20 Ways To Avoid The Wedding Industrial Complex

Tis the season for weddings, and if you’re reading Consumerist you’re probably not the type to shell out the “average of $19,581” that people claim we spend on weddings.

The always amusing CouponSherpa has located 20 things you can cut from your wedding to save cash. Many of them I’d never even considered, such as “Cake Server Sets,” (you have to buy that?) and monogrammed aisle runners.

Anyone have a frugal wedding? What did you do?

20 Ways to Avoid the Wedding Industrial Complex [CouponSherpa]


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  1. Cameraman says:

    Bless my father in law, but he is not, by any means, a consumerist.

    My wedding was in a castle.

    I would have appreciated the cash instead.

    Oh, well, you only get married once, right? I hope.

    • Cameraman says:

      I have to add: but we decided to pay for the honeymoon ourselves, which is why we are doing it on our fourth anniversary. That’s how long it took to amass the cash.

    • sonneillon says:

      That’s awesome. Although you probably could have used the extra 100,000 dollars.

  2. segfault, registered cat offender says:

    One word: Elope. (Or skip the marriage thing entirely.)

    • jpmoney says:

      Elope or do a destination wedding that you don’t want people to come to while having a small reception at home. This is for the “I want to do something but *only* spend 5-8k” crowd. I trust that most posts will be about very inexpensive weddings but why not talk about the middle ground?

      We did ours in Hawaii with a small group of family and friends who could make it. 15 minutes and we were done on a public beach at sunset. Very intimate standing a semi-circle and I’d argue it meant more. We went to the other side our the island for our honeymoon. There were tons of places we could have saved cost, but we stuck to our budget and incurred no debt from our trip. The reception at home was there for everyone else. People only go to weddings for the reception so pay for the bar first and do what you are comfortable with next.

      Remember, the day is about you and your new spouse. If someone is upset by a decision you made then that is their baggage.

      • Snoofin says:

        Why even spend that much. When and if I get married I plan to go to the district justice and then have a reception at my house. I can grill hotdogs and serve soda. Turn the volume up on the CD player instead of paying for a DJ. Weddings are such a waste of money. You could take the 20k you spend on a wedding and furnish your house with it. Weddings only last a day, your house lasts a lifetime

        • UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

          Well, because the wedding is a celebration of what is supposed to be the life you spend together… and money can be earned in a year anyway?

        • pecan 3.14159265 says:

          Unless your house burns down. But hey, you’ll still be married, and aren’t you so glad you celebrated that relationship with all of your treasured family and friends?

        • craptastico says:

          i know a guy that took an extra half hour at lunch to get married by a JOP. personally my wedding was expensive and it was definitely worth it. you only get married once (ideally), and even though it’s only one day you’ll have the memories forever. granted, my inlaws did the heavy lifting in terms of paying for it so obviously that makes a big difference

        • pot_roast says:

          We got married in our back yard. iTunes was the DJ. A friend of ours performed the service. We spent the rest of the budget on food & booze for what turned out to be a weekend long block party.

      • tungstencoil says:

        Agree, and I’ll add:

        Unless you’re super-young and actually *need* to register for things, a destination wedding allows you to:

        Go someplace cool and combine the honeymoon;
        Invite EVERYONE, because you can say “No gifts”, and people can come – without a gift – on their own dime.

      • anduin says:

        my brother did a destination wedding and it kicked ASS. For me it meant a straight week of partying at a really nice resort and the wedding was gorgeous. Out of the 100 or 120 people that were invited only about 16 showed which was fantastic because it meant it was more intimate and they didn’t have to watch over the guests.

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        We spent around $5,000 for our wedding. We considered doing a destination wedding but we have too many close friends and family members who wouldn’t have been able to attend due to financial reasons.

        $5,000 is definitely a lot of money but a wedding is a once-in-a-lifetime event and I don’t regret any of it.

    • raydee wandered off on a tangent and got lost says:

      Eloping is actually a family tradition on my mother’s side; it goes back at least three generations. :D

    • Daniellethm says:

      I eloped over a year ago, and am still happily married. We lived together before we started a relationship, and continued to do so for two years before we got married.

      Funny thing, his grandmother put the idea in our heads, since she eloped years ago. It really was stress free, and we didn’t need to spend a silly amount of money to do it.

      That’s not to say my father wasn’t pissed, he was, but he got over it.

    • PsiCop says:

      Yep, was thinking the same thing. If I’d had it to do all over again … and if I wished to do it all over again … I’d elope. No doubt.

    • Pahoehoe says:

      My husband and I eloped and it was an excellent start to our marriage. The whole budget for the actual getting married process was $87, $75 to pay the judge and a nice dress from a discount store for a whole $12.

      Granted we are having receptions for our VERY indignant families. Even though we’re having two because the families are so spread out the cost is still tiny. One is going to be at a hometown pizza place with a big (and free!) party room and the other will be at my big brothers home, keeping the overall budget under $500 for mostly food and beverages.

      I would caution anyone going this route to prep themselves for the phone calls to your parents, grandparents, etc… because while you avoid big wedding drama there is nothing quite so horrible as the worry that the news just might cause a family member to have a stroke.

  3. Audi_addict says:

    $20g’s? Goddamn, how can you spend that much? I spent $5k on EVERYTHING, including a week long honeymoon in Colorado that we drove to and throughout. We had about 100 people show.

    That $5k included her dress, my tux, rings, food, beer, invites, and everything else wedding-related.

    • UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

      If you have a wedding in Los Angeles or New York, it’s extremely easy to have a wedding that costs quite a bit. And if, like me, you have a large set of families and friends, 200 people can drive up the costs quite quickly.

      • Audi_addict says:

        Fair enough. I live in the Midwest where the cost of stuff isn’t so outrageous. Just one more reason to stay here.

        • UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

          Well, the coasts have their advantages. I certainly pay more to get by, but it’s awfully nice having access to all the amenities.

          • LadyTL says:

            Not everywhere in the midwest is a farm. You can live in a mid-sized city in the midwest and still have access to tons of stuff.

            • UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

              Oh, I agree 100%. I mean, Chicago is a great town in the Midwest. And I have a strong affinity for mid-sized cities like Columbus and St. Louis.

              I just enjoy the insanity of megacities.

      • qwickone says:

        Totally agree. DC isn’t any better. Mine came out to $40K (we only paid for 1/4), but it was over 2 days (my husband and i are from different religious and cultural backgrounds, so 1 day for each) and there were about 275 guests. So for what was essentially 2 complete weddings and we pretty much pulled out all the stops, I think we did really well. Was that a good use of money? prob not, but a splashy wedding is pretty much a requirement in my family and my parents were prepared for it. i cut costs at every single turn. If I hadn’t I think the wedding would have been closer to $100K, so I’m proud of myself from that perspective.

    • thewildboo says:

      I got married where I grew up – on Long Island. I would have been happy to elope but my family and my fiance wanted a traditional wedding. We got the bare minimum package, even gave up an evening wedding for an afternoon one to keep the cost down, and it still came in around 30K. That was for about 125 guests. We did have formal invitations, and one limo for the whole wedding party, but overall we were downright frugal compared to most LI weddings. The only thing I splurged on was my dress, I think it was around $1200. And I’m so glad I did because I looked amazing ;)

      • thewildboo says:

        ps my parents paid for it. There’s no WAY I would spend that kind of money, if I even had it, on one day.

      • It'sRexManningDay! says:

        Yup, same here. LI weddings are a thing unto themselves. Even if you’re like me, and don’t want to waste money on extravagances, you’ll have a heck of a time trying to fight that battle with parents who want their daughter to have the wedding of their (not her) dreams, no matter the cost. Best thing to do is just roll with it, enjoy yourself, and try not to think of the down payment all that cash could have purchased.

    • Harmodios says:

      We were so cheap, we used the gift wrapping paper during our honeymoon as TP

  4. oldwiz65 says:

    My wife and I spent less than $ 1,000 on our wedding. The biggest expense we had was the dinner the night before the wedding; we took family and friends to dinner and it cost us $400. We used the church hall for the reception, no cost since we are members and we did the cleanup after. We invited people to bring potluck for the reception (potluck being big in our church), paid $100 for a musician, $250 for champagne and glasses rental, and that was it. My wife’s best friend made the cake, my mother-in-law brought fresh strawberries for food. we all had a great time.

    • oldwiz65 says:

      Forgot to include honeymoon in Hawaii; about $3000.

    • Marshmelly says:

      just curious…what did you do for the dresses/tuxes?

      Sounds fun though, and the potluck is a good idea.

      • oldwiz65 says:

        My wife wore a simple white blouse and skirt with a clan sash. I wore a kilt and jacket and cut the cake with my skean dhu. Witnesses wore just dress clothes.

    • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

      Sounds like the best kind of wedding. I love weddings like that where people are comfortable, children are welcome, and there is just a genuine feeling all around. You can tell that the wedding is about the marriage instead of the marriage being about the wedding.

    • Mary says:

      Our rehearsal dinner was Papa John’s ; ) But yeah, we saved on the venue because it was at my church and then the reception was at property owned by the church.

      We did pot luck for the bridal shower, and people brought some things to the cookout for our reception, but we just went to Sam’s Club and bought a bunch of yummy stuff like hamburgers and hot dogs. Between my mom, my mother-in-law, and me we managed to feed everybody well without an inordinate amount of work beforehand. We did get one of my sister’s friends to man the grill, she was going to do it for free but we bought her a nice gift to say thank you.

      My church is big on pot lucks too, which is why my bridal shower was one. Then I could tell everybody which of their best dishes I wanted them to bring!

  5. SuperSnackTime says:

    I love that “average of $19,581” it plays to people’s inherent nature to misinterpret statistical information. The average price for a wedding is farrrrrrrr to the right of whatever the median (50/50 split of wedding-having population) is. I don’t need any data to know this (but would be VERY thankful for anyone who could point to access to such data).

    A few $1,000,000+ weddings here and there (and a slightly larger chunk of $100,000+ weddings) is going to drag the mean way to the right.

    At a complete guess, I bet the median is somewhere in the $8k – $12k range. Anyone have a more concrete idea of where it is?

    • I wumbo. You wumbo. He- she- me... wumbo. Wumbo; Wumboing; We'll have thee wumbo; Wumborama; Wumbology; the study of Wumbo. says:

      Glad someone mentioned this. They aren’t lying when they say it’s the average, but it’s the mean they should look for…. either that, or get rid of the outliers. The wedding industry put that number out to make you feel like if you must spend this much, or at least attempt to, so I doubt you’ll find a real number.

      Not to mention, the “expenses” they include are massages, wedding planner, and travel for guests, expenses most people don’t have.

      Also, it isn’t reflective of DIY projects; the number came from vendor sales figues.

      The average most often reported is more to the tune of $18,000.

      • bonzombiekitty says:

        I think you meant median, not mean. The mean is the average (at least what is commonly understood to be the average).

