professionally done at all, since their applying their own makeup would have looked much better, in addition to being cheaper. So expensive doesn't necessarily mean better.)
For the rest of my accessories- I borrowed a tiara and veil, wore costume jewelry (fake pearls), and Payless shoes. :-D Again, cheap, but still looked just as nice.
The things that I didn't really care so much about at my wedding was flowers, food, location, and booze. We didn't provide any alcohol at our wedding- a few people brought along their own scotch, and that's it. Food- well, we did sample it to make sure it wasn't bad tasting, and it was ok, but nothing special. In the end, I didn't even care what the food tasted like because I was so busy at the wedding, running around and greeting the guests, that I didn't even have a bite to eat (literally). Flowers can add a little by way of decor to the wedding, but they tend to be so expensive that they aren't worth it, in my opinion. We skipped the flowers other than a bouquet for me, and I am glad we did that.
And our wedding was small by our community's standards, and the wedding hall small as well. The hall we used usually is used for much smaller parties than weddings, and when people hear where Mike and I got married, they usually find it "cute", because they hadn't heard that people make weddings there, because it is so small, but I don't really care. One of my regrets from my wedding actually is that we had a wedding that was bigger than we needed. Mike, at that point, didn't have many friends (he's a shy guy), and I had been in this country for a year, and then back in the US for a year, and then only came back here a week before my wedding, so I didn't have so many local friends. I ended up inviting people that I wasn't really close with. When I look at my wedding pictures, I realize that of all the people at the wedding, other than immediate family, there are only 5 people who were at the wedding that are still in Mike and our lives on a regular basis. I should have only invited close friends, and not care about the size of the crowd at our wedding.
We also skipped the wedding cake at our wedding. Sacrilige, I know... but heh, I had no interest in wedding cake, especially since so often people leave before the cake gets cut and there is so much left over anyhow that goes to waste.
Ok, enough about my wedding. Here's some tips about how you can make a nice wedding for not a lot of money.
This suggestion is only made half in jest. I would never consider eloping, and I hope my kids would never either, because then you miss out on sharing your wedding day with the people in your life... but for those that don't care about that, eloping is usually the cheapest option for a wedding, so I'd be remiss not to include it.
While hiring a wedding planner does take the burden off your back and allow less stress, it adds an extra expense. Just schedule your wedding enough in advance so that you can plan your own wedding, but without the stress of everything being on you at the last minute.
No reason to go into debt for a wedding! Figure out how much you can afford to pay, and make a strict budget and stick to it. Prioritize what is important to you, and spend money on that first, and use whatever money is left over to spend on other things. If that means not having the wedding of your dreams, so be it. That is better than paying off the wedding of your dreams for years after.
Well, I guess before you decide location, you do need to decide how many people you want at your wedding. Is a giant wedding a necessity? If you want a large wedding, what is the reason? To impress people, or because that is what will truly make your wedding be a happy occasion? If the latter, that makes more sense than the former. Remember that this is your wedding, and what you do should be what makes you happiest, not what other people think you should do.
And on that note, keeping up with the Joneses in general is foolish, because the Joneses aren't paying your bills, and they are likely in debt... and this is especially so with your wedding. For all the things at your wedding, don't do something just because it is expected, do it because it is important to you, so that your money ends up being well spent.
So decide how many people you actually want to have, and then find a location that fits that amount of people. Remember that smaller wedding give you more leeway in finding the right location, which will usually end up being cheaper.
You don't have to get married at "official wedding places". You can get married wherever suits your taste (and budget), whether in a park, a backyard, a church, or even a high school gym. In my neck of the woods, you pretty much can guarantee that it won't rain between certain months, so outdoor weddings such as in parks or backyards are perfect. If you can't guarantee that it won't rain on your wedding day, you can still plan on outdoor wedding so long as there are contingency plans (many parks have pavilions which can be rented cheaply); keep in mind that tent rentals will up the price tremendously, and it may then be cheaper to have the wedding indoors.
Less fancy places can be spruced up for a wedding easily enough. Tables and chairs can be rented or borrowed (if they aren't already there), and then as long as they have matching tablecloths and centerpieces, they can be fancy enough. (I'll get to wedding decor in a few minutes.)
If your wedding will be in a typical wedding place, having it in the off season or non peak hours will usually save a lot of money. My friend actually managed to get her wedding hall for free because she had it during atypical hours! Though her situation was not typical, when seeking venues, ask about differences in prices depending on the dates/hours, and if you're flexible with dates and times, this may be a good money saving option for you. (On top of everything else, if you make a morning wedding and serve brunch, that food will generally be cheaper than the typical wedding fare.)
