Weddings are expensive.
How expensive? That depends on a few things — geography, time of year, your own personal style / cultural expectation…all these things will play into the cost of the big day.
According to a 2018 study by The Knot, US couples spend about $34K on the big day. I don’t image it would be all that different in Canada.
If thinking about spending that much money on one day makes you want to barf, you’re not alone.
And I have good news for you: it’s entirely possible to plan a wedding on a small budget.
I know this because that’s what I did
Our Debt-Free Wedding
Before I get into my tips for how to plan a wedding on a small budget, I offer this disclaimer.
We spent $6K total on our wedding. We did not use physical cash for everything, but all expenses associated with our wedding fit into that budget.
There are two things that made it possible for us to do this:
- I won a car — and took the cash prize instead
- Our friends and family helped. A lot.
To pretend these factors did not have an impact on our ability to plan a wedding on a small budget without any debt would disingenuous.
That said, there were many decisions we made that had a big impact on our ability to plan a wedding on a small budget.
Planning a wedding on a small budget
There were six things that helped me plan our wedding on a small budget.
Say yes to the (secondhand) dress
A sweet friend gifted me her 10-year-old dress shortly after Jeff and I got engaged. It did not fit like a glove, but after a few alterations (costing less than $250), it was perfect.
I mean, look at this:
Would you have guessed there’s a piece of an old curtain in there?
Going secondhand didn’t make me feel any less beautiful on my wedding day — and it saved us a ton of money.
Keep it casual and comfortable
We kept the dress code casual for our bridal party.
I told my bridesmaids to wear whatever they wanted, as long as it was a fall colour. It didn’t matter if they were the same style or length or colour; I wanted them to wear dresses they felt amazing in.
I purchased four plaid blanket scarfs ($20 each) to tie the look together. They looked beautiful.
For the boys, the only specific thing we requested is they wear the same colours and that the ties and vests matched.
Bottom line: your bridal party does not have to wear matching outfits. Don’t listen to those who say it will look bad in photos — it doesn’t! Our bridal party looked amazing — and no one had to break the bank on clothes they’ll never wear again.
Get as much as you can out of your venue
We got married at a summer camp. Along with allowing us to have our ceremony and reception at the same place, it also meant we didn’t need to rent dishes, tables or chairs. This freed up our budget to spend in other areas.
Tip: Ask about event insurance when booking your venue. Our venue did not include this, which meant we had to purchase a policy. It wasn’t terribly expensive, but it is a good thing to be aware of in advance.
Accept help (and be gracious and thankful for it)
We received a lot of help from our amazing family and friends while we planned our wedding.
My amazing mother-in-law made our cake and all the bouquets and boutonnieres (out of paper, at that).
My bridesmaids DIYed like crazy and helped decorate the day before while another sweet friend served as our day of coordinator, making sure everything went off without a hitch at the site.
Our photographer, a former colleague, gave us an incredible discount on his services as a wedding gift. And my grandfather paid for our venue as a wedding gift.
We absolutely would not have had the day we had without the help of our friends and family. This is why one of the first things I tell newly engaged friends is to ask for and accept help from people who love and care about you.
Play the long (engagement) game
We were engaged for two years before we got married. That decision was an intentional. This removed a lot of stress from the planning process and gave us more time to save money and avoid a credit card bill later.
Remember: it’s your day!
Do what you want to do, not what you think you have to do. You don’t have to go for every tradition and you don’t have to spend money on things that don’t matter to you. I always tell newly engaged friends to remember it is your day — make sure you plan one you’ll enjoy!
Here’s the thing: your wedding day is just that — a day. It’s the marriage that matters most and big budget is not a requirement for a beautiful marriage. It is totally possible to plan a wedding on a small budget that you will absolutely love.
Almost two years later, I still think our wedding was the perfect day. More importantly, I still think I picked the perfect person to share it, and every day after it, with.
What do you think is a reasonable price tag for a wedding?
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