Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Wedding Spending - Your Dream Wedding for Less

It is another -23 degree morning here and the snow is blowing around, but that is not stopping me from thinking about the upcoming wedding season.  I have read a few posts on different blogs about weddings on the near horizon - and so I decided to share a few tips from my own wedding experience as a bride, and many experiences as a bridesmaid.  It is so easy for weddings to become ridiculously expensive (and ridiculous of course is all relative), but there are things you can do to save money.

Where to spend and where to save?
This is a question only you and your partner can answer.  The most important thing when planning a wedding (aside from the obvious making sure you have chosen the right partner and that you are in a solid relationship) is establishing priorities.  What do you think of when you think of your dream wedding?  What is most important to you?  Do you dream of a live band playing jazz standard into the night, an outdoor wedding at a heritage location, or perhaps you have always wanted a country themed wedding?  Only you and your partner can answer these questions.  Once you have made a list of what is important to the two of you, it should be much easier to decide where to spend and where you can save some money.

The Ring
A lot of couples are starting to forgo the diamond engagement ring and opting for less expensive items such as other gemstones are synthetic diamonds.  My husband got my engagement ring via a diamond wholesaler we had a personal connection to, which saved a significant amount of money.  I love my ring, but going back in time yes, I probably would now opt for an even less expensive option and put any money saved towards a down payment for a house.  My rule of thumb is to never take on debt for an engagement or a wedding.  So many problems in a marriage arise due to financial issues, you do not want to start off by taking on unnecessary debt.  Work with whatever budget you have.

The Invitations
My artistic ability is minimal, and I really wanted embossed (raised print) wedding invitations so I used a professional printer.  It cost roughly $500.00 for approximately 200 invitations.  They were beautiful and classic and I loved them - but if you are handy (of you know someone who is) you can easily make your own invitations for a fraction of that price.  One of my friends spent about $75.00 making their wedding invitations and there was nothing cheap looking about them.  Let's be honest - 95% of your invitations will end up in the recycle bin after the fact anyway.
Other Stationary - I bought all of my "Thank You" cards for the wedding and preceding bridal showers at Dollorama (Canadian dollar store) and Target.  I made my own wedding programs using regular white paper that I folded into a booklet.  I covered the booklet with a folded and cut piece of cardstock (to make a full booklet), stamped the front of the booklet and used ivory ribbon to tie everything together.

The Date
Our wedding was on a Friday evening.  We hadn't planned on this - but the venue we wanted was booked the Saturday of our wedding weekend so we opted for a Friday wedding.  We knew that we wanted an evening wedding anyway (our ceremony was at 7 and our reception started at 9pm), so we didn't have to worry about the majority of guests having to take a day off work to attend.  Sidebar: I loved an evening wedding.  It made the day so relaxed and not rushed.  It was fantastic and our guests didn't have to mill about for hours between the ceremony and reception.
Another great way to get reduced rates is to have your wedding at a non-seasonal time (ie. not in the summer or early fall).

This is where a lot of people can blow the budget.  I wanted a dress that was different and that I loved, and I just never found one that I fell in love with.  So I had a custom dress made.  This was a major expense - however major is again relative.  I know people who have paid $5000.00 for their wedding dress - I did not pay near this much.  My dress was not a traditional bridal gown.  I saw a dark brown evening gown made by Michel Desjardins that I loved and in the end I had a custom version of it made in cream.  I loved it.  It was a little pricey, but I never really regretted spending a bit more money on this.  I think if I had wanted to spend less money I would have opted for a complete different style of gown.  I have seen some beautiful cocktail length dresses worn by brides recently and that is another great way to save money.

But how can you save on a wedding dress?  Here are two great options:
Opportunity Bridal is a Canadian company - it is essentially a traveling bridal boutique that sells demos and ends of high end wedding gowns at steeply discounted prices.  This is a phenomenal way to save hundreds (thousands even) of dollars on a bridal gown.  I know many people who have bought their gowns through this company and it has been a huge money saver for them.  If you live close to the border, with the low Canadian dollar it is probably worth the trip to check out one of their shows.  Due to the nature of the business, their dress selection is always changing.

Another great option is House of Brides online bridal boutique.  The big disadvantage here is that you do not get to try on your dress - which is why for the bridal gown I prefer other options.  However, I did use House of Brides to order all my bridesmaid dresses and it worked wonderfully.

As far as the men are concerned - lots of money can be saved by having them all wear a black suit and just purchasing coordinating shirts and ties instead of renting tuxes.  This is assuming they all own a suit.

