Life in Transition

Navigating Personal Finances During Life Transitions

Wedding Trimmings-Part 1

It’s no secret that weddings are expensive–with the average wedding topping $24,000. Unfortunately, most of us twenty-somethings (and their parents) cannot realistically spend that much money (and even if you can afford that much on a wedding, I am still not convinced anyone should spend that much money on a single event). After checking out the websites of the major wedding vendors in my city, I quickly saw how the costs could quickly add up to 20K. So, here are some ways I tried to trim costs to keep my wedding under $8000.

Venue
The most popular venues in in my city cost about $2000 and require you to use certain caterers. I expanded my search to other nearby cities, especially after I found out that the only day we could realistically schedule my wedding was on the Kentucky Derby (which meant the price of everything would at least triple and all hotels were booked two years in advance). My finace ended up finding a horse farm for $1200 thirty minutes outside of Cincinnati. It’s about twenty minutes away from my fiance’s parents’ house, and an hour and a half away from where I live. I could have both the ceremony and reception at the location, which would help cut costs. The best part was that they didn’t have a catering list. In fact, we were free to bring our own food and alcohol. They required us to use a certain tent rental company, since Kentucky weather is extremely unpredictable (last month, we had a deadly tornado one day, three inches of snow the next day, followed by an 80-degree sunny day). Soon after, I learned that tent rentals were expensive. The cost of renting chairs, tables, and linens added up quickly. Overall, I’m not sure if I saved money in the end. An indoor venue does not require a tent, but most require an expensive caterer.

Tips to trim venue costs: Find a location that allows you to have the ceremony and reception at the same place, if you are in a major city search for venues thirty to forty away. Also, avoid venues that have an exclusive caterer list.

Reception
Typically, brides-to-be are advised to budget half of their expenses towards the reception. The easiest way to control reception costs is to trim the guest list. Unfortunately, this wasn’t really an option for me and my fiance since 1) a lot of people would get offended if we didn’t invite them, and 2) there were a lot of people we wanted to share our special day with. So, we decided to have a dessert and cocktail reception, since we wanted a more casual atmosphere. I picked out a few dessert items, and enlisted family and friends to help me bake. For drinks, we picked a few cases of red and white wine from Trader Joes and ordered a keg of beer. I have a friend who is a licensed bartender, so he will bartend for free as a gift. Word of caution: If you are hosting a dessert reception, make sure you let people know on the invitation, so that your guests will know to get a quick bite to eat before the wedding. We’ve been to a few weddings expecting dinner, and went home hungry instead.

Tips to trim food costs: Limit the guest list if possible. Ditch the traditional sit-down dinners, and opt for a buffet, hor d’ourves, or dessert reception. If you are serving alcohol, stick with wine and beer.

Dress
This is an easy area to blow your budget. It takes little effort to fall in love with the perfect dress that happens to be a couple thousand dollars over budget. To prevent this from happening, I limited my dress search to stores that offered dresses in my price range. The only store that fit that criteria in town was David’s Bridal, so that was the only place I tried on dresses. I know that the quality of their dresses aren’t great, but I am okay with that since I’ll only be wearing the dress one time for a few hours. I still ended up buying one of the more expensive dresses –one from Vera Wang’s White collection–and a $78 (my one splurge) floral sash to go with it. Overall, I’m still pleased that I spent less than $700 on my dress. Once my wedding is over, I plan on selling my dress on secondhand dress sites like oncewed.com.

For shoes, I’m wearing a pair of flats that I already own. For jewelery, I’m borrowing pearl earrings and a pearl necklace from a friend.

Tips to trim dress costs: Avoid stores that don’t have dresses priced within your budget, don’t try on dresses you can’t afford, and if possible buy a used dress. For accessories, borrow them from friends.

Next up: Invitations, flowers, music

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5 thoughts on “Wedding Trimmings-Part 1

  1. Great tips! I’m a maid of honor for my friend’s wedding this year and I can already see how fast expenses add up – even though I’m not even the one getting married!

  2. I love wedding posts. I am putting up a detailed breakdown of my budget on Monday – our budgets seem pretty similar (mine is $7,000), and I’m also a DB bride. 😉

  3. I love wedding posts. I’m putting up a detailed breakdown of my budget on Monday – I think our overall budgets are pretty similar – mine’s $7,000. By the way, I’m also a DB bride. 😉

  4. I don’t know how anyone keeps wedding costs so low! It wasn’t until I started reading PF blogs that I realized people manage to throw weddings for under $10k. I honestly don’t know how much we spent but it was probably more in the $25-30k range (two receptions, though) even though we skimped in a lot of areas. We had FexEx/Kinkos print all of our paper stuff, for instance – invitations, thank-you cards, programs, schedules, nameplates. Ultimately though, even cheap food is expensive, and we wanted to serve two full meals. Like you mentioned, rentals are another enormous cost. The whole time we were wedding planning my husband kept saying that we should get into the rental business because they seem to make bank.

    • I keep on telling my finace that we should buy a farm and rent it out for weddings since wedding venues seem to easily charge a couple thousand dollars for a four-hour Saturday rental. The rental business is not a bad idea either.

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