Sticking to our Wedding Budget
The first discussion my husband and I had after the proposal was when to have the wedding. That’s when we realized we had two options: have the wedding in six months or wait two years because of proms and graduations coming up the following year. Neither of us wanted to wait two years so we decided to plan it within six months.
We saved thousands by planning everything ourselves. In addition, I was working full time, had a family of five, and attending Grad school. Yet, the wedding went off without a hitch!
It was a 3-day event: Thursday – Rehearsal & Dinner, Friday – The Wedding, Saturday – Backyard BBQ. Here’s how we pulled it off and how you can too.
Announcement: If you’re short on time like we were, you’ll need to be considerate of guests and their plans; especially out-of-towners. You can create a private Facebook group or simply announce it on your Facebook page. However, we each decided to call everyone instead of announcing it on social media.
Budget: We chose an amount we were comfortable with that wouldn’t put us into debt. A common mistake people make is inviting too many guests and blowing their budget. Review your overall finances and budget. Then be realistic as you set out to book and purchase items for the wedding.
Guest List: If you’d like to stay within your budget and have the wedding of your dreams, consider inviting close friends and family only. We did not invite co-workers or people we haven’t talked to or spent time with in years. It was important for us to stay within our budget. In total, we invited 85 people. In the end, we had 77 RSVP’s and 75 guests showed up. Trust me, you will have the time of your life with those you are closest to (as you’ll see in our wedding video below).
Venue: This is the most important and sometimes most difficult step. I was determined not to waste time or spend weeks searching for a venue. To narrow down our choices, we first agreed on what we absolutely wanted as far as scenery. For us, that was an outdoor ceremony with a body of water and a reception with a view. It was also important that each was close to hotel accommodations for out-of-town guests.
I spent some time surfing the web and narrowed it down to my top three choices in our area. We based our decision on menu, venue size, and (of course) costs. After taking a weekend to visit all three, we took a day or two to discuss and compare the options. By Monday, we were signing the contract and paying the deposit!
The venue included food, décor, and liquor. This was great because we needed a place that took care of everything since we were limited on time.
Photographer: Once the venue was booked and we knew the exact date, we immediately booked the photographer. We chose three potential photographers based on portfolio, reviews, and price. After taking a day or two to review package prices and options, we booked and scheduled engagement photos for the following month.
Honeymoon: To save money, we booked our honeymoon at the All-Inclusive Secrets Resort (adults-only) in Cancun Mexico, through BookVip.com. The total for 5 nights was less than $1,000. We had to sit through a one-hour time share presentation, but it was well worth it. We then booked our flights and were all set to go!
- Remain flexible with your date. We initially wanted to have our wedding on August 6th which was the anniversary of the day we met. We quickly realized that we may need to change it based on each venue’s availability.
- Consider having your wedding on a weekday or on Sunday to save money. Our wedding was on a Friday. A friend of mine had hers on a Thursday during a three-day holiday weekend. Remaining flexible saved us thousands of dollars.
Hotel for out-of-town guests: I reached out to the three hotels near our chosen venue and requested proposals. I told them the number of “potential” rooms needed (starting with a block of 10). Each emailed a proposal with discounted rates. Our guests would be paying for their own rooms so we wanted to be sure not to book anything that was too expensive. We reserved a block of rooms at two of the nearby hotels to give guests a choice (affordability vs luxury). We also booked two suites at the most affordable hotel for the bridal party to get dressed and to take pictures.
Lower cost option – Get ready at home.
Wedding website: This was so much fun! I created a wedding website with a personalized URL (for just a few dollars) on theknot.com. We had a webpage to tell our story and another page for hotel accommodations with a link to the hotel. I also linked our registry and RSVPify to our wedding website. RSVPify allows you to create your wedding guest list online so your guests can virtually RSVP. This saved us from having to wait for responses via snail mail. Our guests found this option to be unique and convenient.
Engagement Photos: We scheduled our first session with the photographer for the first week of the following month. Once we received the digital images (two weeks later), we added them to our wedding website. We also used one of the pictures from our engagement session to create “Save the Date” cards at Walmart which included a link to our wedding website.
Wedding attire: First we decided on a color. My husband chose Ivory, Navy Blue and Gold. Next, with a limited amount of time to plan, I decided against having my gown made by a seamstress. I surfed the web for a few days and made appointments at local bridal shops. I purchased my wedding gown from David’s bridal (with minor alterations). For the reception, I eventually changed into a dress I purchased from an inexpensive online dress shop that I wore in our engagement photos. The total for both was much lower than we’d originally budgeted. We also chose the wedding party’s attire from David’s bridal and Men’s Wearehouse for a nice discounted price. The wedding party paid for their own attire.
