Frugal Wedding Tale #1

What do you think of when you hear the terms…
Frugal Wedding…Inexpensive Wedding…Cheap Wedding…Budget wedding???
Are you thinking that a wedding that costs under $5,000, or even $2,000 will come off as tacky, shabby and in poor taste?
Not true! Many, many people commented on how lovely, tasteful and elegant my daughters wedding was–and are still talking about it two years later….
When my daughter announced that she was engaged, and was planning to be married in 7 months, I was overjoyed for her! However, once the reality of planning a wedding and paying for it set in, I felt a little overwhelmed.
After doing a some research and finding out that the average American wedding costs over $20,000, I realized that I needed to draw upon my planning skills and skills of thriftiness to give her the wedding that she envisioned. We were able to give her the wedding that she wanted for $4,771.06. (I kept a detailed record of everything we spend for the wedding). It was a wedding with 175 or more people, (we invited about 250 people) full reception, bridal shower, four bridesmaids four groomsmen, and the rest. You can have the wedding you envision with some creativity and planning.
Involve your friends! It was a little hard to ask for help at first, but people truly loved to be involved. We tried to keep in mind that:

• A Wedding is important, but it’s just a one day event.
• The money saved on having a frugal wedding can be used for a car, down payment on a house or to start a retirement account.
• It’s not the loads of money spend on a wedding that insures the success of the marriage.
The most important thing you can do to keep costs down is to be flexible. You can achieve comparable effects that you want while using cost cutting strategies. The following tips are by no means everything you can to keep the cost of your wedding down, but it’s a place to start. The important thing to remember is that the amount you spend on your wedding has no bearing on the success of your marriage.
General Money Saving Tips

• Comparison shop! Check the page wedding stores with great wedding deals
• Be Flexible and plan ahead
• Look into online retailers and eBay. You can find some great buys at a fraction of the cost!
• Make everything you can.
• Use coupons that are available for craft and sewing stores. I asked friends and co-workers to save them for me so that I rarely bought anything without a coupon.
• Involve your friends and family—but only the ones who WANT to help.
• Start looking through pattern books, wedding craft books, and bridal magazines to get ideas
• Look online for advice and ideas.

After checking into the cost of invitations, we decided to make them ourselves. Their theme was a medieval/renaissance wedding, so we bought parchment paper, printed a castle from online free clip art. Then on top of the background castle we printed the details of the ceremony and attached it with a ribbon to some cardstock. We bought greeting card envelopes (sold at office supply stores) for the outside envelope. We also made reception info cards, and response cards, enclosing an stamped invitation envelope for it’s return.

We bought the programs with a coupon at a craft shop, then printed them ourselves from our computer.

Bridal Shower
We made the shower food and cake myself, and about forty people attended. We bought the prizes and decorations from dollar stores. We found games online for free and we printed them off ourselves. And of course we played the famous “Toilet Paper Bride” (about 4 rolls per team) and had a competition for the best bride!

Wedding Preparation/Counseling
We believe that wedding preparation is essential to having a healthy marriage, so we sent my daughter and her fiancée to a weekend Family Life pre-martial conference. In addition, they went through marriage preparations meetings with the Pastor of our church at no cost. However, they did pay for two workbooks and the PREPARE wedding test. This is a great marriage preparation test—it can highlight potential trouble areas before you get married. Find a PREPARE Test administrator here.

THE CEREMONY Wedding Music – Wedding Songs
My husband thought I was going overboard when I said I wanted a harpist at the wedding—he thought it would cost way too much. We initially got quotes of $600 to$2800 for a harpist at the ceremony. However, I called a regional music school, and was given the name of a harpist who did weddings for $200! It was a lovely touch and did not cost much more than hiring an organist. We also had friends who volunteered to sing two solos during the ceremony.

Wedding Decorations
cheap-wedding-decorationsI bought a wedding arch from Michaels with a coupon for about $10. I decorated with white tulle (bought by the bolt with a coupon at a sewing store. It worked out to .50 per yard.) I used tulle to decorate everything!
I bought flowers in the color theme from dollar stores and on clearance and used them for:
• Altar arrangement (bought the vase a garage sale for $1, painted it white and a friend who use to be a floral designer arranged it for us)
• Bridal Arch, Pew Bows
• Church decorations (wreaths, etc.)
I bought the basket for the bridal bubbles at a garage sale for .50, then made a oval of satin trimmed with lace.
DIY Bridal Bouquet
I made the bouquets from silk flowers, which were bought when the flowers were 50% off. I learned how to arrange them in bouquet from looking at wedding picture books.

Furgal wedding reception
The reception is usually the most expense part of a wedding. The cost in our area is about $12.99 per plate (and this is the most inexpensive I could find) plus tax and tip which work out to about $16 per plate. For 175 people, that is $2,800! That would be a majority of our wedding budget, so I had to use major cost cutting strategies for the reception.
My daughter wanted an outdoor reception. We considered renting the tents, but decided to buy them so that we could have them for other events (other weddings, family reunions, graduations, etc.). We bought the canopies and hardware on eBay, and made the wood poles. Each tent cost $250, the same as renting, but we get to keep them! We have considered selling one to make the money back, but they seem too handy to get rid of.
We held the reception in the backyard of our church, where there is a gazebo and is lighted wooded. Other good locations for an outdoor wedding include parks, campsites, friends with a big yard, beaches, etc.

The photographers I initially spoke with wanted a minimum of $1800 for wedding photography! TOO MUCH! We were able to locate a gentleman who worked at a camera shop who was building his wedding photography business. He took the ceremony pictures for $200 AND gave us the negatives. That enabled us to choose the pictures we wanted for enlargements, albums, etc. for a fraction of the price we would have had to pay a photographer. So, pictures for the ceremony, including the photographer came to about $412. This included all the albums I made for the bride and groom, parents, grandparents and the bridal party.
If you have a school of photography in your area, it might be worth it to call to see if anyone wants to build their wedding portfolio and give you a discounted price. For the ceremony, we asked a friend who is an amateur photographer to take pictures. Plus, everyone else had their cameras there and we were offered lots of photos of the reception.