I have to preface this by saying that in my culture, we don't have rehearsal dinners at all. So obviously I'm coming from the perspective that they're unnecessary. If they're typically done in your culture, you can still decide if it is something you feel is worth spending money on, even if it means breaking cultural norms.
And as I said above, I barely ate anything at my wedding because I was so busy, and therefore the food was less important to me, but I realize that I am not like everyone else, and other people do have certain expectations for food at their weddings.
In some cultures, there are certain people invited to the wedding ceremony, and then the wedding dinner is a few hours later, and not everyone is invited to that. This helps keep down the cost, while still allowing you to share your occasion with more people than you would have been able to afford had you invited all the guests to the wedding dinner afterward.
You can go with a professional caterer at your wedding, which usually ends up costing the most money. Even so, there are cheaper and more expensive caterers, and even specific caterers offer lower cost and higher cost meals. At my wedding, the cheap hall included the price of catering, so that was an expense that we didn't have to pay. I know a couple that was on a very tight budget, so their wedding food was simply store bought rolls, cold cuts, and some store bought salads. No caterer, all self catered. This friend cared more about being able to invite many people to her wedding than she did about the quality of the food, and 15 years later has no regrets about her cold cut and rolls wedding. Vegetarian/vegan weddings are also an option to make the weddings cheaper.
Often caterers will offer a cheaper price for the wedding if it is all buffet style instead of full service. They usually don't mention this up front, so ask them what the difference in price would be.
If you don't go with the professional caterer route, you can ask friends to cook for your wedding, or you can cook in advance and freeze it. Your freezer will likely not be big enough to store all the food in advance (unless you have an empty spare freezer), but you can rent spare freezers to be used for this.
If you are self catering, or your family/friends are pitching in to help cook the food, you may want to reference this post on how to have guests on a budget, because many of the tips there will help you figure out how to make your menu for cheaper while still making it nice for the guests. Just remember that fancy food doesn't need to cost a lot of money- presentation makes the biggest difference.
Especially if you're self catering, I recommend buffet style, which saves money on waiters/waitresses, but if you do want to go the waiter/waitress route, you can often find them by posting advertisements in local high schools, etc...
The simplest/cheapest way to have weddings is to ask guests to contribute a dish to the wedding instead of a gift, and have it potluck style. If you're doing this, make sure someone is coordinating it so you don't end up with 20 of the same dishes.
The food left over at the end of the wedding should be taken home, and not thrown out! Another alternative that, while less frugal, is still not wasteful, is donating the food to a soup kitchen or homeless shelter, or similar. (That is what was done with the leftover food from my wedding.)
As I said above, a one man band with a keyboard can be great- just review with the musician beforehand what songs you want him/her to play, and make sure you like their voice. Full orchestras/bands will definitely increase the price.
You can take a professional deejay for your wedding if you desire, which may or may not be cheaper than the other options, and the cheapest option of all is to make your own music mix of the songs you want to play, and put them either on CD's, MP3s, a computer, etc... and rent speakers to attach to that. Then a non professional deejay or family member can be put in charge of playing the music at appropriate times.
For wedding gowns, as I said above, my community is lucky in that we have many places that lend out wedding gowns for free or cheaply, but I realize this isn't the norm in other places. If gown lending places aren't available to you, that doesn't mean though that you have to spend thousands on a gown. (The average is $1,200 dollars spent on a wedding gown!)
Wedding gowns can be simple or fancy. If you're a simple gal, you can even wear a plain white or off white dress that you find at a regular clothing store, or online, or even at a thrift store. If you search the internet, there are beautiful wedding type dresses available, from 5 dollars and upward, for sale. Calling them "wedding gown" will generally raise their price, but beautiful and fancy white dresses can be found for much cheaper than official wedding dresses.
Official wedding gowns can also be bought online, either new or second hand. Ebay is full of cheap wedding gowns, some of them custom made to fit you, and Amazon has a lot of cheap, beautiful wedding gowns, which you can pay for using Swagbucks Amazon.com certificates! If a dress you buy online doesn't fit perfectly, you can bring it to a seamstress to make adjustments, which still generally will be cheaper than buying from a bridal salon.
Bridal party outfits do not all have to be "matchy matchy", in my opinion. In addition to the fact that this is not always fair to the members of the bridal party, because what looks good on one person often does not look good on the next, it also ups the cost tremendously. Choosing a color scheme allows each member in the bridal party to find a dress that fits her, but for cheaper, as she can borrow, buy second hand or online, or shop sales until she finds something that suits her. Picking classic colors for the wedding makes it cheaper and easier to find matching clothing that fit the theme. Again, bridal party outfits don't need to be bought from official wedding party places, so long as they look decent and are the right color scheme.
