Planning a wedding can be equal parts maddening and intoxicating. The possibilities are endless – and gorgeous, when you start looking at décor and dresses and flowers …
It’s easy to see how things can get out of hand. But it’s just not a good idea to go deep into debt for one weekend’s worth of celebration. After those initial conversations about who’s going to pay and how much, you can set a budget and start figuring out what’s truly important to you and what your guests will really remember.
Just a few areas where you might encounter sticker shock (and how to prevent it):
The venue: Can you believe that some places charge up to $30,000 to get married there? That’s a down payment on a house. Or a car. Or two cars.
There’s no rule that says you have to get married in a church and have your reception in an event hall. Think outside the box a little. Make a list of places that have significance for you as a couple.
People get hitched on the porches of family homes, in parks and at lakes, in underground caves, at wildlife refuges and theme parks, in museum sculpture gardens, on covered bridges, at railway depots and botanical gardens. Just make sure you get a permit to keep your nontraditional venue legal.
The dress: There is no law stating that brides have to gather an entourage, try on white dresses and twirl around until their credit cards are maxed out.
You don’t even have to go to a bridal salon if you don’t want to. Stores like White House, Black Market carry lovely formal pieces. Look for white dresses during prom season at department stores. Online retailer BHLDN is disrupting the market by offering couture design for around a grand.
You can also stalk trunk shows and end-of-season sample sales, and comb through sites like OnceWed.com to take advantage of other brides’ rejected or lightly used dresses. If you fall in love with a dress that fits you well in a bridal salon, see if you can buy the sample.
If you do order a dress, keep alterations to a minimum by buying the right silhouette for your body type and ordering your real size. Corset-backed dresses are great for keeping alteration costs down.
The flowers: If you come up with something else to put in the middle of your tables, you could save yourself thousands. Spend your flower money on the bride bouquet, and think of something creative for the rest of the wedding party to carry, like feathered fans, beaded purses or a beautifully wrapped book that is meaningful to you.
The photography: Wedding photographers earn their money, but you have other options. Photojournalists frequently make extra money on the weekends shooting weddings, as do college students in art and photo programs. Some couples book ceremony-only packages and let their guests crowdsource the reception photography with disposable cameras.
Music: Unless you’re really committed to the chicken dance, you can save money by not hiring a DJ. A playlist of your favorite tunes and a friend with a laptop will do just as well, without entrusting the personality of your reception to a stranger.
Wedding planners who share wisdom online point to sit-down dinners, programs and favors as the most overlooked and unappreciated extras that couples waste money on. Your guests will remember your vows and remember the personal touches you bring to make your reception a great gathering, whether it’s a more toned-down family affair or a raucous party with an open bar.
Once you sit down and figure out your priorities, you’ll determine where to best spend your money – even if it’s on the honeymoon.