Wedding bill blues.

th17 150x145 Wedding bill blues. Quick question: Would you spend almost three-fourths of your annual income on one party?

Yeah, me neither. But some people will spend that much – or more – on their nuptials.While researching a wedding article for MSN Money Frugal Nation, I learned that:

  • The average wedding cost $28,427.
  • The average income for a U.S. resident is $39,959.

Do the math.

Incidentally, that average wedding price does not include the cost of a honeymoon.

And yes, I know that “averages” lie. But even if they can’t tell the whole truth, they can give pretty good approximations of trends. The averages in this case came from more than 17,500 brides surveyed by TheKnot.com for its annual “Real Weddings Study.”

Although the recession isn’t over, only 26% of the women surveyed said that the economy affected their plans. Nearly 1 in 4 (23%) didn’t even have a specific budget, and about 1 in 8 women (13%) said they spent more than $40,000 on their weddings.

I wonder if there were a survey question that read like this: What would you do differently/what did you wish you’d known before you planned this shindig?

And if there were, I wonder if any of the women answered: I wish I’d known that the color of the place cards doesn’t really matter, that half the guests were going to leave those expensive “favors” on the tables and that we could have spent a lot less and still have been just as married.

We all dream differently

Some people wonder if they can afford to get hitched. Well, sure. Marriage licenses are cheap and so are civil ceremonies. If by “afford” you mean “go into debt to satisfy other people’s expectations,” that’s a question that only you can answer.

I think you can stick to a budget and still get married in style. But it’s up to you to set that style, rather than let wedding planners and bridal magazines tell you what you want. Or, more to the point, sell you what they want.

Many of the commenters on my MSN Money article shared their frugal-nuptials tips. Some were extremely frugal, the “went to City Hall and out for pizza afterward.”  Others explained how they stuck to a specific budget but still created memorable weddings.

We all dream differently. Sometimes those dreams are cultural: If your parents can’t pay for it and invite approximately 3,000 relatives then they would never forgive themselves. Some of us are extremely pragmatic: We’d rather do a small ceremony with light refreshments so we could put $20,000-plus down on a house or throw it toward student loans.

Sometimes the limits are imposed by circumstance. When my daughter got married she was on disability and the two of them were paying off medical debts. Their long engagement (two years) allowed them to make inroads on the bills and to plan and shop very, very carefully. Think “Craigslist.” Think “yard sale.” Think “dollar store.”

Keeping it real

A relative was ordained via mail-order in order to perform the ceremony. Both the wedding and reception took place at a social hall that another family member procured for free. Its no-alcohol policy made the choice of beverages pretty simple: sparkling cider, soft drinks and bottled water.

The reception: sliced meats, cheeses, potato salad, vegetable trays, five kinds of fresh fruit, rolls, crackers, hummus, salsa and chips. Most of the food and drink were paid for with gift cards earned through rewards programs like MyPoints and Inbox Dollars. About $90 out of pocket paid for everything else on the menu.

The most delicious cake I have ever eaten was contributed by a friend as his wedding gift. On top stood a vintage ceramic bride and groom that Abby bought for a quarter at an estate sale. (She later found this figure selling for $45 on eBay.) Estate and yard sales also turned up serving pieces and decorations for as little as 50 cents apiece.

On the tables were scattered Hershey’s “Bliss” chocolates — appropriate for a wedding, we thought — and Ghirardelli chocolate squares. The Hershey’s candy was free after rebate; I got the Ghirardelli free by trading in inkjet cartridges.

Abby and I each signed up for credit cards that started us off with 20,000 miles. We charged almost every purchase we made for one year and, for a total of $150 in annual fees wound up with enough mileage to pay for their honeymoon tickets.

That honeymoon was in the Orlando area; they figured they’d be so wrought-up after all the planning that it would be fun and cathartic to scream their heads off on roller coasters. They searched hard on the Internet for the best park deals and for an extremely cheap hotel room with a kitchenette. (They also learned a useful, if icky, frugal hack: If you throw up on yourself on a ride at Disney World, you can get a free replacement shirt at one of the park’s gift shops.)

