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Five Small Things To Do For Your Big Day That Will Save You Thousands

by Meg · 20 comments

Today we’re continuing a look through Meg’s classic series on how to have a kick-ass wedding while also saving for an around the world trip. Meg dominated our wedding planning and highlights 5 ways she was able to save big for the big day.

Have you already tried any of her methods for your big day? Will you think about trying any of them if your big day is still approaching?

Save money for your wedding in 5 easy ways

As mentioned in my previous article, when Tony and I got engaged, our parents gave us a set amount of money to spend however we wanted – Whether it be on a fancy wedding, a down payment for a house, etc.  We collectively made the decision that we wanted to use this cash towards something more than just one insane wedding bash.

…And here we are today about to travel the world for an ENTIRE year with some of that cash!!! [ editors note: And we’re still going strong 8 months into our trip :)]

Having said this, we still wanted to make our wedding special.

5 Small (Yet Essential) Way We Kept Our Wedding Day Under $5,000

1.  All Dresses Are Created Equal: Don’t fall into the “wedding gown” trap.  A wedding dress is just supposed to be in the “white-family”, correct?  But who says that your dress needs to be an actual bridal gown?  A white dress is a white dress.

Wedding gowns have the same exact quality of fabric and detail as your traditional dress… for 3X the price!

For my wedding, I actually found a stunning floor-length dress that I just ordered in white… and wa-LAH, I had myself the perfect wedding gown – for just $250!

2.  Skip the DJ: I am a firm believer that big weddings are just that much better with a kickass band… So this tip might work better for the smaller weddings.

Instead of hiring a DJ or a band to provide the entertainment for your wedding, why not leverage your MP3 and create your own wedding playlist to jam out at for the wedding?  Tony and I got married on a boat and had a blast on our couch one lazy Sunday afternoon as we created one EPIC wedding playlist to play on the surround sound system on board.

The best thing about this scenario is that you have more control over your music and can avoid the random kinks the DJ throws into the mix – Anybody up for the Chicken Dance?

3.  Drop the “Wedding” Label When it Comes to Hair and Make-up: I am typically a do-it-yourself (DIY) kind of girl, but I CANNOT do anything ingenious with my hair beyond your typical ponytail.

So I decided to stick with the pros on my big day.  However, when I looked at salon websites, I noticed that a regular “Up-Do” was $75, while a “Wedding Up-Do” was $250…WAAAIT a minute.  They are the same thing, aren’t they?!?

This seemed like a total rip-off to me.

Having said that, I called up a local salon and told them that I wanted to schedule a hair appointment for an up-do.  I never mentioned the word “wedding” when I was making my appointment.  They quoted me $75 over the phone.

When I went in for my appointment they asked what the occasion was and I informed them that it was for my wedding.  Unfortunately for them, they had already quoted me at the lower price and couldn’t do a darn thing about it… And I managed to keep the extra $175 in my pocket… where it belonged!

4.  Make Your Own Flower Arrangements:  Since Tony and I got married on a sailboat at sunset, the ambiance was pretty much in the bag and minimalistic was the way to go.  But I still wanted a bridal bouquet as well as flowers for both my Matron and Maid of Honor.

However I didn’t realize that bridal bouquets alone can cost over $150 if you have them designed by a florist.  Once again, this seemed like a rip-off.

So on the day of our wedding, my tasteful mother and mother-in law went to our local Whole Foods and hand-picked beautiful floral arrangements for the our three bouquets.

To this day, I still get complements on my flower arrangements when I show people my wedding photos… You would never know they were hand-made and only cost $30.  Amazing!

5.  Think Outside the Cake Box:  At almost every wedding you go to, you have the traditional tiered wedding cake that can cost thousands of dollars… This is the money you pay for the photo-worthy design of the cake – not the quality of the cake.  In fact, most of the time, the cake just isn’t all that good.

There are so many more creative (and yummy) things you can do with your wedding dessert to keep your costs low – and the mouths of your guests watering!

For example, Tony and I had Brioche Bread Pudding for our wedding dessert.  My sister got married in the Florida Keys and had sliced Key Lime Pie for all the guests.  You can also do s’mores, cupcakes, make-your-own ice cream sundaes… The list goes on and I am getting hungry just thinking about it!!!

