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The Accidental Coach

Wedding Costs - let's chat, please.

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My daughter is getting married and we are working on the wedding budget and costs associated with a wedding. Weddings are not inexpensive. We are trying to cut costs everywhere we can but even then, to put on a decent wedding, it's running into big money. Since I come from a small family and don't have a large social circle, I haven't been to many weddings. How does one cut costs effectively without looking cheap? What is expected? For instance, not serving alcohol will save us a lot of money but the groom has invited a lot of fraternity brothers and wants to serve beer and wine (no hard alcohol is allowed at the venue). Renting linens and tableware is going to be over $1500 but neither the venue nor the caterer provide these. We've been told that using disposable plates is taboo. We thought going with some of the beautiful disposable tableware and flatware would be cost effective and there are some really pretty place settings available (pinterest and Etsy are great for ideas).

If you have planned a wedding recently (and I know there are a few of you), how did you cut costs? 

What is a typical percentage of family contribution for weddings these days? How much is the couple supposed to contribute? Obviously, there are a number of factors that go into it, but what is the social standard? Are the parents of the bride still expected to pay 90%+ of the wedding? The bridal magazines and planning books we have all seem to be geared towards brides with large budgets.

(heavy sigh)

I guess I just need someone to commiserate with. Anyone I speak to IRL with just think I"m complaining and that's not what I want to do. I just want to talk things through, IYKWIM.

 

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I have been to many weddings where disposable plates are used.  Just use the nicer kind.

Costs can be cut sometimes by having friends donate certain items for the wedding.  Our photographer did the pictures for us as his wedding gift.  They were very nice.  Someone else gave us the flowers as a gift.  They were from her garden but were very expertly arranged.  Our pianist gave us the gift of music.  Again - good quality.  (She was a piano major.) 

I would not play the "keeping up with the Jones" on the wedding game. 

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Our oldest got married in February of 2017. We did not pay for the whole thing! We gave them some money towards the wedding, they put in money, and his parents contributed a lot. I think they paid for the open bar on top of their original contribution, which I understand was about what we put in. Also...they invited some of their own friends to the wedding, which we did not, so I think they gave more because of that. They also paid for the rehearsal dinner. We would have contributed but they viewed it as their party.

On top of our contribution we paid some extra towards the dress which was a bit more than she had anticipated. We also had to cover things like our youngest daughter's bridesmaid dress, our son's suit, hotel rooms for us and the kids, the bulk of the shower. The bridesmaids gave it but two of them were our daughters and the girls combined didn't have all that much money so we stepped in.

All in all - it was a lot of money. We live in an expensive area - NYC - and they got married in New Jersey, which is almost as bad!

Our second daughter is engaged now. We offered her the same amount and I don't believe that his parents are contributing anything...at least, they haven't offered yet. She and her fiance are putting in a lot. They're planning a bigger wedding and are having a longer engagement becasue of it.

Basically - our girls have know for years that we could help, but not pay for it all, unless they did something small.

OH - they cut costs by 1. having a friend of a friend do the photographs. The women is a professional food photographer and she charged way less that a wedding photographer but still did a great job. 2. No flowers in the venue - it was beautiful enough. So only bouquets for the girls. 3. Getting married at the venue instead of their church - the church charged even more. 4. No dj or band  -they made a spotify playlist and the boyfriend of one of the bridesmaids managed it. My husband set up his laptop at the venue so it would go through the speakers and it was perfect. 5. No limos. The venue has a hotel so they were all just there already. 6. The dress was from BHLDN and about $800. iirc. A lot less than some dresses!

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I don't think anything is typical anymore.  Brides parents do not have to host or contribute if they are not able.  Doing a home grown affair is fine.  Eloping is fine.  Very small wedding with a picnic barbeque potluck at a later date is fine.   

My DH and I paid for our rehearsal dinner, most of our wedding, and our honeymoon and this was many years ago.  My parents gave me a flat amount as a wedding gift.  They did the same for my brother (his amount was smaller, but only because they had given him money for other things).  That helped cover guests they wanted plus a little extra as a "gift".  I think what you spend is what you can easily afford without damaging retirement savings and your day to day life style and debt.  My DH and I paid our portion in cash.  No debt was required.  We were both older and professionally employed.  So I'd warn your daughter the danger and heart ache of carrying more debt than they can really handle.  Especially if either or both of them are carrying student loan debt.  