        For the non-statistically inclined:
        If you take 1,2,3,4, and 50 the median is 3, the mean is 12.

    • eribre says:

      It really depends on where you live. I live in Boston, for example, and people regularly spend $20,000+, even for a suburban hotel wedding.

  6. ninabi says:

    Gown rental. Did this 25 years ago and starting off frugally was one of the keys to a happy marriage. Who’d want one of those embarrassing poofy-sleeved dresses from the 80s lurking in a box in the closet?

    Alterations were done for a perfect fit, it was a fraction of the cost of purchasing a dress and as for memories- we have the album.

    • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

      I managed to find a small shop and got a formal dress with beads for $150. I gave it to charity afterward because I didn’t want it taking up space. I also figured that a woman who couldn’t afford to spend $150 on a dress might appreciate it. This was 15 years ago (almost 16.) Back then, I don’t know that i ever ran into a dress that cost more than $500.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      My wedding dress was about $140, which was about the cost of the dress I bought for the reheasrsal dinner and still wear every few weeks. I’ve only worn my wedding dress once, but it was inexpensive (for a dress), and a classic style. It’s really simple and it looks like it came out of the 1940s anyway, so I’m sure in 20 years it’ll still be retro. I can pass it on to my hypothetical and future daughter, provided she’s my size. My mom’s wedding dress was one of those outrageous lacy and poofy things with the sleeves. No thanks.

    • SnowQueen says:

      Great idea. I wish I had done that.

      I love women who think their daughters will want to wear their wedding gown someday because it’s a “classic” design. Uh, no. Your daughter will want to pick her own dress, just like you did.

      • sponica says:

        I would love NOTHING more than to wear my Nana’s wedding gown on my wedding day…alas I am taller than her. :(

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        I really don’t care whether mine does. It IS a classic design, but the chances of my future daughter being the exact same size and dimensions as mine is pretty slim. I’d be okay if she wanted to make the dress into something instead. I wish that I could have worn my mother’s dress, but it cost more to alter the dress totally than to buy the relatively cheap one.

    • 47ka says:

      Here is where Indian weddings, expensive as they tend to be, have an advantage – the bride can wear her wedding lengha to future events (usually weddings).

      I never understood why you’d spend thousands of dollars on a dress that you’d wear just once, but if you have the means and desire, why not I suppose.

  7. apd09 says:

    My wife and I spend 30 dollars on invites from Micheals, 5 dollars on a font, and about 15 dollars in postage, then we printed all the invites, RSVP’s, and envelopes ourselves. Saved about 250 or more that having someone else do it for us.

    We also used centerpieces from the facility instead of spending money on something for a person to take home.

    • apd09 says:

      but let’s not joke ourselves that was small savings compared to what the wedding actually cost in the grand scheme of things. One major tip I will say is to get married off season. We did our wedding in February and got just about everything for half price, facility, DJ, photographer etc…

    • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

      What, you didn’t get ENGRAVED invites? How could you deprive your guests of engraved invites you cad???

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      One of my friends did this and they looked really great. We used an online shop because we didn’t like any of the designs we saw at Michaels. We would have held out for a design we liked, if and when Michaels stocked one, but we had deadlines!

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        We also did ours online. When we factored in buying an extra ink cartridge and the overall hassle, it was worth the extra $30 to buy online.

  8. KhaiJB says:

    my wife and I spent a total of $600 on ours.

    we thought that not starting our life together in huge debt was a better idea…

  9. unchainedmuse says:

    Frugal, yeah. We got married by a Justice of the Peace and went to dinner at Chili’s afterward. Note: We are no longer married. :D

    • Brie says:

      I know not everything has to be über-romantic, but Mr Brie works next to City Hall, and we watched the bride (in a pretty dress), groom, and two similarly-tuxed groomsmen walk out of City Hall, go over to a courtyard, each light up a cigarette (Mr lit Mrs’s, at least), each whip out a cell phone, and start texting.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        Wow…here I thought plastic utensils at a formal reception was tacky (it is). What you witnessed, that was tacky.

  10. WickedKoala says:

    While I agree people will spend ridiculous amounts of money on some inane things, this list is incredibly vapid.

  11. coffeeculture says:

    go off season…got married in december and saved a ton. even then, it was 80 degrees and sunny!

  12. Mighty914 says:

    I didn’t know half of these existed…groom’s cake? bride and groom exchange gifts? initialled carpet or whatever it was?

    The one thing I will say is that if one is having a big wedding (100 or more), the wedding planner is beyond worth it. I’m sure there will be the handful of consumerists who claim they did a fine job without one, but literally EVERY wedding I’ve been to that hasn’t had one definitely comes off as tacky and unorganized…and it seems even less organized when you’re part of the wedding.

    • Aeirlys says:

      The wedding definitely needs a stage director who is not the bride – but that doesn’t mean hiring a wedding planner. All you need to do is give your bossiest girlfriend the schedule of events, authority to order everyone around, and a gift certificate to her favorite spa as a thank you.

      • satoru says:

        True my wife ended up being the ‘planner’ for a few weddings, mostly because she’s not afraid to yell and get shit done. She didn’t really plan, but more of a coordinator on the day to make sure everything is on schedule and gets done. But for a lot of people, it can be hard to find someone reliable and willing enough to fill that role. They also can’t be part of the bridal party since they’re running around doing their own stuff as well.

    • UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

      We didn’t have a planner, and I don’t think our wedding came off tacky or disorganized.

      • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

        Maybe to petty, materialistic people it was tacky, but people who judge weddings that way probably aren’t very happy people anyway.

        Seriously, if someone judged your wedding day that way, screw them.

        • UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

          Well, I think by any measure our wedding was pretty damn awesome and classy. We were in the presence of over 100 very honest family/friends on the Cantonese side who would’ve told us anyway.

          Also, my wife is a details-obsessive who spent a year picking through every potential problem from day one.

        • Nytmare says:

          You’re right, screw the guests, who are they to show up at your wedding and then have some negative experiences? It’s their own fault for RSVPing.

    • Keith is checking the Best Buy receipt of a breastfeeding mother (for tips!) says:

      Great, now I’m wondering if people thought our wedding was ‘tacky and unorganized.’ Thanks for that.

      Seriously, I was the Project Manager for my wedding. Mrs. Keith had already fulfilled her wedding dreams with a previous one, so I got to do whatever I wanted. It was pretty cool. My best man did a great job of wrangling things on the day of the event, and everything went very smoothly. Spent about $8000 including feeding about 100 people, open bar, and a live band. Not too bad. Put it on plastic and paid it off in a year.

    • qwickone says:

      I planned most of it, but hired a coordinator for the day of. This was a super budget-friendly alternative to a wedding planner and perfect for me. I’m a perfectionist, so the planning, while stressful, was right up my alley and then I got to hand over the reigns on the day of (with highly detailed notes, of course), so I didn’t worry about any of the details then.

    • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

      BTW, I’d rather have had my wedding come across as tacky and unorganized because we saved that money and put a 10% down payment on a nice house and actually paid the closing in cash. This is when people actually still put money down on houses instead of spending it all on weddings and getting some screwy mortgage because they don’t have a down payment.

      I guessing though, that 99% of people who are having such a large wedding either aren’t paying for it themselves, or they are in debt because of it.

      Again, if someone would judge my wedding that way, then I wouldn’t want them there ruining our family celebration. Then again, maybe I’m just lucky that my friends and family aren’t big enough douche bags to care about whether or not someone used a wedding planner.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        Well, in our case, we paid for part of it and our parents covered part of it – we also weren’t going to buy a house, so we didn’t need the money for a down payment or anything. We didn’t have a wedding planner, but our locale had a person whose only job was to coordinate weddings that were taking place there, and she ran everything, including the rehearsal dinner and the catering staff. That’s the difference. You don’t NEED a wedding planner, but on the day of the wedding, you certainly do need someone to keep an eye on the whole event and make sure that things are running smoothly.

  13. c_c says:

    One way we saved money – had it at a place that let you bring your own booze. Bought a couple of kegs and handles of vodka & tequila for martini’s and margaritas, hired a friend of a friend to tend bar… much much cheaper than your standard open bar.

    • c_c says:

      also my wife bought a “bridesmaids” dress that was white and looked like a bride’s dress – it cost less than my suit. Bridal dresses are a ripoff, there is an automatic gazillion % markup on them

  14. msbask says:

    Average of $19,581? Not in NY. The last three (“middle class”) weddings I went to easily cost at least $50,000.

  15. Kishi says:

    Vegas! It was nice and basic, we had our immediate family, and probably ended up spending less than $700 on it.

    • varro says:

      Ours might have been negative money, since my wife hit a slot machine for $900 the morning after we got married.

  16. LD says:

    Had a lovely wedding and spent less than $900. Most expensive thing was his double-breasted suit, which he still wears 17 years later. Borrowed chairs from a church, rented an awning, had a pot luck dinner, a coworker made a lovely cake. All in all it was quite lovely and fun, and we didn’t go into debt for it.

    • wrjohnston91283 says:

      I think many people see the “average wedding is $19K” and immediately think of their weddings…of 17 years ago. (I don’t mean to single you out here LD – I’ve heard many people talk about it over the past year). Granted, inflation hasn’t turned $900 into $19,000 in that short of time, but I would not be surprised to find that wedding costs have increased more than inflation. I got married this past May. Total cost for around 70 people was $10,000 (not including honeymoon). We picked our venue in the summer of ’09, and locked in rates of about $60 per person (including 4 hours of open bar). For 2010, they raised their rates 16% and cut the open bar to 3 hours, in the middle of a recession. We saw the same thing with a few of our other vendors who we locked in rates back in 2009.

      EVERYONE told us to get a videographer (which we didn’t do), which would have run about $3,000. Even the guys joking about not getting married said to do it. Funny thing was, one of my co-workers was reminiscing about his wedding video until it dawned on him that he didn’t have a videographer – he was thinking of a friends wedding video.

      Focus on the food and drink, DJ and still photographer. The dress can eat a big chunk of money in my (male) opinion can be better spent elsewhere. You’re going to be reading about these crazy things (such as bride and groom gifts) – ignore them, don’t get sucked into what the magazines and websites say to do.

      • LD says:

        Even back then, $1000 was a lot of money. Average weddings were over $10k. We didn’t have a “venue.” We had the ceremony and reception in my inlaws’ backyard, which is over half an acre of grass and surrounded by woods. The potluck dinner/cookout was held around their pool. It was held at a time when everyone was here for a family reunion anyway, so no one had to spend extra just to come to the wedding. We probably had less than 50 guests. My coworker made the cake, for which I paid $60. My future cousin-in-law did the flowers and decorations as her wedding gift to us. We had two video cameras set up to catch the action. My father-in-law took photos that came out quite nicely.

        It might sound rather hillbilly-trailerpark to some, but it wasn’t. It was quite lovely.

