The average US wedding cost in 2012 was over $27 000. What does $27 000 get you? For most bride and groom, it gets them a stressful day, little face time with their guests, wedding bands and an exotic honeymoon. All this to provide a day that most guests will soon forget about along with all the other fancy weddings they have attended.
What is lost by spending $27 000? A significant downpayment on a house, debt repayment, retirement savings, an investment property, you get the point. If you are an aggressive saver, this amount might represent a year or two of your savings. For most, it represents years of additional debt repayment.
But wait, parents are paying
If you are lucky enough to have parents and in-laws who want to contribute to your wedding, be advised that it will likely come with strings attached. Those strings are usually an extensive guest list of people who you have had little to do with. If one set of parents contribute to the wedding, this might mean a lopsided guest list for the bride or groom. Guest lists are a big source of stress during wedding planning so make sure you have full control over your guest list and only invite people who you really want.
Following a tradition is about meeting other people’s expectations. How about meeting your own expectations for once. With two people coming together, this might mean 4 different traditions and expectations coming from all parent. Only you and your partner can decide what elements you want at your wedding. There’s a good chance some of your family will be very upset that you didn’t choose their tradition, so let them be and remind them that it is YOUR wedding, not theirs.
Really question how important it is to you and your bride to have catering, a rented reception hall, expensive new wedding bands, a live band and all the other elements you see in a typical wedding. You get the picture. All the traditional elements of a wedding hosted this decade can be modified or done without.
Keep it small
Big guest lists add to the cost, especially when you have to feed and entertain them. In general, the smaller the guest list, the smaller the bill. With a group of 10-30 people, you can eat in a restaurant instead of paying for catering. You can even host your guests in your house of a friend’s house with appetizers or a BBQ. Only invite your closest family members and best of friends. Explain to other potential guests that you are having a small intimate wedding and they will understand why they are not invited.
Can’t please everyone
No matter how big or small you plan to have your wedding, you won’t be able to please everyone. Weddings can bring the worst of people who have an interest in the turn out of your wedding. Mothers and MIL generally hit this mark so take control of your wedding and have it the way YOU want it to be. If you think your family is going to be upset by your decisions and will want to change your mind, keep them in the dark about the guest list and events. They will still be upset when they find out what you are doing but at least it will be too late for them to have an influence.
You are a team
Remember that the most important person to you is the one who you are marrying. Work with him and place him first before your family’s expectations. You are a team for a life.
Your friends and family add to your team so exploit their best skills and ask them if you can use them at your wedding. Is your brother an amateur photographer? Ask him to do photography at your wedding.
Make it memorable
Have an intimate setting where you can talk to your guests. Let nature decorate your setting for you in a park. Host a BBQ instead of a fancy caterer. Have all your lady guests wear fascinators for fantastic pictures. Have fireworks or a bon fire.
When I got married to Mr Cannes, we aimed for a budget of $8 000 including the honeymoon. At the end, we spent about $12 000. We were in a position to spend that amount as our retirement accounts were fully funded and we had no debt other than our mortgage. With this budget, we hosted all of our 20 guests in a beautiful lodge by the water for a weekend long event. My aunt graciously cooked lunches and dinners along with the help of several new family members. Our food bill for the entire weekend was about $700. There were no DJs, just an iPod with speakers. There were no professional photographer. Instead we downloaded all the digital pictures from our guests’s cameras. We didn’t care much for traditional wedding bands so we exchanged my engagement ring and got Mr Cannes a really cool titanium ring. My maid of honour reused one of her previous maid of honour dress to save her money so I was able to use her dress colour as our theme colour.Our honeymoon consisted of a low cost all inclusive vacation in the Caribbean.
Since we already had all of household items and lived in a very small condo, we opted to ask our guests to donate to our favourite charity instead of giving us cash gifts or gifts that we couldn’t keep due to space. Our guests tell us that the sumo suits and bon fire were the most memorable events at our wedding, not the decorations or my beautiful dress. We cared that we spent a close time with the people that are the most important to us.
How will you save at your wedding?