Even low-budget weddings can take a huge bite out of savings … and often leave you stumbling under a serious pile of debt.
Take heart, though: planning a wedding yourself in a hands-on way can save you some money. At its best, it also lends that personal touch that provides lasting family memories. When you’ve got enough time to tackle it, creating your own wedding favors and planning your own reception can lead to a special satisfaction no pile of catalog orders can ever compete with.
If you have the time and energy, expect to take great pride in your super-low-budget wedding. And this won’t just arise from your one-of-a-kind creations. It also flows from the huge savings you realize, which you can then spend on something with lasting impact on your future, like a car or a down payment.
Big Wedding Alternatives
You might have a lower budget, but your wedding costs will break down much like your spendier counterparts. You can still save money in each and every category. The secret comes down to one basic choice: avoid the formal wedding.
Of course, if you’re footing the bill yourself and just can’t see starting your married life with a heavy financial burden, you could skip the reception entirely, opting for a courthouse ceremony and intimate dinner instead. Then you could plan a more formal ceremony down the road. Wedding vows renewals are popular today, and it’s a romantic way to spend your anniversary! So if funds are tight, and you’re paying for everything else — don’t wait to get married. Just wait on the formal ceremony.
But if it breaks your heart to forego the big wedding, yet your wallet’s an empty nest, you’ll need to pull out every trick in the budget book. Fortunately, there’s one that can save you thousands.
Save on the Venue
The reception alone will bust your budget if you’re not extremely careful. Of course, the most obvious way to save money here is to sharply limit your guest list.
Also, the venue that’s hosting this grand occasion could make or break you. Your best bet? Find one that’s free or nearly — taking into account the costs of renting chairs, tables, tents, portable toilets and so on.
Find a “Free” Spot
A “free” location could include your home, or that of a friend or family member. A low-cost option might include a church reception hall, the local fire department, or club halls. Most will have a kitchen area for preparing and serving food.
Check Local Restaurants
Sometimes you’ll even happen across a restaurant that specializes in low-budget receptions. These usually offer a package deal, which might include dinner and limited beverages along with the restaurant space or banquet rooms. Check hotels in your area for banquet rooms as well. Some may rent the banquet room by itself and offer reception packages as an optional add-on.
Network for Savings
The venue’s key to saving cash, so leave no stone unturned in your search! You could happen on a gem of a deal that will save you tons. So network. Ask friends and family. Scour the internet. Try unusual locales like vineyards, museums, gardens or planetariums. We have several plantations in our area that offer competitive wedding packages. These are elegant locations, with price options that don’t rule out the low-budget wedding.
Once you’ve done your homework, record your findings. Chart not only the price, but also services and packages available at each venue. Then, it’s easy to see how to get the most for your money.
For instance, one venue might offer really cheap rates, and let you book your caterer separately. Looks good — but sometimes, a location that costs more will offer a catering package that’s a better deal overall.
Beating the Food Budget-Buster
There’s one type of reception that’s “truly traditional” (not counting royalty!), and that’s the potluck. If you’ve read this far, you probably agree that the commercialism in today’s weddings is slightly out of control. The biggest cost in the average budget, usually even bigger than the venue, is the food. Slashing costs here is a must if you want to get through this process financially intact.
Serving up crackers and cheese whiz, however, is not a solution. Your guests will feel deprived. They’ll leave the party early, in search of sustenance. Those warm memories of lingering over something hearty with your friends and family will be conspicuously missing from your wedding. The solution for the cash-strapped? The potluck.
Setting Up a Potluck Reception
The basics of such a reception is that you ask your guests to bring food — not a toaster or espresso maker or other trinket from a registry list somewhere. Many guests will be pleased, even relieved, to have this choice.
Sound off-the-wall? Up until recently, potluck weddings were absolutely the norm. They’re truly the traditional way to celebrate the coming together of a couple. And not coincidentally, they’re the absolute best way to throw a low-budget wedding that still lets your guests leave satisfied. (Take this same budget to a caterer, and you’ll quickly find that caterers offer very limited menus to very limited budgets!)
If you’re shy about digging out and dusting off the potluck option, you can simply refer to your reception as an “Old Time, Traditional Wedding Celebration.” The potluck dinner suits this theme naturally, and no one will even question it.
You may even want to pick an “Old Time” theme for your decorations and favors. Tuck simple gerbers or wildflowers flowers in medicinal and apothecary jars, for example, and hand out beautiful old-fashioned candy sticks tied in ribbon. This will fill out a vintage theme even more. Or start with a 50’s or 20’s theme, both old-fashioned themes with a lot of life.
nforming Your Guests
How to get the point across to guests? Simply slip in a note with the invitation that gives invitees this option. For example:
Our reception will be an “Old Time Traditional Celebration” with a potluck dinner.
____ Please check here if you would like to bring a dish for the reception in place of a wedding gift.
We kindly request a call for dish suggestions.
Have your guests check in ahead of time so you’ll have some say over the menu. No one’s obliged to participate, but it’s likely that many of your guests will opt for this. In fact, you and guests alike will probably be surprised (and delighted) at the variety and quality of the dishes that debut on your banquet tables. Guests always want to bring out their top-drawer recipes to a grand occasion like yours — so enjoy a touching, traditional reception that leaves your future clear for your next financial milestone.