How We Cut Wedding Costs

Wedding Photo Album

Getting Hitched on the Cheap

As I mentioned in a previous post, I had gotten married when my wife and I were relatively young.  We were just starting out and weren’t making very much money.  We didn’t have a pot to piss in, is officially where we were at a financial level.  However, we planned and paid for our wedding ourselves saving and being has frugal we could. While my marriage ended after only 15 years, we had a good run. It still remains one of my favorite days of my life. These are some tips on how we cut wedding costs.

I wanted to write this story because I keep hearing people spending thousands and thousands of dollars on a wedding, and I’d like to let some people know that you don’t need to spend twenty-thousand, thirty-thousand, or more on your wedding.  The Knot says the average Minnesota wedding is almost $23,000!

Cutting Wedding Cake, just before we clipped the topper, and then it came falling down! It was hilarious!

I’ll share some of the things we did, and the lessons we’ve learned. I’m sorry I don’t have receipts or actual numbers of what was spent, but it was many years ago. 21 years ago, in fact. Yikes! But one thing that was most important was that the wedding day was a beautiful day I’ll always remember. We also didn’t break the bank. 

DYI Invites and Centerpieces

Let us start with the invitations and centerpieces.  My wife was pretty crafty. She had hand made greeting cards and scrapbooks for years.  So when in came to the wedding invitations, she literally hand-made every one.  And they were beautiful.  We kept the guest list relatively small. We had about 50 of our closest family and friends attend the wedding and reception.

Buying pre-printed shells, and running them through my printer saved money.

In addition to hand-making the wedding invitations, she had also hand made the centerpieces for the reception.  All in our white and lavender colors.  We had provided Candy Bars for all our guests, which I made custom candy bar wrappers.  There are services that do this.  I went to Sam’s Club purchased candy bars, and manually wrapped all the bars with the custom wrapper I had printed for free at my work. 

Guest List = Quality vs. Quantity

When people have these ginormous guest lists with 100s of people, I think it is silly. We had a smaller wedding party and a guest list.  One thing that happens is people change. Life continues to evolve.  There are people we were so wicked close too, whom we drift apart, and those people build lives of their own.  I don’t regret ANYTHING about having these people involved. They were a HUGE part of our lives back then, and a HUGE part of our wedding.  I bring this up to illustrate the point, try not incurring crazy extra cost by having long, long guest lists of people you may not even be friends with years later. 

Reception Hall for Free

One of the biggest and most significant ways we were able to save money, was to have the wedding reception at church. Yes. You heard that correctly.  The marriage ceremony was held at a church, that my wife’s family had been members of for years. Even some of the stained glass windows had her grandparents’ names under them. I often made jokes that I’ll burst into flames when I enter the sanctuary. Haha! Cuz ya know… Metal is Evil lol.

When it came time for the wedding reception We actually had the reception downstairs in the Fellowship Hall of the church. The church had a full commercial kitchen. More on the food later. Because My wife had been a member of the congregation at the church, and we got married in the Sanctuary upstairs, the use of the Fellowship Hall was free.  Yes. FREE!  I need to also explain because this was at church, there wasn’t alcohol.  This was a consideration, and while having a reception elsewhere and providing an open/cash bar is the standard convention, we saved so much money by leveraging my wife’s relationship with the church and using the meeting space for free.  Our reception didn’t go late into the night, with a lot of dancing. Like I said before, I don’t regret anything about the way we planned or had our wedding. We had thought that we are here for our day of beginning our marriage together. We did hope our family and friends would respect.  I later had hoped to have an anniversary party where people could drink and dance and have fun. Unfortunately, we didn’t get that opportunity. 

One of the most expensive pieces of the big day was the wedding dress.  My wife did know how to find a deal. One of our running jokes was we would go broke saving money.  Her mother did find and purchase the gown on clearance at David’s Bridal.  I think $400 sticks out as the cost of the dress. It was a long time ago, so we be off on that. 

Food and Catering

I had a longtime childhood friend whose mother was a caterer.  I had the luxury of and being fortunate to hand at my friend’s house all the time.  We’d head over there after school, do homework and play video games. I’d often be invited to stay for dinner.  It was always amazing food and it was delicious.  My friend and his parents were so great and even invited me to their lake vacation in the summer.  When we began planning the wedding, and knowing we were trying to save money, I asked my friends Mom if they’d be able to cater to my reception.  Of course, they were excited to help and to participate in the special day.   We had an incredible and delicious, served meal at the reception. It was absolutely wonderful. We got an amazing meal for a fraction of the cost we’d pay otherwise. She even provided the wedding cake, and we supplied our own topper! I’m not entirely sure I remember the dollar amount, and I do recall, attempting to hand my friend’s mother a check for a payment/tip and I do remember her looking at me and said, “Christopher, put that away.” I’ll always remember and be grateful for this such a selfless gesture.  


Spicer Castle Bed & Breakfast – Spicer, MN

Knowing that we would be spending nearly all we had on the wedding day itself, we understood that the honeymoon would be delayed. Rather, then go into a huge debt and go on a vacation we could not afford, what we did do is head to a local Bed and Breakfast immediately following the ceremony and reception.  This was not too far away, only a couple hours away from the cities. It was much less expensive to spend a couple of nights together at a Bed and Breakfast. We had delicious meals, went canoeing, played games, and walked to the beach, and visited the shops in town. We followed up with our vacation a year and a half later to Disney World!

Wedding Rings

Trade up the Wedding Ring

Another way we had saved some money, was continuing to ‘trade up’ the wedding ring.  Years before the wedding, while we were dating, I had purchased a promise ring, well that’s what we called it.  Beginning with this entry-level ring that I could afford. Literally, like, $199.00.  We then would continue to bring this ring into the same jeweler multiple times to trade up this ring to get some residual value that the ring had, and only pay the difference. If you look there was a solitaire ring next to a separate gold band.  I did continue this trade up process, even up to our 10 year anniversary. 

This was what I can remember from, my former wife’s, and my big day. It was a long time ago so some of the other details are forgotten. I do know this. We had always been frugal. We looked for ways to cut costs and save where we could. We could still have an absolutely wonderful day for a fraction of the cost of other weddings.

Thanks for following along! We’d like to hear from others who have hacked their way through the wedding costs, and what others have done to save and budget on your big day. Please leave some comments!

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