Wednesday, May 15, 2013

My Budget Wedding

Wedding Season is upon us, and I'm feeling it quite strongly this year as one of my beloved little sisters is getting married next month!  So, between that and one of my friends (thank you, Faith!) telling me to post on this subject, I thought I'd share a couple of the ways we saved some money on our big day.
Photo credit for ALL photos on this post:
Geoff White

I am a firm believer that weddings do not have to cost a fortune.  Yes, they will cost a pretty penny if you want something extravagant, but you don't necessarily have to take out a loan or choose between a wedding and a down-payment on a house.

When my husband and I got engaged we were really shocked that, in order to have the typical "Martha Stewart" wedding that was so prevalent in our current society, we'd have to spend over $50k.  Not only that, but we were going to have to scale back our guest list to accommodate all the small venues.  Large ones were hard to find and some were dark and dingy and were still out of our price range.  It was insane.

We quickly realized that this was not an option.  I had to go though a period of grieving for my "dream" wedding, since I refused to go into debt.  After that, I was amazed at what we could accomplish with our budget, and what is incredible is that I got my dream wedding!!!  You just have to a) think outside the box and b) spend the money only when it is something important to you.

So, if you are getting married sometime soon and want some tips, this is where you start.

1. Decide on your budget.  Make it real, people.  ;)  In other words, don't count on an outpouring of resources that are risky.  If they do come through, great, but it's much easier to adjust for additional money than try to cut corners when you realize that "Auntie May" is never going to send you $1,000 like the one she gave your sister Sally 5 years ago when she got married.

2. Make a list of the things you do not want to compromise.  For us, that was the location of the ceremony, the ceremony itself (we had the full choir, trumpet and timpani - it felt like we were royalty!!), being able to invite all our family and friends (we had over 360 people at our wedding), and an AMAZING photographer.

Photo credit: Geoff White
3.  Eliminate the unnecessary.  For us, the things we completely eliminated were party favors, assigned seating (it saved on money AND time), a professional wedding videographer, an engagement session (we had my brother take some pictures), an expensive reception venue, catered food, etc.

4. Decide where you want to spend the remaining money in your budget on the items you have left.

I know it sounds nice in theory, but you might be wondering what exactly we did to implement our savings.  Concretely, here are some of the big items that allowed us to adhere to our budget:

Reception Location
Photo credit: Geoff White
Disposable china-like plates and
silverware and "like linen" napkins.
We viewed many, many, many halls, ballrooms, etc., until we finally thought outside the box.  We asked the church if we could use their gym, which was actually a beautiful building.  It had never been used for a wedding before and included the kitchen, bathrooms, tables, chairs, etc.  We were able to get the hall a day early without paying an additional fee and set it up the morning of the rehearsal.

Our family helped set up the reception site, put out the food, and cleared everything out.  Because of their help (and me buying almost everything as disposable for the wedding reception - I know, I know, SOOOO not earth-friendly!!), I didn't have to pay caterers and that was a HUGE savings.

Food for the reception included Costco croissant sandwiches (that family members picked up and brought to the reception site the morning of), loads and loads of strawberries and cherries, pita chips, hummus, wine and soft drinks. That's it.  We kept it simple but had plenty.  And we had so many leftovers that it fed all my in-town family members for days and days.  And days.  ;)

Photo credit: Geoff White
One of the bridesmaids bouquets that we made.
I knew flowers were going to be expensive, but GOSH!  They really charge you an arm and a leg.  I decided to contact the florist for our local Costco and was able to order bulk flowers from them.  We picked them up the day before and then made all the bouquets/boutonnieres the morning of the wedding (my lovely bridesmaids took turns making the bouquets while the others were having their hair done).  I did a test run a couple months before so I had all the supplies ready to go and we knew what we were doing.  But just to be extra-safe I did get MY bouquet and my husband's boutonniere professionally made.  However, I have done some event planning in the past so I knew that I could tell the florist how much I could pay and then ask what size bouquet I could get with my choice of flowers (in my case, roses and lilies).  Just my husband and my flowers cost more than all the other flowers for my bridesmaids combined.  Crazy.

A couple months after I got engaged, Costco had these beautiful hurricane lamps that came in a set of 3.  One box was less than HALF the price of the simplest centerpiece at all the local florists.  My parents were angels and let us store the 40 boxes in their garage until the wedding.  We used them, then sold them on craigslist after.  In the end, the cost of centerpieces were about $10/table.

Photo credit: Geoff White
Our hurricane lamp centerpieces that saved
us lots of $$$!  :)  Craigslist is awesome...

