Getting married can be an expensive event, and not just for the bride and groom--for their parents and even their guests. Ceremonies are elaborate, receptions are lavish, and wedding registries are often at pricey, upscale stores.
You might know this already, but there is a way to have a beautiful, memorable wedding day without breaking the bank! If you can save money, time and stress in planning your wedding, you can put more energy into planning for your marriage, which is so much more important. A wedding is one day--your marriage is for life!
That said, I know most girls dream about having a beautiful, fairy-tale day. I hope these suggestions can help you do that while keeping to a modest budget!
Simplicity is a good thing.
If you're getting married in a pretty church, you shouldn't need many decorations. We just had candles and tulle bows on the ends of the pews, and a bouquet of flowers on the altar. We didn't have our reception at a fancy hotel or reception hall (see "Think outside the box"). You don't need to have ribeye steak and a big open bar. People are at your wedding to celebrate your marriage--if they want to go out later for a five-course-dinner, they can.
Do it yourself.
There are SO many things you could do yourself! I have a friend who made her own wedding dress. If you know someone with sewing skills, this would be an option even if you aren't a seamstress (for more on that, see "Enlist friends and family to help").
We didn't hire a wedding planner. I decided where things would happen, when, and who our vendors were. Unless you're planning on having your wedding at a venue that requires you to have a planner (which if you're trying to save money, I don't really suggest), you don't need one.
You could ask a friend with excellent amateur photography skills to take your pictures (pay them, of course) instead of hiring a professional whose fees will be higher.
Instead of a DJ, I made a CD with our favorite songs that we played over the PA system for the dance. A live band or DJ aren't necessary unless that's one of your priorities.
Enlist friends and family to help.
We had friends do the decorating for the ceremony and reception. A friend of my mom's came over to do all the girls' hair, partly because our wedding was on a Sunday and our usual stylist couldn't come. Two of my bridesmaids did my makeup. My mom practiced doing French tip manicures for weeks and did them beautifully on all the girls. (We saved a ton of money this way!)
We paid the lady who did flowers for us, but she wasn't a florist, just someone we knew with a knack for flower-arranging who does it a lot. She was able to find a lot of things that were blooming in season, so we didn't have to order out-of-season flowers.
Instead of hiring caterers, we ordered food from the deli at our local grocery store (broasted chicken, cheesy potatoes, and rolls), bought fruit and vegetables to be made into salads, and had four dear couples from our church take care of all the food pick-up, prep, and serving (they had volunteered to serve at my wedding when I was in high school!). Ask around--between both of your families, and the congregation of your church, you can definitely find people willing to help you out.
Look for bargains.
The place we had the reception had a much lower rate on Sundays, and after talking with the manager, we were able to have our "decorators" go in on Saturday to decorate without getting charged for the extra day.
Joshua and the groomsmen wore suits instead of renting tuxes--a better investment in the long run, because Joshua still wears his suit.
I wore my mom's wedding dress, and all it needed was $40 worth of alterations. I wore her veil, too, and bought a tiara off Amazon to wear with it instead of the original cap. Some second-hand stores will have really great wedding dresses that you can get cleaned and fixed up for a fraction of the price you would pay for buying a new one.
Instead of renting expensive dishes and glassware, since the reception site didn't have that available, we used high-quality, color-coordinating paper plates and napkins and plastic silverware and cups. Oriental Trading is a great source for these things. We even found plastic flatware that was colored silver so it really looked metal. You can get these things personalized (we still have napkins with our names and the date!) for a fraction of the cost of linens and dishes. Plus, there's a lot less clean-up!
Borrow things you won't use much again.
Like the wedding dress, for example. We also borrowed a lot of our decorations--mirrors, vases, lights, fake greenery, table cloths. A friend had two children who had gotten married a couple years previously, and she saved all their decorations.
Think outside the box (or reception hall, or cake).
We had our reception at our city's arts center. It's not a huge place, but we had room for our reception of about 75 people. I had been in plays there in high school so I knew the manager personally, which meant they were willing to negotiate with us. It ended up costing only about $75 to rent the place for the weekend. It was just a couple blocks from the church and half a mile from the grocery store where we got the food, so it worked out perfectly.
Instead of a regular cake, we ordered cupcakes! We were able to have three different varieties, and it was less messy (and required less serving ware) than regular cake. We also had a cake reception at the church, right after the ceremony, for all the guests, and then had a smaller group (family, close friends, and out-of-town guests) for the dinner later.
We asked an acquaintance who also happens to be a Christian contemporary singer to sing for our wedding. I didn't think he would be able to, but he said he was glad to, and then hardly charged us a thing! It was so much more meaningful than just hiring a string quartet or something. If you know someone with really great musical talent, see if they'd be willing to provide special music for the ceremony and/or reception.
Do things your way.
You don't have to have organ music, get married at a church (although that I do recommend, but parks are lovely), have a big, fancy reception at a hotel or country club, have 500 guests, put them up at the most expensive hotel in town, etc, etc.
You don't have to order all your bridesmaids' dresses from David's Bridal (although I did, and they were great). I have a friend getting hers from Modcloth. You could even have your bridesmaids wear dresses they already own, and just pick a common color.
My point is, it's YOUR wedding. As long as Christ is central, the sky is the limit! Be creative, let your wedding reflect you, and remember what's important.
Put more money toward lasting, important things.
The photos, for example. Your wedding pictures will last decades past the actual day, and that's something that can't be said for the flowers, cake or decorations.
Put aside money for a honeymoon, but remember that you don't have to go all-out for that if you don't want to, either. I know a lot of people go to Hawaii or on a cruise or to Italy or whatever, but we went to a bed and breakfast (a really nice one!) in the same town where we got married, which happens to be where my parents live. We stayed there for two nights, flew home, and spent another night in a nice hotel suite because Joshua's parents paid for it for us. Then we had a week together getting used to sharing an apartment before Joshua went back to work. And it was great! Someday I'd love to go on a big trip together, but it wasn't the distance that mattered--it was being together, having a great time (which we did), and getting to know each other as husband and wife.
Remember to plan for your marriage as you're planning for your wedding. I highly recommend seeing your pastor for pre-marital counseling. You can work through a lot of things on your own, but it's very helpful to have someone who's trained to be a counselor and spiritual leader help you look at things you might not have thought about. It was a very helpful process for us, and enjoyable, too.
Now it's your turn: What tips do you have for low-budget wedding planning? Talk with me! :)
Linking with The Alabaster Jar, Countrified Hicks, The Better Mom, The Modest Mom, Exceptionalistic, Growing Home, Fancy Little Things