Did you know the cost of an average American wedding today is 26-30k?! I mean, really think about that number – that is the cost of a brand spankin’ new car, a down payment for a house, or almost a whole college education… and to think people spend this for one day. I cringe at the thought. My wedding is in one week and since the day of the engagement I had one goal in mind: make this wedding as eco-friendly as possible, both for the sake of my wallet as well as the environment. Over the course of my penny-pinching planning (tongue twister for ya), it’s an understatement to say that I learned a thing or two about being a a bride on a budget. With that, keep reading to learn how I was able to plan my wedding for around 1/3 of the “average American.”
1) Watch what you say. First and foremost, do not, I repeat – DO NOT – say things like, “I am only getting married once, I HAVE to have it…” or “It’s my special day, I deserve to have everything I want,” or my personal favorite, “But I’ve been dreaming about this day all my life…” Blah, blah, blah! News flash – keep telling yourself things like that and you can kiss your cash goodbye by the time the wedding is all said and done. Which leads me to my next point…
2) The rule of three. Pick the three things that are most important to you and splurge on those items only. Is it the dress, food, venue, DJ, photographer? Whichever three you choose, make those your spendy spots and go easy on the rest. (One easy way to decide is to ask yourself, “What will make the day the most memorable?”)
3) Incorporate nature. Whether it’s your aisle runners, centerpieces, or venue décor, using nature in your décor is not only eco-friendly (and beautiful), but it’s free! A great deal of my wedding décor is made up of sticks and pine cones from my backyard. As I always say – go green, don’t spend green! While we’re on the topic of nature…
4) Keep it natural. Try using as many sustainable products and services as possible. A few examples: invites (like mine) can be made from 100% recycled paper and printed with soy-based ink; look for a caterer who offers seasonal and organic food (if your budget allows); buy farmers market flowers for bouquets (instead of the florist shop ones sprayed with pesticides), the list goes on.
5) Utilize local vendors when possible. Not only is it great to support small and local businesses, but they also tend to be much cheaper than those pesky retail wedding giants. I saved a lot of money by going with small/local places and freelance people such as my engagement photographer, florist, cake maker, seamstress and hair stylist. Etsy.com is also an excellent source for supporting the little guys, not to mention a wonderful resource for unique ideas!
6) Ask for discounts when applicable. One thing that I made sure to take full advantage of was my fiancé’s military standing; throughout my search for various vendors I always asked if they offered a military discount. In the end I saved hundreds since my reception venue, florist, and photographer all offered one. It never hurts to ask!
7) Do it DIY style. The more you ‘do it yourself’, the cheaper your total bill is going to be. Let me put this in simple terms – you should know your way around Michael’s Craft Store like the back of your hand and Pinterest should easily become your most viewed websites when planning a wedding. I applied around at least ten ideas to my wedding that I took directly from Pinterest — everything from my cake topper to my card box. While they aren’t 100% the same, here are a few of my favorite pins that inspired a few of my DIY wedding projects: cake topper, cake, trail mix bar, centerpieces. Bonus – your guests will more than likely be quite impressed with your hard work and creativity!
8) Buy used. One of the easiest ways to save money (plus reuse/recycle) is to buy used items! I managed to get all of the vases for my centerpieces solely from garage sales and thrift stores for $.10 - $1.00/ea. (Much cheaper than renting or buying new, plus now I can donate or sell them to someone else who could use them for their wedding!) Bridal consignment shops and recycled wedding websites are starting to pop up all over so do your research before you buy new.
9) Make sacrifices. This goes back to point #1 – if you get every little thing you want, your bank account will ultimately suffer. Although it may be hard, ask yourself if the item or service is really that important and thoroughly think it through before making impulse purchases (that you later realize you could have easily done without). Think of it this way — what are the things that have the potential to make or break the day? It’s probably not those $200 shoes that more than likely no one will even see (and you’ll wear only once) or the programs that will get thrown out right after the ceremony.
10) Condense the guest list. As tough as it may seem to weed out Great Aunt Sally or your old co-worker, this is the easiest way to keep your budget in check. A good way to decide who makes the cut is to simply consider the people who are most important in our life and who you want to share in the celebration of your special day. But if you just can’t get over the idea of not inviting every single one of your FB friends, compromise by just having them come to the dance portion of your reception.
So there you have it – my personal top tips for being a budget-savvy bride! Be on the look out for a recap of my wedding and an up-close look at my various DIY projects!