First off, we are officially 11 days from the wedding and just wrote our last check for our wedding expenses (insert clapping emoji here). No really, I’m OCD about wedding organization and every last expense has already been taken care of (because let’s be honest, you don’t want to spend your wedding day writing a daunting check).
We were engaged for such a long time – 20 months – so at some point, it seemed like the wedding day would never come and it was so far away. The last 6 months of planning went so fast and there was a whole lot to do. But we managed to do it all ourselves.
Everything is really coming together and I already can tell it’s my dream wedding. All of the pieces are in place and Zach is going to be there, so dream complete. I’ll give you all a wedding update (obviously) after the fact on the details of the day!
From the moment we got engaged, we both agreed on a pretty small wedding budget. For us, we wanted to put money into other things like traveling and our businesses and not one day. Granted, that one day is quite arguably one of the most important days in your life.
But is it worth the national average of $26,645? For us and for many, the answer is no. We wanted to spend less than 1/4th of that and still have our dream wedding – and that’s exactly what we did. Please note, this does not include my rings.
I had to get really creative and thrifty with every detail, but we accomplished our goal! So many of you have been asking exactly how we did it and today, I’m dishing out all the details.
Please note, this is just how we did it. Everyone has their own budget, whether it is more or less, but this is what worked for us.
But first, let’s look at how the average couple spends that $26,645.
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For me, this chart seemed ridiculous. I had a glass of wine and sat down with Zach and we kept finding ourselves saying “the average of (enter service here) is WHAT?! It was almost comical to us. How we spent our money was very different.
1. Work your connections!
Between you and your fiancé (and possibly parents and siblings), come up with a list of anyone you know that could contribute their skills or passion into your big day for free or on the cheap. For us, this meant carpenters, photographers, bartenders, officiants, musicians, bakers and planners. You name it! Come up with a large Google Sheet and you always can edit it later.
For us, I can name a few examples of this. When we were looking at officiants, it all seemed so impersonal and odd that you would pay someone up to $750 to marry you that you don’t even know. We had a close family friend marry us and it made it so much more special. Another example, I wanted to rent an arch for our ceremony. The only rental company in the area (with an arch) was very rude to us and stated they would be “throwing it away” when we were done because it was in such bad shape – oh, and they wanted to charge $500. That was just stupid! So Zach’s dad’s friend is a master carpenter and was sweet enough to make us the exact one we wanted. It costed us $40 in materials.
2. Choosing a money-saving venue is everything.
We both knew we wanted to be married at a vintage mansion, but when we were searching, we found out a harsh reality: it was expensive with a capital E! We were looking in the heart of Minneapolis, on a Thursday night and it was $11,000 minimum with required caterers and florists! What in the actual world…
So we broadened our search to outside the cities and found the sweetest town of Rochester, MN. Zach’s grandpa (who was unable to make it due to health problems) was actually from there. It was really sweet to have a part of him there in some sense. Not to mention we found our dream venue at a dream price.
I was finding nothing on The Knot, wedding blogs and Google searches and finally searched “historic mansions in Minnesota” on Pinterest. That’s how I found the Plummer House. Better yet, it is owned by the state. Because of that it was a STEAL! Like, in the 3-figure range. There was no required caterer (a huge plus, because I am a vegan) and it had a full kitchen. It was also ours for the entire day. That’s where we saved a ton of cash.
3. Choose a day other than Friday or Saturday.
For us, this happened not for budgeting, but for personal reasons. We wanted to get married on the 11th and September 11th is bad mojo marrying a Marine and July 11th is too close to both of our birthdays. So Thursday, August 11th it was.
We didn’t realize it at the time, but that choice saved us a ton of money. People are much more flexible, lenient and available on weekdays. A lot of times, especially with venues,
4. Negotiate with your vendors.
Most people think the price is the price and that is simply not true sometimes. Especially if you are purchasing a service for your wedding that is on a weekday or the off-season (see point #3). Since ours was on a Thursday, I went back to my caterer after I got the quote and said, “since we are on a Thursday and our budget is X amount, can we get this within our budget?” They happily agreed and I saved us $800 simply by asking and sending a single email.
Also, keep in mind, what do you have to offer? Do you have an amazing photographer that can give them images free of watermarks to use for their business? Do you have a strong social media following or are you a blogger? Think about if you have any value that can be leveraged to get you things for free or at a discount. Also offer to go to every wedding site, Yelp and Google and leave professional images of their service and a 5-star review for an extra 10% off. In my experience, most businesses will take you up on the deal.
5. When getting quotes, say it is for an “event” or a “get together.”
There is this weird thing that happens once you say you are getting a quote for a wedding, e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g becomes more expensive. Vendors see dollar signs. A makeup application could triple in price if the word bride is even used. Ask for a quote for an “event” or “get together” and save yourself some serious money. But then don’t be as high maintenance as a wedding.
