According to this article by USA Today, the average cost of a wedding is $26,989 (Sadly, that number is lower than previous averages!). I have learned that anything with the term “wedding” or “marriage” in the title is suddenly five times the price, even if it similar to an object one would be using outside of a wedding. I was recently looking at cake stands. A local craft store was selling a “wedding” cake stand for $45! That just sounds outrageous to me!! (We are choosing to make our cake stand from a dollar store candle stick ($2) and an old vintage plate I found at a thrift store ($1)) That is a $43 savings right off the bat. This will hardly dent the $26,989 price tag the average couple is spending on their wedding, though.
We really needed to cut our spending down. Mitchell and I are 19 and 20, broke kids about to start college together. I have worked for non-profits the last year and racking up the medical bills like a professional money-spender. We have been trusting all of our needs to the Lord, and trying not to waste our resources he gives us. We are therefore setting our wedding budget at $2,000. Not impossible. Actually, it hasn’t been as hard as it has seemed. Many have gotten married on much less. Everyone’s story is different, but I wish budget weddings were a bigger thing.
Here are the Top 10 Ways Mitchell and I are not blowing our money on the day we start our life together:
1) Skipping the Venue.
Have an outdoor wedding, instead. There, you’ve cut the second largest cost of the average wedding right there. We are getting married in his parents’ beautiful backyard. It will be a little cramped, but we will feel at home. What my mother did reserved a spot in a local state park for her wedding. It was free for them, and the guests just had to pay for parking. We were also thinking of using the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden as our venue. The one downfall with that one is that it is very public, and we would have a large audience of people we didn’t know. Doesn’t really bother me too much, but we had the backyard as a choice, so we went with that. Many churches will offer the church free of charge to members or regular attenders, also. We chose not to do that, but it was also a free choice many will have available, so ask your church’s elders if you are a regular attendee.
2) NOT Catering In.
This was one of the harder choices in my family, but our largest money saver. Our local catered (our cheapest choice where we live) charges $16 a plate for off-site parties. With our estimated head count of 127, we would be busting our $2,000 on just food alone (not including the cake). Instead of the catering route, I, the bride, am going to make several pans of lasagna and freeze them to bake on the day. We are also serving a lettuce and spinach salad and fruit salad on the side. Our estimated food cost is $150-$300, but that is MUCH smaller than our original choice. There are a lot of foods that are generally easy to serve to large groups of people. Italian is almost always a great choice. My cousin had a taco bar at her wedding, and that turned out really well and was very easy and inexpensive. (The tacos are inexpensive to cater in, anyway, if you like that).
3) Skipping the Booze.
This was an easy choice for us, since neither the bride nor the groom are 21 at the time of our wedding. I have no clue how much we are saving skipping serving alcohol to our guests, but I am guessing it is a good amount. Since I have grown up on a dairy farm and have forever been an endorser of dairy, I am very excited to have milk and cookie toasts as an alternative.
4) DIY Save-the-Date and Invitations.
I can not believe how much companies try to charge for save-the-date cards and wedding invitations. It would be fun to afford an upper-end luxury invitation such as those at this site, where prices range from $14-$90 per invitation. Those are easily out of the question on our budget. I have searched for what feels like forever for inexpensive invitations. I have fallen in love with many less expensive but still spendy ones, like this one, for more than $3.00 per invitation for our number of invites (adding up to $130, even on the cheaper end of what I have found). I ended up finding many great free printables, though. My favorite collection of that is here, on weddingchicks.com. I am probably one of their biggest fans. As for stationary, I have been extremely lucky to find a $2 set of save-the-date stationary at goodwill, and a $7 set of invitation suite stationary at another thrift store. That I am sure was a blessing directly from God. Very inexpensive compared to the alternative there. Micheals and other craft stores have inexpensive invitation suite stationary for around $20 a box, like here and here.
5) Not Hiring a Planner.
How I have handled this mostly, (sounds really weird) ignoring a large piece of the advice around me. A lot of people throw in their opinion about what they thing you should do, and if you try to listen to all of them, before you know it, your big day is their ideas and you are overwhelmed. I have used a lot of great online resources to help plan our big day. Theknot.com has a lot of wonderful resources, such as their wedding checklist here and their wedding budget helper here. I have deleted many things from both of their lists (as they get somewhat frivolous for what we want) but they have helped me keep things straight really well. If you need inspiration or ideas for your big day, sign up for pinterest. It is really one of the largest helps out there. Just don’t get lost in the grand ideas.
Somewhat different but also related; Ignore outside opinions.
