Looking for budget-friendly ways to host a great wedding and still have enough to get by after the party’s over? Sticking to a budget isn’t always easy: Popular media would like us to think that having a perfect wedding day with all the perfect fixin’s is the most important thing – even more important than life after the wedding.

As a starting point, learning to scrutinize media messages can help you stay on budget. Our consumerist culture is notorious for raising wedding standards and feeding our desires for material things. Try to remember your original, mutual goals for the wedding. So, if you didn’t want an extravagant wedding in the first place, don’t let slick marketing fool you into thinking that what you want and can afford is inferior to what you could have. (You’ll have a happier post-wedding bank account, for sure!)

DIY wedding ideas

Check out these money-saving tips for an affordable wedding:

  • Getting it done: Designate managers to oversee certain areas of your wedding for you. On your wedding day, you’ll have to let others manage the details since you’ll be too busy getting married!
  • Wedding dress: Your wedding dress doesn’t have to be one of your biggest expenses. For spring/summer weddings, consider a white, tea-length bridesmaid’s dress instead of the traditional gown. Especially if you plan on dancing or getting married at the beach barefoot, a short dress allows for more mobility and comfort. Or, consider renting or borrowing a dress; you’ll only wear it once, anyway.
  • Bridesmaid dresses: Instead of going to a wedding store for your bridesmaid’s dresses, look in a mall first. Often, clothing retailers sell dresses that would be perfect as bridesmaid dresses as part of their regular merchandise.
  • Groomsmen attire: Instead of renting suits, opt to have each groomsmen wear their own suit to the wedding if they own one (black is most common). If the suits are a slightly different shade of black or different in styles, make sure to check beforehand. And if you want their look to complement your color scheme, buy each of them matching ties.
  • Invitations: Send simple, double-sided postcard invitations. Instead of creating an elaborate invitation package complete with mini-maps, driving directions, registry info and reply cards, direct guests to your wedding website for all this information and to RSVP. Build your own free wedding website at Theknot.com.* Or create a simple blog dedicated to your wedding details through websites like Wordpress.com* or Blogger.com*.
  • Photographer: Hiring a professional photographer will likely be one of your biggest wedding expenses. If you’re not insisting on magazine-quality photos, consider hiring a photography student from a local art school or ask a friend with great photography skills.
  • Videographer: Consider asking a friend with a video camera to film live-action shots.
  • Food: Instead of a fully catered sit-down or buffet meal, choose a light lunch, tea or after-dinner appetizer reception. Ask family or friends in your church, volunteer or work communities to contribute appetizers or desserts in place of a wedding gift. If needed, supplement the food with different cheeses, crackers, olives, meats, and other canapés from a local food store.
  • Cake: If you’ve researched cakes already, then you know that one of those trendy wedding cakes that can feed one hundred can cost between $400 to $1,500 and more for a top cake designer. If you must have one, order a smaller cake as your presentation piece and supplement it with slab cake and other desserts. Or if you want to try something different, skip the cake and consider cupcakes, your favourite pie or even a huge stack of cream puffs with optional toppings.
  • Wedding favour ideas: Origami, homemade jam, your favourite candies, chocolates, home-baked cookies wrapped in tulle and tied with ribbon.
  • Decorations: Try discount home décor stores, your local Asian markets and dollar stores. Also see if you can borrow decorations from recently married friends.
  • Flowers: For decorative floral arrangements, consider using potted plants which you can give away at the end of the night. But if you want to arrange your own floral centrepieces and bouquets, having a friend who has a wholesale membership is really handy. If not, look for florists who have the best deal and assortment of loose flowers. Some will even take your order, pick them up for you at the wholesaler or flower auction, and give you a discount for the bulk sale. Enlisting your bridesmaids to assemble the bouquets, boutonnieres and centerpieces can be a good opportunity for them to get to know each other better, especially if some of them are from out of town or from different circles of friends.
  • Rehearsal dinner: Cut back your invitation list. If you want everyone there who is helping with your wedding in any way, try a barbecue in the park in summer time.
  • Car rentals: To get the bride and groom, the wedding party and family around town, you may not have to rent cars. Consider borrowing vehicles from friends; they’ll likely be willing to loan you their car for one day.
  • Simple thank-you cards: Buy a stack of 8.5x11 cardstock from your local office supplies store. On your computer with an elegant font, type "Thank You" on the right-hand side, in the middle of the first half of the paper. Then, type "Thank You" again below, in the middle of the second half. Whether you cut length- or width-wise, one sheet of 8x11 can make two cards. Cut out your cards and fold each in half. If many of your guests live in the same town as you, save postage by handing your thank-you cards out in person.

Enlist friends and family

Although you will save money with many of these do-it-yourself tips, the key to accomplishing these tasks is delegating enough of them to helpers. And if you are asking friends and family to perform responsibilities that usually require hiring a vendor or service (like photography, bringing and preparing food), give them the option of participating in these ways instead of giving a wedding gift. Either way, always cover or reimburse the cost of all supplies, tools and even gas and travel time they will need to accomplish a given job. While some people are more than generous in this regard, things can evolve into bigger tasks than were originally intended and can be quite draining – on their energy and their pocketbook!

Of course, it’s your wedding and it’s up to you where you want to save or splurge. But with a little creativity, some extra help and patience, you can pull off a beautiful wedding without going into debt.

*Website references do not constitute blanket endorsement or complete agreement by Focus on the Family Canada.

To read, "Wedding planning tips: Part one," click here.

Matthea Schumpelt was an associate editor at Focus on the Family Canada at the time of publication.

© 2009 Focus on the Family (Canada) Association. All rights reserved.

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