For example, my wedding planner (who I fired because I was doing everything myself anyways) told us the absolute lowest price for rentals she could find was $2,000+. Keep in mind we were only needing 100 chairs and 6 bistro tables at the time. I did a quick Google search myself for event rentals and got a quote that was literally 80% less than the quotes my planner was getting for a wedding. Especially since it was a Thursday, no one questioned my “event.”
6. On certain items, buy, don’t rent.
This may seem counter-intuitive if you are trying to save money, but hear me out. We have a few examples of this. For our tablecloths, curtains and textiles in general, rental companies were trying to charge us at least $100 per table (which is the cheapest quote we got). To buy the exact same tablecloth it was $38 a piece (without a coupon and there are no delivery fees). Plus, get them cleaned after your big day and you can sell them on your local Craigslist or to a rental company when your done and you might just break even!
Another example was our cafe lights. Rental companies were quoting us at least $750-$1,200 for cafe lights for 250 feet of lighting, granted, this includes set up as well. We got ours through Paper Lantern Store (which crushes everyone else’s price of lights and options) for $43 for 51 feet of lighting, plus a 10% off promo. And once again, cafe lights on Craigslist easily go for $1 a foot, so you aren’t really out anything in the long term.
7. Goodwill and garage sales (as well as Craigslist) are your best friends.
We needed a lot of random items like gold picture frames, serving trays and such. Those items from Target can really add up, so go to multiple Goodwill’s and get them for a fraction of the cost. Also, donate a bag and they will give you a 25% off coupon.
Craigslist has been really helpful, not just for us, but a lot of our friends as well. We were getting quoted $250+ to rent a very generic chandelier which seemed absurd to me. I went on the Minneapolis Craigslist and found this chandelier for $50 and had Zach revamp it and we love it. Plus, I could easily sell it for more than we paid since we spent time sprucing it up.
See below for the before (right side) and after (left).
8. Use gift cards to pay for services.
For things like your pretty-prep (like manicures, hair appointments, massages and tanning) – use a gift card! You can buy SpaFinder gift cards secondhand online (like bidding on one from eBay) and instantly save money from buying the gift card at a price less than it’s value. (which can be used at SO many different locations).
9. Limit the amount of guests.
This is a huge one. For us, we wanted an intimate and black tie wedding. I originally wanted a 50 person wedding but planned on 100. Unfortunately, but fortunately, many of our family members didn’t want to come, which saved us thousands. Limiting people cuts down on rentals (think chairs, tables, etc.) and on your catering and alcohol.
Having trouble cutting down your list? We used the rule if we wouldn’t invite them to dinner in our apartment, they wouldn’t make the list. It was a great filter.
10. PIY: Plan it yourself (with the help of family and friends).
I started off being very overwhelmed with the entire wedding process and insisting on having a wedding planner. But what ended up happening is that I was doing all of the work anyway and would have to do extra work filling her in on what I had got done.
My advice? PIY. Have a organized friend or aunt help day of. Get a Google Sheet going with tabs for budget, deadlines, guest list, inspiration and timelines. Take it one day at a time, take a deep breath and you can totally do it. No one knows your taste better than you.
11. DIY: Do it yourself on items you can actually execute.
Many wedding related things can be done yourself and save you some major money. A can of spray paint can go along way. You may have a family friend who can build you an arch (like we did!) We turned these curtains into chair sashes. Hang your cafe lights yourself (see point number 7).
In the same breath, make sure that your DIYs are worth the time an effort. If the cost difference is $5, save yourself the stress and let someone else handle it. Also, know when DIY is d-o-n-e. Weddings can start to look like Pinterest exploded very easily.
12. Look outside of the wedding branded box.
As I’ve mentioned a few times now, the word “wedding” can easily up a price of a service or product by 100%. Look on sites like eBay and sites that aren’t branded for brides and weddings. For example, I wanted cupcake holders and ones at wedding stores and sites were easily $100+ each. I found these at LampsPlus for $41. On the same site, I found my center pieces. These gold crystal cake stands were at least $100 everywhere I looked (even on Craigslist!) and were only $39 at LampsPlus.
13. On that note, look for white dresses, not necessarily wedding dresses.
As some of you may know, my reception dress (that I had designed for a year) that was supposed to be custom made by Third & Loom didn’t happen. Yes I know, it was awful. A month out and they cancelled a bunch of brides orders. This forced me to get creative (and thrifty).
I couldn’t order a wedding dress from a boutique that late in the game, so I decided to look in the second-hand and pre-used market. After looking at sites like OnceWed, Preowned Wedding Dresses and Tradesy, I realized that wedding dresses (even at 50%+ off) are expensive!
It was then that I had the idea to look on Poshmark for “white prom dress” or “champagne prom dress.” What I found out is many prom dresses (the nice ones at least) are basically the same thing. Granted, you have to filter out a lot of bad bling and cut outs, but the lace and beaded options are really beautiful, available ASAP and hover around the $150-$500 range.
What did you do to save money at your wedding? I’d love to hear!
Plus, see all wedding-related posts, here.
As always, thank you for reading.