The key to a successful wedding that doesn’t break your budget is definitely teamwork! Sarah Pascarella shares some tips for finding deals and alternatives that can reduce the price tag of your special day.

In terms of Grownup decisions, getting engaged is one of the biggest. And there’s nothing like popping the question to kick off a whole host of others, from when the wedding will be to who’s on the guest list.

With the big question, too, comes the larger issue of money. The wedding-industrial complex is real, and costs can quickly spiral out of hand.

Don’t panic! A wedding, first and foremost, is a joyous occasion. And with a little prep work and a lot of communication, you can put together a budget that aligns with your values.

Here’s what worked for me.

Think Big Picture, as a Couple

My husband and I have been to more than 30 weddings in the 12 years we’ve been together. When you’ve been to that many celebrations, you tend to see the whole gamut of parties, from big blowout affairs to intimate gatherings. So when we decided to get married, we discussed our favorite weddings and compared notes. We looked for commonalities between our preferences and focused on those (e.g., great food and music, a lovely setting, an invite list around 125). From there, we had a pretty clear vision of what type of celebration we hoped to have—and from that, what the biggest expenses would be.

Go Long

My husband and I picked a wedding date that was 18 months after we got engaged, and in retrospect, it was one of the smartest financial decisions we made. We got quotes from and locked up our vendors early, giving us a year-and-a-half buffer to save and make payments for the big day. To cover all the expenses, we used a combo of budgeting over time and taking a set amount out of our savings, and as such didn’t have to take on any debt.     

Make a List of Must-Have, Nice-to-Have, and Don’t-Need Items

With the big-picture aspects (caterer, venue, and DJ) locked down, we then focused on other elements: table settings, dress, favors, invitations. We looked at price ranges, and budgeted for the musts, figuring that if we had any left-over funds that they would go toward nice-to-haves. Then, when I got an unexpected bonus at work, we did just that, and bumped up our fruit centerpieces to nice-to-have flower centerpieces. For the don’t-need pieces, we were really firm, especially up against sales pitches. Which brings me to…

Know Your Vendors—and Cast a Wide Net

We often joked that if we had just said we were having a party, the quoted prices would be half of what the “wedding” rate would be. Indeed, it seemed like just adding the word “wedding” added multiple zeros to the end of every vendor quote. So, don’t be hesitant to add a good variety of vendors to your mix, and look at non-wedding products in addition to traditional wedding items. (For example, our guest book was a repurposed album from an Etsy shop, and cost a fraction of what I had seen traditional wedding guest books go for. In an unexpected cost-saving twist, we ended up forgetting to put it out at the reception, and instead used it afterward as our wedding photo album.) So get lots of quotes, and shop around: If a vendor’s wedding rates vary wildly compared to a similar non-wedding product, go with the non-wedding product.  

Just Say No

Repeat after me: No, thank you, we won’t need fill-in-the-blank. You’re going to get pitches for things you’ve never heard of before, “essentials” that are anything but, and keepsakes you won’t need. You’re under no obligation to say yes to all the trimmings. If something is on your don’t-need list, stick to that.

Grownups, which wedding budget techniques worked for you? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below!

A lifelong bookworm, Sarah spends her days
thinking of new ways to tell stories—
and on which media to do so.

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