Category Archives: Wedding on a Budget

6 Creative Ways to Make Your Small Wedding Feel Personal and Special

This post is in collaboration with ValuedVoice. Please practice an abundance of caution or even consider postponing the big celebration during the pandemic, paying particular heed to local public health orders.

family at wedding outside a big building

Whether you had always wanted a wedding on the smaller side or you’ve been forced to rearrange your initial plans for public health reasons, your small wedding can still feel personal and special with a little additional planning.

When many people think of weddings, they likely think of big affairs complete with hundreds of guests, elaborate decorations, full-day schedules and the works. The more people at your wedding, the more expensive the event will be.

By contrast, it can sometimes feel like a smaller wedding or mariage civil, with perhaps only ten or twenty people in attendance and usually a more toned-down venue, might not meet expectations.

However, many soon-to-be spouses have opted for smaller events for their charm, deeply personal feel and memorability. If you’re planning a small wedding, here are some creative planning tactics to start implementing right away.

Provide Wedding Welcome Boxes

When you have 200 guests on your list, it’s hard to personalize the welcome for each of them. By contrast, when you have perhaps 15 people on your guest list, you can easily provide each of them with a more tailored welcome to your wedding.

A fun idea is to create a ‘welcome box’ for each of your guests that you can have left at their hotel, or give to them on the day of depending on how socially distant your wedding is. These boxes can include small mementos from the wedding, small gifts and favors or little trinkets to make the guests’ weekend easier, like engraved bottle openers for the reception or ponchos in case of rain at an outdoor ceremony.

Be Extra Choosy With Your Shortened Guest List

Because small weddings inherently involve trimming the guest list, you’ll have to be extra choosy with who you invite. Now is the time to consider which people in your life you absolutely can’t picture yourself getting married without. You may have to gently break the news to those who didn’t make it by explaining that although you love them, space or health restrictions meant you had to cut back.

Consider Whether You Want To Drop Certain Traditions

A lot of the traditions that are expected as part of a big wedding become truly optional once you drop down the event in size, so now is the perfect time to consider which traditions you want to keep and which you would be ok without. For example, if you don’t want to do a first dance, a garter toss or stand-up toasts and speeches, you can easily get rid of them while still having your small group feel entertained.

Opt for an Intimate and Cozy Venue

One of the best parts of a small wedding is the cozy, intimate feel, and your venue should reflect that. If you’re having the ceremony at a town hall, for example, you could go to a local restaurant afterward and get a private room. Other cozy venues include a family member’s backyard, a small banquet room or even a rental boat.

Step It Up With Your Dinner Offerings

Another benefit of having only a small group in attendance at your wedding is that you won’t have the stress of covering food for a huge group of people! This means that you might have a little more money to allocate to each person’s meal, allowing you to choose more gourmet dinner options.

A fun way to make the after party and reception truly memorable is to provide top-notch food, so spend some time calculating your food budget and consider local vendors who can bring dishes sure to appeal to everyone.

Add Unique Personalization to Your Décor

No matter what your venue, you can still personalize it by adding a little décor. If you’re getting married in a town hall, you may need to ask permission to rent a side room and put up some decorations, but most venues will allow you to bring in your own décor upon request.

Since your space will likely be on the smaller side, you might have a little more budget wiggle room for decorations and can choose the ones that represent your wedding theme the best, or that will photograph well for the wedding album.

Just because you have a short guest list and a pared-down venue doesn’t mean you can’t still have the unique and memorable big day of your dreams. There are still several creative ways to tailor every aspect of the day and create a ceremony and after party you and your guests are sure to remember for years to come.

Free Wedding Budget Template

Today’s post is written by wedding contributor, Katie Jakub. She’s super savings-savvy and has so many great tips.  Be sure to scroll to the bottom to grab the free budgeting/planning template!

Spreadsheet with heart overlay. Text on top reads "Free Wedding Budget Template & More! by KJ of FemmeFrugality.com"

Several weekends ago, my fiancé, Brian, and I celebrated my mother’s birthday with a big family dinner at a hole in the wall. 

As the evening progressed and the BYOB wine loosened everyone’s lips, my sister hurled the insult:

“Ryan [her husband] and I have decided that you two are the cheapest out of everyone in the family.”

Brian and I looked at each other and laughed because each family has their own dynamic of you-can’t-take-it-with-yous and save-every-last-penny. 

