No Daddy Warbucks, no problem: How to pay for a wedding yourself without going into debt

Guest post by Lola
Thanks to vegan.chef.steph. for uploading this to our Flickr pool.
Thanks to vegan.chef.steph. for uploading this to our Flickr pool.

When I first got engaged I was stoked as visions of the perfect wedding floated through my mind. However, I quickly realized that my “perfect wedding” could put us in debt before our journey even started. We are long past the times of the brides' parents paying for the wedding, especially if you are both coming from middle-class families as most of us are.

If you do have a Daddy Warbucks more power to you. For those of us who don't, who pays for these lavish soirees? How can people afford these things without breaking the bank? Here are a few tips to help you plan a wedding with a budget…

The Talk

They say you shouldn't talk about politics, religion, or money… unless you're getting married. If you and your partner haven't had The Talk yet, this may be a good time. Lets face it when you're dating you may over spend on dates and gifts to woo your love interest. Sometimes overspending gives your partner the impression that there is more money in your bank account than there really is. I disclosed my debt to my fiancé from the big and scary student loans, to the small but-still-owed credit card balance. While this can be a scary topic, it's important to be honest about what each of you is bringing to the table.

Set an honest budget

If you and your partner are primarily funding your wedding, be honest with each other about what you can afford. This is why having “the talk” is crucial. Once you come up with a number you are comfortable with try your best to stick to it. Downloading a wedding budget template is a great place to start.

Then divide and conquer who is paying for what and the amount they are contributing. Start by making a list of your wedding costs. There are plenty of templates available online. Remember there are no rules here, mix and match until you find something that works for you.

Don't just invite people because someone else wants you to

Keep it small and intimate. We have chosen to keep our guest list at a rounded 150. You may be thinking “that's a lot!” But, when you come from a huge Hispanic family where a guest list of 300 is the norm, 150 is considered tiny. Be ready to sit your abuela down and let her know that her cousins-daughter's-niece's-boyfriend won't be making the guest list.

When dealing with a large extended family my guest list rule is: If they haven't met the groom and I haven't seen them in years they won't be making the cut. I don't mean to be harsh but I've noticed all too often guest lists multiply like fruit flies.

Reach out to people you know with specific skill sets

I cannot stress this enough. If your uncle is a baker, ask him to make your wedding cake. Not only will this cut the cost, but your cake will be made with love and dedication. Our wedding venue does not provide catering, so I reached out to the catering company where I worked in high school. I had a great relationship with my boss and he was more than happy to help, while allowing us to personalize our menu without breaking the bank. Everyone needs help at some point in their lives so don't be afraid to ask for it.

Three simple letters: DIY

While it may be a more time-consuming option, making your own paper flowers, spray painting old vintage frames, and crafting your own centerpieces will go a long way. If you have a wedding party or crafty friend this is the time pull out the friend card and ask for some help. After all what are friends for if not to help you create the wedding of your dreams? Just be sure to return the favor and offer to do the same when it's their turn.

What are your budgeting tips for paying for your own wedding?

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Comments on No Daddy Warbucks, no problem: How to pay for a wedding yourself without going into debt

  1. We’re paying for ourselves also.

    We’ve got $5000 allocated for our whole wedding. We’ll have between 60-80 people depending on who can afford to fly in (90% of our family lives outside North America). Our venue is the most expensive at $2k, but we’ve rented it for four days – we’re having a cottage wedding & so we can accommodate our wedding party since they’re flying in from other countries. Our way of saying thank you & trying to keep costs low for them. And so we can do our wedding meal prep…

    We’re lucky in that fiance is a chef so we are doing all our own food & just hiring someone to help set things out & serve anyone with mobility issues. And our cake is being made by a friend in the business.

    That said, we’re definitely the “allergy” wedding. Our allergy count to accommodate right now is 8 different ones including – celiac, nuts, peanuts, shellfish, mustard, citrus (except lemons), kiwi & lactose. And 3 different religious requirements – Jewish, Hindu & Muslim. So, we are providing gluten-free nut-free pizzas for those who are celiac & have nut allergies, along with all our different salads. We have dairy-free main options & vegetarian options. We are having no pork or beef products to ensure our religious friends are accommodated. And we have gluten-free, nut-free & dairy-free dessert options. Oh and food for the kids’ party (thankfully & weirdly they have no allergies!). And because we are doing it ourselves with our whole budget, including servers, we think it will cost us $300-500.

