There is a lot of advice for how to cut down on wedding costs floating around on the internet, and if you check out the comments on wedding posts on any popular PF blog, you’ll see people bragging about how little they spent & how they did it. This is then followed by a dig at those of us who spend a lot on our weddings, making us feel defensive about how much it costs. I’m of the opinion that it’s really hard to get married on the cheap without sacrificing some of the stuff that makes a wedding wedding-y. Which is cool if you don’t feel the societal or family pressure to do so.
I don’t think that any of these are wrong things to do for your wedding, by the way. They just don’t work for me and Chad.
1. Go unconventional (i.e. save on the big stuff).
I’m convinced that there is really no way to have a traditional sit-down-dinner wedding without incurring a big cost. Most of the cheaper wedding ideas involve cutting out the open bar (this is like torturing people, in my opinion), only serving dessert or hor d’oeuvres, or having it in a place so untraditional that there will be no dancing or tables or chairs. Which is not to say that it’s bad or wrong to do so! I love the idea of brown bag lunches in the park, but it just didn’t make sense since our wedding was going to be mostly older, traditional family members who live for a chance to do the Electric Slide.
I sometimes wish we had just done this. Actually, when we first got engaged I was all for going to Las Vegas, renting a Rolls Royce, and finding a drive-thru chapel. I had an image in my head of me in a ridiculous gown and Chad in a tux with our parents and sisters going through a drive-thru where Elvis performs a moving ceremony and then sings “You Ain’t Nothin’ But A Hound Dog.” Tacky? Of course. Awesome? Hell yeah. My mother would have had a heart attack.
3. Don’t accept money from your parents if it has strings attached.
I’ve already mentioned that my parents are contributing to my wedding. Ostensibly, this money was set aside for me and my sisters to use as we wished. We could spend it, or get married at town hall and used the money for an elaborate honeymoon or a house down payment. Once I got engaged, though, it became clear that my mother would not accept anything less than a full Martha Stewart wedding. It’s not a big deal to make her happy, although now that she spent all the offered money, I have to gently remind her that we can’t afford some of her grander notions. I should note here that parents offering money is a great way to avoid spending (or “saving”) your own money on a wedding, but if they want something that their contribution doesn’t cover, you could wind up spending more than if you declined their money and did your own thing.
4. Get married in 1987.
Seriously, if one more person says, “I only spent $5000!” when their wedding was before 2000, I will hit them. First of all, inflation means you get to double the cost every 20 years or so. Secondly, the wedding industry has gotten a little out of hand recently, so much so that you are encouraged to lie about the fact you’re even having a wedding in order to score a more decent price.
5. Lie about the fact that you’re even having a wedding.
We might have been better off doing this, but there are some categories where it’s not even possible. I mean, you can’t get a wedding photographer without admitting that there will be a wedding. There aren’t many occasions that require bouquets, so that might tip off the florist. When you’re asking a venue if they’ll set up some chairs as though people were going to watch other people file up an aisle to an altar, it’s pretty obvious what’s going on. It does work in some situations, I’ll admit. A reception hall justifies huge markups by saying they’ll cut the cake and serve champagne. Wedding dresses are obscenely overpriced; I should know, I bought one for $800. For us it wasn’t so much a matter of insane markups as we couldn’t do much research since we’re planning this thing from across the country.
6. Don’t try to plan from across the country.
We had settled on a venue at Penn State, where Chad and I went to school and where we met at an extremely romantic frat party all those years ago (haha). We made a trip to visit, and Chad realized he hated the only hall we could afford. We wound up agreeing – sight unseen – to a really gorgeous place that overcharges for everything. My mom picked it out, and based all her numbers on the ones given to her by the venue. Now they’re all, “JK JK, we forgot to tell you that tax and mandatory tips are an extra 26% LOL.”
7. Use friends and family members.
If you know a gifted wedding photographer, why not see if they’ll do your portraits as a wedding present (making them do the reception would just be cruel)? If your brother-in-law is a musician, see if he knows anyone who will cut you a deal (we got about $2000 off our band this way! They still cost $6K…). I think I’ve mentioned that my family is mostly engineers and blue-collar workers, so while they might be helpful if I needed help building a structure in which to have my wedding, or if I wanted an explanation on how the chemicals in our bodies work when we’re in love, or if I wanted to build an antenna to beam wedding footage out into space, I’d be covered. Chad’s family is more helpful – as I mentioned, his brother-in-law helped us book a band and his mom offered to do the calligraphy on our invitation envelopes – but I feel like it doesn’t really count since we probably wouldn’t have spent the money on that otherwise.
8. Edit the guest list. Then edit it again. And then again.
In some cultures, you can’t get away from invited hundreds of people to your wedding. I’ve read about guest counts as high as 500 people! DogAteMyFinances had 200 guests. I had no problem editing down my guest list, but Chad’s family is very big on being proper and inviting all the relatives. They probably won’t show up, but they’ll need to be invited. Which I hate, because I hate any sort of uncertainty. I’ve budgeted for 100 people, but Chad said we may have as few as 60. The guest list says we could have around 150. Fewer people means less spent on food and you could get a smaller (read: cheaper) venue.
9. Get married on a Wednesday in January.
There’s actually a superstition about getting married on Saturdays, isn’t there? If you’re willing to inconvenience your guests and make them take a day off, this is a great idea. (I don’t mean that to sound like a dig at people who chose to do this. You just have to acknowledge that it’s less convenient.) Chad’s cousin got married on a Thursday and I think they saved tons. A nice way to get around the inconvenience factor is to hold the wedding on a Sunday before a holiday (like Memorial Day or Labor Day). Everyone has the day after off. They might have to pay a little extra in travel cost, but that’s no big deal. And of course the summer months are more expensive since there’s all that crap about June brides. Prices are lower, and the cheaper vendors are still available because there’s not much demand for a wedding photographer in March.
10. Do it yourself.
If you can cook, you can make your own cake, or cook all the food for your reception. Make your own dress. Arrange your own flowers. This is tied to #7. This presupposes skill at cooking/sewing/flower arranging (flower arranging is surprisingly hard, let me tell you internets). Also that you haven’t thought about how stressful it is to be responsible for one of the major things at your wedding. I am quick to stress and bad at everything that’s not math or physics related. Also, (back to #6), I’m on the other side of the country right now.
Are there any money-saving tips that you just don’t think you’ll take advantage of for your wedding? What are they?
P.S. Don’t forget to ask me a question! I’m going to work on getting them answered tonight. This may be your last chance to know which stuffed animal I sleep with at night!