The other day in the Saving Money in your Twenties Facebook group, Cassandra posted an awesome question about budgeting for a wedding. It was really strange timing because I had JUST been talking to my friend Melanie about writing a guest post for the blog all about saving money on your wedding. (Mel got married in May- it was THIS wedding that we went to in Rhode Island!)
(PS- want to be a member of the FB group too? Sign up for my email list and you'll get a link to join!)
Here we are at Mel's wedding! It was seriously a BLAST. I loved every moment of her wedding. I think I especially liked it because Melanie herself was SO relaxed and having a blast herself. I hope these budgeting tips can help you save money AND be just as relaxed of a bride as Mel was ;)
So here's Melanie to share the tips she used in her wedding!
So you just got engaged and now you're ready to start planning your wedding? Planning your wedding is like planning the best party of all time where you are the center of attention..but don't go crazy with it...just have fun.
I got married last May and planned my wedding from across the country, luckily I have fantastic parents and sister (my Maid of Honor) and wonderful in-laws who were very helpful with everything that my husband and I couldn't do.
Most girls dream of a their perfect fairytale wedding for years before the day comes, and I was absolutely one of them, I have been pinning wedding pins to my Pinterest Wedding board for the past 4 years (way before I was engaged) and I'm sure I'm not alone in this. Just remember, your wedding is one day, JUST one day in your whole life, make is special for yourself and your future husband, but keep in mind there is a whole marriage attached to that wedding day...and you will probably need money to live on after the wedding, unless you have one of those money trees that I've been hoping for forever. :)
My first recommendation is to talk with your future husband about your priorities for your wedding day and what kind of a wedding day you want to have. My husband and I have lived all over the country and have made friends in every place we lived, so it was important to us to get as many of these friends together for our wedding.
We both have small families but most of our family members live in the New England area, so we decided to have our wedding close-by to family and the majority of our east coast friends. Neither of us are very fancy so a big formal wedding was not our style. He wanted a clam-bake, I wanted a pretty white dress and to get married on the beach, and we both wanted to have a party to spend time with our friends and family.
Next priority is discussing a budget; now this can be tough..but it's important you discuss it early on. Weddings are one of the biggest businesses in this country, don't even bother Google -ing the average cost of a wedding because the number will blow your mind...in my opinion, I thought it was CRAZY to spend as much on my wedding as I did on my brand new car (~$20,000), and that was the average cost when I started wedding planning in 2014. My husband didn't even care if we had a wedding or not, so he knew he was not going to spend a lot of money on it..we agreed to each put in $1,500 and our parents each offered to give us $3,000. We ended up spending about $10,000 after all was said and done...this is still a LOT of money, but we had a wonderful day and it was just what we wanted.
Finding the Venue
After many weeks of searching online for venues and sending emails regarding pricing..this was the most painful part, I could not BELIEVE how much these places charge just to rent their space!.. I found a cute beach pavilion owned by the town of Narragansett (RI), they had 2 Saturday dates available in May 2015, so my husband chose the later date. Early May was still off season, so we got a discount which was awesome. There was an additional discount for city residents, but unfortunately we did not have any connections to any city residents to get this discount.
Keep in mind that wedding season is most often Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. Many places will offer off-season discounts if you book your wedding before or after these peak dates. One thing that I didn't think much about until I started to talking to these venues was having tables and chairs included in the price of the venue; I highly recommend finding a venue that includes tables and chairs, this will save a lot of money!
Ed. Note: This is an awful picture and probably not even helpful to explain BUT... that building in the middle was where Melanie got married. I'm standing at the water's edge while taking this picture, so that shows how close it was to the ocean!
Food and Drinks
Once I found a venue, next was finding food and drinks. Good food and drinks was a top priority for us, because let's be real, that's what your guests really care about. I spoke with many different caterers and finally found one that was reasonably priced and offered foods that we like to eat. Our parents and my sister and her boyfriend went to the caterer and sampled the food, they loved it, so we picked them!
The beverage service that this caterer offered was a little pricey in my opinion, so to save money we hired a bartender (~$250 for the night) and my husband's father was able to buy our alcohol at a discount from a friend who owns a liquor store...it's great when you know people who know people. :)
We decided to buy cases of our favorite white and red wines (Apothic Red and Apothic White...it's the best), a few different beer options, and liquor to make 2 "specialty" drinks. We also had iced tea, lemonade, and water for those who chose not to drink alcohol. You don't need to have a huge selection of alcohol, most people aren't very picky and will just be happy to have something to drink, so don't spend too much money on too many options.
Ed. Note: I LOVE this picture, it makes me laugh every time I look at it. Mel just casually drinking a glass of wine while waiting to leave for her wedding...
THE Dress (&hair and makeup)
So now we have a place to hold the wedding and food and drinks to keep our guests happy, much of our big planning was done! Let's talk about wedding dresses now. Remember, you will wear this dress for 1 day, not even a full day, so this should not be something you spend most of your budget on! I went to David's Bridal with a friend and tried on a few dresses, I knew exactly what I wanted and knew how much I wanted to spend. Beware of these bridal stores though, they will ALWAYS bring out dresses above your price range, just try your hardest not to be tempted.