I touched on this briefly, but really, so many people feel they have great ideas for what to do. Where to buy the right this or that, what to serve your guests, where to hold it, what flowers to have, and it can all get so overwhelming so fast! As some advice really helps in wedding planning, so many of the tips people throw out there for weddings can just be so over-the-top or more expensive, mmaybe just not for you. Only we know how we want to spend our big day. Ignoring other people’s opinions can really allow you to simplify to what you and your soon-to-be-spouse want. Don’t be afraid to leave out items that “normally” are in a wedding day. If you don’t want to serve food, DON’T! If you don’t want rows of seats for the ceremony, don’t do it! (Haha we aren’t having rows of seats for our ceremony, and a lot of people are upset, for whatever reason.) Anyway…
6) Not Hiring a Florist.
It is really crazy to me how much a florist can charge for flowers. Mitchell and I are really at an advantage with decorating, since we will be outdoors and the family has a good amount of wild flowers and gardens already in the backyard (another perk of the outdoor wedding). We will be doing fake flowers (made of paper and such) for a lot of our centerpieces and boutonnieres. Here is a tutorial on how to make paper roses (I have saved tons of sheet music for this). Here are more paper flowers. Here is a tutorial on how to make a boutonniere. If we choose to use a touch of real flowers, and we will just be getting those at the super market (nobody will know the difference, honestly). I will be making all the bouquets, and we are using just Baby’s Breath. Since most people will not do that, but it is still a great idea to make your own bouquet, this is a great resource for how to make different bouquets.
7) Ditching the DJ.
In this wonderful age of technology, why not use what we have? Someone you know has to have a nice set of speakers. Create your own, customized playlist for the big day. Use an iPod, CDs, your laptop… I love Spotify. You can choose any songs you want, and your guests can make some requests.
8) Using Ebay and Thrift Stores.
I have felt questionable toward purchasing my wedding dress from Ebay and table linens and stem ware at thrift stores. The results so far though have been wonderful! My dresses (I could afford 2 since we were saving so much) came to $200, and you could never tell they weren’t designer. I have found old, beautiful faux pearl jewelery at antique shops for $1. I have found a great collection of lace and linens for a tenth of the cost it would have been to buy new. We are doing something creative and different with our tableware and buying all old (but nice), mismatched plates and stem ware for our dinner. So far, we have spent $18 on 50 stem ware glasses and 3 large boxes of mismatched antique plates. We will be picking the best of them for our guests after we finish collecting about 150 of each. So far we have spent far less than any rental or new purchase would cost. I have found great old picture frames for painting with chalkboard paint, beautiful vases for centerpieces, the list goes on and on. I am very excited for our thrift store finds to be put to use. We have even found modern and conservative bridesmaid’s dresses that match for under $30 each (on Ebay). Definitely beats buying designer or from any bridal shop in my book!
9) Making Our Own.
Decorations. Food. Alterations. Cake. Well, we aren’t doing all of these things ourselves, but there are so many family member and wonderful close friends that are really happy to help us where we are having trouble. We were lucky to have both a friend and a family member jump on the question of if they could gift us a cake within the first week of our engagement. Although that might not be the case most of the time, maybe it would be a good idea to humble yourselves and ask if someone close that you know loves baking cakes if they would make one for you guys on the cheap (I think it would be fair to offer compensation). It would save a lot from the bakery price of a cake. And what about cupcakes? And who would ever know if it was from a box (I find them better most of the time). As for centerpieces, there are so many ideas out there. Be different. Maybe have something other than a large bouquet of your favorite flower. This can really save you money in every area of your wedding. It depends on your skills and what skills are around you. A cousin of mine made her dress while her mom made all the bridesmaid’s dresses. It is still the most beautiful dress I have ever seen. Before I fell in love with the dress I got for $100, I was about to offer her $300 to make me a dress! Why not? It would still be saving money, and you could get anything you want! We were offered free pictures by a family member. Really, it depends on the gifts of those around you. Don’t be afraid to ask.
10) Don’t Invite Everyone You Know.
Maybe we are just a more popular couple than I thought, but our original guest list before we thought about how much the extra people would cost was about 250 people. We took that down to 127 (begrudgingly), but simply could not afford or fit that many people into our big day. We would have had to change to a larger venue, made twice the amount of food, had to offer a shuttle service, the list goes on. Many people advice cutting kids, but we love kids, and many of our little siblings, little cousins, and little nephews and nieces are our favorite people. We cut the lines at step aunts and uncles, great aunts and uncles, friends outside of those on our wedding party or those we were raised by (as in, the woman making our cake nearly adopted me legally as a child), and anything beyond first cousins in that area. This was our number one struggle, and has caused a lot of tears and frustrations in our families. I wanted a small wedding, but my dad wanted the whole church to be invited. Mitchell’s grandfather had been married several times and now has caused there to be 30-ish aunts and uncles (including past and present steps). Just know that, if you are having troubles in this area, you are not alone. This was a necessary step in our money-saving, and definitely the hardest.
All in all, make it YOUR day. Throw any of my advice out the window if you don’t like it. Share with me what you think or what you have done to keep costs down for your big day!