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Getting married is a big step and, unfortunately, it can be an expensive one. Even when you’re watching your expenses carefully, little things can add up. Even a small, simple wedding can end up costing far more than you can afford. However, just because you don’t have a lot of money, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a beautiful wedding. By paying attention to a few key items, you can shave thousands of dollars off the cost of your big day and do a wedding on the cheap. Let’s look at a few.
Pare Down Your Guest List
Everyone wants to share their big day with all their friends and family, but providing food and drink for your guests is going to be one of your largest expenses. Not only are you adding significant cost to your wedding by blowing up the guest list, you’re also making your wedding a less personal event. Don’t let obligation rule over your good sense by inviting people that really shouldn’t be on your list of guests.
To keep your list small, try limiting it to just immediate family. If you have room for more, then expand it to extended family. When you reach the end of your budget, it’s time to draw the line.
Have Your Wedding at Home
Renting a wedding venue can be an expensive proposition, especially if it’s a popular location. In addition, some wedding venues require that you use their catering services, photographers, and service help, which could up your bill considerably and not add up to a wedding on the cheap.
Instead of renting an expensive venue, consider having your wedding at home. Home weddings can be very special, especially if you’re having a small affair. If you have a nice backyard, it might just make the perfect setting for your special occasion. One of the great things about a home wedding is that you have the ability to save on big expenses such as food and drinks. If you don’t have a good setup for the ceremony, consider having the ceremony at a beautiful park nearby or other picturesque location and then have the reception at home.
If your home isn’t suitable for a wedding, consider asking a parent, friend, or relative who has a great home to host your wedding for you. Most people would be happy to play such an important role in your special day. Make it easy by making all the arrangements for food, drinks, decorations, and cleanup so your host doesn’t feel burdened by a lot of work or expense.
Of course, if you plan an outdoor wedding or reception, make sure you have a back-up plan in case of stormy weather. If you live in a warm climate, consider having your wedding at a time of year that’s a bit cooler.
Cater Your Wedding Yourself
While it may seem like a very big job to do your own catering, it’s a very doable task, even if you don’t have any experience cooking for a large crowd. Additionally, chances are strong that someone in your family has the skills to help.
The first step is to decide on a menu. Don’t feel like you have to host a full sit down, fancy meal for all your guests. If you want to provide a nice meal, consider setting up a buffet where guests can serve themselves. Choose items that are easy to prepare in advance and take friends and relatives up on their offers to help. If you can do your own catering, you’ll save lots of money!
If you feel you can’t pull off the catering on your own, have a local restaurant prepare some of the food for you. Maybe you could provide easy-to-prepare items such as salad and bread and have the restaurant prepare the main entrees. Alternatively, you could prepare appetizers for a cocktail hour and let the restaurant prepare the main meal. If you’re having a casual event, you might consider having a backyard barbeque.
Draw on the Talent of Family and Friends
Chances are strong that you have some talented people among your family and friends that can help with some things. If you have someone who’s a talented photographer, having him or her take your photos will save you a lot of money. Wedding photographers charge quite a bit, not only for their services but also from selling the prints of the photographs. Another option is to hire a student from a local photography school or university. You’ll get a trained person, and he or she will get great experience and a chance to build a portfolio.
If someone among your family and friends has musical talent, perhaps that person could offer to provide entertainment for your reception, or sing or play for your ceremony. Someone in the family who’s great at organization could be a tremendous asset to you in planning and executing your event, acting as sort of your wedding planner. This will help you keep track of key details and deadlines. Someone who’s great at decorating can help you plan a beautiful event by applying talents to your wedding and reception.
One of the big expenses of a wedding is buying the wedding cake. If you have a talented baker in your midst, you can save lots of money by letting that person bake your cake. You don’t have to have a five-tier cake, either. Some of the more interesting wedding cakes these days are several single layer cakes on interesting cake stands or even perfect cupcakes.
Get Creative with Your Flowers
Flowers are part of what makes a wedding beautiful, but they can also put a big strain on your budget. However, if you have someone who can help you with arranging, you can make beautiful flower arrangements that’ll make your wedding day beautiful and special. Talk to your local florist about providing you with buckets of loose flowers, fillers, and greenery. You don’t have to choose expensive flowers, either. Sometimes, simple flowers such as daisies can make for beautiful arrangements that are both charming and affordable. Check your local dollar store for affordable vases and containers that you can use to build your arrangements.