        A year later, my brother-in-law and his wife spent over $25k for a church wedding and big reception. It was a nice time but nowhere near as fun as ours was, imo.

        Spending more money doesn’t make one more married. We know people who have spent tens of thousands on weddings and their marriages lasted less than 5 years. We have pretty pictures, nice video, and wonderful memories worth more to us than any million dollar Hollywood wedding.

      • Keith is checking the Best Buy receipt of a breastfeeding mother (for tips!) says:

        Going to disagree here: we didn’t hire a videographer and have always regretted it. I don’t remember squat from my wedding or reception- and no, I wasn’t drunk, either. Just overstimulated. Still pictures are great, but I wish I had something I could watch and relive, at least once. If you can find someone affordable or even maybe rope a talented amateur into the job, you definitely should.

        • pecan 3.14159265 says:

          We had a professional team of videographers and it was well worth it (and I say that even though I didn’t have to pay for it). There were so many things going on at the wedding that we weren’t even aware of until we watched the video. There were some really great memories that we wouldn’t have had if we didn’t get it all on DVD.

  17. mac-phisto says:

    1) shop around – NEVER pick a photographer/baker/caterer without at least shopping around. the first one you see may be the best, but it’s worth seeing what else is out there & getting an idea on price before you buy.
    2) call in favors – your friends & family are often more than happy to participate in the grand occasion – take advantage! not only will it save you money, but it will often result in a better, more personal experience.
    3) shop for “alternatives” – did you know a wedding cake is often 30-40% more expensive than the same exact cake provided for, say, an anniversary? the difference? it’s for a wedding. consider tailoring your shopping so you can avoid the wedding markup. flowers is another biggie here – if you don’t drop the “W” & consider alternative sources for flowers (like local supermarket chains), you can often save hundreds.
    4) do it yourself – this is kind of self-explanatory. obviously, most people aren’t going to sew their own attire, but you can make your own wedding favors, burn your own reception album, etc., etc. save money & still have a wonderful wedding.

    finally, never forget that it’s the people that make the occasion, not the stuff. when the wedding is nothing more than a happy memory, no one will care if you have custom tiffany centerpieces or well liquor at the bar. they won’t care if you had the reception catered by gordon ramsey or fat bob the bbq’er. & they won’t remember that your dress wasn’t a vera wang original.

    they will, however, remember that uncle frank got plastered & hit on his niece. so, in a nutshell, what i’m saying is “cash bar”.

    • NarcolepticGirl says:


    • Brie says:

      >2) call in favors – your friends & family are often more than happy to participate in the grand occasion – take advantage! not only will it save you money, but it will often result in a better, more personal experience.

      I used to think this was a great idea but have seen it backfire with recent weddings. You really have to know your friends and figure out whether this is all a big party for everyone including the couple and the family, or whether the couple is the star and everyone else is cleaning up after their Special Day. If you have to have everything just so, I think you’re better off paying someone rather than haranguing your friend to do everything “right”.

      • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

        Most people who ask family and friends for help probably aren’t the types who must control every detail of their wedding. Every wedding I have helped with (except my bridezilla SIL) has been relaxed and fun. No one harangued anyone.

        • pecan 3.14159265 says:

          I agree with Brie. Asking friends and family is great until it’s a disaster. And of course, friends and family have their feelings hurt when you tell them that they’re doing a bad job. We’re not talking about the ribbon on the invitation being a little off center, we’re talking about “my wedding cake is caving in” kind of disaster. I trust professionals more. If I give a professional company my money, time, and trust, and things go wrong, I can get it back. If I give my family my money, time, and trust, and things go wrong, I’m going to have my mother calling me and asking me why I’m so mean to my cousin. I don’t think this is worth it to get involved in what is essentially a business deal with family and friends.

          • mac-phisto says:

            listen, i’m not suggesting that you ask your sister, who has a point & shoot camera, to take your wedding photos. but if your sister is a professional photographer, i would most certainly ask if they would like to shoot your wedding. sometimes the best gift we can give someone is our talent.

            often times we either overlook the contribution that friends & family can make during an occasion like this, or we think we’re putting them out to ask. i happen to think it’s exactly the opposite. i would much rather provide my services free (or at a reduced cost) to those close to me than see them pay an exorbitant amount for another service that i know is inferior. it’s almost insulting (though i know that’s not actually the case).

            & on the issue of money, i wouldn’t expect a free ride. i would expect to pay a fair amount for the services & if the friend/family member offers to comp it, then be gracious for their gift.

            furthermore, if you find yourself in a situation where you’re the recipient of unwanted gratitude, it’s best to thank them for their effort as soon as possible & explain (in an especially diplomatic way) that you’re planning something different. “it’s not you; it’s me” type lines come to mind.

            • bonzombiekitty says:

              I’d be wary of asking guests to do some sort of task during the event. They’re my guests and are supposed to be celebrating along with me, not doing work.

  18. NarcolepticGirl says:

    Excellent article.
    Eventually I plan on getting married and I’m pretty cheap. Although, I’m not cheap enough to just go to the courthouse.

    After reading this article, I had no idea that people did such things as brides/grooms exchanging gifts with each other, monogramming aisle runners or having formal engagement photos done.

    I envision myself buying an inexpensive dress, making my own invitations, having friends take photographs and basically just having a big party.

    • Kuchen says:

      That is exactly how I would have liked my wedding to be. Immediate family only at the ceremony, followed by a party with close friends. However, my mother had other plans. We “had to” invite all the second-cousins and great-aunts, etc. because it was “expected” and they would be “disappointed”. I really should have stood my ground on that one, but we ended up married at the end of the day, which was the part I really cared about.

      • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

        I put my foot down on that. I didn’t want to have to give attention to a bunch of people who I hardly knew. I just wanted to have a memorable, fun day to really share with the people we knew. We invited 50 and had about 60 show it. It was so much fun!!!

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      I agree, though I definitely advise you to spring for a professional photographer, preferably two, and ones who are experienced in photographing weddings. Some friends of ours were cutting corners and they had a family friend take their wedding photos. Well, suffice to say, they didn’t look the greatest. Just because you own a DSLR doesn’t make you a professional. Professional photography is the greatest asset you can have at a wedding – it’s one day, and you’ve spent a lot of effort on it. Why cut corners?

      And please don’t even think about putting disposable cameras on the table. No one wants eight pictures of someone’s nose.

      • ellemdee says:

        The just-out-of college crowd is fond of the under-the-table shots. Great when you actually have to pay to get them developed, only to discover the majority of the pics are unusable or inappropriate.

  19. SnowQueen says:

    We managed to avoid almost all of the things on that list. There were a couple of things I really wanted (engraved invitations were one — I love beautiful paper goods) so I splurged on those. We also had a pro engagement photo taken, which wasn’t that expensive and I don’t regret it. We also had favors (handmade candy), but that would have been the first thing to go if I’d been over budget.

    However, we had a small wedding with just about 50 people we cared about. Keeping your list down is critical. I also don’t understand the point of inviting hundreds of people you hardly even know.

    We each had one attendant and my MOH wore a dress of her own choosing. She was happy!

    I did my own flowers because I enjoy arranging flowers and I know the floral business. I went to a wholesale florist and arranged to have thousands of orchids flown in fresh from Thailand, for less than ordinary flowers would have cost from a florist. However, I don’t recommend this for the average person without floral expertise. If you have limited funds, ask your florist to use seasonal flowers and tell them your budget. They can get creative.

    We rented out a beautiful brewery restaurant in an Asian garden, which was much cheaper than paying for a hall and caterers. Our guests had a full plated sit-down meal with two entrees, and unlimited craft brewed beer. We were able to bring in our own wine, champagne and cake with no extra charge for cutting and serving, which most halls will tack on. They set up chairs on a deck overlooking the garden for the actual ceremony, so we didn’t have to pay for a separate ceremony space.

    A friend was the officiant. That was free, and much more personal than hiring someone. (Many states allow anyone to become an officiant for a day.)

    I hired a very good live band that I had seen playing at a local farmer’s market. They were happy to get $300 and unlimited beer!

    Our wedding was elegant and fun, and we spent $7500 (in year 2000), including my dress. People still talk about what a wonderful event it was, believe it or not.

  20. Paddlacus says:

    We just spent about 10K on ours, including flying my in-laws in from Japan. Bit higher than we wanted but paid cash for everything and it was great.
    Wedding dress tip: my wife used a bridesmaid dress in that not-quite-white white. Simple design, very elegant (not Cinderella-y) and including custom alterations was about $350.
    In hindsight though, city hall and a backyard party would have been my choice.

  21. Wrayvin says:

    I’m getting married in October (101010, we’re nerds). The biggest way we are saving money was by having the ceremony and reception at a beautiful Italian restaurant. Most upscale restaurants will not charge you for use of the rooms (or very little), just food. We are doing a banquet style meal so that saves them on wait staff (and cuts the price down). I had them run a sample bill. Fifty people, room set up for ceremony, separate room set up for reception, food, drinks (non-alcoholic) plus gratuities and tax came under $1500. The best part – my family and I don’t have to clean up after it or hire someone to do that. We don’t need centerpieces because the restaurant already has them. Everything is taken care of. We live in a spot that people come for “destination weddings.” Most rooms alone cost over $2k just to rent. Other savings were of course sales, DIY, and Etsy.

    • raydee wandered off on a tangent and got lost says:

      My ideal wedding date has already passed; it was 07-08-09. Because of that joke. From like kindergarten. Because I am a dork.

      But 10-10-10 is a good date, very easy to remember, nobody has any excuses for forgetting an anniversary. Good luck! :)

    • annexw says:

      101010: 42?

      Awesome! I hope your wedding and married life is full of nerdy happiness and the regular type too. :)

    • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

      We did the restaurant thing too. We live in Texas and did Tex-Mex. I think everyone was really glad to have a real meal they could enjoy. The margaritas didn’t hurt either.

  22. leastcmplicated says:

    If I’m ever allowed to marry it’ll be at a court house. All that money could go to a nice family vacation, our daughters education, the house, the cars etc… imo its ridiculous. the only good part is all the gifts you get. Have all of my friends and family get all dressed up in uncomfortable clothes, eat expensive food and do the chicken dance? pfft. overrated.

    • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

      You can even use the gifts to save yourself money. We only registered for every day items that were good quality but affordable. No fancy china here. We did dishes, towels, sheets, comforter, glasses, even pot holders. We had our whole place outfitted and ready to go. We literally got everything we needed and still have many of the items after almost 16 years.

  23. Noadi says:

    I’ve never been married and have no immediate plans to do so. However both my parents and my brother got married cheap.

    My parents were married in the courthouse by a justice of the peace, she wore a pretty new dress but not a wedding dress so she could wear it again for other occasions. They’ve been married almost 30 years.

    My brother and his wife were both stationed with the Air Force in Nevada and simply went to Vegas and were married in one of the many little wedding chapels.

