For the bougie bride who doesn't have the cash to match.
Image: Warner Bros. Pictures
There's no doubt about it - weddings are one of the most expensive things a couple can do without renovating a bathroom during their mid-life crisis. It's hard when you have to reconcile your bougie dreams with your real-life budget. Slowly, you start finding out that everything from the wedding you'd imagined - doves, flash mobs, fireworks- actually cost more than a small country. Who knew?
After spending the last year planning my own wedding (read about the proposal here), I have consistently seen couples wonder how on Earth they are meant to afford a party for 100 people, only 7% of whom they actually like. I learnt a few tips and tricks along the way, so if you're still wanting a big beautiful wedding but you need to cut some corners, take a look at my Budget Wedding Hacks to still give you the bougie wedding of your dreams:
Way to shed those wedding $$$:
Reconsider your need for flowers
Listen, I froth me some flora and fauna. I've been to Tulip Fest every year of my life, I would've decked the place in head to toe frangipani if I could. But realistically for us, unfortunately, flowers just weren't in the budget. Whilst beautiful, centrepieces and bouquets are somewhat forgettable, and you can make the place look just as good with a range of candles, lights, and fun centrepieces; whilst for your bouquet, you could go fake, your local florist, or look at holding something different - greenery, lanterns, puppies, balloons, your washing - anything at all! You could even make it something unique to your wedding - for example do you both love Harry Potter? Why doesn't everyone hold a figurine or Hogwarts toy? Ours was movie-themed - I wanted everyone to hold Oscars, but this was denied by the Academy.
Ditch the centrepieces
Such a gigantic waste of time, effort and money. Think of one wedding where you can remember the centrepieces, I dare you. Most wedding venue will already provide some nice candles, and honestly, that's fine. Alternatively, you could think of adding in some cheaper pieces that highlight your uniqueness - pictures of the two of you scattered around, fun table names (e.g places you're travelled, characters you like), or just put some bread in the middle. Everyone is always happy with bread.
Get the bridal party to buy their own outfits
This one is contentious, I know, and seems to differ based on your own social circle. That said, if you're happy for mis-matching dresses (which is more in-vogue now, anyway), why not allow your bridesmaids to buy themselves a dress they will actually like, feel comfortable in, and maybe even re-wear? You can always treat them to something like hair and make-up or shoes, but no-one I know expects it (unless you're forcing them to wear the same $500 gown) so let it go. Ditto for dudes - wearing your own black or blue suit is fine. Everyone's looking at the couple, anyway!
Bye bye, cake
Look, cakes are beautiful and delicious. But realistically, these beautiful creations cost three to four figures, are barely touched by half the party who started dancing, and are sometimes barely noticed. Have a cheaper cake, fruit or cupcakes out back and have these served later on. Your guests will be none the wiser.
Have a budget for your bridal gear, and stick to i
Countless eps of Say Yes To The Dress have taught me that you never, ever, try on a gown outside of your budget. Remember to also factor in costs like adjustments, your veil, headpiece etc. There are so many places with affordable gowns, or you can even cruise online for second-hand designer pieces. Or hey - if overly bridal isn't your thing, why not just get a really awesome outfit you feel smashing in? Look good without the price tag.
Consider buffet or cocktail style
Everyone knows the place where the big $ get eaten up is the food and drink. It plays havoc on you as a couple as well - do I really care about this person enough to spend $150 on them for a 2 or 3 course meal? If the price of catering is making you run for the hills, why not consider more of a casual affair with cocktail-style menu, food truck, or even buffet? It doesn't have to look or feel cheap - in actuality it can feel quite modern and cool done the right way, and can save you thousands in the long run.
Try a mid-week wedding
This is not for everyone, but that said, if you have your heart set on a particular venue and it's out of your range, would you do a cheeky Wed or Fri wedding? I'll be honest, people will grumble a bit about having to take the day off - but if it saves you thousands, whatever - they'll be over it on the day!
Skip the bonbonniere
This is about as useless as it gets. Name one bonbonniere you have a) received and b) actually used. Having 100 people at a wedding and spending like $5-$10 per bonbonniere leaves you up to $1000 out of pocket. For what, soaps? Magnets? I guarantee no-one cares. Put the money toward the bar or a flash hotel room for the night instead - your pocket will thank you for it.
Cars are unness
I'll admit, ditching this one hurt a little. I'd always envisioned being in a pink Cadillac convertible, sitting up on the bonnet waving at my fans (I can have dreams!) When it came to budgeting, however, it just didn't work out. Hundreds of dollars to get from A to B - and most people don't even see the car! I've been in weddings where we had a minibus that was just as fun, Uber X's, friends who drove - in this case, it's about the destination, not the journey!
Ditch the exxy arbour, garlands and lights
These things can all look pretty, but are relatively new on the bridal scene, and really, aren't that necessary. Arbours can cost a fortune to hire. Do you have a mate or family member who is handy and can make one? Is there a gorgeous tree or wad of fairy lights you can get married under instead? Get creative - you unique pictures will thank you for it!