I do think my parents just committing a flat amount kept us from nickel and diming and discussing every minute detail ad nauseum.  I would set the expectation about what you are able to do financially very quickly.  Don't base it on any average out there or on the expectations of your future SIL or your social circle.  It's a gift to your kids to have solid retirement savings even if they don't see it that way now.  

I have seen brides use farmer's market flowers in the summer here.  I've seen pavillion park weddings.  I know plenty of people who've eloped.  

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The most important thing is to invite guests who love the couple and will be happy to be a part of their celebration whether they are served a piece of grocery store cake on a styrofoam plate and a plastic cup of punch or a full catered dinner on fine china.

After that, spend the money on the things that are most important to the couple and look for ways to cut corners on the rest.

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3 minutes ago, Danae said:

The most important thing is to invite guests who love the couple and will be happy to be a part of their celebration whether they are served a piece of grocery store cake on a styrofoam plate and a plastic cup of punch or a full catered dinner on fine china.

After that, spend the money on the things that are most important to the couple and look for ways to cut corners on the rest.

 

This.  

Is your social circle pressuring you to have a fine dining type of wedding?  Or can you have a more homey wedding without people sniffing about it?

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How many guests do you expect to have? I start there because doing some things yourself might not be easy with a large guest list. Or you might pare your list down to be able to afford the wedding dd wants. If you don’t have a huge guest list you might be able to buy table service and linens cheaper than renting them, especially from eBay sellers who used it for their own wedding.  And then resell them after the wedding.

Our dd went with inviting more people but with a simpler wedding. The reception was in the church fellowship hall and most of the food was cold, buffet style, instead of a formal sit down meal. 

You can limit alcohol costs by only serving for a certain length of time instead of the whole reception. The last wedding we attended served alcohol until the predetermined cost had been reached and then guests had to pay for their drinks. It really cut down on how much people drank. 

But like others say, it’s important to not spend more than you can afford and set clear expectations with the bride and groom. I make wedding cakes and see so much tension between parents and bride/groom over budgets- and if I see it when we discuss my cake prices I can imagine the overall financial stress of the wedding must take a lot of the fun out of it. 

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Weddings.....ugh.  I mean yah!!!!  :)

i have no hard and fast rule abou what is required.  Except of course I am very opposed to going in to debt for a wedding.  It is one day. 

 

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I agree with FuzzyCatz that there's no "typical" anymore, and I agree with Danae that they couple's authentic style and budget will do, for their real friends.

My son is getting married in August. DDIL preferred "elegant" and "classical" to "backyard BBQ" but she has kept it all so simple that I'm sure she has not spent any more than she would have spent for the down-home style. As this all comes together, it reminds me of the streamlined but beautiful weddings of the 40s to 60s.

-She did spend a little more than she expected to, on her gown and the flowers. (I told her that my wedding was simple, too - my dress was the highest expense!)

-the groom and attendants (male and female) are all wearing clothes that can be worn again - conservative suits for the men, dresses for the women that they chose for themselves according to a color palette 

-centerpieces reflect the couple's interests and are homemade by friends who know how to do it well

-the wedding AND reception are at the beautiful, historic city church where my son works as a music minister. They got a discount.

-They may use the church's dishes and linens, which might have been inadequate if they were doing a sit-down dinner, but it will be an afternoon wedding and they are only serving cake and fruit.

-A family friend is making the cakes and preparing the other foods.

-I am doing the entire rehearsal dinner, since the kids are delighted with my offer of vats of chili (several varieties), cornbread, raw vegetable crudites, fruit, and a cookie buffet.

-My youngest son, who is an excellent artist, created the wedding invitation.

I think it will be a beautiful wedding! And the couple feels surrounded by love - a lot of friends and family are helping out, but they kept their expectations simple enough, communicated well, and are so grateful for anything, that it's not been a hardship for anyone. After deciding upon a style and theme that could be done beautifully in a simple and affordable manner, the only difficult thing has been trimming the guest list! They ended up limiting the list to people who are local - this felt radical, but they did not invite far-away relatives with whom they do not have super close relationships, and focused on their church, college friends, and local people who have been closely involved with their lives for the past few years. 

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you Should not be putting your family in a precarious financial position to throw a party for independent adults. 

Ime, lovely weddings can be had with paper plates and bbq in the back yard. 