  24. satoru says:

    I have to semi-disagree with #8 at least if you’re Asian. Since Asian cultures almost always give cash to weddings padding your guest list ‘can’ provide you with much needed cash. This assumes your guests are not cheap ass bastards that pay $100 and take up 6 seats with their kids. So if you’re strategic about it, you can actually make some money on your wedding. Plus you’re not drowning in useless crystal bowls and other shit you’ll never use.

    • UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

      Did you also notice #10?

      10. Limousines
      Sure it’s fun to stand up in the sun roof and shout “woo-woo,” and it’s cool to legally drink in a super-stretched car, but it’s a lot cheaper to just pack a whiskey flask in your purse and borrow a friend’s sedan.

      That’s also a good way to get pulled over and possibly slapped with a DUI.

  25. fatediesel says:

    I’m going to a wedding in a couple weeks that I know costs significantly more than the average. The reception venue has a minimum cost of $12,000 and that doesn’t take into account any of the costs for the wedding itself.

  26. Outrun1986 says:

    I don’t think its worth it to go in debt from your wedding, getting off to a bad start is just asking for trouble. I know a few people who had elaborate weddings and yes, they are still in debt from them many years later. Although those seem to be the type of people who stay in debt for their entire lives.

    I don’t see too many big weddings over here, seems they have become a thing of the past. Lots of people are doing the take your close family out to a nice place for dinner and bring the cake there type wedding (after the church part of course). No one is renting a hall, setting up tables with fancy centerpieces and having a huge buffet and inviting 200 friends and family type wedding anymore. That is what a big wedding used to be over here, that is not happening anymore.

    People don’t really want favors anymore, before elaborate favors used to be handed out, but to tell you the truth, most people just throw them in the trash on cleaning day.

  27. ringrose says:

    We found a place with large gardens, got married in one part of the garden and moved to another part for the reception. Once they’d cleaned up from the wedding we used the whole garden. It was beautiful and cost a much more reasonable amount of money than renting two places.
    Lunch was catered, because the location required that food be catered from a certain set of companies for insurance reasons, but we had a make-your-own sandwich buffet. Everyone got exactly the food they wanted.

    You don’t have to spend money to make the day memorable. Just imagination and effort. We were lucky in that our friends helped a lot with the organization.

  28. fargle says:

    Back in 1998, we rented a nice-sized cabin in a state park. Had about 35-40 guests, got some flowers and candles to class up the place, paid for a wedding cake, and rented some folding tables and chairs. Had the ceremony inside, then put tables up and moved the chairs around the tables for the reception. A few close friends stayed while we opened gifts, then they left and the rest of the weekend was our honeymoon in the cabin.

    We loved it, our guests loved it (many said it was the best, most personal wedding they’d ever attended, and they felt honored for being invited), and the total cost was MAYBE $1500, and that’s likely on the high side.

  29. Kimmakimma says:

    I got married in a courthouse with my best friend as a witness. Best thing I ever did. My husband and I have discussed a small ceremony, but not for some time now. I believe that the wedding is about you and your significant other. Why do you need to have a big wedding. I would love to just get married in my backyard with my family and friends and have a potluck dinner. Now THAT’S a wedding. =]

  30. Sizlack says:

    I doing some work for an upscale cadillac dealership just before I got married. I was discussing the wedding plans with a co-worker, and our contact from the dealership came up and told me that I couldn’t have a real wedding without spending at least 10k. She of course had a rock on her finger that probably cost more than that…all in all I got out for about 3500. I save a decent amount by not having to pay any musicians as they were all friends and worked for beer and food.

    • mbz32190 says:

      Funny, there is a Mercedes dealer near me where people actually hold weddings, and the local High School held their prom there. Beautiful, gigantic building, and probably aren’t selling anywhere near enough actual cars to pay for it all.

  31. wrongfrequently says:

    Only fancy thing I wanted at my wedding was a live band b/c I enjoy music and can’t stand DJ banter.
    My parents on the other hand insisted that we needed a venue that could hold their 150+ friends (not to mention my now hubby’s friends and family) I don’t even know how much the whole thing cost in the end b/c I was just too darn upset by the little expenses to even tally it up.
    My parents did pay for a lovely wedding but the stress of having it so big got me and hubby really close to eloping.

  32. Garbanzo says:

    We had a somewhat frugal wedding that was quite classy. My dress was off the rack, a few hundred dollars. We did not hire a photographer. Before the ceremony we went to a studio to have formal portraits taken in our wedding clothes. At the reception we placed disposable cameras at the tables, and guests took pictures (We paid for the development with double prints and gave everyone a set of the pictures they took). For the ceremony itself my sister took pics with her SLR (she’s pretty good).

    We did not have a fancy traditional wedding cake. My husband doesn’t like cake but he does like pie, so we had a pie-cutting ceremony. We got an assortment of pies and cakes from Costco, and that was dessert (delicious, too, by the way).

    The drinks came from Costco as well, mostly soft drinks but wine for dinner and also champagne. Luckily our friends and family are not heavy drinkers, so we got off easy.

    I made my own party favors (skittles wrapped in netting and tied with a bow.) Flowers were pretty simple–an arrangement at each table, bouquets for the bride and 2 attendants, boutonnieres for the men and dads, corsages for the moms. I hired a woman who sold flowers at the farmer’s market after I overheard her talking to someone else about doing a wedding. I think the flowers came to about $300 total.

    We did pay for good catering. Venue fee wasn’t that bad, about $1000. It was outdoors at a historical house with beautiful gardens. We had live musicians: flamenco guitarist for the ceremony and string quartet for the reception (our dads love string quartets).

    All and all it came to about $8000 (1990s dollars, about $11,000 today’s equivalent) for about 75 people. My parents paid for half and my husband paid for half. That doesn’t include the rehearsal dinner (several hundred dollars) which my in-laws paid for, or the honeymoon (few thousand) which my husband and I paid for.

    • AnonymousCoward says:

      We did something similar. We spent about $5000, and still had a nice, upscale wedding, by picking and choosing the things that were important to us, rather than doing all the stuff that’s traditional. We had a live string quartet for the ceremony ($600), and excellent catering for the reception, but no DJ, and the reception was in our garden. It was also a morning wedding, which kept both the food and bar bills down (omelets and mimosas for the reception).

  33. thewildboo says:

    We hired a pro photographer, but refused to be sweet-talked into a videographer along with him. He acted shocked and asked “What will you have to remember your wedding by?” I said “Um, my husband??”

    Also I agree about the shoes – I just got cheap white dress shoes and noone even saw them (they could have been green for all anyone would have known)

    • Etoiles says:

      I wore blue shoes on purpose for my wedding. ;) I wear them for Christmas parties and stuff now. (They’re velvet, so mainly fall-winter shoes.)

    • LD says:

      I got a pair of white satin shoes at Payless for about $20 and had them dyed to match for an extra $5.

    • Mary says:

      Well, as a filmmaker I felt like I had to record my wedding because I was always going on about documenting life for future generations, etc.

      So I set up a camera and gave a friend the remote and told her when to hit record. And I have never watched the video since. I tried once, got three minutes in and got bored. The photos though, I love to look at those. They captured the memory of the day much better.

      As for shoes, I got $20 Rocket Dog shoes. They’re amazingly comfortable, and since they’re just a cream brocade pattern they go great with most of my lighter colored dress clothes and I still wear them all the time.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      Zappos! I must have purchased at least six pairs of shoes to try with my dress (every alteration meant the dress length changed just a little, so I needed different heel heights) and Zappos was awesome!

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      We ended up just paying a friend (through an open bar tab, free hotel night, and $100) to take the photographs for us. I think they turned out amazing well — he’s not technically a photographer but an architectural historian, so he has a lot of experience taking photos.

  34. Brie says:

    I made my own veil. Supplies cost less than $40 at Michael’s and would have been less than that if I’d just used a few cut yards of tulle rather than the thing I got with the rolled hem (don’t ask.) This was fifteen years ago, and now every Halloween I save money on a costume by going as a bride. What else am I going to do with my $40 Laura Ashley Outlet dress and homemade veil?

  35. UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

    OK, I’m going to be the anti-Consumerist here.

    I’m glad I spent as much money as I did (about $20K including honeymoon.)

    Why? For one, because I’ve been to weddings where people cut corners, and it rarely works well. We had a reception of just shy of 200 people. There was no way we were going to have fewer, because my wife’s family is very large (Asian.) Did it suck spending so much? Sure. But it was an amazing wedding, and an amazing honeymoon. I’m glad I spend the money and got what I got.

    • UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

      Ugh, I went over more of these brilliant suggestions. I have more hate.

      “8. Padded Guest Lists
      Sure it took a village to raise you, but does the entire village need to attend your wedding?”

      This is great if both of you have small families. We did not. This depends entirely on the situation and culture.

      “10. Limousines
      Sure it’s fun to stand up in the sun roof and shout “woo-woo,” and it’s cool to legally drink in a super-stretched car, but it’s a lot cheaper to just pack a whiskey flask in your purse and borrow a friend’s sedan.”

      Limos can be had for a few hundred and can save you a lot of trouble if you need to transport a bride with a large dress or the entire wedding party. Also, alcohol in a flask in your pocket is not a good idea when driving. Not exactly a good way to impress a cop that pulls you over.

      “13. Rented Tuxedos
      Have you ever known a little boy who dreams of growing up to look like a penguin?”

      Yes, it can save you money, but I’ve been to at least a few situations calling for a tux, and would have saved money in the long-run if I had owned one.

      “15. Matching Bridesmaids Dresses
      Let your bridesmaids wear any dress in their closet and you’ll still be speaking after the wedding. Every bride should be forced to watch “27 Dresses.””

      This just strikes me as tacky. Bridesmaid dresses should match.

      “16. Make-Up Professionals
      Rule number one: The skin on your face should match the skin on your arms and back.

      Rule number two: Your fiance is marry you, not the make-up artist.

      Rule number three: It’s a lot cheaper to visit a department store make-up counter for a make-over. Just be sure to buy something when you’re finished, like a base color that matches your skin tone.”

      The lady at the make-up counter is unlikely to have the experience with how to make the bride really look spectacular that a professional will have. Again, this strikes me as pennypinching to the point of simply being tacky.

      “19. Wedding Favors
      Personalized tote bags; sterling silver bubble tubes; soy candles in cunning bags; monogrammed M&Ms, water bottles and lip balm…stop me before I vomit cash.”

      Just tacky. It doesn’t cost that much to give out a little favor, and it makes you look like you have a modicum of class.

      I might be under the spell of cognitive dissonance because of my recent wedding, but it seems to me that cheaping out on makeup… is just silly.

      • Etoiles says:

        Bridesmaid dresses should match.

        This just strikes me as tacky. The women closest to the bride and groom should be there because of the relationship they have, because there’s love and support there, not because they’re stage props or unruly kids.

