Cheat Sheet

Budget Weddings For Dummies

From Budget Weddings For Dummies by Meg Schneider

Planning a wedding shouldn’t break the bank — it should be fun, exciting, and worry-free. To plan a budget wedding that looks anything but cheap, make a priority list, cut back on food (the biggest wedding expense), and consider adding some wallet-friendly touches that are also good for the environment.

Save Money on the Wedding of Your Dreams

When you’re planning a wedding on a budget, you want to get the best value for your dollar. You aren’t interested in anything that looks cheap; you want your fairytale wedding for less. If you follow these tips, your guests will never imagine that they’ve been invited to a budget wedding:

  • Choose a budget-friendly wedding date and time: Getting married on a weekday, on a Sunday, in the morning, or on a Saturday in November or January will save money on everything from the ceremony and reception venues to the band or DJ you hire.

  • Don’t go overboard on invitations: Buy for the number of households, not the total number of guests. Otherwise, you end up wasting money on unused invitations.

  • Find a less-expensive wedding dress: Search online retailers, borrow a dress, rent a gown, or buy a bridesmaid’s dress in white, cream, or ivory.

  • Create your own wedding playlist: Recorded music is the least expensive way to have the melodies you want for your ceremony. It’s also the easiest way to mix and match the styles and songs that best suit you as a couple. Put the playlist on your MP3 player and check whether you have access to the sound system at your ceremony site.

  • Skip pew or chair decorations: Guests won’t miss them, and you’ll save money.

  • Pick something other than flowers: Ditch the bouquet idea altogether and carry a fan, a small parasol, a loved one’s Bible, a rosary, or even a fancy clutch or evening bag. Or opt for a bouquet made of feathers, crystals, candy, antique buttons, or origami.

  • Serve only beer and wine. This common compromise doesn’t violate any etiquette rules. As a variation, you can serve beer, wine, and a signature drink. This variation gives your guests more drink choices but still keeps expenses down.

  • Do without the wedding cake: You can serve alternative desserts — like cookies, bars, brownies, cheesecake, pies, or tarts — in any number of ways: as a dessert buffet, as centerpieces on your tables, or as butler-passed treats.

  • Forgo favors: You can make a donation to a charity in your guests’ names for less than you’d pay for some favors.

Budget Wedding Tips: How to Spend Less on Food

Food and alcohol represent the biggest expense for most weddings. So it makes sense to cut back on that expense if you’re planning a budget wedding. Broaden your idea of what a stylish and elegant wedding reception looks like and prepare to save. Your guests will eat to their heart’s content, but you won’t break the bank when you host one of these receptions:

  • Brunch: Brunch fare can cost less than half — even as little as a third — of a full dinner menu. Consider providing a variety of specialty buffets, such as a fruit bar or an omelet station.

  • Garden parties: No one expects you to provide a full meal, so go all out on fancy appetizers. Serve a signature cocktail in lieu of a full bar.

  • Afternoon tea: Pull out all the stops for a traditional British affair and limit alcohol to Champagne for toasts.

  • Dessert reception: If you have a sweet tooth, this is the best way to indulge it! Serve nothing but sweets — wedding cake, petit fours, cheesecake, sundaes, and a chocolate fountain.

  • Cocktail reception: Alcohol will consume the biggest part of your budget with this type of reception, but you save by serving appetizers and dessert instead of a full meal.

Plan an Eco-Friendly Budget Wedding

Green is the new white — at least when it comes to eco-friendly weddings. Even better, going green can save you money. That’s always a plus if you’re planning a budget wedding. Even though some green wedding products and services are pricier than the traditional ones, others cost far less than you’d expect. The following list tells you how to save some green on your green wedding:

  • Eliminate paper. Bypass printed invitations, response cards, and maps in favor of Web-based versions. Provide maps and driving directions on your wedding Web site, issue save-the-date info and invitations via e-mail, and keep track of your guest count and meal requests with Web-based forms.

  • Choose a green dress. To find an inexpensive dress that’s environmentally friendly, shop vintage stores, peruse eBay, or consider renting your gown.

  • Think locally. Using caterers and florists who work with local producers can save you money, and it reduces the environmental impact of your wedding by cutting down on transportation emissions.

  • Go for green gold. For more eco-friendly (and potentially more budget-friendly) wedding rings, look in pawn shops and at estate auctions for vintage rings that can be updated. Or collect your unused gold jewelry and hire a jeweler to melt it down and make your wedding bands out of it.

  • Opt for reusable decorations. Rent potted plants or silk flower arrangements that can be used again. Or pot your own plants or flowers and incorporate them into your new home after the honeymoon — you’ve just cut down on your interior decorating budget!

Make a Priority List for Your Budget Wedding

If you’re planning your wedding on a budget, prioritizing is a must. Without a priority list, you’re likely to overspend — often before you even realize you’re going over your budget. To keep your wedding finances on track, sit down with your fiancé(e) and compare your lists of priorities for the big day.

If you aren’t sure how to come up with a priority list, start by jotting down what you liked and disliked about other weddings you’ve attended. Then think about the wedding traditions you’re familiar with and decide whether you want to follow them. Don’t worry about the associated costs just yet.

When you compare your list with your fiancé(e)’s priorities, talk about how each item fits into your overall budget. Then you can decide together whether the expense of getting married in a dream location is worth giving up the acres of orchids you always imagined seeing at your ceremony.

After you and your intended identify what you really want for your wedding, write your priorities on a sheet of paper so you can refer to them when you’re making wedding decisions. You may even want to carry the list in your wallet as a reminder when you’re interviewing vendors.

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