Money 304: Big Decisions – Getting Married

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Money 303: Big Decisions – Cars

If you are invited to a wedding

  • To go to some weddings, you may have to pay a lot
  • Be honest with the person if you cannot afford the expenses to go to the wedding
    • Let them know as soon as possible
    • Don’t blame their choices or make it seem as if you’re a victim
    • Offer something else, like helping plan or dinner after the honeymoon

When you want to get married

  • In General
    • Prioritize what you want with your partner before starting and make a list of must-haves
    • The primary causes of expensive weddings is labor
    • A wedding will last for one day, but a wedding paid for with debt will last for years
    • Set a budget and try to lower the price for everything along the way
      • Keep the budget in mind during the entire wedding process
      • Food, beverages and venue should be about half of the budget
      • Borrow what you can from others
      • Create as many of the decorations and items as you can, look on sites like Etsy or Pinterest for ideas
      • Shop around and compare prices for everything
        • Look for discontinued items, since stores offer deep discounts for them
      • The biggest budget expense will be for services
        • Take advantage of the bridal party’s, friends’ and family’s talents
        • Avoid appearing too trusting to the service providers during the consultation
        • Sign up for vendor newsletters and follow them on social media to spot sales and discounts
        • Ask for discounts for referrals, feedback or multiple services
        • Anything can be bartered or haggled over, and it is wise to not be too accommodating to the service workers
        • Some vendors are willing to travel for no cost, so don’t restrict your options to just local
      • Try coordinating weddings with other couples on the same day at a different time to share costs
    • Stay organized across the whole wedding with a checklist and itinerary to keep track of the budget
      • Stay on time for the wedding day to avoid overtime charges for the service workers
    • Pay attention to the fine print on each of the contracts, since sometimes there are termination clauses, hidden costs or special conditions
    • Consider eloping, since it is now no longer taboo
  • The Rings
    • Pay with cash
      • Easier to haggle
      • No further liabilities with a wedding coming up
      • Be up-front with your fiancee about how much you’re going to spend
    • Avoid going to a mainstream diamond retailer, if you know their slogan then they won’t have a deal
    • Learn and research the importance of the 4 C’s
      • Cut
      • Carat
      • Clarity
      • Color
    • Look at some cost-cutting alternatives
      • Get a lab-grown diamond, which is very hard to distinguish from mined diamonds
      • Look at using a cheaper metal for the setting, since many metals are hard to tell apart from precious metals
  • Number of Guests
    • Keep the size of the bridal party to a reasonable level
    • Cut down on the guest list to save on everything
      • Trim the guest list by grouping people into categories
      • Invite people who are currently in your life (i.e. know your fiancee)
      • Make clear-cut rules on the invitations to prevent the list from getting too large
      • Sometimes a venue will give a discount per-person for a larger guest list, so do the math on it
  • Wedding Invites
    • Materials
      • When ordering invites, also order thank you notes from the same place if there is a bulk discount
      • Look for package deals for stationery
      • Make save-the-date postcards instead of magnets or elaborate invitations
      • Get single-page or trifold invites to save on postage and paper
      • Upgrades like colored ink and foil stamping will increase the cost drastically
      • Print your own stationery with laser printing or thermography
    • Proofread over and over to avoid wasting paper
    • Make your own invites, menu cards and escort cards
      • Practice penmanship for the calligraphy for the envelopes instead of hiring a calligrapher
    • Email the save-the-dates or use an online RSVP system
      • Email out a video save-the-date
    • Instead of using a registry for physical possessions, set up a honeymoon registry with a service like Honeyfund
  • Bachelor/Bachelorette Parties & Bridal Shower
    • Plan the events in advance
    • Limit the party to a one-day event
    • Instead of a fancy event, doing something like paintball, go-karts, stand-up comedy or a spa day
    • Bring your own food and do it from home instead of a hotel
  •  Flowers
    • If the venue is already decorated you can save on flowers and other decorations
    • Buying
      • Avoid buying flowers on high-demand days near Easter, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day and prom season
      • Buy the flowers wholesale and then pay a florist to arrange them
        • Get simpler arrangements to save on the florist’s fees
      • Go to a flower farmer instead of a florist
      • Buy only the most-photographed flowers and DIY the rest
      • Use more greenery than flowers and include non-florals like lanterns, fruits and vegetables
      • Swap out expensive flowers like peonies for less expensive ones like roses
        • Carnations are very affordable and fill in a bouquet
        • Buy flowers that are in season and local
        • Stick to only one or two kinds of flowers
    • Supplementing
      • Grow your own succulents and other flowers to use as displays and favors
      • Use artificial flowers instead of real ones
      • Hollow out fruits and vegetables for inexpensive vases
      • Have mismatched arrangements to fill in any gaps
    • Reuse flowers
      • Make the ceremony flowers for the cake table
      • Combine bridesmaids’ bouquets into a centerpiece or for the bar and escort table
