PLANNING AN AWESOME WEDDING ON A SMALL BUDGET

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DIY White and green wedding bouquet

Creating your own centerpieces was a common way to cutting wedding costs.

Welcome to “The Conversation”! SALT has pulled together a community of college students and alums to share their thoughts about money, student loans, and life in general. Up first, they talk about a common budget buster: weddings.

With summer in full swing, you probably have a wedding (or 5) to attend. But what if you’re planning your wedding and can’t afford to have it during this “busy season”? Nicole asked that very question to the rest of our community. Check out their tips for how to create a great wedding while leaving yourself with enough money to live happily ever after.

NICOLE

My boyfriend and I are starting to save for our future wedding day. We plan on spending no more than $5,000. We aren’t planning on having more than 100 people, and I don’t plan on spending more than $200 on a dress. Being teachers, we can’t afford to throw down $35,000+ on ONE day (that’s almost my entire yearly salary!). Has anyone planned or attended an awesome wedding on a small budget?

STEPHANIE

I’ve attended smaller weddings that were done on a budget. Some things the couples did to keep costs down were:

  • Only have certain alcohol be considered “open bar” and have a small cost for the rest ($1 to $2, for example)
  • Handwrite all the invitations and place cards in lieu of having them printed
  • Use standard stamps on the invitations instead of personalizing them
  • Keep the wedding party very small
  • No band or DJ; instead, there was a laptop set up with a very long playlist of music set to shuffle
  • Make the centerpieces yourself

I actually found that the smaller weddings I attended were more personal than the larger ones. It seemed like the couple had more time to interact with all the guests and they were a lot of fun.

JENNIFER

I remember my aunt made all the flower centerpieces for my cousin’s wedding. The day before the wedding, my mother and I went to her house and there were leaves ALL over the floor, and since it was August she had all air conditioners blasting so it was like a refrigerator. It was a great memory and they looked great!

SARAH

I have attended two very nice weddings that were inexpensive. One was one on the beach. It was in the evening, and everyone brought their own cameras and took pictures on the rocks. After that, everyone walked over to the restaurant on the beach and ate dinner and had drinks on the patio. The second was at their own home. They set up plastic chairs out front and did the ceremony in the yard. Then they had a catering company do the food, and everyone danced and drank in the back yard. The decorations were beautiful, and it was more relaxed because everyone was comfortable.

KOURTNEY

For a wedding I helped plan, we ordered things like tulle from a party place (Search Shindigz—the prices are pretty good!) and did all of the decorating ourselves. When you go to get a dress, check out the rack that contains dresses that weren’t picked up, etc. My sister got a $1,200 dress for about $300 because it had already been altered—to her size!—by someone else. You never know what you may find. Incorporate anything you can buy in bulk. Flowers are pretty easy to do yourself, too; you can get some really realistic looking fake flowers.

JESSICA

Sometimes the simple things make the most beautiful weddings. My friend had an awesome 15-minute slide show before her wedding. It was super cute! The thing that she did skimp on was her photographer, and well, you get what you pay for. I would say pay a little more for your pics—they are the things that will last longer than the decorations and the food. For bridesmaid dresses, shop around homecoming and prom times. Flower girl dresses, check around Easter. Or if you have a Burlington Coat Factory near you, check them out—they have a ton of communion dresses that are super cute.

LENA

Depending on where you live, you might find a consignment shop of dresses. Or you could get someone you know that just got married and don’t want to keep there dress.

MICHAEL

My wife and I wanted to plan a huge wedding but with the amount of friends we both had, we knew there would be some people who were going to be left off the guest list.  We were also saving for our first home. Rather than risk alienating our friends and spending a lot of money on a wedding where all of our friends were not able to attend, we decided to have a small wedding ceremony with our immediate family only. Our friends completely understood our reasoning, and we were able to buy our first home with the money we saved.

 NICOLE

Thanks for the awesome suggestions! I definitely will add those to my “idea” bank! I’m a bit of a crafty person to begin with, so I plan on adding as many handmade touches as possible. We also have a few photographers in the family, so I plan on utilizing them!

Have your own tips for saving money on wedding planning? Share them in the comments.

(Photo: Flickr/Maegan Tintari)

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  1. Aaron Weber July 27, 2012 / 3:46 pm

    We had both the wedding and the reception in a restaurant which was already decorated, so we spent nothing on decorations and only had to rent out one location. It still wound up being more than I wanted to spend, but it was pretty reasonable all things considered.

    I think the biggest budget-buster, though, is a long engagement. The more time you have to plan, the bigger the plans get, and the more expensive they are.

    • Ryan Lane July 27, 2012 / 5:11 pm

      Yes, if “The 5-Year Engagement” taught us anything (besides that Jason Segel’s comedies have to stop being so depressing), it’s that long engagements equal trouble.

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