(Photo by Amy Wardlaw, text overlay added)
Your wedding is the biggest ceremony — and party — you will ever throw in your life. It’s no surprise that many weddings run into the tens of thousands of dollars, much more than a couple just starting out can afford.
Yes, it’s possible to get financial assistance from family, or go into debt to fund your dream wedding, but it’s much easier to plan a wedding on a budget and start your new marriage off on the right foot: one that puts you on a solid financial footing and lets you plan for a life together without worrying about paying off wedding debts.
With that in mind, here’s how to plan a wedding without breaking the bank.
Figure out how much you can afford
This is the most important part of planning a wedding: sitting down and figuring out exactly what you can afford. You may need to start a special wedding savings account to fund the ceremony, and deposit part of your paycheck into the account every month. Or, you may need to figure out how to earn extra cash by taking on a part-time job or selling books and clothing on Craigslist.
Either way, you need to sit down with your soon-to-be spouse and figure out how much you can afford, how much your wedding is likely to cost, and whether you need to earn extra money to fill the gap.
Never use the word “wedding”
If you’re buying a cake from the local bakery, ask for a tiered cake instead of a “wedding” cake. If you’re hoping to rent space at a hotel or a nearby park, say it is for a gathering and not a wedding. In many cases, simply uttering the word “wedding” causes vendors to jack up their prices, even though you could get exactly the same services for a lower rate if you were booking them for a family reunion or high school tenth anniversary party.
DIY as much as possible
You could go to a fancy bridal boutique and spend two or three thousand dollars on a dress, or you could dash into the Juniors prom section and grab a sparkly, beaded ivory dress for under $200. Or, you could sew together a simple wedding dress using a pattern you find online.
Likewise, you could buy expensive bridesmaids’ dresses for your ‘maids, or you could ask them to front the cost of the dresses themselves, or you could go to a discount fashion store like H&M and grab six matching sundresses for $60, or you could tell your bridesmaids to wear something they already own that makes them look great.
Nearly every part of planning a wedding has a DIY option. You can design and print the invitations at home, build your own wedding bouquets and party favors, even bag your own Jordan almonds. The more you do yourself — or with the help of your family, bridesmaids, and groomsmen — the more money you save.
Look for coupons and deals
There are plenty of coupons for “wedding items” like invitations and wedding favors, but there are even more coupons and deals for items that you put together yourself. Head to your favorite online or brick-and-mortar craft store, and look for sale items like ribbons and beads. Print out coupons or use them during your online checkout for even more deals.
You can even use coupons for the other parts of the wedding, like grabbing a 3-for-1 pizza deal for your rehearsal dinner, or buying the thank you cards that you’re going to send the week after the wedding is over. (Seriously. The week after. We know you’ll get to it.)
Know what’s truly important to you
What part of the wedding is the most important to you? Getting married in the park where you and your special someone first met? Hiring the best DJ in town? Making sure the wedding dinner is unforgettably delicious? Spend the most money on the few parts of the ceremony and reception that are the most important to you and your future spouse, and lowball the rest. In the end, the only thing that will really matter is that you gather with your friends and family to share this important, life-changing experience together — and you can do that on any kind of budget.