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Frugal Wedding Ideas

57282 Views 85 Replies 49 Participants Last post by  Guigz
I am sure that most of us will agree that a wedding can be the biggest rip off out there.

Just wondering how some of you saved some $$ on your big day.
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Just wondering how some of you saved some $$ on your big day.
Getting married next September, but my strategy so far is to have a budget, stick to it and I have a fiancee who is great on a budget.
Probably one of the biggest money savers would be to provide wine with dinner, but have a cash bar rather than an open bar. In my student days I worked as a waiter and noticed that I picked up quite a few more half empty glasses than usual for open bars.

On the other hand, don't cheap out too much. Its probably worth still having a nice dinner, flowers, etc. Its a once in a lifetime event (hopefully). I know that I originally complained a little about the costs but in the end found that it was worth it considering the significance of the day.

PS. Congratulations to both you and Brad911.
Its in the details


I personally am not married (yet) but use to work as a wedding coordinator at a very popular wedding venue (over a 100 per year).

Venue: This is a massive one. Think about the little details not just the per plate cost.
-Is it nicely decorated already? If so you will need a lot less decorations.
-If they have nice chairs that means no expensive chair covers (3+ per chair).
-How is their wedding coordinator and staff? Some are more helpful then others and this could mean the difference between hiring an "on the day" coordinator or not. I would lots of tips to my brides, help with other vendors, coordinate everything day of, help lay down menus, give aways, etc, etc. There is lots to do day of and you won't have time to deal with it.
-Do they include table linens? Most (not all ie cheaper ones) include them in the rental. If they are 60 inch rounds make sure they are either using 120 inch rounds (circular and will hit the ground) or doubling 90x90s (square but have cross they so they have 8 points hitting the ground). If linens are included just by a nice sheer overlay or table runner (much cheaper) or leave it white and use table decorations instead (much much cheaper)
-Do they include glassware/china in the venue rental? If not that can also add up quickly.
-Ask them what their F&B minimums are and if they change during the week. At our venue, you needed to spend $15,000 on food and beverage on a Friday or Saturday (May-September) but only $10,000 at any other time. Trust me, people will show up for your wedding no matter what day of the week it is. I saw numerous 200+ weddings, Sun-Thurs, including a 400 person wedding on a Tuesday. Think about it, how many of us actually work Mon-Fri anymore?
-Ask the venue if you can get a special event permit, this allows you to buy the liquor directly from the liquor store (and return the extra afterwards) therefore saving the venues mark up. You will be paying a corkage fee per guest but it still works out cheaper (especially if they are big drinkers).
-Opt for just a host bar but just beer, wine and a special cocktail. Check to see if your venue charges you per shot or per open bottle. That means if they open a bottle but only one shot is gone, you are paying for the whole bottle, so limit the kinds of liquor on the bar.
-Have a reception style dinner instead, this can be much cheaper.
-Buffet is sometimes more expensive (then need to prepare more food). Consider the price of plated and you could be surprised.
-Don't dismiss the all inclusive packages that are offered by some venues, the number seems big but do the math and it could end up being a good deal (again with the big drinker weddings).

Wow that was long and there is much much more. Good luck and message me if you have questions.
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I am sure that most of us will agree that a wedding can be the biggest rip off out there.

Just wondering how some of you saved some $$ on your big day.
Tip A: Sit down and figure out how much you could save on a mortgage with the $20-$30K people seem to think they need to spend on weddings these days.

Tip B: Get over yourself - you're not the Crown Prince and Princess. Get married at City hall, with 2 witnesses, and send all your friends and relatives an e-mail afterwards.

Tip C: There seems to be a trend to having your wedding in some Caribbean resort. Any "guests" who want to come have to pay their own way. It's cheaper than paying for a reception for 200.
I'm getting married in just 3 weeks, so most of the planning and purchasing has already been done. I'm a frugal person, and so I'd like to share some of the ways I saved money. Mostly, it just involves taking the time to shop around for good deals.

1) Start early, and start with the venues. This is especially important if you think you might invite 100+ guests. I started last September, but many of the places that had reasonable prices were already booked for most of the summer weekends. The sooner you start, the more options are available, and thus the easier it will be to find a good deal.

