In the land of weddings, where a one-day event is turned into an affair that can cost more than an entire year’s salary, there’s a lot of pressure to spend big on the day that represents the rest of your life. However, you don’t have to spend that much to have an awesome, meaningful ceremony!
But, before these tips on saving money on a wedding, can I offer up a piece of advice?
The marriage itself is far more important than the wedding. So doing things to enrich your relationship, whether it’s seeing a premarital counselor or avoiding the stress of mountains of debt from planning your big day, is much more valuable than the day itself. In fact, an older article from CNN cites a study that found that the less couples spent on their wedding, the more likely the marriage was to last! So there’s that.
Also, if you’re fortunate enough to be given a sum of money for your wedding from a family member, might I recommend putting some of it away for your future? Many people spend all of their wedding budget on the Big Day, but what about the lifetime? If you’ve been given a gift like this and you’d like to set some aside for your future, set up a Roth IRA for you and your future spouse. Or, put the money into a high-yield savings account. Or both. Having significant cushion can definitely help a marriage in the first few years, especially since one of the main threats to relationships is money stress.
How to get hitched in style for less than 5 figures
The budget for our wedding was well under $10,000, but we still managed to have a beautiful celebration! Here are some tips I picked up from planning our wedding more than 8 years ago.
1. Decide where you want to splurge
Your big day should be special, and one of the ways you can make it special is deciding where you find the most value. For you, it might be spending more on your honeymoon than on the big day. Luckily for us, we found a photographer who was 75% less than other photographers we had come across, and we saved big on the venue, the food, and my dress. But one thing we splurged on was the flowers. I found a place that did gorgeous arrangements and I was dead set on how I wanted those done. So we spent more money on those and found ways to save on the rest.
2. Find a remote or non-wedding venue, or pick a non-weekend day
My mom was so helpful in finding a venue that wasn’t being heavily promoted as a wedding venue. The owner ran the place as a hobby, so they weren’t booked solid every weekend, and the terms were extremely flexible. It was also a bit out of the way, but it was crazy cheap compared to other venues we had seen!
Some of my husband’s friends got married in a beautiful location in the mountains that was actually the brides’ parents’ home. If you have a friend or family member with a picturesque backyard, why not ask if they’d be willing to offer up the space as a wedding gift? The money saved could be tremendous.
3. Take advantage of free help
Many times friends and family are glad to pitch in, and we had several amazing friends that were willing to help with centerpieces and set up and tear down. This helped us so much!
Whether it’s putting together decorations from the dollar store or doing some of the cooking, family, friends, or the wedding party might be willing to help to lower some of the costs.
4. Pick practical whenever possible
We didn’t get a designer cake. We actually picked Target for the cake, and the grooms cake was a simple chocolate cake from Publix! Dollar stores can be a great source for decor and you can find beautiful flowers at Costco. Buying from everyday stores that don’t have the word “wedding” attached can save you big.
5. Choose a non-meal time celebration
Plated dinners at a hotel can run you $50 to $70 a head. So why not save the cash and offer snacks and hor d’oeuvres instead? You could cut your spending down to less than $5 per person opting for this route. Planning an afternoon wedding instead of an evening one can make this possible without being rude to your guests.
Also, if your venue is flexible enough and you want to offer alcohol, you could do BYOB by buying wine and beer from Costco or Sam’s Club. If you have any chefs in the family, ask for their help preparing food instead of hiring a caterer.
6. Pick a dress off the rack or rent one
I loved my dress and I wish it still fit me. But where on earth would I wear the thing now?!? My dress was a sample dress on sale, and it cost me 50% of what it would have cost to have it ordered. Renting a dress is in vogue, because after the ceremony, all the dress is going to do is sit in your closet, never to be worn again. A dress might be one of the places you decide to splurge, since you want to look and feel your best, but there are ways to make the dress buying process more affordable.
7. Choose a nearby destination instead of an elaborate honeymoon
By the time we got to the honeymoon planning, we had gone through most of our budget. So we opted to spend two nights in the closest big city and two nights in the mountains. You might think spending a week in Mexico is the only way to go. But the most important part of the honeymoon is enjoying spending time together, wherever that may be.
One final piece of advice that a good friend told me: Once you’ve planned your big day, let it be! Something might go wrong, and that’s okay. Just enjoy it!
When we left my wedding, I was feeling lightheaded and we stopped to get a Coke. I was floundering trying to open the bottle and all of a sudden, Coke spewed everywhere — all over my dress and all over our rental car. So, instead of waltzing into our hotel in grand style, we were in jeans and t-shirts. (I ended up changing behind a bank in north Georgia, and they probably have the embarrassing footage on their security cameras.)
Whether your day is big or small, enjoy the time with friends, family and your love-to-be, and remember, more money spent does not equal a happier union. It’s the time you invest daily in your spouse that counts.