Planning my wedding was both exciting and nerve-wracking. I was so thrilled to be marrying Josh, the man I had been dating since high school and the father of our beautiful daughter. We wanted to celebrate our commitment and make our family official so that we could continue to plan our future together and combine our lives, but we were also anxious about what we thought would be a major expense.
We definitely wanted a memorable wedding day, but for us, it was more than just the experience of that day. It was about celebrating the life and family we were building together, and acknowledging that we were prepared for the long haul of marriage and partnership to follow.
While we were happy to spend money to ensure our guests enjoyed the day with us, we still had other responsibilities leading up to and after “the party.” So we looked realistically at what type of budget we could afford, and kept to it. Through the experience we learned that with a little creativity and preparation a beautiful, unique, unforgettable event can be achieved, without starting married life in debt.
Here are some tips I used to make my wedding a memorable celebration without breaking the bank:
1.) Search online for inspiration. With the growing popularity of sites like Pinterest, it’s easy to get ideas on DIY and cost effective décor, themes and venues. In my opinion, the more unique and comfortable a reception is, the more memorable for you and your guests.
2.) Print your own invitations on paper found at craft stores. Ordering invitations and printed programs can be expensive through a company. The base prices are usually for a more generic look. If you really want to get creative and original, the price can start adding up. Printing your own gives you the freedom to word it and use any fonts and images you’d like without the added expense.
3.) Make your own centerpieces and decorations for a fraction of the cost of hiring a florist or designer. Use silk flowers to make your own bouquets, boutonnières and centerpieces. There is a vast selection at any craft store, at a fraction of the cost of a floral store. I was able to create my flowers exactly as I wanted them, and the bonus–we got to save them as keepsakes, because they never die!
4.) Find a cost-effective venue. Don’t forget that backyard or park receptions are budget-friendly alternatives to the traditional reception hall. Those locations may have less of a charge, and can be customized to create a unique experience. If you attend church, your church may allow you to use their facilities for free or at a reduced cost.
For our wedding reception, we researched and took our time looking at a lot of options in order to find the best deal. We decided on a venue that was all-inclusive: the DJ, food, drinks, and décor were all included in the package price. It was a relief to have all that taken care of in one charge, and we weren’t nickel and dimed for upgrades and additional charges.
5.) Don’t let yourself get starry-eyed for items outside of your budget. When my bridesmaids and I were shopping for dresses, I specifically looked at prices first, and once we had a selection in our price range, we started trying on and narrowing down from there.
I feel great about the celebration we put together, and although we chose some money-saving alternatives, I didn’t feel like we did without any important aspects that we had our hearts set on. Just as fellow contributor, April, did on her wedding day, Josh and I made some sacrifices but we felt they were worth it. We didn’t print programs, or have favors for guests to take. We didn’t go on a honeymoon afterwards, because we had a small child at home that we weren’t yet ready to leave for a long period of time. (Since then we’ve had our share of fun trips, including this free cruise!) We had a buffet dinner with picnic type food. Our wedding reception wasn’t held in a ballroom, but our guests still had a ball—there was laughing and reminiscing and an impromptu dance number. Our two families mingled, and our daughter thought she was a princess dressed in her gown that matched mine. It was a relatively modest cost, but the value was immeasurable.
Sticking to a budget on our wedding day was important because we had made a habit of living within our means and knew that that’s what is ultimately best for our marriage and our family. Josh and I were able to mark a special day and celebrate with our family and friends, but we didn’t put ourselves in financial stress or worry over one day. This long-term perspective has carried over into the 15 years of our marriage.