When my husband and I first got engaged, my parents wanted to go all out and spend a small fortune on planning my wedding. After a few family feuds and a rescheduling of our wedding date, our middle class family realized that it wasn’t worth going into debt for a one-day event. Not counting my wedding dress and the reception hall, we were able to budget about $2000 to spend on putting together everything, from the food, to the D.J. and photographer, right down to the little details like the napkins and the favors. When all was said and done, we were able to have a very elegant wedding and reception that no one ever would have been able to guess cost only around $2000.
Everyone knows that weddings can be really expensive. However, when it really comes down to planning a wedding on a budget, you will find that there are many areas where you can cut costs without compromising style or elegance.
1.Avoid personalizing everything.
Those little paper napkins that people use with the appetizers or with the cake are for the purpose of wiping crumbs from your face. What does it matter if they have your name and wedding date on it? They can be purchased in almost any color under the rainbow at a local party store, or Costco, or even from a catalog or on the internet, for a very reasonable price. If you decide to personalize them, you will be spending possibly even hundreds of dollars more (depending on how many you order), for something that people will look at once and think, “Oh, that’s nice,” before it gets thrown away. Yes, you could save some for scrapbooks and things like that, but you will have plenty of other things that you will be able to stick in the scrapbook to remember to your special day. Save money and don’t personalize your napkins.
The same goes for all the other little extras, like matchbooks or favors. Personalized wedding favors, with your picture and/or name and wedding date on it are very nice, but no one really saves those things. I recently attended a wedding where the couple had personalized wrappers for chocolate bars with a color photo and their names. At the wedding, most of the people unwrapped the chocolate bar and ate it, leaving the wrapper crumpled on the table. If the purpose of the favors is to give a little token of appreciation, which also serves as a decoration on the tables, it does not seem to make sense to spend all that extra money on personalization- especially for something like chocolate that you know your guests are not going to save. If you want to give chocolate, find candies in your wedding colors and just give the candy. You can even order M&Ms in your colors from the M&Ms website.
2.Shop around for accessories like unity candles, flower girl baskets, ring bearer pillows, and toasting glasses.
When you go shopping for your dress at a bridal boutique, or when you go to order your invitations, the salespeople at these places will try to sell you all the little accessories. It is easy to fall into the trap of, “We need it anyway; might as well get it all in one place.” Even when they tell you that they are giving you a “discount” or a really good deal, you are most likely paying more than necessary.
Shop around for these items! If you need a unity candle, or a flower girl basket, or a special pillow for your ring bearer, then go ahead and get it, but make sure you are getting the cheapest price by checking a few different places. You can order a lot of these items online. The beauty of online shopping is that you can easily compare multiple websites to make sure you are getting the best deal. This also goes for things like the guestbook and then fancy guestbook pen.
A little secret that I would like to share- you can surprisingly get a lot of these things at the dollar store, and they don’t look cheap either. I bought my ring bearer pillow, which was heart shaped with lace and ribbons, at the dollar store, as well as my guestbook and my toasting glasses. The toasting glasses and guestbook were nice, but just white and very plain. However, that was easily fixed with some cheap supplies from the craft store. You can even have a friend with an artistic touch paint your names and the wedding date on toasting glasses with an acrylic paint. I have my toasting glasses displayed on a shelf in our living room, and I often get comments on how nice they look. No one would ever guess that they were purchased at the dollar store.
3.Don’t hire a calligrapher.
Instead of hiring a calligrapher to make your invitations and/or place cards look beautiful, consider just buying some nice felt pens and finding friends with nice writing to help you with the task. When the invitation to your wedding arrives in the mail, your friends and family are not going to spend time musing about how beautiful their address looks on the envelope; they will be ripping open the envelope and getting excited for you and your special day!
Another alternative to a calligrapher is using a computer program to print labels. Most word processing programs have a number of elegant fonts, which can be used to print address labels or stickers. The beauty of doing it this way is that you can save the file on your computer and use those same labels when it is time to send out thank you cards.
4.Consider alternatives to flowers for your table centerpieces.
If you ask the florist to itemize the cost of each portion of your flower order, you will find that the table centerpieces can often be the most expensive part of the order. This is because putting enough flowers together to make a full and beautiful centerpiece can get costly, and they will often times overcharge you for the vase or basket used to hold the flowers as well.
There are many alternatives that are just as nice as floral centerpieces. Candles always add a very nice touch, especially if the wedding is inside at night. Walmart sells these large round candles that are about 10 inches in diameter with four wicks, and you can get them in a large variety of colors. You could tie ribbon in a bow around the bottom of those candles, or buy little square mirrors to place the candles on. You can also use floating candles, which can be purchased inexpensively in bulk. Walmart, Target, and craft stores sell little glass bowls, which you can use to put those candles in, for only a couple of dollars each.
There are all kinds of things you can do with those little glass bowls; not just floating candles. You could buy loose cut flowers and arrange bouquets yourself. Be creative! There are all sorts of things you can do instead of floral centerpieces, which can save you a bundle of money.
If you still want to have a very floral atmosphere, instead of doing a centerpiece on every table, consider a few nice arrangements around the room, like on the cake table or by the buffet, or in holders on the wall. Four or five large arrangements can be much more cost effective than ten to twenty individual table centerpieces.
