You've finally found the one you want to spend the rest of your life with, but you'd rather not spend that life paying off an extravagant wedding. Some people don't relish the idea of taking years to pay off a celebration that only lasts a day.
How can you pull off a memorable and beautiful wedding day while spending as little as possible?
Budget and Stick To It
Before you do any wedding planning, you and your spouse have to decide on a budget. Don't look at locations, wedding dresses, flowers, cakes, or anything else before you've come up with a figure you're comfortable spending. You don't want to plan a Kim and Kanye wedding before figuring out it would require selling a kidney on the black market to pay for it.
The best thing you can do is set your budget first. That can help you manage your expectations and avoid overspending.
So what are you are up against? The average wedding cost was $32,641 in the U.S. in 2015. Just because that was the average doesn't mean you have to spend near that amount, though. If you can whittle your wedding down to $10,000 or even $5,000, you can have enough left over for a down payment on a house.
To start your budget, think of the items you have to have and those that can be left out. Some things you don't have to spring for include boutonnieres, fancy invitations, and a giant cake.
Timing Is Everything
Many weddings are on a Saturday because it's more convenient that way. That makes it a popular wedding day, and you'll pay for that popularity. Wedding venues charge much more for Saturday weddings because there is so much competition for those dates.
If you're more flexible with your date, you can save big bucks. Aim for a Friday or a Sunday, and you can have a great venue for a discount.
Likewise, choose your wedding month wisely. The peak season for weddings is from late spring to early fall. Trying to avoid those months will save you money because venues won't be able to charge as much since the demand isn't there. Maybe a December or January wedding would hold more appeal for you if it saved you hundreds of dollars in venue costs.
The peak season for weddings is from late spring to early fall. Trying to avoid those months will save you money because venues won't be able to charge as much since the demand isn't there.
Location, Location, Location
You don't have to break the bank on an upscale location to pull off a gorgeous wedding. You can take advantage of Mother Nature's beauty to find a beautiful setting for little or no money.
Have a friend who owns land? You can get married on a pretty piece of farmland, and, with some twinkle lights and creativity, transform the barn into a great backdrop for the reception. Other outdoor options include backyards or public parks.
Or, you could multitask by springing for an affordable wedding venue where you can have both the ceremony and reception. Plus, since you'll be getting there before the guests to get ready for the wedding, you won't have to worry about renting a limousine to drive off in.
You could rent a house for the week in a location you would want to travel to anyway, and then have a destination wedding. You could do the wedding and reception at the house and then stay at the house for your honeymoon. It's like getting a three-for-one deal.
If you are really pressed for money, get married at your local courthouse. That can free up some money for a nicer reception or just cut your overall wedding cost.
Pay It Off
The next thing you need to think about is how you'll pay off your wedding. If you don't have the money saved up already, there are other options, such as a credit card.
The best bet is to always pay off your balance each month in full as you go along so you don't have to pay interest. If you have no money saved and you plan enough in advance, you can make one big purchase a month on a credit card and pay it off as you go.
If you look, you can find a cash-back credit card or a travel card, which could rack up points to help you pay for that honeymoon.
Do You Really Need Flowers?
Flowers eat up a surprising amount of a wedding budget. It can feel like you're watching a dollar bill evaporate each time you see a petal wilting and dying. To help you keep your budget intact, make sure you opt for seasonal, common flowers for the bride's bouquet and other wedding party arrangements.
Another money saver is looking for well-done fake flowers instead of real ones. You can sometimes find bargains on these at second-hand stores or on Craigslist.
If you're having a spring or summer wedding, think in advance and grow your own. Lilies are hardy flowers that last for a long time once they are cut. They are easy to grow and look beautiful as centerpieces.
To help you keep your budget intact, make sure you opt for seasonal, common flowers for the bride's bouquet and other wedding party arrangements.
The first thing you should do when you go wedding dress shopping is walk into the gown store and head straight for the discount rack. Start your search there, and don't look anywhere else but that rack until you've exhausted all your options there.
You can find wedding gowns on this rack for a fifth of what you'll pay for another one. And you won't look like some Project Runway reject contestant either — there are great dresses in this section! The only snag you might run into is sizing. You'll have to figure out if having alterations still makes it a bargain for you.
Keep Decor Simple
Decorations can get out of control when you're planning a wedding. Try to keep the steamers and table decorations to a minimum. Remember, sometimes less really is more.
This is where outdoor weddings or weddings in buildings with big windows and scenic backdrops come in handy. You don't need a lot of decorations when guests have natural beauty to focus on.
If you have friends who are already married, you can ask if they have any decorations you can borrow.
Want some free vases to put a single flower in at each table? Ask your friends to save their empty wine bottles for you. If you want them to match your color scheme, your best bet will be clear bottles. Otherwise, you might collect some pretty blue or green bottles. Remove the labels and you're good to go.
Food and Drink
When you're feeding wedding guests and offering drinks, too, you're going to have an additional expense with every guest you invite. The best way to keep your bill down is to keep your guest list small. If you have too many people in your life you don't want to exclude or your parents insist on inviting every branch of your family tree, there are other ways to trim the costs while not having your guests feel like Oliver Twist begging for some more food.
You can skip the wedding cake if you want and save a ton of money by getting creative with dessert options. You can have a homemade dessert bar set up in which you have three or four options they can choose from. Many desserts freeze well, so you can make them weeks before the wedding so it doesn't detract from other things you have to do closer to your big day.
For the meal, think of side dishes with cheap ingredients, such as potatoes. For the main course, stay away from expensive cuts of beef and opt for cheaper cuts or types of meat, like shredded pork.
You might also want to nix the hard alcohol at your wedding. Stick with wine and beer for a more economical choice.
You can skip the wedding cake if you want and save a ton of money by getting creative with dessert options.
At the end of the day, never lose sight of why you're marrying your partner. It's to create a life together and show your love for each other. So whenever you're tempted by those dream weddings you see or you're frustrated at how small your budget seems for so many expenses, remind yourself you're building a lifetime, not a day.