Get rid of 'proposal boxes', the recovery, and presents for each other
All the above is just new products invented by the industry to get people to spend more $. Are they all really fun, lovely, and touching? Totally! But if you need to budget, these things can be skipped. Someone shouldn't say yes to being your bridesmaid because you bought them a $100 box of goods, it should be an honour because you are close enough to have them by your side on your special day. Recovery sessions are also fun, but it shouldn't be expected that the couple have to put on another tab and event- they just did that! You can loosely tell people to come meet you at a bar the next day if your wedding is on location, but there's no need to pick up the bill on Round 2.
As for presents for each other? Bitch please. I'm your present.
Go for a non-conventional venue without the 'wedding' price tag
The rumour is true - put the word 'wedding' in front of everything, and watch the eyes turn to $ signs. Whilst venues specifically made for weddings and events come with their own perks, think of somewhere less popular that may not cost a fortune. You could rent a function room, restaurant, a hall. a park, backyard - get creative. Particularly if it is a smaller business, as they can use the exposure and may be more willing to allow extras such as bringing in your decorations early, cheaper booze, or partying an hour or two later into the night!
Get an up and coming or student photographer, videographer, make-up artist etc.
No disrespect to the art form, but the amount some people spend on this stuff is insane. While I personally find the photos and video to be of utmost importance (my husband was like 'doesn't everyone just have an iPhone they can take pictures on?' Hun I spent hours getting ready and PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW), there are REAL variations on price here. We decided to get an up-and-coming student photographer. Now, in saying this, I would always check credentials. You don't want your cousin's son with his first time behind the lens on your Big Day. For us, our guy had a professional site where he had images of at least 10 weddings, videos, we met in person and explained everything we needed, and it made us feel confident ahead of the wedding. As long as you are able to have a recommendation and/or see examples, there is no question that this can save you thousands - get them before they get big!
Get a playlist or DJ over a band
Whilst my husband put his foot down on this one, I happily would have gone a DJ or playlist over a band. Is live music and instruments amazing? Of course they are, no-one is saying the contrary. But if you're looking to cut costs, there is a huge difference between a DJ and band, and this is where you can see some real savings. While we're here, you can skip the live music for the ceremony and 'in-between' drinks as well - a bit of Barry White over the airwaves never hurt no-one.
Do your invites and RSVPs online
I am sooooo for this! There are so many reasons to go digital, including a) saving soooo much money b) better for the environment c) handy for people to find the details easily and put in their online calendar and d) so much of your life and time back! Seriously - no looking up addresses, making phone calls, licking stamps, waiting for RSVP cards - DRAINER. Whilst I absolutely LOVE the look of invites, the ability to make your own design online has never been better. Plus, there are many sites which allow your guests to RSVP with their dietary options, which feeds right into your seating chart - the organisation is unreal. When planning a wedding for over 200 people, this saved me so. Much. TIME. We were also able to have a lot of fun with our invites, using pictures and a design that showed our personality, we were able to keep guests informed about details really easily (like the cancellation of the wedding due to COVID-19, but that's a tearjerker for another day), and we could connect it all to a wedding website with heaps of fun info, like wedding details, the bridal party, how we met, fun quizzes and activities. We got heaps of compliments and everyone seemed to like the ease of access. Best of all? It's FREE!
Things to Keep
The food and booze
When I think of what makes a good night, or what people remember from a wedding, I always think: good food, good booze, great dress, and a killer dance floor. So, in my opinion, these are the things to spend the $ on. With food, even if you do a cost-savvy option, just make sure there is enough, it comes out on time, and no-one is wandering around hungry (a.ka. DEATH to a Jewish mama). With drinks, make sure the alcohol is flowing all night, with a few different options. You don't need to have a cocktail named after the couple, but the basic beer, wine and champers has gotta get the party going.
Let's be real - vibe is everything. This doesn't mean you need to book in John Farnham to bring the crowd together at the end of the night for a drunken circle of You're The Voice, but just make sure however you do it, it's good. If you are going for the playlist - have a backup option, like making sure it is on another mate's phone and even a back-up speaker. No music can ruin the entire night, so make sure this part goes off without a hitch.
Feeling great in what you're wearing
Whilst I would never tell anyone to go into debt for a wedding, being real - you remember the dress. People will comment, so it's important you feel fly af. It doesn't have to be designer or expensive, but it is the One Day you should be able to Treat Yo'Self - and so if it makes you feel fab and works in the budget, get it.
Oh yes, we almost forgot, didn't we? - the whole reason for the big day! It can be easy to get sidetracked when planning a wedding on how you want it to look, feel, sound. When it all gets too stressful (and it will. You'll wake up in the middle of the night and plan your elopement), remember that all the other stuff really doesn't matter. What does is that you love someone so much that you want to declare it to everyone you know - and that's what the day is really all about.
(...and...you know...the outfit).