Whoever said love doesn’t cost a thing has never planned a wedding. Not long ago I hosted brunch for a recently engaged friend. After a mimosa toast, we quickly got down to business, flipping through wedding magazines and ogling Vera Wang gowns. For a brief moment, we were swept away to wedding fantasy land’a magical but very expensive place. As wonderful as it is to dream of the perfect day, reality hits hard when you start calculating.
The wedding industry charges a premium on capturing couples’ excitement. From bridesmaids’ dresses to hair to photography, a 75-person affair can easily cost five figures.
Married for six years now, a major motivation for me to join the Smart Cookies Money Group (my version of an over-spenders’ support group) was the need for accountability and support in finding inexpensive ways to plan my dream wedding. I am pleased to say that I was able to save nearly $7,000. Here are the two biggest places I cut costs.
Like many women, my first step was finding my perfect dress. I am not especially sentimental, so from the outset I decided to sell it after our wedding. When I finally found ‘the one,’ I was disappointed it was sold only at a notoriously pretentious bridal shop. Already frustrated at the thought of paying $1,500 for something I’d wear for only a few hours, I set out to find a better way. I came across a wonderful local shop that didn’t carry my dress but was willing to order it’and even offered a $350 discount because I mentioned I was trying to manage my costs and wanted to know what price they could offer me.
After my wedding, I went online to smartbrideboutique.com to sell my dress. It’s free, and within two months I’d recouped almost $1,000. (You can buy or donate your dress at thebridesproject.com; they donate all profits to cancer charities. They offer a Toronto location, and have an impressive selection of dresses, from $100 to $1,250.)
My husband and I opted to marry in Mexico. Destination weddings can cost far less, and offer quality time with family and friends. In picking our venue, I made a point of talking to my travel agent and the hotel to ensure we would not be charged extra per-person reception costs. (Some hotels charge hundreds for a reception filled with guests who have already paid an all-inclusive rate.)
I also made a point of working with a travel agent who offered incentives for group bookings. Our wedding had almost 100 guests, and my agent from selloffvacations.com was able to offer a free trip for every 25 people. That meant we had the opportunity to pay for three important family members’ something that would have cost at least $4,500.
No matter what your budget, with a bit of research, dedication and negotiation, your big day can be more affordable.