Did you know Christmas, New Years and Valentine’s Day are the most common days couples get engaged? I had no idea! Well except Valentines Day seemed obvious. Anyhow, when I came across that random fact, I thought it would be a good time to share how we pulled off a debt free wedding last fall.
Our wedding had 100 guests, full dinner, DJ, awesome photographer and bridal party. All for 10K.
Project management is my day job and I used those same skills to plan a stress free and debt free wedding. And so can you!
Create a Wedding Budget
So now that you’re engaged, the topic of cost and budget won’t be far behind. I know it can be overwhelming! I started to fall into this trap. For anyone that’s budget conscious, thinking about spending any chunk of change on one day will start stressing! I’m a huge fan of learning from other’s so let me save you the agony. Wading your way through a budget DOESN’T have to be stressful or complicated. Just keep it simple and tackle one thing at a time.
There are two ways you can go about this:
- Amount of money you can realistically save by your planned date
- OR if you’re flexible, figure out what you want, the cost and set the date for when you’ll have that saved.
A bit of a chicken and egg choice. But it IS a choice. If you want to get married within a certain amount of time, figuring out how much you can save between now and then IS your upper limit budget. Flexible timing, self explanatory.
That is your first decision! Check, got that, good to go… Well not quite….
Unexpected Wedding Costs
Most people assume, amount saved = budget you have to spend.
But that leaves you open to nasty little surprises. You know, those stories of unexpected cost? That never happens with a wedding right?! Hah! So to combat that: cash cushion. A.k.a contingency in PM speak. It’s part of the money you save but don’t plan on spending. How much should the cash cushion/contingency fund be? That’s a personal decision but generally about 20% of the amount you plan on spending.
CASH CUSHION: $2,000
The trick here is to manage your costs to stay WITHIN 10K! Pretend the 2K doesn’t exist. It’s only there for something completely unexpected. Like say your DJ disappearing after you give a deposit. And even then, try to cut costs in other places first! If you can’t cut anywhere else… Voila, cash cushion!
Also, your budget tracker doesn’t need to be complicated. I made a rainbow coloured budget in google sheets, that fit all within one screen.
Top Three Priorities
Before you spend a cent, figure out and agree on the three most important things to you both. Whether that’s a hall, band, photography, doesn’t matter. Once you know what that is, book it, or at the very least figure out the cost and set aside the money from your budget.
Planning timeline can affect cost
Most sites will have a timeline of 12+ months out. It IS TOTALLY POSSIBLE to plan a wedding within a week. Or even a day! But the shorter amount of time you give yourself not only affects how much you can save but also what things will cost you.
- The faster you need to get something done, the less time you have to research and compare prices. So you’ll often end up paying more.
- If you need something fast, you’ll pay a premium.
- Often most budget friendly+quality gets booked first
- Less time means you can do less yourself. Whether it’s researching, DIY, finding help from friends, etc
So if you want to contain the financial damage of a short ‘runway’ for planning, keep things simpler and more flexible.
Geo-Arbitrage Your Wedding
For those that aren’t familiar, geo-arbitrage is choosing a different geographical location where something costs less. A common way to geo-arbitrage is having a destination wedding. This usually involves heading to a tropical island or resort. We would have loved to do that but it would have meant excluding close family that are tight on money or have health issues.
If you have dependable friends or family in different locations, this option may be worth looking into. We live in a big city but have family in northern Ontario and Quebec. It didn’t take long to confirm we can get the same services at a fraction of the price outside the city. Not only that, less people would have to travel, and those that did, accommodations were also cheaper. So, we planned long distance and had our wedding in Mr Whymances home town of Sudbury! Here are things we learned along the way, if you want to leverage this option:
- Focus on areas where you have the highest concentration of family and friends.
- You’ll want at least a few reliable people in the area.
- When done right, phone conversations, video chats and emails work just as well to schedule vendors.
- If you have a choice of more than one geographic location, choose whichever one you already travel to (think holidays, family visits, etc). This way, you can do some in person planning without spending extra money!
- Let local friends and family help run errands or get things done. No one will object to filling in for a cake tasting!
- Arrive at least a few days early to do last minute vendor appointments and errands.
And of course, DIY
There’s a plethora of sites and pinterest boards with great DIY wedding projects. Saving money is usually top of mind when searching this. Don’t get me wrong, saving money is important but this is also a great way to:
- Take advantage of skills that you, friends and family have
- Learn a new skill
- Spend time with family and friends while doing any DIY
Take advantage of skills your family and friends have
Family and friends are usually eager and happy to help out. Can’t think of any special skills sets? Sit down with your fiancé over a bottle of wine, beer, picnic or whatever relaxing activity you like and go through your guest list and tally up any hobbies or skills they have.
I bet you’ll be surprised at what you come up with. Consider asking for help for any wedding related items you feel would be of interest to them. Before asking, you’ll want to consider how much time this will take. You don’t want to overwhelm anyone. Lots of people have a hard time saying no.
Focus on asking for help for pre-wedding day items that need to be done. Most guests want to come and celebrate with you on your wedding day.
With the help of family and friends, we were able to create all our own graphic design, wine, centre pieces, ring pillow, flower bouquets, maple syrup favours bridal party thank you gifts and place cards!
Learning a new skill
Ever been curious to learn design? Cake decorating? Crafting? This is a great opportunity to sign up for a workshop or class and learn that new skill! Not only will it save you money on your wedding, you’ll get the satisfaction of doing something yourself AND walk away with a re-usable skill or new hobby! Since video games taught me so much about personal finance, we thought an 8 bit animation was appropriate for our save the date.
Quality time with family and friends
Planning a wedding can take up a lot of your spare time, not to mention become stressful. Your nearest and dearest will surround you on your big day, but it will go by in a blur, often only having a few minutes to catch up with each guest. You get married in one day, but the journey (wedding planning) is just as important and should be enjoyed!
Make wedding planning part of catching up with family and friends! Not only will they feel included, it will create many memories beyond that one day. Cuz after all, the wedding is but one single day out of many you’ll live.
Remind me again…. Coles notes version
First steps to creating a budget and having an affordable wedding:
- Decide how long you have to save
- How much can you save within that time
- Don’t forget: amount you can spend + cash cushion = total saved
- Shorter time between planning+wedding date = simpler + flexible plans
- Decide the top three aspects of the wedding are most important to you both