Suits and tuxedos can also be borrowed, rented, bought second hand, or bought cheaply on the internet, and matching ties that fit the color scheme can be purchased cheaply on ebay, or on Amazon.com, among other places. Alternatively, suits can be skipped entirely, and men can wear just formal slacks, button down shirts, and ties. Or if you don't mind a casual wedding, formal wear can be skipped entirely for men (though I'll be honest, that that isn't something I'd ever do)!
As I said above, other than the bridal bouquet, we skipped these for our wedding, because we thought they were a waste, and I still believe that. Here's an idea how to make your own homemade bridal bouquet easily and cheaply and cheaply out of things from the craft store. You can also make a bridal bouquet out of wildflowers you pick yourself or with flowers grown in your garden or your neighbor's garden (of course, picked with permission!). If you want to go with corsages or boutonnieres, you can also make them yourself instead of buying them ready made from the florist.
If you're willing to be daring, you can even make corsages, boutonnieres, or even bridal bouquets out of paper flowers.
Decent decorations can change even a simple looking venue into a beautiful and charming location for a wedding. Different themes can mean that you can use different types of decor. Elegant decor can be made cheaply, but often will cost more than something rustic, "fun", or vintage.
If you're looking for elegant decor, there are beautiful ideas for homemade centerpieces on Pinterest. Examples include spray painted wooden branches, possibly decorated with glitter, in vases. Vases can be purchased from thrift stores and then spray painted a unified color, or they can even be made out of recycled glass bottles. Glass jars or tall glasses filled with a combination of marbles, (ideally wild or home grown) flowers, (possibly colored) water, shells, beads, and candles can be gorgeous. Decorating with ribbons can add extra pizzazz.
You can use homemade evergreen wreaths or pine cone wreaths as centerpieces, especially nice if you put a beautiful tall candle in the middle, or a possibly an upturned long stemmed wine glass with a shorter candle on top.
For less fancy decor centerpeices, and a more rustic look, you can take mason jars and fill them with lemon or cucumber slices, or with pine cones or acorns, or even cut grasses, possibly decorating with ribbons.
Or you can cover jars with burlap, tie with ribbon or twine, and fill with fruit or pine cones, etc...
You can make paper flower bouquets and put them in jars or wine bottles (with the labels removed), and possibly spray painted, instead of a vase, or you can put the bouquets directly on the table.
Artfully arranged fruit, veggies, pine cones, branches and/or stones can also be used as centerpieces (and the fruit can be eaten afterward) in large baskets or bowls.
If you're looking for something more fun/cutesy as a theme, choose something that the bride or groom like, and make a centerpiece with those items that you find in the thrift store. Ideas include records made into centerpieces, teddy bears, toy cars, Transformers, etc... Here's some ideas I saw on Pinterest.
The wedding altar or chuppah can be homemade, and as fancy or simple as you like. Here's some homemade wedding altars that I saw online, as well as some homemade chuppahs.
If you haven't figured out yet- Pinterest is definitely your friend if you want to try to find ideas how to decorate beautifully on a budget (whether for weddings or any other time!)
You can skip the printed invites and just do all phone or email or evites. If you want to go more formal and mail out invitations, to keep down costs, you can buy card stock (fancier or cheaper, your call) and write them up yourself (with fancy lettering) and possibly decorate them with dollar store decorations, or just print them up from the computer.
I almost forgot to include this, because in my culture, people don't often go on honeymoons, but then I remembered that it is a typical wedding expense that comes up. But the point is- honeymoons aren't a necessity. They're definitely nice, but if money is tight, it is ok to skip it, or not make it as exotic or expensive as you were originally thinking.
Here's a post including some atypical and cheaper honeymoon ideas. Other ideas can include going to a nice bed and breakfast within driving distance from your home, or a cheaper hotel in your city. Renting a log cabin in a nearby national park can also be very sweet and romantic. If a friend or family member has a vacation home, they may be willing to lend it to you or rent it to you cheaply. And of course, don't forget to keep in mind the typical frugal travel advice, like using coupons, traveling in the off season, using deal sites, staying close to home, etc...
Alternatively, you can push off the honeymoon for later, and not have it immediately after the wedding, but after you save up enough money for that vacation you were dreaming of.
How much money did you spend on your wedding? Do you feel it was money well spent? In retrospect, would you have liked to spend more on your wedding and made it fancier, or spent less money and made it simpler, or would you keep it exactly as it was? Those of you who have children that aren't married yet (or whose children have already gotten married)- what would you advise them about wedding planning on a budget?
What tips can you share for keeping down the cost of weddings?
Linking up to the Homestead Barn Hop. Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways