The average wedding costs $30,000 — excluding the honeymoon — even during an economic downturn. But not every couple is willing to take out a loan or tap their parents’ bank account for their big day. So if you would rather save that money for something more sensible like a mortgage, then planning a budget wedding that reflects you and your beloved’s personalities is probably a more suitable option.
Budget, however, doesn’t have to mean cheap. I had a tasteful New York City wedding ceremony and reception for under $5,000 and I didn’t have to sacrifice sophistication or style. How did I do it? Here are 10 starter tips I utilized in order to throw a budget-friendly wedding:
1. Print your own wedding stationary
Laura Strutt, author of the “DIY Wedding Manual,” created custom wedding invitations, save-the-date cards, table menus, and thank-you cards using downloadan
2. Shop for bargains
I snagged my never-worn satin sheath dress originally from Saks Fifth Avenue for only $27 on eBay. Consignment shops, sample sales, and quality second-hand stores are also great sources for budget gowns and suits. Look for the best value when it comes to selecting your rings, too. Strutt found unique bands on Etsy that suited their budget and bohemian style.
3. Find an affordable ceremony location
If a non-traditional wedding strikes your fancy, why not get hitched in an outdoor setting? For example, for a $425 fee, the bucolic Brooklyn Botanic Garden offers a non-seated ceremony for up to 50 guests in your choice of the rose or Osborne garden, or the Japanese hill and pond. The only catch is that ceremonies must begin by 9 am and end by 10 am — when the garden opens to the public, and there’s no rain date. Plus, factor in an additional fee for a wedding officiant.
4. Make your own wedding bouquet
My matron of honor enlisted her crafty friend to fashion my beautiful bouquet from a dozen long-stemmed white roses. You can do the same by raiding your local supermarket or flower stand for pretty peonies or amazing azaleas the night before or the day of your ceremony. But who says your bouquet has to be floral? Strutt made her colorful bouquet with felt balls.
5. Hang the DJ
Make your own wedding playlist on your iPod. This saves money and gives your guests a chance to compliment you on your excellent taste.
6. Negotiate a rate for wedding photos
Ask a friend or family member who snaps professional or quality photos to cut you a deal. Or do as Strutt did and select the lowest-priced wedding package from your favorite wedding photographer, with the option to upgrade once you see all of the must-have shots.
7. Ditch the limo
Strutt didn’t want a fancy ride or the expense that went along with it. Wisely, she picked a wedding venue that was within walking distance from her home and she strolled there with her father — a lovely way to start her wedding day. Meanwhile, her partner traveled to the ceremony on a BMX bike. As a backup for bad weather, she had a friend with a smart car on stand-by.
8. DIY decorations
Strutt nixed the flowers for her U.K. wedding and decorated her historic reception venue with “miles of bunting” from her stash of fabrics. She also borrowed strings of mini lights that added “a little sparkle” to the evening reception.
9. Have a restaurant reception
Restaurants already have a wait staff, bartender, and table settings, so this eliminates the mounting fees associated with hiring a caterer. Pick your favorite eatery or find a local restaurant interested in drumming up wedding reception business. We had our four-hour brunch reception for 70 guests at an eclectic, light-filled South African restaurant in Brooklyn, and the owner was extremely accommodating. He charged us a reasonable flat fee per person and per bottle of wine (we offered a cash bar for hard liquor), threw in a welcome cocktail for free, decorated each table with flowers in mason jars, and cleared space for a small dance floor.
10. Cut the elaborate wedding cake
The average wedding cake will run you $500. So unless you have a relative with serious baking skills, opt for cupcakes, whoopie pies, or cake pops. Your guests’ sweet tooth will still be satisfied and they can easily take these treats home with them.
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