Breaking the #1 Rule of Wedding Planning

My last post discussed my experience learning the art of procrastination (I am still mortified that I ever admitted to such a thing). This post is just as bad, if not worse.

The very first book I bought when I got engaged was Bridal Bargains because there was only one thing I really knew about weddings: they are mind-blowingly-expensive. I highly recommend the book for those doing the wedding planning thing. It was the reason I emailed my invitations, used an iPod instead of a DJ, and why my reception only lasted 3 hours.

There is one rule that every bridal adviser gives you: No matter how rich you/your parents are–make a budget and stick to it.

But what if this is your first swim in the ocean of independence?  You just moved out of your parents’ house. You just landed your first above-minimum-wage job. First time owning a car, oh, wait, it’s also your first year driving a car further than the grocery store. You’ve  faithfully paid rent, student loans, and didn’t even dip into your savings when the car’s catalytic converter needed replacing. But if you pour all your extra cash into the wedding, how much will that equal?


So I decided to wing it. Very. Very. Carefully.

Key 1: Solid backup

My fiance agreed not to pay for any wedding stuff. He focused on saving money for an apartment so I could funnel every cent of mine into the wedding without guilt. Note that I do not say “without fear”.

Key 2: Guesstimation

I wasn’t sure if I had $3,000 or $9,000, but I did know I didn’t have $10,000, so that gave me a ballpark for how much individual items could cost.

Key 3: No “Average” priced stuff

Most brides spend $1,000 on a wedding dress? Research is showing me that $5,000 is normal for reception venues in my area? Conventional wisdom says I can’t find a decent photographer for under $3,000 a day? Challenge accepted.

Key 4: Lying About My “Budget”

Having a blast dress shopping with my fiance

Dress shopping with my fiance. Another “rule” broken

I was committed to finding a dress for under $500, which might have been realistic if I had wanted a simple sheath dress, but I wanted an ornate ball gown. Rather than admit this, I told shop ladies that my budget was $1,000 and merrily tried on dozens of dresses.

Any woman with common sense will tell yo that this is a dangerous game. What if I had fallen in love with an expensive dress?

BUT the point is that I didn’t let my quest for bargains get in the way of having fun. I also went to a bridal fair and had a blast chatting up caterers, just enjoying the fantasy that I might work with them. Let the charade entertain you, not depress you.

*Key 5: Paying Upfront*

This is the only item I recommend for other brides to do. If you are unsure of your budget, the best think you can do is not leave payments until the month before the wedding. You’ll see all your money in your account and forget most of it is committed to your venue. Ask your vendors if you can pay them in full ahead of time and get that cash out of your sight. They aren’t doing you a favor by letting you wait 6 months before billing you.

Results: Success! I may not have fulfilled my dream of riding in a limo, but I got through the wedding debt-free. I kept track of all my expense and the total ended up being around $5,000. The honeymoon took about a month to completely pay off, but we’re now comfortably settled into a fully furnished, well-stocked apartment.

And one of the first things we did after moving in was create a budget, both monthly and annual.

Note: I originally wrote this blog post in second person, saying, for example,  “It’s okay to lie about your budget”. It started sounding like a “How To” column, so I changed it. Bottom line: Just because I pulled it off doesn’t mean I recommend my method. 


In case you’re curious, here’s what I paid on the big-ticket items:

$900 for 10 hours of Photography

$550 Ceremony Site

$40 veil and dye

$215 on wedding dress (David’s Bridal)

$195 on alterations (NOT David’s Bridal)

$45 Groom’s vest (made by his mother)

$1200 Reception Venue ($300 returned after event)

$75 on tablecloths

$250 on Food (bread, snacks, lemonade)

$160 Cupcakes

$100 Hair and Makeup

$380 Rentals


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