I am excited to announce that I am getting married in September 2020! My boyfriend of 5+ years proposed to me on the 4th of July, and it was everything I hoped it would be.
For a touch of backstory, I will admit that it was not a complete surprise. We started ring shopping together in the spring and I was actually there with him the day he ordered my ring at a local jeweler. The only catch was that he wanted to propose his way, on his terms.
He decided to pop the question while we were vacationing in Montréal, Canada over the 4th of July weekend. It was a hot and humid day, we were both sweating, and he actually thought to capture the entire moment on camera, courtesy of a friendly stranger who agreed to hold our GoPro for us. I thought she was just taking a photo of us, but I later learned the camera was recording the entire thing as my boyfriend got down on one knee and asked me to marry him.
Now, since we have been super transparent about getting engaged, a lot of the wedding planning has already been tended to.
Funnily enough, we put a deposit down on a venue, a photographer, and a DJ all before my now fiancé put the ring on my hand. I know what you’re probably thinking: WHAT? That’s crazy! And to some, maybe it is.
But let me tell you this: vendors get snatched up super far in advance. I have several friends who are wedding photographers, a few friends who have already gotten married, and everyone I have spoken with has told me the same thing: if you know who you want to work with, book them ASAP.
I can’t tell you just how many venues I researched, photographers I reached out to, and DJs I called only to discover that these vendors were already booking into 2021. Some vendors audibly laughed at me when I asked them for late 2020 dates. They get booked months (sometimes years) in advance. As such, we’ve been planning for months now, even though we’ve only officially been engaged a short while.
Since a lot of the planning and preparation has started, I can tell you budget is very much top of mind. I have seen firsthand how many vendors charge double, sometimes triple, the cost you might expect to pay for certain services. It can be incredibly frustrating to receive quotes for services, full well knowing we couldn’t possibly pay what some vendors charge because life in general is super expensive.
We have a mortgage, I have student loan debt, we have dogs, my fiancé has an auto loan, and we share the cost of utilities, grocery bills, and more. Not to mention, we absolutely do want to go on a Greek honeymoon following our wedding celebration. In short, it’s impossibly expensive, but there are ways to cut wedding costs.
Here are five ways I am planning my wedding on a modest budget:
1. We selected the cheapest venue we found that we actually loved the most.
I am only knee-deep into the planning process, but I will say that so far in my experience, venues are arguably the most expensive part of wedding planning.
My fiancé is a born and raised Mainer and I have lived in Maine over half my life now. We agreed getting married in a rustic barn was important to us, as it fits our Maine-theme best. Well, in case you don’t know, barns are super popular wedding venues and they are big money.
We received quotes from barns around the state ranging from $5,000 – $12,000! And honestly, that’s not even the most expensive I’ve seen. One vendor told me that a wedding at her barn with my wedding party size (roughly 65 guests) would costs us $30,000. I choked.
It became laughable to me that people spend that much money on a wedding, when you can basically earn a four-year college degree from a state school for that price tag. In short, we just couldn’t afford it or even justify it. Since we’re paying for our wedding ourselves, we had to reevaluate and find a realistic venue we could actually afford, without putting ourselves in debt.
And we found it! An adorable red, rustic barn set in the woods of western Maine. It’s affordable, beautiful, and absolutely perfect. The best part? For a fraction of the cost of nearby venues, it’s the same quality. Win-win for us!
2. I have been buying all my wedding decorations from Hobby Lobby.
I am probably late to the Hobby Lobby party, but if you haven’t been to one of their stores or even looked at their website, you’re totally and completely missing out! Hobby Lobby has some of the cutest decorations at the cheapest prices, for basically anything you could need.
Wedding decorations? They have them. Maternity stuff? It’s there! Home decor? They sell it! I’ve purchased so many wedding decorations from them for only a few dollars each. I’m not sure if I just happened to shop there at the right time, but I got 40% off my orders on top of deals where products were listed for 60% off. I legitimately paid a couple bucks for decorations that perfectly fit my rustic wedding theme. Things like signs, table decorations, boxes for cards, and more. Highly recommend you jump on the Hobby Lobby bandwagon!
Related: Do’s and Don’ts For Your Wedding Budget
3. We’re ordering cupcakes in lieu of a tiered cake.
For some couples, a traditional wedding cake is super important. There are many families that love the cake cutting ceremony and enjoy that moment.
When my fiancé and I started pricing out bakers, we were mortified to see what cakes can cost. One baker in particular quoted us $4 per slice to cut and serve the cake at the wedding (that is in addition to the actual cost to make and deliver the cake)! I was floored.
Many people reading this might be thinking: Yup, not surprised! But I was in total disbelief. In short, we ended up deciding that having a large, traditional wedding cake isn’t actually important to us. Additionally, we are likely going to skip the cake cutting. We’ve priced out cupcakes and found that they’re super affordable and a great alternative to a traditional cake. We can save money, while also having adorable cupcakes for photos!
4. We’re not going to have traditional floral centerpieces.
I always imagined having a wedding with big and beautiful flowers everywhere, but my wallet is telling me otherwise now that I’m pricing out florists.
The first florist I spoke with told me that for a dozen tables, centerpieces would run me $1,000. Again, I gasped. That $1,000 could be put to better use on so many other things, like the caterer, bar service, and more.
Knowing this, I completely changed up what I thought I wanted, and searched Pinterest in hopes of other ideas. I realized that slices of wood make a great centerpiece, and we can decorate them with different things. I priced out mason jars, baby’s breath, and candles. It’s all super cheap and a great way to have a nice centerpiece on a budget. So, that’s the plan!
Related: Why Wedding Planning Doesn’t Have To Suck
5. I searched long and hard for the photographer we can afford, but also admire.
Personally, photography services is one of the few things I am willing to splurge on in this whole vendor search. I want quality photos to commemorate my day that I can look back on for years to come. However, spending $3,000+ on a wedding package is not realistic for me.
I researched photographers everywhere in Maine, from Instagram searches to Google pages, and I was getting a bit deflated. Several of my friends who dabble in photography told me this is how it goes. Weddings are big money, especially for photographers. I get it, too! I really do. But it’s not how I want to spend my money and that’s a personal choice.
Well, eventually I came across a newer photographer who has photos I absolutely love. His edits are exceptional, his style fits our theme perfectly, and he is just the coolest guy. My fiancé and I took this photographer out for drinks and we completely bonded at a brewery nearby. He is stoked to capture our wedding day and his prices were unbelievably on par with what we hoped to pay. Sometimes things are just kismet and it all works out.
All in all, our wedding planning is off to a solid start!
We have contracts with and deposits down on vendors we absolutely want to work with that are within our agreed upon budget.
Weddings are super expensive, especially if you want a traditional event for yourself. For us, we’ve made modifications that fit our style and theme appropriately. I have been good about tracking our expenses so far and setting funds aside for the bills still to come, but so far we’re on par with our goal in mind.
Weddings do not have to cost thousands and thousands of dollars. Unless you need a fairy tale wedding or unless you have financial help, you can actually get married on quite a modest budget! There are ways to get most things at an affordable price, including eco-friendly invitations and stationary.
We’ve made cuts where we need to, not because we can’t afford certain things, but because we don’t want to spend our money that way. We’re more about the experience. We want our big day to be fun and simple, and we want to have an epic honeymoon thereafter. I’m super excited about what we have planned so far and I can’t wait to see what else is still to come!