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Your wedding day is a day that will live on in your memory forever, and, of course, you want everything to turn out perfect. However, not only can the expense of a big dream wedding drive you crazy with stress prior to the big day, but starting off a marriage under a burden of debt from your wedding can put a damper on your budding romance too. After all, over half of all marriages end in divorce, and money is the main reason couples cite for splitting.
But it’s difficult in this era of Pinterest to reign in your dream wedding budget. And those in the wedding industry are laughing all the way to the bank with the social media pressure to make your special day spectacular. There are plenty of ways to make your wedding day unique, memorable and enjoyable without maxing out your credit cards, though.
Seriously, It’s an Outfit You’ll Wear Once?
A friend of mine explained her search for a wedding dress this way, “It was insane. In just about every specialty bridal shop I walked into, the gowns started at four figures and climbed higher from there. I just graduated with my degree, and I’m a teacher. I don’t have anywhere near that kind of money for a dress I’m going to wear exactly once.”
Her solution? Luckily, the springtime isn’t just the wedding season, it’s also prom season. So instead of going to a specialty bridal store for an overpriced gown, she found a simple, white prom gown that looked far better than any of the gowns marketed as “bridal gowns.” For just a hair over $150, she found a dress she adored by thinking outside the box.
There is no law that declares you must wear a gown labeled as a bridal gown. In fact, you may find attire you like far better by stepping outside the bridal shops and just heading to the nearest mall or department store.
No one is going to care what the tag on your gown reads, so instead of going for a gargantuan train to rival that of a British royal wedding, simply select a dress that makes you glow, and have your hair stylist use barrettes, a tiara or other simple hair piece to top off your bridal look.
Location, Location, Location
One of the most significant decisions you face when planning your wedding is where to host the actual ceremony and reception. This can also become one of the biggest expenses you may face. Celebrating in a cathedral can get pricey, as can many popular wedding venues.
Again, thinking outside the box is key if you’re on a budget. Sure, that castle-turned-restaurant is a glam place for your big day, but renting out space in a local fireman’s hall or Grange hall may give you just as much room for a fraction of the price.
Keep the seasons in mind, too. Spring and early summer are popular times for outdoor weddings and with good reason. Often, local parks contain pavilions that you can rent out for relatively cheaply. This gives your guests a place to keep dry should inclement weather blow up, but will still allow you to seat tons of guests for a very low price.
How Big of a Ceremony Do You Really Need?
Your choice of where to hold the ceremony itself may get based in part upon your personal religious preferences. If you fear your family may disown you if you fail to wed in the temple or cathedral of their choice, don’t feel afraid to approach them for assistance with expenses if necessary.
If you have no particularly strong religious preference or are atheist, the world is just about your oyster when it comes to cutting costs. Many officials will perform a simple ceremony for around $100 or so. Going to the courthouse is even cheaper, around $50 in many jurisdictions. No one says that your guests need to attend both your ceremony and the reception unless you want them there — and many guests are anxious to end the ceremony and get to the food and drink anyway.
If you live in an area that recognizes common law marriage, you may not even need a ceremony at all if you have legally resided together for the requisite amount of time. If that is true in your case, then you can skip the ceremony and just plan a celebration of your love minus the official “I Dos.”
Does It Take Much Money to Celebrate? No.
It doesn’t take much to make a memorable reception. Once you’ve selected your venue, you still have ways to cut costs. If you’re having a restaurant reception, you could end up limited to their menu. But if your reception is held outdoors or in a hall of some sort, you have a lot of freedom when it comes to saving money on food.
If you plan on having a hot meal, you really can’t go wrong with different pasta selections. Pasta is one of the least expensive meals out there, and you can cater to all diets — carnivorous, vegetarian or vegan — if you go the pasta route. You can even offer a gluten-free option.
If you plan to have more drinks and finger foods, pay a visit to your local grocery store bakery. You may find adorable, tasty creations for far less than what you would pay for a bridal cake decorator.
And speaking of the cake, many wedding pros tell us that, believe it or not, they use a boxed mix. So think twice about shelling out hundreds or thousands for one cake when your local grocer could bake you one just as tasty for far less. In fact, it’s well-known by many that as soon as you label what you’re looking for as related to a wedding, manufacturers automatically markup whatever you’re buying. Consider omitting to your cakemaker that the cake you’re ordering is a “wedding cake.”
Alcohol can make up a good part of your reception budget. So think wisely as to what types of alcohol you will serve, and whether you will have a full open bar or limit the consumption of alcohol to beer and wine. Some budget-wise brides have even instituted a system where guests are given tokens good for so many drinks, say two or three, then any additional drinks after that are purchased at the guest’s expense. This is a great way to keep costs down, and it also can potentially decrease liability in case a guest has just a bit too much to drink.
Keep Your Friends’ Budgets in Mind
While of course, you are crazy about including all of your friends in your wedding party, stay conscientious as to your friends’ budgets. This can help save potential embarrassment, and even resentment, down the road.
If your dream wedding can only take place in Hawaii, for example, clearly outline what expenses you will pay for and what you will require your guests to cover. If you know you have friends on a tight budget, you will save them a huge amount of stress by being clear and understanding from the get-go that while you would love for them to attend, you understand the plane ticket and hotel may be out of their budget.
Keep this in mind when selecting the members of your wedding party as well. You don’t want to select an $800 bridesmaid gown if one of your friends is struggling to keep afloat by working multiple jobs. Remember, you want them there because you love them and because they are your friends paying testimony to you and your partner.
They’re not there to stand next to you like your dress up dolls.
Tips to Keep Peripheral Costs Down
While we’ve covered the main costs that you can tame with a solid wedding planning budget, there are usually some peripheral enhancements that will truly make your day sparkle.
As far as transportation goes, do you truly need a limousine? If you’re a country girl and proud of it, why not a hayride from the wedding venue to the reception? Are you a motorcycle Mamacita? Why not ride your Harley? Admittedly, this works a lot easier if you’ve chosen a pantsuit or dress with a shorter hemline.
As far as decor, party favors and small guest gifts, choose options that aren’t too pricey. Simply head down to your local dollar store. You’ll find flowers aplenty, albeit fake ones — but fake flowers aren’t only cheaper, you can keep them for years as mementos of your special day. The same goes for party favors and decor for your reception venue.
Some ideas for inexpensive thank you gifts for your guests include photo frames you decorate yourself or small gift baskets you create yourself. Another idea is to check with an online print service focused on business gifts. Many gifts, such as matchbooks can get custom-printed quite inexpensively.
Your wedding day should be a celebration of love, not a one-way ticket to bankruptcy court. Hopefully, these ideas give you some insight into how to cut costs. And remember, should the stress of wedding planning get a bit too much, you can always elope.