When my boyfriend and I first started talking about weddings, we were both relieved to find out that our expectations are, well, quite low achievable. Last night, CB mentioned to me that he’d rather have a small wedding and spend most of our money on traveling. “Is that okay?” he asked. “That is (absolutely and fantastically) okay,” I replied. I am glad that we are in sync on this, at least on the big-picture stuff. (But seriously, if he doesn’t ask me to marry him, I am going to stop talking to him about weddings!)
We will figure out a budget when we come to that point, but I know neither of us want to go into debt for the wedding. Not only that, I don’t even think we want to spend a lot of money on it. Of course, “a lot of money” is subjective in wedding parlance.
The average wedding in the U.S. costs around $20,000-$30,000,
according to the various reports and websites that I’ve came upon. See Cost of a Wedding, The Knot, WE TV’s Wedding Report for more information. If you want to have a traditional wedding with a sit-down dinner, dancing, live music, etc., at an in-demand venue in a big city, then the costs can go up even higher.
Fortunately, the web provides much inspiration for more budget-friendly events. After just a quick google, I found many blogs that talk about keeping the wedding budget under $10,000. That’s quite an achievement, especially in metropolitan areas, but what if I can keep that budget solidly in the four-figure range? I found a few bloggers who talked about how to throw lovely, memorable affairs for around $5,000 or $6,000! Granted, a few of these posts are several years old, so of course $5K in 2005 isn’t the same as $5K in 2011, but the philosophy and the guidelines still ring true.
Fabulous Weddings For Under $6,000
Jen, Monica, G and myself went to some local flower shops the morning of our wedding and bought what we needed. I deliberately didn’t have a set flower in mind, so that I wouldn’t end up making an emotional decision to get overpriced flowers- I opted for whatever looked good, fit the scheme, and was well priced. We brought them to my kitchen and put together our bouquets and all the center pieces. Both Jen and Monica each carried a single stunning hydrangea bloom- it was perfect. Flowers are way easier than any florist will ever let on.
Out of curiosity, I went to the Filene’s Basement‘s chaotic “Running of the Brides” sale, but none of the countless dresses tempted me to part with $250. It was a deal for some, but more than I wanted to spend. So I did the next best thing – I checked eBay. And there it was, a simple yet elegant, sleeveless, satiny, ivory sheath with only one bidder and 40 minutes left on the auction. I won the dress for $27. The seller said she’d purchased it from Saks‘ Off 5th outlet but didn’t lose weight in time for her wedding. Fortunately, her diet disaster was my happy ending.
Restaurants in Manhattan spend way too much time competing with each other. The mistake that most couples make is going for the popular places that are listed on registries like The Knot. The key is to find an accommodating restaurant, offer them the chance to attract forty new clients with their food, and negotiate something that doesn’t affect their daily business. Incremental business is always welcome at these smaller restaurants. Their average margins are in the low single digits, and cash-flow is king.
I was able to get my photographer and deejay for free. I found the photographer, another graduate student, on Craigslist.com. He was trying to get his name out as a wedding photographer. Our engagement and wedding pictures were free. The deejay was the boyfriend of a friend and he was also trying to get into weddings. A lot of people don’t realize that most vendors will work for free when they’re just starting out as long as they’re able to reference you. A friend of mine is a makeup artist and she did my makeup for free that day as my wedding present.
If you are a bride- or groom-to-be who is looking to keep your special day in the four-figure range, you will love the stories I linked to. Read and be inspired! Edit: Girl with a Red Balloon pulled off a fun, festive wedding for under $10,000, in less than a MONTH!
On that note, can I confess to you, my dear readers, that one of the reasons why I want to get engaged is so I can finally start blogging about a wedding budget? I am not sure if that makes me a particularly dedicated personal finance blogger or just really strange. Of course I also want to marry the man I love, make a commitment, build our lives together, etc. But the wedding budget? The allure is immense.
If CB ever reads this, I hope he is not freaked out.