        See? It goes both ways.

        • UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

          You’re saying that that’s mutually exclusive? It’s not. You can have both. Nothing says that they can’t wear matching outfits and be close supportive friends.

          • Etoiles says:

            I’m saying it’s uncalled-for to call other people’s aesthetic preferences tacky.

            (FWIW, in all the wedding-planning communities I was in and among all my friends, nothing is EVER the source of so much drama, not even parents and in-laws, as the bridal party. Best thing I ever did was to skip the whole “bridesmaids” schtick. Three best friends, who were pitching in to help, all wore whatever blue they wanted and it was great. But I also didn’t make them stand next to me staring down an audience of people they didn’t know.)

            • UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

              Ah, I see your sticking point. Well, I’ll rephrase it: in my opinion, it’s usually tacky because you often end up with poor coordination otherwise. I see it as the same as people who show up to formal events dressed informally. I see nothing wrong with following social mores, particularly for events, and believe that major deviations generally go the way of not good.

              However, let me note that I think having them all wear a blue dress is enough matching for me. I’d just find it tacky if everyone came in whatever they had in their closet, no matter what color it is. C’mon, wedding colors! ;-)

              • pecan 3.14159265 says:

                I agree. To put it in a different way…I’d rather be overdressed than underdressed.

            • LD says:

              My soon to be sister in law stood up for me. She wore what she wanted. My soon to be brother in law stood up for my husband. He wore his church suit. That was the extent of our wedding party. Personally, I think having a lot of bridesmaids dressed all the same is tacky and pretentious. ;)

              • UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

                Let me put it another way.

                I believe, very strongly, that dress matters. I’m someone who believes that tailored suits, well-fitted dresses, and nice shoes can and should affect my opinion of you in certain situations. I have no problem telling people that it’s acceptable to drop money on good clothes for special situations.

                I believe that weddings are in large part about appearances. A wedding is an opportunity to show off to everyone, and to revel in the opportunity to provide a day of luxury to yourselves and your guests.

                I believe that it’s okay to be pretentious once in a while, because it’s fun to play dress-up and look your absolute best.

                Do you need it to have a good wedding? Nope. It’s marginal return might even be low. But I know that there’s something really nice about polished weddings where every detail just adds up.

                Not that I remember half of my wedding. Damn thing went by so fast.

      • UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

        Before anyone else chimes in to call me a jerk (well, go ahead, I probably am on this count… :-P)

        My idea of “matching” isn’t that they all buy the same dress. My idea of matching is that they all sort of work together on some level. It’s fine if the bridesmaids all have different style dresses, as long as one isn’t wearing pink, while the others wear fuschia and yellow.

        Matching just means same sort of color and hopefully a similar style. Not that you all go spend $500 each at David’s Bridal.

      • SunnyLea says:

        I’m with you on quite a few of those, and, frankly if I had a billionty dollars to spend on my wedding, I would have, because, you know, I actually *like* my friends and family and wanted to show them a good time.

        It’s called hospitality.

        As it was, I am lucky to live in a cheaper wedding market than some, spent where I needed to, and went just a *tad* over my budget of $5k.

  36. dreamfish says:

    I remember some years ago a debate about the idea of asking guests not to buy you presents but to contribute towards the cost of the event instead. It really surprised me how many people thought that was totally unacceptable and ‘cheap’ – even though it was suggested guests contribute no more than they would have spent on a present! Eventually I just put it down to long established taboos about what should and shouldn’t be done regarding weddings.

  37. ret3 says:

    From our cost-tracking spreadsheet for our elopement-ish wedding a little over 5 years ago:

    License: $71
    Gazebo Rental at scenic park: $65
    A night at a romantical B&B: $180
    Slinky formal-type dress: $60
    Ordained Minister Grandfather willing to slip away for an hour or so: $0
    Bouquet: $20
    Suit, already owned: $0
    Custom big-ass pearl engagement ring: $400
    His titanium & gold band: $250
    Her gold & diamond band: $999
    Photography via tripod & digicam: $0

    Total: $2,045

    Granted, it was both of our second time around, but it went much better than either of our first weddings. Or marriages, for that matter.

  38. KixStar says:

    We did our entire wedding and honeymoon on $8000. It helps that we live in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere though.

  39. Etoiles says:

    Don’t bother with things that don’t interest YOU. There’s so much detail crap that doesn’t matter. Spend the money on the things you DO care about (I love paper goods and stationery and such, so for me nice invitations were worth some cash) and completely ignore the things you don’t (literally not one guest cares if you have fancy flowers everywhere).

  40. Brie says:

    Also, for those of you asking why a wedding has to be big at all, remember that the shindig is often about more than the marrying couple. I’m an only child, so my wedding was a milestone for my parents as well as for me, and they wanted to celebrate *their* milestone with *their* friends as well. I knew another bride who ripped out her hair over her divorced parents as her mom wanted a quiet backyard ceremony and her dad, an extroverted restaurant owner, wanted to throw a huge party.

    Then there were the FOAFs I met who told me how lovely their wedding had been, at an expensive vineyard country club setting, both the bride and groom raving about the exclusivity of the place. That’s nice, I said politely; when was your wedding? Six years ago, they said.

    • Etoiles says:

      Right. My husband and I are both only children. The family on his side is very close, and on my side though it’s not much blood family, my friends and I have been family-of-choice to each other for 10-20 years. So, no, eloping was not in the cards; having an event with all present was important to us.

      But with pooled money from his side, my side, and the two of us, we came up with a very nice event that was very “us” without anyone going into debt over it. Which is good.

    • UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

      A wedding isn’t just about the bride and groom?


      • SunnyLea says:

        Exactly. It’s about hospitality and *the guests*. The bride and groom are the least of it!

        My hubby and I love each other and could have gotten married in a barn by a horse with hay for the wedding dinner. We just happen to like our friends and family and loved the opportunity to entertain them.

  41. Big Mama Pain says:

    Stay away from bridal forums! My friend wound up “over budget” by like $20k because of all these stupid details she read about on those forums that she felt she was supposed to have and just missed. (Like a personalized stencil for the spotlight on the dancefloor, wtf?!)

    I catered my own wedding, which I imagine saved a fortune; my husband and I both did it together, and it was a really fun experience we have memories of forever. We also just put a bunch of disposable cameras around for people to take photos. Sure, not professional, but we got some really fun shots that I love far more than posed photos.

  42. jessjj347 says:

    I would also add that many “wedding videographers” are not very good at filming….I wouldn’t trust one after seeing some wedding videos.

    • dru_zod says:

      You just haven’t seen the right ones. There are a lot of crappy ones out there. I’ve seen one video that was almost 3 hours long and 45 minutes of that was just footage of people coming in and sitting down at the church. I wouldn’t pay 10 cents for that video. But then I’ve seen others (not the ones I’ve done, mind you) that are like watching a movie. In fact, they might have had better production values than some major network TV shows. The wedding videos I’ve made aren’t that awesome, unfortunately, but I do spend a lot of time on them and I think I do a pretty good job. I went to college for video/TV production too, so that helps.

      Wedding videos are like anything else. You have to shop around, look at sample videos, and then choose the one that does the best job (or at least the best that you can afford). No one should hire the first one they talk to, unless they’ve already looked at their work and liked it.

  43. Dallas_shopper says:

    My wedding cost about $5,000 9 years ago. Mr. Dallas_Shopper and I are no longer married, but we also did not go into hock for our wedding.

    If I ever get married again, I want to elope. And if Mr. Dallas_Shopper II doesn’t, then he needs to kick in a LOT. I’m not shelling out thousands on a wedding again, and I’d definitely rent my dress this time around. My first wedding dress ended up on a pile for the Salvation Army to take away.

  44. Miss Dev (The Beer Sherpa) says:

    I’m not married, but my best friend and his wife are and they spent less than $5000 for their wedding on Kauai. For that amount they got:

    Wedding dress (brand new)
    Linen shirt and khaki pants for the groom
    Pedicure for the bride
    Flowers for the bride
    Ring of flowers to stand in during the ceremony
    Leis for the bride, groom, and parents of the couple
    Rental of 20 chairs
    Rental of 20 parasols
    Wedding license
    Reception for 30 at swanky restaurant with an open bar and 5-course meal
    Wedding ring for the groom (the bride decided to just have her engagement ring be her wedding ring)
    Photographer for the day of and a remote day after shoot at another beach
    Gifts for the sisters of the groom
    Gift for the brother of the bride
    Reception for 30 in Boulder with open bar and snacks

    That doesn’t include their airfare nor hotel, but they honeymooned in Hawaii, so they consider that a shared cost. It was one of the nicest weddings I’ve ever been to, and felt less contrived and more luxurious than some of the ones I’ve attended that have cost tens of thousands.

  45. luftmenschPhil says:

    Pro photographer good advice – just make sure he/she is physically fit to do a lot of running around to catch up with the events. Each wedding scene happens only once with no retakes!

    • RxDude says:

      Hah! I was a groomsman at a friend’s wedding where, after the wedding party had exited the church and was heading toward cars to take us to the next destination, the photographer wanted us to BACK UP AND COME OUT AGAIN! The only response she got was a few dirty looks as we all got into the vehicles.

  46. outoftheblew says:

    We spent $2,000. I wanted a dress I’d wear again (black cocktail dress, and I *have* worn it since). My husband wore a suit he already owned, but did buy a fedora. It was basically a family reunion with about 50 people, and we were considering pot-lucking it, but my friends’ gift to us was to prepare most of the food (we also bought ordered some from the grocery store deli). My in-laws made a muffin tree (we didn’t have cake). We had it at a camp that the non-profit I worked for owned at the time, with the reception in the dining hall. My neighbor is a professional photographer and gifted us his services for free. And my mom conducted the ceremony. We bought sparkling juice instead of wine or champagne, plus some beer.

    We didn’t have an actual honeymoon, but we make it a point to travel and go someplace new each year, so we consider that our honeymoon.

  47. Ilovegnomes says:

    -Get married in the morning. Everything was cheaper that way. The site, the vendors, the food, etc. The reasoning is because vendors can do more than one venue in a day and they usually charge more at night for some reason.
    -Have your reception in a restaurant. They usually provide the cake serving set (but check with them), the flowers on the table, the linens, servers, set up and clean up for only the price of the meals and tip. That is way cheaper and less of a hassle than having to rent stuff, set it up, tear it down and clean it up.
    -Skip the open bar. Before everyone starts screaming how tacky that is… well if you have a morning wedding, who really needs alcohol before 1pm? We provided a toast but that was it. If someone wanted something else, they could walk up the bar and order it themselves.
    -Skip the table decorations and the favors. No one ever pays attention to them anyway.
    -Ebay!! For veils, jewelry, shoes, etc. You are looking at a lot less of a cost than a bridal store. Who cares if the necklace that you are wearing didn’t come from some over priced store? If it looks great and it won’t make you go broke, then why not?
    -Keep your guest list down. We had only our immediate family and close friends on the invite list.

