Today’s average wedding cost is roughly $25,000. Those dollar bills fly out of your wedding account with the speed of startled birds. My wedding budget was less than half the average cost. I had a mere $10,000 for my wedding. With lots of bargain hunting, haggling and a little compromise, I had a wedding for $8,820. Granted, I had a smaller amount of people than the norm, (86 people at my wedding, 120 is the average). It is feasible to have a wonderful wedding that won’t break the bank. But, understand this, if you don’t want to do some leg work and a fair amount of research, your chances are considerably slimmer. If you are willing to do some work for your dream wedding, read on.
The most common mistake is using the word, “wedding.” As soon as you place the word wedding in front of anything, the price will at least double. Try it. Go online and look at party favors verse wedding favors, or party invitations verse wedding invitations.
Another problem tends to be the fact that many women have the exact image in their mind how they want their wedding to be. Wedding vendors will build on that image, enhance it, add to it, and occasionally even exploit it. By allowing that, your budget can break. Example: Darla had a $15,000 budget Her reception hall offered to have a harp player perform as the wedding party came in, instead of the DJ playing. The price was $350, for minutes of playing. Darla knew her budget. Yet, by the time the vendor was done, the harp player was an absolute must have. Vendors want to sell you the dream, even if its not yours, because it is their business. That doesn’t mean they don’t care about you, but keep in mind, it doesn’t make them your friend.
The best place to start planning is the beginning. All my ideas, samples, colors, business cards and websites were stored neatly into a black and white notebook, at the price of $1.59 If you go to your local bookstore, they sell “wedding planners” starting at $25 and topping the scales at $49.99 And so the price frenzy begins.
While you’re at said bookstore look at how much wedding magazines cost. It seems so easy to grab a wedding cake magazine, dress, favor and venue magazine. Walk up to the counter and you can easily drop $100 on magazines alone. Alas, these magazines may only have a few pages in each that is of use to you. Take a stack of these magazines, go over to the cafe, (which more bookstores are putting right in the store), buy a cup of coffee and begin skimming; with your notebook, a pen, and your magazines, take notes. It may take you an hour, maybe two, but the cost will only be for your coffee, and maybe your favorite magazine.
Many websites and magazines will give you budget spreadsheets. You can easily do this at home on Excel, adding in all the random things that may not be listed on the generic version.
Debate and list three sections: “Must Haves,” “Would Be Nice,” “Cool, but Disposable.” Be diplomatic, and reasonable. If you or your spouse are in the military, I strongly recommend that you tell every single vendor. My husband, fiancee at the time, was in Iraq while I planned our wedding. I asked every vendor if they offered military discounts. Even if they didn’t, many would offer one on the spot. To those who refused, I would simply say, “Sorry, but we only work with vendors who support our troops.” Nine times out of ten, they would call back with a discount. Was I totally exploiting my fiancee, and milking the fact he was in Iraq? Oh yeah. He loved it, and it worked. It only worked because I wasn’t afraid to ask.
If a friend has used a certain vendor mention the recommendation, and how happy your friend was. Stroke the ego, and then ask for a discount. Be assertive, tentative, but not insulting. If the price of the limo is $600 without tip, ask for $550. It may only be $50, but if you keep at it, it will add up. If you aren’t confident enough to ask, bring someone who is.
If you have a friend, or even acquaintance who is getting married within a six month span of when you are, go together to book vendors. Ask for a double booking discount. You will be more likely to get one. A vendor doesn’t want to lose a customer, let alone two customers.
There are many fancy boutiques selling favors. Many of these favors that are in stores are sold on Ebay. If you plug “wholesale favors” into a search engine, you can by directly from the distributor. By cutting out the middle man, you will cut your cost in half. I changed my mind about favors 4 times. First, I wanted pear shaped salt and pepper shakers, then candles in a coffee cup, then flavored coffee samples. A wholesale online store allowed you to buy singles of each item to check them out. By doing this, I discovered that the salt and pepper shakers, while extremely cute, had holes too small for the salt to flow, and tarnished easily. The candle burnt lopsided. The coffee was flavorful and original. That was going to be my choice, until a local restaurant distribution store went out of business. I bought beautiful, heavy 6 ounce glasses, originally four dollars each, for 75 cents each. With the money I saved I was able to give everyone two glasses, add charms, and a fancier box.
