The last couple of weddings I went to, I helped out somehow. Both brides, while trying to save money, did end up going over budget. I'll talk about what they did to save money and what tipped them over the edge.
Saved money by:
- having her mom do the photographer's taxes, and in return the photographer gave a discounted price
- keeping the wedding party small, three bridesmaids and two ushers
- keeping the guest list small: there was only immediate family and about 10 friends for both sides
- the bride helped out at the flower shop where she got her flowers from during Mother's Day and Prom, and only had to pay the wholesale price of the flowers
- it was an early wedding and reception, we were all out of there by around 5pm
Went over budget by:
- paying for the ushers and the groom's family to fly out for the ceremony (they paid for the entire ticket and hotel costs)
- going with the facility's recommended DJ
Saved money by:
- having all of us former Girl Scouts help with clean-up and serving cake and champagne (we were all in the same troop as the bride)
- having most of the table decorations from Big Lots and Michael's, and flowers from Vons (honestly, I couldn't tell until clean-up when I saw the bags)
- early ceremony with late lunch buffet
- alcohol free except champagne for toasts, with the option of sparkling cider for non-drinkers
Went over budget by:
- having a horse drawn carriage for the ceremony
- having a rather large wedding - 4 bridesmaids, 4 ushers, and at least 100 people total in attendance
- having the wedding in a church neither attended, and two priests
- personalized napkins
Another friend had her wedding about five years ago. It wasn't traditional in any sense, other than an exchanging of vows. She kept costs low by exchanging vows and having the reception in a conference room at her work. Most of us were in school at the time, so she threw a party a few weeks later for us all to show up.
I'm also in the "don't skimp on the photographer" group. One thing I'm going to really stress you don't skimp on is the dress alteration. If you buy a dress and you have to get it altered, don't go for the cheapest quote given. I admit I am biased because my fashion instructor alters wedding dresses for a living, and she brought in samples of what she has to do. It takes a lot of work to alter a wedding dress. If you go with the cheapest alteration quote you get, you run the risk of ruining the dress. Ask for samples of previous alterations and make sure the person you ultimately go with has previously worked on the material your dress is made of. You don't want to buy a dress, have it ruined, buy another one and have it altered, too. That easily runs into $10000, depending on the original cost of your dress. Ideally, you wouldn't need to get a dress altered - you'd find the magical dress that fits you perfectly.
A couple of other ways to save money:
- stick to one dress. Apparently, it's becoming a trend to have two dresses: one for the ceremony and one for the reception. Get one dress, with a removable train. If you or anyone you know is an experienced seamstress, see if that person will make your dress as a gift.
- make or decorate your own wedding favors. Adding a simple ribbon to a plain little bottle of bubbles from Michaels is really quite cute
- You don't have to buy a diamond. If you end up getting a divorce (really hope you don't!) and you try to sell the ring, you won't get as much as you paid for it. Diamond jewelery is hard to get rid of. A simple band is enough, or if you absolutely need stones, consider different stones. One lady I know has a sapphire wedding ring. There are a lot of places that also allow you to make each other's rings. One alternative (for those who really are ready for commitment) is to get matching "ring tattoos." Yes, I know a couple who got tattoos of intertwining roses on their ring fingers.
- Vegas is actually a pretty cheap place to get married. You can have a traditional wedding there, if you don't want one of those theme weddings they offer.
- Go to bridal fairs. They're chock full of offers for brides.