Many hands make light work

The total number of frugal hacks are too numerous to mention. I’ve almost certainly forgotten some of them. But the money they saved let her have some girly splurges, such as a professional makeup artist ($65), pedicures for her bridesmaids ($17.95 each at a Seattle beauty school) and an elaborate wedding gown ($500 from a breast-cancer charity, of which she paid $250 and I paid $250).

Abby also hired a photographer for a few hours instead of relying on shutterbug friends and family. The results made me smile, and sigh and, yeah, weep. She looks like my mother in some of them. How I wish Mom could have been there.

This kind of wedding isn’t for everyone, but it was a delightful occasion. “Handmade” doesn’t mean “second-rate” any more than “expensive” means “quality.” And as it turned out, it’s a damned good thing they were practical: One month before the wedding, Tim got laid off.

It took a dozen friends and family members to engineer the day. This made the wedding more special, since we all had a hand in making sure Abby and Tim had a memorable day. And we were working with our hearts as well as our hands.

Readers: If you could give a newly engaged couple advice about wedding planning, what would it be?


38 Comments

  1. Considering how much most people spend to get divorced, NO. I’m all for a fun party, but weddings are getting out of control. Heck, one of my friends who was getting married for the second time was cool about everything, but two of her bridesmaids (I was one of five bridesmaids) were pressuring people to spring for an expensive long weekend in New Hampshire, etc. She was not listening to me when I told her I could not afford that.

    • Donna Freedman

      Yep, you and Kimberly are facing the same sort of pressure: that everyone pays for the bride to get a vacation. In fact, some brides have more than one shower (!) in more than one destination city (!!).
      I agree things are out of control.

  2. I know you mentioned that data can lie, but it’s important to know why that’s important. If we say the average wedding costs $28K, does that mean that most people spend between $20K and $35K on weddings? What about regional differences? Religious differences? It might be that the reported average is significantly higher than what most people are doing – or significantly lower. Or there might not be a real “trend” in the data, and people spend wildly different sums on their weddings regardless of what is “average.”

    There are many kinds of “average”: mean, median, mode. A better way to describe the data would be to use quartiles to get a sense of how clustered the data are around the supposed average. The mean in particular (what we all think of as the “average”) doesn’t tell an accurate story when the data are skewed from a normal bell curve.

    • Donna Freedman

      That old “if Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and I are in the same room, we make an average salary of $8 gazillion per year” example is still a good one.

      • priskill

        Hah!! Great article — keep reading horror stories about the debt expected of guests and bridesmaids. Way out of control. LOVE the sound of Abby’s wedding. Will run this by my daughter when the time comes.

  3. jestjack

    To me it’s all about what the bride and groom want. I have tenants who were married in a field with a total of 7 people present, and they all went to a favorite restaurant afterward. They speak of “their day” in glowing terms… On the other hand DD1 wanted a more…elaborate affair….with 200 of “their closest friends and relatives”….with a sit down dinner….and a DJ…flowers at every table….etc. Despite the fact that I’m thriftier than most,and that we no longer speak….I would do it again….How crazy is that! IMHO one size does not fit all it really depends on what you want. DD1′s biggest bargain of her wedding….the rental of the Chapel for the ceremony at her alma mater complete with staff and coordinator…$100….that’s right $100…No tipping allowed!

    • Donna Freedman

      I remember that tip! I used it in one of last year’s Frugal Nation posts, about wedding venues. I bet a lot of people would never think to ask their former colleges.

  4. Decide early what your truly important items are. That is where you need to invest. My dress, his suit, and the photographs were of premiere importance to me. Everything else was window-dressing. So when the organist had a seizure the morning of our wedding, and was a no-show; I was worried about what may have happened to her. It was not a huge deal to me that I did not have music to walk down the aisle to.

    Choose your must-have’s, and then be realistic as to whether or not you “need” all the other stuff.