My sister and her husband edge into the former while we are closer to the latter part of the spectrum. We attempted to explain the differences in our situation compared to theirs — but oops! –my wine glass was empty and we quickly moved on.

Writing a Wedding Budget Without Debt

Brian and I consider ourselves frugal by choice because we refuse to walk down the aisle in any kind of wedding related debt.  

We are willing to spend money on the wedding, but we understand that for every dollar that goes to our portion the wedding, a dollar comes from our joint fund. What this means is that both our home budget and wedding budget are akin to a holy text for us during this year of planning.

How to Talk About Your Wedding Budget

Budgets are yucky.  Luckily for me, Brian hearts macros, spreadsheet, and formulas almost as much as he loves me.

Maybe more?

But he hates hates hates following a budget. 

On the other side of the marital venture, I get a kick out of the challenge of coming in on or under goal, but talking about the budget when mathematical formulae are involved makes my eye twitch.

We have learned several techniques over the past months that have seemed to make a huge difference in discussing and following the wedding budget.

TALK ABOUT IT. 

Find time between your Tiger King and Ozark binge watching sesh to talk about the budget together. 

Both people need to understand what is going on and you should never let your partner off the hook when they say, “I don’t get it.” I always hate looking at the numbers because they turn into a pile of math soup, but even something as simple as changing how we approached talking about the budget entirely shifted how I viewed the budget. 

We learned a simple trick at our Pre-Cana classes and it’s made a huge difference.  The cornfield is on the right, but try rephrasing the discussion to something similar to:

“When you’re ready to talk about the budget, I’m ready to listen.”  

It makes us giggle and breaks the tension of the topic.

MAKE THE BUDGET YOUR OWN. 

To me, having pretty colors made the budget friendlier. 

To Brian, it was formulas. 

Even something as simple as having our budget on a cloud based drive has made it less painful to use. We can both access the budget at any point. It’s not stored on one person’s computer. We can both edit as needed, and even check while we’re on the go.

DO NOT PLAN ANYTHING UNTIL YOU’VE SET A BUDGET. 

It’s nice to dream about your big day, but you can quickly become disappointed when reality and your budget don’t align. The earlier you can have candid and honest discussions with any parents/relatives that will be helping pay for the wedding, the sooner you can move on to the planning stage.

This also means knowing how much you can cover.

If you already have personal or couple budget in place, you’re a step ahead because you know what you can contribute.

A simple overall budget number is a perfect starting place. Here’s one for example:

  • We know that we’ve got $5,000 from your parents,
  • $2,000 from mine,
  • And we can save $3,000 by the wedding.  

From here you know you have a $10,000 total budget, and can plan accordingly.

An overall budget number can influence your first big decisions such as the venue — especially if you have Plaza dreams on a fire hall budget.

From there, you can start to narrow in on how much you spend on what with a more itemized budget.

HAVE A WISH LIST. 

Sometimes, keeping-up-with-the-newlyweds can feel like a three ring circus of vendors. I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to have it all. 

Figure out what is absolutely essential for your wedding. Brian and I knew that we had to have cake and pie at our Pi Day Wedding.

Hilarious that we chose math as part of our wedding, right?

We also knew that making our own candy flavored liquor would be a special touch, but that a photo booth, up-lighting and a garden of flowers weren’t anywhere near the top of our list.  

It’s nice to want, but you definitely do not want to spend years paying off your wedding.

CELEBRATE YOUR ACHIEVEMENTS. 

You negotiated a vendor’s price down? 

Celebrate! 

Whether it’s putting that money you saved towards a night out with your main squeeze or putting it towards a wish list item for the big day, you’ve got a little wiggle room to do something for you.  

When you’ve come in on budget, do something a bit smaller like a drinks out. You deserve it — you’ve put on your grown up BRIDE or GROOM-TO-BE plastered undies and followed your budget.

Free Wedding Budget Spreadsheet Template

To help you achieve wedding budget bliss or at least find your starting place, I’m including a copy of our free wedding budget template Excel file which includes:

  • Countdown clock.
  • Budget sheet.
  • Guest info.
  • Vendor info.
  • Seating charts.
  • Day of timeline.
  • Drop-off lists.
  • Must-have photo itinerary.
  • Songs for the DJ.  

Because this is a spreadsheet, you’ll easily be able to customize it and make the budget your own!

Easy Tricks to Save Money on Wedding Gowns

This post, which is contributed by an outside writer, is brought to you by JJs House.