Reception Music
Disk Jockeys (DJ’s) are $100 per hour here, with a minimum of four hours. That was out of our budget. So, we gathered up all of our music CD’s, and bought a few other party CDs (Included a CD of reception classics like the Bunny hop, Locomotion, the Chicken dance, etc).
For the songs we wanted but didn’t own we paid to download them for $.99 per song. Then we made CD’s with a mix of music that was appropriate for different parts of the reception, like dinner or dancing.
We asked a friend with an outgoing personality to be the DJ. We gave her a DJ script, so all she had to do was follow the script. She did such a great job that many people thought she was a professional! For the sound system, we borrowed a wireless microphone system from church and brought our own PA system. These systems can be rented from music stores or pro shops–or ask around to see if a friend has equipment.

Wedding Reception Table Decorations: Centerpieces
I bought clay pots on sale for .25 each, painted them, and wrote scripture on each one. When planting season came around, I spent about $3 on buying cheap packets of seeds for cut flowers (including baby’s breath, which is great filler). I also used some flowers that were already growing at our house. Two days before the wedding, some friends and I got together to cut and arrange them in wet foam. We then kept them in a cool place until the wedding. This picture was taken a week later, so they looked much more fresh at the reception!

Wedding Cake
cheap-wedding-cakeNot everybody wants to learn how to do wedding cakes, but the cake my daughter wanted goes for about $1,000 or more ($5,000 in bigger metropolitan areas). It was a cake with fondant frosting. So I learned how to make it myself. I made the fondant from scratch, but there are some stores offer pre-made fondant that you just have to roll out.
We went with fondant frosting because it was an outdoor wedding and fondant holds up in heat. I made the cakes 3 weeks in advance, wrapped them well and froze them. I frosted the cake the day before, but I don’t recommend doing that (There was too much other stuff going on!). Frost it a few days before. People raved about the cake and it cost about $60 to make, but I also had to buy the “cake stuff” that goes into making it (fondant cutters, cake pans, cake boards, etc.)
I used coupons where possible. I could have borrowed the cake pans, but opted to buy them so I could use them for years to come—and I have used them, A LOT! I also made the shower cake for about $40, which would have cost about $175.
If you are not into learning how to make the cake, cakes can be bought at major discount stores and warehouse clubs for about $150-$175, instead of using the traditional wedding cake specialist or baker (that would run you $350 and up, depending on where you live).
Also, I made the cake topper from parts from craft stores and bought the castle on eBay.

Wedding Reception Food
DIY  Wedding reception FoodI used the book “How to Cater Your Own Wedding” by Chef Mike. Search online for wedding reception recipes and bulk recipes. I budgeted $600 for food for 200 people and we had LOTS of food leftover. I made what I could ahead of time and froze it. Friends came over the day before the wedding to prepare the vegetable trays, potato dishes, etc. Four friends volunteered to make 2 pans of ziti each. I gave them the dried pasta, sauce and mozzarella cheese in aluminum foil pans, so that it was easier for them.
I made the rice that morning, but I could have made that ahead and froze it. A friend who is a caterer volunteered to run the kitchen (along with some other friends who helped) and prepared the HorsD’oeuvres and fruit.

The Menu (Most of the food purchased from Sam’s Club)

• Beef Au ju (made from London broil bought on sale and frozen until use)
• Oriental Chicken Dish
• Ziti topped with mozzarella cheese
• Rice (from a discount food warehouse) parboiled and quick and easy to cook
• Red potato Greek Salad
• Rolls, pickles, olives
• Frozen Meatballs
• Vegetable Trays (baby carrots, celery, broccoli, and grape tomatoes)
• Cheese and crackers
• Fruit Trays
• Imitation Crabmeat HorsD’oeuvres
• Wedding cake and Italian cookies
• Coffee, punch, creamer, sugar

We asked a friend to do it with his home camcorder and he did a great job! He also rode along in the limo and got some great footage. A friend who owns a limo gave my daughter and bridal party the ride to the church as a wedding gift. OK, so maybe you don’t know someone who owns a limo….but maybe you have a friend with a classic or unique car or truck or horse drawn carriage?

Cheap Wedding Favors
cheap candy wedding favorsWe ordered little vellum bags from Oriental Trading Company. They cost $10, and then we filled them with either after dinner mints or gourmet jellybeans, bought at Sam’s Club. Then we printed out clear labels with the bride’s and groom’s name and little thank you.

We rented some for $2.50 each and bought the rest for $5 each at Family Dollar. Then we sold the ones we bought on eBay and made all the money back!

Wedding Apparel
We bought the gown “off the rack” and I altered it. Altering a bridal gown can be tricky; so if you ask a friend to do it, make sure she has some experience with it. There are some good books out there too on altering bridal wear. Since I’m a seamstress, I made all the bridesmaids dresses and flower girl dresses. Ask a friend or friends who sew if they would be willing to each make a dress. There are some great patterns out there, and you can get them for $1 each when they go on sale!
I made the veil for my daughter, as well as the necklaces the bridesmaids wore ($2.00 for the crosses at a craft store, and put on a ribbon leftover from making the dresses). The Bridal shoes were bought at Payless Shoe Source during their “buy one, get one free” sale. We didn’t go with dying shoes—we were cutting the costs! We went with a black sandal that worked well with the bridesmaid’s dresses. With the sale, they worked out to about $7 each pair.

I hope this gives you some money saving ideas for your wedding!