A friend of mine who recently got engaged called to catch up earlier today. Naturally I asked her how the wedding planning was coming along. She laughed it off lightly and said ‘It’s not!’. She hadn’t made much progress in planning for her nuptials and confided that she didn’t foresee much more in the way of wedding planning being done for at least another 6 months. It came as no surprise when she said her biggest hold up was the money. The overwhelming expense of a wedding, not to mention the new expenses of taking care of a new baby, prompted her to put her plans on hold. In fact, the 6 month mark she was waiting for was being benchmarked by tax return season.
She went on to ask me about my wedding planning experience and if the nontraditional way I got married saved me any money. It did. My husband and I flew to Maui three years ago and exchanged vows on a beach in front of 2 people – the reverend who officiated and his wife, the professional photographer. It was beautiful. And it was by no means cheap. We splurged on an indulgent week at the Four Seasons and were given the 5-star honeymoon treatment. But we certainly saved money.
If we had held a conventional wedding at a country club, golf course, catering hall or some other venue, no doubt we would have spent 3 times the money. The unfortunate truth is that when you’re planning a formal event, the second the word ‘wedding’ escapes your lips, you will be quoted double what anyone else would be for the same service for any other event. As a professional event planner, I am telling you that’s not an exaggeration. Catering halls are capitalizing off of your special day. Now I’m not saying having the wedding of your dreams is not worth the extra coin. But I am suggesting that you explore all of your options when you get ready to don that white dress.
There are plenty of ways to cut costs on a wedding. The first four things you need to do if you want to pinch a few pennies are:
1. Look at off days. Consider getting married on a Sunday, or a mid-week day. Like any other establishment, Fridays and Saturdays are peak days and you will pay a premium for them.
2. Look at off-peak hours. I’ve always thought a garden brunch wedding would be simple and beautiful. You’ll save money on choosing a less popular hour of the day, and you save money by being able to serve less food.
3. Consider something nontraditional. Would you be happy eloping? Do you have a friend with a quaint yard that could host a lovely affair?
4. And finally, trim your guest list. You do not need 300 people in attendance to have a memorable time.
In the end, a wedding day is about the bride and the groom and the union they are entering into. When I think about the day I got married, the first memory that comes to mind is the way my husband looked at me when he said he vows. It is a moment that belongs only to the 2 of us, and I cherish that. It wasn’t about the hoopla surrounding the day. When we returned to New York from Hawaii, we were able to throw a wonderful reception for family and friends who didn’t witness the ceremony but still got to share in a very special celebration with us. And because the reception was not technically a ‘wedding’, we literally saved thousands of dollars.
When it comes to wedding planning, remember what is important. And don’t be afraid to think outside of the box.
Frugalistas, how have you saved money on a milestone event?