TJ and I will be celebrating our second anniversary on Sunday! Since it’s right around the corner, I thought it’d be fun to talk a little about our wedding and honeymoon. When we got engaged, my parents generously gave us $5000 to spend, and we decided to find a way to keep everything (including our honeymoon!) within that price range. I have to give my mom tons of credit for the outcome of the wedding. I wasn’t a very “hands on” bride – I basically just told her an idea of what I wanted and she ran with it! The end result was perfect for us, and it was so nice to not have to stress about little details during our engagement. Thanks, Mom!
Growing up, of course I dreamed about my wedding day, but my parents always did a good job of telling me that my focus should be more on the marriage than the wedding. I tried to keep that sentiment in mind once TJ and I got engaged and started the planning process, and that’s part of why we felt that $5000 was more than enough to spend on our wedding. It was an incredibly special day, but at the end of it all, it is just one day, and it’s not nearly as important as putting time and thought into our marriage.
Before I get into the 10 ways we were able to save money on our wedding and honeymoon, I have to mention that obviously, not all of these tips will work for everyone. When we started planning, we made a list of “must-haves”. The items on our list below didn’t conflict with our must-haves, so we felt ok about giving them up/cutting back where necessary. If you’re in the process of planning a wedding, and looking for ways to cut back on costs, I understand that some of these things probably won’t fit with the wedding you want. I’m just sharing what worked for us!
1. Friday night
One of the most expensive aspects of wedding planning is booking a venue. A lot of places have cheaper prices if your event is not on a Saturday, so we opted to have our wedding on a Friday night. The ceremony started at 7:30pm, so it gave our guests enough time to leave work and have dinner before the wedding.
2. Dessert reception
Speaking of dinner, we chose to have a dessert reception instead of a traditional dinner. Since the ceremony was later in the evening, we had a variety of different bite-size desserts (plus cake and fruit!) for people to snack on. Just be sure to mention this on your invite, so your guests won’t be expecting dinner.
3. DIY, if possible
Once we decided on a dessert reception, my mom’s friend was kind enough to offer to make all of the desserts for us. She tried out several recipes, and we ended up deciding on four: Andes Mint Brownies, Salted Caramel Shortbread Bars, Strawberry Bruschetta, and Mini Cheesecakes. Paying for all of the ingredients was much cheaper than paying for typical catering.
4. No alcohol
I realize this probably isn’t a popular choice for some, but it worked for us. Our venue was required to charge an alcohol permit fee, plus the majority of our guests don’t drink, so it made perfect sense not to serve it.
5. Small guest list
TJ and I don’t really like being the center of attention, we’re not really social butterflies, and we’re both only children. Not surprisingly, our guest list wasn’t very long. Of course, it’s easy to get carried away with inviting everyone you’ve ever met, but we were determined to keep ours to our close family and friends. We ended up having between 50-60 guests, which was perfectly intimate.
6. Paper flowers
Flowers are notoriously expensive, so we opted to have paper flowers. Another of my mom’s friends put all of the flowers together for us (she has some seriously amazing friends!), and they turned out beautifully. I wanted the look of anemones, and they ended up looking perfect. Bonus – two years later and my bouquet looks just as beautiful as it did at the wedding. She also put together some large-scale flowers for decor.
7. iPod vs DJ
Instead of hiring a DJ, I loaded up my iPod with all of the songs I wanted to play during the ceremony and reception. This worked for us for two reasons – 1. Our venue provided someone to “man” the iPod, and during our rehearsal, we went over all of the cues for the ceremony music. 2. Our guests weren’t really the dancing type, so during the reception, we just had some light songs playing while everyone mingled and enjoyed the dessert.
8. Online RSVP
Instead of providing reply cards with our invitations for our guests to send back, TJ put together a wedding website for us, complete with an online RSVP section. It allowed us to save money by not having to buy reply cards and stamps, and it also made replying more convenient for our guests.
9. Reasonably priced dress
Yes, getting THE dress is incredibly exciting, but let’s be honest – it’s a one-time wear. For me, it wasn’t worth devoting a huge portion of our budget on a dress that I’d only wear for a couple hours. I ended up getting a lovely dress for $300, and I don’t regret it for a second, because it sure has been just sitting in my closet for the past 2 years.
10. Honeymoon in the US
Or maybe that should say “honeymoon in your home country”. It’s much cheaper to travel domestically versus internationally, so we decided to plan an awesome honeymoon in Chicago. Because the airline fees were pretty reasonable, we were able to stay in a really nice hotel and do lots of sightseeing when we were in the city.
Are you married or engaged? I’d love to hear how you saved money for your big day!
Photos taken by Focus Media
April 16, 2014
Thanks for all the tips, I will definitely be referring back to this when we plan our wedding. I know that no alcohol will be a no-go, but I think we could try some of these other things, like a cheaper dress and paper flowers. You looked gorgeous btw!
April 16, 2014
I’m getting married in September in DC…one of the most expensive places to have a wedding. What I noticed about DC is that the difference in venue price varied from season to season rather than day to day. It’s just as expensive to get married on a Friday in June as a Saturday, whereas getting married in the off season had a lower food and drink minimum.
We’re saving a lot by having our venue at a restaurant that happens to have a ballroom, rather than a wedding venue where everything needs to be rented from outside (which is common for most DC wedding venues!)
My fiance is an airline pilot so we’re saving tons on our honeymoon by flying free to Europe!
April 16, 2014
I echo a lot of the things that you did here – and ESPECIALLY the promise that the wedding is just a party. The marriage is what’s most important and should be at the forefront of all decisions. Sacrifice will happen in every marriage, and it will certainly be necessary in wedding planning on a budget.
The most important thing for any bride and groom to do it determine their list of priorities and go from there. For my husband and me, the dress, the honeymoon and a full-sized guest list were at the top of our list. However we, too, cut out the alcohol (for many reasons, but especially because of all of the up-front and hidden costs) and opted for a short meet-and-greet reception in our church fellowship hall following the ceremony. We found a really fantastic caterer who is a bit of a hidden gem in our area and was able to feed everyone a selection of hot hors d’ouevres and jet away on an international honeymoon. In total, the total cost of our wedding and honeymoon was $10,000 with 150 guests.
April 16, 2014
Your paper flowers look amazing!!! These are all great tips 🙂