  48. wellfleet says:

    Me+future husband+Fort Smith police chaplain+his house+jeans and t-shirts for all+nice lunch for two+50$ donation to Fort Smith police fraternity = Five years and counting of wedded bliss. I’ve known too many people who confused ‘wedding’ with ‘marriage’ and completely lost sight of the important stuff. For *us*, it was only about *us* and being together, we didn’t care about pictures or having lots of people around or gifts. Culturally though, I understand why some couples get roped into paying a lot: it’s expected and would cause too much family strife if there wasn’t a big, traditional wedding.

  49. jimmyhl says:

    Just shoot me.

  50. iblamehistory says:

    My stepmom paid for ours, which was a lovely gesture, but it was a mess. She asked if we wanted a wedding or $3k cash and I asked if she’d be okay renting the grange hall or something and having a little gathering and then just giving us what was left of the $3k, and she was fine with that.

    She proceeded to spend about $10k, get mad at me for “making it so expensive” even though I kept telling her we didn’t WANT all these things, but of course then it was “why don’t you want something nice?!”

    I tried telling her how I could make the centerpieces, I could make the invitations, I had a friend who could take pictures… none of this was good enough. I got her to cave and “let us” use invitations I found at Target, but in the end, she insisted on taking them to do them and she didn’t even put them together properly because “the ribbon was too hard to put on.” They looked awful.

    Our honeymoon consisted of us moving to Chicago, about 6 hours away from where we grew up (lol, surprise there). Now, 2 years after the fact and 8 years after we started dating, we’re taking our first actual vacation. Just a week in a cabin up in Door County, WI, but we’re not the beach party type. It fits.

    I know I sound like an ungrateful brat and I know the wedding was lovely, but I put up with so much emotional abuse and harassment because “it was all my fault that it was so expensive” when I kept telling her about all the inexpensive things we wanted. If she had listened to me, the whole wedding could have been done for less than the $3k that the reception hall cost. In the end, the only part of our wedding that resembled anything that we had wanted were the colors. I had my olive green dress ($150, technically a bridesmaid dress), and my husband was in green and brown (sweater vest, dress shirt). As for pictures, we really have none. My step aunt took about a million shaky, digitally zoomed pictures with a 5 year old camera and none of them are worth framing. I’m most disappointed about this.

    I hope several years down the road, we will be able to renew our vows, involve our kids, and have nice pictures taken this time around. Maybe then it can be very DIY and classy and resemble the inexpensive gathering of friends and family that we wanted in the first place. I really want to be able to chime in when I hear about people having those types of weddings, because it was my dream wedding.

  51. Awesome McAwesomeness says:

    We spend a total of about $1000 bucks. Our wedding was wonderful and meaningful to us and our families. 15 years later we are still happily rolling along. I love to point an laugh at people who have the perfectly staged, non-spontaneous, clone weddings with the $25,000 bill to go with them–especially when they are divorced 5 years later (my neighbors lasted less than a year.)

  52. Bohemian says:

    I personally have no desire for the stereotypical wedding trappings. The whole cake topper, paper napkins with your names on them thing just held no allure for me. We reserved a park (free). Friends gave the brewing supplies for homebrew (free). Myself and a few friends made silk flower arrangements for the wedding party. We made our own invitations and programs. We bought material for brides & grooms clothing that I made. The rest of the party wore nice things they already owned. We bought the materials for two meals and two friends of ours catered the entire thing as their gift to us. We spent about $400 including $50 to the JOP.

  53. failurate says:

    We had a fairly large and expensive wedding. But one thing we did to save some money was have individual cakes at each table. We then didn’t have to have a large wedding cake (turns out lots of small cakes cost less than one big tower of cake) and we didn’t have to buy cheesy table center pieces.
    Our cake lady was amazing. The variety of cakes all around the room looked really nice.

  54. Donathius says:

    I think our wedding 2 years ago was around…$8k all told. Part of the secret is to be a Mormon. There’s no charge to be married in the temple (no troll comments on tithing please), no charge for the officiator. We could have cut the costs even further and been closer to $1k-$2k but we did get a nice reception place that handled all of the catering as well – the reception AND luncheon were both held in the same place so we got a discount on that.

    Other stuff we cheaped out on:

    My wife’s dress was purchased from a dress shop owned by a family friend.

    The music was all done by this thing called a CD.

    For the favors at our reception we did a “candy bar” that was stocked with jelly beans, M&Ms and a few other things that were color coordinated to our wedding colors. It didn’t suck to assemble, we just had to dump big bags of candy into jars. Plus all of the little kids that came loved it.

    The tuxes were all rented and we got a good discount on them through Men’s Wearhouse.

    Bridesmaids were just told the colors and what they should try for, and they worked out great and ended up with dresses they still wear.

    Best decision of the whole event? Me, my wife, her bridesmaids, and my groomsmen all wore Converse shoes. We were the most comfortable wedding party anywhere. The girls all had pink converse and the guys all work black ones. I think the shoes ended up being $280 (quantity discount) and they were still wearable afterwards. I wore mine all over Disney World.

    When we left the reception we drove off in my 1992 Honda Accord (which still bears some of the evidence of my “friends'” handiwork).

    We also saved a ton of money on the honeymoon through the gift of frequent flier miles and hotel points. We spent two nights in Salt Lake City (we live about an hour south), then flew first class to Orlando, and stayed there for 5 nights. We just had to pay for Disney World tickets, food, and airport transportation.

    • Donathius says:

      Ooooh…more stuff..

      My wife’s step-mom did the photography (she’s a semi-pro and you can’t tell we didn’t pay some ridiculous amount of money for the pics).

      We paid to get the invites printed, but we printed the address labels and put the invitations together ourselves.

      The reception hall we paid for also provided all of the flowers, clean-up, etc. They even made sure to set aside food for us – we didn’t do a full-on dinner, just a lot of good quality snacks.

      No bar (Mormons again).

      No videographer. We talked about it but just didn’t see the point. We have friends that paid for a videographer but said they’ve never watched the video.

      • UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

        Man, the no bar thing is huge. You didn’t even need to provide soda. Just water and lots of Sprite… (based on my time spent with LDS members in Korea.)

        • Donathius says:

          Don’t get me wrong, we had plenty of good drinks, but they tended to be variations on soda, lemonade, or punch.

  55. pjorg says:

    My wife and I spent $20,756.81 on our 350-guest wedding a little over a year ago, and I happen to think that it was some of the best money I ever spent. The entire day was a joy, and we got to get basically everyone we know together in one place for a day to celebrate with us. That will probably never happen again.

    About 55% of that total was for food and drink. We had an open bar and three meals (hors d’Å“uvre, dinner, and buffet later) over the course of 12 hours. Pretty good deal, if you ask me.

    • UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

      Oh man, that’s a steal for that many people. Congrats to you!

      How on earth did you get to every table, though? We only had 200 and couldn’t get to everyone that night!

      • pjorg says:

        It was tough, but we did it. We were served our meal first, and we got up to start making the rounds immediately after finishing.

        Good times; my only regret is that it’s over.

  56. MamaBug says:

    Small wedding at a Gatlinburg, TN chapel, which included small reception and our two night stay in a cabin: ~$2,500. We had less than 35 people there, and our friends went in and split hotel rooms. It was wonderful!
    BTW: No formal invitations, my dress was JC Penny’s clearance for $75 + shipping, and Mr. Bug’s tux was an altered one he already had. Borrowed flower girl dress. It was great.

  57. Mary says:

    I managed to have a nice wedding for about $1,500, if you count how much we spent to rent the UHaul to move my stuff to my new home. We had a cookout instead of a fancy reception, I had my dress made by a fashion design student at a nearby college (she did it for $100 plus we bought the fabric, so she could use it in her portfolio). My mom made the bridesmaid’s dresses…about the only thing we really spent money on in a traditional way were the flowers, and we got those from a small town local shop that had been doing business with my church for years, so they gave us a great price (as in a tenth of what most of the planning books suggested I would be spending). We had three photographers because my mom worked for the art department at a local university and several of the students (and a faculty member) there wanted to try their hand at wedding photography without the pressure of a paid gig for strangers. My sister made the cake.

    Be local, and be individual. That’s the best way to stay frugal. Stop thinking about what you’re supposed to do, what the books suggest, what your third cousin had, what will impress people, etc. Have what you want, and ditch anything you don’t. I didn’t care about flower girls or djs or first dances or any of that. To me a wedding was about two families coming together to celebrate that we’ll be linked now through the two of us. It was about bringing our loved ones into one place and just having a good time. Anything that didn’t service that goal? Gone.

  58. SunnyLea says:

    One that bothered me was item number 17. Whoever wrote the article clearly has no idea what bustling is, as pertains to a wedding dress. It isn’t the same as padding the junk in your trunk, it’s an aesthetically pleasing way of bundling the back of the dress after the ceremony so you don’t fall all over your train trying to do the chicken dance.

    On the other hand if one’s dress happens to have a bustle, that’s just a design element and neither adds to nor detracts from the cost of the wedding.

    • lizzybeans11 says:

      But some dress shops tack on $100+ to do the bustle…basically put a loop on the train and fold it into your butt.

      • SunnyLea says:

        This is true, but the author of the article clearly didn’t know what kind of bustle was being talked about. Trick is, get your alterations done somewhere reasonable in the first place and they won’t charge too much for the bustling, which is needed if you aren’t taking the gown off right away.

  59. jenn7110 says:

    We skipped most of the things on that list… not necessarily due to cost, but because they’re not our style.

    These are some things that saved us money, but also added some personal touches to everything.
    Venue: got married on a public beach. Rented the aquarium for the reception – unique, kid friendly, and cheaper than everywhere else we looked at. Plus, the rental fee supports their programs.
    Bridesmaids’ dresses: I specified a color and a length, and they were free to pick a dress that fit their budget and style. All 3 of them have been able to reuse their dress for some other occasion.
    Shoes: wedding was on a beach. Everyone in the wedding party was barefoot. We all had flip-flops for the reception.
    Set-up: my dad built the arch we got married under. The matron of honor’s husband set up the chairs (we only rented 10, for our parents and grandparents – everyone else stood in a semi-circle behind them). The reception was set up by the aquarium staff.
    Minister: my bridesmaid’s mother married us for the cost of accommodations and a donation to her church.
    Centerpieces: made our own to look like sandcastles
    Flowers: we bought simple boutonnieres and corsages from a local supermarket. The bridesmaids each carried a single stargazer lily. My husband made my bouquet with white roses and stargazer lilies we bought at the supermarket.
    Dress: I picked a super simple dress off the rack, on sale. Including alterations, I think it was maybe $250.

