In 2013, I had to go on unpaid medical leave for a job I had only been able to work for 8 months due to a car accident. So wouldn’t you know, that is the year my now wife and I were planning to have our wedding. Could we have postponed the wedding? We could have, but you know how love works, it can make us a little irrational at times. My wife and I also had some external pressures such as wanting my aging grandmother to be able to attend our wedding. So waiting wasn’t something we really wanted to do. I am the budget manager in my marriage (this was my wife’s designation not a demand of my own).
Now fortunately, I was not working and had a lot of time off which was indeed helpful in regard to planning and making a wedding happen. What we did not have a lot of was money. I had managed to save up some money from prior years of working which allowed a small cushion of about $2500 for our wedding. But as many of you know, or will be finding out, that doesn’t typically get you very far in the grand scheme of making a wedding happen.
Due to necessity, I had to act and act frugally. Yet, I couldn’t sacrifice quality. I needed a low cost wedding that was beautiful and elegant yet didn’t exceed our ability, finances, or place us into such severe debt that we started off our married life in the red. This was after all our wedding! Something that we would be making memories with, sharing with our family and friends, and honestly, as a newly engaged man, something I wanted to make my fiancee at the time happy with.
In the end, I did end up having to use a credit card for a little of the expenses, and my wife was able to buy her own dress and my wedding band using her own income. All in all, we probably spent about $5000 in total for our wedding including the rings and dress which my wife helped fund.
With a lot of work, a little luck, and a lot of wedding magic, we had our wedding planned for almost 50 guests including friends and close family come to fruition on a lovely day in Florida at the beach, with a reception, dinner, dancing and drinks, and of course, photos!
Time for a break down!
An Internet Wedding
No, I don’t mean have your wedding online. Although, that could be a future genre we are yet to see explode! What I mean is the internet and internet shopping sites have become so diverse and specialized and especially available over the past 2 decades that shopping for wedding decorations and even wedding dresses or engagement rings can be as easy as point, click, and ship!
I personally love supporting small businesses or local vendors. Now you can do that online. Many local or small businesses can be shopped online sites such as Angieslist.com or Groupon.com at competitive and often money saving prices. From the wedding photographer, to DJ’s, and even officiants!
You can find quality, hand-crafted and unique wedding rings, decorations, and even floral arrangements through websites such as Etsy.com, Artfire.com, Mashable.com and even Ebay.
And then the dress… Oh and of course tuxedos. Don’t forget the men need fashion too! Websites such as Mercari.com give both grooms and brides an option to buy new or used wedding apparel for fractions of the price as a bridal boutique, Men’s Warehouse, etc.
Renting Versus Buying and Used Versus New
Surely one of the biggest expenses of a wedding can be the clothing. Should we call them outfits? Remember, I was a groom after all. In all seriousness though, both wedding dresses, after-party or reception dresses and tuxedos for a whole bridal party can be an outrageous cost for soon to be’s which leaves in-debt newlyweds.
Don’t discount used apparel. My wife found her dress which was an Allure wedding dress for $300 used which originally retailed for closer to $2500. I was able to get tuxedos for myself, my father, her father, and my best man that all matched for under $250 from Mercari. Keep in mind that tuxedo rentals are ALL used tuxedos. You typically pay $150-$250 for a tuxedo rental at Men’s Warehouse or Jos A. Bank.
After all is said and done. If you get familiar with some of the apparel websites, you can also resell your tuxedos back for a majority of what you pay for it! I actually sold 2 of the 4 back and almost recouped my money.
Because these sites have become so prolific and well-made, it is now easier than ever to get specific details, measurements and pictures of the suits, vests, ties, cuff links, etc. And, if they are not available for some reason, you can communicate via messaging to ask for more details.
So new or used, there are so many options for tuxedo purchases or even non-traditional suit coats, slacks, shoes that you can really save yourself some cash here. Lastly, I have been amazed with the quality of some of the sports coats, blazers, and suits, including tuxedos that are now widely available on Amazon via Prime merchants. With an Amazon Prime purchase, it is extremely simple to return and get your money back if you are in any way dissatisfied.
The Rings. Oh God the Rings.
