How to Make a Wedding Affordable

I was looking over some information about articles I’ve submitted and noticed that one of the phrases searched that brought up some of them was, “marriage ceremony when you can’t get married because of finances.”  We also have some new friends who are talking about how they can’t get married right now because they can’t afford a wedding.  It made me think that sometimes young couples don’t really understand the difference between the wedding and the marriage so I decided to throw out my two cents on the subject.

First things first, a wedding is the ceremony.  It’s the vows you take BEFORE the marriage starts.  Marriage is the ever after, the part that is most important.  It’s the rest of your lives together going through the sickness and health, the ups and downs, the good and bad and everything in between.   How you’re going to handle all of that together is more important than the wedding itself but I’m always amazed at how many couples spend months or years to plan the wedding but end up divorced in two years because they never discussed the MARRIAGE!  They’ve had their $25,000 dream wedding, still owe on it and are seeking out a divorce lawyer!

That said if you truly love one another and are prepared for marriage then truly you should get married.  You shouldn’t put off the marriage because you can’t afford the wedding.  I know it’s hard to wrap your head around this but the big spectacular wedding isn’t something you MUST have.  It’s a desire, a want, not a NEED.  Living together for five years because you can’t afford the wedding isn’t a mature attitude.  If you really wanted to be married, you’d realize the difference between the marriage and the wedding.  I know this sounds harsh.  Don’t shoot me yet.  I’m not saying you have to give up all of your wedding dreams.  I’m just saying to be a realist about them.

Something that irks me to no end is the statement made by some that, “courtesy dictates” or “custom dictates”.  Okay, nothing gets me riled up more than the word, “dictate”.  Does that mean you HAVE to do something?  You’re being forced against your will to do something?   If “dictate” is paying the tab on the pricey affair, then so be it, but if YOU are paying the tab and you don’t want to start out your marriage in debt because of your wedding, then by all means, kick “dictate” out of the picture and do what you can afford!

First, discuss what’s important to both of you for the wedding.  Is it a church ceremony?  Is it the long cathedral length gown?  Is it getting all of your friends and relations together for the event?  Make a list of the “must haves” and the “can do without” items.  Once you have that, it’s easier to find ways to accomplish your desires AND do it inexpensively.

Wedding gown-Truthfully, the gown was one of MY most important things.  I imagined myself in the cathedral length gown.  I seriously shopped!  I quickly found out that I didn’t look any better in the $3,000 raw silk gown versus the $650 gown!  Shocking, huh?  Now, even $650 is a lot.  I was recently shopping in a thrift store and found a BRAND NEW, raw silk, cathedral length wedding gown with labels STILL ON for $50!!!!  I’m still kicking myself for not buying the dress just for the fabric (I’m a quilter).  Sometimes I kick myself for not shopping for my wedding gown at thrift stores.  I always figured them for out of date styles but that’s far from true.  In addition, the long trains are great for showy weddings and for when the expensive pictures are taken but if you’re trimming expenses than think more on a shorter style or floor length which are generally much less. Remember that NO ONE has to know that your dress was a thrift store find or off the floor sale dress or borrowed from a friend!  All they’ll know if that you look beautiful, radiant and happy in it!

Church Wedding-Generally it’s not the church that is the biggest expense especially if you’re a member of that church.  What IS expensive about the church weddings are the flowers, the pew decorations, the cathedral length gown and all of that stuff.  Being married in our church with a Mass was very important to us.  Being married in the presence of our friends and family was important to us.  Spending thousands just to decorate what was already a beautiful place of worship was NOT important to us!  The total cost of the church and small donation was $175.  I made simple pew bows for about $100.  The church was already decorated for the fall season and we chose not to add any more flowers.  We could have paid the church organist about another $100 to play the music but I had opted for a string quartet of our choosing which cost us $500 (having a friend handle recorded music would have cost us nothing).  We could have had the entire church wedding for $175 if we had chosen, though.  Remember, God will be present with you as you join in holy matrimony no matter where you choose to exchange your vows and no matter how you choose to decorate (or not decorate).

The photographs-Yep, BIG, BIG EXPENSE!  I’ve seen wedding packages run into the thousands and thousands.  I had friends who wanted to be married and were willing to do whatever was needed to have a wedding but keep the cost to the absolute minimum.  They decided to forego a formal wedding photographer and asked that friends take pictures to share with them.  As their wedding gift to them, I offered to take more formal pictures for them.  I took the time to help them set up shots after the ceremony and they made sure to have pictures with anyone they wanted and have any poise they wanted.   I developed the initial pictures as my gift and gave them everything in archival albums (negatives included which in general, professional photographers won’t give you). They were THRILLED!  So, as you see, if you have a friend who is respectable with a good camera, you might ask them to photograph for you as a wedding gift.  I definitely agree that capturing the moment is important but capturing for free or nearly free is MUCH better than capturing for thousands.

Reception-Okay, this is one of biggest expenses by far.  If you can have your church wedding and then after the ceremony use the church banquet hall for a buffet of sandwiches, salads, cake and punch and THAT is what you can afford, then so be it!  Some will tell you that you have to have a sit down meal.  Go back to what I think about “dictate”.

The bottom line is that having the dream start to your marriage surrounded by friends and family doesn’t have to expensive affair.  A stylish, tasteful and beautiful wedding can be created from almost any budget.  It does require a bit more effort and time on your part but it also means really discussing what is most important to both of you and setting priorities which honestly, is a great way to start a lifetime together.

Tammy Paquin is a work-from-home mom of 3 boys and the owner and publisher of Frugal-Families, an online resource for frugality, finances, budgeting and everything else related to stretching the dollar. For more ways to stretch your income so you can afford the wedding of your dreams visit, Frugal-Families

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About Tammy Paquin

Tammy Paquin is a work from home mom of 3 boys and wife to a great guy and the owner and publisher of Frugal-Families, a website devoted to frugality, budgeting, simple living, homesteading and helping everyone, families and singles alike, stretch their hard-earned dollars. She and her family live in New England and love hiking, camping, kayaking and gardening.

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