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Budget Weddings: a guide to saving money on your big day

Updated on June 24, 2015

Big day doesn't mean big costs

So you’re about to tie the knot. It can be one of the biggest and most expensive moments of your life, not even including the honeymoon. Reuters puts the average price for a wedding at around $25,000. This can be fixed by the cheaper option of getting married by a justice of the peace but many don’t want that option. The most expensive parts of a wedding are the pictures, catering, lodging, and the venue for the wedding and reception. As for you brides out there, one of the most important and costly decisions is the dress and the hardest part is it’s solely your decision to make. So here’s some ways to save money at your wedding, and in some cases get something out of it.

Photography

The photography at the wedding can be one of the most important things down the road. The food is gone, the honeymoon suit was only for the night, you could move far away from the venue, but the pictures of your special day can remind you of that day; or be used to show future generations. Depending on the photographer you go through, getting them to take wedding pictures can cost you a couple hundred or up to a thousand for a hundred prints or so. There are a couple easy solutions to this.

Probably the easiest solution is far from professional but yields unique pictures every time. All you need to do is go to Walgreens and buy disposable cameras, write a note instructing people to “take a few pics and pass it on”, then place them on tables at the reception or have the ushers give them out to random during the ceremony. They sell for about $10 and they can provide unique perspectives of the wedding. Just keep them away from immature uncles who are going to take undesired pictures.

Next you can look for a freelance photographer using sites like model mayhem. Not only could this be a cheaper solution, many of these artists are willing to negotiate a price (due to the fact they will do model shoots for free to build their portfolio), are in it for their love of photography, and are capable of using photo editing software like photoshop at ease. There are two things you should be prepared for in this scenario; the quality of work can vary considerably, depending on the level of experience of the photographer, and the photographer will likely want to keep your photos to use in his portfolio.

The last idea you get something out of it. It’s basically treating yourself to your own wedding present. In this idea you take the money you would normally spend on a photographer and buy a top end camera yourself. As I’m writing this, there is a Cannon EOS XTi/400D digital camera, with multiple lenses and two carrying bags for $400 on ebay. If your budget is at least $400 you could buy that and have someone you trust take the pictures for you. In the end you have quality wedding photos, and a top end camera for the price of the wedding photographer. To me, it’s a win-win.

Food

Next comes the catering. Having a full meal catered for a few guests isn’t bad, but when you’re talking about feeding a hundred people, it can make your bank account cry. The easiest way to do this is to do it yourself, or rather have family do it for you. You could also skip the meal itself to save even more money.

When it comes to having it done by family and friends, first you need to know that they’re willing to do it. This is up to you, but I figure sending in the groom or bride personally to ask should be able to sway a few minds. Now that you have your cooks, get working a day or two before the wedding. Make simple but filling stuff and place it in tuppleware until the big day. My advice for a great meal would be pastas and rice dishes. This is mainly because the meals can be made in bulk and generally aren’t that expensive. A great rice dish can be found here: http://indiancooking.hubpages.com/hub/Egg-Fried-Rice-Recipe-ingredients-preparation-method but there are plenty on hubpages to choose from. Just whip up a batch or two and store it in the fridge by the pot, then reheat the day of the wedding and done.

A second option is do a potluck reception, just ask people to bring a dish. You could end up with a wild variety of food but it’s no cost and no work for you. The drawback of this is it isn’t the best option for large weddings and you could have a lot of the same thing. No one wants to eat potato salad, with potato salad as a side, and potato salad as a desert. An easy fix is you could make a list of simple cheap items and have people sign off on them, that way you know there will be edible stuff that you chose there.

The Last option is to skip the entre and only serve the appetizers and desert. If it is anything like my wedding, the majority of people don’t eat at the reception anyways. They just drink, snack, talk, and dance. Just set out a tray of simple to make items like cupcakes, brownies, nuts, and other easy to make items.

As for the drinks, make a punch bowl, and keep the glasses small. That’s the best advice for any occasion. The small glasses will allow the punch to last longer and keep you from having to make more during the reception.

Venue

Now we have the lodging. There are only two options here I can give you. See if the hotel offers a group rate and look for discounts. For my wedding we put the rooms in my name because the hotel offered a military discount, which saved us about 15%. Another good afterthought, if you do a theme wedding stick to it, such as an outdoor wedding and lodge in a campground. In that case, the honeymoon suit is dads RV. One final note, it is traditional for the bride’s family to pay for the travel and lodging expenses of the groom’s family. If you can’t afford it, let it be known early so they can make their own plans. And don’t worry about breaking tradition, we live in the 21st century.

The last part is again one of the most expensive parts of the wedding, the venue. Most people think of a wedding in a church, it’s traditional, beautiful, got ample seating, but is it the best for you or your budget? Churches can cost a considerable amount to book and you can pretty much give up the idea of having a church wedding on certain days of the week or certain holidays because it’s already booked for service on those days. For an easier solution; go outdoors, to a friend/family members, or have it at home.

As for my wedding, we got married in an archeological park. It was free for us due to my father in law being an archaeologist there but at $100/hr with a minimum of 4 hours it would still have been cheaper than some of the churches we looked into, the most expensive pushing $5,000 for a night. You can use anywhere though, city or state parks, national forests, or just a quiet plot of private land (as long as you have permission) these can lead to memorable experiences and provide beautiful natural decoration.

The second option is go to someone else’s place. If you’re a little bit country, see if a family member of friend will let you use their pasture for the wedding and a barn for the reception. If you’re from the city, see if a family member has a big backyard in the suburbs to use. In this case it’s all about connections, just ask. You may find that a distant relative or a friend of a friend is willing to let you use their land, business, or even church for next to nothing.

Now there are a few great examples. Some of which I’ve used on for my own wedding, which turned out great. If you have any input or ideas feel free to leave a comment or even write a hub. I’ll be continuing this further when I get the chance and get a few key details from the wife. For any that are interested the addition will cover the wedding dress and flowers, neither were decided on with input from me but they turned out amazing.

How to decorate wedding cupcakes.

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