Thursday, April 17, 2008

Getting off on the right foot. (part 2)

So many people start out their marriages by getting into tens of thousands of dollars worth of debt. That just seems so crazy to me. Especially when you consider that 50% of marriages end in divorce and the number one reason sited is money problems. Maybe the first thing you do after getting engaged shouldn’t be to get some new credit cards and go hog wild planning a huge party. When you’re leafing through the latest issue of Bride magazine keep in mind that you should be planning a marriage, not a wedding.

The average cost of a wedding in my area is $29,090. That is a jaw-dropping figure! It hurts my frugal little brain to even think about spending that much on a wedding. I was talking to my husband about this post and I mentioned that I wish we still had our wedding budget. The next day he surprised me with it. I swear, he never throws anything away. Once in awhile that comes in handy, cause it was really cool to look back and see how we spent our money.

So here it is…

Wedding Budget

























Table Cloths








Picture Mat














Cake topper


Thank you cards




Here are some ideas to help keep your wedding costs under control.

Before you do anything sit down with your partner and figure out what is really important to you. For me, I wanted to have a real wedding dress and a professional photographer. But mostly I just wanted to marry my husband and if the important people in my life could be there then that would be great. We also didn’t skimp on our rings. I mean, we didn’t go crazy either but we got rings we love. I figured this was the one part of our wedding that we would always have. You know, besides our love.

Once you have your priorities straight stay away from wedding planning websites, magazines, and anyone who loves planning weddings. They will just give you ideas that will cost you money. It’s easier to stay focused on what’s really important if you don’t have these outside influences. If you start using words like ‘should’ or ‘have to’ then you are off track. Go back and look at your list of priorities again.

Figure out what you have to spend. Decide how much, if any, of your savings are you going to use. Also figure out how much of your discretionary income you can put to your wedding each month. Let’s say you have $1,000 in savings and you can spend $200 a month on your wedding. If your wedding is a year away then you have a total of $3,400 for your wedding budget. Not enough? Then maybe you should push the wedding back or make some cuts in your regular budget that you can put towards the wedding.

Make your budget. List all the things you can think of that you will need for your wedding and how much you have to spend on each. Keep the priorities you discussed earlier in the front of your mind while you do this. You might want to do some research to make sure your estimates are accurate. Wedding stuff can be way more expensive than you would expect. I know I said to stay away from wedding websites, but The Knot has a pretty nifty budgeting tool you can use for free.

My tips for staying on budget.

Keep the guest list small. You see this one on every list of frugal wedding planning. The more people you invite the more it costs. The bigger hall you need, the more decorations, the more food, ect. Luckily for us we have small families, so this was easy. We had a grand total of 26 guests.

Rent your dress. I didn’t rent my dress, but really, I might as well have. It has been hanging in my closet in a garment bag for the past 4 years. And that is probably right where it will be for the next 50. I could have saved myself hundreds of dollars, and some precious closet space, by just renting it. I would have looked just as pretty!

Have people chip in. I knew we already had plenty of household stuff, so if someone asked me what I wanted for a wedding gift I suggested something that we needed for the actual wedding. My mom’s gift was to have my hair and make-up done that morning. It was one of those things that I really wanted done but couldn’t justify spending the money on. But it doesn't have to be a gift of money. My friend's brother works at a restaurant and when she got married he was able to get her a great discount on food.

Print your own invitations. We got plain invitations from Target and printed them at home. There are several websites that have wording ideas that will help you figure out what to say. The same goes for the thank you cards.

Use silk flowers. Unless this was one of the things you listed in your priorities then you don’t step foot in a florist. I made my own bouquet with silk flowers. It wasn’t in the budget so I don’t remember how much it cost, but I would say it was less than $20. Even if you want real flowers you could save a lot of money by also using silk along with fresh. They don’t all have to be fresh. Maybe you could settle with just having your bouquet fresh and the decoration be silk. Or just fresh on the tables, where people might actually notice.

Use a free hall for the reception. Even a local park will work if the weather is going to be nice. This will save you huge money. You might save so much that you can beef up your guest list. Reception halls are expensive. Since we were buying a house at the time, we had planned to have our reception in our new back yard. Unfortunately the house was all but finished by the time we got married. I was so stressed at the idea of trying to book a reception hall last minute, but my in-laws came through with the rec. room in their retirement community. I’m not saying it was prestigious, but it was available and it was free. I wasn’t complaining.

