Planning a Beautiful Wedding on a Budget
Having a beautiful wedding doesn’t require access to limitless funds. You can plan a beautiful wedding on a budget of most any size. The secret to a spectacular non-spendy wedding lies in the details – and in how you execute your vision. Here’s what to focus on to make your day a success.
What do you want?
Start by figuring out what you want, and what’s most important to you. What do you think of when you visualize your wedding day?
Is it the bride and groom surrounded by the green grass of golf course with a lake in the background? Is it the scent of flowers everywhere? The dress? The idea of looking back on photos with your grandchildren one day? The honeymoon?
Whatever comes to mind first and most clearly, is likely your priority. Keep that firmly in mind as you go through the planning process.
Break out the budget
Now it’s time to begin organizing your wedding budget. Don’t worry about what you “should” be spending on x, y, or z. There’s no “right” proportion of what to spend where. There’s only what you’re both willing and able to spend, and how you choose to allocate those funds. Start by deciding on that amount.
If others will be contributing to your wedding, ask how much they intend to contribute so you can include it as part of the budget. If they’re not willing to commit to a set amount, plan for what you personally can afford, and then view any additional money that is contributed as a wonderful additional gift that you can decide what to do with later.
Once you have the total amount you’re willing and able to spend in mind, decide which items should get the biggest chunks of the budget. Traditionally, the venue, photography, clothing/jewelry, and the honeymoon take one or more of the largest portions, but that doesn’t have to be the case. YOU get to decide – and if you end up spending less than you imagined in one area, you can spend more in another or just plain put that money into savings for your new life together instead.
Once you know what you want most and have laid out a very basic budget, it’s time to start seeing what options are available and how you can reduce costs. Start by going back to your vision, and seeing how you can make the most important parts of it happen without spending more than necessary.
Let’s take the golf course vision as an example. Golf course weddings typically mean a country club wedding, but that doesn’t have to be the case. There are many other wedding ceremony sites that could meet the green grass and a lake requirement: parks, college campuses, neighborhood or employee recreation centers, a beautiful nearby estate whose owners might be willing to rent it out, a zoo, or even office buildings with beautiful landscaping. If a golf course or country club is really the only thing that meets your vision, they may charge less if you hold your wedding on a on a non-standard day or on a date that they’ve had a cancellation for.
The takeaway here is to be unconventional in your thinking in order to expand your options. Think “How else could I do this?”. Apply that method to all of the other aspects of your wedding, and you’re likely to save a bundle.
Finally, literally (and nicely!) ask how you can get what you want for less when you’re making a purchase for your wedding. There’s nothing wrong with telling a vendor that you’re on a budget but love their work, and asking if there is any way the two of you can find a way to reduce the price a little.
Keep in mind that successful bargaining is not about being aggressive or playing vendors against each other. (That just wastes everyone’s time and gives you a bad reputation.) Successful bargaining is about politely asking how you can reduce the costs, and being willing to compromise on your end. (Being friendly and easygoing helps too.)
To get great deals, really try to understand the other party as well and what they might need or want in return. For example, maybe the photographer you’re considering normally spends 10-12 hours shooting a wedding, but could squeeze in two hours for your brunch wedding at a significantly lower cost – leaving them time to shoot an evening wedding at their normal rate.
In other words, be sure the other party gets something positive from the bargain too. That way you both walk away happy, and you get the wedding of your dreams at a reduced cost.
One last tip: know when to say when – especially if you have a long time to plan or there are a lot of people with input into the process. While it’s easy to happily waste away the hours looking at all the latest trends, your wedding is not a trend. It’s the start of your new life together. Remember that you don’t have to have All. The. Things. in order to have an amazing wedding day, and that it’s ok to say no.
Jackie Beck is the author of MoneyCrush. She and her husband had a beautiful wedding for just over $3000.