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$5k Wedding Wednesday- Where to Splurge and Where to Save

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If you’re looking to cut costs in a wedding, sometimes that means doing without. You might not be able to have that helicopter entrance you fantasized about. Or the moat filled with pink swans. Or the diamond encrusted silverware.  But it doesn’t have to be that way. Sometimes slight modifications to your plan can save the money in one place, so you can allocate it to another. But what can you skimp on and what must you have? Ultimately this is your decision, but here’s my take one the important things in your wedding.

First of all, let me come right out and say that my favorite quote to remember while planning a wedding is “if at the end of the day you are married to the person you love, then everything went exactly right”. Meaning…it’s not a performance. It’s a party! It’s a celebration of your love, and it’s supposed to be FUN and YOU. No one expects it to be perfect. Except maybe you. And you should stop that. 🙂

Moving on.

Here’s the breakdown of the major costs associated with a wedding and where you can cut costs:

wedding officiant

1. The Officiant: If you are a member of a church, sometimes a member of the clergy will officiate for a small donation to the parish. If you don’t belong to a church, or if you choose someone who is not your pastor, consider having a friend or relative ordained. They can be ordained online in a very short period of time for a very low cost. This is a more personal approach (think: a favorite uncle or sibling? How special would that be!?)
Potential Savings: $300-$500 or more

wedding venue

2. The Venue: Sure you might love to have your wedding in a grand hall or a castle, but sometimes that isn’t feasible, and honestly, far less personal than having it at a favorite park or a family home. It would mean a lot more to those involved to have your wedding ceremony at a family cabin, or summer home than an impersonal venue, and the savings can be monumental. Some halls charge fees in the tens of thousands of dollars JUST to rent them (not including anything else!)
Potential Savings:  upwards of $10,000

wedding catering

3. The Food: You might not be able to get around this one, but having a brunch wedding, a dessert-only wedding, or a casual barbecue could save thousands in food costs. Instead of paying a caterer $40-$50 a person, you could serve simpler food for $5-$10 per person. Your costs could be EVEN LOWER if you have a bunch of relatives (or church parishioners ) willing to volunteer their culinary skills.  Again, it would be more meaningful to have great Aunt Beatrice serve everyone her famous Chicken Parmasean rather than order it from a restaurant. Check to see if your venue will allow you to bring your own food in (aka: not from a caterer…some places allow it, some don’t) and you could save thousands
Potential Savings: $35-$40 per person

Wedding cake

4. The Cake: While a big multi-layer cake might be your dream, until you price out wedding cakes (YIKES) you don’t really realize how big of an expense this is. Cupcakes are becoming a very popular alternative, and are far less expensive (you can even have someone help make your own). If you want to have the cake cutting experience, opt to buy a small single or double layer cake just for you, your spouse and your bridal party. This way you get more flexibility with flavors, and less cost by having the guests have cupcakes. This sweet ending to the evening does not need to set you back a fortune!
Potential Savings: $1000 and up

Wedding DJ

5. The DJ: I will probably catch some heat for this. But it needs to be said. You don’t NEED a DJ. If your family is like mine, and not huge into dancing the night away, then splurging to make your wedding look like a Manhattan night club is a waste. You DO need music, and you DO need an MC, so consider “hiring” a trusted friend or relative for the task.  Everyone has iPods nowadays, and there are tons of apps for DIY wedding dj-ing. You can set up playlists and have them transition guests between activities (cocktail hour, grand entrance, dinner, toasts, cake, dancing, exit, etc). You can rent sound equipment if your venue doesn’t have it. For the ceremony through dinner, you just need some gentle ambient music quietly playing in the background. Then they can kick it up a notch for the reception. Just make sure you are on the same page about what kind of music is to be played, lest you have 3 hours of Polka followed by the Macarena, or a Justin Bieber marathon.
Potential Savings: $700 and up


Of course, there are many more things you can save on. We will cover a lot of them in future posts, but for now, you know some ways right off the bat where you can shave off TONS of cost.  Now that you know the 5 big things you can save on, what should you NOT skimp on?


Wedding photographer
The Photographer. Never ever go for a “budget” photographer. These are your MEMORIES. Your treasured moments. What if they got ruined forever? You cannot re-do your whole wedding because someone botched your photos. This is one thing I have learned while planning our wedding.

If you have a VERY trusted family member, who you have seen lots of instances of their superb work…then proceed with caution, but never ever just openly trust that uncle Larry has a great eye for composition. The photos of your event are the ONLY thing that is going to last forever (other than the marriage itself of course) so you do NOT want to skimp here. You can still save money (asking the photographer about any specials, referral bonuses, discounts by booking through a wedding fair or showcase, etc) but don’t hire a photographer based on cost alone. Look at their work, see what you’re getting for your money, and make the decision that way. Remember: the cake is gone in an hour, the people won’t remember what music you played, the photos are for a lifetime! (think: EVIDENCE!)

That’s my thoughts anyway. What do you think?

Don’t forget to check out the other $5k Wedding Wednesday posts here!

Where can you cut wedding costs?

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