Your wedding is truly a once in a lifetime event and many brides-to-be want the wedding of their dreams – but many also have a budget to work within. There’s no doubt about it weddings can be expensive – with the average wedding in the United States coming in at around $25,000. Seems like a lot of cash for one day of festivities, especially when that same amount of money can be used for a down payment on a new house or another big-ticket item. However, there are plenty of ways to accommodate your dreams without breaking the bank or going into debt. All you need is a bit of time, flexibility and planning.
Before doing anything, you should sit down with your fiancé and discuss what you both feel a reasonable budget is, and if your family and friends can help out in any way. Once you have agreed upon a budget and who will be paying for it, you will then need to make a categorized list for each area of your wedding. The topics to include in your list should be: Food / Reception, Flowers, Ceremony, Music, Transportation, Attire (including accessories), Favors and Gifts, Invitations and Stationary, Photography and Videography. Out of those ten items, rank them in order of importance to you. Perhaps your photography is the most important aspect of your special day – so you will want place a larger portion of the budget to that aspect than the other items. However, keep in mind, the food and reception portion of a wedding, normally take up 45-50% of most bridal budgets.
Now that you know what item(s) you will spend the most money on and the least money on, you will have to plan and comparison-shop to make the best deals for the best possible prices. We have some suggestions for you to consider for each aspect of your wedding planning that will help trim your budget and keep costs in line.
Since the reception normally takes the largest chunk out of your budget, you’ll want to focus on trimming your reception expenses as much as possible. The biggest money saver, without having to compromise catering services, is to trim your guest list down to close family and friends. There is really no need to invite family whom you haven’t seen in years, or those friends who you have lost touch with.
Next, decide on when you would like to have your wedding take place. Winter weddings, weeknight events, Friday nights and Sundays normally are the cheapest to book. You’ll want to stay away from dates in April through September and holidays – those dates are more popular and also more expensive to book. Also consider a late breakfast, brunch, lunch, afternoon tea or cocktail party reception – they are shorter in length and the fare is lighter – which means lighter on your budget.
When deciding on a menu, you may want to consider family style plates, buffets, and seasonal recipes. Limit your alcohol choices to beer, wine and soda or create a custom cocktail just for your wedding. By limiting your food and beverage choices, you are also decreasing your budget.
If a catering hall is too expensive, try booking a room in a restaurant, a local hall, your church, or even a friend’s backyard. If you have a friend or relative who is a good cook, ask them to help cater the food. Your wedding is about celebrating your new union the location of the event isn’t as important as who you keep company with that day. Surround yourself with people you love and good times will be had by all.
Flowers, while beautiful accents to your day, last the least amount of time and often cost a small fortune. If you want to use fresh cut flowers research which flowers will be in season for your wedding and choose your arrangements accordingly. If you would like a larger bouquet, let the bridesmaids carry simple or even single flowers. Rather than having elaborate fresh centerpieces, opt for candles, glass bowls with stones, or even buy wholesale silk flowers and arrange your centerpieces ahead of time. With a little planning ahead of time, you can trim your floral budget in half or more.
If you’re having a non-religious ceremony, see if your reception venue can accommodate a ceremony as well. This will save you on transportation costs. Ask what decorations, if any will be there at the time of your ceremony. Depending on the season some churches may already have altar flowers. Many couples do without ceremony programs – or you can print you own from home. Eliminate the pew decorations to a minimum – place simple white bows only on the front aisles to reserve seating for your most important guests in the front. If you are using an officiant, shop around for prices. In some states, for a minimal fee, almost anyone can apply to become a wedding officiant. Check local laws, and ask a close friend or relative to marry you. For music, check with the location if you can use pre-recorded music rather than hiring someone to play live music.
Attire (Including Accessories)
Your wedding gown can cost thousands – but it doesn’t have to. Consider sample sales, chain bridal stores, vintage and consignment shops, borrowing your mother’s gown or even renting one. If you wedding is not formal, consider evening gowns and cocktail dresses. Also plan in your budget the price of alterations, which can run several hundred dollars depending on how much needs to be altered. For accessories, consider borrowing from a relative or friend – it can be your “something borrowed”. If your groom and groomsmen will be wearing tuxedos, shop rental shops that offer free tuxedo rentals when renting in bulk.
DJs are less expensive than bands and can usually accommodate a variety of musical tastes. Check with DJs which are new to the market – they may have less experience but are usually willing to negotiate pricing. If your reception location has a sound system, ask if you can hook up a stereo or MP3 music device to it. An MP3 player may be ideal – if you will know just how long your each section of your wedding will be - you can plan your playlists to play just the right music.
Sure it may be fun to have a limousine chauffer you around town, but the costs may not be justified depending on location and time. Shop around to get the best prices and ask if they have wedding packages. Don’t hire a limousine for the entire day – you’ll be spending your cash on a driver just waiting around most of the time. Another option is to just hire the limo to drop you off at the ceremony and drop you off at the reception. If you have a friend with a nice car – ask if they can drive you.
Photography and Videography
Photography can be expensive – but there are ways to trim this item to fit your budget. Consider hiring photography major from a local college, reduce the number of hours you hire your photographer for, put together your own wedding album, ask for digital proofs rather than printed proofs. Hire a videographer to record the ceremony to the beginning of the reception only, or consider asking a friend or relative with a camcorder to take your video.
Invitations and Stationary
Although invitations are the first thing your guests see, they are probably the last thing they remember. If you are having your invites professionally printed, skip the engraving and go for thermography. Or to save even more, print your own invites. There are many elegant do it yourself invitation kits on the market today.
Favors and Gifts
This area tends to be skipped out or skimmed over when having a budgeted wedding. However favors and gifts for your wedding party do not have to be extravagant or expensive, but they should be given as a token of thanks. Edible favors are usually inexpensive – and are enjoyed by all. If you’re crafty whip up a batch of chocolate or cookies place them in cello bags and tie with a matching ribbon. For bridal party gifts consider something useful, such a photo album or picture frame.
And finally, planning a wedding is stressful no matter how large or small the budget. Take your time, relax and breathe! You’re wedding will be perfect no matter what your budget is as long as you are surrounded by the ones you love and who love you.