Figure out how much money you can spare for this party and tell them they can pay for anything above that cost.

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5 minutes ago, Tibbie Dunbar said:

I agree with FuzzyCatz that there's no "typical" anymore, and I agree with Danae that they couple's authentic style and budget will do, for their real friends.

My son is getting married in August. DDIL preferred "elegant" and "classical" to "backyard BBQ" but she has kept it all so simple that I'm sure she has not spent any more than she would have spent for the down-home style. As this all comes together, it reminds me of the streamlined but beautiful weddings of the 40s to 60s.

-She spent a little on her gown and the flowers

-the groom and attendants (male and female) are all wearing clothes that can be worn again - conservative suits for the men, dresses for the women that they chose for themselves according to a color palette 

-centerpieces reflect the couple's interests and are homemade by friends who know how to do it well

-the wedding AND reception are at the beautiful, historic city church where my son works as a music minister. They got a discount.

-They may use the church's dishes and linens, which might have been inadequate if they were doing a sit-down dinner, but it will be an afternoon wedding and they are only serving cake and fruit.

-A family friend is making the cakes and preparing the other foods.

-I am doing the entire rehearsal dinner, since the kids are delighted with my offer of vats of chili (several varieties), cornbread, raw vegetable crudites, fruit, and a cookie buffet.

-My youngest son, who is an excellent artist, created the wedding invitation.

I think it will be a beautiful wedding! And the couple feels surrounded by love - a lot of friends and family are helping out, but they kept their expectations simple enough, communicated well, and are so grateful for anything, that it's not been a hardship for anyone. After deciding upon a style and theme that could be done beautifully in a simple and affordable manner, the only difficult thing has been trimming the guest list! They ended up limiting the list to people who are local - this felt radical, but they did not invite far-away relatives with whom they do not have super close relationships, and focused on their church, college friends, and local people who have been closely involved with their lives for the past few years. 

Yes to this. 

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I have not done a wedding yet (unless you count my own in 1994, which my parents did not contribute to), but I do read up on this because I am frugal.

I think the main thing, if you want or need to keep costs down, is to care not one jot about what people think “has” to be a certain way. My own wedding was pleasant and IMO did not look cheap, but there were lots of things I did myself and so it was gonna be what it was gonna be. For example, at the time, lots of people had a videographer, but we did not have that. My FIL used his home video (you know, the kind the size of a suitcase, lol) and videoed portions of the ceremony and reception. It is not “professional,” but it was perfectly fine and we get just as much enjoyment watching that old video as if it had been pro. 

Obviously, that is an example that is probably no longer done, but my point is, look hard at all things and ask yourself how important this is. We did not have a limo or fancy transportation. My FIL drove us in his Cadillac. My MIL and some aunts and church ladies made the food. My sister made all the flowers from artificial flowers I bought at a big discount from the Ben Franklin craft store, which I don’t think is even a store anymore. My mother made the bridesmaids dresses. Other things, like table centerpieces, were made from some dollar store fishbowls and floating candles. At my brother’s wedding, they did not have a cake. They had a whole bunch of different kinds of cookies made by aunties and grandma. My favorite thing was that they also compiled little “cookie cookbooks” on cards with a flip ring; these were wedding favors. (I still have mine, which lasted longer than the marriage!) 

There is a good book on this called A Practical Wedding. It is a modern book. 

One last thing re: alcohol. If you set the time of day earlier, it helps curb alcohol consumption. It is in the back of my mind for my kids eventual wedding, both for cutting costs and also because it really irks me the way some people drink at weddings. The one disadvantage with that, though, is if you are DIYing a lot of things, having an earlier wedding means you will probably run around like a stressed-out wildcat. 

Best wishes! I love weddings where the focus is on the couple and not whether the event is “good enough.” 

P.S. one of my SILs did slur to me in a drunken stupor at her son’s wedding how she felt sorry for me having younger kids because I would have to “top” these weddings. Like hell. I don’t do wedding competitions and I would lose anyway because other people in the family will and can spend tens of thousands of dollars. 

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how much a family contributes - is what the family feels comfortable contributing.  do NOT allow anyone to tell you how much "you have to pay".   just as no one should tell you "you have to __ to have a proper wedding".   Miss Manners will tell you the only requirements for a wedding are a bride, a groom, and someone to legally officiate.

how much a family spends on a wedding depends upon how much they normally spend on entertaining/other events.

dh is obsessed with food . . . .I would have  preferred simpler fare.  cake and punch is fine.  (depending upon time of day)

my niece eloped - and later on had a potluck "open house" at their house.

