Recently I read a statistic that boggled my mind: according to this article, the average wedding cost $30,000.
$30,000??? Whaaaaattt?? Where do people GET thirty grand? Do they go into debt just for a party? Do they take out loans?
We have some friends who oldest daughter is getting married in a couple of weeks, and I'll bet... well, I'll bet $30,000 that her wedding won't cost a fraction of that amount.
The article notes: Beyond the wedding venue and catering, which cost an average of $13,385 in 2013, other big-ticket items included engagement rings (at an average of $5,598), reception bands ($3,469), flowers and other decor ($2,069) and wedding photos ($2,440).
The article also notes that cost will depend on location, which makes perfect sense. In fact, it specifically mentions Idaho, to wit: Couples who got hitched in Manhattan spent the most, at an average of nearly $87,000, up $10,000 from the year before. Meanwhile, newlyweds in Utah and Idaho spent the least, with average spending in both states falling below $17,000.
Still... seventeen thousand dollars? On what planet?
Granted, Don and I got married back in the dark ages of 1990. But even then I clearly remember being determined to spend as little as possible. We had the most glorious wedding -- holy, beautiful, fun, extravagent, rolicking. Later I wrote an article on how to have a cheap wedding which never got published. I thought this might be a good spot to post the highlights of how we got married on the cheap (with the understanding there was a lot we could have done to be even more thrifty but it would have horrified my more conventional parents).
So here's what we did:
We used my parents' spacious backyard. By choosing a sunny month and not using a building, we were able to save church and hall rental fees. The reception was also held in the yard. Consider using parks, friends' yards, etc.
I wanted a very specific type of wedding gown, and could find nothing like it in the bridal magazines. So I went to a dressmaker who specialized in wedding dresses. For the extremely modest price of $450, I got the dress of my dreams. Even after 24 years, I have never seen a dress I thought was more beautiful.
When designing the dress, I brought in lots of pictures cut out of wedding magazines - I want this type of bodice, that type of sleeve, this neckline, that skirt, etc. The dressmaker sketched out the design to my approval, then I chose the satin and lace from her selection. I went in twice for fittings.
One of the reasons that the price was so low is that I did all of my own beadwork. The dressmaker gave me the pieces as they were completed -- the bodice first, then each of the sleeves -- and I beaded and sequenced the dress myself. The benefit of this, besides the cost, was the quality. I used double thread and sewed each bead/sequin on with a double loop, ensuring that nothing would snag or fall off. Frequently wedding gowns come with the beads glued on, and they don't last.
Of course, give the dressmaker sufficient advanced notice that you're interested in doing your own beadwork, and give yourself enough time to do the beadwork.
I made my own. I went to a bunch of fabric stores, found the cap frame I wanted, secured some of the satin that the dressmaker was using for the dress to cover the frame, then I beaded the cap, sewed lace to the veil, sewed the veil to the cap, and beaded the veil. It was easy, cheap, and stunning -- plus, it was exactly what I wanted.
We didn't want matching rings, since we have different taste in jewelry. Don chose a braided silver band which cost $50. I wanted a solid gold band bezel set with a topaz (I don't care for diamonds). We went to a jeweler who specializes in custom work, described our tastes, and he sketched the designs. When the designs were approved, I chose my stone, and he made the rings. My ring cost $500 and is exactly what I wanted.
No getting around this. The men rented them.
• Bridesmaids' Dresses
Because my wedding gown was unusual in design (it had an empire waist to flatter my short height), I wished the bridesmaids to wear an empire style as well. Additionally, one of my bridesmaids (well, bridesmatrons) was heavily pregnant, so a standard dress wouldn't have fit her anyway. Accordingly, I chose a dress pattern in each woman's size, as well as the fabric, and sent it to her. For those maids/matrons able to sew, they sewed their own dress (which cost them nothing, since I provided all the materials). For those unable to sew, they chose a dressmaker and I paid that dressmaker for making the dress.
The maids/matrons were instructed to wear whatever hairstyle, shoes, and other accessories they wished. For necklaces, we simply used a single black ribbon around their necks. This kept the costs to a minimum for the bridesmaids.