In my opinion one of the most controversial and costly facets to marriage are the wedding ring sets. I was always fascinated as a young man with wedding rings. I desperately wanted to wear a wedding band and be married. And I had research many times rings that I would one day buy my bride to be throughout even my teenage years and as a young adult.
The choices appear overwhelming and pricey when you shop the chain jewelry stores or boutiques. What I found when push came to shove was that I would be dropping a significant amount of coin into rings if I wanted a diamond for my bride to be. As a groom-to-be, I learned that not only did I need to drop a hefty amount of money on an engagement ring, but that I also needed a wedding band for the marriage ceremony, and that my wife would also need to buy me a wedding band.
On average, a 1 carat engagement ring will run $5,000. That doesn’t include the wedding band, which on average will be another $1,000. Men’s wedding band’s range from $200-$1,000 and range in materials from Tungsten Carbide, Cobalt, Titanium, Steel, and various Golds (white, yellow, rose, etc.).
The hype of diamonds in the U.S (and even worldwide) is one of the largest and most misleading sales tactics that the jewelry industry has. Did you know that you can buy diamonds (yes real diamonds) for as little as $10? What is the catch? These diamonds aren’t “pretty” and are typically used in industrial manufacturing. Yet, they maintain the same chemical characteristics as any other diamond. They just have lots of imperfections.
Now, no groom wants to buy their bride an “ugly” diamond. If we are going to “put a ring on it” we want it to look good. But there are many alternatives to diamonds these days that do not cost anywhere near as much, and I am going to list a few.
Besides the traditional diamond, many jewelers can make beautiful engagement rings with non-traditional gem stones such as sapphires (which can be as clear as a diamond), emeralds, and specialty gems such as Alexandrite or Mystic Topaz.
There are also synthetic options such as Cubic Zirconia. These are not the cheap “costume jewelry” variety and in fact are very high quality, as hard or close to as hard as diamonds, have the same longevity now, and cost as much as 50-70% less than a traditional diamond. There are also newer natural gems such as Moissanite which are highly sought after as diamond alternatives due to their similar characteristics.
Lastly, gems can be re purposed. Which, is what I ended up doing to save a whopping $3,000 on my wife’s engagement ring. My loving grandmother donated the diamond from her engagement ring, which I was ultimately able to have a jeweler remove and place into my wife’s setting. A ring that would have cost me $5,000, ended up only costing about $1,800 and has a lot of sentimental value. Keep in mind, gemstones last forever if taken care of properly (at least several lifetimes anyhow).
What about for the fellas?
For men’s wedding bands however, there is almost as much hype. While Jewelers don’t sell as many inflated men’s bands, the cost of these rings in a typical jeweler may average $400-$500 for even a Tungsten Carbide ring. What you are paying for is advertising, brand, and well, marketing.
With the new online marketplaces that offer hobbyists and professionals alike the ability to sell their goods, the men’s wedding band options have exploded and instead of buying a wedding band in a chain jewelry store, you can find the same Tungsten Carbide, Titanium, Cobalt, or even Gold rings for fractions of the price through Etsy, or even Amazon and Ebay.
I personally ended up with a ring from a company called Brook Stone, which was a Damascus stainless steel band (folded steel in a Japanese pattern) with a rose gold inlay. I love it and it doesn’t have to break the bank.
Create a Majestic and Beautiful Wedding Venue – On a Budget
Another big hit to the budget is actually creating your wedding venue. While choosing the venue can be a big expense as well, it is absolutely possible to find venues that are gorgeous and provide that surreal and “fairy tale” wedding environment without breaking the bank. Some of us grooms can’t escape the costs of a venue, and some of us won’t have to dish out exorbitant amounts of money if we are using our family church (although that can cost too!).
What will cost you an arm and a leg is setting up and decorating your wedding venue, your reception and even your honeymoon suite if applicable. This doesn’t HAVE to hurt so bad. If you are able to, putting the leg work in to help set up your venues will be of significant savings. If you do have to pay for a wedding planner, which some of us either have to for time’s sake, or to save our sanity, ask friends and family to help! This can save a lot of expense as many of your hired help charge hourly or based on the amount of work needed to set up their specific area of need (i.e help setting up a catering area or wet bar can reduce the cost of catering, or of your bartender).