I know many who held their reception at a parents/friends house. (as well as country club or such venue.)

 

2dd's wedding and reception were at the church - so we didn't pay for a location,  or for the person who officiated the wedding.   we did a buffet table - we didn't do a sit down meal.   I borrowed a lot of stuff from friends and acquaintances. found drink dispensers on clearance at tjmaxx.  (i've lent them out for other receptions) I bought stuff off ebay (from china - same stuff you'd buy at a craft store for 5 - 10 Xs more.). craigslist (sold a bunch of leftovers too.)  restaurant supply stores.  costco has "disposable china" plates that are actually rather attractive.   (they can also be washed and reused.)  women from church helped serve.a niece did the flowers.   their friends spent the evening before decorating the area where the reception would be held.  (and eating thai food)

pinterest has tons of diy decorating ideas - many are simple.  one fun one was a gold-fish bowl as a centerpiece on every table.

 

if the son-in-law wants booze - let him pay for it.  another nephew and his wife had their reception at a small niche museum that required a hosted bar. . . . .the majority of the group attending don't' drink.  felt sorry for the bartender.   they didn't have a "regular" wedding cake - dh made 12 chocolate cheesecakes.  I don't remember if the 8th was started into or not . . . . the girl who only wanted a tiny piece because she was on a diet . . . and came back 15 minute later wanting a whole piece . . ..  he made four (or six) for another niece who did both vanilla and chocolate cheesecakes.  4yo great-niece kept going to different family adults (unbeknownst to each other) and walking them over to the cake table to get a piece of chocolate cheesecake.  I think that was all she ate.

 

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To answer your question, what is expected of weddings, I have found where one lives and the social circles he/she are a part of determines much of the wedding cost.  When my husband and I married, we “needed” to go all out with the event:  tuxes, limo, professional photos, flowers, dance hall.  I wanted to elope but my husband did not agree.  We live near NYC so it was expensive but we saved costs by buying my wedding dress at an outlet ($50! And $150 alterations) and having the reception earlier in the day amongst other things.  We paid for most of it as both our parents were unable to contribute much monetarily.  It was beautiful but my focus was on the marriage. I would have been happy to marry under a tree.  ?

Recently,  one of my sisters had a backyard wedding in Nebraska. Very simple but elegant.  High school students playing classical music.  Wild flowers.  Beer and wine served.  My mother is a great cook so she supplied the food for the buffet luncheon.  No fine china but beautiful nevertheless.  Another Midwest sister had a small church wedding, small reception in the hall with punch and cake.  It was lovely, too.  Come to think of it, my brothers too.  

Just this past weekend, we went to a wedding in NYC.  The couple, who live in the place, took over the top of their apartment building which has glass walls and no roof,  overlooking the Hudson River and Manhattan.  Windy but beautiful day.  Costs savings included invitations via email, no limo, no professional photographer (designated friend instead), simple food served buffet-style. No bridesmaids/groomsmen but 2 flower girls and a ringbearer. (Presents to bridesmaids/groomsmen add up).  There was a DJ...not sure if he was a friend of the family or not.  There was a gorgeous flower-laced trellis and some pots of cut roses lining the walkway.  I’m sure it was still pricey but not nearly what it typically is for this area.

Weddings don’t have to be very expensive.  It’s just you have to determine what is non-negotiable and let the rest go.

Edited by Melissa in New York
To add regional context
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When planning a wedding, I think a lot of people stay with the bridal magazine, celebrity level pictures in their heads and then try to do that, only cheaper. If you have good friends who can donate a lot of goods, time, and labor that can be doable, but for most of us it just isn't. I recommend instead starting with a blank paper, bride and groom together listing the things most important to them, in order. For my husband and me, the list was something like 1. We walk away legally married to each other. 2. In a church with a minister. 3. Family in attendance. 4. Close friends in attendance. 5. Chance to socialize afterwards. 6. Pictures taken. 7. Food for everyone. 

Actually, having his brother's and my best friends in the wedding party was probably 5 for us, but that's the general idea. Keep going show the list, figuring out how important things like basic flowers, fancy flowers, basic music, live music, etc are. Then write down costs next to each item. Strike off anything that suddenly doesn't seem so important when looking at its price tag. Then, see how far down the list you can go while staying in budget. You may end up with a wedding that looks really different than typical, but it will have the things the couple value.

