Until I started planning my wedding, I did not realize how difficult staying on budget would be. It’s really difficult, like really difficult! Still, I am proud of my ability to stick to a realistic budget without sacrificing too much of what I want on my big day.
This is an important topic for us Millennials, with home ownership in our generation at an all-time low. Of the 38% of us that actually own a home, half want to sell because it is making them cash poor while the 52% that don’t own seriously doubt they will ever afford it (The Huffington Post, 2017).
Yet according to a 2015 survey by Wedding Bells, the average cost of a Canadian wedding is $30,717.
This is INSANE!! We can’t afford to BUY HOUSES but we are spending average of $30,000 + on our WEDDINGS?!?
Please, please, PLEASE make a serious effort to curb this insanity at your wedding. My own planning has shown me just how quickly the spending can get out of control without meticulous savings at every turn. Remember – at the end of the day – you will be married to the love of your life. Your guests will not remember the cake, or the centrepieces, or any other details as much as they remember seeing the smiles on your face or the warmth for being part of your day (if this does not describe your guests, may I respectfully suggest you re-consider your guest list).
1. Use a wedding app to track your spending (with a few added bonuses)
The app I use and highly recommend is called Lady Marry. It allows you to track your purchases and shows a running total in the top left corner of the “costs” section. Be sure to enter everything, as the small miscellaneous costs because they add up quickly. As the cost total began inching toward my budget goal, I knew had to slow down on my spending. Psychologically, it totally worked! I started re-considering a lot of my “extras” at that point, eventually deciding – in most cases – they weren’t really needed.
Added bonuses for using the app include the monthly checklist for organizing tasks. The suggested task list helped me get started and I was able to delete and add my own as I went along. There is an option to track contact information of various vendors so you keep it all in the same place. I also love the countdown page showing the number of days, hours, minutes, and seconds to the wedding!
2. Have a REALISTIC budget BEFORE you start
Personally, I didn’t do well on the realistic part at first. My original budget was $5,000 until I purchased my gorgeous Truvelle wedding gown for $1860 (surprisingly inexpensive in wedding dress world) and realized I would need to stretch that a bit. After a little more research I settled on a $10,000 budget. I want to stress that I have the savings to afford a $10,000 wedding plus the financial support of my in-laws, particularly with the purchase of alcohol for our bar. If you do not have the savings or financial assistance of family please do not go into debt for a wedding! A $5,000 wedding is completely possible with rigorous planning and can be special and memorable without financial burden.
3. DIY DIY DIY (you can do it, you really can!)
Be your own decorator, wedding planner, and day-of coordinator.
I want to emphasize that I am NOT a DIY type of girl. At least when it comes to the Pinterest-y artsy stuff. Literally, if I can do it then anyone can. Pinterest is a great resource for ideas and there are DIY videos on Youtube for almost anything you can imagine. I wanted these birch trees lighted with white Christmas lights to decorate the hall and could not find any in stores for under $70 each for the size I desired. After watching a Youtube video, I purchased large bundles of birch branches from Wal-Mart, stood them up in cheap planters with cardboard, covered the cardboard with dollar store burlap, then strung the battery-operated LED white lights around. Voila! Total cost was $25-30 per tree with some assembly time. Well worth the savings and they look better than anything I saw in stores anyways.
There are tons of wedding buy/sell pages on Facebook so anything you make or buy can be sold to other brides after the wedding. If you happen to see something you like on these pages, you can save money on wedding items or just save the time of making it yourself (sometimes a little of both).
Set your date enough in advance that you have time to make your own stuff. You will spend more money if you are rushed with your planning. Our date was 18 months after Alex proposed however we also had a baby in that time. For most brides, 6 months to 1 year is reasonable depending on the overall busy-ness of one’s lifestyle.
I do excel at organization and delegation so the wedding day coordination is a breeze for me. I created a timeline and delegated tasks to certain individuals to help with errands and decor during the week-of. Our venue, an inexpensive and newly renovated community hall, is rented for a full three days. We have a full day to set up before the wedding and a full day to clean up after which will reduce overall wedding day stress and eliminate the need to hire additional help.