Look to what is free already. Many cities and counties offer free or low-cost use of public areas such as parks, beaches, and even community centers, and all you need to do is register or place a deposit.
We ended up getting permission to use a local beach, that was only walking distance away from a beautiful “beachy” community center which we were able to reserve and use for only a $250 deposit, which we got back.
Now, what about decor, chairs, wedding arches, etc.? If you choose to have a planner, or a catering company take care of all of those details it can run you thousands of extra dollars. Instead, do a Google search for rental companies. You can contract out many of the specifics and rent a lot of the items needed. I ended up renting 50 chairs, an arch, runners, table clothes, and even chair covers from a local company. It cost me $200 for the rentals, and $50 for the setup and delivery.
For our wedding my wife desperately wanted a color pallet and theme that was quite specific. Greens, blues, turquoise and purples were her preferred colors, and she loves Peacocks. With websites such as Etsy and Amazon, as well as specialty wedding decor websites you can find so much of what you need, for a fraction of what you would pay in a craft or wedding store, or in paying a planner.
For under $200, I was able to get a dozen large vases for table center pieces, our chosen color pallet in clear stones and crystals and even water beads (the tiny beads that soak up water and become clear gel-balls) which made for beautiful center pieces, filled with large peacock feathers on top of other floral arrangements. This also included streamers, balloons, and even waterproof battery powered tealight candles that illuminated our flower vases.
Using Etsy, we also got 50 beautiful pearlescent peacock wedding invitations with custom print, envelopes, and actual peacock feathers for $50 from a woman who does nothing but make custom invitations.
Finding Good Help – Don’t Dismiss the Locals
Hiring specialized wedding catering, entertainment, and even the officiant can be costly as well. Besides the dress and apparel, wedding ring sets, and decorating, this is probably the other huge cost in creating a wedding. But id doesn’t have to be as bad as you may think.
Don’t forget to check around locally for catering. We actually hired a restaurant owner, whose always been really great to my family, especially my lovely grandmother. He was willing to use his own wait staff, plates, silverware, etc. and quoted an extremely reasonable price. And we knew we could trust him! That counts for a lot when the stakes are high such as with a wedding. What is better than having a person that the family and friends all know and love there catering your wedding?
This can easily run thousands of dollars, but going locally, and expanding your horizons on who can meet these demands can save a lot of dough. We had appetizers and entrees with all staff and plate ware for only $1200 for 50 guests, and entrees included the standard steak, chicken, fish (there were even two special vegetarian dishes).
What about the other services? Don’t forget to check Angie’s list and other service review sites. Ask your chamber of commerce for recommendations as well. This allows you to get reviews and recommendations which helps ensure quality in addition to the service you need.
Since we had a blank slate for our wedding and reception, and since family and friends were my support for decorating, we had to look at options for our DJ and our Bartender (no one would have come to my wedding without a bartender, im sure). By hiring a bartender separately, we were able to provide the liquor, wine, and beer, and he provided a mobile bar, mixers, ice, cups, and the skills needed and for $300 we had an amazing open and unlimited bar for our venue. The alcohol cost us $500, which we got at Total Wine and Spirits. We ended up returning the unused, unopened alcohol which was about half of the total cost!
We did it! We really did it!
By working with a lot of our local vendors, ordering a lot of our supplies online and providing those supplies to vendors ourselves, and through a lot of support from friends and family, we were able to have an amazing wedding that was not only beautiful, but sentimental. When you put a lot of the effort in yourselves, and when you are surrounded by friendly or local vendors that are looking to help you out and make some money doing so, you experience a warm and positive social environment for an occasion that can be extremely stressful and overwhelming.
I hope that you will continue to read the following articles I post, as I will be breaking down specific avenues of the wedding industry that I was able to save significantly on and that made all the difference for me in my own wedding. Since my wedding, I have continued to learn how to be thrifty and frugal in online buying, and I will be sharing a lot of the tips and tricks I use, as well as the resources I used to navigate to that savings. My hope is that I will be able to assist someone else in having a low cost wedding with these tips, which will then in turn allow you to start off your married life on the right foot, enjoy a wonderful honeymoon, and begin that journey with your significant other on a positive and enjoyable not without pulling all of your hair out! Or worse, pulling your partner’s hair out!