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Coupon Abbreviations
  • SC = Store Coupon
  • MC = Manufacturer Coupon
  • SS = Smart Source
  • RP = Red Plum
  • PG = Proctor and Gamble
Coupon Terms
  • WYB = When You Buy
  • B1G1 = Buy One Get One Free
  • .75/1 = 75 cents off one item
  • .75/3 = 75 cents off three items
  • EXP = Expiration Date

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planning a frugal wedding

I recently read that the average wedding in the US now costs over $30,000. That is insane to me!  Whether you spend $1,000 or $10,000 at the end of the day: you are still married.  Your marriage isn’t any more sacred or real because of the amount you spend.  It is possibly more stressful though.  I want to encourage you to save as much as you can on your wedding day; you will need the extra pennies in the years to come.

Over the next week we are going to talk weddings.  I’m not here to tell you who to marry, but I can definitely help you save!  Before we branch into specific posts on flowers and photographers, I thought it would be best for us to start with a general overview on my perspectives.  I am hoping that if you are reading a frugal wedding post that we would mostly agree on things, but it is best to at least lay out opinions from the start.

First, my story.  My husband and I got married 12 years ago the weekend before Christmas.  I didn’t want a Christmas wedding, we were just told that we couldn’t get married until he was out of school and that was the the first weekend he was officially done!  I’m pretty sure if finals ended on Christmas Eve we would have taken Christmas Day…  in other words we didn’t plan for a frugal time of the year and normally timing isn’t always perfect to pick the cheapest date.

One would think, a Christmas wedding would be so cheap, the church is already decorated.  Yeah, well I really didn’t want a Christmas wedding.  So we hid all the decorations and brought in spring.  We didn’t do anything big or super fancy, and thankfully this was a decade before Pinterest so I wasn’t guilted into going bigger either.  Our total budget including everything (the dress, food, photographer…) was $3,000 and we did it just fine.  There were frustrating moments when we would interview a caterer and they would treat us like we were crazy for trying to feed 150 people on so little, but in the end everything worked out.

Honestly, 12 years later there is very little that I remember about the details.  All that remains are what was captured in pictures and my memories of certain parts.  I doubt that anyone attending would even remember what our colors were.  Try to think back to a wedding you went to over 10 years ago and see how many details you remember.

Lets start with a few tips of Planning a Frugal Wedding.
Look for more detailed posts on some of these and general categories over the next few days.

Experts are Expensive

The more famous someone is the more they make.  That’s a pretty common rule.  So if you want to pick the top florist in the state that has pictures in Martha Stewart magazines you are going to pay for that notoriety.  It doesn’t mean that the flowers or pictures they take are always worth the money.  Yes the saying is that you get what you pay for, but you may be surprised how great the small guys are too!  For our wedding we called around to professional photography printers and asked if they knew any freelancers that would shoot a wedding for a flat price.  We paid $300 for 2 hours with a photographer that took pictures and then we owned all the pictures.


Enlist Friends

If you have friends that play instruments, sing, do photography or even flowers then you should always ask them first.  This isn’t about having the top designer arrange something, it’s about getting married and having friends and family there to support you in your new life together.  Don’t take advantage of friends, so offer to pay them if they are doing something vital like all your flower arrangements.  The cost for their services will be much less than paying “real” professionals though.  One warning though, make sure you review your friends photography before you go with their help.  In the end the pictures are all you have…


Simple is Smart

The more outrageous things get the more money they cost and the most stressful the day gets.  This is about getting married, not about white doves flying over right as you kiss or every person taking home an iPod with the couples favorite songs (sorry George Clooney).  While I don’t want you to give up dreams, I do want you to realize that that some dreams have big price tags (and possibly aren’t great ideas in the end).   This rule applies to almost everything, from flowers and decorations to events and venues.

And remember, when your well meaning sister, best friend, or future mother in law says you really must have a band, ignore them and remember what is important.

Pick One Place for Everything

Having your wedding and reception at the same location is a quick way to save money.  We’ll get more into venues specifically this week, but just remember that asking folks to move for the reception is tedious on your guests.   They don’t care where the reception is, they just want to eat cake.  Having to change venues adds more work on setup and clean up, not to mention costing more to rent.  Can I also add one more request here… don’t take tons of pictures between your wedding and reception.  Remember the guests really want to eat cake, and the longer you keep them from that the grumpier they get.

martin family

Stay Local

You may dream of a beach or mountain wedding, but traveling adds a ton of expenses. Keep the wedding as close to you as possible. It will make everything from picking a venue to meeting with a photographer easier. Driving two hours to go taste cake may sound fun now, but when you’re in the process of printing 100 wedding programs, you’re not going to be so excited. You can go to the beach or mountains and have a really fun honeymoon using some of the money you saved.

Stay In Season

When I planned my wedding, I knew nothing about flowers. I found lots of pretty pictures and the florist told me lots of scary prices. The solution: we started from scratch. She told me what the most affordable flowers for that time of year were and I picked those. They were beautiful.  Whether you are picking flowers, decorations, or your location, remember to do what makes sense for the season. Go in with an open mind and you’ll be surprised by how beautiful and affordable everything will turn out.


