When Mack asked me to marry him, I said absolutely. No hesitation. He was my One. His proposal was perfect, and I couldn't wait to start our life together. That night, we celebrated our engagement surrounded by friends and family. It was the perfect day. Supreme bliss.
And then the wedding planning started. [Enter shrill music here]
Psych, I had A LOT of fun planning my wedding. I mean, like an insane amount of fun! Unlike most girls, I'd never dreamed of my wedding day. I didn't have a scrapbook. No ideas. I really didn't know where to start until my mom had me register at TheKnot.com. And while that was helpful, MY WORD. TheKnot is overwhelming.
As a simple girl with zero knowledge of anything wedding, I started researching and dreaming.
It didn't take long before I realized how expensive weddings are! From the food, to the location, to the music, to the dress... we're talking THOUSANDS of dollars. And that's thousands of dollars you may or may not have. Or maybe you do have the dinero, you don't want to spend it all on your wedding (smart girl!).
Good news. I was once a bride-to-be with a very TIGHT budget. Although I was blessed that my parents gifted me with a good chunk of change, I couldn't fathom spending all of it on a wedding. I'm a frugal person at heart, and I couldn't validate spending so much on an event that would last only a few hours. After all, the wedding isn't as important as the MARRIAGE, which will last a lifetime.
So I planned and executed a wedding all by myself. For less than $1,500.
That's right. Less than $1,500. And it could have been for even less had I been even MORE frugal.
Want insider tips to planning a wedding on a tight budget? Here are my tips on how to do it:
#1. Budget what's most important.
For me, I wanted a beautiful wedding dress and an amazing photographer. Those were my top two must-haves, and my fiancé and I decided we would be willing to pay for them. Keep in mind, we still didn't pay that much for either, but that's where most of our money went.
- Dress Tips: Shop at hole-in-the-wall boutiques and keep an open mind on dress styles. You might be surprised. And don't try on dresses that are out of your budget, because you'll inevitably fall in love with them but NEVER be able to afford them. That happened.
- Photographer Tip: Befriend amazing photographers early in life.
#2. Get married in the morning.
I know this might seem weird, but think about it. A hefty chunk of money goes toward feeding your guests, and steak and salmon dinners can get very expensive! If you get married early in the day, you can feed everyone brunch or breakfast foods, like pancakes, fruit, bacon and muffins! It's totally hip, and it will save you THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS.
Plus, morning sunlight is epic, you have all day to party and you'll have all afternoon and evening and late night to be a husband and wife.
Yeah, that's right.
#3. Ask friends to help.
I am blessed to know incredibly talented people who were willing to sacrifice their time and money for my wedding.
Friends are invaluable when planning a wedding on a budget! From the invitations, to the cake, to the brunch-like food, to the tables and chairs, to my flowers--my friends and family helped bring it all together. Most of them contributed food or their services as our wedding presents, which made it even more special. Friends even offered their homes as hotels for out-of-town guests to stay. Because of friends, it's safe to say I SAVED THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS.
Having your friends and family feel involved in your wedding = priceless.
#4. Find a unique location.
Location can arguably be the most expensive part of a wedding, so you have to be creative (and flexible).
It starts with asking around. Ask people you know if you can use their property or if they know someone who lives somewhere super cool. For me, we asked a close friend if we could use his farm. Rugged, yes, but it was exactly what I wanted. And they let us use it for FREE. (Huge blessing!) We had to work our tails off to prepare the location (like cleaning the barn and mowing the fields), plus do all the decorating, but it was worth it. I SAVED THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS, and for me, it was rustic and beautiful and unique.
#5. Keep the guest list small.
My fiancé and I went over the guest list a lot. I've heard that a lot of couples argue about the guest list more than anything else. The problem is, the bigger your guest list, the bigger your expenses.
