Marriage is a beautiful thing. It kind of feels like beautiful things should be free, but it seems that society at large has somehow missed that memo.
Do you know where that leaves you? Paying a lot of money for something you’ve been wanting your whole life. That puts you in a bind: do you set yourself back for the wedding you’ve dreamt about or hold back tears as you resign yourself to a drab, joyless event?
Thankfully, for those planning weddings for summer, fall, winter, or beyond, there are lots of things you can do to throw a marriage party you’ll remember forever (in a good way) without crushing your bank account. Here are ten things you can do to have an incredible wedding while working off a budget.
Trim Your Guest List
Guest lists are like human bodies: if they’re too thin—or too large—they aren’t at their healthiest.
Too few people, and you’ll be missing the most important cheerleaders for the infant stages of your marriage. It’s great for those people to witness your wedding ceremony, since it’s the ultimate cementing of your commitment to one another.
But of course, you’re probably reading this article because you’re dealing with the opposite problem. Engaged couples often don’t realize how many people they have in mind to invite until they sit down to write out the list. And once that list is written, it’s really, really hard to cut names out.
I mean, you’d think they were being cut from the tether of life and cast into oblivion. That’s how hard it is.
Still, this may be the most important area in which to cut back costs. Like I said before, it’s important to have the people who will be your greatest advocates moving forward—and you’ll probably want the greatest advocates from your past—but so much of the typical wedding guest list is chosen out of obligation rather than true influence on the couple.
Will there be family dynamics and emotional reactions to navigate if you cut people out? Yes. Just remember that this wedding is entirely about those people and not at all about the two people in love and stepping into a life together.
Choose an All-Inclusive Honeymoon
Open-ended honeymoons are dangerous. If you can spend more money, you probably will (at least, I will). Or even if you don’t, spending choices can make for early tension in a marriage which, while inevitable, is best left for after the celebratory initiation weeks of your union.
Cruises, some resort trips, and many weekend getaways are all-inclusive, meaning you pay the full amount upfront and simply enjoy the trip without worrying about how much you’re paying for food, entertainment, etc. While you’ll still have the option to pay extra for gifts, excursions, and other such things, the vast majority of your trip will be experienced rather than worried about.
Rely on Talented Friends (Where Possible)
What this means: If you have very talented friends in wedding-specific areas like photography, music, planning/administration, or food, consider asking them to contribute their skills to the wedding for free or highly discounted rates.
What this does not mean: Ask your second cousin Victor to whip out his iPhone 4 and “catch what magic he can.” You’re on a budget, but this is still your wedding after all.
Get Married on a Non-Saturday
Fridays and Sundays are much cheaper than Saturdays and still relatively convenient for guests to attend.
If you’re able to make it work, weekdays are even more inexpensive. Many people won’t be able to make it, but you’re trimming your guest list, remember?
Consider Doing Brunch/Breakfast Foods
Breakfast for dinner is actually a lot more affordable than traditional dinner plates. It’s not what most people expect at a wedding, but that’s probably a good thing. Traditional wedding dinners can be good, but they almost never live up to the atmospheric prices they cost.
Use Fake Flowers
Flowers are everywhere on wedding days, from the bouquet to centerpieces to boutonnieres and corsages to those little petals that christen the aisle.
Artificial flowers are just as beautiful as the real thing, and usually less expensive. If having real flowers isn’t your one main sticking point in the wedding, think about going the more permanent route, or even making your own.
Look for Discounts on Your Marriage License
Florida, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Georgia, and Maryland offer discounts on marriage licenses if you complete certain marriage counseling/preparation courses. The discounts are anywhere from $32.50 to $70 off.
Most churches offer free marriage counseling. You can also search online for approved courses, or see this list for the state of Florida.
Have the Ceremony on a Large Property
Obviously, if you have the ceremony at home, there will be a big fat zero next to the cost of your venue. Same goes for the properties of close friends or relatives.
Clearly, this only applies if you have appropriate connections and a location that you are comfortable using for your ceremony. But you can shave off a ton of your cost in this way.
Remember, you can let your decorations, enhancing an already naturally beautiful location, carry the aesthetics of the night. No building necessary.
Curate Your Own Playlist
DJs can be expensive. If you know what you like, come up with your own playlist (write down a lot more than you think you’ll need), and have a trusted friend handle the transitions of the night. Emphasis on “trusted.”
You’ll just need speakers that can carry at least far enough to reach the dance floor, which should be possible to find if you spread some feelers out among your network.
Swap Discounted Rates for Vendor Advertising
This one comes from thesimpledollar.com. You may be able to work out a deal with caterers, DJs, photographers, etc. where you display their cards, logos, or signs in exchange for a discount on their service.
Don’t worry, a little advertising won’t turn anyone away from your beautiful night.
In all of this, the bottom line to remember is that your relationship matters infinitely more than the peripheral event. This is not to say the event doesn’t matter or shouldn’t be beautiful. If that were true, you wouldn’t need to have it in the first place.
Just take a step back and try to figure out what actually matters to you, what you’re willing to compromise on, and what is entirely optional. If you stay true to those categories as you plan, you’ll have the most incredible day with absolutely no regrets.
By: Ryan Drawdy
March 26, 2017