Confidence: the secret key to pulling off a guilt-free budget wedding

October 22 2014 | Guest post by Jennay
Cake toppers on cupcake
Photo by Lindsey McDaniel Williams, LifeExposed Photography.

When I was planning my wedding, cost was a big factor. While I wanted to enjoy the day and have it represent my partner and me, I didn't want to do it at a premium cost. So I SCOURED the internet to find ways to slash my budget.

The problem was that some of these "20 Ideas to Cut Your Budget" just weren't feasible. Part of my problem was that, to many, a "budget wedding" is a $20,000 wedding, and I was hoping for more of a $5,000 wedding. Another problem was that the "easiest" way to cut my budget was to invite fewer people, but the guest list already had NO wiggle room. Yet another frustration was that I had already budgeted for wedding cost-cutters like using vinyl tablecloths, serving beverages in cans and bottles, asking a cousin to take my photos, non-floral centrepieces, choosing one venue, wearing a non-wedding dress, barbecue catering, using a wedding cake alternative, and opting to be my own wedding day coordinator. To many, I already had the "budget wedding."

While these things certainly saved money, they caused me a LOT of stress. I worried way too much about the table cloths looking cheap, whether or not Grandma would be pissed about having to drink out of a can, if the photos would turn out nice, and whether I had forgotten any details.

Here is where I think the biggest difficulties in planning a budget wedding lie: that it's really hard to find affirmation in choosing the "cheaper" way.

So here are my tips for planning a guilt-free "budget" wedding…

1. If you don't want something, then don't do it — and don't feel bad about it

That being said, there were moments during planning in which I felt very insecure about my decisions to not have certain things. Over time I realized that things weren't really all that important for me to have, and I saved a lot of money by sticking to my guns and simply doing without. Side note: Nobody mentioned the absence of ANY of the things I cut from the budget, so I really don't think they were greatly missed.

2. Focus on the big picture and forget about the details

This includes shifting conversations with family and friends to focus on the big rather than the little. Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, and the internet have opened up the world to a level of extravagance that many of us lay people would not have been privy to in years past. They made me personally feel like my wedding wouldn't be complete without a five-tier chandelier made out of tiny paper cranes, a chocolate fountain, or personalized napkins. They also made my friends and family excited to try and persuade me to have a surprise dance number, a hanging lantern ceiling, and a sparkler send-off.

Now, I have NOTHING against any of these things, and it is very possible that one or all of these items fits into your big picture in a big way. But what I found was that it was really easy to get distracted from bigger projects, and focus instead on details that would simply be icing on the cake. Also, these little detail projects suck up a LOT of money. Had I done that paper crane chandelier I would have been out several hundred dollars and HOURS of time!

3. If you ask someone to do something, trust that they will do it well — don't project your insecurities onto their abilities

After delegating certain tasks to family and friends I was tempted to just do the job on my own anyways. I'd think, "I know that Lilian is bringing and setting up the appetizers during cocktail hour, but maybe I'll buy other appetizers and platters and plates and napkins JUST to make sure." Those kind of thoughts were both unnecessary and untrusting of my friend. If you ask someone to do something, trust that they'll do it right and don't double-buy things they said they'd take care of.

4. Trust your instincts

It's your party, do what you want to, even if it means taking care of the details yourself. At most events I attend I am a coordinator. It's part of my job and a part of my personality. I KNEW that I would clash with a coordinator if I had hired one. So I coordinated my own wedding and I have no regrets that I did it. I saved a lot of money by trusting my instincts, and knowing what I was capable of.

I think throwing a budget wedding really comes down to deciding what is important to you, focusing on those things, and being confident in your decisions.

How are you saving money on your wedding? And what does "budget wedding" even mean these days?

  1. #2 is so important. I remember planning a "budget wedding" of under 5K a few years ago. I got totally wrapped up in all the DIY details that I just needed to make my wedding special. After months of stressing that I couldn't afford special paper to make my flowers or vintage post cards to make my invitations I realized that none of it mattered. I just needed to get married and celebrate. No amount of detail would change that.