Use Coupons, Craigslist, FreeCycle

90% off what you need for your wedding can be bought used or with a coupon. If you are heading to a craft store, don’t go without a coupon. All craft stores run 40% off any regular priced item all the time. All those candles, programs, and more can be bought with a coupon.  You can also buy everything from wedding dresses to chair covers to vases used. Seriously guys, most of this stuff was used for 4 hours. There is no need to buy it new.

For things like small bags for candy, don’t forget to look online to buy in bulk. Compare prices and make sure you are actually getting the best deal before buying 100 of anything.

This is just the beginning….

I know this only scratched the surface, but we are going to go into more detail the rest of this week. We are going to cover flowers, photography, and more in detail. If you have specific questions you can leave a comment below or e-mail me at jenny@southernsavers.com.

And remember, if all else fails: just elope. My friends did it and it was $84. They are still happily married.

    • yazpistachio

      Thanks for sharing your story! Great points. It’s amazing the little things that hang us up. Nobody remembers we had tuxedo tails for a morning wedding. No one remembers our tablecloths only reached halfway to the ground (saved a few hundred right there).

      People do remember our food, and flowers, however. And those are things we had help with from friends! Much cheaper and more meaningful.

    • lacats

      I don’t know if this is still true or not, but when my daughter was married in 1994, we rented the flowers! It was a great savings.

    • Bridget Garner

      My husband has been DJing weddings for almost 20 years and there is good money to be made in it, but he does have a heart when people are on a tight budget. He runs his business on the side and works full time for a local EMS so he has a little room to haggle when it comes to price. If you use a bigger company you won’t get the kind of prices you will if you use a freelancer…he has worked for a bigger company before and knows the way they are when it comes to their prices…he tends to work with brides when they call, he can just tell in their voice when they are looking for someone in their price range. The way he looks at it is he would rather make a little and make sure that the bride has a wonderful night and a great DJ than go with a bargain basement DJ and have a miserable time.

      • Diane

        Where are you located?

        • Bridget Garner

          Gulf Breeze, FL

    • Diane

      Both my daughter and niece had their receptions at private clubs. Many allow non members to have receptions. They will “get” a member to sponsor the event. In both cases they were much less expensive than many other venues and generally their food and service is excellent.

      Also both Costco and Sam’s have wedding flowers. I read that Publix does great wedding cakes. Neither my daughter or my niece lived near enough to Publix use them.

    • brittany

      I totally agree. We spent less than $8,000 on our wedding which was really good because our budget was $10,000. but now I wish we had spent even less. Its only one day! Somethings we did to save money was to use friends and family for photography, videography, and cake.

    • kisha

      #1 way to save $ – no alcohol or reduce the choices (beer and wine). This is a huge expense for many weddings

      #2 reduce your guest list – view each guest as “It will cost $200 to invite this person” is it that important that they are there? Do you really need your third cousin’s ex-wife’s nephew there?

      #3 be realistic with your budget… you get what you pay for. Know what you want and what is important – invest in those areas. Don’t just price shop. Not every vendor is the same.

      Weddings are a LUXURY. You can just go to the courthouse and get married for a few hundred dollars. Weddings are an investment in the experience.

      I don’t agree on the using family and friends for photography. Video and photography are the ONLY things you have left and capture the memory of the entire day. I’m glad I learned my lesson from my parents who made that MISTAKE of the family friend who didn’t show up and then only have a few snapshots from random people. MANY people have made that mistake and there is nothing they can do after the fact. YOU CAN’T RELIVE THE DAY. If anything those are the areas you invest in. My wedding images from 11 years ago look like they could have been taken last week and are an amazing quality. Those images are priceless to me and my family. I’m glad I didn’t cheapen out. A pro knows how to handle every single type of situation – appropriate lighting, editing, what to do if it rains, capture the emotions, etc… They can handle the unexpected and still create beautiful images.

      Video – is a luxury item. If you can afford to invest in it do it. It has changed sooo much. If you don’t care and just want a record of it then yes have a family member record it.

      Cake – I still don’t recommend a friend but there are options like dummy layers on the cake, alternatives such as pies, cupcakes, etc…

      Flowers – go to a farmers market… not the same as a florist but you can get some nice arrangements for the center pieces. I would still use a florist for the brides, bridal party bouquet and boutenniers. I’ve noticed non florists make several mistakes ie. size of the boutenniers (too big) and then it looks awkward.
      Also, talk to your florist. Many will let you borrow or rent the centerpieces/decor for the day. That saves hundreds of dollars. You don’t need to spend $ getting your own and then be stuck with them.

      well… i can go on and on… just my two cents lol

    • diane

      We noticed that our grocery store sold beautiful plants and flower arrangements. We talked with the in-store florist, and she was more than happy to make all of the bouquets and arrangements for our wedding. They were gorgeous! And, she charged us SO much less than an actual flower shop would have. She did such a great job that my sister and my best friend used her for their weddings, too!