The other day, I was discussing my wedding with a few of my closest friends, and told them that even though my husband and I had a destination wedding on a cruise ship, our wedding expenses totaled somewhere around twelve thousand dollars. One of my friends Jessica, who is originally from the South but, was displaced by Hurricane Katrina, told me that the majority of Southern weddings are less elaborate and much cheaper than here in the North East. When I asked her how much she would spend on her wedding if she was living in the South, she said “Five thousand max”. Even though I was a bit shocked about how anyone could plan a wedding on such a small amount, I was intrigued and asked how she would plan it.
Here is a list of how to have a wedding on a shoestring budget, thanks to my close friend, Jessica.
First off, realize that your wedding does not have to be cliché. All the elaborate weddings are very cookie cutter, very predictable, and unless your parents have an extremely large budget to pay for it all, the bride and groom can be footing a bill as big as a down payment for a house, all for just one day of partying.
A wedding is about celebrating with close friends and family, those who mean the most to you. Your reception, which will take up the majority of your budget, is about celebrating that you found each other, so whether you have a backyard reception or a lush ball, remember the true meaning of your wedding.
Reception location – if someone you know has a large house or a nice backyard, ask if they will contribute it for a day as your wedding gift. If you want to have it indoors, check small local association or fraternal organization locations. Chances are these locations are much cheaper than banquet halls.
Food – friends and family can help prepare the wedding banquet. A few months before, ask friends and family to prepare a specialty dish for the occasion. Having homemade food adds a personal touch. Alternatively, if there is a local favorite restaurant, you can order trays of food to be delivered to your reception location. This will cost just a fraction of the price versus having a banquet hall cater the event at their location.
Cake – Again, enlist the help of friends and family. There are many do it yourself wedding cake recipes on the internet, this would be a good task to give to your bridesmaids to do. Let them do a test run a month before so that they can get the hang of cake making and decorating.
Wedding Dress – if you know a seamstress – great! Go to a local fabric store select the fabric for your dress and have it made for you. Another option is to borrow your mom or grandmother’s dress. Or shop at local discount stores or sample sales. David’s bridal offers cheaper options and has locations nationwide.
Grooms and Groomsmen Attire – renting a tux may be an inexpensive option, and many tux rental stores may offer a discount if you rent a few. Or just skip the tux, and have your men wear a suit.
Flowers – if you are planning ahead, and your wedding is in the spring or early summer, plant your flowers in a garden and pick them for your wedding. Or check local shops for seasonal flowers (they will be cheaper) and arrange your bouquet the morning of your wedding. Local farm stands also may have a selection of flowers. Buy premade bouquets and place in vases around the reception location.
Music – unless you know a DJ or Band who will play for free, musicians are usually pricey. Make a few wedding CD’s and label them (opening music, dance music, dinner time music, cake cutting music) and enlist the help of a friend to play them at the appropriate times during your wedding. If you have an Ipod, make playlists for this.
Photo & Video – a friend or two with a good mega pixel camera can capture all the moments of your day. Also ask another member to grab the video camera. If you want a professional looking wedding portrait, it may be possible to swing by a local JC Penny or Sears store between the ceremony and reception. With coupons these stores send out, you can get a package of photos for usually under ten dollars.
Wedding Favors - forget the prepackaged favors and hand out homemade cookies or candy treats. If you want to give something a bit more memorable without breaking the budget, give small photo frames.
Finally, Jessica told me that a wedding that has been actively planned and prepared by many friends and family lends a genuine personal touch and a feeling of true family. Everyone comes together to help you have a beautiful day. The sense of family and togetherness you get from a homemade wedding is truly magical and heartwarming. And after all, isn’t that what marriage is all about?