Congratulations! You are about to get married!! Weddings! Cake! Ceremonies! Cake! A lifetime of happiness! Cake!!
The Knot, a popular wedding website, said that according to their 2016 study the national average wedding cost was $35,329 (not including the honeymoon). That is a lot of money, but as many, many, many friends and family will tell you, that is a small price to pay for the memories, and the moments, and (hopefully) a once in a lifetime event. But is it?
The problem with paying incredible amounts of money for that special, special day, (and don’t let anyone tell you that it is not one of the most wonderful, amazing days you will ever experience), is that the cost doesn’t end when the party does. Very few people can pay that $35,000 out of pocket, and so the debt of the day will follow long after the chairs are folded, or stacked, or burned, depending on how crazy your reception gets. So here are some tips to help you spend a lifetime of happiness together, instead of starting your marriage in debtors prison.
First thing first, sit down and create a budget. What can you afford? Are mom and dad helping? Some parents may want to be a part of the planning process and give their ok on each purchase before footing the bill. Some may want to contribute a certain amount, or take care of a certain aspect of the wedding (the food, the DJ, etc.) Make sure to have these important (and potentially awkward) conversations to know what you’re working with.
Next, figure out what is most important to you and your new spouse to be. What is the non-negotiable on which your dream wedding hinges? Is it a fantastic buffet? A venue out of a fairy tale? A live band to keep the party rockin? Budget a little more for that and get thrifty with the rest. Keep it simple: don’t go overboard pinning ideas to your dream wedding board. While Pinterest (a virtual bulletin idea board) is a treasure trove inspiration it can easily overwhelm you in a bog of possibilities. Pick one theme; a rustic, greenery, victorian luau might be a little much.
Consider keeping the guest list small. More people = more mouths to feed and larger capacity venue. Both are high costs in wedding planning. You do not have to invite everyone. You do not have to invite all your co-workers or your boss. Make a list of people you can’t imagine having the big day without. And be ruthless here, we went through seven revisions of our guest list. We went from the initial 500+ guests to a final total of 96. Some of those removals hurt. Some of them came with giggles. But we stand by our choices, and not having wedding debt looming over us really takes the sting out of getting the stank eye at church from your brother’s cousin’s fiancee’s boss’s sister.
Know when to DIY…and when to call the pro’s: Doing it yourself can be super cost effective. But it can also be stressful and time consuming. Keep DIY decor simple. Dollar store vases and candles are simple, cost effective, and classic. Hand cutting and folding hundreds of tiny, sheet music, origami roses will have you (and the friends you drafted into helping) pulling your hair out and spending the same amount of cash on wigs as it would have cost to buy the things off of Etsy.
The time of day of the wedding can be a huge cost saver. An early afternoon wedding is intrinsically less formal than an evening event. Casual attire, food, and atmosphere provide ample budget slashing opportunities. Just provide light hors d’oeuvres and lemonade, or perhaps just cake and champagne. The time of year also greatly affects what the venue and rentals will cost. January and February come with massive discounts for venues, rentals, and even caterers.
Think outside the norm of typical wedding venues. Think parks, gardens, historical sites, your uncle Ulysses’s big back yard, or a friend of a friend’s restaurant patio. Steering clear of big wedding hotspot venues opens up cheaper and usually more unique options. For example, we decided that our wedding would be held in a mountain cabin, and when we began looking at options, we realized that the cabin that would be large enough for the wedding, would be large enough to house our families and bridal parties, thus saving us a lot of hotel costs. We ultimately fell backwards into a prohibition era mansion (another partial gift), but being open to new and unusual things led us to some really cool and unique ideas, that were at the same time frugal.
As for food, go casual. Use your favorite local restaurant, ask your aunts, or church ladies, if they would pitch in and make a dish. We got lucky here. We are blessed with some very generous friends and family who gifted us with, among other things, all the meat (cooked to delicious perfection) needed to feed our guests, as well as a truly top tier wedding cake (perhaps make very good friends with a professional baker six to twelve months before the wedding??). We only needed to buy the hors d’oeuvres, sides, and drinks. The cocktail hour hors d’oeuvres were fruit and veggie trays ordered from the grocery store (Costco or Sam’s Club are great options) and we ordered the sides from our favorite BBQ restaurant in the area.
There are many other areas we could touch on, but you are smart people, and you get the picture.
Ultimately this day is not about the wedding, it is about the marriage. Don’t worry about the day so much, worry about the life afterwards. If you are the type of people who want to start off with strong memories, and feel like you would regret not blowing out the wedding, go nuts. But don’t be surprised when you are looking at your amazing, picturesque wedding photos over a single bowl of unflavored ramen split between the two of you, while hoarding spice packets to use on your 50 pound bag of rice that sits in the corner, because if I taste rice one more time this week, Susan, so help me, I will literally pound my face through the hornets nest in the backyard. Of course the other end of the spectrum is to serve Taco Bell and wildflowers (vegan friendly!!) as your reception meal so that you can later look at dismal photos over filet mignon and beluga caviar. Find your balance. Find what you can live with. Find that place where your memories and your bank account are friends. Because, honestly, the best part of the wedding, is the wedding night. (This statement is not endorsed to be published by my wife, and she is, frankly, mortified).
The previous guest post was from Marcus & Laura. Congratulations!
May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields,
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.