Great tips! My BFF just got engaged--pinning for when she goes wedding dress shopping!

Every bride wants to make her wedding day extremely special. She tries to manage everything within her wedding budget. But there’s one thing most brides don’t like to compromise on: wedding dresses.

Fortunately, you can find beautiful wedding dresses at an affordable price. You will need to strategize ahead of time so that you have plenty of time to plan out all the small details. To make your search easy, get an idea of a budget for your wedding gown. Then sit down with these ideas that can help you in the selection of a beautiful dress within your budget.

A Beautiful Trunk Show

If you are crushing on a particular wedding dress, choose a trunk show. In trunk shows, designers highlight their new or current collection at bridal boutiques. These boutiques list their shows in advance, so you can easily shop dresses for your wedding.

While scheduling your appointment, you have to ask the greeter about purchase incentives. In this way, you can get bonus items for free while you buy a beautiful dress. Incentives can be a veil or a unique wedding accessory. You have to do your research before going shopping to make this process easy.

Try Rented Dresses

If you can’t buy an expensive wedding dress because of your tight budget, you can consider renting this dress. There are tons of sites out there that allow you to rent a dress, searching within your budget.

You can rent a wedding dress for almost eight days for $525 or even less. Many times you’ll find high-profile designers for rent on these sites. People wear the dress once and then try to recoup some of their expenses by renting out or reselling the dress.

Make sure to read the terms, conditions, and policies before you borrow a dress. Confirm any payment plans so you don’t accidentally miss a payment.

Pre-loved Wedding Gowns

If you love a designer wedding gown and it is out of your budget, you can consider alternative options. Used bridal dresses are readily available, especially with sites specialized in re-selling designer gowns. You can wear a wedding gown for only once and only for a short time–at least in a way that’s socially acceptable. Reselling is a more practical choice than paying a bunch of money to store it in your attic for some hypothetical grandchild who won’t want to wear it someday.

With you purchase a used wedding dress, you can wear a wedding gown from your favorite designer at a good discount. Or, if you purchase the dress new, you can resell the gown on the market after your wedding to recoup upwards of 70 to 75 percent of the purchase price.

Select Must-Have Items

Start shopping based on the elements on your wish list and eliminate pricey or less critical items. Select a must-have or focal point item for your wedding dress to control your budget while widening your choices. Shop your wedding dress with an open mind. Consider a sequined bodice with a beautiful skirt instead of intricate lace gowns. You can up the glitz by instead accenting with unique jewelery and shoes. You can even browse bridesmaid dresses to find a white gown for your wedding. These options can be affordable for anyone.

 

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year to Buy Wedding Jewelry

Great insider tips for the best time of year to buy wedding jewelry!

It happened right before Thanksgiving.  I got a card in the mail from a jeweler that had somehow found out I was getting married.  Come in to the store and we’ll give you some free earrings, no purchase necessary.  All I had to do was come in between Black Friday and Christmas.

The best time of year to buy wedding jewelry is the holidays.

So I did.  

Of course.  

While I was there, I figured I might as well look at wedding bands as I hadn’t yet gotten one for the fiance.  I didn’t know his ring size, but the jeweler showed me the selection. She told me I should definitely buy before Christmas.

She explained that during the holidays jewelers freeze their prices, regardless of how gold or silver performs in the stock market, and then they put on all these fabulous sales.  After the holidays the sales stop, and they resume pricing their products based on the current value of gold/silver, etc.

I walked out with a coupon, but ended up not going back. The prices were far outside of my budget.  This is my second go around with the whole marriage thing.  The last time I got married was before the housing bubble burst and the price of precious metals comparatively skyrocketed.  What I had been expecting to spend versus the reality I had just been confronted with had really hit home.

The sales continue through Valentine’s Day.

About halfway through the crazy holiday shopping season, we were out as a family at the mall buying the gifts that we still needed to fill in.  We stopped at a different jeweler to get him sized.  He saw some rings he liked, and the prices here were a lot more affordable.

I asked the woman waiting on us if what the other jeweler had told me was true:  would prices go up after Christmas?  Was this really the best time of year to buy?

She told me yes, and confessed that they would continue to have 40% off sales, but that it wouldn’t be on as wide of an array of products and that they would resume following the stock market when pricing their products.

