Today, Crunchy Con ran a piece about simple weddings coming back en vogue, and asked people to share about their wedding if they somehow managed to avoid the extravagant $25,000+ affairs that seem to be the "norm" in the east coast.
Well, we avoided that kind of crazy price by a long shot (I think our total wedding costs may have totaled something like $2000)... so I decided to share about it here. Sadly, I don't have access to most of our wedding pictures (they're back in storage in the States)-- but I've taken some semi-fuzzy digital shots of the prints that we have here. I'll bold our money-saving ideas... I'm sure you can find more elsewhere, but this is how we pulled off an inexpensive wedding that was beautiful, intimate, and that we still look back on with delight.
For invitations, I waited to find a good deal and we chose simple, classic invitations from a company that was offering much less expensive rates. We bought some silver-inked pens and some friends and I took an afternoon to address the envelopes ourselves. We limited the amount of invitations we purchased, and nearly all the invitations were sent to people we really hoped would come-- not every Tom, Dick, and Harry we and our parents ever knew. The invitations were sent in a normal rectangular-shaped envelope, so that it did not require additional stamps.
I went into Microsoft Word & designed the wedding program myself, and had it printed on a custom-sized parchment-style paper at the local printshop. Little details like this could have really added up, but by doing them ourselves, we saved a lot of money in ways that really weren't noticeable, and in the long run, don't matter a hill of beans.
GOING TO THE CHAPEL
We got married in our college chapel... a quaint building with ethereal light drifting in the opague windows. In that chapel, I'd worshipped, poured my heart out before the Lord, repented of sins big and small, shared words of encouragement, and led fellow students in songs of praise. Because we were students, we made a deposit and received it back in full, so the location cost us nothing.
Like every bride, I scoured the bridal magazines and saw dresses that were gorgeous, but found one in a magazine photo that was right up my alley. Of course, as they always are, it would have cost thousands of dollars. But at a friendly neighborhood David's Bridal, I found an almost identical dress for a few hundred dollars. The bridesmaids dresses were on sale at David's. I've since heard from friends who got even better deals at David's by being more open to anything and hitting the sales racks there.
FLOWERS & DECORATIONS
For all the typically expensive stuff, we found some friends who had hobbies in the areas of our need... we knew a young married guy who had connections in the flower business & knew where to get large amounts of flowers for much less money, so we hired him to do all our flowers-- all white daisies (my favorite). I bought glass fishbowl-like glassware (and probably some ribbon too) at a Hobby Lobby sort of store for a fraction of what it would have cost from a florist, and that friend did all the arranging.
REHEARSAL DINNER & BRIDAL PARTY GIFTS
For the rehearsal dinner, we used a dietetics major who was beginning a catering business, and it was delicious-- she worked with us to custom-make the menu and Doug's mom made a favorite family recipe for the dessert. As gifts for the bridal party, I kept my eye out for good deals and bought matching jewelry for the bridesmaids, and we ordered a set of fun-colored swiss army knives off of eBay for the groomsmen.
PHOTOGRAPHY & VIDEO
One of our friends was a campus photographer with a great eye, so we asked him if he'd be willing to do our wedding. He'd never shot a wedding before, so I made a list for him, in order (to go along with the service order), of the basic photos I wanted. I starred the ones that were most important for me, so that if he had to miss a shot, it wouldn't be one that was super-important for us to have, and he came to the rehearsal dinner to practice and get a feel for where he'd stand, where the light would be, etc. He did formal color pictures for all the normal shots, and informal, more artistic black-and-white shots for all the post-wedding & reception shots. He developed a set of prints and handed the film over to us. He did an excellent job, and for payment, my husband painted a Ruth/Boaz themed painting (the "where you go, I will go" passage was a centerpiece of our wedding vows) and traded him the painting for his photography services.
If I had it to do over again, I probably would not have paid the money for a video of our wedding. However, a close friend that sang in our wedding died suddenly only a few years later, and so I'm thankful that I have the video for that one reason. But the cost of the video (perhaps a hundred dollars? can't remember...), compared to the few times we've ever watched it, probably was not worth it.
There was a place on campus with a wall of windows that looked out over the nearby river... we opted to have our reception there, and again, it cost (if anything) very little.
We found a comparably inexpensive local baker who did a beautiful basketweave buttercream tiered cake, and ordered from her, with fresh daisies and an antique Wilton cake topper I'd bought off eBay as decorations. She was most excited about doing the groom's cake-- a chocolate sheet cake frosted with the image of a Rothko painting on top. My husband, Doug, was a painting major, and Rothko was his favorite artist at that time. :)
For food & decor, we hired a family friend with an on-the-side catering business. She made all the reception foods, worked with the floral guy for decorations, and arranged for all the linens, etc. It was simple, as we had an afternoon wedding, with a good assortment of finger foods, desserts, and drink options. For music, we asked a close friend who played classical guitar (Thanks again, John & Julie!) to play whatever he wanted. It was beautiful accompaniment for a low-key and enjoyable reception.
Not everyone has friends in every area necessary for pulling off a wedding, and I understand that... but really, local colleges and young businesspeople are really great resources for doing a wedding, if you're willing to work with them and help them to succeed. Asking around in your "circle" for different people who may have connections with florists, the desire to do catering jobs, or with special skills (like web design, photography, or musical abilities) can really save a bundle of money. Doing as much yourself as possible will save money, and can be done without stress if you plan well. We cut corners on almost everything, but the wedding was absolutely enjoyable and suited us perfectly.
My hope is that this post will encourage young women who may read it to be freed from feeling the burden of pulling off some "perfect" event, and instead opt for something that will be enjoyable and suit your personality without breaking the bank.
Our best memories from the day are seeing each other, visiting with the people we love, and receiving spoken and prayed blessings from our family & friends. And of course, the most important thing of all was that we marked the beginning our lives together before God and others as man and wife. The rest is just details.