    I also want to share one of my favorite wedding stories…A friend of mine was despairing of the cost of her wedding on a very limited budget, and being able to even afford her dress. Circumstances necessitated that she and her fiancee marry before his deployment, and not after, as had been their plan. Once we found out about the stress she was under;family and friends wound up divvying up the wedding items and providing them as her present. Our young bride’s out of pocket expenses? $185.00 for a lovely wedding with 80 guests, there to celebrate the love of 2 amazing folks who are still together 15 years and 3 children later.

  5. Hi, Donna! I think you interviewed me awhile back for a frugal wedding article you did a year or so ago as well. My wedding cost a total of about $2,000, not including my honeymoon (which cost more – hah! ;-) . We DIY’d it as much as we could: my mom catered it, one brother paid for the string duo; the other paid for printing invitations.

    I scoured outlet stores and hobby stores like Michaels and Hobby Lobby for sales on wedding accessories: my tiara was about $45, and my shoes were $50. My dress was probably the most expensive item: $500 + ~$200 in alterations (5 total fittings — I lost weight during the wedding planning and also am short-waisted so I needed a really custom dress). I bought silk flowers on sale at Hobby Lobby for myself and my wedding party.

    I asked both of my bridesmaids to wear whatever they wanted, as long as they were yellow. (Both made their own summer dresses.)

    I found a professional photographer whose extremely talented wife was in training to join her husband in the business, so she offered to do my wedding for $500 total (including 100 prints and all digital files). In the event, both of them attended my event, so we had two photographers!

    I found the string duo by calling around at the local university’s music department for students looking to pick up extra money. Both violinists were $75.

    We got married in a beautiful outdoor pavilion at the local park: $150 for 4 hours. The park already had picnic tables, so we only had to rent chairs for the ceremony.

    We opted to create a big mix tape (actually, a CD) of our favorite tunes for the reception rather than hiring a band or DJ.

    The rehearsal dinner was held at a local Italian restaurant near the park. We worked with the owners to create a special menu for the event to help keep costs down. I think we ended up spending no more than $125 for our party of about 15.

    The only regret I have is that I didn’t hire a videographer. The ceremony flew by so quickly that I barely remember much of it! I recommend to anyone who is planning a wedding that they invest their money not in flowers or even the invitations or other ephemeral items but in their photography and videography instead. You won’t regret it!

    Salut,
    Marjorie

    • Donna Freedman

      Thanks for the frugal hack tips, and for the videographer suggestion. What I love is that you get to run by your “wedding chapel” every time you go out to exercise.
      Re mix tapes et al: There are apps like “WeddingDJ” that let you turn your iPod into a band, and a couple of photo-booth apps, and probably a lot of other apps to take care of other details. So interesting what’s out there that didn’t exist even five years ago.

  6. Melinda

    Abby’s wedding sounds wonderful! We bought flowers in bulk at Sam’s Club, then just plunked two roses with baby’s breath in a vase at each table (vases were provided by the site). A friend of the family made our cake, which was fabulous and sinful and people went back for seconds! I had my wedding dress made from a company I found on the internet – a custom dress for $450 that didn’t require any alterations whatsoever, and it was red!!! But my most serious advice is for those people who are already established, and are combining two households: don’t register for more plates.

    • Donna Freedman

      We were fortunate: My niece has floral experience and made bouquets for the bride and her attendants, the men’s boutonnieres and the table flowers. We bought the blooms at a grocery store’s floral section. The results were beautiful.
      I had seconds of the cake — and over the next few months, I had thirds, fourths, fifths, etc., because the numerous leftovers were in my freezer. Since we were living in the same apartment building, Abby and Tim sometimes came down the hall to save me from myself. ;-)
      Thanks for the heads-up about plates.

  7. I’m one that had 40 people at my wedding, got married on my friends farm, in the barn where my husband and I met (5 years ago next week). Our horses were in our wedding, which did away with the drama of who was giving me away.

    Both of us had been married before and we realized that this was about us….not everyone else. We just wanted to share our day with people that were important.

