I met my wife 4 years ago this month through some mutual friends. She says it was fate, but I believe it was some sort of a freak accident. Whatever anyone believes, we met while standing next to a creepy clown blowing up balloons for some 5 year olds. But I digress. Soon after we met, I kinda knew that I would end up marrying her. And sure enough we did get married, a little over a year ago.
When I finally popped the question, and all the excitement of the moment passed in the next few weeks, we had to get down to planning this shindig. We wanted to be smart about it though..no $5,000 dresses or $3,000 flowers or other ridiculous expenses that some find a way to spend their money on. Someone I know had spent $45,000 on their wedding! We started a guest list that at first had about 150 people on it. Not bad, right? Well, 150 X the amount of money we had to pay per person at the place we selected was a LOT of money. So we cut the list to 100 people, knowing that not even all of them would show up. So far so good. Everything was reasonable for the actual place and the food we were going to feed them. Then, everything else had to be decided.
Some of our friends have rented a limo to take from the church to the reception hall. One of my close friends even rented a Rolls-Royce. Well, not us. Since we were getting married at the same place as the reception, we did not even have to think of it. That was a savings of at least $500, if not more. And at the end of the night, I got in my trusty Volvo (which sadly is not with us anymore) and drove to the hotel we were staying at.
What other expenses are involved in planning a wedding? The list is endless, but off the top of my head I can remember pricing out:
Save the Dates
Gift bags at hotels for our out of town guests
Lunch the day before so our families could meet for the first time
Brunch the morning after for those guests still in town
I am sure there are many more, but I will just comment on each of these and how we saved money on each. For those of you in the midst of planning a wedding, pay attention; these “little” costs add up very quickly and while your head is spinning from all the planning, you might not notice. Until the Visa bill comes due, about a week later. And it’s gotta suck to start counting your wedding gift money only to find out you owe that much to the credit card. Ouch.
Favors – When a mailing list finds out you are getting married, you get catalog after catalog of supplies, favors, paper, etc every damn day until the wedding. Most of the stuff is crap, and we figured no one REALLY wants anything anyway. Maybe a small keepsake or something, but no one really needs a glass with our faces inscribed on it. So, we went the easy way. Tiny chocolate bars and magnets with our names and wedding date on the wrapper, put into little boxes by yours truly and then wrapped with a shiny string like substance bought at Michaels. Everyone loved them, and we saved a fortune by buying them online and having them delivered to us. Sure, I had to buy the boxes and string at Michaels and had an assembly party to put them all together, but in the end the total cost for all of our favors was like $75. Not bad. If you want the name of the company, just contact me and I will let you know. They were great, and very inexpensive.
Wedding Invitations – We spent HOURS at paper stores and looking online for the perfect invitations, but when it came down to it, we wanted something very simple. Friends of mine told me how many hundreds of dollars they spent on their invitations, and I refused to spend that much on pieces of nice paper. So we found a nice online company that let us pick our design and test it out online, and then we hit the order button. Total cost was somewhere in the neighborhood of $120. And they were beautiful and no one could have known if we had spent $120 or $1,200…they were just happy to be invited!
Save the Dates -I know some people don’t even send these out, but since we live about 3,000 miles away from everyone in our families, we needed to let those know we don’t talk to regularly that we were indeed getting married. So after looking through catalog after catalog, I decided I could design these myself and have them printed for far cheaper. I opened up InDesign and Photoshop and created small 4X6 postcard sized “save the dates” with a collage of pictures of us from our younger years on the front, and the basic info for the wedding on the back. I took the files to a local printer, and the cost was practically nothing to get them printed on nice glossy card stock paper including envelopes. Once again, no one knew how much they cost…they were good looking, had pictures of us on them, and they were professionally printed. And the savings was several hundred dollars under what it would have cost for me to just order white cards that said Save the Date.
Gift bags at hotels for our out of town guests – We made a point of trying to make the out of town guests feel welcome by leaving small gift bags in each one of their hotel rooms prior to their arrival. The bags included maps of the area, things to do, small snacks, coffee packs and phone numbers for all the people involved in the wedding, including the locations of the other guests. We bought the bags at the dollar store and went to Cost Plus to buy some snack items. It maybe cost us about $3.00 per bag, but they absolutely loved the fact that we had thought of them and made them feel very important to find a package already in their hotel room when they got there. I promise you, this one works wonders, and people talk about it FOREVER afterwards.
Flowers – Now, my wife loves flowers like any other gal, but the prices that some florists wanted were ridiculous. My wife decided to go with very simple arrangement and bouquets, so it saved us money from having 10,000 roses all over the place. And in the end, everything looked beautiful and we spent like $400 on flowers. Or, even better, if you have a flower mart downtown in your city, go there…..and fast! You can buy so many flowers there and then have your family arrange them, probably for like $100..one of our friends did that for their wedding and it was really nice.
Lunch the day before so our families could meet for the first time– Since our families had never met each other, we figured it would be nice to at least have one sit down meal to see if they would hate each other. And surprisingly, it went well. And instead of some formal pre-wedding dinner, we had a nice comfortable lunch the day before the wedding before heading over to the rehearsal. It was a nice restaurant, nothing too fancy, but everyone was relaxed and not to worried about anything other than just getting to know one another. I highly recommend an informal lunch rather than the dinner before the wedding, not only does it save a lot of money but its way more comfortable for everyone involved.
Brunch the morning after for those guests still in town A lot of my family had to fly out the next morning to go back to their own llves, so they were gone before my wife and I even woke up. But we still had a decent amount of people in town to see off. So we arranged a nice brunch overlooking the water for anyone to attend who was still around. People showed up in their shorts and sandals, and it was just a great time to remember the night before and then say good bye. It was a pretty decent place that a lot of locals go, and the food was excellent. We had a nice ocean view table and it did not cost us a fortune.
For those of you getting married soon, I cannot say this enough…..DO NOT WASTE YOUR MONEY. There are important things and there are extraneous things. Spend the money where it matters….the location and food. Those are the most important. Invitations, flowers, gifts, save the dates, etc etc…sure, you can spend a fortune, but the day after (never mind the day of) who is going to know (or care) that you spent that much money on these things? Save the money for something important..paying off debt, a down payment on a house, a student loan payoff…or even a nice vacation. But please, from someone who was just there recently, keep things in perspective. The wedding is about you two getting married, its not about how much money you spend. Do as much as you can on your own, and in the end you will be rewarded with being able to actually KEEP the money you were given on your wedding day, instead of owing it to a credit card because of the lavish party you threw trying to impress your friends. The day goes by faster than any other day in my life…don’t go in to debt to finance it.