Cost Savings

16 Jan
Where we saved and cut costs in our weddingwedding-savings

Like many engaged couples, the Reflective Groom and I wanted to have a beautiful wedding and a party to remember, but we didn’t want to break the bank in doing so. During wedding planning, we read countless articles about ways to cut costs and save pennies… but I felt like a lot of tips were not very relevant to us. Try a Friday wedding to save money? Most venues in our region don’t offer such off-peak discounts. Try a buffet instead of a plated meal? This wouldn’t work with the very formal wedd- ings traditional to my groom’s culture. As I read these articles I found myself wondering how many of these cost-saving tips a couple actually can (and want to) take on board for their big day.
If you’ve been wondering the same thing and looking for insider tips, here are the ways in which the Reflective Couple saved some money on their big day, why we decided to take that approach, and how it turned out!

Online save-the-dates: We used the service to send a digital save- the-date to our guests. This was a good option for us, because it meant we could notify guests of the date instantaneously (without waiting for printing and post- age), which was important for giving guests advance notice of our wedding on the other side of the world. Also, with guests coming four continents, this was a great money-saver for postage costs!

Groupon invitations: I subscribe to Groupon newsletters, and an offer came up for handmade invitations at half their usual price! Because so many other people signed up for the offer, the business was a little swamped and it took about three months to get the finished invitations. Luckily, we were looking at invitations early on in our planning, and we had already sent out online save-the-dates any- way, so the delay was not a problem.

RSVP method: Instead of including an RSVP card and envelope with our wedding invitation, we simply asked guests to RSVP to a wedd- ing email address that we had set up.

Wedding website: Many services offer wedding website hosting… some free, and some not. We opted for free! Project Wedding was our website host, and we loved our site so much we also used a similar design on our invitations, stationery and wedding cake!

DIY stationery: I have basic graphic design stills and wanted to do some DIY for our wedding, so stationery was a logical choice. I designed (in Microsoft Word) and printed at home our welcome letters, ceremony program, “reserved” cards for the ceremony chairs, escort cards, table names and nametags for the welcome drinks – all in the same design as our wedding website and invitation. It does still cost a little to get good quality paper (and we had to buy extra ink halfway through printing), plus take a lot of time to cut it all out once printed, but I enjoyed the process and was glad to add a personal touch. Also, no one asked if they were DIY, so I guess it wasn’t too obvious!

Accessories as gifts: I received my wedding shoes (which I had chosen) as a Christmas gift from my in-laws-to-be, and my wedding day handbag and our cake topper as birthday and Christmas gifts from my sister. This saved us paying for those accessories, and receiving them from loved ones made them that little bit more meaningful.

Wedding expo: The Reflective Groom and I attended a wedding expo early in our engagement, where the vendors present offered discounts to attendees who booked their services within two months of the show. Sold! We saved US$100 on our officiant and on our DJ, and could have got freebies with others if we’d decided fast enough.

We rocked the mismatched bridesmaid dresses look!

We rocked the mismatched bridesmaid dresses look!

Own bridesmaid dresses: My groom wasn’t keen on the idea of bridesmaid clones, or treating three of my friends to new dresses when we had so many other wedding expenses… but I would have felt guilty ask- ing my best friends to fork out money for a dress of my choosing that they might never wear again. So I gave my bridesmaids a few criteria and told them they could buy themselves a dress of their own choice! This worked particularly well with bridesmaids spread across the globe (who couldn’t go dress shopping together), with bodies in quite different shapes and sizes. They each used black heels they already owned, to complete the outfit. It turned out wonderfully; even without being clones, their outfits still fit very well together!

Second-hand wedding dress: I found my dream wedding dress for US$2000, but was very hesitant to spend so much money on something I’d wear for only a few hours… especially when there are just as nice (vacations!) or more important (mortgage!) things to spend money on. So I went online and hunted down the exact same gown in the second-hand classifieds… and got it for half the price! It was in fantastic condition (since the previous bride only wore it a few hours!) and I was very happy with that decision.

