How to Economize When Getting Hitched

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This week my husband and I celebrated fifteen years of marriage. I think it’s now official – we’re no longer newlyweds. It was so fun to go through the wedding pictures this week. A flood of memories came back. And with it came thankfulness for two most important men in my life.

My husband, obviously, is one of them.

The other is my dad.

I was twenty-one when Fish and I got engaged. As I was the oldest of five chidren, the first of three girls, I probably scared my dad to death by getting married. And I didn’t make it easy on him. Always the know-it-all big sister, I thought that I, well, knew it all. And I wasn’t afraid to tell my siblings – or my parents – what I thought. Unfortunately.

And I was none too pleased when my dad set a limit on my wedding budget. Today, however, I’m thankful for that. I’m glad that he put his foot down and didn’t budge. I’m glad, Dad! Thank you! (My sisters are reading this and shaking their heads, I’m sure.)

But it’s true. Not only does it give me bragging rights to a beautiful, frugal wedding. But, it also gives me one less thing to regret about my earlier years. Ha!

So, here’s how we had a wedding and a reception for 135 on $5000. I’m not sure how that number goes over for you. But, for Santa Barbara 1994, that was a low-budget wedding. One study shows that the average cost in 1990 was $15,000 while today the average appears to be around $20-25,000. FishMama say, “Ouch!”

I offer up our experience today as inspiration for those getting married to see how you can economize and as encouragement to those around them to see how you can bless them and get them off to a great start in “acting their wage.” We could not have done what we did without the generosity and help of friends.

Here are four tricks that I used to keep our costs down.

1. I wasn’t too picky. I was so glad to be marrying Mr. Right for Me that I didn’t obsess about small details, like what kind of silverware to have at the reception or to have a custom-made dress. I picked out dinnerware that was on the lowest end as long as the pieces more-or-less went together. I didn’t even look at more than one bridal store. I bought a semi-formal gown off the rack. I didn’t specify what kind of flowers, except that I wanted some roses in the mix. That allowed the florist to go with what was fresh, in season, and economical.

2. I chose simple things. The simpler you go, the less expensive it is, generally. Rented, checked picnic table cloths and mason jars filled with wild flowers made simple and casual tablescapes. I saved every spaghetti sauce jar for three months until I had enough for the tables, but that was better than buying vases.

3. I made stuff myself. I made my own veil, the ringbearer’s pillow and the flower girl’s dress. In this day and age, there’s no limit to what you or your friends could do. I splurged on invitations ($350), but today I would have printed them myself and tied on cutsie bows or something. Our culture is open to all sorts of DIY options. Just make sure they really are more economical.

4. I had friends in high places. Many of the services that we had to hire, we employed friends to do the job or they volunteered it as a gift. (This is a great way to bless someone if you’re skilled in an area needed for a wedding!)

Our landlords offered their home for the reception. A college roommate donated the cake, baked by her caterer boyfriend. One of Dad’s friends had a DJ business. One of Mom’s friends did flowers on the side. I had worked for the University Catering in college, and they worked with us until we found a menu in our price range.

If you’re planning a wedding or know someone who is, you may want to check out these links:
Planning a Wedding on a Budget – Money Saving Mom
A Host of Shoestring Wedding Posts – Like Merchant Ships
How to Plan a Frugal Wedding – Healthy ‘n’ Happy Home

Now what’s your money saving idea for the week? Share it with us!

Write about it on your blog and bring your link back here. Anyone is welcome to participate provided that both the blog and the post are family-friendly.

Please remember

1. to add a link to, so that your readers know where to find all the other good stuff that people are sharing. (It’s always good to share, isn’t it?)

2. to make sure that the link you share here directs us to your post, not the main page of your blog. You can find directions to do that here.

Looking forward to your great ideas!

(Mr. Linky has had some issues this week. If the widget doesn’t show up, leave your link in the comment section or try again later.)

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  1. Beautiful bride and huge kudos on keeping the wedding at $5,000! As a Cali gal myself who also had the same budget (in 97) I know that is a HUGE accomplishment! Congrats on your anniversary!!

  2. Happy anniversary!
    We’re heading toward our 15th anniversary also, AND we had a budget of $5000 too!

  3. um – sorry, I made an error and posted my link on Mr Widget twice, but the first was incorrect. Are you able to fix it for me? (grimace!) So sorry for the error!!

  4. I had to laugh because my post today revolved around an expensive Bar Mitzvah we went to this weekend – easily $50,000 – for a Bar Mitzvah! My wedding was $15,000 in 1999. And that was very reasonable for a Jewish wedding, which tend to lean toward the extravagant side, at least on the East Coast.

  5. I accidentally posted the wrong link, if you can delete it (#12), thanks a bunch!


  6. Oh, Fish Mama — you and your husband make such a handsome couple! Happy Anniversary and here’s to many more frugally happy years.



  7. Happy Anniversary. Your wedding pictures are beautiful. I was going to comment yesterday but lots going on!

  8. I don’t have time to post a blog and link this morning…my daughter is getting married tomorrow!! We did a lot of the same things you did to keep it in budget and I would love to share. It will just have to wait until Monday or Tuesday when I can catch my breath. We are trying to stay under $3000 and so far it’s working. After last minute purchases today, we may be able to get an accurate count.