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Bride A is getting a small cake and asking her mother’s friends (like me) to bring pies for dessert at reception  

suits, not tuxes   

Receprion at bride’s home after short reception at church    All goods will Be paper   

I found it cheaper to BUY the table cloths than to rent them and launder them when I did my parents’ 50th   

Hand designed invitations   Online RSVP  

Bride A’s parents gave her a certain amount of money to spend as she wished; she gets to keep the change.    Suddenly it was possible to invite fewer people, simplify the invites, ask friends to help    :::grin:::

 

 

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America is not so small and homogeneous a country that there is a social norm beyond most people spending far too much on a wedding.

I think your post shows you're thinking about the wedding from the wrong angle. Most Americans do.  Set a budget based on what you can afford without going into debt and without eating into what should be going into retirement funds. (Remember that the US government is in debt and can't fund social security for more than a handful of years from now, so don't expect to get any.)  That's it.  Not a penny more.  It doesn't matter what everyone else is doing, it doesn't matter what the guests expect, it doesn't matter what social norms are.  The only thing that matters when setting a wedding budget is your actual financial situation. All decisions should be made within those limits.  Want a more elaborate wedding?  Have fewer guests.  What more guests?  Have a modest wedding.

We gave our older two what we could afford in the form of a check when they announced their engagements. It put them in complete control and created a firm spending limit on our part. If they wanted to spend more, then they had to earn it themselves or hope someone else gifted them with money.  Middle daughter got married in April for less than we gave her.  The rest is going toward a down payment on a house next year when his student loans are paid off, which they have prioritized.  They'll be 21 and 23 when they buy their house. They have no other debt.

1. The bridal shower was just close female relatives and friends at a local restaurant for brunch.  It's a beautiful place with outdoor groves of trees and picnic benches.  We decorated the tables with grocery store bouquets and matching balloons. My mother used to be a floral designer at a flower shop.  The truck delivered the same flowers to them and to the grocery store on the same day. 

2. They decided to have a friend marry them in a private ceremony with just the 3 of them because of all the differing religions between all sides of the family and neither of them is religious. No attendants. No rehearsal dinner.

3. It was a modest reception. There were 70 guests (close friends and close family only.)  It was in her MIL's large backyard (no venue fees) and the young kids were able to run around and play happily.  

 4. The meal was from a favorite casual Italian restaurant served buffet style, and cake were served on pretty plastic silver and white disposable plates.

 5. They rented a tent (top only, no sides, weather was mild in the evening in April) with lights they purchased because they want to reuse them in their own backyard and it cost almost the same as renting. The tables and linens were rented. Some people purchase linens and decor (new or used) and then sell them used after the wedding to get some or most of their money back. Check Craigslist and FB Marketplace to see what things are selling for in your area.

6. They bought lots of LED lights to decorate with instead of flowers.

7. She wore a short lace wedding dress ($350) that she tried on at David's Bridal, but found it for $100 cheaper online. He bought a charcoal grey suit. 

8. A skilled friend did the photography.  Another option is to have the couple go to a studio for a professional sitting on a day other than the wedding day. They have to have bought both sets of clothes to do that. 

9. They aren't dancers and neither were most of the people there, so need for a dance floor and DJ.

10. No booze.  Keeping it casual meant having bottles of soda and bottles of water in decorative bins.  People can go out for drinks the day before or after the big event on their own dime.

11. They got a deal on a resort at Laguna Beach, CA.  I don't remember the details, but it was there for a few days and then they spent a day at Disneyland on the way home in addition to that.  

We didn't spend a moment worrying about whether or not the guests would approve or not. 

Oldest has that money in the bank because they're getting married a year later than originally planned due to a couple of different circumstances.   

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In my opinion a smaller budget is more easily accomplished with a more casual event, rather than trying to do a more formal event but cut corners. So rather than a formal event with paper plates, a casual event with paper plates. You can still make it awesome, and in my opinion, more awesome. A well done casual event is in my experience nicer than a shoestring version of a more formal, big event. The exception is that you could do a cheaper formal event if you limited the size, OR limited time/food/etc. 

