The idea of a wedding on a budget may make you recoil in horror – this is supposed to be your dream day, an amazing event to celebrate your life together, not a dreary affair with sawdust chicken and moonshine wine.
What if I told you that you can create a budget for your wedding and then create a dream wedding within that budget that will have everyone smiling and you reflecting fondly on the memories for years to come?
Be Realistic About Living Your Dream
The average wedding cost in 2015 was $32,641. But do you have that much cash stashed in your freezer? I’m guessing not. If you do, we need to talk… but I digress!
To create a wedding budget, I suggest you assess your funds and determine how much of your savings you can use now and how much more you can save before the wedding date to cover your costs. Then be realistic. Do you need to spend your maximum budget? Can you set a lower budget to ensure unexpected costs don’t derail your attempts to avoid excessive debt? I recommend you itemize everything to ensure you don’t go over budget. This can also help you avoid going into debt and having to borrow money to cover your costs.
Speaking of debt, assess your ability to repay debt before setting your budget. I don’t recommend borrowing to pay for a wedding, but it may be your only option. If you have $5,000 to spend on a wedding today, but spend $15,000, how quickly can you repay that $10,000 difference? Don’t count on monetary gifts from your guests to pay that debt down, either. Those gifts may not add up and you may be left with a debt load you cannot repay regularly – and thus added stress.
Spending a lot of money on a wedding may seem like a good idea at the time, but as time passes, and arguments over money and debt grow, you may reconsider. Sticking to a budget now will allow you to start your marriage with less debt and greater finances to fund your dreams together – like a house, a maternity leave, or simply a vacation to reconnect with each other every year.
Here are a few tips to help you reduce costs, have fun together, and stick to your wedding budget:
Tip 1: Reconsider your Guest List and Your Date
Pair down your guest list as much as you can. As much as you’d love Aunt Jeanie’s daughter to join you, do you want to be paying for her meal for the next year?
Then consider having your wedding on a weeknight instead of during the premium weekend slot, or during the off-season. Summer may be prime-wedding-time, but November to March can offer fewer sweaty guests shifting in their seats waiting for you to kiss already. Off-season weddings also offer opportunities for negotiating costs. Venues are more likely to offer complimentary appetizers, or maybe even shave some of the cost off each plate, rather than leave the venue empty!
Tip 2: Scout a Different Location
Niagara is filled with amazing wineries and other gorgeous wedding venues. All of them would be amazing options, but some of them may be pricey. Do you know someone with a great backyard? Or does a friend or family member own a local restaurant or venue that you could use? Look beyond traditional venues – consider terraces, gazebos, and other places like breweries and barns. Many places will charge only $30/person (catered!) with a minimum of 25 guests. If that is not the case with the venue you find, try negotiating with your location to bring in your own caterer or food. Remember: it never hurts to negotiate. The worst they will say is no. The best they will say is yes. The more yes’s you get for your wedding day, the better – right?
Tip 3: Dress the Part
Consignment stores can offer hidden treasures for brides. The average wedding dress can cost $2500, but online and local consignment stores, like Second Dance, can offer dresses for a fraction of that with no less style. Online shopping can also help you find your dream dress, and you can have it shipped to you and then tailored locally to save costs. If you’re looking local, you can also find “wedding swap” groups. These groups are often organized on social media, like Niagara Swap and Sell, and they are a great way to source used wedding items like dresses (and more!). Wedding swap groups can also provide valuable feedback on suit rentals (and other wedding essentials like photographers, bands, and venues) to help you stay on budget and stay happy. Remember those swap groups after the wedding too, because you may be able to sell your dress, centrepieces, linens, etc. and recoup some of your costs!
Tip 4: Feed the Masses
Look local and think beyond the traditional catered affair. A food truck is a fun option for an outdoor wedding (look at that: less expensive venue + less expensive food = less debt and more smiles). Perhaps a family member or friend has a killer appetizer recipe they could use to “cater” for you? Are you friends with a restaurant owner who could cater for you? Ever thought about rolling up your sleeves and spending a little bonding time with your future kitchen-sharing spouse? You could prepare sides yourselves and even prep the main meaty dish to be grilled on site. Perhaps you could get your bridal party in on the prep party too. Try making your own wedding cake out of cupcakes or Timbits – the kitch-factor can add a lot of fun to the wedding.
Tip 5: Wet the Whistles
If you choose an alternative venue, the cost savings can add up as you’re able to purchase and supply your own alcohol. Niagara is filled with amazing wineries and a growing craft beer <market> — any number of which may offer you wine or beer in bulk at a reduced rate. You can find a fun assortment of cocktail mixings at your local LCBO and create a signature drink for the wedding. Consider having Smart Serve certified friends serve your guests and arrange designated drivers and alternative transportation to keep everyone happy and safe.
Tip 6: Decorate the Do
We are lucky to live in Niagara – home of many great greenhouses and florists. Source out your flowers locally and save a bunch of money and consider alternative arrangements – think a hand-tied bouquet of flowers from your grandmother’s green thumb to your sweaty palms. And I know you don’t want a dollar-store affair, but who will be able to tell the difference between an expensive rental vase and a $2 vase you sourced yourself? Check out local consignment and thrift stores for wine glasses, table clothes, plates, and wedding favour items to save where you can. Cut your own flowers, branches, corn stalks, or other nature-inspired decorations. Pinterest is your friend here. When your creativity may feel tapped out, you can find a million – or so – ideas to bring your wedding vision to life.
Check out Country Basket for a professional hand-tied arrangement for your affordable wedding.
Tip 7: Capture the Moment
Instead of hiring a professional photographer to record the whole event, use a pro for a few photos and recruit your guests and the smart phones they’re looking at anyway, to capture special moments from your wedding. Guests can email you their photos and you can create a unique and personalized wedding album that will have you smiling at the memories of everyone’s happiness on your special day. You can print out your own photos to save too!
Tip 8: Honeymoon at Home
Consider a staycation in our beloved Niagara. People travel here from around the globe for their honeymoons – it really can be a magical place to celebrate your love. Look beyond the motel strips and check out a local BnB on the Wine Route. Find romance in a sunset stroll in a part of Niagara you have never seen. Get creative and enjoy yourselves wherever you are – because that’s what its really about anyway!
If you find you need help planning your wedding budget, reach out to your financial advisor. A planning session in advance and then a few check in’s along the way can help keep you on track with what may feel like a runaway train of money leading up to your big day. Your advisor may not have as many awesome ideas for saving money at your wedding as I do, but they can lead you along a secure path to avoid excessive debt and ensure you maximize your joy and jubilation instead.