  9. Weddings today are certainly over-the-top. I have a wedding invitation business, and your splurge of $350 for invitations would only get the basics for a wedding now. I have brides who are spending over $1,000 on 125 invitations. The invitations are absolutely stunning, but it’s too much. I always encourage more frugal choices when I meet with them, but when someone has their mind made up, you can’t push too hard. I’m glad to see more girls swinging toward the more frugal styles and do-it-yourself items!

  10. Great job on the wedding budget. Hubby and I didn't want for much either as we were in college and just happy that our parents agreed to let us marry that soon 🙂
    My little sis got a much nicer reception, but I didn't care… I got to help with the decorations on a budget & loved it! We found a lot of clearance items and inexpensive things that worked well together. She didn't know what she wanted so I got to show her a few ideas and she picked from them… fun!
    She had tons of tables to decorate and they looked really nice with a small price tag. It pays to look around, and to be open minded… that's for sure!

  11. Happy anniversary!

    Your tips are all great ones. My husband and I kept costs down by having a small informal wedding.

    We also found out that choosing dark green as a theme color worked out well for the flowers. Since everything goes with green, the florist had a lot of flexibility. My bouquet was white roses and ivy, and my matron of honor had a gorgeous multi-colored bouquet.

    We also had only one attendant each. Without the need to coordinate bridesmaids’ dresses, I sent my sister a photo of my dress and asked her to find a dress that coordinated. She was able to make a dress that she’d be able to wear again, instead of one that would hang in the closet forever.

  12. Wow, good for your Dad! And Happy Anniversary!
    I was married in 1980, and had a ‘frugal’ wedding by default–because I was pretty much paying for it myself with a little help from my parents and future in-laws. And people still had a wonderful time!
    Frankly, I think a lot of weddings go way overboard. You should some of them here on Long Island. Honestly, do you really need an ice swan sculpture? My daughter, thank goodness, doesn’t want a ‘big’ wedding. She isn’t even engaged yet, but very steady with her boyfriend. I’m hoping she goes for simple, yet elegant! Sounds like you did just that, and had a beautiful wedding day. The important thing all brides and grooms need to remember is this: it isn’t just a wedding, it’s the start of a marriage!

  13. Happy Anniversary!!

    When my husband and I got married in 2007 (Northern VA) we were able to pull off wedding, reception and honeymoon for a little under $5000! We had all our family and friends there and we spent a little over a week in Orlando FL for our honeymoon. It was a wonderful day and the best thing was we didn’t start our life together going into debt from the wedding, reception and honeymoon.

    Thanks for all your tips!!

  14. Great tips, Jessica. I am currently helping my sister-in-law to plan a wedding. My husband and I were married in 2002. We spent about $7,000 total. If I could go back and cut costs, I would have purchased very inexpensive dresses for my bridesmaids, rather than spent $200+ for 3 of them (including alterations, shoes, etc). (The other two paid for their own dresses, shoes, and alterations) I also would have made finding the reception location a top priority. My husband and I paid for the wedding in cash and were thankful not to have debt. Many blessings!

  15. Happy Anniversary! It was to be topic of conversation during our chat that I didn’t get to finish. Your wedding was lovely. It was an honor to be in it. Still after 15 years… your wedding cake was the best I’ve EVER tasted. I’ve even dreamed about it. I have many fabulous memories of that day! Love you

  16. I spent about $2000 on my wedding dress and part of that was wasted because I could not get a refund on a wedding dress. That’s another thing to remember. Never make impulse purchases. Always go home and think about it before you purchase something, even for your wedding.

  17. I love to see that there are others that had a budget wedding. It is outrageous that people spend $20,000 + on a wedding that will only last a couple of hours. The divorce rate in the US is over 50%,I think that we are focusing too much on the wedding and not enough on the actual marriage after the ceremony.

  18. This post is just what I need to see! I’m getting married July 4th, and our budget is $1000. Seriously, we’re making everything ourselves, and so far we’re under the budget. I’m always ready for new ideas!

  19. My husband and I married just after he finished college in 2002. I graduated in 2001 and quit my job to go to grad school. My parents are poor, and his had just married off his older sister and had his younger one still in college. SOOOO… our wedding cost less than $3,000 and we had about 110 people there.

  20. Awesome job on staying at $5000! Thanks for hosting Frugal Friday, I am so glad to get back to participating!

  21. In 1988 my wedding cost my parents $9000 – there were over 500 guests, we fed them a fabulous meal made and served by several of my mom’s friends. All 8 of my siblings were in the wedding. I had 8 bridesmaids and 8 groomsmen plus 2 ushers. We had an open bar, a dj, and a big beautiful tent in my parents backyard. My mom made my veil, did the flowers, catered the food and much more. Part of why we were able to pull this off was all I really cared about was my dress (a $300 version of the $2000 dress I loved)everything else was whatever was cheapest. Additionally I had 2 sisters who also got married within a year of my wedding and we were able to use a lot of my things. Sorry I rambled!But I am still amazed how my mom did it. (they paid for everything my husband’s mother didn’t/couldn’t help)

    Great post!

  22. We got married in 1992. Our wedding was in the same price rage.
    I did alot of my own stuff to keep cost down.