I second the suggestion for “A Practical Wedding.”
Here’s what I did:
– Get the guest list sketched out. I’d recommend using Google Drive to start to store these documents because it makes it very easy to edit and share them with multiple people. You may want to categorize people. Have a column for Bride/Groom side, a column for Family/Friends/Coworkers/Parent Requests, and at this point in the game, you may want to assign each person an A/B/C rating. A = MUST invite them, B = Really want to invite them, C = Would be nice to invite them if there is room. You don’t have to use those ratings long term but it will help you figure out how many people there are on the list. I was shocked at how quickly the list grew.
-Use a budget template. Google Drive has lots of them for weddings. I liked the Style Me Pretty All-in-One Planner template, but I really just used the budget form. The budget will have lots of things you won’t use on it and will probably be missing some expenses you’ll have, but it’s a great place to start.
– If you don’t know what to fill in for a certain item on the budget, there are a few things you can do. One is start dialing/emailing! That is what I would recommend for catering, venues, things that are going to be unique to your area. For things that are a little more universal, like flower costs or tux rentals or all that, you could come search on the bee for past budget threads where people share their costs.
Once you see what the budget adds up to, you can start to decide where to cut or add to. If you have anyone in your life that has recently been married, running that sample budget past them is a huge help so they can tell you “Oh, you way under-estimated on that” (I did that with flowers) or “You can get it way cheaper than that.” Now, them telling you that doesn’t mean you have to change your budget, it just helps calibrate your expectations so you can maybe change your plans for that item (I ended up doing silk flowers).
Share that budget with anyone you think might be contributing and see what they think of it and how they’d like to contribute, if at all.
The date will start to flow naturally from there. You’ll see how long it will take people to be able to give you what they want to contribute and/or for you to save up. You’lll find out if vendors offer off-season discounts. You’ll hear from friends and family if there are times of year already booked up with other stuff.
Here’s my one caution. I thought I was going to have no problem doing a wedding for $15k. I’m a frugal deal shopper, I do tons of DIY and am good at it, and I only had a few things on my “very important to me” wedding list.
However, with my taste, I was too low on that. And I didn’t think of a lot of the little detailed items (postage, undergarments, wedding party gifts, aisle runner, cake stand, etc). I’m coming in more around $22k. That is for an anticipated attendance list of about 150 (but about 255 invited).
There are CERTAINLY lots of people that do weddings for far less, so I’m not trying to be discouraging. It really just depends where your guest list comes in at and the choices you make. You mentioned having catering instead of a per head cost… well, they’re the same thing, except one is buffet style and one is plated. I’m not really saving a ton of money by going buffet. Now, if you did catered sandwiches from like Panera or something, that might be a savings. I looked into Fazoli’s, if you have one near you – their catering is CHEAP!! So that’s an option.
Things just add up really really fast. I do have one big splurge item, but other than that, when I look at each line item, I was pretty cheap on everything. $300 for my dress, $800 for flowers and centerpieces for 20 tables, DIY invitations, no transportation, no fee to rent our venue, only doing beer/wine/signature drink, $25 for FI’s wedding ring…
But dang, it adds up. You can do it, but just be prepared for that first number to come in with some sticker shock!
One other money-saving suggestion: Barter. If you or FI have any skills (mine is marketing, but examples might be construction, hair-dressing, cleaning homes, car repair, whatever), you will be shocked at how many people will trade with you. I am saving well over $1000 by doing trades with my salon, my day-of coordinator, and my seamstress for alterations/bridesmaids dresses.