I’ve been engaged for nearly a year and my wedding is still six months away. It’s tough to believe it’s getting close — the year went fast, and I know the next six months will go even faster.
As it is for most people, if you’ve never looked at planning your own wedding, you probably have no idea what it’s going to cost. I think that was the most eye-opening thing for my fiance Will and me. When we thought of recent weddings we’d been to together, we couldn’t believe how much those couples were probably charged for catering, venues and wedding gowns.
For us, we wanted a beautiful wedding that we knew we could pay for ourselves, not planning on any money from either of our parents. When working with a tight budget, you have to first decide what’s important to you. Will and I both knew we wanted our wedding to be a big celebration — a huge party for all our friends and family to celebrate with us. We decided our biggest spending would be on the catering and music, while still staying within our comfort zone.
We came up with some things that we think will help us stick to our budget come May 17.
Network the people you know
I was born in Lancaster County and that’s where we’re having the wedding. It helps that my parents still live in the area and know people, because that has saved us a ton. My sisters had a friend who was an up and coming photographer and we loved her samples. She’ll do the whole thing — unlimited time and photos on a disc — for $500. That’s a big savings from the normal $2,000 to $3,000 spent on a photographer
Next, my Mom has a friend does floral arrangements. She can do the flowers for our entire wedding party (four bridesmaids, four groomsmen, myself and Will) from about $200 to $400 depending on the flowers I want. That’s just the cost of flowers, not the cost of arranging them — which she does just because she enjoys it.
I’m not a very visual person and got stressed at the thought of making centerpieces. So I recruited my sister who is a professional gardener and worked at Longwood Gardens for several years. She can get a good deal on flowers and do the arrangements herself for the tables.
Find the beautiful alternatives
The first wedding venue we looked at a was beautiful golf course– but required a minimum of $10,000 spent on food. That didn’t include rental fees for the ceremony or reception. It was just too much for us.
After my Mom recommended we check out a local catering company, we discovered that sometimes the places not advertised as wedding venues can give you the best value for your dollar and still be beautiful.
The catering company will charge us for the cost of food but there’s no rental fee to use their gorgeous, nearly new, banquet facility. It’s also right next door to a hotel, so we don’t have to rent a shuttle to take our out of town guests back and forth.
We decided on a local park for our ceremony, which will only require a small deposit to hold the gazebo we want to get married in front of, and then a small rental fee for chairs. I’ve grown up visiting this park, which has a beautiful waterway and stone wall that I’m very excited to use as a back drop for photos. It’s also only 10 minutes from the reception venue, which cuts down on driving for our guests.
Don’t be afraid to buy used
I was willing to cut back on the cost of a wedding dress if it meant we could spend more on a honeymoon. The dress ended up being a gift from my parents, but before we knew they would cut a check, I decided on a dress from a consignment shop for $250. It’s been worn before, but the shape was just what I wanted and one of the shop employees is a seamstress, so she can make the appropriate adjustments to make it fit my body. Many dresses on Craigslist were also very beautiful and at reasonable prices for what you could find at a boutique.
We also got some great items from friends who recently got married — including tea lights, table numbers and various words of advice.
It’s nice knowing that while this wedding planning business is a lot of work, it’s also a lot of fun and in the end, I’m just going to be excited to marry my best friend.