2) Look for a photographer who is just starting out on their own. Make sure they have several years of experience shooting weddings, but are still new to the business aspect and thus have competitive pricing. They may not be easy to find, so expect a fair bit of research time. Try, yellow pages, and maybe even a google search with "photographer" and your city name. A good photographer will have a website with a portfolio, or at least a photo blog. Look at their work and see if you like the style. Maybe get a friend or relative who knows about photography to evaluate the quality. Make sure they include a DVD with the full-resolution photos so you can get your own prints made - the photographer's packages of prints are rarely worth the price they charge. I keep all my photos on the computer anyway, and show them to people on my TV, so I'm only getting a few 8x10s for my parents and grandparents. I ended up going with a nice lady who charges $850 for a package that includes 2 photographers for the ceremony, formals, reception, and even includes an engagement session.

3) Make your own invitations. Search the internet for design ideas, but please don't replicate a copyright protected design. We saw a neat idea of using 1/4" ribbon, with one color forming a "V" coming down from the top and a second color of ribbon forming an inverted "V" from the bottom, loosely interlocked in the center. We used 3 layers of paper, sandwiching the ribbon ends between the middle and bottom layer. We bought nice high-quality paper and envelopes from a stationary store, and used the paper cutter at a Staples business center. We used our own laser printer, as the text was just plain black. Finally, rather than mailing out a whole bunch of stamped RSVP envelopes, we setup our own website and wrote a little php form that guests could use to RSVP for each family member (we're both computer programmers). You can easily get your own free wedding website: check out or do a Google search.

4) Shop around for flowers. Costco has some very inexpensive rose bouquets and boutonniers. After we decided what kinds of flowers we wanted to order, I phoned about a dozen florists to get quotes. I was amazed at the range of prices! Several were between $650 - $750, but a nearby Grower's Direct quoted me $400. I later called another Grower's Direct location because the manager there supposedly specialized in weddings - this one was only $300! Her bouquets were only a little more than Costco's price, so we decided to go with her for the entire order.

5) Who needs an expensive DJ? My fiancee and I don't like to dance, so it's really just for the guests. I was even considering going without one but I don't want all my friends and family to think I'm cheap (well I am, but most of my relatives don't know it). We found a guy who will play some oldies music for $550, plus $99 for setting up his audio equipment at the ceremony.

The only place I really did not want cheap out on is the rings. I let her pick out any ring she wanted, and was lucky that it was only $3000. My ring also has some small diamonds in it and cost $800. Her dress was also expensive, but her parents paid for it. But, a good way to cut costs is to rent a dress. Selection may not be as good, but if she's not picky then she'll find one that fits.
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Tip A: Sit down and figure out how much you could save on a mortgage with the $20-$30K people seem to think they need to spend on weddings these days.

Tip B: Get over yourself - you're not the Crown Prince and Princess. Get married at City hall, with 2 witnesses, and send all your friends and relatives an e-mail afterwards.

Tip C: There seems to be a trend to having your wedding in some Caribbean resort. Any "guests" who want to come have to pay their own way. It's cheaper than paying for a reception for 200.
Amen to that!

My wife and I got married at City Hall last October with only our parents in attendance. With the money we didn't spend on a huge wedding, we were easily able to afford a honeymoon in Hawaii (although the 7K price tag of that felt painful too, but not as painful as it would have been after a 30K wedding).

This weekend we are throwing a wedding "reception" in our backyard - BBQ and booze for everyone. We have requested that people dress in casual (e.g. summer bbq) clothes and not bring gifts. Total cost of our bbq: $1000 for food, liquor, table/chair rental, etc. Plus, we actually get to enjoy being with our friends and family and enjoy our own celebration instead of worry about every single little detail going well so that our big day doesn't get ruined.

The thing that shocks me most about weddings is how much people actually buy into the fact that it "has" to be just like everyone else's - i.e. flowers, fancy dinner, tux/dress, DJ, etc.

The most enjoyable wedding I have ever attended was one that had no official ceremony - just friends & family in the couple's backyard. Everyone was relaxed and comfortable. No expectations. And it was truly a celebration rather than a show.

Sorry if I sound cynical or resentful about weddings (because I AM). What a waste of money and setting yourselves up for years of financial stress trying to pay for it afterwards.

In this once-in-a-generation recession/depression, I can think of many better ways to spend 20-30K.
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I saved a few $ on the ring, as I bought the diamond from a wholesaler (w certificate) and had the ring made....ended up paying about 15% of the appraised value.