5.Buy less exposures on the disposable cameras for the tables.
Nowadays, it seems to be a common practice to have disposable cameras at each table, so that you can get a variety of pictures of the more casual aspects of your wedding to add to the ones your photographer takes. This is a great idea, but it may not be necessary to get 24 pictures from every table. If you have 15 tables, that’s 360 photos! Consider the fact that many of those pictures may end up being taken by little kids, or by your drunken cousin who thinks it’s really funny to take a picture of the men’s bathroom, and realize that you probably don’t need that many pictures. Instead of getting 24 exposure cameras, order them off the internet and get cameras with only 12-15 exposures, or just buy the 24 exposure cameras and don’t buy one for every table. Buy just six or seven of them and have one of your bridesmaids find responsible people to take pictures of the people around them. You will find that your pictures take less sorting through and you get more quality shots, plus they will cost less to develop.
6.Instead of going to a fancy local bakery, order your wedding cake from your local supermarket.
Not all supermarkets have a bakery department that does wedding cakes, but several due. Vons (also known as Safeway or Pavilions) makes beautiful wedding cakes, and they are just as willing to work with any of your special requests as a fancy independent baker. Albertsons also does beautiful cakes, and they are absolutely reasonably priced. For less than $300, you can order a multi-tiered cake with an absolutely gorgeous design.
7.Don’t spend a bundle on fancy jewelry and accessories for the bridal outfit.
Your dress is the feature attraction of your outfit; you do not need to add a bunch of accessories. What everyone is going to be looking at is the dress! Gloves are nice, but you will probably not wear them very long. Besides, you will probably want to get your nails done, and people are going to want to look at your ring. My advice is to ditch the gloves all together. If you decide you want a necklace, which is understandable, especially if you have a strapless or low cut dress, then just don’t go out and buy diamonds. Look in some of the cheap accessory stores in the mall. Sometimes the silver stuff with the fake little crystals ends up looking really nice!
Another option you have is borrowing. Talk to friends and family and see if any of them would be willing to contribute your traditional “something borrowed” by lending you a nice necklace. Shoes to match the outfit are always an important part of any special day, but you should be practical. Remember that you will probably never wear these shoes again, and then ask yourself if it is really worth spending $100 on. Also, remember that you are going to be standing up for hours and hours, and most likely dancing, so go for comfort over style. In most cases the dress covers the shoes a lot of the time anyway. I wore embellished white sandals in my wedding. It was a memorable part of my wedding, and at the end of the day I didn’t have blisters on my feet.
8.Talk to your spouse about skipping the tradition of giving presents to each other.
I had never even heard of this tradition until one of my bridesmaids asked me what I was giving my husband, but apparently it is a pretty popular tradition. It is usually just a small token gift that you give each other the day before or the day of your wedding. My husband and I decided that this was not necessary. We felt that the best gift that we could possibly give one another was our love and devotion, and that is what the wedding ceremony and the wedding vows are really all about. Besides, once you are on your honeymoon you will realize that you would rather have every penny possible to spend on pampering yourselves and making it the time of your lives.
9.Limit or eliminate the free alcohol
Yes, open bars are always greatly appreciated by your guests, but they will still love you and will still have a wonderful time at your wedding if you do not provide a bunch of free alcohol at your wedding. Years ago, wedding receptions were simple affairs where guests were served a piece of cake and a glass of punch. Nowadays we have somehow graduated to elaborate receptions with a full meal and lots of alcohol. You would be amazed how the cost of alcohol can add up.
Compare costs of several options for alcohol at your reception. Get prices for an open bar all night, and open bar for a few hours, or a cash bar (where your guests may purchase their own cocktails). Consider also pricing what it would cost to just put a bottle or two of wine at each table. Look at the costs and decide what honestly fits into your budget, or considering eliminating alcohol altogether. When you look at the other things that money could be spent on, you may decide that sober guests may be the very best option. Besides, that way you avoid the risk of any of your guest having too much to drink and forgetting what the wedding was like at all.
10.Don’t hire a wedding planner or coordinator!
If you really want to save money, don’t hire a wedding planner! There will be plenty of friends and family around to make sure things happen as they are supposed to on wedding day. You don’t need to pay someone hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars just to make sure the cake goes where it is supposed to and the D.J. sets up in the right corner of the dance floor. You can assign each member of your bridal party separate tasks for the big day to make sure that everything goes smoothly.
As far as planning the event before hand, you really don’t need a person to remind you about all the little things you have to do and shop for all the accessories. If you are willing to put in a little bit of time and work, then all you really need is a good wedding planning book and checklist. Several wedding planning checklists are available free online. Go to theknot.com and sign-up for a free account. They will help you set up a wedding website, and will also give you tons of free information and week-by-week checklists of things to do. Besides the cost, planning your wedding is one of the best parts of getting married. Taking your bridesmaids shopping with you to look for napkins or candles can be a great bonding experience. Setting aside time the week before your wedding to have your mom or sisters help you create the centerpieces can be a nice way to spend a few last days together before you promise your life and time to your husband. I suppose it could be equated to the cliché, “Getting there is half the fun.” Planning your wedding yourself can really be a great experience and a lot of fun. Don’t waste your money on allowing a wedding planner to do it all for you!