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Monday, October 21, 2013

Frugal Weddings- Tips and Advice

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Me at my wedding
I was so convinced that I had already written a post on my blog about frugal weddings that recently, when a friend of mine asked me if I had any advice for her as to how to make a wedding cheaply, I directed her to a non existent post on my blog. Haha, guess I didn't write it yet, and it's about time.
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.

Eloping:
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.

DIY:
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.

Cash!
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.

Location:
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.)

Food:
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.)

Music:
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.

Clothing:
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)!

Flowers:
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.

Decorations:
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!)

Invitations:
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.

Honeymoon:
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

39 comments:

  1. We had a frugal wedding too, and i have no regrets over it. My one regret is that i did something stupid with my (inexpensive) dress. It was a bit too low-cut. On the day of the wedding, disappointed that i'd not lost weight, i put the bra/corset on the tighter row of hooks - which i had not done before. This pushed my bosom up higher and made the dress slip. Some of the pics can't be shared! Makes for a sort-of funny story now, but i recommend any bride NOT change things the day of the wedding!

    We just attended a big, "fairy tale" wedding that was the most self-indulged, ostentatious thing i've ever seen, with little fore-thought or planning in advance. (We were part of the wedding party and got to witness first-hand.) They also tried some frugal tips like doing their own flowers, but had little regard to the comfort of anyone in their family, wedding party, or guests (those flowers got finished at 2.30 AM the morning of the wedding because of lack of planning). Some people really should invest in a wedding planner/coordinator.

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  2. One thing you don't mention - the ring, or rings. My husband bought me a diamond engagement ring - I didn't feel the need for one, and now that I know more about the slavery and wars associated with diamonds, I wish I hadn't. The human eye can't tell the difference between real diamonds and cubic zirconia anyway.

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    1. Good point. My husband bought me a simple white gold ring for our wedding, and a small diamond ring for our engagement. We went out together to pick them both- I don't like big giant diamonds, and i wouldn't have wanted to wear the ring if he gave me something that I felt looked gaudy, so I'm glad he gave me the chance to pick one that was cheaper. My diamond fell out of my ring, and I actually want to replace it with a CZ ring- it looks no different anyhow, and is much cheaper. I know people who skipped the diamond engagement ring, and saved up for a diamond ring over the years, and the wife got one for their fifth or tenth anniversary... And I know others who simply have no interest in a diamond ring whatsoever, and preferred costume jewelry rings, or none at all.

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    2. You can also get a different stone such as an emerald or ruby--none are as hard as diamonds of course, but some are pretty close.

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    3. I received a family heirloom for my engagement ring. The sentiment was very special, but it's emerald and has not worn well over the years. When I brought it to the jeweler, they said that if you have an emerald engagement ring (and emeralds, rubies, and sapphires aren't always cheaper than diamonds these days), never, ever wear it while doing dishes, swimming or otherwise exposing it to water or soap/chemicals.

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    4. YES! I love sapphires and don't really care for big diamonds...I opted for a cheap gold wedding band and an engagement band that alternated tiny sapphires and diamond chips across the top. It is gorgeous, unique, and very "me". I still adore it 5 years later :)

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    5. I didn't want a "blood" diamond, so my partner got me a conflict free Canadian diamond with recycled white gold. It is beautiful, and we will be getting our wedding bands from the same place. Brilliant Earth is a great place to get ethical rings and conflict free diamonds do not have to be more expensive.

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  3. One thing you don't mention - the ring, or rings. Given how morally filthy the diamond trade is, I think the more frugal choice of cubic zirconia is also the more elevated. My husband wanted to buy me an engagement ring, so I didn't turn it down, but it really was unnecessary.

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  4. my wedding cost $5000 total! unfortunately i was very disappointed with our "student" photographer, and my free hair stylist. every thing else was great though, and i'm glad we saved so much money by renting a gown, booking an awesome local hall, and using friend-connections for everything possible!

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    1. Your post reinforces that it was a good decision for me to take a good photographer for my wedding! I'm glad you were able to do yours cheaply!

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    2. My wedding was also for $5000. I spent a little more on the photographer and was happy and I'm a librarian so I was able to save in lots of places by just doing lots of research. We also pulled every string we had: a friend (a chef) cooked for us and we paid for the ingredients, and had a friend who is a florist but just ordered two bouquets, boutonnieres and loose flowers to put in vases. Simple is lovely.