Photo credit: Geoff White
Our beautiful cake, compliments of our
good friend Bobby Cookies

Utilizing Talent
Instead of just buying things that I thought I needed, I started thinking about people who might want to make things for me or help out.  For example, the pillow for the ring bearer was handmade by my sister-in-law.  My co-worker lent me the shoes she wore in her wedding.  Our friend is a pastry chef (Bobby Cookies) and made our INCREDIBLE main wedding cake (we purchased additional sheet cakes from Costco).  My sisters (bridesmaids) did all the bridesmaids hair.  Our friend videotaped our wedding.  AND, this is the coolest: the techies in my family set up a live stream of my wedding on the internet so that my brother, who was in the military and couldn't get the leave to come to my wedding, could watch it!!!  Isn't that amazing?!!!

Photo credit: Geoff White
The same wedding cake topper
that my parents used at their wedding in 1966.

All the little things that add up
Photo credit: Geoff White
- I knew that real tablecloths would look the best, so we spent the money to rent them but then skipped the chair covers and napkins.  Instead, I ordered "like linen" napkins in bulk online and then spent many an evening after work folding them while watching movies.  It was so much fun!  I really enjoyed every aspect of planning my wedding.  I kept them in a big plastic tub until the day we set up the reception site, then, voila!!! 370 folded napkins ready to go!  No last minute craziness for me, thank you!
- My parents saved the cake topper from their wedding 40+ years before, so we not only saved money by re-using it, but also thought it was really cool.
- We were going to use my husbands sensible car to drive away in, but last-minute someone lent us a crazy-cool mustang!  As my two-year-old would say, "Oh yeah, BABY!"

I really could go on and on about this, but really, if you are in the boat of planning your wedding, just remember that it's YOURs, it does not belong to Martha Stewart, Vogue, or Sunset Magazine.  The most fun I've EVER had at any wedding was mine.  Sure, marrying the man of my dreams might have had something to do with it ;), but it really was a blast.  So don't forget to enjoy the planning, and try to arrange it so that you can just have a blast that day.  It only lasts a day.

But thankfully for me, it didn't end there.  The best part is enjoying every day after with my best friend.  And that's really what it's all about.  :)

Photo credit: Geoff White


  1. I love this. I'm so glad you wrote this post. Having attended your wedding, I witnessed the beauty! I'll be passing it along, especially to my sister who will also be getting married this year. :-)

  2. Oh, and I love that you used your parent's cake topper! Both cool and special.

  3. As a wedding photographer, I can't tell you how many times people have ignored my advice to keep costs down. I try to tell bride and grooms to not go into debt for one day. As important of a day that it is, most people wind up regretting how much they spent on their wedding even just a year or two after. Most wish they would have spent the money on a down payment for a home.

    One of my favorite weddings I photographed had 40 guests. The couple got married in small church in Santa Cruz. The reception was potluck and at a beach front rental in Aptos. They had an amazing view and I can only assume that they had memorable conversations with their guests.

    10, 20, 30 years from now most people won't remember what they ate at your wedding or your decorations or flowers.

  4. Thank you, Bobbi! We had such a great time at our wedding! I hope the same for your sister! :)

  5. John, you are so right! It's amazing how beautiful a wedding can be, even when it's small or budget-friendly. It's not about the stuff, 'cause it only lasts a day!

  6. Looks gorgeous and will be a great resource for what I'm sure will be your fabulous wedding!

    wedding ceremony dress

  7. If you’re looking for promotional products to help attract new prospects and nurture existing customers, we can help. Austin Texas Home Builders

  8. Not all people can study videography because the hobby itself is expensive. It requires the use of expensive and bulky equipment. Aside from this, you also need to have the proper lighting and assistants to cover the wedding videos. wedding videography

  9. We cut off the light sources and involve great techniques. Our photography is done at the state of the art studio which is located in Sydney sydney wedding photography.

  10. Despite the fact that it is not really the way every prep will spend their last night of 'flexibility'sydney wedding photography

  11. Thank you so much for this! I found the blog really interesting, and helpful. I am planning a wedding myself, and looking at these beautiful New York wedding venues I’m thinking to myself, how will I organize these. I have a firm idea, thanks to your blog!

  12. nice and beautiful photograph, i like so much all about art

  13. There are a number of photography styles that you can pick from. In the event you prefer a modern day and unconventional style, you are able to opt for contemporary photography. sydney wedding videography


  14. Excellent blog here! Also your web site loads up very fast! What host are you using? Can I get your affiliate link to your host? I wish my site loaded up as fast as yours lol netflix member login

  15. I am extremely delighted in for this online journal. Its an educational subject. It help me all that much to take care of a few issues. Its chance are so incredible and working style so fast. godteributikk på nett

  16. Interesting post. I Have Been wondering about this issue. so thanks for posting. Pretty cool post.It 's really very nice and Useful post.Thanks Newmarket Limo

  17. I am happy to find your distinguished way of writing the post. Now you make it easy for me to understand and implement the concept. Thank you for the post. Toronto Limousine Service

  18. You have made some decent points there. I looked on the internet for more information about the issue and found most people will go along with your views on this web site. Party Bus Toronto

  19. An expert wedding videographer makes an amazing magnum opus. As you probably are aware, each wedding of the present age requires having a wedding videographer. asian wedding photography manchester