Wedding Planning on a Budget

DenaFebruary 27, 2012 | budget wedding

To those of us who have planned or are planning a wedding, it sounds silly to even put the words “Wedding” and “Budget” together, doesn’t it? The average wedding in the United States costs about $26,000. This shocked me, but as I started planning my own wedding, I realized that planning a $25,000+ wedding is easy! Still, as I began planning our wedding last Spring, I was determined to cut that number in half—at least. I started planning with a $10,000 budget in mind which has been… wobbly… at times. But with some poking, prodding, and a little begging… we should come in right around our target. 😉

Here are my tips for wedding planning on a budget.

1. Research, research, research. Plan early, plan often! We got engaged last April and I can honestly say that not a day has passed that I haven’t been planning (whether in my head or in reality). The process has consumed me, but not in a crazy “Bridezilla” way (in fact I think I am the antithesis of a Bridezilla! I only tried on 4 dresses for crying out loud) but it has consumed me in the best way possible.

When I talk about my wedding planning process, I always tell people how much fun I have had. I started by browsing wedding blogs, my favourites are Green Wedding Shoes, Snippet and Ink, Style Me Pretty, and 100 Layer Cake. Then I created my Wedding Inspiration board on Pinterest. I pinned all of the things that inspired me until my vision came into focus.

Once I knew what I wanted, I started the real planning phase. All of the pre-work that I had done was a huge help. I was well-informed and I knew exactly what I wanted.

2. Get creative with your venue. There have only been two stressful parts of wedding planning for me. The first was narrowing down our guest list. The second was choosing a venue. This was so hard because I knew what I wanted: a somewhat laid back location, but classically beautiful, with a place for the ceremony on the water. If that sounds like a lot to ask, well apparently it is! I spent entire weekends driving around the state of New Jersey. Every place was either too “rustic” (see also: dirty); too expensive; too far; too small; too big; etc.

One day, after about a month of this state, I was on the phone with my mother and she said, “Dena, I think you are asking for too much.” That was the best thing she could have said. I realized that I was searching for the perfect venue, when really I should have been searching for the “perfect for us” venue. Within a week after that conversation, I made a few compromises and made my choice.

One of the things that I love about our venue is that it isn’t all-inclusive. We are simply renting the space and they are providing the bar. Other than that we have been free to choose everything ourselves which has been amazing. It’s really given me the opportunity to make it exactly what we want it to be, from the caterer, to the decor, and everything in between.

I will get my ceremony on the lake after all. And the bonus is that we’ll have the ceremony and the reception at a single location. This was really important to us since we’re having a quick ceremony.

3. Decide on your uncompromisables. It’s important to decide early on what things you will not compromise. There are all sorts of concessions to be made when planning a budget wedding. Figure out what matters the most and work from there. For us, I knew right away that our sticking points were a waterside ceremony; AMAZING food; an open bar; and a photo booth. I wasn’t going to budge on those pieces because, for me, those are the elements of a great party—and that’s what we want our wedding to be!

Once you know what your uncompromisables are—and how much they will cost—you can start to fill in the pieces.

4. Seek out the best prices and bargain with vendors. One of the things that has allowed me to plan my dream wedding on a $10K budget has been my ruthless negotiating skill. I’ve not paid full price for more than a handful of our wedding purchases. I bargain with whatever I’ve got on my side. For example, in exchange for services like decorating and photography, I traded advertising space on my website and social media accounts for reduced rates. In exchange for Etsy purchases, I traded high-quality product photographs for reduced prices. I’ve even seen photographers and caterers willing to trade for handy-work, carpentry, and things like that. If you or your partner is crafty—take advantage. Do not be afraid to offer a trade with whatever you have. The worst the vendor can say is no (and I’ve had a few of those) but it doesn’t hurt to ask!

Sometimes securing the best prices means holding out. For example, I thought I’d found a great price on a photo booth, but I decided to hold off.  A couple of weeks later, I got a Groupon for the same package at half the price! Give yourself enough time so that you have the luxury to hold out.

5. Etsy & local shops. I have used Etsy for so much. I am really obsessed with it. A few of the things that I’ve gotten on Etsy so far are: my bridesmaids gifts (custom clutches & custom rose petal earrings); various buntings; my wedding ring; the grooms & groomsmen ties; and a few other things that I am probably forgetting!

Also check out local shops & don’t buy at the first place you look. For example, I’ve been scouring antique shops for vintage glass bottles. In the first few places I looked bottles were starting at $10 a piece. But later I found a shop where I got 20 bottles for $15! I was ecstatic. I’ve gotten lots more stuff from there, as well, like a vintage Pepsi Cola case and vintage cigar cases. Once you find a place with bargains, check back in once in awhile to see what new treasures come in.

6. DIY Projects. “Do what you can with what you’ve got” is one of my favourite phrases and it’s as applicable to wedding planning as it is to life. If you have any skills or family/friends with skills—now is the time to take advantage of that. My father is a gifted artist so I am having him do all of the lettering on our place cards; invitations; and signs. We had a lot of scrap wood leftover from remodeling our deck last summer, so we are using those boards for our directional signs. I’ve been collecting every empty sauce & jam jar to use for our centerpieces.

There are lots of little ways to be resourceful and save cash. Think outside of the box.

7. Buy your flowers wholesale. If flowers are one of your non-negotiables then it may be wise to invest in a florist; but if you are flexible and have a more laid back vision (like me!) then buying flowers wholesale can be a super smart move. I ordered heaps of pink garden roses; light pink & white carnations; and bunches of baby’s breath for an absolute steal! It’s going to take some effort (the flowers will be shipped to my house a couple of days beforehand and I still have to figure out how I’m going to get them to the venue!) and I’ll have some work on the evening before the wedding putting bouquets and boutonnieres together; but doing it this way has saved me a lot(!) of money. And I am still going to have all of the beautiful flowers that I’ve been dreaming of.

8. Invest in a Day of Coordinator. Investing in a Day of Coordinator has been one of my best decisions. Although I had not originally budgeted for her, she has actually helped me to save money overall and there is no telling how much time/stress she has saved (and will save) me.

I really, truly love wedding planning. Don’t let me fool you though—as much as I LOVE it—it’s a lot of work, a real labor of love. I am officially exhausted just making this list! 😉

Comments (2)

  • Anonymous

    February 27, 2012 at 8:32 am

    Really excellent post with great ideas, good guide for future brides AND grooms. My first wedding was a big affair and my only job was to show up on time. I was asked to not participate in any of the planning and as a young 22 year old, that was fine with me.

    My 2nd wedding with my current and forever wife, the Lovely Miss TK, was a mutual affair. We chose between a big expensive wedding or a small one with a nice Honeymoon cruise. We picked the cruise and had a small manageable wedding. It was great with a few of our very best friends and family.

    Best of luck with yours and April is just around the corner. 🙂

  • Clare Bear

    February 27, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    Love it! Do you read A Practical Wedding? That is an amazing, meaty get to the heart of things wedding and marriage blog with multiple authors.

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