The Food
Because I had a very clear vision of what I wanted for our wedding, the food was easy to sort out.  We had an evening reception (it started at 9pm) and there was total free movement (there were tables for people to sit at - but no assigned seating and so it was more of a large cocktail party vibe).  I knew that I did not want a long sit down multiple course meal, nor would time permit that.  Instead we had a massive assortment of finger food and appetizers.  Just to clear up any misconceptions: we had an abundance of food and we got a lot of very positive feedback about it.  We had stations - so there was a large cheese and crudité bar, there was a prime rib carving station where people could have custom baguette sandwiches made, there was lots of seafood, there were servers constantly offering up food to our guests  - things like goat cheese tartlettes, chicken skewers, shrimp, etc. etc.  Food was everywhere and it was good.  Neither of us really wanted a cake, so we had a large dessert bar which included a chocolate fountain.  This was a big hit.  Our dinner was not "cheap" in price, but it was a fraction of what a four or five course sit down meal would cost.  Most people I talk to say that a sit down dinner at a typical wedding venue in our area will run you around $100/head.  Ten years after our wedding, people still mention to us how much they enjoyed the food.
Other ways to save money include shopping around many different types of venues (our reception was at a private members club, but there are lots of community halls and churches that put on great feasts for weddings at very reasonable prices).  I have been to weddings where the bride and groom literally cooked all the food themselves.  This was so much work, but the result was excellent.  One wedding I attended had a make your own beef on a bun bar, an assortment of salads, and then for the midnight buffet they ordered about 50 pizzas from a local pizzeria.  Their cake was made by a friend, large slabs of cake we sliced right before the reception.  Essentially, they also did all the food themselves.  All this food came at a very low cost - and you know what?  It was amazing.  I had so much fun at this reception.  There are so many different things you can do to save money on food while still treating your guests to a beautiful party - because you do want your guests to enjoy a beautiful night out.

The Entertainment

I wanted a live band at my wedding.  I just did.  This was a major expense for us (it was about $2800.00).  We hired a well-known artist and a 4 piece jazz ensemble.  They were great.  People oooed and awes when I announced that they would be providing music for our guests after the toasts were complete.  Yes, it was a big expense.  This was something that was important to me.  Given the technology available today, I have attended weddings where people made their own playlist in advance and hooked up iPods to speakers and sound systems they had access to.  Do what works for you.

The Favours
Favours are an area where you can save a lot of money.  DIY is the way to go.  I highly recommend something edible or plantable, or burnable (a candle) because I think everything else will eventually end up in the garbage (sorry).  Unless maybe you make your own pottery......
What did we do?  There is a great supply company called ULine.
ULine sells retail and food packaging products in bulk.  Through ULine, we ordered food safe (FDA compliant) candy boxes and liners, as well as drawstring bags to put them in.  Ordering them through Uline was again, a fraction of the cost of ordering through a major wedding supplier.  I strongly recommend checking out the different products they offer for favour ideas.
After we had all our boxes, I gathered some friends and family and we did some serious baking.  Our favourite treats.  We then filled 185 boxes with delicious desserts for our guests to take home.

The Flowers
As soon as you say "wedding flowers" dollar signs start dancing around.  We ordered our flowers from a local grocery store (Zehrs) that had a florist on staff.  The trick is to make sure you have a good florist.  Our photographer, who obviously has been to thousands of weddings, commented on how beautiful the bouquets were.  When I told him where they came from and the cost he couldn't believe it.  You can also get great flowers at very reasonable prices from Costco.

Ten years after the big day, all you will have left are your memories and pictures.  This is not an area I would skimp on.  Make sure you have someone who knows what they are doing.

Out of Town Guests
Let's be honest.  People spend a lot of money on your wedding.  People travel.  People take time off work.  They buy something to wear.  They hire a babysitter.  They buy you a lovely gift.  They sacrifice for you.  And they don't have to.  So it is important to show your appreciation to your guests.  We had a number of guests traveling from out of town for our wedding.  Initially I wanted to send a gift basket to each of their hotel rooms (they were mainly all staying at the same hotel where we had a group discount for our guests).  When I looked into the cost of this, I realized it would cost about $100 per basket.  Way out of my budget.  So I decided to make my own.  This was super easy, and was very appreciated.  I bought a number of large gift bags and baskets at the dollar store, then I went to Costco and picked up items such as: San Pellegrino sparkling water, still water, soft drinks, snack bars, individually bagged chips, gum, mints, colouring books and crayons for guests with children, etc.  I made up a selection for every out of town guest and left them at the front desk of the hotel to be given to them when they checked in.  This might have cost me about $15-20 per room.  I can't remember was ten years ago.  These little gestures go a long way to making your guests know that their presence is important to you.

And so there you have it.  There are many things you can do to make your wedding more affordable.  Establish a budget.  Set your priorities.  Enjoy your beautiful day.


  1. Fantastic post! You have given so many great ideas! I will definitely be using some of these tips. I will pin this post for you. Lots of folks could benefit from reading.

    Have you ever heard of A YouTuber I follow mentioned for ordering a cake topper, but they have all kinds of things, including dresses.

    Here is a bridemaid dress I told my daughter to look at. It reminds me a little of her wedding dress.

    What is your name? I am Lisa. Thanks so much for sharing this with me and for commenting on my blog.

    1. My name is Jennifer. I have not heard of that site - but the dress is stunning. Very elegant!!!

  2. I just pinned your article to my wedding board. Maybe you will get some traffic.