We looked around the mall a bit, and found that the jeweler we had started with had the best prices for their selection.  So we headed back.  I handed the girl at the counter the business card of the woman I had been talking to before; I wanted to talk to her again so she could get the sale she had earned.

She took the card from me, put it under the desk, and started to show me Tungsten rings.  She was talking the fiance into it, too, despite my vocal protests that I didn’t want to spend that much money on a ring that you can’t resize.  I wanted gold or silver, and I wanted it in my price range.

She refused to show us the rings I asked to see, and lost a sale.

The best sales are online.

Time went on.  It was the night before Christmas Eve and I was freaking out. I was going to miss the best time of year to get these sales.  So I went on-line, fully intending to price compare and find a store that had a good selection for when I went in person on the morrow.

Of all places, I found it on Sears website.  A ring almost exactly like one he had seen and liked in a “real” metal, and in my price range.  And it was a comfort-fit, which is a bonus the fiance won’t even understand, but he’ll unknowingly appreciate it.

It said it wasn’t available in store because it was shipped by the original jeweler directly.  I checked out the original jeweler, and they had the ring for less on their website. Plus I found a coupon code for 5% off (which can be huge when you’re spending hundreds,) and free shipping.

I held my breath as I pressed the “Complete Purchase” button. I had gone mad — purchasing jewelry on-line based off an internet picture, and then having it shipped to my house hoping the mailman wouldn’t just leave it out on the street.

But I did it anyways. I was not going to have to go out on Christmas Eve.

What to look for when shopping for jewelry online

A few days ago it came.  All my fears were laid to rest.  It was exactly like the pictures.  (Though I can’t take a good one.)  The post office actually left me a note requesting that I pick it up rather than leaving it in the mailbox or on the street.

I couldn’t be more surprised that I didn’t hit a snag or problem. It’s at least as beautiful as the pieces we saw at all those other stores, and so much more affordable.

If you’re comparing pictures online, it’s a good idea to look at sites like James Allen. They provide a 360 degree view of their products, making it easier to see what you’re getting than with simple 2D pictures.

Since I had already seen pretty much the same exact men’s ring before, it made it easier for me to create a mental composite from 2D. Had I not, or if I had been shopping for an engagement ring with a diamond, the 360 degree view would have been something I mandated from my online jeweler.

Do you save money by shopping before Christmas?

I did some price comparison after the holidays.  I didn’t save any money by freaking out on Christmas Eve.  But I didn’t spend more, either.  Prices on the products I was looking at were pretty  much the same.

Additional research independent of jewelry store salespeople revealed that the best time of year for jewelry spans pretty wide:  October to February.  

So I did well.  I just didn’t need to stress quite so much about my timeline.

Brick & Mortar vs Online Retailers

Since this article went live in January of 2014, there have been several articles floating about the web citing summer as the best time of year to buy wedding jewelry. I’d like to present some context to that argument in a 2017 update.

The first thing to note is that at brick and mortar retailers, this may be true. Shopping online, though, can save you anywhere up to 50% over these in-person retailers–no matter the time of year.

When I asked Oded Edelman, Co-Founder and CEO of James Allen, about the difference, he explained it in this way:

“We take a consumer-focused approach to our promotions in order to make the experience as positive as we can during key times throughout the year. Our research has shown that the majority of engagements happen in the four months between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day.”

“Typically brick and mortar retailers have entirely different cost structures thanks to holding inventory, overhead costs, etc,” he continues. “Their operations structures as well as their marketing tactics are very different, which may lead to higher costs for the end consumer.”

This means the biggest sales at online retailers, at least at consumer-oriented businesses like Edelman’s, do indeed happen between October and February.

Ideas to Save Money on Your Wedding

Today’s author is QL from Smart Money and Travel Blog. She and her husband write about personal finance and maximizing your miles and points. 

I would have never thought of this to save money on a wedding dress! Tons of other ideas in here, too.

Our first wedding anniversary is coming up in April and we have recently taken time to reflect on the experience. Back in 2017, we weren’t exactly focused on FIRE (financial independence/early retirement,) but as first-generation immigrants, we have always been frugal and into saving for retirement. Toward the end of the last year, we decided to be more purposeful about our retirement goals. Thus, as we look in the rearview mirror on our wedding day, we wanted to share some thoughts on wedding planning. As we went through it, we didn’t always choose the cheapest alternative, but there were many areas where we either saved money, wished we hadn’t spent the money we did or were happy with our investment.

pink bridesmaids dress

Do the math on BYOB if it is an option

Alcohol is a staple at weddings, and it can sometimes cost more than the food itself. Over half of our guests were our parents’ friends. On top of that, our venue was in a secluded location accessed by a poorly lit, windy highway. Thus, we didn’t expect many of our guests to get very aggressive at the bar. Luckily, our venue had a BYOB + corkage fee option. We made some estimates and ran the math, comparing it with the all-you-can-drink option, which was $22.50/person. In the end, we went with the BYOB option and spent a little more than $6,000 on beverages.

