Even before your first boyfriend entered the picture, you may have dreamt about what your wedding would look like. Perhaps it was filled with hundreds of guests, a Vera Wang gown, fireworks, a castle, private estate, or the Plaza Hotel, decorated birch trees, flower walls, crystal chandeliers, an eight-tier cake, centerpieces made of Hydrangeas, Roses, and Amaryllis with Maroon 5 performing at the reception (oops, my dream, maybe not yours).
Now that you are engaged, don’t let the reality of your budget versus that childhood dream leave you disappointed. Trust me when I say that no matter what your budget is; $500, $2,000, or $50,000, your wedding will be fabulous because first and foremost, the day is about marrying the person you love.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
After you become engaged, the first thing to do is sit down with your fiance, and both sides of your family (at separate times) to see how much, if any, they will contribute to the wedding. Please keep in mind that times have changed and no longer is it expected that the bride’s family will pay for the majority of the festivities. If they can afford it and are willing…Yipee. If not, please don’t expect anyone to take out second mortgages or dip into retirement funds in order for you to have the wedding of your dreams. Not fair. Not necessary. Obviously, whatever the amount your families can chip in along with what the two of you will contribute, will be the amount of your budget.
The average wedding in the United States costs approximately $25,000 to $35,000. Don’t let that number scare you…it’s just an average and nobody expects you to be average. A typical wedding is broken down as follows:
Reception venue including catering, service, flatware, stemware, china, bartending/beverage including service, alcohol, glassware, etc, cake/dessert 41-50% of your budget.
Marriage License, Officiant, ceremony music 2-3%.
Decor including flowers, candles, guest book, ring pillow, lighting, rentals (tables, chairs, linens, dance floor 8-18%.
Stationary/paper goods including save-the-dates, invitations, RSVP cards, menu, program, escort cards, etc., 3-7%.
Attire including dress, tux, hair, and make-up 8 – 10%.
Entertainment 6 – 10%.
Planner/Coordinator 5 – 15%.
Miscellaneous items like a photo booth, gifts, favors, etc., 2-8%.
Also, if your ceremony is at a different location than the reception, such as a church, you will more than likely incur additional fees.
I know. It all sounds a little overwhelming, and to the majority of us, financially mind-blowing. And if I scared you into eloping, you can read our elopement post here.
TIPS ON HOW TO SAVE
- Make your ideal guest list and then cut it. Food and alcohol can typically cost $100 or more per guest so for every 10 guests you cut, you save $1,000 plus
- Try to keep the number in your wedding party as small as possible. Gifts, rehearsal dinner costs, flowers, and transportation for each bridesmaid and groomsmen all add up
- Have your wedding on a Friday or Sunday
- Have a winter wedding
- If your state allows it, have a friend or family member become ordained instead of hiring an officiant
- Have your wedding earlier in the day and follow the ceremony with a brunch or lunch
- DIY – save the dates, invitations, favor, decor. Your talented friends and family should be able to help with creativity or even calligraphy
- Choose flowers that are in season
- Keep your menu simple
- Have your baker make a smaller cake for cutting and serve your guests from sheet cakes that are kept in the kitchen
- Try to find a venue that includes tables, chairs, flatware, china, glassware, etc. While you may be able to find less expensive venues, they usually don’t supply anything other than the roof over your head. The cost of renting everything can sometimes be more costly than just going with a venue that is a little more expensive but provides the basics
- Serve a signature drink instead of hosting a full bar or stick to beer and wine
THREE PIECES OF ADVISE
- If you choose to have a wedding on the smaller side and don’t find it necessary to hire a wedding planner, please consider hiring a day-of coordinator. They will make sure your wedding day runs smoothly, making sure vendors arrive on time, assist with decor set-up, see that the wedding party is on schedule, boutonnieres have been pinned, bouquets delivered, and ceremony candles lit. They oversee guest seating and get everyone down the aisle in the right order and timed with the music. They will direct guests to the reception, get gifts to the gift table, line up the wedding party for the grand entrance to the reception, and make sure the caterers are serving on schedule. They initiate the first dance, toasts, cake cutting, bouquet and garter toss. It’s your day and the two of you should be able to enjoy your day without worrying about the details or the timeline. It’s worth it to pay someone to keep everything moving and on schedule.
- Hire a good photographer even if you are on a very limited budget. It might mean you can only have a three-day honeymoon instead of a seven-day one, or maybe you buy less expensive wedding bands. You can always take another honeymoon or upgrade your ring at a later date. You can never replicate your wedding day and will cherish those photos forever.
- Easier said than done, but try not to stress on your wedding day. I’ve been involved in hundreds of weddings as either photographer, planner, coordinator or officiant and I can tell you that no wedding goes as perfectly as you planned. No matter how OCD you are prior to the day, mishaps can happen (you leave the veil at home, you forget the marriage license, the best man is hung over, or whatever). Trust me when I say it doesn’t matter. It is rare to meet a bride who is absolutely chill on their wedding day, but the ones who are and can keep the chill attitude no matter what distractions may be thrown in their path, have the best day ever. A great sense of humor along with a carefree attitude will make your day nothing less than spectacular. And don’t forget that the only absolute that needs to happen or even matters on your wedding day is that both of you say “I do.” Nothing more, nothing less.
Cheers to spectacular, no matter what the budget may be!