I love being married. Seriously, I fucking love it. Yeah, single people have some advantages (your own bedroom! unrestrained flirting!) but I would never trade in my wedding band to be single again.
I married my husband in June of 2006. When I planned my wedding, I knew I wanted it to be classic, not trendy. Like many married couples, we were just starting out. We didn't have a lot of money, so our wedding budget was tight, but it forced us to keep things creative, no-fuss and personalized.
We did some research, made an estimate and asked our parents for donations. Talking about money is tacky, so I'm not going to give the financial details, but I will say that the wedding cost about a third of what weddings were going for at the time. The low price didn't come easy, though. We had to ask for a lot of favors and do a lot of projects ourselves, but in the end, there was no doubt that the wedding was ours -- customized to the last detail.
I learned a lot from the experience. Here are 10 tips for creating an awesome low-budget wedding.
1. Have the reception at a hotel or B&B where the cost is free or negligible if you fill up the rooms with guests.
The first thing we did was ask around to find potential wedding sites. We knew we wanted an outdoor wedding since we're nature-lovers. The best deal was a small B&B in the mountains where we could rent it out for the whole weekend. As long as we filled all their rooms with guests, the cost of the reception site was free. Yes, free.
Filling the rooms was easy since we had so many guests coming from out of town. We took the master suite, allowing us to luxuriate all weekend without shuttling back and forth from our home. It also allowed us to spend more time with people coming from out of town, soaking in the hot tub late into the evening. The cost of transportation to the wedding site was eliminated because we had the ceremony and reception in the same place where we were already staying.
The downside was having to rent tents, tables, and chairs, but we ordered the least expensive options because we knew we would decorate them up and we wanted to maintain the feel of a no frills backyard wedding.
2. Have a buffet and consider doing more hearty vegetarian entrees, or skip the caterer and have a potluck.
We picked our favorite restaurant to cater. The food was excellent and the service superb. Buffet was the way to go and, in this case, the least expensive option. We ordered salmon and made the additional entrees, spinach lasagna and veggie tamales, meatless saving us a lot of money on catering. We had to provide our own liquor. We spent a year collecting wines from local wineries and then ordered kegs from the local brewery.
My friend Sarah had a potluck wedding and, not only did she have a large variety of food for every appetite and diet, but the food turned out amazing. People put in the extra effort to make something special for such a special event. Another option is to provide meat and ask your Uncle John who prides himself on his barbecue sauce to do the grilling. Ask guests to bring side dishes.
3. Find a good local band instead of an expensive wedding band or skip the live entertainment and make your own playlist.
This was probably the funnest part of planning our wedding. We went to as many live shows in local bars as we could, until we found the perfect band to add to the down-home feel we were looking for. Having never done a wedding before and more accustomed to dive bars, the band did not have the high fees that wedding musicians usually do. They even learned to play the Hora for us.
Of course, many couples are choosing to skip the live entertainment all together and let their music streaming service do the DJing. You might have to rent the sound system for this to work. While we did make our own playlist for the ceremony and cocktail hour, we wanted the intimate and spontaneous feel of live music for our event.
4. Delegate tasks to family and skip the wedding planner.
Though wedding planners are great for big weddings or destination weddings, a simple, low budget wedding doesn't need someone to run the show. With enough advance planning, the bride and groom can delegate tasks to different friends and family members. Creating a list worked best for us so that everyone knew what everybody else's assigned task was. This way I didn't even need to oversee anything. Everyone was able to help each other. Sometimes you can find a location for your wedding that provides a planner free of charge.
5. Don’t use flowers for the reception (or even the ceremony).
I only ordered flowers for the ceremony, so I saved on the expense of having them for reception centerpieces. In-season native flowers are the least expensive. For centerpieces, I bought a small assortment of terracotta pots, which my sister helped paint. We filled them with inexpensive plants and placed them in groups of threes around the table. At the end of the night, some guests were able to take them home as gifts. My mother-in-law made table runners. Consider other creative centerpieces like fruits, candles or pottery.
It is possible to skip flowers altogether. I've seen some amazing crafty bouquets on Pinterest that didn't involve any flowers. You can choose something that speaks to your couple-personality instead. Why not walk down the aisle holding balloons or a pom pom bouquet? Or carry nothing at all.
6. Have someone make your dress for you, or buy one at a thrift store.
My mom and I found the perfect dress pattern in a catalog and, skipping the gaudy wedding fabrics, found the perfect lace overlay in the drapery section. My mom is a great seamstress, but she lives far away, so we found a local seamstress to make it for us. The cost ended up being minimal. We even saved on shoes by going barefoot.
I own a vintage boutique and find amazing white (or any color) dresses that would make perfect wedding gowns for the right individual with distinct taste. Thrift stores are loaded with inexpensive second-hand wedding dresses. You only wear it once, after all.
7. Skip the diamond and platinum rings.
Some ladies like the bling and would be remiss to give up their diamonds, but that's not really my style; I don't want to have to take off my wedding ring when I travel, do the dishes, or garden. My husband and I purchased inexpensive matching bands from a local jeweler and had them engraved with our wedding date (which has come in handy more than once when I'm forgetful). My husband even lost his ring while chopping wood and I simply replaced it.
8. DIY for everything you can.
Make your own invitations, gifts, favors, chuppah, centerpieces, etc. My mom is an artist and graphic designer, so she was able to help with invites. We went to the craft store and found paper and ribbon in our wedding colors. My husband and I wrote up what we wanted the invites to say and my mother printed them out on her fancy printer. We used the invites to draw in the look for the whole wedding: terracotta and teal with gold spirals.
My mom also helped make the chuppah. After my friend Sarah tie dyed some leftover muslin for us, we decorated it with paint and beads. I had a Craft Night where my friends helped me make napkin rings out of gold wire and old glass beads. For favors I cut sage, a ubiquitous New Mexican bush, from my backyard and rolled it into smudge sticks.
For my bridesmaids' gifts, I beaded necklaces that they could wear for the wedding if they wanted. Each bridesmaid was given a color theme and could wear whatever they wanted. This made for a fun and eclectic wedding party.
9. Do your own hair and make-up.
Again, this is a matter of enlisting talented friends. My sister is a great make-up artist, so she did my make-up. I decided to keep my hair long and a friend helped me braid the sides.
10. Ask a friend or family member who is particularly good at photography and has a good camera to do the photos for you.
Explain the shots you want ahead of time so there is no confusion. My husband's co-worker, who was a photojournalist, and his grandfather, who was a professional photographer, took the wedding photos. His cousin, an aspiring documentarian, did the videography. Many of our guests shared their photos with us and we had a huge array of photographic experiences to choose form.
In the end, the event would have been impossible without all the people who put so much love and labor into it. But most importantly, my husband and I did our best to have fun with it all. It would have been too easy to stress about all that could have gone wrong.
Did you have a low budget wedding? Any other tips?