Getting married can be expensive. First the engagement ring. Then the engagement party. Wedding Shower. Rehearsal dinner, etc. The expenses do not stop. There’s a lot of financial decisions to make. I make decent money and my wife is a young teacher, but we didn’t want to spend a small fortune for this one-day event. My parents didn’t have money to contribute and my wife’s mom offered to help where she could. Nonetheless, here is how we kept our wedding costs under $6,000.00 with a nuanced strategy. PS We live in Northern, NJ so prices are pretty much as high as you can get.
1. Pick an uncommon reception location
This is a huge one. When you google “wedding venues” a bunch of places will appear and most likely the ones that specialize in wedding will appear first. Here is my tip: Consider local restaurants (ones that do not specialize in weddings). 1. Will they not only be likely to offer a cheaper price because you’re bringing them unexpected revenue 2. They’re more likely to spend more time and attention since there are not a ton of other events to cater. 3. They are much more likely to negotiate since this is isn’t something, they specialize in.
Literally, there was a place called the Wedding Factory…talk about off-putting.
2. Select a smaller reception venue
Our wedding was about 65 people. Honestly, I was a bit concerned the venue was going to be too small, but in the then end it turned out great. It felt much more intimate given the size You ever go to one of those standard wedding halls where the wedding feels empty because the space is just damn big? Yea, smaller the better.
3. Make decorations yourself
Since we had a smaller invite list, my wife and I were able to make our own flower arrangements for our wedding. We simply asked the restaurant owner if we could keep them in the fridge for the night before. (Again, off-the-beat and path restaurants are more likely to be flexible with you). We spent about $500 Dollars total for flowers + vases + ribbon. This literally, probably saved us $1,000 – $2,000. We bought our flowers at Wegmans (Northeast grocery chain) and the ribbon and the vases at a local supply store. Honestly, you’ll probably need to do a little trial and error to see what looks good, the number of flowers needed, etc. It’s a little work, but it’s not really hard, and definitely worth it to save that kind of money.
4. Develop a cost-efficient menu
Hitting on the same theme here. Our restaurant allowed us to bring our own cake (free of charge). Yes, some places were even charging you if you bring your own dessert. We had the option to pick anything on the menu (again allowed us more flexibility to stay within our budget) and we could pick our beer and wine list. All these options allowed us to maximize our budget. Not likely something you could get a “Wedding Factory” type place. They usually have preselected options and it is never quite what you want.
5. Host the ceremony at a public park
My wife and I chose to have our wedding outdoors at a local rose garden. Cost: $75 permit fee. The only thing we needed to add was chairs, again a little leg work. However, Cheap places were charging $1,000 + $500 (chair rentals) + $200 (pastor). We literally got a beautiful rose garden as our venue for a fraction of the cost. Obviously, you run the risk of poor weather, but we strategically got married in early August when it is less likely to rain.
6. Think About Incidentals
This is where the cost will sneak up on you. Transportation, knick-knacks, music. This can easily add $1-3K to your total wedding bill, so think ahead and plan for any other costs you may incur.
If you want to really stretch your budget and get the “most bang for your buck.” You need to shop around and “think outside the box.” Easier said than done, I know. However, if you and your future spouse think through it together, learn from other couples’ successes or (failures), then, I’m confident you and your spouse can create a memorable day without going broke.
How did you manage to keep your wedding within budget? Comment below and let me know your experience.
Founder and author of realworldpersonalfinance.com [RWPF]. A blog dedicated to personal finance for millennials that want its readers to know they can be perfectly imperfect. Over the past 10 years, his net worth went from -$108,000 to $365,000, mainly through debt reduction, living below his means, and navigating the corporate world. There have been mistakes along the way, and he is still learning too. He's here to offer honest opinions and real insight that's based on his own personal experiences.