Notes On a Reasonable Wedding


The blog The Simple Dollar recently did a series that included posts on having a reasonable courtship, a reasonable engagement, and of course, a reasonable Wedding. Naturally, by reasonable, the author means “not costing an arm and a leg.” Nowadays I’m hearing conflicting reports about wedding spending these days, with articles like Brides on a Budget: 75% of Weddings Being Scaled Back and Wedding spend climbs 5.2 percent both appearing in my inbox. Still, there are a lot of budget brides out there, and all budget wedding advice is not created equal. I thought it would be fun to take a look at some of The Simple Dollar’s advice.

Start your planning as far in advance of the wedding as possible. Set a tentative date as quickly as possible and start planning as soon as you can, even if you’re planning something very simple.

Doing so may let you lock in prices on wedding venues, hotels, and entertainment costs, but there are no guarantees. Making reservations early is simply the best way to ensure you can reserve the wedding venues and vendors you really like. That said, don’t let your zest for making those early reservations keep you from researching wedding services before putting down deposits, because hasty decision making can blow your wedding budget in no time.

The best place to trim fat for the wedding is the guest list.

While this is totally and undeniably true, that doesn’t make it an easy solution. The Beard and I actually started with a guest list of maybe 30 people, but we ended up with a wedding attended by about 100 people. Sure, you can have a smaller wedding, and many people do, but it seems to me that between the bride, the groom, and any parents who are hosting, it’s easy to come up with a list of 100 people you care enough about to want them at your nuptials. If this sounds like you, you may want to trim the fat in other areas of your wedding.

Do as much of the work yourself as you possibly can. You don’t need a wedding planner. Plan it yourself.

This is great advice for those brides and grooms who don’t fall into categories like “people who work two jobs” or “people who are entirely disorganized by nature.” Personally, I think it’s easy to save money when planning a wedding by doing most of the planning yourself, but it’s also true that you can actually save money by hiring a wedding planner if that wedding planner has the kind of connections that get you sweet deals on wedding cake, your reception venue, or catering costs.

Provide as many supplies as you can yourself – go bargain shopping. Minimize the supplies that others are providing and find them yourself.

Yes. Yes yes yes. And don’t think that the first price you find will be the best price since so many wedding retailers carry the exact same products at wildly different prices.

Look among close friends and family for photographers, organists, florists, and other key roles. At our wedding, my sister-in-law (a florist) handled the flowers (at cost) and my wife’s aunt played the piano (for free), plus a close friend volunteered to be photographer (for free) and another friend volunteered to be the DJ (for free).

I usually don’t advise people to do this, unless they know for sure that their friends and relatives would be delighted to pitch in. If your aunt who has taken all those cake decorating courses offers to make your wedding cake, wonderful. She may, however, want to enjoy your wedding as a guest rather than as a service provider, so if you’re planning to ask her to make your wedding cake, be sure she understands that she is free to say no. My advice? Wait for volunteers because oftentimes your loved ones will feel obligated to say yes once asked to help out.

Hold the ceremony in your home, your parents’ home, or outdoors.

It worked for me! Then again, I had access to a gorgeous piece of property right on the water in sunny Florida.

Use a good stereo system for the reception music. Don’t hire a band – and don’t hire a DJ, either.

I agree with this, but with reservations. If your dream wedding includes the majority of your guests cutting a rug, having a wedding DJ preside over the music can be the key to making that happen. Conversely, if you don’t mind seeing guests conversing instead of dancing, then DIY wedding music might just be the way to go. That’s not to say you can’t create a boogie-worthy playlist, but it’s not always as easy as it, er, sounds.

All in all, The Simple Dollar’s budget wedding strategies are pretty much the same old tips and tricks. Personally, I’m more interested in the individual money saving strategies that real brides and grooms use to plan weddings that are as fabulous as they are frugal. If that sounds like you, what are some of the ways you plan to save (or saved) money on wedding costs?

Photo by rougerouge

6 Responses to “Notes On a Reasonable Wedding”

  1. MissPinkKate says:

    We’re saving money by not having stuff we don’t need. Like flowers- the church will be decorated already with Easter lillies, and I’m having bouquets, bouts and corsages made on Etsy.

  2. Johanna says:

    We’ve cut down the guest list to immediate family and god parents only. That way we’ll be able to hold the ceremony in our own home and my dear cousin will be the chef. We’ll throw a party for our friends later (but let them buy/bring their own booze). In every way we will concentrate on the essentials and splurge on what we think is important, like photographs and food. No extra flowers or decorations, no professional hair and make-up as I wooed the groom au naturel in the first place. I’m DIYing everything from my dress to anything else I can and think we’ll enjoy having. The rest we’ll get from Etsy, like my ring, which cost 40 bucks. Our wedding is a budget wedding without having to try!