In general there are some good cash deals out there, perhaps b/c of the recession businesses are a little hungrier for business.
The other day my wife and I were on top of Grouse Mountain overlooking Vancouver - a popular wedding location. I can understand the choice but as we stood under the rented section of the lounge/outdoor patio I could see the musicians, servers and guests somewhat agitated by the bugs - on a cloudy day there are more than if it were sunny.

Ah yes ... those small details (pardon the pun)

When we married (frugally) it was on a beach during a cool, windy and cloudy late May day. We couldn't change the date as it was all prearranged BUT right at the very end of the ceremony - I swear this was true - a beautiful rainbow suddenly appeared right behind us. Fancy that.
I got married in my sister's house, standing on a platform covering her hot tub (drained and turned off for this event!).

We had 34 guests, a caterered tea beforehand, and a buffet dinner afterwards. I didn't wear a wedding dress, I didn't have flowers, and I don't have a diamond ring. We took everybody for a horse-drawn sleigh ride (it was a beautiful snowy December 23). The catering was the biggest expense, at $3500 (we had some fancy food, peeps).

Then for our honeymoon we went hiking in the Moroccan Anti-Atlas mountains for nearly a month. That cost more than the wedding, but not much! :)
If you have friends who are musicians, see if they will consider providing the music as their wedding gift to you.

If you're getting married in summer, collect your own flowers (or have friends collect them for you) from wildflowers growng alongside roads. There are plenty of beautiful roadside flowers, and most of them are alien species and not endangered (which would more likely be the case if you collect them in the woods or other natural areas).

I've been to several weddings that were potluck affairs, with people bringing their own food. It didn't feel cheap - the food was fantastic and the effort that people put into making the food felt like a real gift and a show of love.

Forego engagement rings. I know lots of married couples who didn't bother with an engagement ring and even a couple who didn't bother with wedding bands either. Rings are expensive and can be easily lost; some people even buy insurance for their rings, which over their married life ends up costing as much or more than the rings themselves.

I think the degree of frugality you can bring to your wedding depends in large part on how traditional/conventional you are and also the expectations of your respective families and the importance of tradition to them. Some people would prefer to have a simple wedding but end up spending a lot of money to placate their parents and extended families who are expecting a traditional wedding. Everyone's situation is different. I've been married twice and both times we spent less than $1,000 total on our weddings. But we were unconventional and our families didn't mind. Not everyone has that kind of freedom.
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I would just like to add, that considering the occasion, it is very important that you both be on board for a frugal low cost wedding. If you both are in agreement on a simple low-cost wedding, great. In my case, my wife wanted specific things - a church wedding, a nice dress, flowers, a nice cake, a good photographer, and a nice reception. We did cut costs on some items - a friend did the videotaping and we had a cash bar (but supplied wine with dinner). We also didn't go overboard on the cost of rings, but I did replace the diamond in my wife's ring years latter.

I would have been just as happy with a more simple affair, but I knew it was important to my wife and in the end I was glad we did it. (In fact, if I had it to do over again, I may have even splurged on the cash bar.) My wife is typically very very frugal (often more so than me) and this type of spending was out of character, so I knew that it must be extremely important to her.

Just a few things to keep in mind.
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Well, my wife and I managed to pull off a very nice wedding a week ago, and today, after tallying up the numbers, our net worth only took a .27% hit this month. ;)

We utilized my parents Gulf Island property so we didn't have to rent a hall... just some good sized tents. My folks and I split the costs down the middle: booze, catering, etc.

People who came to the wedding had to pay for accomodations at resorts and B&B's so we told the guests that we didn't expects gifts from them. Most abided by that rule, but not all... We also had a cab company on call all night so we didn't have to worry about people who had been drinking trying to negotiate unfamilar and winding roads.

We just go back from our honeymoon yesterday, and managed to spend over $2000 in three days in the Parksville area of Vancouver Island. So any frugality pretty much went out the window at that point. :D

Back to savings mode starting tomorrow!!!!!!!
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It seems I have a whole different idea of what expensive is! I was getting stressed out at the cost of our wedding in my hometown (500$ DJ, 1300$ dinner, etc) so we moved it to my fiancé's hometown where he has a big family (DJ=free by his uncle who has a side business, dinner = his mother and her sisters catering, etc). We had a budding photographer who was charging us 200$ lined up and that's the only part I was sad to see go because she was really good. Still, we managed to get that for free too. A good friend ours is a hobby photographer and very talented.