    We spent very little money. The clothes we bought to wear to the wedding, we’ve both worn. We have some of the best memories of our wedding. It was the best day of our lives. And the memories made that day were far more important than impressing friends or spending hundreds of dollars.

    Our biggest expense was alcohol. And even that wasn’t that expensive. I know our wedding was way under a thousand dollars.

  8. Frugal not cheap

    I would say don’t go in debt for a wedding and/or honeymoon. After having months to plan I picked up items I needed each time I got paid instead of all at once. It made me smile when I read that your daughter bought the cake topper for a quarter at an estate sale, now that’s good training!

    With pinterest and other websites there are a gazillion directions for making frugal decorations, favors etc. Save money for after the honeymoon is over. Money fights are the number one cause of divorce so I would recommend paying your debt down instead of creating debt with a wedding that you can’t pay for up front.

  9. Here are some things I did:

    If you have a decent printer and you know your way around a computer, print your own invites. There are a number of places online where you can order nice, trendy blank invitation materials. It’s not as cheap as doing evites, but I figure it cost half (or less) of what professionally printed invites would have cost. Also, I included RSVP cards and envelopes, but I didn’t stamp them, to encourage people to RSVP of our (free!) wedding website. No RSVP stamps saved me $60 in postage!

    In addition to the invites, I made the centerpieces, the place cards, the favors, etc. Everything that I could make, I did.

    We didn’t have a DJ – my aunt and uncle have a band, and they also do some DJ work as well. They offered to have their band play, but I didn’t want them to work my wedding (or have their band learn a whole bunch of new songs), so instead I asked them to DJ. I burned them CDs with all our songs, they MC’ed when we needed it, but other than that, they programmed the music to play, and they got to have fun, too.

    For our reception, we rented a rehabbed turn-of-the-century warehouse, which was pretty cheap ($600, when venue rental runs on average $2K for a 4 or 5-hr event). Better yet, the rental was for a full 24 hrs, and we could dictate the start and end time. Because we started the rental in the early afternoon, we were able to use the space for a brunch the next morning; we were able to reuse all the tables and chairs (the rental was overnight for those as well). Plus, we were able to keep the reception going as late as we wanted – we extended it by 2 extra hours, since everyone was having fun. Another great option here was that we could choose our own caterer (a friend of my husband’s) and provide our own alcohol (provided free of charge through several friend in the business).

    Instead of a traditional wedding cake, we had cupcakes (before it was in vogue – we started the trend), which we ordered from a baker who worked out of her home. They were amazing, and her price was a third of the standard bakery price.

    I was going to do the Costco thing for the flowers, but the caterer had a fit when I said that. She sent me to a florist friend of hers instead, who did the same thing as the Costco package – for LESS. And the flowers were beautiful and fresh.

    For my wedding dress, I didn’t scrimp so much, but the dress I wanted was reasonably priced. But to help my bridesmaids save some money, I allowed them to choose their own dresses. Since I was ordering my dress from Alfred Angelo, they all got $25 off their dresses, and Alfred Angelo has dresses in all price ranges.

    All in all, I had a pretty fancy-schmancy wedding, but at half of what it could have cost. Because of cost-saving measures, we were able to splurge on some things that we really wanted – like our rehearsal dinner. We were married in Maine, so we had a lobster bake for the rehearsal dinner – an we invited EVERYONE, since everyone was coming from out of town. This was a pretty big chunk of our wedding budget, but it was absolutely worth it – it gave us a chance to talk to everyone before the big day, so we didn’t feel pressured to talk to every single person at the reception. And the lobster bake was a good enticement for people to get there early, so we had more time with our friends and family.

    • Donna Freedman

      All great ideas…I especially like the idea of removing pressure to talk to everyone at the event. By then the bride and groom are so tired, and also being pressured to pose for pictures, and hey! They might want to enjoy their own wedding!
      Love these personal tips/anecdotes. Keep ‘em coming!

    • And we still posed for plenty of pictures, but they were more fun, spur-of-the moment thing.