  3. libbyblue says:

    i’m growing my own flowers (i love gardening), making the invitations (embossing guns are like magic!), and having family and friends prepare most of the food. most guests aren’t local, but those who are are delighted to help with desserts, the wedding is small enough that eight people can easily cook enough for everybody, and we’re just grabbing a couple of premade dishes to cover those people whose dietary restrictions aren’t already accommodated by the menu. our ceremony location is a friend’s lovely private garden by the lake. dress was under $100. my sister and i are folding most of the decorations — she’s an origami fiend, and i am almost as good at making origami dinosaurs as she is. i’ve spent a lot more on lighting than i’d hoped, but i wanted to use some very specific lanterns that i’ve had for years, and trying to custom-wire them would have driven me mad. there must always be cash cost vs. emotional cost trade-offs.

  4. litgirl says:

    While our budget is trending upwards due to hidden priorities (Mathboy’s desire for a gold-not-silver ring, my insistence on silk instead of polyester for my dress), we’re still going to come in under $5K for our 40-guest (we hope!) wedding and, if we budget for our rings separately, we’ll be close to our original goal of $2,500.

    We’re DIYing the usual – invitations, my dress, decor, music – and skipping or calling on our community of friends and family for the rest. A good friend who owns our favorite coffee shop is making our wedding pie at cost, we’ve found a new-to-weddings photographer through a friend, another friend will officiate, our favorite cafe is putting together affordable eats, and the city-owned lakeside lodge was cheap enough to rent for two days.

    We’re also going to sub paper flowers for florist-provided ones and are incorporating food service into the centerpieces to make the non-floral decision thematic (to support our loose ‘lakeside picnic’ vibe) rather than budgetary.

  5. litgirl says:

    I should have mentioned that the new budget figure is still within our comfort zone and the “we hope” refers to the number of guests, not the final total.

  6. Twistie says:

    If you can find a pretty place that works for both ceremony and reception and fits into your budget, that’s a great way to go. If the place is already pretty, you can save a bundle on decorations, and if it looks awful, well, all the decorations in the world might not be enough to fix the situation. Plus less chance of people getting lost on the way to the reception.

    If you set the time of your ceremony carefully, you can save quite a bit on food. Don’t set it so that the ceremony comes too close to a regular mealtime, and serve a variety of drinks, appetizers and desserts.

    I second MissPinkKate’s advice to cut out anything you don’t actually need that isn’t important to you. Throwing bouquets, individual menu cards, corsages for third cousins…all of these things and dozens more are not actually required for a successful or attractive wedding, but they cost a bundle! Remember, if you’ve got a legally-acceptable partner, a marriage license, a recognized officiant (and in many places this can include your friend who got ordained online for free who doesn’t plan to charge for services rendered), and the minimum number of legal adult witnesses (two in most parts of the US), you’ve got a wedding. From there, anything is either a religious requirement, a social custom, or a personal choice. That means if you don’t want a special white gown, you don’t have to have one. If you don’t want rings, you don’t have to have them. If flowers make you sneeze, you’re fine without them.

    That said, you’re probably going to buy some of the pretty extras, particularly if you’re having a significant number of guests. Buy as few as possible that say ‘wedding’ anywhere on them or their packaging. Once the word wedding appears, vendors know they can charge more for items like clothes, floral arrangements, chair covers, tablecloths, and ballpoint pens with big, honking feathers sticking out of them.

    Don’t be afraid to go second hand. If someone you know has a leftover item in good repair from a wedding in their family they’d like to give or lend you, take a look at it and see if it will work for your wedding. If you find just the right thing at a consignment or thrift store or in a garage sale, go for it. You can save a lot of money, and if you choose carefully, it will be perfectly nice. If it embarrasses you, well, nobody has to know where you got that gorgeous gown or those adorable baskets you used for the centerpieces.

    If you hire any professionals, make sure you read and completely understand the contract before signing. Fine print can cost you an arm and a leg and possibly a vital organ or two. If, however, a professional doesn’t offer a contract in reasonable time, RUN FOR THE HILLS AND DON’T LOOK BACK. A proper contract serves to protect both sides in any dispute. If there is no contract, you have little to no recourse if the vendor fails to come through for you or delivers something completely inadequate.

    Know what you can and cannot do. If you think you might want to do a DIY project for your wedding, make it one that you already know how to do or do a test run to make sure you won’t waste a lot of time and money on a project you then have to outsource to a pro.

    Most of all, let go of perfect. Your wedding day won’t be perfect no matter what you do, and trying to make it perfect adds huge amounts of stress to an already momentous occasion. If you keep it in perspective, it’s a lot easier to make intelligent choices and not second-guess yourself. Believe it or not, that can save you money.