My fiance and I walked into the most beautiful wedding reception hall. The manager brought us out to the deck where the waves from the Long Island Sound lapped gently on the beach. We were hooked. Well, until we sat down in her office and even the price of the “bare bones” package made us fall off our seat. We smiled meekly and told her we would be in touch knowing that our “dream” wedding was dashed. Recovering from the disappointment, we made our way to a more modest establishment with a small town charm, a stone bar, hard wood floors, and wooden beam ceilings. It was romantic and intimate and about half the price. We booked it without hesitation. Finished with deciding on the date, booking the church and the reception, we breathed a sigh of relief.
Well until we pulled out the good old excel spreadsheet and started filling out the costs for everything. Church, reception, invitations, dress, favors, flowers, photographer, DJ, limo, honeymoon. The list seemed endless. We entreated the excel spreadsheet for some kind of miracle but unfortunately, addition is obstinate that way. It just adds. Faced with an unyielding spreadsheet whose final total came out bright red in comparison to what we could actually afford, we were confronted with some hard decisions. So about five months away from our wedding, we went into panic mode.
The first to go? That beautiful intimate romantic reception hall. The truth was we could limit the guest list but neither of us wanted less of our friends and family to come. I wanted to cry but instead I hit the phone book and the internet. I made up a list of over 50 different possible reception sites—ranging from Grange and Knights of Columbus halls, to fire departments and lodges. Any place that could potentially fit all of our guests. I sent the list to my sisters and they helped me call all of the potentials including some long shots. Some managers gave my sisters some super long pauses when asked if they hosted weddings. Clearly they had never been asked that before! Miraculously my sister found a reception hall that was not listed on any of the wedding sites in the local newspaper. Their prices were half of our other reception hall and included the DJ and limo!
Once we made that hard decision, we started looking at all of our choices. Did we really want to spend this much money on one day? There was no way we could save enough. We could put the cost on a credit card, or we could change the figures in that excel spreadsheet to start calculating in our favor. That’s the moment our love for DIY began. It definitely takes more time and work, but DIY is a perfect way to save money that you don’t have.
Invitations: We went to Target and purchased plain white wedding invitations. My husband designed a picture of a bride and groom under a Celtic cross that became a recurring theme. The wedding invitations did not come with that extra inside envelope. It was tight writing all the addresses “and Family” but less weight was a good thing because we were able to mail the invitations with a regular stamp. We also printed our own dinner rehearsal invitations and place cards using the same design.
Cake: My aunt asked to make our cake as her wedding gift to us. The cake was beautiful and she also made a surprise groom’s cake with a wooden house on it (really a birdhouse) to represent my architect husband. It was so touching.
Favors: We ordered wire and shaped the design of the bride and groom into picture holders. When the guests arrived, their name and table settings were held in place. This is one area of weddings that I have seen countless number of great creative DIY ideas in different price ranges.
Flowers: Because loosely held flowers were all the rage when we were getting married, we chose to buy our flowers from the local grocery store. My bridesmaids had delphinium while I held a dozen calla lilies. My husband, Pat, had a single white rose while the groomsmen wore white carnations. We picked them up the night before and family helped wrap them with floral tape and ribbon. My mother picked up big potted plants from the local nursery for the church.
Limo: The limo that came free with the reception was from the 1970s. For a couple hundred dollars extra you could upgrade to a brand new limo. At that point, saving money had become sort of a game. I chose not to get the upgrade and instead sent a picture of the limo to my sisters and joked about us riding in style. To my surprise, they sent a brand new limo anyway.
We shaved thousands of dollars off our costs by doing some things ourselves, and you can too. Even though it is hard to sacrifice on the extras, by opting for simpler packages, you can stay on budget. It definitely takes extra work and you will have to ask many favors, but your friends and family will be happy to help. Nothing went on our credit card and we had a beautiful wedding. It’s easy to get swept away by the “fairy tale wedding” but it’s not the swan ice sculpture nor the roast beef carving station that makes it a dream come true. It’s you and your spouse vowing before God to give your life to each other. Everything else is just icing on the cake.