• Bridesmaids' Gifts
I bought each maid/matron a freshwater pearl bracelet, to compliment the freshwater pearls I used in my veil. Fairly inexpensive and very tasteful.
I did use a conventional florist for this, for the wedding bouquet, maids' bouquet, boutonnieres, etc. I kept the styles simple in order to keep the price lower. Others might try silk arrangements they make themselves, or for that matter wildflowers or seasonal foliage (an arrangement of wheat stalks and preserved colored leaves for a fall wedding, for instance).
Here I had a tremendous advantage. My matron-of-honor's late mother, a dear family friend, was a talented cake maker. She made the cake as her wedding present to us. An inexpensive option might be to contact cakemaking classes or amateurs for a cake.
We didn't want the standard boring old run-of-the-mill invitations. Don (who has an artistic bent) did a subdued watercolor background and we printed the invitations with his artwork. With modern computer programs and the internet, there are all sorts of creative opportunities today that didn’t exist when we got married.
Here again we were fortunate. My brother and his then-fiancée (now wife) are classical musicians (he plays oboe, she plays piano). We rented an electronic keyboard piano, and my brother and his fiancée played all the background music, the marches up and down the aisle, etc. This was their wedding gift to us.
My next brother video taped the whole wedding and reception. This was an advantage because (a) he's a fairly good amateur video-taper, and (b) he wasn't obnoxious in the way some photographers are ("Hey you! Do something stupid for the camera!"). The result is not "professional" in the sense of dramatic background music, etc., but it's a terrific video which shows exactly how our wedding went.
• Reception Music
My youngest brother (yes, I have three brothers) has a knack for electronics, so he borrowed some equipment from friends and wired some speakers in the yard, so he could play background music before the wedding, and dancing music during the reception.
Ah, one of the most expensive and unsatisfying parts of any wedding. Many of the photographers we contacted were demanding and arrogant to the point of the ridiculous. My mother helped in this search, and finally found a woman who would charge only (!!) $1500 for a few portraits, and we could not keep the negatives. I put my foot down -- there was no way I was going to spend (or ask my parents to spend) that kind of money for a few pictures. Instead, and here's a radical concept, we had no photographer at all. We had friends and family take photos and then reaped the best of their shots. We had beautiful results and never regretted not having a professional photographer.
We did pay a minister to perform the ceremony. He was a lovely gentleman and charged us a modest price.
This was the single largest expense in our wedding. I wanted to have a potluck wedding reception, with people hired to arrange and serve the food, but my mother put her foot down. She thought (quite correctly too, I suspect) that this would mean she would be in the kitchen supervising things rather than enjoy her daughter's wedding. So my parents paid for caterers to come to the house, where they did a nice display of cold foods (deli items, cold cuts, salads, fruits, etc.) that did not require heating.
With some advanced planning, a potluck arrangement is still entirely do-able, and can be fun as well, especially if you hire people to supervise, arrange, etc. Besides, if you request that guests bring a food dish as their wedding gift to you, it makes for warm fuzzies on both sides (my husband and I didn't especially want wedding gifts, but we could think of no tasteful way to request this).
• Frou-Frou Stuff
We avoided this whenever possible. The wedding industry is very quick to point out all the things you simply can't be without on your wedding day: printed-up matchbooks, napkins, engraved goblets, special cake cutters, a guest book, feathered pen for signing the guest book, and on and on and on. They imply that your guests will look down on you if you don't have all this stuff.
It's hogwash, of course. We had an exciting, memorable, incredibly glorious wedding that was enjoyed by everyone. People came to see us make a lifelong commitment to each other, not to be impressed by our fake-mother-of-pearl-handled cake cutters. I mean, c'mon -- do you really want these things hanging around your house for the next 25 years?
The idea of a bride turning into “bridezilla” often arises because marketers convince a woman she simply can’t live without the frou frou.
It's hard to keep things in perspective while planning a wedding, but if you keep the important things foremost -- making your vows before God, family, and friends -- and realize that everything else is secondary, you can have a remarkably inexpensive wedding.
I'm sure there are endless other ideas for an inexpensive wedding, so feel free to chime in.