    We’re having an open bar with just beer, wine & bit of bubbly, no hard liquor and we can supply that ourselves with a liquor license (license $25 & our liquor stores allow you to buy in bulk for discount prices & return any unopened bottles for a full refund). It also helps that a friend’s present will be a custom microbrew bride & groom beer of approx. 60-80 bottles (30-40 of each).

    We’re not having a DJ, just a spotify playlist for two reasons – our budget & no one could/would accommodate our date & location.

    We just can’t find a photographer who fits into our price. A friend recommended one – apparently a bargain – at $3500 as a basic price!!! I know that it’s definitely an art form and I respect that. But it is just too much.

    The rest of our budget is going to dress, suit & rentals – tableware, servingware, tables, etc. But if it turns out to be too expensive, we may throw around some pillows & do a picnic for everyone except for older guests who would find that too awkward!

    Oh and childcare services! Lots of friends and family have very very small children (all under 3) & being so close to the water, we don’t want any accidents. So we will have childcare & a kids party onsite, but indoors. The little ones are welcome to be around for the church, up until we sit down for dinner & party. Then it’s adults only (except babes in arms).

    • I’m curious as to where you are that the starting price for a photographer is $3500. Depending on where you’re located, that might be something you can negotiate.

  2. We’re self-funding- mom gifted me my ($775) bridal gown, but everything else is on us. We’re doing things pretty cheaply anyway (no flowers, small guest list, DIY photo booth, bring our own beer/wine) but had no idea how expensive things were when we set our original budget- I was thinking photogs would be like, $1-2K, but in our area they run 3-4 times that, which we were not expecting and we had to double our budget to accommodate. We set aside $ every week for the last year to fund everything so are in reasonable financial shape (1 week before the wedding), but still had to borrow $4K from ourselves (our rainy day savings) which we’ll now pay back slowly.

  3. We just got married October 2016, and we paid for 90% of the wedding. We had all intentions of paying for everything, but a couple of guests (My aunt, my Boss, a friend, my new SIL) offered to pay for/help with specific parts as our wedding gift — we happily accepted. The biggest thing I found for saving is networking and negotiating. Ask everyone you know who they know in the DJ/catering/photography/hair/makeup business and go from there. Always ask if you can get a discount for paying cash.

    Most importantly (IMO), pick your “thing”. The one thing you want to splurge on/don’t want to have a wedding without. For me, that was the photographer. For my Husband, that was the honeymoon. Over half of our budget was spent on those two things. It made it completely rational for us to DIY, cut costs, eliminate extras if we were getting our “thing”.

    Where we saved:
    Venue — we prettied up a Legion event hall. It was awesome as my FIL is a member and it cost us $300 total.
    My dress — bought off the rack and saved
    Food — luckily we had a couple of local caterers in mind and what we wanted for food was cheap (BBQ). We paid the caterers to bring the hot food and drop it off, no servers. I hired three local girls through FaceBook to man the buffet/clear dishes etc. I made coleslaw and bought my desserts at costco.
    DJ — Though my aunt paid for mos of this as our gift, but I negotiated a good price after finding an amazing DJ though friends. Finding vendors through friends can get you a decent discount! I saved the tax plus $100 off of her services because we had a mutual friend.
    Flowers — Bought through a connection of mine, I opted for high quality fake flowers, did all of my flowers for about 25% of what it would have cost me
    Decor — Husband made our ceremony backdrop (which doubled as a head table backdrop), I made our centrepieces. Minimal decor otherwise
    Hair and Makeup — my SIL did our hair (as our gift) and a co-worker’s wife did out makeup for a discounted rate.
    Cake — was done by a friend as our gift.

    Other little things (they add up!):
    – I made my headpiece (cost: $15, Savings, probably $75 or more…)
    – Wore blue shoes from Walmart
    – My bridesmaids wore black dresses they already owned
    – I used my credit card rewards points to buy anything and everything I could
    – We kept the guest list under 100
    – Home made favours
    – Free guest book (got a freebie code from shutterfly by signing up for their email list)
    – Linens off of Amazon
    – We set a budget and bought our rings in February on sale (mine was more than $300 off!)

    Hope these tips can help another Bride! <3

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