In our casual, dress-down society, we have just a few occasions that call for getting gussied up and throwing a lavish party. And no blowout is bigger than your wedding day.
So when the opportunity presents itself, many of us want to go all out on the day we’ll never forget.
But just because we have big dreams doesn’t mean we have big wallets, too. You could spend $31,213 — the average price of a wedding in 2014, according to TheKnot.com — or you could use these 15 tips to pare down the bill and spend your money on something that lasts more than a day.
1. Decide what is non-negotiable
There’s nothing wrong with spending a little money on your big day, but make sure you’re spending it on something meaningful. Sit down with your betrothed and decide together your priorities for the occasion.
Remember you’re on a budget, so limit your must-haves to one or two items each.
2. Forget what the experts say
Once you know where you want to spend your money, eliminate many nonessentials. Worry less about what the wedding industry says you must do and more about what works best for your family.
Here are a few of the items it might make sense to eliminate:
- Save-the-date cards. (Isn’t that why we have Facebook and phones?)
- Professional makeup. (Do your own or ask a friend instead.)
- Printed programs. (Your family and friends do know who you are, right?)
- Champagne toast. (Let guests use whatever’s in front of them.)
- Guest favors. (Guests are there to see you, not get a reward.)
- Videographer. (Are you really going to watch the ceremony again and again?)
3. Use less expensive invites
Engraved wedding invitations are a tradition, but you’ll spend a lot of money on paper that might be destined for the recycling bin.
Depending on your comfort level, there are several less expensive options to consider:
- Buy some high-quality paper and then design and print your own at home.
- Use a website such as Vistaprint or Mixbook to design and print less expensive invites.
- Look for thermography invitations, whose raised words mimic the look of engraved ones but at a lower cost.
4. Invite only those you truly love
This is a tough one. Once you start inviting some people, you start to feel obligated to invite others. However, limiting your invite list is one of the best ways to lower your overall wedding cost.
Obviously, unless there are extenuating circumstances, you should probably invite your immediate family and best friends. Beyond that, be stingy with the invitations. If there is anyone you’re secretly hoping won’t attend, don’t send them an invite in the first place.
To soften the blow, you could invite everyone who didn’t make the cut to an informal gathering (think backyard barbecue) after the honeymoon. Just don’t call it a reception, or your guests might think you are merely angling for gifts.
5. Ask to be gifted with someone’s talent
You have to walk a fine line on this suggestion to avoid a tacky breach of etiquette.
Within your circle of family or friends, you likely have some talented people. Folks who can bake like no one’s business, wannabe DJs who could most definitely handle the dance music, and photographers with an amazing eye. Rather than a blender or china place setting, a better gift might be a little help with the wedding, no?
The problem is that asking for gifts is always a no-no. Instead, you could wait for these people to ask what you want and then suggest a gift of their talent. Another option might be to ask their professional fee and see if they volunteer a discount or gift of their service.
6. Design your own centerpieces
Head to the dollar store for some cheap vases or glass containers and make your own centerpieces. It could be as simple as putting some marbles at the bottom, filling with water and floating a tea light.
If you have crafty friends, ask for their input. Or head to Pinterest for inspiration.
7. Use the church flowers or get married someplace naturally beautiful
For decorations at the wedding site, use what’s on hand rather than trucking in a van full of flowers.
Depending on the time of year, many churches are already beautifully decorated, especially after Christmas and Easter.
Or, if you aren’t planning a church wedding, hold your event in a botanical garden, on the beach or at a park where nature can provide most of the decoration.