    We did have a wedding coordinator, mostly because our wedding was not in the city we lived in and we thought it was worth it to have someone physically there to help. Her fee was reasonable, and she was definitely worth it. We also splurged on the photography – his package was only slightly more expensive than the others we looked at, but his work was far superior. Plus we paid extra for a DVD slideshow of the photos, and the digital rights to all the pictures so that we can print them ourselves at any time in the future.

    I think it cost about $17k, including a 3 week honeymoon that covered 2 countries. My parents paid for the wedding by selling some stock and my mother in law bought our airline tickets for the honeymoon. We bought our rings and paid for the honeymoon itself without going into debt.

  60. SunnyLea says:

    If I had $50k to spend on a wedding, I’d have spent it.

    Really, the key here *ought* to be don’t spend more than you can, not “how can I cheap out as much as possible?”

    I’ve seen some lovely things out there, including $15,000 dresses, decorations and flowers that probably cost more than my whole wedding and honeymoon combined, the opportunity to provide my guests with limitless liquor of nice quality…

    You know, have a nice party. Enjoy yourself. Be hospitable. There’s a difference between affordable and chintzy.

  61. byron says:

    Most of these suggestions help you save a few hundred dollars which is an extremely small percentage of a “Traditional” wedding-industrial complex wedding. But the thousands+ dollar items are what lead to $20,000 weddings.. the catering, the hiring a reception hall, the photographer, the flowers are what you have to cut back on in order to save real beans. Or throw the traditions away all together. Get married in Vegas or Mexico or throw a backyard wedding with potluck food or keep the guest list in the dozens not hundreds.

  62. chocolate1234 says:

    The mister and I are naturally frugal, but splurged when it came to our wedding. After the fact, I’m happy we spent every penny. We saved, did no go into debt, and now after it’s over, still have plenty of savings left. We got great deals on pretty much everything, and splurged on a few things here and there, including having a limo. We wanted to be able to hang out with our bridal party and relax while going from place to place, and it was definitely worth the money.

    One of the best places to cut corners is by cutting the number of people in the bridal party. We decided early on to only have siblings stand up with us. Not only did it make for much less drama, but it was so much less expensive. In the end, our parents and siblings were the ones who stepped up and helped us the most, so I’m glad they were the ones standing by our sides.

  63. lizzybeans11 says:

    I’m having a consumer-savvy wedding in 7 weeks. It’s called shopping around, being flexible with your “Vision” and using/exploring thrift shops.

    I can’t understand couples who spend tons of money and go into debt just because it’s their wedding.

  64. stvlong92 says:

    Wow! $20,000 to get married. How much is a divorce these days?

  65. BigHeadEd says:

    Wedding plus honeymoon was under 4 g’s, but that was 25 years ago. It always seems that the more money spent, the shorter the marriage lasts.

    I have a standing offer to my daughter for $10,000 cash if she will elope. I’d rather she and her husband had money to spend however the choose rather than dropping that (or more) on flowers that will wilt in a day and food for people that I would not ever see under any other circumstance.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      But what if she wants a wedding? You’re essentially holding $10,000 over her head and asking her to give up something she wants, for money. Not really a great lesson.

      • BigHeadEd says:

        I see your point, but I don’t view a gift with no strings attached as to how it is spent as “holding it over her head” but if she wanted to spend the 10k on a wedding – so be it – and I didn’t say I wouldn’t pay for a wedding. What I take issue with is the given assumption that parents are obligated to pay for a wedding. This type of societal expectation and tradition creates a target-rich environment for the wedding industry that is akin to the emotional games played by the funeral industry.

    • JiminyChristmas says:

      My S.O. got a similar deal from her parents. When she graduated from college they gave her $15,000 with the explanation that she could do what she wanted with it but they would not pay for her wedding at a later date. This was in 1992.

      For the record, she bought a pickup truck, saved the remainder for a down payment on a house, and never has gotten married.

  66. Kibit says:

    I think nowadays it is easier to do a do-it-yourself wedding, with out anyone knowing you spent less money than the average wedding. You can find blank invitations at so many different places or order online. You can research and find the best food, best flowers with just a few clicks on your computer.

    This blog shows how they did everything for their wedding, I think it was around $4000. Worth checking out if you need some ideas.

  67. Luftvier says:

    Wedding chapel in Gatlinburg, TN while on Vacation. $200 including license, ceremony, and tip for the preacher. Irked the family a bit, but we would have had to foot the wedding bill ourselves.

  68. Darkneuro says:

    I’ve always said that if I ever get married (not bloody likely!), I was going to get married in front of the JP and get a permit to hold a BYOB/grillfest in a local park. Xerox invitations, hand deliver to those who I want there and that saves the cost of stamps. I cook, so I can make my own effing cake, BYOB so I don’t support my friends’ drinking habits, grillfest ’cause it’s easy (patties and bread and burger fixin’s, hot dogs and bread and fixin’s for them) and gee whiz! It’s a park. I can wear jeans or shorts and flip flops! There goes the dress, the shoes and all that cost. Then just pick me some daisies and there’s my bouquet.
    I watched my parents pay through the nose for my little sister’s wedding. Not gonna go there.

  69. stormbird says:

    etiquettehell.com will make you hate weddings. It would make Martha Stewart hate weddings.

  70. dru_zod says:

    I would like to thank articles like this for helping to put me (partially) out of business. I used to do wedding videography (among other types of videography) and I have recently decided to stop doing wedding videos simply because people are too cheap to pay me what they’re worth. Articles like this recommending you skip the video altogether don’t help with that. I typically spend 60 hours or more just editing the video and putting together a nice DVD and a lot of people think that isn’t worth more than $200. I can’t make a living doing $200 wedding videos. Fortunately, I do have other video work (commercials, corporate videos, etc.) coming my way for clients that can afford to pay more what it’s worth. But I think it’s a shame that people will pay wedding photographers 3-5 times what they will pay videographers for the same amount of work (or less). If more people would take the time to find a truly good videographer instead of hiring the first yahoo they see in the yellow pages, they might have a higher opinion of what video is worth and get a product that is more interesting to watch. I’ve seen some absolutely boring wedding videos that I wouldn’t watch more than once either. But I’ve also seen some that were incredible and well worth multiple viewings. Maybe this article, and others like it, should instead recommend that you do some research and find a GOOD videographer who will make a video that compliments the photos instead of suggesting you just skip the video altogether.

    Personally, I would rather have a video of my wedding than still photos if I had to choose. Ideally, I’d like both, but since I have yet to get married, I currently have neither. When I do get married, there WILL be a video, no doubt about that. For a record of the day, I’d rather be able to hear vows, music, speeches, etc. and see everything in motion.

  71. babyruthless says:

    I bought my wedding dress on eBay (cost: $200). I surfed Craigslist to find a baker and a florist, both of whom were small buisnesswomen operating out of their homes, did beautiful work, and charged half or so what people with storefronts were charging.

  72. giax says:

    Step 1: avoid anything listed on that list.

  73. ben_marko says:

    Wow. I got married in Thailand – and had to pay only $1,500. Had a whole banquet and everything! Of course I had to kneel in front of 9 monks for 20 minutes each.


  74. Clyde Barrow says:

    Cool picture. I want a wedding in black and white too!

  75. lawgirl502 says:

    My Vegas elopement…about $50. My divorce about $15K. Priceless BS

  76. NaomiK says:

    I got married in 1996. Ways we economized:

    * We bought the flowers at the Farmer’s Market and my mom did the arrangements. Corsages require some extra skill, so we ordered those from a florist, but didn’t tell her they were for a wedding.

    * We hired the cheapest photographer in town. The photos were mediocre, but you know, it’s not like we sit and page through the album on a regular basis.

    * Contrary to the advice in the article, we did have the men rent tuxedos — because we were right out of college and many of them did not own suits (or at least did not own suits that fit). “Rent a tux” was a much less burdensome instruction than “buy a suit.”

    * We didn’t have wedding favors or any of the odd fancy accessories they sell for weddings.

    * A friend made my dress. If she hadn’t, I’d have bought off the rack. I made my own veil. I was floored at the cost of the veils at the store — it’s 30 cents worth of netting and beads glued to a headband, you don’t have to be super crafty to do your own.

    My #1 “do not skimp on this” commandment: food. You don’t have to serve anything fancy, but there has to be enough.

  77. Kris says:

    I just got married a little over a year ago, and we spent around 10K for everything – including our honeymoon. My best advice is to just shop around for EVERYTHING. I found lots of little things for cheap on craigslist, and I purchased a couple of monograms on Etsy and made my own favors and programs. I found a FABULOUS photographer for less than half the going local rate, and a semi-inexpensive DJ. It just takes a little legwork. (I seriously considered hiring a day-of coordinator at the end, but nixed that when I found out it would cost $1400 just for the day!)

  78. Cantras says:

    Cake from the grocery store ($5 extra to get it as carrot cake, $5 extra for cream-cheese frosting).
    Friends with the lead photographer at the newspaper where I worked, who happened to be wanting to build a portfolio of wedding shots to maybe do that on the side. We gave her $100 in our thank-you note, and we have the files. No holding the negatives ransom!
    Aunt does catering on the side, did the food other than the cake.

  79. Syntania says:

    My first wedding: $150. That included JoP fee, license fee, the wedding ring ($35 for a simple plain thin 10k gold band) and a little bit of crat supplies for me to make a veil and bouquet. My first husband (now ex) was cheap, and even balked on that.
    Second wedding: $15,000. I made the invitations, made my dress and his outfit, plus what the groomsmen wore. We used the centerpieces the facility had. Our wedding was a renaissance theme, and we had 150 guests. Two years later people still compliment us on how much fun they had.

  80. momtimestwo says:

    We spent about $100 total. We got married at the courthouse, bought 2 gold bands, and had dinner at a local resturant after with my new inlaws. That’s it. Still happily married after 12 years.

  81. bonzombiekitty says:

    When I get married, it’s going to be hard to do it on the real cheap. My dad’s side of the family is really large, and I grew up with them all being very close. So when it comes to important family and friends of family that I would really WANT to be present I’m already at a pretty large list of people.

    Would love to get away with eloping, but with my family, I don’t think I’d really get away with it.

  82. merkidemis says:

    I really should have stood up to my wife more with our wedding. She was very insistant on doing the whole nine yards. Spent about $17K, the event looked like we spent $5K, and we had POURING rain so it wasn’t fun anyway. Stop teaching girls that they have to have a “dream wedding” to be happy! I wanted to buy a house instead, but nooooooo, a one day party is so much better.

  83. merkidemis says:

    We made our own wedding cake. White chocolate from a recipe we found online, vanilla frosting, and blended raspberries in between the layers. Many people commented that it was the best wedding cake they had ever had, even if it wasn’t the prettiest thing in the world. Protip: use fondant over frosting to make it look nice, but peal if off when you serve as it tastes terrible.

