A Reasonable Wedding

This is the third entry in a five part series this week on the stages of a relationship and how you can make financially sound choices throughout. Other entries include courtships;, engagements;, honeymoons, and marriages.

Weddings are a traditional sinkhole of a new couple’s money. In fact, I’ve actually written about it before, denoting eighteen tips for a frugal wedding. In fact, entire blogs are devoted to the topic of frugal weddings – one of the best is A Practical Wedding.

So what do I have to add on the topic? It’s easy to get bogged down in the specifics of wedding planning – and when you start racking up the costs on those little details, before you know it, the entire wedding is out of control and you’re starting married life in a financial (and emotional) hole.

Here are ten “big picture” tactics to apply when planning for a wedding that won’t break your bank – or break your future.

Start your planning as far in advance of the wedding as possible. Set a tentative date as quickly as possible and start planning as soon as you can, even if you’re planning something very simple. The longer you have before the wedding, the more time you have to find sales, discounts, and other opportunities that can shave significant cash off of the total bill. Remember, you can cancel reservations with enough advance notice if you find a better deal.

Be completely open with your partner on what your ideas for the wedding are. Some people want very simple weddings, with just a few friends and family. Others envision huge, elaborate ceremonies with hundreds in attendance. Some people insist on being married in a specific church. Others are happy being married anywhere. As soon as you can after the engagement, talk about both of your expectations about the wedding. You may find your partner wants something completely different. Knowing this early gives you time to find solutions that make both of you happy.

The best place to trim fat for the wedding is the guest list. A long guest list can create a huge bill for your wedding and reception. Instead of inviting everyone you’ve ever known, consider trimming the list down to something manageable. Focus on people genuinely important to you, not merely everyone you can think of. Every additional guest brings a cost – additional supplies, additional food, and so on.

Do as much of the work yourself as you possibly can. You don’t need a wedding planner. Plan it yourself. Poke around online for guides to wedding planning, then move through those guides and take care of them yourself. If you need help with some of the tasks, ask people you trust for advice before you turn to professionals who are usually more interested in selling stuff than actually helping you. You’ll always save money if you go to a place knowing what you want.

Provide as many supplies as you can yourself – go bargain shopping. Minimize the supplies that others are providing and find them yourself. Keep a master list of all of the things you actually need for the wedding, then go bargain shopping. Look at unexpected places like Oriental Trading Company or a thrift store – you’ll be surprised how many quality items you can find for stunningly low prices.

Look among close friends and family for photographers, organists, florists, and other key roles. At our wedding, my sister-in-law (a florist) handled the flowers (at cost) and my wife’s aunt played the piano (for free), plus a close friend volunteered to be photographer (for free) and another friend volunteered to be the DJ (for free). Look around your social network and see what you can find. One great source can be found at the house of worship where you’re getting married (if that’s your choice) – if you have personal ties there, ask the ladies’ auxiliary for help with things like catering.

Hold the ceremony in your home, your parents’ home, or outdoors. Concerned about the fees of renting a place for the ceremony? Think outside the box a bit. Get married outside or in someone’s home. I’ve attended multiple beautiful outdoor ceremonies over the last decade and none of them had any cost.

Make your own invitations. With the quality of home printing, it’s easy to make your own invitations. Get some classy stationery and print them yourself. You can find lots of templates online if you’re unsure about the design. My wife and I designed our own invitations and saved literally hundreds of dollars.

Use a family-owned restaurant for catering. If you are in a position where you have to hire someone for catering, look for a local family-owned restaurant, even if they don’t typically cater. In particular, look for a local restaurant that you have been a patron of so you can be sure of the quality. Family-owned restaurants are usually very civic-minded and are thrilled at the opportunity to be involved – usually at a good price.

Use a good stereo system for the reception music. Don’t hire a band – and don’t hire a DJ, either. Ask around your social circle to find people that have a good stereo system that can be used, then set the whole thing up yourself. Attach it to a computer with a large music playlist and let people DJ by committee – lots of fun and very little (if any) cost.

Got any good, reasonable, frugal advice for people planning their weddings? Please leave them in the comments.

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