If you’ve read some of my past posts about planning our wedding, you know that we had three big priorities going into the whole process.
- Hosting our friends and family for a meal.
- A stress-free planning process.
- Staying out of debt.
I’ve talked at length about how that impacted where we spent our money, and the wedding budgeting process, but not quite as much about the tactical ways we saved on less-important line items while still keeping them in the mix.
So today, I’m getting into the details (and the accompanying photos, to show you exactly what it looked like in the end!). There were four big line items that we looked at in a “traditional” wedding budget, and said “Well, it’d be nice to have them, but maybe we could spend less than $4000 on them???”
And that’s exactly what we did, and still ended up with a totally happy, stress-free, and dare I say it awesome wedding.
To make one thing perfectly clear: For each item, I’ve noted not only how much they each cost us, but the effort and skills involved as well, because that is not nothing. Since a stress-free event was a big priority for me, there were definitely times I opted to spend the money instead of doing the work myself, and they were great. I just want to be clear that while the time-cost breakdown on these items made sense for me, they might not for you, and that’s fine!
What we did: Kept our rings simple
Total cost: $339
Total effort: ~1 hours
Special skills? Not really
The real effort in keeping your rings simple is deciding it doesn’t matter to you, because even though I am notoriously rough on my hands and have the coordination of a drunken ox, I still sometimes think to myself “Hey, maybe I could pull off a raised stone!”
Meanwhile, I hit my hand (and my gorgeously simple engagement band, pictured above) so hard on literally the first day I had it that I loosened a stone. So as much as I can drool over gorgeous rings with the best of them, I am not to be trusted with thousands of dollars on my hands. Knowing that, and also knowing that rings weren’t a big priority for us, made it pretty easy to keep this line item quite small in our budget.
We got our two wedding bands at a local jeweller, and the process took us all of an hour—including choosing what we wanted.
What we did: DIY flowers for centrepieces
Total cost: $496.46
Total effort: ~10 hours
Special skills: Ahahahaha no
Our wedding flowers are a true case study in Knowing Yourself Well Enough to Make The Right Call. I know two things about myself for sure.
- I am wildly overconfident when it comes to things I’ve never done before.
- I am quite bad at handling disappointment.
With those two things said, can anyone see a flaw in this plan? I was going to order fresh flowers from Costco two days before our wedding, and process and arrange them all into centrepieces that relied on the flowers not dying. Oh, and I have zero experience working with fresh flowers.
After months of banking on my Costco plan, I called it and decided that the potential for me to kill the fresh flowers the night before my wedding was too great, and my ability to handle that level of stress on the morning of my wedding was non-existent. So instead, I pivoted.
I figured if the big worry was killing the flowers, why not me-proof the process and get great-looking fake flowers to go with real greenery (much more death-defiant, or so my research told me) from Costco?
I did some research, and shipping fake flowers isn’t cheap given that they’re pretty voluminuous, so if you do want to follow in my footsteps on this, try to source local options. I got our fake flowers at Michaels, and while they weren’t cheap—the peony stems were $16 each full price—Michaels will often have half-off flowers sales, which is how I scored all of ours.
We then got two orders of greenery from Costco for under $200 (online!) which they delivered right to our door on the Wednesday before our wedding. I spent about three hours that evening cleaning and arranging the centrepieces, and then another hour delivering them to the venue on Thursday. Advice from one beginner to another: Floral wire is your friend when your centrepieces need to be packaged up and still look kind of good when they’re unpacked.
And one last tip if you’re DIY-ing your flowers, your local dollar store (for us it was Dollarama) will likely carry plain glass vases for about a dollar. That’s what we used for ours, both the tall versions and the smaller centrepiece vases!
What we did: DIY-designed our signage
Total cost: $148.60
Total effort: ~7 hours
Special skills: Basic familiarity with Adobe Creative Suite
I use Photoshop for this blog and for my day job, and while I’m no designer, I do know how to download and install fonts, and do the basics to make ideas in my head roughly translate to a screen.
But fun story: Photoshop isn’t a good tool for creating printable graphics like our wedding signs! Since we wanted to do a large-format welcome sign and seating chart, we needed to prepare a print-ready PDF, so I downloaded a free trial of Adobe InDesign, which is made for that kind of work.
I only had seven free days to get everything ready and confirmed, so I buckled down to get everything laid out and saved in the format we needed. Once we had that, it was easy to send the two signs to a local print shop and get them printed on foam board for about $75.
For our smaller signs, we stocked up on basic frames at Michaels for about $10 a piece, and I uh… did not ask my husband to print them on his work printers.
Definitely did not do that.
What we did: Opted for emails, not paper invites
Total cost: $120
Total effort: ~6 hours
Special skills: Nah
So ok, this is misleading, because our email invites were entirely free, but we did spend $120 on a wedding website that did
most all of the heavy lifting when it came to RSVPs. I’m used to working with WordPress (that’s what I use to run Half Banked) but when it came to my wedding website, I wanted to spend drastically less time on it than I do getting and keeping this site up and running. That’s why we went with Squarespace, which is easy enough to use that you literally do not need to have ever built a website before to create a great wedding website.
Plus, I knew Squarespace had this feature that would come in super-handy for the RSVP process: You can have forms submit their answers directly into a Google Sheet.
Me, in this photo: “I’m so happy with my decision to send email invites,” probably.
So when we went to send out the email invites, we sent out three batches depending on what information each group needed to know, using regular ol’ Gmail-sent emails. Plain text, baby. All we had to do was link to our RSVP page on the wedding website, and tell people to fill out the form there.
As an extra perk, I asked people to fill out their addresses when they submitted the form—so not only was chasing down missing RSVPs a total breeze, it also left me with a spreadsheet full of names and addresses when it came time for thank you cards.
(Which, sidebar, taught me that some of the very best money we spent on the wedding was ordering pre-printed and addressed envelopes along with our thank-you cards from Minted. It let me focus on handwriting the thanks, not the addresses!)
Budgeting is about tradeoffs
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Budgeting for a wedding is basically the same as budgeting for anything else.
You only have so much money to work with, and you want to make sure you’re paying for the stuff that really matters first. Sometimes, that means there’s either not money left over for the rest of the things, or you need to get kind of creative on how you tackle them. This is just a look at how that creativity played out on four items that fell into our nice-to-have list, but weren’t important enough to spend 75% of our total budget on. Hopefully I’ve given you enough information to try them for yourself if you feel the same way, or at least some good ideas you can take into the planning process.
And again, if you’re worried that cutting costs on some things will bum you out on your wedding day, just look at how totally bummed we were. (PS. My dress is from David’s Bridal, and was super affordable, and also has pockets.)
Oh and yes, if you’ve been a longtime reader, The Boyfriend turned The Fiance turned The Husband is named Kyle, and he’s kind of a looker.
All images c/o Hello Lovely Ottawa, who I recommend very very highly!