Every little girl dreams of her wedding day. From the day they were born, most little girls are already practicing walking down the aisle and are planning every facet and detail with very vivid imagination:
~ Will it be peonies or roses?
~ If I pick Jane to be my bridesmaid, uh-oh…what about Jill?
~ Should I go with a traditional tiered cake or…maybe cupcakes?
~ Will the reception be elegantly romantic with candles and a live string quartet or more natural with wildflower centerpieces outdoors?
~ I can’t decide if my hair will look better made up or left down!!!
~ And of course…Will I find the perfect wedding dress?
It’s not nice to burst little girls’ bubbles, but it’s hard fact that one thing is usually missing in little girls’ dream wedding plans…the cost.
A Stack of Bricks
Somehow wedding costs hit us like a stack of bricks only after we’re all grown up and have already dreamed, planned, and set our hearts on what we think is the perfect-in-every-detail, once-in-a-lifetime wedding. Flipping through bridal magazines in the checkout line as a little girl, it never even crossed my mind that a budget was something big people thought about when they got married.
But when Al rode up in his shining armor and eventually popped the question, suddenly the day to start planning had arrived. And suddenly, how much we would (and could) spend became a huge factor, especially for a young couple who didn’t own a house, were starting graduate school and job-hunting, and faced a relatively uncertain yet adventurous future.
During the excitement of all the planning, we happened to be talking to a friend who had recently gotten married in Canada. He proudly explained every detail of how he had managed to keep his wedding at $5,000 and most importantly, retain a happy bride. We were so impressed! Leaving that conversation I was inspired that we didn’t have to be like mainstream America, taking out loans and starting married life in debt, and I determined to do even better. So our goal became: To spend less than $5,000 on our wedding.
You’re probably thinking that this must have taken all the fun out of our wedding and that a tight budget must have been such a huge burden! But to be honest, although a wedding under $5,000 was our goal, we never felt we were somehow being short-changed during the whole planning experience. In fact, planning a wedding on a budget was one of the most fun things Al and I did as a couple. We still love to talk about it, share the tips we learned with others, and comment how we wouldn’t have changed a thing. Doing the research that saved us tons of money on the flowers, dress, food, and many other things that we will share with you, made us feel like together we were accomplishing something important for married life and also helped confirm that yes, we were made for each other.
The Knot (a wedding website that attracts over 1.5 million people each month by providing wedding planning resources) conducts a survey each year to determine the average cost of weddings in the US. In their article from March 2014, they found that for 2013 the average cost of weddings was at an all-time high. The highest since they started the surveys in 2008! Here are their intriguing findings:
Not Your Average Wedding
With weddings averaging $30,000 (not including the honeymoon, mind you), we weren’t willing to spend one spouse’s annual salary to tie the knot to each other and also the knot of debt around our necks! Yet we also didn’t want to sacrifice elements of the wedding that were meaningful to us and that we felt needed to be included to honor God, our family, and guests. So we cut out some of the typical American wedding traditions that seemed to be a little less meaningful to us (i.e. garter toss) and were creative in finding more affordable options for things that we thought would add significance to the event (i.e. sacred music picked for the import of the words) and would continue to be significant to us in the future (i.e. participation of family).
Here is a quick breakdown of our costs:
What Do They Want?
So, you may be thinking, “How can you spend that little on your guests? Don’t you know they’re bringing you gifts so deserve something better?!” Before you get stuck in the perspective of what people think and deserve, consider this: Your guests attend your wedding to show that they sincerely want you to have a happy and successful future together.
Now, let me ask you, what lends itself to a happier and more successful future?
A. Taking out a $30,000 loan and being shackled to debt which you have to slave to pay off for the next 10 years limiting your options of housing and jobs and causing angry arguments every evening and much marital discord.
B. Choosing to have a simple, meaningful wedding, foregoing fancy napkins and favors (that although are nice, are forgotten and end up in the trash once the wedding is over), but the money you saved is put towards the down-payment of your first house, and because you have minimal debt when your first child is born, Mom is able to drop her job and stay home with baby as she always wanted.
If you asked your guests if they would choose A or B, if they would prefer a $2,000, $10,000, or even $30,000 fancier evening at your wedding or a better and brighter future for you and your spouse, I think all of them would whole-heartedly vote for the latter (or they don’t deserve to be at your wedding!). So don’t buy into the erroneous view that you have to shoot your brand-new marriage in the foot to appease your guests. Your guests want the best for you, not the best for them!
(Here’s a book that was really helpful for me in realizing I didn’t have to succumb to societal expectations to have a beautiful and perfect wedding: A Simply Beautiful Wedding)
We may come across strongly sometimes, but we aren’t here to tell you how to plan your wedding day or to scold if you decide to splurge a little to make your dream wedding come true. However, we do want to share with you what we did and hope you will be convinced that it is possible to have a beautiful, memorable, and perfect wedding for less than $3,000.
To learn more about our story where we explain:
- What we spent our $3,000 on
- What we did not spend our $3,000 on
- How we did it without compromising our dreams, and
- Why we did it when we didn’t have to
Check out our other weddings posts:
6 Unconventional Ways to Save Money on Your Wedding
How I Got Married in a Cheap Wedding Dress