My friend was married in August and worried about her flowers wilting, whereas I was getting married in February and was worried about the flowers dying. The solution, we used silk flowers. They usually cost less than real flowers, and you can keep the bouquet forever. I used fancy, sparkly beads, and stems that would have been out of my price range because technically, they were holiday items. Since it was February, Christmas items were on sale for 90% off.
Money can be spent or saved anywhere. “Save the Dates” were unknown to me. Some people create online versions. Rather then sending cards at 39 cents each, send postcards for 24 cents each. When you are mailing out large numbers, this will add up. Places like http:www.vistaprint.com give FREE items. I made business cards, and only paid for shipping. I then received an email coupon for free postcards, return address labels and postcard sized magnets. There are hundreds of designs, and you can make it directly online. The only charge was for shipping. Images can be uploaded for a small fee. We uploaded our favorite picture of ourselves, and included them with the favors. They also offer 30 photo prints for free. I placed a few orders and wound up with 90 photos free of charge. They went directly into my thank you cards, for all attendees.
Invitations are also available at this site. My invites were purchased on Ebay, created by an artist. For $90, I received RSVP cards, invites, directions and envelopes. Speciality shops charge $300 and up for invitations.
Going to well known bridal shops for bridesmaid’s dresses can be rather costly. You’ll be amazed what you can find in sale sections, in chain stores such as Macy’s, Sears, even Target. Granted, it takes some searching, but if one particular store doesn’t have all the dresses you need, have them check their sister stores. Even if you pay to have them shipped in, (though ususally its free), you are saving money in the long run.
Since we were married in a military church, tossing petals or anything else wasn’t allowed. You can purchase fancy birdseed for triple the normal amount, or you can go to the home improvement store, get some seeds. Simply buy tulle, which sells for as little as 49 cents per yard, ribbon from the dollar store, and call your bridesmaids. They are there to help you. Within an hour you can have your seeds to throw. Bubbles is another alternative to actually throwing items. Dollar Tree stores are now carry wedding bubbles, round tulle for seeds, ribbons and various goodies.
I didn’t want an organ player at the ceremony. We went with a bag piper. After calling a few local fire departments, a fireman played at our wedding, fully outfitted in a kilt for $125. We had him for an hour. He played while people came in, as we walked down the isle, when we left and for several minutes as people chatted.
When it comes to your reception, you can try unusual places like your local museum, park, art gallery or restaurant I used the same reception hall that my parents used 40 years ago. My Mom came with me, and told the owner how she saw him in diapers. He was in awe that we came back, (and gave us a special price). A number of my guests were vegetarian.
Because of this, we substituted a few meat options with pasta/vegetable options. We also opted for half hour cocktail hour. It sounds funny, but most people are hazy of time while waiting for dinner. People were able to enjoy cocktail time, fill their plates, while saving us half the amount. This showed a nice savings.
I happened to get lucky in the camera and video department. My dear friend is a professional photographer, while another is a professional video person. They offered their services instead of a wedding gift. It was the best gift ever. What you can do, is call your local news channel or community channel, and see who does video work on the side. Most people in that field do wedding side work and are familiar with working weddings.
Bridal party gifts can be challenging. It’s not written in stone that the women get jewelry and the men get a watch or silver flask. For the men, we purchased cuff links for them to wear at the wedding, from www.uncommongoods.com Best man, Ray, received baseball theme cuff links, Eddie received computer chip cuff links and Mike received New York retired token cuff links. Functional items that fit the personality of each of the groomsmen. For the women we made keepsake tussie mussies, (purchased on Ebay for a steal), and used the left over flowers and beading. Again, with Christmas items being on sale, I purchased snowflake necklaces for them. They felt spoiled, while I stayed well under my gift budget.
My husband and I made a rule. If we haven’t seen someone for several years, and had no contact with them, they were not invited to the wedding. We made sure people knew that it wasn’t anything personal, but budget wise.
Keep in mind, no matter how small your budget vendors should be respectful. I had a vendor snicker and make a snide comment about my budget. I took my $10,000 and went else where. Maybe it didn’t break his heart, but he lost the sale, and I tell every bride I know what a turd he is. A happy customer tells 1-3 people about their experience. An unhappy customer tells at least 10 people about their experience. (Unless its me, and I tell everyone!) If they aren’t willing to work with you, walk away. But you too need to be respectful and reasonable.
Lastly, this day will be an important day. But, it won’t be perfect. If you expect it to be, you’ll get upset with any little hiccup. And trust me, there will be at least a few. Enjoy!