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  5. This is a great post. I am one of 4 girls, and our weddings were all very different. I'm the oldest. One younger sister had a very inexpensive, mostly do-it-yourself wedding with just a few family members. I was her only attendant and she had her dress and my dress made by a seamstress. Another sister had a hug wedding, mostly driven by my Mom. My parents were paying, so that gave a lot of the decision making power to my mother, sometimes over my sister's wishes. I think she ended up just acquiescing rather than arguing. Mine was similar on the larger end, again because my parents were paying. When I look at the guest list all these years later, probably 80% of the non-family people that attended were my parents' friends (not even known by my husband or me) so it was really a way to throw a party for their friends. My youngest sister got married a little older, so she and her husband planned the whole thing. It was a smaller affair, with the focus on a small dinner party for the guests after, in a very intimate setting. Lovely. I love that your parents just gave you a set amount of money and let you run with it - I really want to do that with my own children.

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    1. You have no idea how much I appreciated that my parents did that with us- it eliminated so many of the fights, bridezilla, and power struggle issue involved in so many weddings that I hear about. I definitely plan on doing that with my kids.

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    2. Smart parents! I also meant to add that you look stunning in that photograph - good decision on the photographer!

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  6. I had a very non-traditional wedding, which was frugal. First off, it was Halloween, so everyone was in costume. The sillyness of it actually broke the ice and made it a lot more fun for my guests. My attendants were too, and I told them I didn't much mind what they picked for costume, just told them I had veto rights and to keep in mind that there would be children and my elderly relatives there, and I didn't want to spend my night apologising for over the top costumes - I ended up with my matron of honor as vampire, bridesmaids were a french maid and a lady in waiting. My husband's attendants were a monk, a prisoner, a cowboy and a roman senator. My dress, also a costume, cost $65 on eBay. The alterations cost about as much. We did cupcakes from a local bakery instead of an expensive over the top cake, we had the wedding late, 8pm, which meant no sit down dinner, so just hors d'oevres. My parents insisted on an open bar with bartenders and hiring a caterer for the hors d'oevres, and since they were so insistent I had them pay for it which they happily did. The decorations, since it was halloween were dirt cheap for the most part, and I have the best decorated house on the block now since I reuse most of them every year. And we used a historical site that was in the process of being restored as my hall which we rented for dirt cheap - it was a little run down looking, but considering my theme it was perfect. Sure, some of these things wouldn't work for the average bride, but it was so much fun, and was very us.

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    1. I'm in love with the costume idea. Brilliant!

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    2. That is one of the most creative things I've heard in a long time. Jewish people could adapt the idea for Purim. I actually went to a Bat Mitzvah once at Purim time where the whole Bat Mitzvah's family was dressed as the Bar Mitzvah girl, including her father. I told him he was the bravest man I know.

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  7. I had a very non-traditional wedding, which was frugal. First off, it was Halloween, so everyone was in costume. The sillyness of it actually broke the ice and made it a lot more fun for my guests. My attendants were too, and I told them I didn't much mind what they picked for costume, just told them I had veto rights and to keep in mind that there would be children and my elderly relatives there, and I didn't want to spend my night apologising for over the top costumes - I ended up with my matron of honor as vampire, bridesmaids were a french maid and a lady in waiting. My husband's attendants were a monk, a prisoner, a cowboy and a roman senator. My dress, also a costume, cost $65 on eBay. The alterations cost about as much. We did cupcakes from a local bakery instead of an expensive over the top cake, we had the wedding late, 8pm, which meant no sit down dinner, so just hors d'oevres. My parents insisted on an open bar with bartenders and hiring a caterer for the hors d'oevres, and since they were so insistent I had them pay for it which they happily did. The decorations, since it was halloween were dirt cheap for the most part, and I have the best decorated house on the block now since I reuse most of them every year. And we used a historical site that was in the process of being restored as my hall which we rented for dirt cheap - it was a little run down looking, but considering my theme it was perfect. Sure, some of these things wouldn't work for the average bride, but it was so much fun, and was very us.

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  8. This is a useful post, thank you.