Here's the trick: only invite friends and family who you see on a regular basis and/or who you love indefinitely and/or who you couldn't imagine not seeing on your wedding day. Yes, it's really hard when your mom wants you to invite Aunt Ida when you don't even remember the last time you spoke to Aunt Ida. Just remember, you can't please everyone. This is YOUR wedding. You're allowed to be a Bridezilla about guest list cuts.
#6. Keep your bridal party small.
Just as keeping the guest list small cuts costs, so does keeping your bridal party small.
I know, some girls have a zillion close friends, many of whom have been promised a spot in the bridal party. The problem is, you have to think about feeding them at rehearsal (or your fiance's family, if they're paying). Buying gifts for them. And if they're coming from out of town, you have to think about housing them. Then there's any expenses for the bachelorette/bachelor parties (Are you really going to make your maid-of-honor or best man pay for a group of 10+?). I'm coming at this from the belief that not everyone in your bridal party will have the money to buy a dress, travel and drop money on your bachelorette excursions. If you think you'll have to chip in for some people, cut your party size down.
- Bridal Party Tip: Let your bridesmaids choose their dresses, which helps keep costs low (because they probably don't want to spend a that much on a dress they'll only wear once). And they don't have to match! It's totally cute to have a mis-matched ensemble.
- Clothing Tip: Depending on the time of year that you're getting married, jackets aren't necessary for the guys; a nice vest works great sans a jacket.
#7. Make your own decorations.
This isn't everyone's forte, but if you're semi-talented (as I like to think I am) or have artistic friends, this could work. Join Pinterest and browse for days. Select some reasonably-doable ideas, then PRACTICE. You'll quickly figure out what falls into the Pinterest Fails category.
For me, I made tulle flowers and bought fabric to create table runners (because table cloths are dumb-expensive!). Decorating was by far my favorite thing about bringing my wedding together, and I was able to find a lot of inexpensive, cohesive items at places like Hobby Lobby and World Market. I also hit-up yard sales and even borrowed items (like a Chinese gong!) from friends and family. Do whatever it takes to make your wedding YOU, and have fun!
#8. Make small sacrifices for things that don't really matter to you.
You can't always have everything you want, whether you're on a tight budget or not. For me, I was willing to sacrifice music.
So many brides stress out over bands, musicians or DJs. Me? I used a computer, some portable speakers and a playlist of my favorite songs. All I needed was a volunteer to cue it up. I SAVED HUNDREDS, IF NOT THOUSANDS, OF DOLLARS. Your other option is to do what I mentioned above: Find talented friends who are willing to play for free (or at a gracious rate).
#9. Dump the wedding planner.
I planned my wedding all by myself. All. By. Myself. I kept highly-detailed notes and planned what I would do months and months in advance, and everything on my checklist was done two months before our wedding date. Where did my motivation come from? Well, I knew what I wanted and what I was willing to spend. Plus, I'm a very independent person. It worked for me. If it doesn't work for you, find a friend or family member who's willing to listen to you and help you create YOUR dream. Just be careful that THEIR ideas don't get in the mix unless you are 100% OK with it. This is YOUR WEDDING, not theirs.
#10. Spend the big money on your honeymoon!
I mean, here's the thing. Your wedding day is going to last A FEW HOURS at best. And you're going to be so blissfully happy and romantical that you aren't going to notice that the bubbles didn't make it to the tables. That the orange juice wasn't brought down from the house. That a giant spider spun his web of stickiness next to the guest tables. That the horses chewed some of the tulle flowers. That some guests ended up getting lost and showing up late. I found out about all of these things AFTER my wedding, and you know what? It didn’t matter. My husband and I still had a GREAT day, and that's what mattered the most. We spent more than half of our wedding budget on a cruise to the Bahamas. And I recommend that everybody drops the big bucks on an exciting honeymoon getaway.
The bottom line is this: Do what YOU want at your wedding, within reason. When you're walking down the aisle, you're not going to notice 75% of what you planned for, so don't sweat the small stuff. Enjoy your day. It's about friends and family being present to celebrate with you. And as long as that guy who asked you to marry him is standing at the end of the aisle, nothing else matters.