Wedding on a Budget: Lessons Learned
Planning our wedding on a budget of $2000 has been an exciting challenge. We hit a few snags along the way, but we still managed to come in under budget. Here’s how we did it.
1. Skip the alcohol. Shannon and I made a conscious decision to have an alcohol-free wedding. My family is Mormon, so they don’t drink. And our reception is at 3:00 in the afternoon. Most people we know really don’t drink that much in the middle of the day, so opting out of champagne toasts has helped us save a bundle on our reception.
2. Go potluck. In lieu of gifts, we asked our family and friends to chip in on the food by bringing a side dish or a dessert to the reception. We ordered vegan BBQ beef from our favorite restaurant, along with vegan banana cream and coconut cream pies. Total cost of catering: $160 for 60 people. We still have money to spend on sodas and sides from the Costco. So I guess you could say that the total cost of food is $400.
3. Choose a simple dress, or forgo the tux. We’re exchanging our vows on the beach. It didn’t make a lot of sense for us to get all gussied up. There are lots of ways to save money on your dress or tux. I spent a total of $88 dollars on my dress, even with tailoring. Shannon bought a new shirt, but he is wearing shorts that he already owned. Total cost of wedding attire: $120.
4. Get family and friends involved with the planning. We didn’t hire a wedding planner. Our family and friends helped us make the decorations and set everything up for the reception. Although table and chair rental would have only been $150, we decided to skip it and borrow tables and chairs from our family members. We only expected 40 people at our reception, so cobbling together enough equipment was easy.
5. We didn’t hire a DJ or a band. We put a mix together of our favorite songs and set our iPod up on a docking station. This isn’t to say that having a DJ or a band isn’t a great idea if music is a big part of your lives. But for us, keeping it was simple was the easiest solution.
The biggest expense for our wedding was the hotel rooms for our trip out to California for the vow exchange. The total cost of two hotel rooms was $650, almost 1/3 of our entire budget. We also spent $400 on food and gas to drive to Long Beach from Tucson. If you’re following the math, that means exactly half of our budget was spent just on travel expenses. As you can see, we really needed to cut costs in other areas, but we managed to do it without going over budget, and without causing too much of a headache.
The biggest snag in our plans involved yard work. When we first started planning our wedding in October, we wanted to have a backyard BBQ. That was a great idea, but our yard needed a lot of work to get it ready for the Big Day. Life happens and time quickly got away from us. On April 1st we looked at the yard and realized it wouldn’t be ready in time. Not a problem. We called the Parks and Rec department to find a park near us and reserved a picnic ramada for only $14. This decision saved us a lot of stress and anxiety, and I kind of wish we had made this choice from the get go. Lesson learned.
The final tip I want to share is this: communicate with your partner. Shannon and I had a weekly planning meeting as part of our Friday pizza date. After making homemade pizzas, we would go through our checklist and track our expenses. Regular communication made planning much easier, and having it integrated into our date nights made it fun. If you’ve got friends and family helping you with your wedding planning, you should meet with them on a regular basis, too. Maybe not every week, but once a month is probably a good idea.
I’m proud to say that the expenses for our wedding came to $1984. I’ll be honest and say that this doesn’t include the cost of our honeymoon. We took our honeymoon last month (that’s right . . . before the ceremony) so that we could get a better deal on airfares to Amsterdam. (That’s us enjoying a canal boat tour in the photo.) The money for that trip came from a separate budget for entertainment and travel. It’s our big trip for the next two years, and we’re going to be homebodies for a while. But hey . . . we had an awesome time and created a lot of good memories, so it was worth every penny.
I wish you and your partner a lifetime of happiness together. Good luck with your wedding planning. I’d love to hear your story in the comments section.