Fun fact! Did you know that M$M’s readership is almost 20% more female than male? Over the years, I’ve received questions from women that are planning weddings who want to save money. Unfortunately…I’ve never really had great answers for how to do it. My wife did the vast majority of our wedding planning (but I did get to help pick the food which was awesome). Our wedding turned out to be incredible…but I can’t really take any of the credit for it haha.
That’s why I’m stoked to have Angela from Tread Lightly, Retire Early on today! She planned an incredible wedding AND honeymoon for less than $3,500! If you’re getting married in the near future and are worried about the costs – she has some very simple ideas you can use to save a lot of money. Enjoy! ~M$M
I got married in 2009 at the ripe old age of 21, months after college graduation. I had recently moved across the country to where my husband was stationed in the Marines, and neither of us had much money (and I had $24,000 of student loan debt). But we were young and in love and ready to get married. We were – and are – both frugal by nature though, and our rings cost us a total of $500. While we wanted a wedding, our ultimate goal was to simply be married.
Soon after we got engaged, my parents let us know that they would contribute $5000 to our wedding – and anything leftover would be ours to keep. While that is just a fraction of what the typical wedding costs these days, it seemed like a significant chunk of money to us at the time, and we were determined to stick to the budget. That, and as we hardly had any money and no credit cards at the time, we didn’t have a choice but to work with that budget.
We were blessed to have family who was really involved in the planning and preparation for our wedding, and we gratefully accepted any help that was offered. While not everyone has the luck to have friends and family who are willing or skilled to help with all parts of a wedding, we did, and we took advantage of that fact.
Here are 11 wedding items that we were able to save money on:
1. The Invitations
My soon to be brother-in-law is an artist, and he offered to design our wedding invitations as his present to us. As a broke college student, he didn’t have money for an elaborate gift, but his design of the invitations were very much appreciated and better than any material item he could have picked out for us. We then took the design and created the invites ourselves, addressing the envelopes by hand in order to save a little bit more money.
We invited about 60 people, so the list wasn’t endless, but it still took a considerable amount of time.
2. The Venue
As my husband was in the Marines, we had a hard time knowing if the wedding date we picked would be one we would be able to stick to, so we didn’t have the option of selecting a venue that required a nonrefundable deposit. We planned a November wedding in the Pacific Northwest, so we couldn’t go the cheap route of a backyard or park wedding, but the high cost of living in the area meant that any venue would cost thousands of dollars. My parents offered up their home, and we jumped at the chance.
Not only would it mean that we could be flexible with the date, but the cost was unarguable: free. Since we were working on a very tight budget, every cost we didn’t have meant we would have more to put to other things (it’s a good thing we didn’t put a down payment on a venue, because we did end up having to move the wedding a month thanks to the military’s schedule).
We kept the decorations simple and classic. Lots of white lights, dyed fabric tablecloths and napkins, and a gorgeous arch decorated with flowers and lights. My mom found the arch on sale, did the adornment herself, and then was able to sell it to another bride after the wedding, recouping most of the cost.
While it wasn’t exceptionally fancy, the simple colors and light created a romantic glow and set the stage for the wedding.
4. Bridesmaid Dresses
While bridesmaids dresses aren’t a cost for the wedding party specifically, I still wanted to pay attention to the cost for others to be in our wedding. I didn’t pick out a specific dress but instead told my bridesmaids to wear “some kind of teal” dresses and whatever shoes of their choosing.
Since a few of us had been in another friend’s wedding six months prior, two of the four bridesmaids ended up reusing dresses from that wedding (including the bride herself), my Maid of Honor wore a dress she already owned, and my sister borrowed a dress of mine. They didn’t match exactly, but the colors blended well, and they looked fabulous.
Even better, not one new dress was purchased for the wedding, which made it the environmentally friendly choice as well.
That same friend who was married just before me had purchased some very nice fake bouquets for us bridesmaids, and they were so well made that I didn’t initially realize they were fake. After I got engaged, I asked my friend if we could borrow those same bouquets for my wedding. They were simple white roses, so they went with my wedding colors and style just as well as hers.
