Better Budgeting: How to Have a Beautiful Wedding without Going Broke

How to Have a Beautiful Wedding without Going Broke

Credit Wise (featured column)
by Jennifer Wallis

I have stood face to face with a real monster and I gave it a blender. I am not talking about Big Foot or Nessy. Nope, I have met Bridezilla and I was seriously afraid. You may have met her, too. Unfortunately, there is more than one. What is truly scary is that you never know if your normally sweet best friend or beautiful daughter may have a Bridezilla lurking inside her, just waiting to be unleashed.

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Unbridled Spending

You know the type--the bride who has to have every single detail of her special day exactly how she has envisioned it since she was a little tot with a tea towel clipped to her head. The one who will destroy anyone who dares to disturb her vision of her perfect wedding day. Yes, to Bridezilla, the wedding is the most important thing she has ever done and may ever do. She will spare no expense, even if it means that her parents or her fiancé have to get a second mortgage to pay for it.

I read recently in Newsweek that the average wedding costs around $30,000. If you put that into perspective, it is roughly the same price as a really nice new car or 1 year at Harvard. It is 3/4 of the amount that the average American makes in an entire year. Since the average wedding and reception lasts about 4 hours, that equates to about $125.00 per minute. No wonder Bridezilla is a little testy!

I am not trying to make light of the importance of a wedding. It truly is one of the most important decisions you will make in your lifetime. However, it is important to remember that the cost of the wedding is in no way related to the happiness of the marriage. I have attended gorgeous weddings with impeccable details, a stunning bride, gourmet food, and a total price tag totaling more than my entire college education. The wedding was perfect but the marriage lasted 8 months. Unfortunately, many couples spend more time planning the 4-hour wedding and reception than they do preparing for their marriage.

If you have unlimited funds and want a lavish wedding that celebrities would envy, that is your decision. However, most brides aren’t that lucky. The good news is that you can still have a beautiful, meaningful wedding without going broke. Keep in mind that the event is supposed to be about celebrating your love for each other, not how much you spend.

Here are some tips to think about when planning your special day:

Who do you know?

When I planned my own wedding last year, I started asking around. As luck would have it, I had a former coworker who was married to a professional caterer, a coworker who used to work as a gorgeous cake designer, a friend who knew the owners of the local wholesale flower market and a good friend and groom who were musicians. It really amazed me how much people wanted to help me have an inexpensive but special wedding. I was able to negotiate phenomenal deals on some of the items that typically cost the most.

Can you share it?

Do you know anyone else who recently got married or is planning their own shindig on a different day?  Many items (centerpieces, tablecloths, aisle runners, cake servers, decorations) may be reusable. If you know someone who may have some of these items, offer to pay half and share them.  Many of the items you end up buying for that one occasion sit in a box and gather dust after the big day. Why not put them to good use by sharing with someone else?

Let’s make a deal

In some cases, you may be able to barter services. Many local vendors are willing to trade out services you may need for your wedding for professional services that you can offer in return. It never hurts to ask.

Thank God for givers

If you have friends or family that have special talents or skills, ask them to give you that in lieu of a gift. I was lucky enough to have a friend offer to arrange my fresh flowers for me as her gift to us. Another friend sang and another played guitar. I have been to several weddings in one very organized and talented family where they pull together and cater the events themselves. Not only is it truly the gift that keeps on giving, it gets special friends and family more involved and is much more meaningful.

Do it yourself 

Some wedding items are simple to make yourself. I honestly can’t tell the difference between expensive invitations and ones that were printed on a home computer with a good printer. Many stores offer easy kits to print your own invitations and programs, complete with cute little vellum ribbons.

Know where you can’t cut 

While saving money may be important, you don’t want to cut so much that you are disappointed in the results. There are some places that you may have to spend money, like it or not. Most brides want good pictures so asking Aunt Ethel to handle the digital camera may be something you regret. Just make a list of the items that are most important to you and spend your money there. Other items that are less important are the areas to cut.

The most important thing to remember when planning a wedding is that the day should be about the two of you and your love for each other. Even if tradition and etiquette are very important to you, there are still plenty of ways to make it special without a lot of expense. Don’t get sucked into the wedding marketing hype perpetuated by a multibillion dollar industry. It is perfectly acceptable to have a wedding without every single latest wedding trend. Things like hand-calligraphy invitations, napkins, décor or favors are items that most people won’t even notice. The things that people remember most about my wedding are that my 6-year-old son gave me away and that my groom sang to me. Both of those may have been free but the memories are priceless to me.

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Copyright © 2007 by Jennifer Wallis. All rights reserved.

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