The average American wedding costs over $25,000. Andrew and I did it for half that. I’ll share our money-saving secrets for a beautiful wedding.
We all want our wedding to be unique and magical. But we don’t want to start our lives together in debt. You can have a fantastic wedding on the cheap! Here are some tips and wedding ideas on a budget.
The Guest List and Bridal Party
Compiling the guest list may be the hardest and most important part of planning for the big day. Our first list consisted of 175 guests; after the cut, we were down to 103.
Yes, it’s still a lot, but keep in mind I’m Italian and that is roughly the size of a Sunday dinner. We cut the cost practically in half simply by narrowing down our list. On average, between 25-30% of people will respond “no”. We ended up having around 80 guests attend.
If you want to save some money, don’t have a bridal party or keep it small. My brother was the man of honor and Andrew’s sister was the best women. We still had a small procession for the ceremony. We didn’t have groomsmen or bridesmaids.
This decision saved on a rehearsal dinner, extra flowers, a limo, and bridal party gifts. We also saved our friends and family from the financial responsibility of being in a wedding. It was drama-free and great! 10/10 would recommend.
If you don’t want to spend a ton of money on a venue, look into restaurants with private dining rooms or places that allow you to rent the whole restaurant for a few hours.
There are plenty of places with great ambiance for all types of parties. We wanted to keep the party close to everyone and readily available for all the city dwellers without cars. It also cut the task of finding a hotel for guests and we didn’t have to pay for brunch the morning after.
We choose Events at Stone Park in Park Slope Brooklyn. It’s a cool space and they also have a small outdoor patio. It was a unique venue and they provided all the food and drinks.
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Food And Drinks
Sticking with the “keep it casual theme”, we did a Sunday afternoon cocktail party. This allowed us to skip the sit-down dinner and do a more relaxed food spread which cut the cost a lot. *Bonus* – I did not have to do a seating chart or table cards. So no worries about sitting nosy Aunt Betty next to introverted cousin Michael.
Our menu consisted of eight passed hors-d’oeuvres, a buffet table, and an open bar. Honestly, this is the only thing most guests will care about. So if you aren’t willing to splash out on anything else, do not skimp on the open bar.
We did dessert bites and a cupcake tower rather than a fussy wedding cake that usually tastes like cardboard and sugar anyway.
Our ceremony was non-religious and held at a venue, so we didn’t have to make an exorbitant “donation” to a church. Our Justice of the Peace was a friend of the family and he did it for free.
Anyone can legally marry you. All they have to do is to go online and become “ordained” by the Universal Life Church Monastery. You could get married by a friend, a family member, some guy you met at work. Certainly gives a more personal touch to your ceremony than getting married by some random holy guy you write a check to.
My Infamously Cheap Invites
That’s infamous in a good way, not like Kim Kardashian infamous. I pride myself on finding great deals and my invitations were seriously the deal of the century.
There are so many super cute invites that start as low as $2 each. However, after envelopes, envelope liners, RSVP’s, those envelopes, direction cards, etc it comes to about $5 a pop.
And that doesn’t include shipping, stamps, and calligraphy. Brides don’t get franking privileges. I wasn’t spending hundreds of dollars on something that people were just going to throw in the trash.
I did my research and found a Groupon for Vistaprint. I used one of their templates and created my own wording. When I was ready to place the order, I found a promo code (ALWAYS check for promo codes) and got another 40% off. Score! When all discounts were applied, the total for 80 invitations, RSVP cards and envelopes was $58.
We skipped directions cards. Two words- Google Maps. Envelope liners are pretty but they go in the trash immediately. The extra weight could cost you even more postage. We printed our envelopes at home with a nice font and a mail merge of the addresses. All we had to do was hit print and they were done in an hour.
Flowers and Decor
Before choosing your flowers, talk to your florist about what you’re looking for. They will be able to choose flowers that are in season so cost less. Since we were having a cocktail party, we only needed two large arrangements. The rest were small arrangements for the cocktail tables and significantly cheaper.
Reuse and repurpose whatever you can. We had two pieces for the ceremony and those were repurposed as buffet table pieces at the reception. My bouquet was displayed in a vase on the bar and the best women’s was put on the guest book/gift table. There you have it, saved on four flower arrangements! Be clever.
We bought unity candle holders for the ceremony for $35 which were reused at the reception. For the gift table, I bought a wicker suitcase from Housing Works Thrift Store for $15 and a “Cards” sign from Etsy for $10 which I hung in the suitcase. For the guest book, we bought blank puzzle pieces from Etsy for $1 each that people used to write us a note.
We asked our guests to write song requests on their RSVP cards which was a fun touch. Our original plan was to use a wedding dj app where you can make a playlist and organize it. We didn’t want any problems with the “special dances” though.
Instead, we listed on TaskRabbit for someone to man our playlist for the day and make sure the right tunes got played for our entrance music, first dance, and the father-daughter dance.
There were many bids for the job ranging from $70-200. Way cheaper than hiring a professional DJ company. In the end, we had a friend of the family, who is a DJ on the side, help us out that day. It cost way less than a typical DJ and it was great.
Day drinking + Music = Afternoon Dance Party
Professional wedding photographers are crazy expensive. We wanted great memories of our wedding day, but $4-$5k was not what we wanted to spend.
My mother-in-law knew someone who did photography on the side. His portfolio was great so we booked him. Ask around, someone always “has a guy”. We decided against the video – plenty of guests took videos for us.
Another great and free idea was signing up for WedPics. Your guests can take pictures and upload them to share with you and the other guests. The pictures came out excellent, and we got to look at them on our honeymoon which was fun. I made my albums through iPhoto.
Still keeping it casual, Andrew wore a suit (no tux) and I wore a simple white dress I ordered online through Macy’s. With sales and coupons, the dress cost me $52 (Crazy, I know).
I purchased a beaded appliqué for $25 to jazz it up and got some “Nina” style wedding shoes from Amazon for $35. I skipped a veil. We splurged on wedding bands but we will be wearing them for the rest of our lives so, why not.
I did my makeup that day because I wanted to look like me. A friend did my hair, and I wore a crystal head band for $16 on Amazon and it looked just like the ones that cost $100+. Do your research!
The ceremony and reception were at the same place so we and our guests didn’t need to travel much that day. We rented two regular white limos, one for each of our families and we all met at the venue. We only kept one for another few hours to go and take some photos.
Our honeymoon was a wedding gift from my in-laws. We traveled to Turkey, and it was unbelievable. Many people are using honeymoon registries now, and I think it’s a fantastic idea.
Most of us have lived on our own or with our intended before the wedding so instead of getting a bunch of kitchen ware you already have, people can contribute to your honeymoon. Pick travel gadgets or other things you may need for your trip for those guests who prefer giving physical gifts.