    • Avoid cascades
  • Photos, Videos, Music
    • Ask the venue if they have any preferred vendors that you can get a deal with
    • Get a less expensive photography package
      • Talk to former brides to find out if a smaller package is a good idea
      • See if you can have less time billed for the photographer
        • Factor in the costs of assistants, see if they can be cut out
        • Give out disposable cameras and have the guests take photos for you
      • Get a lower billed time fee
        • Look on sites like Craigslist for an affordable photographer
        • If you can’t afford a good photographer, find a good photographer’s associate shooter who will do the wedding for less
        • Consider hiring a photography-school and/or film student
        • Keep the videographer around only for necessary video work, since the billable rate is very high
        • See if a professional videographer will edit amateur footage
      • Cut down on features
        • Go for digital photography, and ask for the photos on disc instead of printed and print them later yourself
        • Try to get a photography and video deal instead of hiring different servicers
        • Opt out of video and photo editing and just do it yourself
    • Opt for a smaller band
      • Whatever time is being allotted, book an extra hour to compensate for potential overtime charges
      • Stay local to avoid travel expenses for the band
      • Hire the band/DJ for both the ceremony and the reception
      • Scale down the size of the band and use staging tricks to give more presence
      • Hire a singer who also plays an instrument instead of a band
      • Hire a DJ instead of a performer
      • Hire a string quartet from a local music conservatory or a classical music teacher
      • Have a limited engagement for just the reception if you need a band or musician
      • Get an entry-level DJ or hobbyist
      • Have friends email song requests to you and make a playlist
      • Use a karaoke machine
  • The Wedding Outfits & Stylists
    • Traditional Dresses
      • Look for bridal store samples, since they are many times still in good condition
      • Shop designer annual sales or sample sales
        • You can save a lot on a wedding dress at a sample sale
      • Price compare with a discount gown retailer
      • Consider renting or borrowing a dress
      • Try getting a dress through an online auction
      • Buy a dress secondhand, since they’re probably only worn once
        • Buy at one of the sales of donated new and used gowns for a cause like The Bridal Garden
      • Check out trunk shows for dresses
      • Adorn with a simple sheath, a vibrant sash, wrap or a piece of jewelry
    • Original Dresses
      • Do your own alterations to turn a normal dress into a wedding dress
      • Look at independent designers for a wedding dress
      • If the dress isn’t a big priority, consider a white bridesmaid’s gown or off-the-rack white gown
    • Do your own alterations or buy the dress nearer to the wedding date
    • Hair Styling
      • Hire a recommended student from a reputable cosmetology school
      • Find a hair stylist friend who can help out as a wedding present
    • Save on shoes by buying from outlet malls or a discount department store
    • Allow mismatched bridesmaids dresses with a color and style requirement
  • The Wedding Ceremony
    • Wedding Rehearsal
      • Have a shrimp boil for the rehearsal dinner to cut down on utensils
      • Have afternoon tea, brunch or backyard barbeque instead of a rehearsal dinner
      • Make the rehearsal dinner a casual and social group activity
    • Get a Day-Of Coordinator instead of a Wedding Planner
    • Buy a digital camera or camera instant printer and have a volunteer run it to make a photo booth double as a guest book
    • Switch from a standard officiant to a friend who is willing to get ordained for you, especially if you’re not religious
    • Have one big program on the ceremony location instead of paper programs
    • Instead of rice, use more unconventional options like fabric poms, bubbles, sparklers and flower petals
    • Date
      • By setting a nearer date, it is easier to keep a wedding simpler
      • By setting a far-off day, you can more effectively take advantage of seasonal sales
      • Set an off-peak season date like November, January, March or February outside of Valentine’s Day
      • Have it on Friday or Sunday instead of Saturday, or do it on a weekday
      • Set it in the afternoon instead of the evening
      • Make it a three hour event instead of a five or six hour one
    • Location
      • If you or someone you know is a member of a community organization, you might have access to the group’s venue
        • Military venues
        • Colleges
      • Avoid conventional locations like a nice hotel or a mansion’s courtyard
      • Consider using your mutually favorite restaurant, since most will have reasonable fees
      • Look at a package deal that will include the wedding, reception and honeymoon in the deal
      • Find a venue that is naturally beautiful to cut down on decorating
      • Have a non-traditional venue that may have to have tables, toilets or a kitchen brought in
        • City-run spaces like zoos, civic gardens and parks
        • Historical sites
        • Restaurants
        • Somewhere personally significant
        • Rural areas that aren’t marketed for weddings
      • Consider having a standing ceremony to avoid seat rentals, but leave a few for elderly or frail
      • Try to be present at least the day before at the venue to avoid decorating in a hurry
      • Have a more laid-back atmosphere, such as a picnic or brunch
  • The Wedding Reception
    • Venue & Date
      • Combine the reception at the same location with the ceremony to avoid billable vendor travel time
      • Have the reception after the honeymoon to make it more casual and more affordable