  84. JohnnyP says:

    I got married 2 years ago and am proud that we spent about 5k on our wedding, honeymoon, and rehersal dinner. We did a lunch service with no alcohol. (licenses just to serve was what I was going to spend on beer) . We bought the food prepared but served ourselves. My wifes cousin used to work in a floral shop so we ordered flowers from Costco and her cousin and some other family did the arrangements.
    our biggest expense was the food, 1k nothing else came close.
    The guy playing guitar for the service was free, returning a favor. Photography was free as a favor from a friend of a friend that does it as a hobby. (and it was better then a co worker that actually paid for hers from a “pro”) So many other things that we did. We had a beautiful wedding and had about 75 people.

  85. missdona says:

    Agree with most of the stuff, disagree strongly with one. The professional Make Up Artist.

    I can do my make up just fine for day to day life, but make up makes a huge difference in when being photographed. And since on her wedding day, a bride is photographed more than anyone, and probably the most she’ll be in her life, it’s worth the expense.

    For my wedding, I had my make up done at about 2:00 in the afternoon for a 5:00 PM ceremony. I have pictures that were taken close to midnight and I still look as I did at 5:00 PM. Left up to my amateurish hands, that would never be the case.

  86. TouchMyMonkey says:

    Justice of the Peace, small reception with cold cuts and German sparkling wine (you’re not allowed to call it champagne), and a bigger party that evening in a venue run by the lowest bidder – my first sergeant, who let me throw the party there for free. I think we paid about $200 for the whole shin-dig, and most of that went to the court (administrative overhead and all that) and the translator they made us get.

    That was 25 years ago, and we’re still married. So there.

  87. GirlCat says:

    Here’s a thought: Decide for *yourselves* what kind of wedding you want. We eloped, spent $2K on a super-deluxe weeklong honeymoon, and it was awesome. Eloping may create a temporary brouhaha, but everyone will get over it (and the people who don’t get over it are the same people who would be bitching for years about the seating arrangements at your fancy wedding). The question is, will *you* regret not having a traditional wedding. Be honest with yourself and you’ll be happier with your decision in the long run.

  88. thesedogs says:

    My husband and I got married in a city park by a friend of ours who happened to be ordained. It cost less than $150, including our marriage license.

  89. nodaybuttoday says:

    Mine has added up to $13k, including the honeymoon

  90. Hakib says:

    My fiancee and I are about to have our wedding in a very nice location, with very nice food for 75 people… music, decorations, photography, free alcohol the whole shebang.

    Total cost = 5,000$

    How? By not being retarded.
    – Our location is for both the ceremony and the reception, and is the single most expensive part (900$)
    – We’re being catered by a local restaurant chain, NOT a local caterer. Incredible food for 12$ per person instead of 50$ per person
    – Photography and music are free, courtesy of our artistically minded friends and family (trust me, most everyone is going to have a photographer relative)
    – We’re buying alcohol and hiring a bartender, rather than having a bartender bring his own alcohol.
    – Her dress was purchased online for 200$…the exact same dress was 1,000$ in store
    – We hand-made all the save the dates and invitations, as well as most of the decorations (supplies for which were found at flea markets, thrift stores, Etsy, and Ebay)
    – Our rings were purchased online for a pennance…. my really nice mens ring = 150$, her beautifully simple gold ring = 50$ (her engagement ring has the diamond, the wedding band doesn’t need it)

    Most importantly: We DIDNT hire a wedding planner!!! That 20K figure listed in the article is, Im almost POSITIVE, coming from “weddings where a wedding planner was hired”. It’s their job to spend your money, and theyre VERY good at it. If you’re a responsible human-being, you’re going to have a lot of time after the engagement to plan the wedding…use it wisely.

  91. funnymonkey says:

    We spent more than the average of $19k on our wedding (though not much) and we only had two of the things on that list. We had engagement photos, but only because they came with the package from our truly fantastic photographer (and even that lists suggests cutting video to spend more on still photography). And we had a limo.
    Wedding bands were not included in the cost of the wedding – we paid for that ourselves, the rest of our wedding was paid for by my parents.
    We went frugal-ish on just about everything, and it still cost a ton. Partly because of the size of the wedding. I have a big family, and we’re very close.
    There were places we could have saved, especially if we had cut people out, but we wanted our friends and family there. There were probably only 15-20 people I could have possible cut, and that only would have saved a couple of hundred dollars (for the food). Everything else I would have kept the same. Our wedding was far from perfect, but it was perfect for us. Still the best party I’ve ever been to.

  92. scgirl_212 says:

    The only thing I don’t agree with is a videographer..my reasoning is this..sure right now, even 10 years from now it may not seem that important..but what about 40-50 years from now? Your parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles and even some friends will not be around anymore, and it would be nice to be able to see those people who are gone, more than photos because photos don’t have sound or movement.

    That’s the one thing my parents wished they had after being married 35 years, as most of the people from their wedding are gone.

  93. HogwartsProfessor says:

    I would like to get married but at my age (45), I doubt I’ll find someone who hasn’t already done it. Even my current bf, who is much younger than me, has already made one trip down the aisle. Since my parents aren’t likely to pay for a big wedding and I could not care less, if it happens I’ll stick to something small with only those traditions that I want.

    A short guest list and a not-fancy lunch will suffice. I probably won’t register because I have household items already and whoever I marry probably will too. Whoever gets invited to my wedding goes to the reception. My cousin did a potluck reception; we were supposed to each bring food and her B-list had 100 people. I think B-lists are tacky and i wasn’t going to cook for people I didn’t know, so I went to the wedding but not the other.

    I don’t care to have my dad give me away; he doesn’t own me. Trying to explain that to the folks will be the hardest thing. “But Dad gave your sister away! You have to do it that way! Your mother used to be a bridal consultant!”

  94. JulesNoctambule says:

    . . .or, you know, just have the celebration for you, your family, friends and other loved ones that you want to have and everyone else can just STFU. I hate people bragging about how super-cheap-cheap a wedding they had just as much (possibly more than) people who brag about how much they spent. At least with the overspenders, the guests might actually feel like they’re at a celebration!

  95. YarpVark says:

    I’m a guy, and I’m going to call this artile a crappy one. For example:

    2. Diamond Wedding Bands
    Too many rocks on the hand could mean too many rocks in the head. The diamonds on your engagement ring should be more than sufficient. Besides, extra rocks just mean more callouses on your palm.

    My fiancée enjoys shiny things. That means her band will match the engagement ring I designed, which isn’t too far off from what they are showing.

    4. Classy Guestbook and Pen Set

    If your $100 pen doesn’t work after ten minutes, you’re definitely an incompetent when it comes to simple writing instruments. I spent more on a pen to sign my first mortgage with, and I still have – and use – that pen.

    8. Padded Guest Lists

    If they are important to you, or were involved in your life, why wouldn’t you invite them to be part of this?

    I stopped reading. Couponsherpa, your list is terrible.

    And since when did “consumerist” mean “excessively cheap schmuck”? I always thought of the consumerists here of being willing to pay for something thats worth it, not penny pinching tools.

  96. Doubts42 says:

    I have to disagree on #7. grooms cake is usually the only edible cake at the wedding. Actual wedding cakes usually taste like frosted cardboard. I say skip the 5 tiered, ungodly expensive, white monstrosity, and just have the armadillo.

  97. jcoltrane says:

    Get married in January or February. It’s in the event the dead-zone after New Year’s. You’ll get your choice of dates, lower rates, and vendors will be competing with each other trying to book your wedding. First choice of everything at cut-rate prices. Just make sure that everyone bidding (venue, caterers, entertainment, photographers, etc.) knows that they have competition and you’ll get great rates on everything.

    Wife and I had a champagne wedding on a beer budget in January and couldn’t have been happier.

  98. jcoltrane says:

    Get married in January or February. It’s in the event the dead-zone after New Year’s. You’ll get your choice of dates, lower rates, and vendors will be competing with each other trying to book your wedding. First choice of everything at cut-rate prices. Just make sure that everyone bidding (venue, caterers, entertainment, photographers, etc.) knows that they have competition and you’ll get great rates on everything.

    Wife and I had a champagne wedding on a beer budget in January and couldn’t have been happier.

  99. jcoltrane says:

    Get married in January or February. It’s in the event the dead-zone after New Year’s. You’ll get your choice of dates, lower rates, and vendors will be competing with each other trying to book your wedding. First choice of everything at cut-rate prices. Just make sure that everyone bidding (venue, caterers, entertainment, photographers, etc.) knows that they have competition and you’ll get great rates on everything.

    Wife and I had a champagne wedding on a beer budget in January and couldn’t have been happier.

  100. fencepost says:

    I don’t have good figures on it, but we had a small wedding at Sequoia National Park (on Big Trees Trail IIRC, by the conjoined trees Ed by Ned). The permit from the Park Service was for up to 50 people, but we ended up with only 30 guests of whom 10 were 7 and under (9 of them girls). The little girls were all in assorted fairy costumes ordered through a friend of the family who runs a dance studio, cost to the parents around $55-60 each for dress, wings, flowery head thing and a wand (and a possible Halloween costume as well!). The lodge wasn’t cheap, but was pretty nice, the reception was lunch, no bar or booze at all (and plates of hotdogs & grilled cheese for the kids with a TV behind a partition).

    A big part of the cost savings was that we weren’t trying to cater a 200-person reception, nor were we looking for gifts – we got a few things, but mostly we steered folks towards contributing to a Friends of the Parks type of charity that works with Sequoia.

    Cakes were small, single-layer and fondant-covered. Fancy cakes don’t travel 2 hours of winding mountain roads. Flowers were wooden roses, “corsages” were wire-and-nylon-mesh butterflies and dragonflies which also traveled really well completely flat.

  101. hazystargazer says:

    My husband and I got married at the county courthouse on a beautiful Friday in October, immediate family members in tow (about 15 of us total), took pictures outside (no pictures allowed inside), we all had a nice lunch in the banquet room of a local Italian restaurant, then went on a mini honeymoon in southern Indiana (B&B, gourmet country rustic restaurant, hiking, winery, antique shopping). The whole thing = less than $800, including the marriage license.

    No regrets, and I wouldn’t have done it any other way. I’m sure some relatives and friends were disappointed that they weren’t included, but oh well. We had no desire to rack up debt for ridiculous crap that goes into a “real wedding”, whatever that is. I also had no desire to be a nervous wreck and a constant worrywart, which totally would have been me if we’d gone the traditional route.

  102. jedifarfy says:

    Sending this to my friend. The only thing I disagree about is forcing brides to watch “27 Dresses”. That movie was terrible and I’d like my friend to still be my friend afterwards. I’ll just describe it for her. :P

  103. dgh says:

    We spent the cost of the marriage license. Then we went to breakfast at the nearby greasy spoon, but come to think of it one of our witnesses paid for that. (We had already bought each other rings years ago; they cost a whopping 5 bucks each from a jewelry cart outside Macy’s in SF.) We’re cheap and happy.