      Two other cost-cutting measures:

      1) I asked my cousin, who was studying videography/cinematography in college, to our videographer. She did an amazing job, and it was free.

      2) I asked a friend from collge who was working on establishing his freelance photography business, to take our photos. Since he needed sample shots to show potential clients, we gave him permission to use any shots from our wedding he wanted, and he gave us a great deal (plus we did have to fly him to Maine and pay for his hotel room and rental car). All of that (I booked all his travel through Hotwire, which total cost me less than $200) cost less than 1/3 of a traditional wedding package. PLUS we got ALL the negatives (4000+ digital negatives), and we weren’t forced to buy prints from him.

  10. The article I want to see, Donna, is the one where you tell us about your upcoming wedding…

    • Donna Freedman

      Um, no….If we did eventually wed, it would likely be at City Hall. But honestly? Not interested. It’s not as though we’re going to have children together, and mingling finances would muddy the waters something fierce for the kids we already do have.

      • Sorry, lady, no City Hall weddings in Anchorage. You’d have to go to the courthouse. Actually, if you hang around there on Fridays, you can usually spot a courthouse wedding or two. Some of them are really fun-looking.

  11. Ro in San Diego

    I would tell them to focus on the actual wedding ceremony; everything else is optional.

    Our wedding was DIY and was great fun! We had great photographs taken by our friends which came out great, wedding cake was a wedding gift from a coworker. Our honeymoon at a local hotel was a gift from our landlords (to whom we paid a small fortune every month to rent a small studio apt.)I purchased the sandwich fixings and set them out right before the reception. BYOB was the rule and we had a full bar and volunteer bartender. I think I purchased some champaign.

    I made my own wedding dress and helped sew my bridesmaid’s dress. Our reception venue flaked out but they gave us a new location at no charge since they were sorry to be unavailable. The roof leaked and there’s a photo of me mopping the floor in my wedding gown! It was a hoot!

    It was 28 years ago but I think the grand total for everything was around $600 and we’re still married. I think it’s up to the individual how much they want/need to spend but the focus should be on the actual joining of the 2 families. Unfortunately, since we eloped we didn’t enjoy that portion of the wedding since no relatives were able to attend our wedding. In hindsight, maybe that wasn’t all bad. It was a memorable day and my husband and I look upon our wedding day fondly.

    • I love that you were able to make your own wedding dress. Sadly, neither myself nor anyone else in my family has that type of skill, except for my grandmother, and she no longer sews because of arthritis and worsening eyesight.

      It sounds like it was a memorable occasion!

  12. Giesela

    We, too, are pretty frugal folks. On one trip to visit my Mom we made table lanterns for all tables. My daughter and I were on the lookout at Michael’s and used coupons to purchase materials. The wedding dress was purchased ahead of time and altered…We rented the “Ice Arena”, a DJ for the evening and provided rides home for guests that needed it. We had a trailer with some kegs of beer parked in the Arena, the wine, pop and water had been bought when on sale. Potluck is customary in our area, so we got to taste a lot of good salads and deserts. I prepared the meaty stuff before hand (ham, brats, meatballs, chicken wings, etc). We hired a kitchen crew for serving/clean-up. We shared a great meal/evening with about 350 people and paid (everything included) about $3,000.00

    • Donna Freedman

      That sounds great — and affordable! Much of Abby’s wedding was pay-as-you-go, just as yours was…and you know what? They’re still just as married.
      My best childhood friend had a wedding that cost a fair amount, even though a lot of it was DIY. The day after the wedding, her husband’s place of employment burned down. He was out of work for almost a year, right when they were worried about paying off the wedding bills. Some way to start out, huh?

  13. Linda in NE

    This is the kind of wedding both my kids had, and they both had nice weddings. I just can’t fathom spending over $28,000 on a wedding. I’d rather offer them a nice cash gift to elope!!

  14. The issue I’m having these days is having to tell friends I can’t afford to go to Vegas/The Hamptons etc for bachelorette parties. I am also worrying about being able to afford bridal showers and my bridesmaid dresses.