Bonus Tips

Now these five tips were just some of the things that I personally did for my wedding to keep my costs down.  However, there are plenty of more creative ideas out there that you can do for your big day.  How about:

  • Get creative with your venue – Try a backyard BBQ wedding!
  • Remember that you are only going to wear your wedding dress for a few hours… Instead of spending a fortune on a brand-spanking-new dress from a posh boutique bridal shop, why not rent your dressbuy your dress online, or even buy a “gently used” dress?  A couple of my girlfriends went down this road and they had some of the most beautiful dresses of the bunch!
  • Seek out qualified local university students for your DJ and Photography gigs.
  • Leverage Evites instead of spending money on costly snail-mail wedding invitations
  • Put a tab down at the bar instead of paying for an “Open Bar” upfront.  At my sister’s wedding an open bar cost $75 a person… But besides her younger friends still “living the college dream”, how many people do you think ACTUALLY drank $75 worth of booze (besides my shot loving, table-top dancing 89 year-old grandma)?
  • Create mini photographers:  Give your guests memory cards for their digital cameras to snap shots during the wedding and collect the cards at the end of the night to compile your own wedding album.
  • Make your own wedding favors – Nothing says “thank you for coming to our wedding” like homemade cookies!

Bottom line, your wedding day will be hands-down the most extraordinary day of your life – whether you decide to spend $50K or $5K on it.  The choice is yours on how you want to spend all of that wedding money.

For me and Tony, we decided to cut MANY corners on our big day and spend the majority of our wedding fund planning the trip of a lifetime!

… And to this day, NO REGRETS!



Your Turn: Did you spend big on your wedding? Did you come up with some creative ways to save? What about those who have yet to take the plunge… what do you want to do for the big day?

About Meg
Exhausted from traveling every week as a Business Management Consultant early in my career, I took a year off in 2012 to travel at my own pace. I am a high-energy girl that loves being active, eating food, drinking wine, and exploring the world with my partner-in-crime (and husband), Tony! I now reside in Portland, Oregon and continue to write about travel, food, wine, and the awesome adventures we have in the Pacific NW!

Edna May 29, 2012 at 6:56 am

Ooh I love this! Especially the dropping the ‘wedding’ label part — I can’t believe they would’ve charged five times as much for the same hairdo! Mike and I definitely want a small affair; we can’t justify spending that much money on a one-day party when we can put it towards travel. I’ll definitely be keeping these in mind when I plan our wedding (oh it still feels weird to say that!)

Meg May 29, 2012 at 7:41 am

Yeah it was ridic how much prices inflated with the wedding label… But that could have been Miami for ya! And small is the way to go! I heard so many people who said they regretted doing a big wedding… But I haven’t heard anyone who had a small wedding say they wish they did a big one!

Sidenote: We are so excited for you and Mike! CONGRATS lady!! What amazing news and enjoy this time as a newly engaged couple… Such a fun experience!

Are you thinking a Paris wedding? Romantic!

Edna May 29, 2012 at 7:48 am

Yeah we went to a big wedding in Ireland a couple months back and attending it made me realize it was SO not what I wanted!

Thanks for the congrats! It’s a bit harder to enjoy from 6,000 miles apart, but we’re still pretty happy regardless :) We’re actually thinking a Southeast Asia wedding! It wouldn’t be too hard to organize from Singapore, and I’m thinking about heading back there when I’m finished in Paris (if no other jobs come up that is…like in, say, Italy!)

Josh | Traveling 9 to 5 August 22, 2012 at 9:38 pm

Great tips Meg! It’s so important to save on the “big ticket” items in life. People try cutting out little things like drinking coffee to save money, but in one fell swoop you can dramatically lower your spending by saving huge on one of your major life expenses. So, congrats to you guys! Obviously you are putting those savings to good use!

Meg August 22, 2012 at 10:40 pm

Thanks Josh! When we decided to start saving for our RTW trip, we also downsized from a two bedroom to one bedroom apartment, which saved us a TON each month that we directly put towards our travel fund – You are so correct that bigger chunks of savings goes much further!

Megan August 23, 2012 at 2:48 am

i LOVE that your bouquet was from whole foods.

Meg August 23, 2012 at 3:33 am

haha its was my one stop shop for everything back in the states… Some of the bigger stores even sold clothes as an added bonus! Now I just wish I can one day afford to shop there again!