Picking flowers for free is a great idea, but I wouldn't go this route for the corsages and boutonnieres. Florists know what they're doing and have an eye for this stuff. However, I only want a very simple bouquet, so I've ordered roses from the grocery store and bought florist wire from Michael's to tie them myself. I might pick some wildflowers for the decor though! Must be careful for bugs though. I tried to pick some dasies for the house, but they were infested!
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My wife and I decided not to have a cake. With paying for the cake itself and the cutting fees ($2-4$ per guest) you can save a lot of money. Plus, none of your guests will care or even realize you didn't a cake. We had been to a wedding before ours where they B&G faked their "cutting the cake" photos before the guests arrived, and then the staff cut the cake in the kitchen later in the evening. What's the point of that? Another couple that got married had a little cake at their rehearsal dinner instead of at the wedding reception.

Reusable center pieces. I just sold our center pieces for $100. If you buy them from someone else, you should be able to resell them yourself after the wedding and get your money back. Check out kijiji, craigslist, usedottawa, etc for reusable ideas.

We had a decorator that set up and tore down our reception decorations for about $300. This was well worth it and a great stress remover. This decorator also had stuff we could rent from her (giftbox, chair covers, etc) if needed. She even sold wedding dresses.

I would recommend an open bar though. I don't drink, so at first I was against it. I was considering having a $2 price for all drinks with the money going to charity, but instead went with open bar. Even if you close the open bar at midnight or 11:30, that would be fine. The reason to have an open bar is that you are having the guests there to celebrate with you, so asking them to cough up extra cash for drinks just seems impolite. These guests are going to be giving you gifts (many will be just cash or checks), so don't focus so much on what the open bar will cost you. We ended up depositing $8000 in checks in the bank the next day. We hadn't even considered that we would get half that.

Be careful with who you choose for a photographer. We went high end photographer. We had friends that went towards the lower end and are now ashamed to show their photos because they are that bad. We probably spent $5000 compared to their sub $1000 but it was important to us to have great photos. This is who we went with

The best advice I can give is to choose what is important to you. You can't have the best of everything, so don't try to. Figure out where you can cut back, but don't try to cut back on everything. Consider where you are trying to save as well. We had our invitations done by a graphic designer for around $600. Sure, we could have done them by ourselves, but it would have still cost us $200 as well as hours and hours of frustration. Pick your spots!
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I am planning on having a garden wedding come December of this year because this is my fiancee's lifelong dream, any advices? Would greatly appreciate it, thanks in advance! :)
I am planning on having a garden wedding come December of this year because this is my fiancee's lifelong dream, any advices? Would greatly appreciate it, thanks in advance! :)
-Depending on whether there will be a specific dinner time for everyone, make sure to get enough tables and chairs to accommodate everyone. If it's going to be casual and buffet-style, then you can probably get away with fewer tables and chairs since some people will be standing around/mingling while others sit and eat. If you have a van/truck, opt to pick up tables & chairs yourself (we don't have a van, and the delivery charge accounted for nearly half the total rental cost!)
-Hire a waiter/waitress at your local coffee shop/restaurant who would be thrilled to work for $15-$20 an hour. We paid a student $80 to be at our party for about 4 hours and make sure everyone always had a drink, utensils, napkins, and could direct them to a garbage or washroom if necessary. This saved us a lot of headaches since we were already really busy and didn't have time to manage these things for everyone.
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Maybe no savings here, but have you seen Jill and Kevin's wedding dance? I love it! It's just so joyful!
We pulled it off by caring about being married, not the wedding itself.

The "engagement ring" was new sheets for our bed ($100ish). We had a forest wedding with a burgers and beer reception for our families where everyone was asked to bring either a salad or dessert. Pictures were taken by ourselves and our guests.

For 80 or so people, the whole thing ran us about $1,500 (food, clothing, etc). And since people didn't seem to want to skip the gift and just bring food as requested, we actually turned a profit of $1,000 or so on the event.

There's no trick per se, we just didn't want the big wedding experience so it was easy to skip most expensive things. Many of them we learned about while reading on ways to save, we never would have thought of buying flowers, for one thing.

Almost a year later, neither of us has any regrets. It was a great day and it's thankfully over now!
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Maybe no savings here, but have you seen Jill and Kevin's wedding dance? I love it! It's just so joyful!
That put a smile on my face! Awesome!
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