    I wanted to say, as a soon to be bride in an intercultural (and intercontinental) wedding, I really appreciate your acknowledgement of culture being important. I find it really challenging to plan for both cultures, and appreciate differences being acknowledged. After paying immigration costs, we are planning a frugal weddinng ourselves.
    We have saved money by doing some DIY, having a smaller wedding (although this is partially due to most of our friends and family living far away), having our reception at a local restaurant who gave us an amazing deal and have a beautiful upstairs party room, buying a dress for $200 on sale, using an affordable salon for hair and make-up, and spending less on invites/flowers etc by finding cheaper options that reflect us. For example, we met working as English teachers in Japan, so we have bought origami bouquets and flowers. They are much cheaper than fresh or silk flowers, and look amazing.

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  9. We have friends who had a potluck wedding. On the invitation they wrote that under 30 years old should bring an appetizer. 30-50 a main and over 50 a dessert...

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  10. This is great information.

    Our wedding was really frugal; we were 18 and 19 and planned it ourselves. We made the invitations. My dress came from a thrift shop...back in the days before thrift shops had good clothes, but we got lucky. (Even if the dress smelled funny). The bridesmaids wore their prom dresses. The cake was a box cake made by my mom. (This was a huge gift, she didn't bake normally.) Chinese takeout for anyone who wanted to show up early and help. Mom made Swedish meatballs and everyone else brought covered dishes. Justice of the Peace. One of my parents' friends took the photos. (Polaroid; they've faded over the years.) And the whole thing was held in my back yard. It was actually pretty wonderful. (We shared the three toaster ovens with friends.) We're still together, it's been 27 years, and we talk about doing it again, fancied up some, but the frugal instinct runs deep. Though if we did renew our vows, I'll bake the cake :)

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  11. Fabulous post! I often shake my head at the amount of money people spend on weddings.

    I would add: Ask your friends for help. You may have a friend who is wonderful at arranging flowers, or cooking or has a cool car. In my experience people really love helping out at weddings; it makes them feel part of your special day.

    Ours cost about $6000 (New Zealand dollars) - most of that went on the photographer and the food. We had a reasonably large wedding as we invited our entire church (it's where my husband and I met and it felt as much their wedding as it did ours - and I mean that in a good way), but because we were members of the congregation, we got the Minister, the church and reception hall, and the venue flowers for free so that saved us a ton of money.

    My husband gave me a diamond engagement ring which is certified conflict free. I didn't care what kind of stone I had, but my husband really wanted to get me a diamond. We went to an independent jeweller who personally goes and buys the diamonds himself.

    I would have loved to have done a potluck meal, but the church hall kitchen simply wasn't big enough so we went with caterers. We saved lots of money by having one attendant each (my bridesmaid wore a dress she already had, the best man wore his own suit). I got my dress and shoes off a secondhand trading website. My husband hired his suit.

    My brother and his wife got married a few months before us and skimped on a professional photographer, so their wedding photos are quite average. My one stipulation was the photographer and I'm so glad we paid that money, our photos were worth every cent.

    One thing I would say is stay true to YOURSELF and to your culture when it comes to the ceremony. I recently went to a wedding where the bride and groom did a 'sand merging' thing during the ceremony. I've no idea what culture this came from - but these two managed to make it look so awkward! It didn't fit in with anything else in the ceremony. At the reception they got everyone to light lanterns and send them off into the air...only it was extremely windy and most of them a) wouldn't light or b) caught fire! Neither of these things suited the bride or groom's personalities - it was like they'd seen these ideas on Pinterest and thought 'hey, let's add that'.

    And Penny - you looked absolutely gorgeous!

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  12. My husband and I had a frugal wedding relative to what others in his home country spend. I felt we spent too much, though, and I regret having taken out a loan to pay for it. I was married in his country, so the only family member of mine to attend was my mother; due to her expenses in getting to the wedding and staying for a visit after, she wasn't able to help with wedding costs. My husband's family also did not contribute towards the wedding costs, and didn't even bother with a gift. His culture also follows the tradition that parents pay, but they were unhappy that we saw the wedding as our event and not theirs, so they didn't help in any way.
    My husband's family is very large and extended family are expected to be invited. I didn't like this idea, especially since we didn't have the money, nor did I have the desire to have so many of his family there when only my mother was present, but he felt very obligated to have them. His culture also has large weddings where guests are basically expected to "pay for their plate", so while husband thought some of the cost of the wedding would be offset by cash gifts, that didn't happen in our case.
    We did spend more money on the wedding band and a beautifully illustrated marriage contract, choices I do not regret. We were able to get beautiful photos taken by a friend of a friend, bought potted plants instead of flowers (other than my bouquet)- that we later used in our home, had it in a local community center-type hall instead of an event hall. If I could do it over again, I'd have a much smaller wedding, invite fewer of husband's family- immediate and close relatives and not extended, and let the chips fall where they may.

