Let's get real for just a second. Wedding planning is so expensive.
Photo by Avenue 356.
Now, I know that this may seem like an obvious statement, but I don't think people realize just how expensive it is until you're really doing it. As many of you may know, I got married on New Year's Eve and it was my favorite day, ever. I wish I could relive it over and over again! It still feels very surreal to have had the day come and go, especially after all of the planning that went into making it happen.
This series of posts will break down wedding planning and how to do it for less than $15,000. If you want to know about specific categories, please let me know!
When Steven and I got engaged, we decided on our date pretty easily. We wanted to do something fun for our guests and something unique. Looking back, I'm so glad we picked this date, but not for the reasons you may think. It's the little (and big!) decisions along the way that help you budget and spend less.
With all of that said, I'm sure you're thinking okay, but HOW do you plan a wedding for less than $15,000??? I'll give you all my tips and tricks, and I'll break down our costs to give you a realistic idea of what to expect with each post. This first list gives you the big picture and provides a realistic starting point.
1. Plan your date wisely. To avoid more expensive venue costs, get married on a Sunday or even a Thursday or Friday. My advice is to pick a holiday weekend when people won't have to take extra time off from work. If your wedding is small, just give your guests plenty of notice so they can make sure to plan in advance. Choosing to avoid Saturdays can save you thousands, yes thousands, of dollars.
2. Make a budget and stick to it. Going into our wedding planning process, we knew that we would have help from some and that we would be paying for a large chunk of the day ourselves. Once we knew an idea of what we could afford, we made a plan and stuck to it. Pro tip: make an overall budget first (ours was $15,000) and then cross out your biggest costs first - catering, venue, photographer, etc. and THEN allocate the rest of your budget.
3. DIY EVERYTHING! Okay, maybe not everything, but as much as you can! Rally together your talented family and friends to help. We were extremely lucky to have my dad (who is a superstar) and lots of others who came together to put things in place for us. Our programs, menus, reception decor, pew flowers, etc. were all DIY. I would say that doing that saved us at the very least $2,000.
4. Find vendors that let you use a payment plan. While this may not technically save you money in the long run, it will help you budget and be easier along the way. Our flowers, photographer, venue, my gown, and more were all on payment plans.
5. Skip out on the unnecessary. There are SO many things we opted out of for our wedding that I didn't miss and don't regret. While it may seem like little things, those little things add up quick! For example, we didn't have a cake topper, mother's corsages, ring bearer pillows, etc. Like I said, little things add up!
6. Skip on Save-the-dates. This is one thing that some may disagree with, however I find it totally unnecessary. We actually ordered them (and spent over $200) and I wish we hadn't. Our wedding wasn't small - we invited almost 300 and 150 were in attendance. However, your wedding is going to be people in your life (or it should be) that you can communicate with and let them know about your date. There are also wedding websites that are easy (and free!) to use that act as save-the-dates. In conclusion, if you're worried about this, just send out your invites early. Save money!!
7. Work with local businesses. I strongly encourage you to work with local businesses to support your community, but also because it can be less expensive and they are often more flexible.
8. Find a venue that offers everything. Our venue was amazing - our final quote included the rental of the space, food, tables and chairs, napkins, plates, flat ware, cups, alcohol, service, set up, and clean up. Whew, that's a lot - and many places make each of those add-on fees. Do your research and work with a place that will make it simple. Everything I listed ended up being around $7,500 which is fantastic.
9. Buy your dress off the rack. Dress shopping, for me, was very easy. I knew exactly what I wanted. One thing that saved me a ton of money on my dress was buying the sample gown from the rack. Find the size that works for you and then just try on that size. Visit lots of places to make this work. I ended up doing this, I found my dream dress, didn't need alterations, bought shoes that kept me from hemming it, and only had to add a bustle.
10. Don't serve a fancy dinner. We offered fun party food and our guests loved it! This saved us so much money. Our food included a pasta bar, mashed potato bar, dips, meatballs, cheese, and donuts. It was filling, but cut back costs compared to a traditional plated meal.
11. Don't offer liquor. For starters, I think liquor can be a little dangerous for your wedding. I can assure you that wine and beer was plenty to keep our guests (and us haha) lively for the reception. This will save you SO MUCH MONEY! Alcohol is pretty dang expensive.
Things we didn't do: videographer (the one thing I would do if it was in our budget, but not something I really regret), guest favors at the reception, hotel welcome bags, open bar, gifts for each other for the wedding day, return RSVPs (we asked our guests to call or use our website), and about a million little things.
I know that's a lot of info, but don't worry! I will break down these categories over the next few months to help the future brides out there. What categories do you want to see first and what questions do you have? I hope this helped you and I wish you luck in the wedding planning process!
Photo by Avenue 356.