- 8 years ago
- Wedding: June 2009
This was inspired by the Most worthwhile expenses/least worthwhile expenses post. While reading it, I realized that we had made many choices early on in the wedding planning process that saved money and stress and I wanted to pass them on to the rest of the Hive.
When we started our wedding planning, I ran a general estimate based on speaking with a few vendors that I liked near our home. I was stunned how quickly the costs mushroomed into the 40k range. We sat down and did some talking. We are both debt free and were both loathe to take that kind of chunk out of our house fund. After about 15 minutes we came up with 5k as an amount that we felt to be reasonable to spend on an event.
We wanted a beautiful wedding and marvelous honeymoon that didn’t break the bank. We got it. Here is how it worked.
Much of what we did took advantage of family resources and talents. We made many choices early on to maximize these opportunities.
Now as you know, strategy is your overarching plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal and tactics are the particular action that you choose to utilize to implement your strategy.
Example: Goal: Reasonable wedding without incurring debt or dipping into house fund Strategy: Make and stick to budget. Distinguish Want vs Need. Tactics: small guest list, reasonably priced dress etc.
Wants vs Needs. These will be different for everyone and it is worth spending the time thrashing them out, because once they are clear every decision is much easier. This is the moment to address those pernicious pictures of “wedding” that everybody has. Make sure you distinguish between your pictures and your parents/friends pictures. Whittle them down; aim for about 5 “needs”.
For us essential ingredients included: marriage license, rings, peonies, great food, beautiful natural setting, and family.
Notice what is not on this list: big white dress, church, band, tent, bridesmaids, honeymoon, chair sashes, favors, photography etc. Now this doesn’t mean that I didn’t have a dress, just that it wasn’t the focus of the budget and was certainly an area that I was willing to cut funding to make sure that the essentials were in place.
So. 5k. On the one hand: a huge amount to drop on a six hour party. On the other hand, as we all know, a lot less than some folks spend on their dress.
Picking the date: Peonies bloom in mid to late June in New England, to take advantage of the banks of peonies in the family gardens we picked our wedding date based on their bloom: June 21st. We were drowning in peonies; it was fantastic!
Picking the general location: We decided to have the wedding where most of my enormous family lives rather than where we live. We knew that this would be a win-win. My siblings and cousins could stay with parents rather than having to spend on hotels and we were able to utilize resources that already existed on hand, rather than purchasing or renting. Our food was laid out on beautiful mismatched Deruta platters borrowed from my Aunt and the cake stand and knife were right out my mother’s silver drawer. Being able to draw on 4 separate households made the logistics easy: Silver bowls for the flowers? Check. Sound system? Check. Tables? Check. Tablecloths? Check. Punchbowls? Check. Samovar? Check! The overall effect was lovely and simple and easy on our budget.
Picking the venue: Grandparent’s house and gardens: 0$
Picking the time/tone: Afternoon wedding with cocktail party following. Enabled us to skip sit down dinner. Food was endless hors’de vors: Alaskan smoked salmon with cream fraiche and capers. Local, organic, melt in your mouth Roquefort, double crème brie, goat cheese, and Jarlesberg with fig and guava preserves. Organic medjool dates, grapes, cherries, strawberries (love June!) Fresh local olive / rosemary bread with olive oil, garlic and goat cheese dip. Roasted organic ham with a variety of mustards and fresh local French bread. Watercress sandwiches. Drinks: Family Punch (very alcoholic!). Lemonade. Champagne. Coffee. Cake: the chocolate nemesis from my favorite bakery – unbelievable! Mango sorbet from Ciao Bella to go with cake. Total cost: 700$ or 16$/person (I bought way too much of everything; there were heaps of leftovers and almost everyone took something home.)
Dress: This one was hard. My original dress was pale pale pink and short. It was beautiful and fun and cost 80$ (super-duper sale) Perfect! My mother vetoed it. My family wanted the standard numbers: long white dress, church, gobs of flowers, little bridesmaids all in a row etc. They gave in on the church; I gave in on the dress. I ended up with J.Crew’s Celeste Pique Dot. Great dress for more than I wanted to spend, but I was sure (and I was right) that I could recoup the budget difference with a post wedding sale.
