I don’t think many of us have tons of money just to toss away and I definitely know we haven’t after studying six years. Then somewhere in your mid-twenties you start to think about making it official with your long time sweetheart and all of a sudden there’s a wedding party, which can take in an amount of money that’s equal to some small country’s GDP.
When we had our wedding Janina was fresh out of college and I was finishing my studies, so we were really living with a minimal amount of money. We had been engaged five years and were really eager to take the next step. We wanted a relaxed and beautiful wedding with eighty quests, outdoor ceremony and dancing with the smallest budget possible.
The fact that we’re both designers worked well when we couldn’t ask our parent’s to pay everything. We got together few points that worked well with us and would like to share ideas.
1. Start planning early on (and even earlier)
We started planning our wedding day almost three years before, so we had time to find things we needed to buy. We bought a package or two of candles every month and ended up extra by the time of the wedding almost by accident. This way the expenses trickle bit by bit instead of drowning you in a one big heap.
2. Use what you have
In decoration wise, we didn’t buy almost anything apart the flowers and candles. Rest we made by hand with the things we already got, in our case fabric. We made bunting out of every scrap of fabric which had the right colour or print. We already had few boxes of colourful paper, so we bought a round punch and made decorative strings. Our friend delivered empty glass bottles from the restaurant she worked at the time and we used them as candle holders. What do you have? Is it paper, empty silver coloured food tins, cardboard boxes, garden, computer and printer, fairy lights, Christmas ornaments. Try to be creative and use everything you already have. Plus side is you don’t end up with huge amount of votive candle holders which you don’t have any use after the party. It’s economic and eco friendly!
3. Seasonal cuts the costs
In everything. The food, flowers, venue… We had a backyard wedding in August and our menu was vegetarian, it ended up being a bit cheaper than I had assumed. All the delicious apples, cucumbers, mushrooms, potatoes, bell peppers, lettuce and berries were in season and as cheap as food can get. We ate some of them weeks after coming back from our honeymoon. Janina doesn’t eat meat, so we really wanted to craft a menu with tasty vegetarian dishes and veggies are almost always more budget friendly than meat or fish. We fed eighty people under 500 euros (about 380 GBP or 560 USD) when we cooked by ourselves and it included the cakes.
4. Do things yourself
If you have time but no money, then do things yourself. We were totally overeager and made almost everything by ourselves: dresses, stationary, food, cakes, decorations, hair and make-up. I don’t say it’s a sane way to organize your wedding but it was cheap. We are both designers, so we could use plenty of that kind of knowledge while doing things but we also learned how to make a naked wedding cake and cooked for eighty people. After all that I would advise that maybe choose one or two big projects or get some helping hands and clear directions. Use tutorials, internet is full of them.
5. Try to find small or no pay venue (do it outside)
We knew we wanted to have a garden party from very early on. We checked few places with gardens but in the end my dad (the one who was at first very no, no about his child being a homosexual) let us have the party at my childhood home where he still lives. We didn’t have to pay anything for the place which we could decorate very early on. I painted the place a bit, put on some new drapes and cleaned up the big wooden shed to have a disco inside in. Do you have good friends with a nice garden perhaps, or could your grandparents place be used as a venue? It doesn’t have to be new and shiny, rustic and lived in can be very romantic.
6. Borrow things
We borrowed lights, serving dishes, tents, tables and benches from our friends and family. It saved huge chunk of money and many people were delighted they could help us somehow. If you say you don’t have a huge budget people will probably understand and be happy they can contribute without giving actual money.
7. Music (or something else) as a gift
We had friends who played instruments at our wedding. One of our bridesmaids plays violin and she played during our ceremony. It was magical to have a solo violin in a garden while friends and family sat around us. Also music for our first dance was played by few friends and relatives. My mother gifted us a music performance for our wedding day in the form of a pianist. Ask things as wedding gifts. Also, we used Spotify playlists as our evening entertainment and people danced without worries till 5 a.m. You don’t need a DJ for a great party, just make some off line play lists and turn the lights down.
8. Pay for the things you’ll keep
When the party is over you have few items that remain, in our case it is the rings and the photographs. Those are the things we put some bigger money in. Still, even with rings we had to think within the budget. In Finland it’s customary that engagement rings are plain gold bands and actual wedding bands are the ones with rocks and stuff. Janina’s wedding band is a delicate vintage band with ten small diamonds, absolutely beautiful and it cost under hundred euros (almost same in dollars) as a piece of second hand jewellery. My ring was ordered via Etsy from the gold smith in Tel Avi. It has a clear mountain crystal instead of a diamond and the idea is, that we’ll change the crystal to the diamond as the anniversary gift in few years time. Crystal didn’t change the design but made the ring more budget friendly in a time when money was tight.
Big and lavish weddings are quite new things, look how people celebrated during wartime, the Depression or 19th century. It might give new ideas and nice surprises. Be creative and don’t shy away from non traditional means to get the desired effect. Feeling and look is what we’re after, not bankrupt.
I have been thinking I could count all the expenses together at some time in future and make a post about that too. How does that sound?