How to Afford a Wedding

If you are engaged, or thinking of becoming engaged, or long term lovers wanting a wedding, you probably are in the process of being horrified at the expenses that come with weddings.
But wait….it gets better….
You will think you have a budget nailed down and then you’ll remember all of those people you haven’t paid yet. Like your hairdresser and makeup artist, your limo driver, your photographer, or the tips for wait staff at the wedding.
It’s fun! (I’m more sarcastic in this one)
Also, your budget will change because you’ll fall in love with a $3,000 dollar dress, or $500 veil, or want new shoes that are $200. No doubt there are ways to keep the costs low, and there are ways to avoid the wedding money pit. However, just be prepared to spend a lot, and maybe cry a little because of it.
Here are some tips that I found helpful, and discovered along the way.
1) Be realistic on what you can afford.
This is a huge one, I know of so many people that plan one wedding and then get sticker shock when they get the bill and their checking account can’t keep up. Even if you CAN afford a more expensive venue/photographer/florist be mindful that unexpected things happen. Our list of unexpected events included but are not limited to: $2,000 on car repairs/maintenance, $700 on medical bills, $1000+ court fees (custody agreement for my stepdaughter), $1000+ to help family members, being laid off of a job and much more. So, my advice is don’t kill yourself to have gold china-plated, when no one will really care anyway.
2) Plan to save more than you need.
See above for more information, but also because of extra costs, those get bothersome. It’s always better to have some padding in the checking account for unexpected events.
3) Ask for money instead of things.
Maybe it doesn’t seem personal enough, but we have lived together over five years, so having more “stuff” didn’t make sense. This is not true for everyone, but I found getting money a much better way to plan out what we need and how to spend it on experiences, such as our honeymoon. Sure everyone wants nice stuff, but I want memories more. PLUS they don’t go out of style in 10 years. This also helps with extra wedding expenses as many people will send gifts before the wedding and parents may be able to help more ahead of time (thank you amazing in-laws, friends and aunty)
4) Pin down a guest list and REALISTIC head count.
I messed this one up good, because we kept inviting people thinking many people wouldn’t come. Then all of the sudden EVERYONE was coming and we hit our venue capacity in NO TIME. SO, if you are planning, set a number to invite and ONLY invite that amount. Then check your numbers, check with relatives, ask many questions about how many children are coming etc. etc. etc.
5) Be a DIY BRIDE or GROOM
This was the best part for me, personally. I made a huge amount of the things we used in some manner for the wedding. I made my dress, I put together the flowers for myself and the bridesmaids/attendant of honor + head pieces for the bridesmaids, I dyed white silk petals to orange, I stamped all the treat bags, I made signs, etc etc. I cut cost every way I could so that we could do more with food + fun. It ended up that everything looked REALLY nice too. I know not everyone is crafty, but with some patience, maybe some good friends, and some YouTube tutorials you could save THOUSANDS on your big day.
6) Be realistic on your limits.
Limits may be money, but also your patience, time, and mental fortitude for everything. So be honest about what you care about the most and what works the best for YOU to not be a crazy person. I didn’t do a seating chart, for instance, because everyone is an adult and could figure out where to sit/eat/get along with people. I also didn’t make centerpieces because the venue put out roses and I had some simple candle holders + Alphonse Mucha art work in frames. No one missed the centerpieces and then everyone could talk without a giant thing in the way and it made more room for the large group we had. I might also add, most people won’t notice or care or judge as long as the food is good, there is access to alcohol, and the music keeps the mood happy.
7) Vote with your money.
We knew our budget would be small, but we also knew that the money spent should go to something we care about. We both loved our venue, The Mercury Cafe in Denver, and we knew its importance to the community. They also only charged for food, linens, staff tips, and then our cash bar. This made everything more affordable and it literally made for the most beautiful wedding we could have imagined. Other places we considered were the zoo, local museums, a historic park etc. we just wanted the money to go to something that supports others and the Mercury Cafe has done that for over 30 years!
8) Cut what makes sense.
We started with a charcuterie and $1,000 on the bar + dinner. We ended with a cash bar and dinner, which there were leftovers of. The reason? We didn’t have an extra $2,000 for charcuterie and booze, or rather, we felt the money should be spent elsewhere. We’re glad we did, especially when we realized over half of the people coming didn’t drink (kids/medical reasons/sober) and that those that did would not mind spending $10-20 on some cocktails or beer. I wanted an open bar, but in the grand scheme of things it worked out just fine and no one complained.
On another level I ended up not scheduling the photographer for the “getting ready” shots and the hairdresser and makeup for everyone. First of all it would have been a logistical nightmare to get everyone in the same spot to get ready, second of all, as a photographer, getting ready shots are really hard unless your have a good setting. My apartment with five extra people staying with me, was not the place for the wedding morning. So we skipped it and had the photographer stay at the reception longer. Not to mention my dress required historic, and not attractive, undergarments that I frankly did not want pictures of.
9) Coupon, shop sales, dollar tree it.
My favorite thing for saving money was going after Halloween 2016 and getting kid’s activities for about $5. The second best part was couponing the crap out of JoAnn for everything from ring bearer pillows to garters and flowers. By using the 40% to 60% off coupons and shopping sales I probably only spent half as much otherwise. Also, the Dollar Tree filled in gaps for LED lights, ribbon, leaves for the flower girls, crayons for the kids table and much more.
10) Make sure its fun.
It sounds silly, because Bridezillas….AHHH (I’ll let you in on the secret that Ryan was way more stressed the week of).
But why have a wedding if its miserable? Yes I was stressed, and at times I wanted to give up, but most of all and overall I had fun making everything and sharing Ryan and I, and our weirdness, with everyone in a big, silly party. I will cherish all the love and family time for my whole life, and that made it all worth while.
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