Guest List: This was the hardest. In the end, we went with family only as the only possible way to achieve the intimate tone we wanted. We had 45 guests. It was just right. We knew and loved everyone there. We did have a great party with our friends a few months later. To this day I am very happy that we separated these two events. Strangely separating the events made huge financial sense too. Now you would think that having everything together would be cheaper, but wrong wrong wrong. It turned out that for us to have everything together QUADRUPLED the price and the reason was that with the small numbers I could borrow materials (china, silver, tables, tablecloths, venue etc) effectively. Once I went over a certain number I needed to rent. The other issue that helped us to separate these parties was that my family wanted a wedding; elegant and formal in an old-fashioned sort of way, while my friends just wanted to celebrate with us. So really two different parties. Total cost of fantastic (non-wedding) dance party with friends 500$.
Paper: STD & Invitations: 0$ Email! with a little help from PowerPoint and Photoshop. Wedding Programs: 20$ for paper; thanks Microsoft Publisher! Thank You Notes to all 40$.
Officiant: Grandfather. He was tickled pink to be asked. We knew that he would set the perfect tone and that it would stop him from lobbying to have the ceremony in the local church.
Music: Bagpiper for ceremony in beautiful meadow, ipod for cocktail reception.
Rehearsal Dinner: Sunset picnic / cookout on the mountain. Potluck. Perfect.
Transportation: My Auntie offered us her horse drawn carriage, but in the end the weather looked threatening and we picked my usual trusty VW steed.
Rings: We had mine made by a local goldsmith with some stones from his family. It is a stunner but since we were only paying for the setting it was really quite reasonable. His was a plain gold band.
Bridal Party: skipped it. It was too hard to choose. In the end, not having a wedding party allowed everyone the freedom to be as involved as they pleased, without feeling obligated or as if they were butting in. The result: lots of enthusiastic volunteers. My sister altered my dress / helped with hair/make-up. My auntie, who does wedding flowers professionally, did bouquet, bouts, centerpieces and hair flowers. The list goes on… Which brings us to the subject of talented amateurs: If people ask if they can help, say yes! If you let people volunteer for things they are interested in and then avoid micromanaging, some amazing results occur. Remember that everyone is thrilled to pitch in and help out.
Photography: We got really lucky here. Semi-professional friend of family. 600$ included all images on disk unedited. We had all of our pictures by the time we got back from our honeymoon. We were extraordinarily lucky to have a terrific photographer whose work needed virtually no editing. We had albums for our parents and grandparents out within weeks. Note: Though the photography was something that I gave very little thought to prior to the wedding, we were VERY fortunate to have what turned out to be a terrific photographer. After recently seeing some real photography disasters at friend’s weddings since, this is something that I should have researched carefully and probably spent a bit more on.
Honeymoon: We have both traveled. A lot. So we decided to skip the airport/logistical nightmares and focus just spending time together. Our original honeymoon plan had been to spend 14 days on an extended canoe trip in Canada, as we both enjoy wilderness paddling. When it became clear, a few weeks before the wedding, that the weather was likely to be consistently wet and cold, offers of alternatives poured in from friends and family. In the end, we decided to go sailing instead. We were happy to snuggle up next to the woodstove on the boat on wet days and otherwise we had long walks on deserted beaches, cooked some incredible meals, stayed up late drinking dark & stormys and swing dancing on deck and generally had a marvelous time. It was a perfect honeymoon. Though I am sure that we would have had fun paddling as well, it was great to be able to change our plans to suit the changing circumstances. Total cost: Boat: 0$ (family) Food: 270$ Diesel: 60$. Travel time to boat from our house: 20 min. Not having to show up 2 hrs early and sit in airports for a day or so: priceless.
When all was said and sifted the cost of our wedding + honeymoon + afterparty with friends, was 5520.00$. Soup to nuts.
My advice to all brides is: Make sure your goals, strategies and tactics are clear and aligned. Distinguish Wants from Needs. Keep it small. Keep it simple. Make use of available resources. Spend only on what really matters to YOU. Save your money for the house down payment. Don’t get carried away by the fantasy. Stand up straight, smile, and don’t stress – it will all come out fine!