Lower cost option: Forego the reception dress, rent your gown, purchase your gown from a thrift shop, or join bridal groups on Facebook to find someone selling their gown.
DJ/Entertainment: For the DJ, I joined a few wedding groups on Facebook and asked for recommendations. We requested quotes from several who were available on our date. We found the perfect DJ for a price well below our budget. If you’re in the DFW area and need a reliable and fun DJ who also offers transportation and lighting, check out DJ Smooth B at Any Events Productions. We had the time of our lives! You won’t be disappointed.
In addition to the DJ, I wanted someone to sing at our ceremony. For low cost entertainment, I signed up for an account on GigMasters to find affordable professionals. Each entertainer has a profile for you to listen to their music and read reviews. I found a songstress for $125! She was amazing!
Dessert: While laying in the bed at night, I looked for cake ideas on Pinterest. Once I found one that I loved, I took the photo to a bakery in our area. We told the baker what our budget was and he created exactly what we wanted (above) along with a free groom’s cake. We also hired a small business owner to create our sweets table and had more than enough dessert for our 75 guests.
Lower-cost option: Forego the sweets table. Bake your own cake or order a cake from the grocery store.
Videographer: This was an expense I was willing to pay. In fact, our guest count was initially 100 people. However, we lowered the total number of guests to afford a videographer.
I wanted something besides photos to look back on our day. The video captured the essence of our wedding. I’m so happy we booked it. You can watch our wedding highlights video below.
Formal Invitations: This was merely a formality for me. Our guests already had access to our wedding website from the Save the Date cards. I found these beautiful scroll invitations on Etsy while laying in bed one night and had to have them! They came in a pretty box. I tied a bow around them, purchased envelopes and a book of stamps and mailed them out to everyone. Turns out, they served as a reminder for anyone who hadn’t already RSVP’d on our website to do so.
Florist – I found the florist in one of the wedding groups on Facebook. He came highly recommended. I told him what my budget was and he suggested a bouquet of flowers for myself and baby’s breath for the bridal party and ceremony. For the tables at the reception, I told him I wanted tall centerpieces. He placed tall branches on each of the tables and repurposed mine and the bridesmaids bouquets. It was stunning!
Lower-cost option: Order your flowers online or use silk flowers.
Make-up artist (MUA): I went to Instagram to find this professional. Some MUAs do a great job showing before and after photos of their clients. The MUA I chose was very professional, affordable, and offered a practice session. I booked her to do make-up for all of the women in the bridal party including our mothers.
Gifts: With the money we saved on my gown, I shopped on Etsy for gifts. In fact, we found gifts for the bridal party and our parents for a very low price. To keep the children busy during the reception, I purchased small gift boxes and filled them with toys (according to their age), along with LED shades and glow necklaces to wear while they danced. Needless to say, the kids had a ball!
Favors: I purchased Tic Tac mints from the Dollar Store and created labels with our names and wedding date thanking our guests. I also purchased a small basket to put them on our entry table for guests to grab at their leisure. We spent a total of $30 for everything.
Rehearsal Dinner: I booked the rehearsal dinner at an affordable Italian restaurant near the hotel. To keep the price low, I chose a semi-private room instead of a private room. The cost included food and beverages.
Lower-cost option: Order pizza or have a potluck back at the house after rehearsal.
Day-of Coordinator: If you decide to plan the wedding yourself, I highly suggest hiring a Day-of coordinator. Some day of coordinators actually work for one to two months prior to the wedding. To keep costs low, I found a coordinator who was willing to work the week of the wedding. Day of coordinators work to pull everything together for you. He/she ensures all vendors follow the timeline and helps with set up before the wedding and clean up after the wedding.
Don’t try to do it all yourself. A coordinator will help alleviate stress and worry.
Lower-cost option: Ask a family member to act as the coordinator.
Wedding Signs: I ordered several wedding signs from Etsy for tables and the ceremony.
Hair: I did my own hair (braids due to 100 degree weather), but I decided to play around with different styles I liked. I looked to Pinterest once again for inspiration and came up with something simple.
Photo Booth: At the last minute I decided I wanted to get a photo booth with the money we’d saved in other categories. I’m so glad I did. Our guests loved it and we have some amazing and fun photos.
Small Projects: I spent this time completing small projects. With my daughters help, we created the escort cards, labels for the favors, and assembled the gift boxes for the kids at the reception.
Month 6: The Wedding - August 12, 2016
Six months prior, we created a plan, budget, and executed month after month. The wedding was everything we wanted. The Day of coordinator was amazing and I spent the final week before the wedding at the spa and relaxing. The best part was celebrating our day with our loved ones as we began our journey as Mr. and Mrs. Charles Owens II.