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    1. Based on your experience, what would you advise your children, if they were in a similar situation?

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  13. One thing I wish I'd done to save money was make my own wedding albums. I'm glad I went for a really good photographer and paid to have a cd of all images and the rights to them but since I had that I really didn't need the expensive albums. I took forever to pick the set number of photos for the album and the photographer went bankrupt so we lost the cost of the albums. My mom surprised me at Christmas and paid to have them made but now you can do it yourself so easily.

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    1. That's an interesting point. I got a CD with my pictures, but also a ready made album. If I hadnt actually gotten it done via the photographer, i probably never would have gotten it done, knowing myself.

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  14. This was a great post! I have to say my husband and I did the eloping route...yes, it hurt my mom's feelings, but since she'd been brutal in the past to my live-in boyfriend who happens to be of a different race, I think it was just easier and sweeter and more perfect to have just our closest and supportive friends with us. We found a judge, who married us in her back office, with my best friend and a close guy friends as witnesses, and then a bunch of our nearest and dearest friends treated us out for an amazing dinner at the Sheraton. I only have good memories of that day! My best friend and I went to our local bakery, and asked if they could decorate a plain white birthday cake like a wedding cake...I still have our one piece left in the freezer...24 years later! I wore a wedding-like pale gray gown I found at Macy's on clearance. We had been living together for 2 yrs already, so we just failed to tell my mom (dad passed away when I was young, his family was great about it) for 2 more years, until i got pregnant (planned)...so that was a bit of a shock for her. But I was glad I didn't have to worry about someone else not approving at the time. Everything is good now...and I don't regret a thing!

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    1. I'm glad your wedding worked out as you wanted it to, despite doing it unconventionally!

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  15. I think you have a lot of valuable advice here.

    One point I want to make, though, is that you say you hardly ate anything and that, therefore, food wasn't important. Probably now when you go to weddings you can't eat much because of your allergies.

    But, I look at it differently - when we invite people to a wedding, they are our guests, and they've often put a lot of time, effort and/or money in getting there. IMHO it's not nice to say the food isn't important - because, for many guests, it IS important. That doesn't mean I'm in favor of only haute cuisine and spending a fortune, but we still should make sure it's tasty and appetizing.

    Many of my neighbors are from a culture where they invite many, many people at the end of the wedding after the meal and people feel obligated to come and say congratulations, even from another city. At some of these weddings, they serve these guests cheap soda and very basic cake (others serve something nicer) which I think is simply not nice - there is a fine line sometimes between being frugal and being a cheapskate.

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    1. Oh, for sure, I agree with you. The food at our wedding wasn't BAD. It just wasn't haute cuisine or even fancy. There was a first course with breads, dips, bourekas, a second course with main dishes, veggies, and a few options for chicken, and cakes for dessert. No one would have left the wedding and said "gross food", but no one would have left the wedding and said "That was an AMAZING meal." I think that was a fine balance.

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  16. A stunning bride and a wife of good sense;your husband is well-blessed indeed!
    Often there is far too much emphasis on "the wedding" and precious little on "the marriage". We saved as much as we could in all areas. I used a dress that had been used for trying on in the store. The old wedding car was emitting smoke on the way to the event! We went somewhere cheap on honeymoon and I got ill. Things could only get better... Almost 27 years later the marriage has lasted. Things were not perfect on the day and certainly on honeymoon but in the "grand scheme of things" it wasn't important.

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    1. Thank you! And yes! The marriage is what is important, not the wedding... Just thinking about the Kardashian wedding, costing a fortune, and their marriage lasted exactly how many days???

