Happy 1 year Anniversary to my Mister! Thank you for bringing me a year of laughter, balance, hope, and joy! When this post goes live, we’ll probably be sipping mai tais at a luau celebrating our big day!
Everyone knows that weddings are one of the most expensive life events one may go through. The average cost of a wedding in 2016 was over $35,000! Weddings in major cities obviously would be exorbitantly more pricey compared to a small town in the heartland of America. Now given that the median income for 2015 was around $56,000 a year (2016 numbers won’t be available until September), that’s a huge slice of the annual pie. Side note: “average” and “median” numbers are not necessarily the same, but it doesn’t change the fact that weddings are PRICEY!
The Mister and I wanted a relatively low key wedding, knowing that we absolutely did not want to spend anywhere close to the national average. (He’s very financially savvy, I’m so lucky!) So we had a small destination wedding in Florida, with a larger reception back at home a month later. Now that we’re not caught up in the excitement and novelty of wedding planning, one year later, how do I feel about how we spent our dough? Hopefully this list will help you make your decisions when you plan!
Totally worth it:
- Keeping it SMALL: Limiting the number of guests is the fastest way to cut costs. 30 of our immediate families and very closest friends celebrated with us in Florida. That meant only 30 people to plan for invitations, welcome bags, venue planning, etc. Even if you have a traditional wedding, keeping that guest list tight is the easiest way keep things on budget.
Side note: while I initially felt bad for “cutting” people, we also threw a summer party reception at a park pavilion at home with around 100 people. It was catered and friends helped to decorate, but no other rentals or large venue costs. The total combined events were NO WHERE near that $35k average cost, and we essentially got to celebrate for a full month! If we had stayed in the DC area with 100 people for a one day event, it easily would have been $30-40k for a relatively simple wedding.
- The Venue: Our venue was hands down the most expensive part of the wedding, but it also provided everything at the resort: ceremony location/decor and reception location/food/decor. Because of that, we didn’t have to get with multiple companies for food and tables/chairs at multiple locations. The scenery was so pretty that we didn’t have to add much, so we were able to skip flowers. And there were zero transportation costs for the wedding day itself. They also provided a day of coordinator to keep everyone on track!
- The Photographer: Definitely take the time to research your photographer, because you can’t go back and capture the day if you don’t like what you get. They should give you access to full albums so you can see their product. If you can, ask for weddings done at your venue, so you get ideas of how they see the space. Also, definitely negotiate when you can. I told a potential photographer explicitly that she was out of my price range but I loved her style, and what options or other photographers she’d suggest. She ended up giving me a discounted rate because she found my email touching! I still love the pictures we got and am so happy with the choice.
- No bridal party. Well, sort of – we had a Best Man and Man of Honor (yup, my MOH was a dude!) who wore barongs, which are traditional Filipino formal wear. And we also had sponsors for the coin, cord and veil (also part of the Filipino tradition), but they didn’t have to buy bridesmaids dresses and we didn’t have to get our make up done. I think everyone was relieved there weren’t those extra expenses to be part of our big day!
Where I should have spent more:
- A DJ: Since it was such a small wedding, we figured it was personalized to do the whole playlist thing. I kind of thought it was just about music, but the DJ would have been the MC, announcing people and events and generally keeping the flow going. My MOH stepped up to the task for us, but a DJ would have been the easier option.
- Guest activities: You know how photo booths are so in right now? It’s because it gives guests something to do other than drink, dance, and stare at you. We did get a scheduled break at sunset for photos where the guests joined us on the beach (and took pretty sunset pics of themselves), but it would have been nice to give other options. Photo booths are very trendy, but so are make-your-own-something bars (sundaes, candy, popcorn, etc). Also, ALL our guests traveled for our wedding, so even though we had pimp welcome bags, I wish we’d spent a bit more to make sure they were well entertained.
Where we could have spent less:
- The Bar: I firmly believe that all weddings should have an open bar. We had the option of choosing to pay a flat rate or by consumption, either way would have had no impact to our guests’ experience. Think about how many people actually DO drink booze to make that decision. We went with the flat rate out of convenience, but since only 50% of our guests actually partook in libations, we could have saved a bit there.
- Photographer: Wait what? Didn’t I just say this cost was worth it? Yes I did. BUT, really think about how LONG you need a photographer! We booked her for 6 hours, which easily covered the getting ready pics, formals, ceremony, sunset, and part of the reception. She offers up to 10 hours (and other photographers do even longer than that), and we did have her the majority of the night. But we easily could have trimmed off an hour and not noticed, since she did get plenty of reception shots. Photographers are usually the other multiple thousand dollar expense, so only book for what you really need!
Our Florida wedding was a ton of fun – vacation for everyone who came! We also made that our mini honeymoon, spending 4 days after the wedding at Key West and St. Augustine. (Our real honeymoon came 6 months later, giving us time to save up and plan!) Weddings are expensive pretty much any way they happen, but they don’t have to break the bank. Consider the type of experience and memories you want to have, not just what you think is expected of a wedding. Spend where you want those memories to be, and enjoy the ride!