    • Donna Freedman

      What’s frustrating to me is that you’re not only paying your own airfare, hotel and food — you’re expected to help cover the bride’s expenses. It’s out of control.

  15. Jeannette

    I’ve had the experience of two weddings; one when I was very young and really quite lavish in NJ and one much later in life, DIY at our home. On both we were able to get great deals, although I have to say the latter was far more enjoyable than the first because having it in our yard at home made it more relaxed for not only us but also our guests and their families. We rented tables and tents for the yard, used disposable table coverings, bought very inexpensive floating candle arrangements on each table and had mini-white lights in the trees and inside the tents for the remainder of the lighting. I bought the white lights on clearance after Christmas! A friend made our wedding cake, my sister-in-law make long-stem rose “favors” out of hershey kisses and saran wrap, and my nieces were our food servers when needed. We did buffet style with party trays on several tables and then the beer and booze on another table. Very much a “help-yourself” but laid back and relaxed. I think the biggest expense was the DJ, only because the party was going so well at the end, we had him stay two hours later which was considered “overtime”. eek!!
    My advice — dont try to ‘keep up with the Jones’ because the Jones will probably be in debt to their eyeballs and divorced within 5 years.

  16. Even if your wedding isn’t going to be “offbeat” Offbeat Bride has great information about vendors, ideas for frugal weddings, and other information.

    One major thing is be clear on what types of photos you want at your wedding. Do you want a more traditional wedding photography or do you want a more “photojournalist” style wedding photography that way you can look at the photography samples and figure out what you want and not get disappointed.

    For wedding dresses don’t be afraid to wear something not white. A friend of mine is getting married and found this fab blue dress that looks amazing on her and brings out her eyes.

    If you don’t have a wedding planner make sure there are at least 2 non wedding party non immediate family who know the important things you want to happen/need to get done. You want someone with a little distance but who still can’ handle those things.

  17. The best advice I can give: Don’t worry about anyone else’s wedding, and don’t judge anyone else’s wedding. Plan the wedding you want and can afford. That’s all that matters.

    My husband and I had a large, expensive wedding. I don’t know what the final total was once everything came together, but it was higher than the national average. It was what we wanted and what we could afford, and neither of us would change a thing. I did a lot of wedding DIY projects, like the invitations and the decorations, but not necessarily because they were less expensive. I did them myself because I wanted them to be unique and “us.” So our invitations were handmade, but they were made with expensive paper and embellishments. We used some “friendors,” but we made it clear we intended to pay their full standard rates (and then were pleasantly surprised when they volunteered some extra time). A relative arranged the flowers, which was somewhat less expensive than using a florist, but because we were saving on the service, we decided to spend more on the flowers themselves. We did save massively on cake by buying from the woman who made my husband’s birthday cakes growing up — she’s a cult secret among certain populations in Anchorage. Our venue, not a traditional spot for weddings, was owned by the Municipality of Anchorage, which made it somewhat more affordable than a privately-owned venue, and it was something fun and different (AND we could hire our own food and beverage vendors, which meant we could shop around for the right product at the right price). We had beer and wine rather than an open bar, and we contracted with a downtown wine bar to stock and tend bar.

    Our wedding was perfect for us, and we don’t regret a single dollar spent (nor do our parents, who all contributed time, money and support). We also splurged on the honeymoon of our dreams, and we wouldn’t do that differently, either, even though it took us about a year and a half to pay off. (Two words: Costco Travel. Seriously.) We recognize that we were really fortunate, and we also worked hard to squeeze the most out of every dollar we spent. It was important to us to have a day that was uniquely ours and to be surrounded by all of the people most important to us when we made a lifetime commitment to one another. Nearly two years later, our friends still talk about what a great party it was, and I really believe the planning process strengthened our relationship.

