When the topic of budget-conscious weddings comes up, I always feel a pang of guilt. Although we are sticking to a fairly ambitious budget (read: two-thirds of the average wedding cost for our area), I always feel as if we could do better. Brendan and I have a goal of paying off our credit cards within the next few years, and since I am still in “training” as a research scientist and just got out of graduate school a few years ago, I definitely have some debt to pay off! It’s nothing too serious, but both he and I agreed that we would like to pay for the wedding without adding to our credit card debt. But there is always this nagging thought that with the amount we will be paying for the wedding, we will be keeping ourselves from our goal of being debt-free for that much longer.
We're going to need a little more than this! (source)
When we first started trying to create a budget for the wedding (something I suggest doing before you try to nail down any details!), Brendan and I were astounded to see how much everything costs. Before we were engaged, we had always assumed that people who spend $30k or more on a wedding are going for an all-out, lavish affair – now we know that if you’re not careful, you can easily spend that much on a bare-bones wedding!
When we first decided to keep our budget relatively low, we had high hopes of our wedding being around $5,000-10,000. To be honest, anything more than that seemed crazy! But as we started looking at tips for how to keep the cost of your wedding down, everything we saw boiled down to two pieces of advice: 1) Limit your guest list, and 2) Rely on “friendors” (friends with skills that can help with your wedding) for as many things as possible.
Now, our guest list is already pretty limited – we’re inviting only family and close friends, and we think we will end up with around 85-100 guests total. Sure, it’s not a 20-person cocktail party, but we’ve kept it as small as possible for us. That leaves friendors – an idea that’s a bit of a sticking point for me.
Let me explain: Everywhere I looked on the internet, I found all sorts of articles featuring “budget-savvy” weddings, advertising vanishingly small budgets. Certainly I could do what they did and have a stunningly beautiful wedding with a low budget, right? Well, wrong. Because those weddings? Were filled to the brim with friendors. How many people actually know a professional photographer (not just someone who owns a nice camera!), a caterer, a cake baker, a videographer, a cellist, and someone with a really big barn suitable for a wedding? Not many people, I’d venture to guess. But it’s those weddings that end up on the internet – totally not realistic! Of course it’s possible to have a beautiful wedding on a low budget without knowing all of these people – but unless you have a friend who can cover one of the bigger budget items (for us, venue/catering and photography), it is significantly harder than it looks.
Still holding out for someone with a car like this! (source)
For Brendan and I, our friendors were much more limited. A family friend of Brendan’s is a DJ, and he is giving us a bit of a break (we think!) on his event pricing. And Brendan’s uncle is a deacon, so he will officiate our wedding – but this will be along with our priest, and we are still paying the charge for renting the church for the evening. We do know people who do photography and play music professionally, but their skill sets don’t really match weddings – the photographer photographs only jewelry (great for the rings, but not so wonderful for action shots), and the musicians are more rock-oriented, not very wedding-appropriate.
We love our friendors, but we certainly aren’t saving much money by using them – so what are we to do? Well, aside from generally committing to be budget-conscious, the best thing we can do is to incorporate a lot of DIY elements. Luckily, I happen to be pretty crafty, so this is the easiest thing for us to do – and the best way for us to get the wedding décor we love but not break the bank. I’d estimate we have saved about $1000-2000 just by putting together most of our decorations ourselves! And choosing a venue with all-inclusive packages (including cake and flower vendors) certainly helps us stick to the budget, too!
How did you stick to your wedding budget? Did you have any sweet deals from friendors?