    At 34 years old, the wedding invitations have started to slow down and my wedding packed summers are no more. But I still stand by my old thought that the details don't matter. After what felt like 100's of weddings I don't remember who had all the special DIY touches or Pinterest worthy weddings but I do remember the weddings I danced at till dawn, caused me to laugh until I peed, and cried at during the granddaughter-grandfather dance. Some of those weddings cost 10s of thousands of dollars and some cost a few thousand. The big picture is really the important part.

    I should say, if you have the time, money, skill or desire— DIY/ Pinterest all over the Fing place.

    19 agree
  2. Thank you for this article! When we got engaged we kept hearing from our friends "this is going to be the party of the year" and we definitely want it to be, but we also want to keep costs under $5000! I am realizing we don't need favors, or table centerpeices, fancy cakes, etc! It's nice to finally realize that just because it's a common wedding practice, doesn't mean we have to do it!

    6 agree
  3. #1 is so key – we didn't do favours, flowers, so many things! (Our wedding came in under $5K which was our financial goal.) As the wedding day came closer, I started to panic about the flowers. My MIL is such a flower fanatic and she was already still adjusting to my not changing my last name. My groom warned me she might quietly ask where the flowers are once she got to the wedding site. Don't let other people's expectations dictate your wedding….and ergo, your budget. The best part of it all? She actual loved my DIY bouquet! She is still talking about it.

    4 agree
  4. Spending $5000 for a wedding is so far above my budget I can't even imagine all the extras I would be able to do. In my area of the country, the average for a cheap wedding is $20,000 and that totally boggles my mind.
    I am going to buy a nice dress that I can wear again and again and again, the only flowers will be a small bouquet for me (silk flowers, maybe, so I can use them again in my home), my brother in law will marry us, and I refuse to spend $3000 for a photographer, even though she's a friend and amazing photographer; I would much rather have everyone bring digital cameras and email the pics to me so I can pick and choose which ones to post and print. For the reception, we are thinking Subway sandwich platters and Safeway veggie trays, and baking our own naked cake.
    One of my co-workers just got married, and was very pleased that it came in under $30,000. In the Hispanic culture, the couples get sponsors to pay for parts of the wedding and reception, so the only things the couple actually paid for were her dress, the license, and the rings, and it STILL cost her $30,000. Another co-worker told me that she and her husband eloped, but they took her mother and his mother, stayed in a nice hotel for one night, wore clothing they already owned, and it only cost them about $500. And the one other co-worker who has talked to me about weddings told me she got married at the courthouse in street clothes, and that she is encouraging her daughter to do the same.
    I figure it's a wedding dress if I wear it to my wedding. I think pictures are pictures. I don't dance, and neither does my fiance, so we don't need a first dance. I am not a princess, so I don't need a big lavish wedding. Favors???? REALLY? I am supposed to give people presents to attend my wedding???? I've never been to a wedding that gave out favors, so I don't get it.
    If, at the end of the day, I am married to my best friend ever, then it will be a successful wedding. NOTHING else matters to me.

    9 agree
    • "Spending $5000 for a wedding is so far above my budget I can't even imagine all the extras I would be able to do. "

      Just a tiny word of caution here to watch out for one-lowsmanship: http://offbeatbride.com/one-lowmanship

      We're all working with different financial constraints. $5000 may feel like almost nothing to some of us, and an inconceivably high budget for others. On Offbeat Bride, we've featured $100 weddings, $600 weddings, $1000 weddings, $5000 weddings, and weddings that likely cost six figures. All these couples were doing the best with the budgets they had.

      34 agree
      • Ariel, I was just wondering – is there a way to sort weddings by budget on the site? So I could theoretically view a wedding with a $15k budget or whatever. I figured not since that'd be a lot of programming and not everyone discloses their budget, but I wanted to ask! It's really interesting to look at the budgets and resulting weddings and whatnot.

