Weddings are expensive. I have been to some really elaborate ones that were beautiful and entertaining…but very expensive. I have friends who have taken out loans large enough to purchase a luxury car just to make sure their day was perfect, only to regret that decision during the subsequent 5-10 years of payoff.
When the Mister and I got engaged last year, we made three decisions: 1) we didn’t want a cookie-cutter wedding, 2) we didn’t want to go into any more debt, and 3) we wanted to pay for the entire thing ourselves.
We’re getting married at the end of November, and I’m happy to report that we will achieve all three goals! How did we do it?
WE MADE A PLAN:
We had about a year between the engagement and the wedding. We sat down and estimated all of the expenses (over-estimating for the expenses we were unsure about), and figured out the total amount we would need to pay for the wedding in cash. We then divided the total by the number of months we had to save, and figured out how much we would have to throw in savings each month. That number was added into our monthly budget. Since I’m the budget nerd, I made sure I was sharing the number as it crept towards our goal—we were so excited when we realized we’d actually hit it!
WE WERE CREATIVE:
While our combined income is decent, it’s by no means amazing. We are also still chipping away at our debt, and didn’t want to give up on that goal while saving for the wedding. That meant that we had to get creative with the wedding—there’s no way we could afford all of the typical expenses. Here are some of the biggest areas in which we were able to save:
Wedding dress: My mom is making it! She’s a great seamstress and it’s going to be beautiful. That being said, I understand not everyone is lucky enough to have a mama who is talented with a needle and thread! There are so many other options though—find a friend who sews, or a local designer—or go secondhand! There are a ton of places online to find dresses in perfect shape for a big discount.
Bridesmaid dresses: This isn’t actually something we would have paid for anyways, but I found a local designer who could custom-make dresses for each of the girls (based on a picture that I found) for less than the cost of a David’s Bridal dress. The dresses look great!
Suits instead of tuxes: Rather than having the guys rent tuxes they’ll never wear again, we just told them to wear charcoal grey suits. Most of the guys already own them, and those who don’t will be able to use them again in the future. We didn’t give them a specific suit they needed to buy—as long as it’s dark grey, they can purchase whatever fits within their own budget.
Photographer: I asked around and found a friend of a friend who does amazing wedding photography. Because I had been referred, she offered us the friends and family discount, which almost cut the cost in half. We double lucked-out on this one, because the photographer has a friend who is a…
Deejay: Nicest guy ever, deejays weddings as a side gig. He has all of the equipment and is charging us a fraction of the cost of other wedding deejays.
Location: We found a place where we know the food and drinks are great, and there is no site rental fee. We also chose not to go the typical beef/chicken/fish route for food—instead we selected a buffet option with food that people actually want to eat (chicken wings, anyone? We do live in Buffalo, so that was a must).
Save-the-Dates/Invitations: There are some really awesome websites for these. I used WeddingPaperDivas.com for the Save-the-Dates and Minted.com for the invitations. Both turned out perfectly and I was able to find coupon codes that knocked a big chunk of the cost off each.
Cake: Instead of a big, dry wedding cake (or a crazy expensive delicious one), we’re doing a small cake just for us, and tiered display of donuts for the guests. Jackpot.
Florist: I asked around about this too, and was directed to a local guy who doesn’t even have a storefront. Apparently he does floral arrangements for some of the local elite and gets all of his business from referrals. His work is gorgeous and very reasonably priced—I never would have found him without asking.
There are a number of other small ways in which we’ve saved money—coupons and sales for centerpiece stuff, creating the programs ourselves, foregoing favors and instead giving a donation to a local charity (with a small note to each guest).
I am SO glad we figured out the costs ahead of time—having a concrete goal in place made it easy for us to stay within the budget. We knew exactly how much we could spend, so that forced us to be creative where we could. The best part? Our wedding will be very “us” and we can enjoy it, knowing that when we wake up on our first morning as husband and wife, we won’t have another $30,000 in debt staring us in the face!