Devon Mills August 23, 2012 at 1:08 pm

Dropping the wedding label = genius!! I never would have thought of that. Also, I loooove your dress. So simple, yet classy and stunning.

I’m loving this posts. Keep ’em coming! : )

Meg August 24, 2012 at 1:05 am

Thanks so much Devon! I think we have one more wedding post to come… Stay tuned! 😉

Vicky August 24, 2012 at 8:49 am

Love this post. Although I have no wedding plans in the near future you touch upon everything here that I find to be absurd in large expensive weddings. My friend is getting married soon and to get her hair done is $350 (since she has a practice hair up-do done ahead of time) and makeup for $250 (with a trial run as well) – that’s $600 just to look good from the neck up for a maximum of 12 hours – it’s just insane to me and there’s no way I could ever justify spending that kind of money on hair and makeup. To further put it into perspective that’s what our one way flights to Japan cost us (though we were able to use credit cards points to purchase them). Weddings can seriously get out of control. I had Father of the Bride on tv last night and Steve Martin always cracks me up with how he’s running around panicking over wedding costs.

Meg August 24, 2012 at 11:18 pm

haha Father of the Bride is such a good movie… Tony even loves it (even though he won’t admit it ;-))! I agree. I don’t knock any of my friends for how they spent their money on their big day, but it’s just not my cup of tea. Honestly, the wedding day goes by so freaking fast. I remember at the end of the evening, I did not know where the whole day went. I practically blacked out from the sheer joy of it… I just can’t imagine having that same feeling after I spent thousands of dollars and over a year planning it!

Vicky August 27, 2012 at 8:53 am

Haha yes Dave loves Father of the Bride too and I won’t even let him deny it! I too have heard people say that the wedding day just flies by so fast and with all the nervous/anxious/excited feelings leading up to it parts of the day just end up being completely blacked out. And let’s face it no matter how amazing a day could be, could it ever be worth $25-40k? Definitely not for me (or you guys either it seems)!

Meg August 27, 2012 at 11:06 pm

Yeah no day is worth that much! On my wedding day, I was so excited that I forgot to eat anything all day and I didn’t realize it until that night when my mom gave me a glass of champagne and I was almost knocked on the floor from getting buzzed so quickly… It was quite embarrassing!

Barb August 29, 2012 at 12:03 pm

Great advice Meg! Here are some additional tips for a small/medium size destination wedding from my experiences in “marrying-off” a daughter.

Wedding/Reception Location – Pierre’s Restaurant, Islamorada, FL
Number of Attendees – 55

#1. Rental fees for some venues are less if you hold your reception on a Sunday vs. Saturday. We saved over $1,000 for choosing a Sunday evening.

#2. Definitely go with running a bar tab vs. a flat per person charge. For us, the difference between the 2 methods was $1,700 when the event was over. There were other contributing factors to our bar-bill savings. Many of the attendees (ages 25-35) had been vacationing in FL the week before the wedding. By Sunday their alcohol consumption was low. People also had early Monday morning flights; no one wants to be hung over on a plane.

#3. Many venues require payment on the meals prior to the reception. Know what your event contract includes; an 18% tip is often added beforehand.

#4. Many families often hold small informal gatherings in their hometown within a few months after a smaller wedding like yours. Some options include a simple picnic; brunch; dish-to-pass dinner; etc. This enables close family and friends who did not attend the event to visit with the bride and groom and the expense is minimal.

Meg August 29, 2012 at 11:26 pm

Great tips and thanks for sharing with us! I am still cringing about #3 when you accidentally tipped on top of the already baked in 18%… Whoops!

Lynn Williams September 8, 2012 at 7:43 pm

This is a fabulous article. Thanks for sharing your advice with other women. I particularly loved the part where you didn’t mention that you were getting a wedding updo. It is sad to think of the cumulative money that could have been saved if all women just neglected to mention that it was their “big day.” I am sure 9 out of 10 times, the hairstyle turns out exactly the same!

Meg September 16, 2012 at 12:48 am

Thanks Lynn and I’m glad you found it helpful. I think the traditional (and costly) wedding updo includes a consultation, but for a small wedding like the one we did, it just wasn’t necessary!

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