        17 agree
    • Just like you don't want to be put down for your budget, a bride and groom with a significantly larger budget does not want to be put down. Sure, I went to a $40,000 wedding recently where I felt they spent way too much, but I also recently went to a very very low budget wedding that was not fun to be a guest at (due to their cutting a LOT of corners) … We all judge and have our own opinions on what matters and what doesn't, but at the end of the day those brides and grooms made the decisions they wanted to make and had the wedding they wanted to have, so I was happy for them. This article by Jennay was not about bashing other people's budgets but about making due with your own and having your priorities straight.

      13 agree
    • Amen! Especially to the part about the favors! I mean, com on! Who came up with that idea anyways? It would be like inviting people to your birthday party and give them presents instead of them giving presents to you!

      I am in the process of planning a budget wedding as well and the hardest part right now is keeping my best friend and my sister in check. My mom is on my side, so we try to get as much planning done without anyone else involved, because then I have a bigger chance of getting the wedding I want. I recently found a wedding dress for $50 and it is gorgeous! One of my coworkers told me she paid over $3,000 for hers. There is no way I would spend that kind of money on a piece of clothing I am going to wear once. No way!

      My husband to be is in favor of a budget wedding as well. The only thing we are not quite seeing eye to eye on is alcohol. In my opinion we can skip it. Very few people in my family drink any alcohol at all, so I can do without. But he feels like people should have the option. It is an ongoing discussion.

      I love reading about people like you who plan a party more than anything else. A celebration. I am all for people having big weddings if that is what they want, but my main goal is to have fun, marry my best friend and share our happiness with our friends and family. So good for you for sticking to your guns!

      • Especially to the part about the favors! I mean, com on! Who came up with that idea anyways?

        The tradition of distributing wedding favors is a very old one. It is believed that the first wedding favor, common amongst European aristocrats, was known as a bonbonniere. A bonbonniere is a small trinket box made of crystal, porcelain, and/or precious stones. The contents of these precious boxes were generally sugar cubes or delicate confections, which symbolize wealth and royalty. (In this era, sugar was an expensive commodity and was treasured only among the wealthy. It was believed that sugar contained medical benefits).[citation needed] As the price of sugar decreased throughout centuries, the tradition of providing gifts to guests reached the general populace and was embraced by couples of modest means.

        As sugar became more affordable, bonbonnieres were replaced with almonds. For centuries, almonds were commonly distributed to wedding guests to signify well wishes on the bridegroom's new life. In the thirteenth century, almonds coated with sugar, known as confetti, were introduced. Confetti soon transformed to sugared almonds, which later evolved into the wedding favor for modern day weddings. Traditionally, five Jordan almonds are presented in a confection box or wrapped in elegant fabric to represent fertility, longevity, wealth, health and happiness. The bitterness of the almond and the sweetness of the coated candy are a metaphor for the bitter sweetness of a marriage." [source]

        I'm personally not into wedding favors at all (the "favors" at my wedding were mismatched second-hand mugs), but there's no denying that it's a tradition with a really long history. I personally chose to basically skip the tradition, but this isn't like diamond rings (which only became a thing in the 1930s, as the result of a marketing push)… wedding favors are WAY old school.

        3 agree
    • "In my area of the country, the average for a cheap wedding is $20,000"

      Just a word about averages – I don't know where this statistic came from but the 20k number is listed very frequently as an average, and I'd tell you to think about where this number is originating. Most of the time these averages are calculated by some of the mainstream bridal magazines and companies, by polling their audiences – which naturally tend to lean on the more expensive side of weddings, since they cater to that type of clientele often. Furthermore, the average is just that – an average. A handful of really expensive weddings (six figures or otherwise) can throw the entire average off significantly. A median would be a more accurate calculation, since this would be the middle number of all the budgets, and while this stat is rarely offered by those that are calculating the average, some companies or the people hosting these studies will calculate the median as well.

      So what I'm saying with all this mathematical talk is that an "average" of a $20,000 wedding may obscure the fact that the median may be lower (as it often is) and that those with smaller budgets might not be as included in these studies as they should be.

      If that helps at all, I don't know if it did or not but I think this can be useful information for everyone who may be feeling budget pressures.