We did order a wedding bouquet for me to hold, but it was a standard (not “wedding” specific) arrangement from a local grocery store, so the price was very reasonable. The rest of the flower cost went for small potted plants for each of the tables, which doubled as wedding favors.
Again, we chose to keep the food and drink simple for the wedding. People were coming to see us be married and celebrate with us, and the food was just the backdrop, so we treated it as such. We ordered platters from the grocery store and stocked up on beer and wine from Costco. Perhaps no one cared because we were so young and hadn’t been to many weddings before ours, but we didn’t feel any need to show off using food or drink.
This was also before the time of Pinterest, so I just didn’t know all the cute things that you could do for a wedding, which was probably for the best. 😉
7. The Cake
My aunt made us a gorgeous multi-tier cake as our wedding gift, complete with white ribbon and flowers. We let her design and decorate as she saw fit, and she did a lovely job. It was absolutely delicious.
8. The Dress, Jewelry, and Shoes
I really lucked out marrying a man whose mother used to be a professional dye painter and knew how to sew beyond just the basics. Instead of going into dress shop after dress shop to look for my wedding gown, I spent time online looking up dress styles I liked and my mother in law sewed the dress herself. I got a truly one of a kind dress that fit me perfectly and I was comfortable wearing it all evening long.
The jewelry was similarly designed, made for me by my other aunt, simple pearl earrings, and necklace that I can still wear now. Like most things, I would rather have accessories that I can wear again and again instead of something that is so specific to be used for only one event. I wear the earrings to every wedding we attend now, which gives an extra sentimentality to listening to others’ vows.
Instead of buying new shoes just for the wedding, I chose a pair I already owned. Since the dress covered them anyway, I didn’t see much reason in buying a new pair. The bonus of wearing a pair I had owned for a while meant that I knew they would be comfortable to stand and dance in for hours.
It really is all about who you know. My cousin had recently graduated with a photography degree, and I asked her to photograph our wedding. While we don’t have reams of staged wedding photos, as my cousin was a guest at the wedding as well as a photographer, I’m more than happy with the photos we have.
Part of keeping our wedding within our budget was accepting what was available to us and not choosing to spend thousands of dollars more for that last 5% of perfection. Would we have a few more perfect photos if we had splurged on an official wedding photographer? Maybe. But would it have been worth the cost? Absolutely not. My cousin then went on to photograph other weddings thanks to the beginning of a portfolio from ours, so clearly she had the ability. We just also had her put down the camera from time to time so she could enjoy the wedding as well.
10. The “Other” Stuff
The rest of our costs were pretty basic ones: the marriage license, officiant, tuxedo rental, hotel room for our wedding night, etc. My mother called ahead to the hotel before we arrived though to let them know it was our wedding night, and we ended up getting an upgrade to one of their fanciest suites and were treated to a fancy bottle of champagne and chocolate covered fruit. I’ve since learned to always let people know when it is our anniversary because many places will upgrade us or give us something for free 🙂
11. The Honeymoon
Since we were living across the country at the time we got married, we decided to stay local and rent a cabin in the woods for our honeymoon just an hour and a half from where we were from. Since it was off-season (mid-November), we were able to get a great price and spent 5 wonderful days in a cozy little cabin overlooking a river out in the middle of nowhere. We did buy some groceries and go out to a few meals, but other than that, we just spent the time together, soaking in the newness of our marriage.
Here’s where we are 8.5 Years Later (And Counting)…
Eight years later, I wouldn’t change a thing when it came to our wedding and honeymoon. While I can appreciate the fancy wedding upgrades that our friends have splurged on since then, I’m glad we chose to keep the costs down for ours. All in all, our goal was to be married, and the wedding was just a celebration with our friends and family of that fact.
Because we kept it smaller and simple, there was no nervousness, no need for absolute perfection, and we were able to just enjoy the day. If there had been more money and more intense planning involved over a longer time period, I would have been more anxious to have everything just right. By keeping it simple, the true meaning of the marriage shined through. And…that check we received after the fact that we put toward our home down payment the following year didn’t hurt either. 🙂
Total cost for a wedding and honeymoon: $3,275
Check for future home down payment: $1,725