Use outside catering. Ok, so I understand that using a room that is normally holding the nightly bingo game isn’t for everyone. If you decide to rent the local Moose lodge then ask if you can bring outside food. We had our reception catered by one of our favorite restaurants. It was cheaper, and tastier, than if we had gotten a hall and had to use their catering service.

Cheap shoes. If you have a traditional wedding dress then no one is going to see your shoes. Go barefoot! You’ll have less chance of falling down. I spent $10 on my shoes and $10 for my daughter’s shoes.

Skip the DJ. Again, unless this was one of your priorities then you most likely can make due with a friend or relative playing the music. We burned a few CDs of songs we wanted played and set it up ourselves.

Get your cake from the grocery store. I didn’t know grocery stores sold wedding cakes until I needed to buy one. There really isn’t any need to get one from a bakery that is going to charge you hundreds. I got ours from Wal-mart for $75. I got our cake topper there too.

Don’t serve alcohol. We had some champagne for toasts but that was it. Alcohol is expensive!

Lose the favors. No one goes to a wedding hoping to get a little baggy of silver Jordan Almonds. We didn’t have favors but I went to a wedding recently that gave out a CD of songs they played during the reception. I thought that was a cute idea and could be done for pennies per couple.

There is an endless supply of cost cutting ideas for weddings. I listed the ones I used. If you have other ideas please feel free to leave a comment.


Ben Dinsmore said...

Great Post! We were one of the suckers that bought into the over the top wedding fad. We took out a personal loan AND charged a bunch on the credit card. It took us over 3 years to pay it off!

my wife and I are witnessing 3 other couples now struggling with balancing their wedding costs. Maybe I can somehow send your link their way. Annonymously!

Lynn - the piggy bank painter said...

That's a great list. When we got married 25 years ago (I was 20 when I got married. do the math : ) expensive weddings weren't the fad yet and parents of the bride still paid for them. Thank goodness. We did have a big reception, because we both come from big families, but even that was catered by my Aunt's brother. He was the DJ too. I wore my moms dress, we made my veil and the bridesmaid dresses. We used silk flowers and made the bouquets ourselves. By we, I mean me and my mom. Limos weren't in yet, so someone decorated our car with kleenex carnations. We are looking at our 25th anniversary next don't need a big expensive wedding to have a good marriage : )

Hopefully when my daughters decide to get married, they will understand that the wedding is just a ceremony and is NOT the marriage.

Seb said...

I'm jealous of your wedding. We were one of the people that helped skew the average cost of a wedding as high as it is, but in the end I think it was worth it. We saved our butts of for a year so we could afford it, and when the time came, we paid for everything in cash.

Throwing the biggest party of your life and then just writing a large check at the end of the night is a huge relief. We still have friends that are paying off credit cards from the wedding years later.

Anonymous said...

I can't stand these Bridezillas that have to have new expensive designer everything. My wedding was a simple country affair, and we managed 300+ guests at about $10 000 pricetag. As we were just out of college, we had a lot of what I affectionately call cash-strapped but talented friends. They gifted us with talents ranging from hairdressing to photography instead of blenders and such, and that really was more appreciated anyway.Simply put, if we didn't have the money for it, we didn't get it. There was no debt, we used our savings and asked for donations toward the ceremony instead of engagement gifts. Also, we were planning a cross-country move after the wedding, so more gifts would have meant more packing.

slinkystar2002 said...

I'm planning my own wedding now, and I definately agree with setting priorities. Also, the best way to get anything for a wedding cheap, is to know someone that does it. I happen to know quite a few musicians of various sorts, two photographers, a couple of florists, etc.

I do have to say one thing about the flowers though. It's mostly just to be clear. If you get silk flowers through a florist, they may very well be MORE expensive than fresh. This is because they purchase very high quality silks from wholesalers.

That said, I have two suggestions for cheap flowers. One, if you know someone that has a very nice garden they'd likely be very flattered if you asked to use some of their flowers for bouquets, corsages, etc.

Two, many grocery stores have floral departments. They usually do weddings. They're usually cheaper than a flower shop. Sometimes the quality isn't as good, but sometimes it is. Shop around. (Since you got your cake at a grocery store, I'm surprised you didn't mention this as well.)

Mom @ Wide Open Wallet said...

@ Slinky: I forget that grocery stores sell flowers. Thats a really good idea. I had no idea they did weddings. I just got my silk flowers at Wal-mart for my bouquet.