Planning your wedding budget? Get your free spreadsheet template!

Ask yourself if you really care about a wedding cake

At other weddings that we attended, we noticed that the cake was rarely eaten by guests. We also do not value taking a portion of our cake and freezing it to enjoy at some point in the future – that concept never really took hold with either of us. Therefore, we asked ourselves what we and our guests would more enjoy than an overpriced wedding cake.

We ultimately decided to go with che, a Vietnamese dessert, from our favorite chain Bambu. We worked out some details with the local franchise, and the morning of the wedding we picked up 200 servings and stored them in the venue’s walk-in cooler. After dinner, we had it brought out and set up. Our vendor provided all the cups and utensils so our venue did not charge us any additional fees. Our guests loved the unique dessert idea and our only regret was not purchasing more as it quickly ran out. The che station was more popular than the bar! We spent $400 on the che.

Make your own wedding favors

Another thing we noticed at previous weddings we attended was that many guests did not take home the wedding favors and some even threw the favors away. Thinking this through, we wanted to give something that was inexpensive, practical, and tied to our East Meets West wedding theme. We decided to go with a decorative and usable pair of chopsticks from eBay for each guest, pairing it with a printed card. Together with our wedding party and families, we spent a few hours tying everything together with a ribbon. In the end, we spent less than $100. Many of our guests collected the extras so we didn’t even have any for ourselves.

Shop around for your photographer and videographer

When we started evaluating photographers and videographers for our wedding, we noticed that the more established ones charged a significant premium for their services. These costs easily broke $10,000 and in some cases could exceed $20,000. This was significantly more than we were expecting to pay (we were hoping to spend ~$5,000).

We searched harder, looking for lesser known local photographers in Northern California on Facebook. A few stood out, and I scheduled appointments with them and flew back one weekend to meet everyone in person. I picked the one I liked the most and it ended up costing about $5,000 for an engagement session, a photo canvas, an entire day of photography (16 hours total), a photobooth, and a 5 minute wedding video.

Don’t get too hung up over a fancy dinner

For our wedding, we hosted two dinners. One welcome dinner for out-of-town guests and the second was the formal wedding dinner.

The welcome dinner for out-of-town guests was held at our brother’s restaurant about 50 miles south of the wedding venue. Our guests flew from all over the country so no one complained at all about driving the extra 50 miles. By hosting it at our brother’s restaurant, not only did he offer us a generous discount on the food, but we were also able to bring our own beer. This meal for ~30 guests cost about $100 and we gave another $100 for gratuity.

For our wedding, we could choose between a plated or buffet dinner. The plated dinner cost about 50% more. Obviously, we chose the buffet option as we did not think it would negatively affect the experience for our guests. In the end, there were no complaints about the food or the environment. If we could do it again we would not change a thing. Dinner cost over $12,000 with tax and gratuity.

Sometimes it makes sense to pay for things like flowers instead of doing everything yourself

Keeping your wedding small and doing everything yourself can save you a ton of money, however, we did neither. We wanted a wedding to include a lot of friends and family, and we did not have a lot of time to cobble things together ourselves before the wedding.

We flew back to California from Chicago two days before the wedding and not only didn’t have the time but also didn’t want to place a large burden on our friends by asking them to help make centerpieces and other floral arrangements. Therefore, we decided to have the florist handle everything. This ended up costing us over $5,500, but we and our friends were able to enjoy the day.

Utilize miles and points for wedding dress shopping

Many brides spend thousands of dollars on wedding dresses. I didn’t want to spend that much on a dress that is worn for a few hours. Therefore, I used my airline miles to book my mom and myself tickets to fly to Vietnam. There, I was able to buy 3 wedding dresses for $150, total, as well as get all clothing and accessories for the wedding party, which ended up costing about $170. I also got our invitations made for $115 and picked them up while I was there.

If you want to see a detailed summary of our wedding costs, check out the numbers here.