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  17. I am happily unmarried myself, but my brother got married a few years ago and managed to keep the costs reasonable. The ceremony and reception were in rooms separated by about 200 feet of wide hallway, and the building did not have enough chairs for seating in both rooms; their fee for moving the chairs between ceremony and reception was hundreds of dollars! So at the end of the wedding program (or whatever you call it--the paper that listed the order of events and had a poem for us all to read aloud) it said, "If you are able, please carry your chair to the reception room after the ceremony." After the recessional music, they played R.E.M.'s "Shiny Happy People" and we all bopped out of the room carrying our chairs, with stronger people carrying two each to make up for those who weren't able. Very effective! At the reception, I complimented my sister-in-law on her wedding dress, and she said, "Oh thanks, it's actually a prom dress I got on clearance for $11." Welcome to our family!!!

    Some friends of ours had their wedding in their living room with minister and witnesses only, then sent out wedding ANNOUNCEMENTS rather than invitations. That's very frugal if you don't mind not having a party.

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  18. I really enjoyed your post. I just found you over at The Homestead Barn Hop and would love for you to come share at my Saturday Spotlight Blog Hop!

    April
    Angels Homestead

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  19. Our wedding priorities were very similar to yours: I wanted a great photographer (worth every penny!) and I wanted to look nice. Even going a bit over budget on my dress, I didn't come close to the average amount spent! The next biggest expense for us was food as we had many friends and relatives driving in from out of town and wanted to provide them with a good meal as part of our thanks. Luckily, my husband taught at a small college at the time, so we got a discount on the banquet hall, and the staff there did a lovely job. We also had a noon wedding followed by lunch, with no alcohol served. While that suprised some, our mothers are not fans of drinking, and it saved a ton of money! We also had our wedding a few days before Christmas, so the church was already full of poinsettias. We didn't even decorate for the reception other than centerpieces (silver painted pine cones and silver & blue ornaments in thrift store bowls) since the hall was beautifully lit and decorated for Christmas. Yes, there was a good bit of red and green thrown into our blue/silver scheme, but hey, it was less work for us! And we didn't have any music or other entertainment at the reception. I liked it and wouldn't change much at all. We got to socialize with our guests since we weren't having to dance, and it was a nice, relaxed feel. And since we gave out hand-sewn Christmas ornaments as favors, people still tell us they remember our wedding every year when they decorate their tree :)

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  20. I'm planning my wedding currently and I've been seeing a lot of comments about photography. Even the most frugal brides suggest splurging on the photographer. I found one who has a new photography business and his prices are therefore considerably lower ($1000 for 8 hours of shooting and get all pictures in digital form), but this doesn't mean this is his first time taking pictures. He is still very talented. So I think that with enough leg work you can find talented photographers who aren't established in the industry yet and pay less without sacrificing quality. But I guess we will find out after the wedding!

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  21. This is a truly useful post - thank you! I am in my early twenties and my boyfriend and I plan on being engaged sometime in the next few months. We come from two different cultures (Chinese for mine and Korean for his) and that has raised questions as to which parents would pay for the wedding. In both Korean and Chinese culture, you invite a lot of guests and have a banquet. The guests are often your parents' friends (being that they pay for your wedding) and they give you money instead of gifts which I think is rather convenient! So I probably will have to budget for a bigger party but cut costs on everything else. I hate jewelry and although I get starry-eyed watching Say Yes to the Dress, I can buy a nice handmade wedding dress from China for about $100. Please let me know if you picked up any more tips from others!

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  22. Your wedding sounds lovely, and the photograph of you is gorgeous! We tried to make our wedding both frugal and meaningful. We decided to spend money on having a flagstone patio put in the backyard instead of on a venue for one day, and never regretted that decision. We found a lady who rents vintage china and tablecloths, and so we served high tea. All the food was homemade by us and family and friends. We made a batch of wine at a wine place using a groupon, and were able to go with the higher-end version, 30 bottles for $115. I bought my dress and the bridesmaid dresses online (also from China, I think.) All four dresses together were less than $500, and were exactly what we wanted. Nature blessed us with a perfect day, and when the guests blew the bubbles we provided and they drifted through the dappled sunlight under the trees, it was like we'd been transported to an enchanted place.

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  23. I actually won a $5k wedding photography and videography package! We never would have spent $5k on photos but I'm so glad I entered a dozen or so contests because I actually won!
    I would encourage all brides to pick one or two things that are important to them, spend money on those things, and then forget about the rest!

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