4. ALWAYS check the dollar store first
I cannot stress this enough. I purchased the majority of decor at the dollar store, including beautiful thick-glass (quality) square flower vases, stickers, gift bags, decorative ribbon, chalkboards, and kids games/activities (puzzles, colouring books). Think outside Dollarama and shop different dollar stores as they each have a different selection. There has been countless times I purchased something at Wal-Mart or Michaels, only to regret it or return it when I found the same item at the dollar store for cheaper. I will honourably mention Ikea as they have some useful items at dollar store prices, particularly candles and candle holders. Wedding buy/sell pages are handy, however the good items sell fast and driving around to pick up items is time-consuming. Shop often and keep a lookout for items that suit your wedding theme and colours.
5. Cut your guest list (sorry!)
I know this seems impossible to those with excessively large families, however there are ways to do this. One option is having an out-of-town wedding which ensures that the attending guests care enough about you to spend the time and cash to travel.
Our guest list is approximately 70 people. My Mom wanted to invite some distant family and I said no.
If you have a guest list in excess of 100, I seriously question how closely you know each person attending. If they aren’t someone you would call up or spend time with in your everyday life, why are they invited? If parents or other relatives are pressuring you to invite more than you can afford, cut a deal so they pay for food and alcohol for the extra guests. Or just say no.
Practice it right now. No.
NO. NO. NO. NO. NO.
6. Be willing to work with start-ups
Choosing start-ups for your vendors (photographer, flowers, DJ, cake, caterer) is a great way to find enthusiastic service that fits your budget. I attended Bridal Fantasy earlier this year and found nearly all the “big-time” vendors to be over-hyped and over-priced. Inquire around social media for new business start-ups in your community, particularly on wedding buy/sell and business pages.
Some rules to follow when working with individuals, smaller companies, and new business start-ups:
- Interview in person before booking. Pay attention to cues which demonstrate they are a conscientious, responsible human being (e.g. prompt response to messages, arriving on time).
- Ask about prior experience and request to view a portfolio of their work. Most individuals will have (at minimum) a Facebook page or blog.
- If you have any doubts, ask for references.
- Make sure you sign a detailed written contract and retain a copy that both parties have signed before paying the booking fee.
7. Consider your priorities, go alternative if necessary. Embrace minimalism.
One of my priorities was (obviously) my wedding dress. I adore it and would not trade it for the world. If it suits your budget, feel free to splurge on important items that will absolutely make your day.
That being said, minimalism is trendy right now. It’s okay to embrace alternatives to save money or discard certain traditions altogether. Some examples of alternatives at my own wedding:
- Buying flowers from Costco and assembling them myself
- Hiring a photographer for 3 hours instead of the entire day (2 hours of wedding party/family photos and one hour for the ceremony)
- Not having a wedding cake. Although a friend is taking decorating classes and has offered to make me one.
- Buying desserts at Costco for a DIY dessert table instead of paying the caterer extra $ per person to do it.
- Having a toonie bar, which my future mother-in-law has fully stocked with premium alcohol. Personally I would have purchased Costco-brand everything, however this is something she really wanted to do and we are grateful for it.
I attended several weddings recently that did not follow the traditional format, yet still offered a unique experience. One friend did a delicious taco bar reception in the afternoon followed by an evening brewery tour. Stand up receptions and potlucks are also becoming common.
8. Do not, I repeat DO NOT, be a perfectionist
For some this will come naturally and for others it’s literally impossible. I know it’s easy to get wrapped up in the “you only get married once” concept. If you come from a family that views weddings as a parade of social status, it will be particularly difficult. Try to fight it. If you are stressing about something, sit yourself down and be realistic about the situation. I was decorating flower vases with sparkly ribbon and realized the store had run out of that particular sparkly ribbon. I found ribbon in a slightly darker shade to put on the remaining vases. I obsessed over it until I realized I can put the vases on different tables and no one is going to notice anyways. My guests aren’t going to sit there and say “hey, those ribbons aren’t exactly matching”. They will be too busy celebrating with us and enjoying themselves. Perfectionism will ruin your wedding experience. Don’t get caught up in it.
THAT’S ALL FOLKS
My wedding hasn’t taken place yet, so there will be more wedding posts including pictures and a review of my big day (tips, tricks, what went well and what didn’t, so forth)
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