      12 agree
  5. THIS! Thank you for this post. Many of the budget cutting ideas I have read really are for people who think $20,000 is a budget wedding. I'm not trying to be "cheap", I just don't have any extra money lying around and neither do our parents. We need to do the best with what we have. We can still have a nice wedding without spending a fortune. Thank you for the encouragement!

    6 agree
  6. B R A V O!!!!!!
    I'm in the same boat, doing the same thing. I can't imagine, even if I had the money, spending $20k on my wedding. The entire wedding industry has us believing that we NEED all this stuff. NO. NO. NO.

    1 agrees
  7. hamznboobz you should definitely read that post ariel linked a couple comments ago. i get that ~you~ can't imagine spending $20k on your wedding, but for those of us who are making different choices, it doesn't feel good to be shamed by our fellow offbeat brides.

    14 agree
  8. Thank you, Jennay! This post makes me feel so much better about the budgeting decisions I have been making! (Favors might have to go!)
    I also appreciate idea of narrowing your perspective in a way, so that Pinterest and other internet wedding ideas don't take over. I get very excited about things I see online, but most are not actually feasible for me. I need to cool it and stop bookmarking things I will cease to be excited about in 5 minutes.
    I think I mostly need to relax and trust that with a little help from my friends and lots of help from my dad (designing invites etc.), my mom (making the dress) and my future mother-in-law (sending me cards with words of encouragement along the way- she's such a keeper), everything will come together! In the end we'll be married!

    2 agree
  9. Thank you so much for this post! I really needed to read this as I've had a couple of weeks full of doubts about some of the choices we've made to keep the costs of our wedding down. We've had a few comments from friends about some things we thought would make things easier – like the fact that we're doing it in the town where we live even though we only recently moved here (easier for us and the guests as it's an urban wedding so no high transport costs) and that it's mid-week (I understand this is more inconvenient and it was partly a cost consideration and partly to accommodate the schedules of a couple of key guests). Others have commented on the fact that we won't have a photographer or flowers or matching bridesmaids dresses or a white dress… Even though I am happy with our decision to leave these things out, I've let these comments make me insecure and even consider calling the whole thing off. So thank you very very much!

    4 agree
  10. Love this article! So true it's all about the confidence. I couldn't believe how much venues were costing. By luck I found a small venue by U.S. $850 for six hours with table chairs/ cloth, brick wall, with and a back patio till 2a in May! about 90 people indoors which is great because we want a small wedding. Then my friend through a curve ball, she wanted to have a renew wedding the same weekend as me but decide on doing hers before mine on Valentine's day. For 3 weeks my anxiety was on overload her wedding is going to be huge, her venue beautiful and spacious, photo booth, live music, dancers, violinist, top notch. I felt like omg! Plus the financial burden on our friends who don't make a lot of $. And felt like Mine is going to be so cheap ????. I cried and felt alone because my honey could careless. I'm not a fancy person and definitely don't try to keep up with the jones. But damn! I wanted something so simple and unique to celebrate our cermony. So my insecurity was on overload!! I stopped, (slapped myself)took a breath and realized if I wanted a $10,000 plus wedding I can but I choose not too. I don't want to be in debit. I want a beautiful honeymoon. Just started to look at the bright side. A wedding on v-day, what a great way to celebrate by getting dress up. Turns out the venue had there first wedding there. So being a budget bride I befriended her. Her wedding was beautiful. she gave me all her vendors and tips and advice. She was a budget bride too. She was like man you can't that price! Which made me really feel at ease about my planning. So now I'm trying to flow with it better. It's all research and resources Pinterest does make it easier. So far I got the reception, the dress, uncle doing the centerpieces, ceremony place is booked. Airline tickets $thanks to my boss. Ceremony place is my only concern because it smaller then reception place. I may majority stand and older folks sitting but after reading this I'm just going to with what is right for us. I have been a little concerned with his family and making sure there happy. It's been stressing me. He saids don't worry about it. All I want is good music and good food and you!! On a side note: I went to a wedding that it was byob and just went with and no one complained. I could believe but the food was off the chain. . I'm hopping to making mine to no more than $6500 with honeymoon. It's almost like a game but at the same time being true to myself. Good luck ladies!!

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