If you know someone with a garden, you can make beautiful arrangements and bouquets from homegrown flowers. Another thing to consider is using silk flowers for bouquets. Your guests will never notice, and you’ll have a keepsake that’ll last forever. In addition, you can make your bouquets well in advance of your wedding.
Don’t Spend a Fortune on Invitations
Today, there are numerous options when it comes to invitations. Many brides are opting for a more casual approach to invitations that now opens up many ways to save money.
If you want to do your own, and you have a good printer, you can buy an invitation-making kit at an office supply store. This will allow you to make a classic invitation at very little cost. Many online sites allow you to choose a beautiful design, customize it with your details, and get matching thank you notes. Be sure to choose a good quality paper, as this can make all the difference in producing a nice invitation.
If you’re not comfortable using an online service for your invitations, talk to a few local printers to see who’ll give you the best deal. Go with someone who can offer you good design services and reasonable printing costs. With today’s digital capabilities, printers should be able to offer you a high-quality product without breaking your budget.
Make Your Own Bridesmaid and Groomsmen Gifts
While many brides and grooms feel obligated to buy fancy and expensive gifts for the bridesmaids and groomsmen, it’s not necessary, and being creative here could save you lots of money.
There are many ways you can honor your attendants and groomsmen without breaking the bank. Take photos at key moments along the way, such as at bridesmaids’ luncheons and tuxedo fittings, and then frame them up as gifts that are wonderful remembrances. Write a nice letter to each bridesmaid and groomsman about how honored you are to share your special day, and then put it in a frame as well. Sometimes, simple gifts mean more.
Stock Your Own Bar
One of the largest expenses of any large party is the open bar. It’s not only expensive but also very hard to estimate how much money you’ll have to spend to accommodate your guests. You can mitigate this expense by taking control of the bar and limiting ways that alcohol expense can get out of control. This will be a lot easier if you have your wedding at home or at a venue that doesn’t offer bar or catering services.
Consider offering a punch, sangria, or other prepared drink or limiting offerings to just beer and wine. That way, you can better estimate how much your guests will consume.
Supply Your Own Music
While a live band or DJ makes for a fun wedding, you can have just as much fun by planning your music on your own. Consider whether you have a musically inclined friend or relative who can manage it for you. All you need is a few speakers, an iPhone, and a well-thought-out playlist. If you have a friend or relative with a big personality, let that person act as your MC for your grand entrance, first dances, and for introducing the bridal party. Or, skip all the formalities and just do it on your own. There are no rules that say every wedding has to follow the same protocol. The important thing is to celebrate the day and have a great time.
When It Comes to Decorations, Less Is More
Don’t go overboard with decorations. This expense is unnecessary; instead, use candles, string lights, flowers, and plants to create that ambiance. These are all things you can buy that won’t cost you a fortune. If you need linens, consider renting them or, better yet, borrow from friends. The same goes for flatware, plates, and glasses. You can also rent tables and chairs if you need them, but ask around among your friends and family and see what you can acquire at no cost.
Sometimes, you can find some of the things you need via local online marketplaces such as Craigslist. If you do need to buy something, shop some of the bigger discount hobby stores such as Hobby Lobby or Michaels.
Don’t Break the Budget with the Dress or Tuxedos
Expensive wedding dresses can put a big dent in your budget, and the sad thing is that you’ll never wear it again (ideally). The good news is that secondhand dresses abound. While every girl dreams about her wedding dress from the time she’s a little girl, getting a good deal on a dress doesn’t mean you have to compromise on style and fit. If you can find a dress that’s close to what you want, a good tailor can make it fit perfectly and can even add details to it that you want to make it the perfect style. If you have to have new, buy your dress off the rack at a bridal store. This will save you lots of money rather than buying an expensive dress that you’ll have to order and have fitted. Off-the-rack dresses can be made to fit perfectly with just a little tailoring, and the same goes for bridesmaids’ dresses. Matching dresses are no longer the standard, so be flexible here and save everyone some money.
Instead of renting tuxedos, consider having the men wear suits with matching shirts and ties. This can create a modern look without a lot of expense.
Having a great wedding doesn’t always mean spending lots of money, which is super news if you’re on a tight budget. Get creative and you can create a great event that you’ll remember for the fun, the laughs, and the good times, and not for the price tag.