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Plan a dream wedding on a dime

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By Andrew Housser

Your wedding day is supposed to be one of the happiest of your life. But your smile can quickly vanish when the bills for the day’s festivities start to roll in. Newlyweds spent an average of $30,000 on their weddings last year, according to a survey conducted by The Knot, a major wedding planning website. That amount is large enough to pay for a new car or a down payment on a house in many parts of the country. Even more startling, this figure does not include the honeymoon. Thankfully, it is possible to get married without becoming mired in debt. Say “I do” to these cost-cutting tips.

1.      Forego the wedding planner. A wedding planner can relieve some of the stress associated with pulling off a big event. But a planner also can take a big piece of your budget. You can save money and still avoid excess stress by involving willing friends and family members instead. It takes some managerial and organizational skill, but you can put a friend or family member in charge of different tasks – from getting estimates on flowers, cake or bands to doing some specific needed tasks themselves. Ask for advice from other newly married couples, too.

2.      Choose an off time. Many wedding and reception sites, as well as caterers, florists and other vendors, offer discounts during slow seasons. January, February and March tend to be the least popular months for weddings (excluding Valentine’s Day). Getting married on a Friday evening instead of Saturday also can save on fees. 

3.      Trim the guest list. Every name on that list means another dinner plate and another flute of Champagne. Although you might not be able to nix your great aunt, you can safely decide not to invite friends with whom you only chat on social media sites. Avoid hurt feelings by letting people know that you are planning a small affair with family members and a few close friends.

4.      Do it yourself. Online sites make it easier to create gorgeous wedding invitations at a fraction of the customized price. Check out Pinterest for easy yet elegant ideas for decorations and floral arrangements. Make your bridal party a personalized gift that reflects something special about your relationship. Shop warehouse clubs and use coupons from craft stores to save on flowers, decorations, accessories and favors.

5.      Enlist help. Make a list of your family members and friends who have a knack for certain wedding-related tasks. For instance, ask an uncle who is into photography and video to serve as videographer; see if a talented cousin can make bouquets and centerpieces.

6.      Save on wedding attire. The Knot survey found that brides spend an average of $1,200 on a wedding gown. Look stunning for less by buying your bridal gown at a consignment store or from an online site (there are many specializing in pre-owned vintage and designer gowns). With places like these, you often can try to negotiate a lower price, too. Other options are trunk shows and sample sales. Men may be able to wear a suit they own already, dressed up with new shirt and tie, or invest in an outfit they can wear for years.

7.      Try something borrowed. Ask around or post requests on Facebook to see who can help with costly wedding extras. Tucked away in a family member or friend’s attic may be the perfect veil or ring bearer pillow. Maybe you can skip the limo and ride in a friend’s classic car instead.

8.      Lighten up on food and drinks. You do not necessarily have to serve a multi-course meal. Appetizers or desserts can work well. Skip the open bar and serve a signature drink instead. Or stick to wine and beer only.

9.      Make your own music. Hiring a band for your reception can easily set you back $3,000, while a disc jockey costs about $1,000. In today’s digital age, it is simple to create your own playlists (or assign this task to a friend who knows your musical tastes). You can connect the device to speakers and dance all night for practically nothing. MP3 players also can be used at the ceremony instead of a musician. Check with a local music school or college about hiring a pianist, violinist or singer for the ceremony. Or ask a talented friend to perform, bringing a personal touch to the event.

Put aside the money you save and instead use the funds toward a new home or to finally pay off student loans or other debt. One of the best ways to start life as a wedded couple is with as little debt as possible.

 
Andrew Housser is a co-founder and CEO of Bills.com, a free one-stop online portal where consumers can educate themselves about personal finance issues and compare financial products and services. He also is co-CEO of Freedom Financial Network, LLC providing comprehensive consumer credit advocacy and debt relief services. Housser holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Stanford University and Bachelor of Arts degree from Dartmouth College.
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