So you could do a fairly formal and nice dessert buffet reception at a lower cost than a casual full meal barbecue I imagine, or at least similar cost. If I wanted fancy, I'd do an evening, after dinner dessert reception I think, and keep the size small. But I personally think people enjoy an outdoor barbecue just as much or more, and you can make something like that super cute on a budget using mismatched thrift store plates or paper plates, thrift store decorations, etc. 

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I think someone might have already said it:

Give them the amount you're willing to pay, then let them figure it out.

This way you don't need to worry about every item, and you don't have to/get to make the hard decisions. If they want something above and beyond your amount, that's on them. The wedding is just one day in their new life together. They shouldn't break your bank or their bank. I would be as generous as I could be, but not put my finances in jeopardy. 

 

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Have an evening wedding with a dessert reception, that can be stunningly beautiful, and dessert is cheaper than a meal.  Or have the reception at a church social hall; the costs are usually not as great as with a restaurant or banquet venue.

 

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What everyone said..  A few snippets of information I've gleaned over the years...

We put my dd on a budget.  We only knew someone who did flowers, so otherwise we had no favors to call in.  It was tight and we ended up having to raise it by about 2K to completely cover it, but we did it.  The thing is to go small.  Really small.  If I had had a say I would have invited less to dd's wedding, but groom was an only child and his dad a priest.  

My niece got married last weekend.  It was a sweet and happy experience.  She re-purposed her mom's wedding dress from the early 80s.  It was completely changed and lovely, but cost less than $200 to do so.  She had beer and pizza (and wine) wedding reception.  They only invited 80 guests... which is hard since extended family is...extensive.  They used very nice disposable plates/flatware... the napkins almost felt like cloth, but it was paper.   Bride's brother-in-law's sister is a professional event photographer and she did the pictures at a greatly reduced rate.  They spent most of their money on a DJ and it was worth it.  It was a happy celebration.  

Another niece got married several years ago and did a breakfast themed reception.  Apparently it' was much cheaper than dinner style... and it was pretty yummy.  The only thing I didn't like was that she had donuts instead of a wedding cake.  That didn't quite work.

One niece loves pie instead of cake.  She didn't have a wedding cake.  She had several friends & family makes several varieties of pie for her wedding.   I love pie so I was pretty happy.

A friend got married in late Jan. and the prices for just about everything was cheaper....esp. the reception venue.  Of course, snow can be an issue... but off-season may help with the price tag.

My son is getting married in Aug. and bride and bride's mom are calling in all the favors they can.  I plan to use their wisdom when my next 2 girls get married.

Good luck with everything.  What a happy time. 

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Here's what we have so far:

Mid-August wedding at 3:30pm in a barn with about 100 guests, includes children

Photographer is a friend of mine and is giving us a deal; DJ is a family friend and giving us a deal

Invites were made on our computer and printed through a Shutterfly-like co and were quite inexpensive (and cute to boot).

Wedding dress is a knock-off from the one she fell in love with and was only $225. She's wearing her cowboy boots.

DGD's dress was bought from Etsy and was fairly inexpensive. She's wearing her cowboy boots.

The bridesmaid dresses were around $75 and can be used for other events. The groomsman are renting gray suits.

Flowers are sunflowers planted by a family friend and growing as we speak. These will be filled in with greenery, baby's breath, and a few blue flowers.

We're going to make the centerpieces and as much decor as we can. DD has found some great ideas on Pinterest that we can do easily and inexpensively.

DD has opted for cupcakes instead of a wedding cake. Yay for me - GF cupcakes are easy to add to the order.

The issues are linens, serviceware, food and alcohol. So far the quotes we have received will double the cost of the wedding. It's insane. The barn has a strict policy of no homemade food; all food must be catered due to liability. And before you say anything, I was not there when DD and DFSIL signed the contract on the venue. They were kind of pressured into putting down the deposit "We can't hold the date without it." "That's a highly prized weekend. I'm surprised that date is open." Then the out-of-the-blue- as they were leaving phone call came in:  "We have someone else who wants that date. Are you going to deposit to hold or not?" So they quickly deposited out of fear of losing their 'perfect' venue without truly considering the implications or other options. When they thought better of it, they would have been out the deposit so decided to stick with it thinking they could save money elsewhere. The problem is that we are having difficulty finding a caterer that will go out there without charging exorbitant fees. It's an 8 mile trip out of town and near a major highway so it's not like it's inconvenient.