    Living in Alaska, where big traditional weddings aren’t really the norm, we got the side-eye from some people who I know thought they were being helpful by offering us “advice” that really came across more as judgment. I’ve been to plenty of typical Alaska weddings with dogs and Xtratufs and rent-a-cans, and those weddings have all been fun, but they weren’t our style. No one wants to have their wedding choices criticized or their motives questioned. Sure, some people who have big weddings may be doing it to “keep up with the Joneses,” just as some people who have small weddings may be cheap. But the happiest weddings I’ve attended, whether big or small, were those that were planned to fit the couple’s budget, personality, and priorities, whatever they may have been. That’s what ours was, and that’s the best advice I can pass along to other brides.

  18. Punkinpye

    When my husband and I decided to have a simple, inexpensive wedding at his grandfather’s home 27 years ago, I can’t believe how many older folks took me aside to tell me (in confidence of course) how much they regretted their large, expensive weddings. My mother-in-law confided that she did not enjoy a minute of her wedding. It was a big stressful show. Ironically, her mother, my husband’s grandmother confided in me that she and her husband had to mortgage their farm to pay for my mother-in-law’s dream of a big formal church wedding!!!! To this day, my mother-in-law has no knowledge of this.

    Several grooms told me how much they hated their elaborate weddings. They just went through with it to make their brides happy. Two couples told me how they had almost divorced over the expense of their daughters’ weddings. My own dad was happy and relieved about my decision because of the fights he and my mom had had over the cost and details of my sister’s wedding.

    Weddings are very personal decisions, but keep in mind that this should be a happy, joyful day. The more expensive and complicated a wedding is, the the more stress is likely involved.

  19. I made my wedding gown and veil, the three bridesmaids dresses, and the flower girl’s dress. My sister and I made rice bags. I copied my wedding dress from the cover of a wedding magazine. My mil was worried sick because I was wearing a homemade wedding gown!

    My niece married in an ancient church with no electricity, somewhere up in East TN, and a hound for the best man. The picnic table outside held the wedding cake my sister drove from Memphis to the other end of the state where the wedding took place. My sister arranged all the food that the other mother provided. Her wedding made a full page story in the newspaper.

    If I married again, I would still make my dress, but one I could wear again. I would spend money on my yard and have the wedding at my house in my new garden. I would not hire a caterer. I would do it myself. I have friends who are wedding coordinators and florists and caterers. If they were to offer help or advice, I would take it but not hint. The local junior college has all sorts of groups that could play and my boombox could handle the rest of the music. Photos? Not sure.

    I don’t care for matchy, matchy, so chairs for outdoors would be assorted yard sale finds, just all painted one color. Glass plates would be bought and resold afterwards; cloth napkins I can make.

    Gee, I would have to have a proper chicken coop instead of rubbermaid boxes in a dog kennel.

  20. Deborah

    Our wedding was uber-frugal. My parents had just completed an interstate move necessitated by a job loss, and my husband-to-be and I were low-ranking military. No-one had money for extravagance. It was a simple church ceremony without bridesmaids, grooms, flower children, etc.. Family shutterbugs took pictures. Punch, sandwiches and cookies afterward at my parents just-moved-into rental house. The wedding gifts were practical, inexpensive, and thoughtful. A grandmother gave us towels. An aunt gifted a quality set of knives. Another aunt – an accomplished musician – played the organ at the church. My stepmother spent hours copying favorite family recipes onto a stack of 3X5 index cards and my brother hand-crafted a wooden box to house those recipe cards. My father worked his ass off in the blistering heat to cut grass and trim bushes in the backyard so the wedding lunch would be held in a pleasant environment. Our honeymoon was a couple of extra days spent sightseeing on the 1000 mile road trip back to where we were based. Between what my husband and I paid for my dress, his suit, rings, license, minister, and trip expenses, we spent under $1000. The wedding was memorable and it was enough. I still smile when I think of it 36 years later.

  21. I loved our cheap wedding. My only regret is not having a video. But $3000 for the ceremony and reception divided between us and each of our parents was affordable for everyone. I enjoyed starting our married life with no party debt from our big day.

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