      • Make it a daytime reception, since serving lunch or brunch is easier than serving dinner
    • Decorations
      • Shop off-season for decor – black vases after Halloween and pink vases after Valentine’s Day
      • Get decorations at big-box department stores
      • Centerpieces
        • Get bigger tables to use less centerpieces and tablecloths
        • Go sparse on centerpieces
        • Opt for non-plant centerpieces
          • Gather branches and put them in vases
          • Frame artistic photographs or personal photos
          • Place shells, candelabras or dessert
        • Make your own centerpieces
      • Place Settings
        • Consider wooden silverware if the atmosphere permits it
        • Cut down on different stemware to avoid getting many glasses
        • Skip individual place cards or printed menus on guest tables
          • Some venues will print the menu for you
          • Alternately, print the guest’s names onto the menus
        • Have disposable cameras on the tables to cut down on photography costs
        • Favors
          • Instead of a large welcome bag, a handwritten note and a bulk-purchased bottle of wine is sufficient
          • Buy the favors in bulk or with a wholesale deal instead of with vendors
          • Give out one favor per couple or have the favors double as escort cards
          • Make your own wedding favor packaging or wedding favors
          • Make sure the favors are useful to avoid waste from people leaving them
          • Skip wedding favors and place a bowl of candies in the center with a notice
          • Make the wedding cake the favors
          • In lieu of favors, give a card indicating that you’ve donated to a charity with an amount
    • Food
      • Catering
        • Try getting food through food trucks instead of formal catering
        • Have catering from culinary schools instead of an official caterer
        • See if children’s meals can be negotiated out of the service cost
      • Selection
        • Cut down to a three course meal instead of a five course one
        • Skip the bread basket at the dinner table
        • Serve entree duets to avoid requiring more administrative work with RSVP preferences with either-or selection
        • Serve one meatentree and have less expensive secondary options
        • Limit the options for the attendees to cut down on the amount of preparation and costs
        • Serve more fun and cheaper comfort foods like barbecue chicken, mac and cheese and corn
        • Skip the meal altogether and make it an appetizers, tea and snacks reception or a candy buffet
        • Have a potluck wedding in lieu of wedding gifts
      • Preparing
        • Substitute expensive food ingredients for cheaper ones
      •  Serving
        • Have the attendees serve themselves instead of getting servers
        • Serve a buffet instead of a sit-down multi-course meal
        • Keep boxes to store the leftover desserts
    • Drinks
      • Skip the champagne toast or use nonalcoholic sparkling cider or whatever the attendee is drinking
      • Offer beer, wine and a signature cocktail instead of a full bar or just beer and wine
      • If the guests don’t drink much, ask for alcohol as it’s used instead of a flat rate
      • Bring your own alcohol to the venue
      • Add a lot of beverages to lower the alcohol costs
      • Create a few of your own signature cocktails
      • Cut down the bar to only 1 or 2 hours of the event
      • Leave bottles on the table instead of a bar
      • Have servers pour wine instead of bottles on the table
      • Cut out drinks entirely
    • Cakes
      • Where You Get It
        • Instead of going to a wedding cake specialist, hire a baker, an online vendor or go to an ethnic bakery
      • Decorating & Baking
        • The top layer is traditionally for the one-year anniversary of the couple, which means it can be taken out
        • Use one cake/filling flavor to avoid the varying cost from different types
        • Use unstacked cakes instead of tiered cakes
        • Use simple cake styles to cut down on decorating costs
        • Use cheesecake instead of traditional wedding cake
        • Use buttercream or cream cheese frosting instead of fondant
        • Keep the add-ons simple and add the finishing touches yourself
        • Use fresh flowers instead of sugar ones to decorate
        • Skip the exotic fillings like guava and mango and use seasonal fruit or no filling
      • Make cupcake wedding cakes instead of a big cake
      • Instead of a cake, do a dessert buffet with pastries, cakes, brownies and other sweets
      • Order a small one or two-tiered cake and then supplement with a larger sheet cake hidden in the back
  • Transportation
    • Go with a limousine instead of a stretch SUV
    • Have as few stops as possible for the limo driver
      • Have the whole party meet at a location to be picked up
    • Have the wedding party drive themselves or hire only one bridal car
    • Get rid of the limo altogether
      • Hire a private chauffeur to drive your own car
      • Have a friend drive you
  • Honeymoon Destination
    • Plan out the vacation well in advance to save on costs
    • Be open to original and unique honeymoon escapes
    • Make the honeymoon a road trip or a camping trip
    • Book the vacation to a less common destination or at a nearby location
    • Pick an off-season locale to guarantee more savings
    • Pay attention to where you are going and what you will have to pay to use a bank card, especially overseas
  • After The Wedding
    • Sell the things that you’ve purchased that you don’t need, especially things that will go out of style in a decade
    • As you consolidate your possessions with your spouse, sell anything you have duplicates of
    • Make a joint bank account together and make it the primary paycheck cashing account for both of you
Next: Money 305: Big Decisions – New Baby