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12 Surprising Ways I Saved Money on My Dream Wedding

When I dreamed about my wedding day as a young woman, I pictured hours holed up in a Starbucks somewhere, latte after latte consumed as I pored through my wedding-specific binder full of detailed plans. I pictured my new husband whisking me off to a tropical honeymoon, a day of love captured forever for our future children to see. I pictured a wedding that would make the hundreds of hours of watching “A Wedding Story” on TLC with my college roommate completely worthwhile.

What I didn’t exactly picture was planning a wedding for 500 people. In less than two months. During my senior year of college. While pregnant.

But as the saying goes, such is life.

Or maybe that’s not really a saying, but it should be. Because boy, did I get a fast lesson into what true love and marriage are really about, and it’s definitely not a day or a binder full of seating charts. With some help from the people that loved us most, my soon-to-be husband and I were able to pull off the wedding of our dreams, complete with more roses than I could count and not one, but two chocolate fountains.

To pull off such a huge wedding in such little time with the budget of two college students, we did have to get a little creative in the ways we saved money. And here’s how we did it…

  • 12 surprisingly easy ways we saved money on our wedding… 1 of 13
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  • We got married around Christmas. 2 of 13
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    Seriously, this is by far the best thing we could have done to save money at our wedding. Not only was the church absolutely gorgeous already, but it was all free! And everything, from the hall to the caterers, were discounted because a wedding around Christmas time wasn't exactly the norm. 

  • We bought decorations on clearance. 3 of 13
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    Because our wedding was after Christmas, we hit the after-Christmas sales hard and scored big. My mom gets the best bride's mom ever award for this one, because she cleared out every Target in a 20-mile radius of our hometown, stocking up on wreaths, greenery, and every silver and sparkly ribbon, ornament and decoration she could find. We were able to turn our reception into a winter wonderland for a major discount. 

  • We borrowed. 4 of 13
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    There was no shame in my game for this one; after several friends of the family had thrown lavish and large weddings, I definitely asked around for tips, tricks and of course, any leftover decorations they were willing to share. We were able to borrow candle holders, glassware for the table, and one of those enormous card holder things for all of our gifts of money. (Definitely a win-win!) 

    Image via DoNotLick/Flickr

  • We didn’t hire a photographer. 5 of 13
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    Instead of spending thousands of dollars for a photographer, we borrowed a fancy-schmancy camera from my dad and asked my uncle to snap pictures during our ceremony and reception. A few months (years? really, who's counting) after our big day, I hired a professional photographer to edit the pictures for $100. 

    I have mixed feelings on this one; on one hand, we saved a ton of money by not hiring a photographer and between the nice camera, my uncle's creative eye, and the editing, we ended up with quite a few gorgeous shots that I cherish to this day. On the other hand, we definitely don't have albums worth of professional-quality photos. 

  • I didn’t do programs. 6 of 13
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    Yup, you read that right. I just completely skipped over the programs. I know a lot of brides put deep thought and care into the programs for the ceremony, but honestly, aside from satisfying a burning curiosity to know if that bridesmaid is the second cousin once removed or the old college roommate, who cares? I didn't have the time--or the cash--to waste on something I knew would end up in the trash anyways. 

    Image via tramod/Flickr

  • Or favors. 7 of 13
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    On a related note, I opted not to do favors either. Seriously, I attended one wedding where the bride and groom passed out monogrammed CD's that contained a picture montage of their love. No.one.cares. I put faith that my guests would appreciate me putting money into things that mattered--like extra desert--instead of cutesy bubbles or CD's with my face on them. 

    Image via antaresjhw/Flickr

  • I skipped the bridal brunch. 8 of 13
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    I have to admit that I was really, really tempted to spring for the all-inclusive luxurious bridal breakfast and brunch package at the salon that included fresh fruit, rivers of champagne, and fluffy bathrobes, but my common sense (and my mother's stern yet loving reminder) helped me to avoid that cash hog. Instead, we booked the bridal party's hair and makeup packages and my mom brought in to-go coffee, juice, muffins, and donuts for everyone as we got beautified. 

    Image via L.C.Nøttaasen/Flickr

  • We brought in our own nails. 9 of 13
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    Does that sound weird? It's not, I swear. For whatever reason, I cannot stand fake or acrylic nails of any kind. But I did want fancy nails for my wedding and after weeks of biting them nervously, a plain old manicure wasn't gonna cut it. So we talked to the salon owner and after booking an entire morning of hair and makeup for the bridal party, we convinced her to let us bring in our own nail sets, which the manicurists applied. For free. 

  • I learned to accept help. 10 of 13
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    To this day, I'm not sure if it was because people felt sorry for me because I was pregnant on my wedding day or they just really, really loved me, but I had a ton of offers for help on our wedding day. And at first, it was very hard for me to accept help. I wanted the full-on bridezilla planning experience, but after a while, I realized that I simply couldn't do it all. I swallowed my pride and learned to simply say "thank you." And my reward? Family and friends who gifted us with a beautiful four-tiered wedding cake, gorgeous white and red roses (more than I could ever afforded!), and not one, but two overflowing chocolate fountains. You never know what hidden talents your guests may have!

  • We bought our bridesmaids dresses online. 11 of 13
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    Maybe my bridesmaids would feel differently about this one, but I'm glad I was able to save them money by ordering their bridesmaids dresses online. We found a simple dress online, that combined with a discount, only cost $40. We were able to use a family seamstress for anyone that needed it and bought jewelry (again, discounted after Christmas!) for the bridal party gifts. Granted, it helps to have beautiful bridesmaids as well...

  • We hired our own bartenders. 12 of 13
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    Because we rented a reception venue that didn't have its own bar, we were able to save a lot of money on the alcohol front. And before you go thinking that we just didn't have a lot to drink, let me remind you that we had over 500 guests at the reception. You do the math there. We purchased liquor and wine in bulk, bought our own kegs, and hired some aspiring bartenders for $50 a pop. Even after going through 7 kegs, we were able to save even more money when the party store let us return the unopened liquor. 

    Image via Lars Plougmann/Flickr

  • We focused on the things that mattered. 13 of 13
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    Even though we definitely scrimped and saved and sacrificed on our wedding day to make it happen, I am happy to report that we were able to do it all within budget, without losing sight of the wedding of our dreams. In the end, we had all the things that really mattered on a wedding day: family and friends that loved us, good food, loads of alcohol, and all the desert a bride could dream of. What else could I ask for? 

Read more of Chaunie’s posts here or learn more about Chaunie (and her husband) by checking out her blog and following along on Facebook!

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