Pre-wedding events: It was important for us that our wedding have a social atmosphere, but we didn’t want it to cost the earth. To fight expense, we held our rehearsal dinner for an hour and a half between the rehearsal and welcome drinks (only enough time for a main, so appetizers and desserts wouldn’t cost us extra – sneaky!) and we held it at a gourmet pizza cafe so that the meal wouldn’t cost too much. We made welcome drinks afterward a pay-as-you-go affair, and mentioned this on our wedding website and welcome letter so that people would have the right expectations (and cash on hand).

Cheaper sparkling white: At our cocktail hour, our venue would only charge “on consumption” for sparkling white wine served there. They gave us the price quote for the cocktail hour, without saying that there were any other options, and our jaws dropped at the price per bottle. We replied that it was more than we had in mind, and they changed it straightaway to another brand that was US$20 cheaper per bottle. It pays to ask (literally)!

See? Our reception decorations don't look like much here, but were amaaazing in person!

See? Our reception decorations don’t look like much here, but were amaaazing in person!

Simpler decorations: We toned back our decorations with the bottom line in mind. Our beach ceremony had only an unad- orned canopy as the altar, chairs for two-thirds of our guests, a white aisle runner, and small flower bunches on the back two aisle chairs. (I wanted the flower bunches on all the aisle chairs while my groom wanted no aisle decorations, so that was our cost compromise!) At our reception we had white covers and beige sashes on the chairs, a candle-on-mirror centerpiece with some scattered silk petals, and fairy lights on the ceiling. I felt it was very inadequate compared to some of the jaw-dropping decorations I’d seen in wedding magazines, but what you don’t realize is that decorations that look blah in photos can still look amazing in person – I was stunned by how magi- cal our reception venue looked when we first saw it!

Artificial flowers: I knew that I wanted to to keep my wedding bouquet (and a dried version wouldn’t make it back to the other side of the world squashed in my suitcase), so I chose silk and real-touch flowers for all our bouquets. I compared it to prices for the real McCoy, and it turns out that artificial flowers are also a little cheaper. I saved about 25% (US$120 worth) this way. Again, no one asked if they were artificial, so I assume they didn’t realize!

First dance online: Instead of paying for lessons to prepare for our first dance, we hunted around on YouTube for ideas and simply learned our first dance online. People loved it and asked how long we’d been practising!

DJ not band: Our reception had a DJ for the entertainment rather than a live band. My groom had been more set on a band for creating atmosphere, while I preferred a DJ because I’d rather have a variety of songs and the original vers- ions. My groom changed his mind when we realized a band would cost three times as much! Note that at our reception we did have an empty dancefloor most of the evening; however, I’m not sure if the atmosphere of a live band would have prevented this, as 5 of our 7 tables were family and friends who had not seen each other for years, and they probably would have preferred either way to catch up rather than boogie.

Half-day photography: All the photographers we looked at in my hometown essentially offered two wedding packages: half-day (from preparation until the start of the reception) or full-day (same again but until the grand exit). The Reflective Groom and I went with the former option, saving about US$1000. This was a big boon for our piggy-bank, but I do wish we could have had the photographer the whole day –  now we don’t have any good-quality pics of our speeches, first dance and cake cutting… and no pics at all of our grandmothers or the bouquet toss. 😦

“Home-made” album: Photographers seem to charge hundreds of dollars for making your wedding album after they’ve shot your day. Instead, we put together a wedding album ourselves on MyPublisher. They regularly offer discounts, so a leather-bound photo book with 40 sides only cost US$30 a piece. We gave them out to family as Christmas gifts, and they had all assumed it was professionally put together by our photographer. The results were beautiful!(First image from Celtic Wedding Rings, third image from Ruffled.)So there you have it! I hope this can inspire you and your betrothed as you look for ways to save a little money while still making a splash for your big day. 🙂

Tune into the blog next week for the flip side: where we decided to splurge, and why!

How did you save money for your wedding day? What kind of cost cuts did you make and why?

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