Debt Management

10 tips for having a frugal wedding


Start by deciding on one or two items most important to you both. Splurge on those, scrimp on the rest and you’ll avoid a runaway bridal budget

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Question for the expert

Dear New Frugal You,
My wedding is in just a few months and my dad says the costs are getting out of hand. It’s not a huge wedding — about 75 guests. I so much want this day to be special. Is there a way to do that without bankrupting my parents? — Heidi


Answer for the expert

Dear Heidi,
Every girl’s dream. A gorgeous wedding where everything is just so. Unfortunately, the cost of a magnificent wedding can leave a lingering stain on the budget of her parents (or anyone else paying for it).

Can you have a wedding that resembles your dream and still keep costs to a reasonable level? I think so. Let’s see if we can’t give you some ideas on how to have a frugal wedding.

1. Fix a total budget before you start shopping. You’ll want to divide that total into the various expenses (dresses, reception, decorations, etc). How much you have to spend and how you choose to divide it will help guide your shopping.

The discussion will also set spending expectations and eliminate arguments later. If you don’t think that you can do flowers for $200, it’s easier to discuss it now. If you decide to spend more on flowers, then now is the time to decide where you’ll get the extra money.

2. Agree on one or two items that are really important to both of you. Focus your spending on those items and scrimp on the rest. Look for items that you can eliminate completely — a limousine, for instance. Drive yourself or ask a friend to be your chauffeur.

3. Be willing to break traditions. You are not required to do or buy anything just because your family has always done it that way or everyone you know does it. This is your day. Tailor it to your liking.

4. Avoid “bridal” or “wedding” items. Any item for a wedding will be 20 percent to 30 percent more than the same item in a regular shop. So before you shop for anything, ask yourself if there’s a nonwedding equivalent.

5. Wherever possible, rent. Whether it’s tables and chairs or china and backdrops for the photographer, buy only those items you can’t get any other way. You may even choose to rent your bridal gown. Often rental costs are about one quarter of what it would cost to buy.

6. Ask friends to contribute their skills in lieu of a gift. You may know someone who could do the photography and someone else who could do the invitations. Don’t hesitate to ask. They might be happy to avoid the expense of a wedding gift. If their service is worth much more than the gift they would have gotten, ask them if they could give you a super discount in place of a gift.

7. Consider changing your timing. Not every wedding needs to be late afternoon with a dinner following. You can get married in the morning and have your reception at lunchtime. You’ll save quite a bit and make it easier to avoid questions such as whether to serve alcohol.

8. Look to nontraditional sources. You wouldn’t think of buying flowers at your grocery store, but many of them have a florist on staff. Since flowers are a major expense, you could save a lot. Do the same thing with other items.

9. Find a good local seamstress. You’ll do much better on dresses if you don’t have them altered where you buy them.

10. Use the Internet to shop for the bridal and bridesmaids’ gowns. Don’t hesitate to look at used gowns and formal dresses that aren’t necessarily for weddings.

Finally, Heidi, remember that the success of your marriage isn’t determined by how fancy your wedding is. Living happily ever after with Mr. Right will be greatly affected by your ability to talk about issues and decide what’s important to you as a couple. That’s the exact type of discussion you’ll need to have to bring your wedding in within your budget.

A long, and happy life to you both!

See related: My wedding plan costs too much, 6 wedding expenses you should always charge on credit, Q&A with author Meg Keene, author of ‘A Practical Wedding’

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