10 frugal things I’m not doing for my wedding

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.

2. Elope.
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!

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10 Responses

  1. One of my pet peeves is the frugal suggestion of asking friend & family to pitch in. Sometimes the person just doesn’t have the time but is too nice to say ‘no’. Other times, the person may just be tired of being asked all the time (especially if their talent or skill is photography, graphic design, cooking etc..)

    My husband has been asked 3 times to do the photography, even at his own brother’s wedding. I told him to say no and stand his ground, and he was sooo glad that he did. He offered to do some artistic photo-journalistic shots but his brother hired a pro photographer so the stress of ‘perfect’ wedding photos did not fall on my husband. And my husband was able to actually ENJOY the event as a guest! He did photograph a friend’s wedding once and it was more work than fun.

    Your idea of a portrait is much better. Please everybody — Let your guests enjoy the event and don’t assume everyone has the time or desire to help.

  2. Brown bag picnics in the park, how cute!

    I totally agree that many frugal suggestions don’t make sense and aren’t practical for many people. Even those “off-beat” weddings that are towards the frugal side (I bet I’d be surprised on what one could spend on a brown bag picnic in the park), most of my family would think I was nuts if I invited them to something like that. Especially if I asked them to travel. (“We flew in for… this?”)

    My family, once you go outside of siblings/parents, is also “you must invite all” and worse, most of them will show up. 🙂

    Frugal Idea I won’t use: I’ve discovered that a destination wedding can be crazy cheap. For the couple, that is. But any guests pay $$$$$ to be there and stay there (i was invited to one in Cancun at a resort that was like 3k/weekend… no thanks…) Which is fine if you have wealthy family/friends, I guess, but I won’t be pushing the costs to my guests and forcing them to take a vacation I pick out for them.

  3. I was pretty frugal about my wedding. We had no sit down dinner. The wedding was at my parent’s church and the reception was at their house. (OK, they have a 4 acre spread with multiple 200 year old plus oak trees. So it wasn’t a huge sacrifice).

    This enabled me to (a) get outrageous bridesmaids’ dresses ($400 / ea imported qipaos from Hong Kong. You can’t ask your starving artist cousins to pay for that); (b) hire the band of my dreams (The Scottish Rogues, a grammy-winning pipe band that plays the Renfest circuit); (c) toast my wedding with 1990 Chateau Y’quem (I have a friend in the wine business, but that was still a nice chunk of change); (d) hire one of the premier photographers in my area (not a wedding photographer, but an actual artist). Spend on the things YOU are going to enjoy; you only get married for the first time once!

  4. Let’s not forget the coupe de grace of all cheap weddings: the Fake Wedding Cake! It’s a special day. Don’t skimp if you don’t have to!

  5. Hey – love your blog, really relate to almost everything you say and totally agree with this. My wedding budget is about $30k (AUS) and when I mention this people always say “that’s heaps! i only spent 17!” but they all got married 5 years ago…. and yes, one colleague said “30 is ridiculous, we only spent $8k” but they got married in 1989.

    My future sister in law is the worst at making me feel guilty. I mentioned that hair and make up would cost me abou $450 for myself and my two bridesmaids and she said “$450? i could never spend that much on that! not when we have bills to pay” etc etc and then guilted me about how little money she has but i’m spending thousands on my wedding.

    But I’ve just ignored it all, and remembered that we’re saving the money and we’re paying for EVERYTHING so WE will call the shots!!!

  6. Hey Kat, I’d consider the fake wedding cake. Anymore it’s taken away to be cut up anyway, no one will probably know. Plus the only thing that looks good is fondant icing and it tastes like crap. Looks pretty, tastes bad. We’re thinking of getting married next year and I’m stressing about keeping the cost down. My parents can’t help much and Mr M is estranged from his family. I’d admit I’m going to have to do some frugal things, the picnic in the park actually sounds kind of nice.

  7. Well, we were offered a free reception hall, but it was no-alcohol. We took it. Then again, we were also a tad worried about most of our family members (and a few friends) getting rip-roaringly drunk. So it worked out to our advantage.

    We did have the benefit of having pretty relaxed relatives. So things were pretty laid back. We chose to start mid-afternoon. That’s because I have health conditions that really don’t make me much of an early riser. It also meant that we were able to have a reception without feeding people entire meals. I guess that sounds cheap when you read it out loud, but it worked out well.

    We put out plates of veggies & fruit (with dips), cheeses and various crackers, cold cuts and rolls. We also put out some condiments so some folks could make sandwiches. I was surprised how enthusiastic people were about the set-up.

    My cousin had experience as a florist, so we bought up flowers from a local (well-stocked) grocery store for about $80 and she put it all together for us.

    But for what we didn’t skimp on… The groom hadn’t been in a limo before, so we splurged on that. And he had a real specific idea of how the invites should look. So we paid a little more. I got some affordable blue metallic cardstock. But the problem with that was the lettering had to be foiled in silver. There were some pretty high estimates. But after calling around, I found a place that gave us a really good deal. And we actually got the plate made for the printing! The total cost was still under $2 each (for 100).

    My big thing is that I think it’s weird that so many brides decide on really intricate invites to make/put together, then expect all their friends to pitch in. I mean, I’d do it if someone asked, but it still seems weird to me.

    And I didn’t skimp on the tablecloths. We did get a great deal right before Thanksgiving on some cloth ones for about $4 each from Kmart. Looked nice and resold them for most of what I paid.

    We also had the maid of honor living across the country from us and the other bridesmaids. So we paid for a David’s Bridal dress for her rather than make her run around trying to match the blue and find it in a plus size.

    I really think if you’re going to ask a bridesmaid to wear an expensive dress (ie, anywhere close to $100, let alone over that) you need to be willing to pay for it. Let’s face it, no one wears those dresses again. (Unless they’re fabulous seamstresses or something and can alter them.) So why are they buying $200 dresses to wear once, plus getting you wedding gifts?

  8. Love this list. And I’d agree with every one of your points. Esp #4. I’d get mad too if people told me it was SO CHEAP and only $5000 for THEIR wedding.

    (I watch a lot of Rich Bride Poor Bride)

  9. I don’t even know how I stumbled on your blog ….. but these seem VERY reasonable. I have friend and family who have done ice cream receptions / do it yourself things ….. with pretty lackluster results. THANK YOU for telling that it’s NOT cool to ask a photographer to do your whole wedding simply because you might know a photographer. For a SIBLING or BEST friend , we might do this . We might even give up a prime Saturday to do it ……
    For out distant cousin ….. this is just akward ….. please ask a photographer ” what do you charge ” ….please don’t ask for a discount right away.

  10. […] If there is one thing sure to get people talking, it’s the cost of weddings. And with the cost of weddings, the cost of wedding dress seems to be fodder for criticism (Sallie’s Niece caught so much flack for her wedding dress). Before I got engaged, I admit that my eyes popped out whenever I heard costs in the $20,000+ ranges. But now that I am planning a wedding, I get it. A traditional wedding costs money, period. If you want a sit-down dinner, dancing, on a Saturday night in a metropolitan area and you have a guest list over 30 and no connections with wedding vendors, it will cost money. Even my small dance-free shindig is costing more than I had expected. Sarah at Paranoid Asteroid had a great post detailing the 10 frugal things she won’t be doing for her wedding. […]

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