How we got married for less than $6,000

Some friends of ours recently got engaged, and last night the groom-to-be phoned Stan to find out — well, I’m not sure exactly, but from the half of the conversation I could hear he seemed to be asking for tips and tricks for a frugal wedding. Stan and I got married for less than $6,000 — I think that our final cost was $5,600 or thereabouts, and we were able to pay for it in cash. Here are some of the things we kept in mind when we got married on a budget:

Don’t say the ‘W’ word! The wedding industry is full of insaaaaane markups, and as soon as you let your vendor know that you want something for a wedding, you’ll be hit with all sorts of extra costs. Best bet is to tell people that you’re pricing things out for a party (which: you are).

You don’t need a $3,000 dress. I bought my dress online and the final cost — after paying for custom tailoring, international shipping, and a small alteration once it arrived — was barely over $300. The dress was lovely and it fit like a dream.

Use the services of friends and family. We were very blessed by many of our friends and family who gave their services to us as their wedding gifts. A couple from our church did our catering (final cost: about $7/head). Another friend of ours rented a van and chauffeured the wedding party around, which saved us quite a few headaches. A friend of mine who is just starting her photography business did our pictures for about half-price. My uncle did the lights and music at our reception, and the list goes on.

We did our flowers by hand, too. My Mater worked for many years in a flower shop, and so she offered to do the bouquets. I ordered two extra-large bouquets of loose flowers from a florist, and she transformed them into five bouquets, six boutonnierres, and two corsages. We got all of that for about $160. (Bridal and wedding party bouquets from the same florist started at $50 and went as high as $430 for ONE bouquet. See what I mean about insane markups?)

Skip some of the decorations. Our church has a lovely mostly-wood interior, so we decided not to do any decorations at the church itself. The interior pictures were still beautiful.

Keep an eye out for deals. Stan found a menswear shop offering a deal where if the wedding party rented at least five tuxes from them, the groom’s rental would be free and he would get a coupon for a free suit (up to $400). We had enough people to swing it, and so Stan got a free tux rental, and a month or two after the wedding we went and bought him a $500 suit for only $100 cash down. Score!

Forget the frou-frou wedding favours. Let’s be honest: all of those personalized shot glasses, picture frames, and candle holders go into a drawer and are never looked at again. For our favours I got a bunch of little paper boxes and we filled them with candy from Bulk Barn. People had something to eat before dinner and the favour cost was kept to about $1.25/head.

Determine your priorities. One of the hardest parts of planning a wedding is managing other people’s expectations — but what other people want isn’t necessarily what’s important to the two of you. If you figure out what your priorities are, you can concentrate (and spend) the most on those things, and let the rest of the chips fall where they may. Stan and I both think that the whole cutting-the-cake-together-and-feeding-it-to-each-other thing is cheesy, so we skipped the expensive wedding cake and served pie for dessert.

Having a beautiful, frugal wedding is totally doable. I wouldn’t have traded ours for the world.