I went in knowing I wanted to spend about $300 on a dress, my top 2 choices were 2 very beautiful dresses, one was $299 and the other (of course the one out of my price range) was $700, both dresses were very pretty, both looked great, but I ended up going with the one in my price range, and was very happy! I bought my shoes online, on sale, for $15! They were also exactly what I wanted and I still love them. I did have to do some alterations on the dress and that added about $50...if you have any friends or family that can sew, ask them to do the alterations to save some money, unfortunately my Mom was still across the country so I had to do the alterations where I was living. And I plan on selling the dress...once I am ready to stop wearing it around the house. :)
(ed. note: no really... she IS going to wear it around her house hahah)
My mother in law's hairdresser offered to do my hair and make-up for free, which was awesome!
My sister found the bridesmaids dresses on etsy, I sent the link to the other girls and they all liked it, so that's what I went with...very easy, and the dresses cost less than $50 including shipping. I asked that the girls to wear nude shoes and did not care a bit what they did with their hair or make-up so they were done and didn't have to spend much money themselves!
My husband chose to wear a light grey suit, something that he could wear again, and asked his groomsmen to choose a grey suit that they each liked and would wear again. All of the men, including family, had grey suits in different shades, it looked fine, but most importantly, they each had a suit that they liked and that they would wear again. My mom and mother-in-law both found pretty dresses that they liked and we're happy with; I just asked that they didn't wear white-obviously this was not an issue.
"Don't spend money on things that people don't care about"
Another recommendation..don't spend money on things that people don't care about, for example, flowers, center pieces, table clothes/napkins, and invitations. In 6 months after the wedding, most likely your guests will not remember what your table clothes looked, and in a year they will forget your flowers, these things really aren't that important, so don't splurge where it doesn't matter.
My Mom and I went to Sam's Club the day before the wedding and picked out some pretty flower bouquets, then my sister and mom made the bouquets for the bridesmaids and myself the morning of the wedding, it was easy and they looked pretty, and most importantly it was cheap! My Mom also made the men's boutonnieres, the men didn't care what they looked like (which you will find that most don't), so they were nice and simple.
For center pieces, we went with a beachy theme, some simple vases with sand and seashells, and I honestly cannot even remember what they looked like 8 months later! (See...don't spend money on things that don't matter because people won't remember.) My good friend, and one of my bridesmaids, was able to rent tablecloths through her work for $6/tablecloth, this was the best price I could find, they were simple and worked well.
We ended up buying the napkins online because it was cheaper than renting! My husband was very specific that he wanted cloth napkins (I honestly have no idea why, but this was very important to him), so we found some pretty purple (my color) napkins online and ordered them up, they were on sale which was great, and after the wedding we donated them to our church, once again, easy and inexpensive!
Save the dates & Invitations
Invitations...who knew that this was such a big expense for some people! Yes, you can buy some very beautiful, but very expensive invitations and save the dates...but why? Most of your guests are just going to throw them out after the wedding! I bought my save the dates and initiations from Vistaprint online, they were simple and cute, and cost less than $50 for everything. I waited until the site had a 40-50% off deal and then ordered them to save money, and it was worth it. I bought postcard save the dates since mailing post cards is about half the price of a regular stamp, and instead of having the guests mail RSVP cards, we did our RSVP's on our wedding website...easier to keep track of and saves money!
(ed. note: I love that tip about using postcards as a save the date because the stamps are half the price! Who woulda thought?!!)
DJ & Photographer
Phew..I think I'm almost done finally! We hired a DJ for music which was one of the more expensive expenses. I had originally asked one of my second cousins to DJ, knowing that he would charge about $400, unfortunately he was unable to do it, so we had to start looking. I wanted to just get a Spotify account with no ads and play our music on that with speakers, however my husband didn't like that idea. I ended up finding a DJ and spending about $900, and she honestly wasn't even that great.
My sister's long term boyfriend (probably soon fiancé) did our wedding pictures. He takes very nice pictures on his own so we asked him to do our pictures, and he offered...for FREE! We didn't do a full wedding shoot...which was fine..there was honestly no time to do that, nor did I want to spend forever in front of a camera. He took about 1000 pictures and also had video cameras set up all over the venue to capture the night. We still haven't seen the finished wedding video, but the pictures he took were wonderful..and we didn't have to spend a dime.
My biggest recommendation for planning your wedding is to find people who are able to help you out with things either for free or at a discount. My mom, sister and some friends folded all of our napkins one night, they also helped with the center pieces and decorations. My mom made the wedding cake and the flower arrangements. We had a free photographer and we bought our alcohol at a discount. There are people who spend less than $2000 on their wedding, but I really don't know how. I had a wonderful wedding day and a great weekend with my friends and family and we spent about $10,000. So good luck with your planning and remember, it's all about having fun!
Thank you SO much Melanie for sharing these tips! LOVE YOU!!! <3
(and for giggles... here's a lovely picture of Mel and I in college. I don't even know what's happening here but for some reason this is our Facebook "friendship" photo. Perfect.) (ps Marg this was your picture... thanks for letting me steal it ;) )