My wife and I attended a very beautiful wedding on Saturday for a long-time family friend. For those who may not know, we are newlyweds ourselves, having married last September. If you’ve ever been through the wedding planning process, you know that they can be terribly expensive affairs. But as with any major expense in life, many have come before you and can impart their lessons learned and best cost-cutting methods.
The goal of a frugal wedding is to make it look just as beautiful and wholesome as the most lavish of parties. If you’re currently planning a wedding celebration, or will be in the near future, here is my list of the 10 biggest ways you can leverage your limited funds without sacrificing wedding quality:
- Beware the multiplication factor. Almost every expense in your wedding budget comes at a per-person cost. This means that while a $2 change in price may seem insignificant at face value, with 200 guests attending that amount will quickly multiply to $400 in your budget. On the positive side, the reverse is also true – small cost reductions in specific categories will often go a long way to a large reduction in the overall cost.
- Dinner cost per person. Dinner costs can vary so widely that it’s almost pointless to give rough estimates. The one rule of thumb is that it pays to shop around. I’ve had much better dinner (and service) at $35 a head than some $100+ affairs I went to. If you’re diligent, you can find the diamond in the rough.
- Control the alcohol. Alcohol costs can quickly spiral out of control. If you insist on having an open bar, consider limiting it to a certain number of hours, or negotiate a fee per hour, rather than per consumption. Most respectable establishments will offer both options.
- Do your own graphics. If you or someone you know is graphically talented and has the right software for the job, you can save quite a bit of money on all your graphic needs (and there are many) while putting a very personal and coordinated touch on everything in the wedding.
- Negotiate fees with a passion. While the costs of dinner or the photographer’s fee may not be very negotiable, fees charged by reception halls or ceremony locations very often will be. You may get a discount just for having an off-season wedding. Negotiate down further – they are already making money off everything else you will be patronizing at their business, so don’t settle for additional fees.
- Optimize favors and gifts. I think it’s perfectly acceptable to gift your entire wedding party with something similar (in our case, it was little wood carvings). A store may give you a deep discount if you walk in and offer to buy up their entire stock.
- Identify priorities. While you may think that photographs of your wedding must be pristine, perhaps you don’t care at all about live video. Spend the money on a photographer, and get a relative to set up a handheld video camera for free. Evaluate your priorities in the same way for all other items.
- Inject love into the cheapest of things. There are plenty of things you can get a Target, Walmart, or even a dollar store that will look absolutely breathtaking when arranged the right way. Use your creativity and assemble various items together to create a polished, complete look.
- Cut out transportation. Instead of hiring a limo, ask to borrow a nice car from a family member. Have a friend or family member act as the driver. We did this at our own wedding for the trip between the church and reception hall, and it beat having a stranger in the front seat hands-down.
- Apply your regular shopping habits. Don’t throw out your common sense and frugal shopping habits just because a wedding is involved. That’s exactly what the industry wants you to do! Instead, apply everything you already know to your wedding – buy things in season, comparison shop, evaluate quality versus cost, avoid impulse or rushed purchases, and all the other skills you know and love.
A cheap wedding doesn’t have to look cheap. Creativity, a little legwork, and careful planning can save a ton of money, while creating the best wedding you could have dreamed of. If you have other ideas, please share them here. And later this year, look for the launch of a new blog about wedding planning (tentatively called Frugal Wedding).