Our quotes for renting linens (tablecloths and napkins) are around $800. No one local rents these items (city is too small) and they have to come from the city 50 miles away. This company doesn't rent tableware, flatware, or stemware. We are trying to find other options for these items. It looks like buying will be less expensive than renting. I'm researching disposable flatware, stemware, and tableware.

The barn only has one bathroom and a port-a-potty must be rented. $75 for the construction site portable kind. Two toilets are required by the barn so $150 plus the drop off fee of $50 plus the portable sink that sits outside for handwashing, $50. So $250.00 for port-a-potties & sink. A nice air conditioned portable restroom is $600 and has four toilets and real sinks. This would be heavenly. Hey, I can dream about air conditioned bathroom breaks.

Really - we have to find a caterer that will provide good food (doesn't have to be fancy) to the barn, linens (from somewhere), and serviceware (from somwhere). My vote went for Chipotle! Just kidding. But not really.

The alcohol is being debated.

DH and I won't go into debt and we're doing our best to help DD and DFSIL refrain from accruing any debt but that one error in judgment is making things a bit more difficult.

 

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Well I opted for a formal but tiny wedding - 50 guests, china, full meal, wine and beer, old stone lodge. We spent less than $10k and DIY'd 2/3 of it.

For kids I agree that you just figure out what your budget is and cut them a check.  Leave the rest up to them.  They can decide if they want 500 people and styrofoam plates, 100 people and a fully catered formal affair, or chuck the whole event for a backyard wedding with family only and to spend the money on a down payment for a house or paying off a student loan.

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I have been to many wedding receptions that had disposable plates and cups.  However, for a few wedding receptions of family members, we have found that the "cheapest" venue is not necessarily the cheapest when all things are considered.  If a venue has tables, chairs, linens, punch cups, and is attractive enough that no decorations need to be used, it can end up being cheaper than a less costly venue when you add several hundred dollars for a number of miscellaneous items.  Getting married at a non-prime wedding time can save money--a morning wedding and reception with brunch food can be lovely and is much cheaper than a reception with dinner and alcohol.  Some venues will offer a discount for a Thursday night wedding reception.  If a number of people are coming from out of town and need hotel accommodations, timing the wedding can cut down on hotel costs--do not have the wedding on a weekend that is a big tourist time for the area; consider an afternoon wedding so that guests can travel back home that evening.  A rehearsal on Saturday with a Sunday afternoon can eliminate the need for members of the wedding party to have to take off of work on Friday to make it to the rehearsal.  

To have a lovely wedding and stay within a budget, I think it is helpful for the bride and groom to think about what the one most important thing to them is and focus on spending money on that one thing--some people love beautiful flowers, for others a spectacular dress is important, for others a showstopper cake is paramount.  If the couple focuses on that one special splurge, they often find that they may not even need some of the things they thought were necessary.  Honestly, I cannot remember what the table decorations looked like at a single wedding I have attended.  

 

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You’ve done really well so far. I’m irritated on your behalf that the venue doesn’t have adequate bathroom facilities but has requirements.  

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4 hours ago, The Accidental Coach said:

My daughter is getting married and we are working on the wedding budget and costs associated with a wedding. Weddings are not inexpensive. We are trying to cut costs everywhere we can but even then, to put on a decent wedding, it's running into big money. Since I come from a small family and don't have a large social circle, I haven't been to many weddings. How does one cut costs effectively without looking cheap? What is expected? For instance, not serving alcohol will save us a lot of money but the groom has invited a lot of fraternity brothers and wants to serve beer and wine (no hard alcohol is allowed at the venue). Renting linens and tableware is going to be over $1500 but neither the venue nor the caterer provide these. We've been told that using disposable plates is taboo. We thought going with some of the beautiful disposable tableware and flatware would be cost effective and there are some really pretty place settings available (pinterest and Etsy are great for ideas).

If you have planned a wedding recently (and I know there are a few of you), how did you cut costs? 

What is a typical percentage of family contribution for weddings these days? How much is the couple supposed to contribute? Obviously, there are a number of factors that go into it, but what is the social standard? Are the parents of the bride still expected to pay 90%+ of the wedding? The bridal magazines and planning books we have all seem to be geared towards brides with large budgets.

(heavy sigh)

I guess I just need someone to commiserate with. Anyone I speak to IRL with just think I"m complaining and that's not what I want to do. I just want to talk things through, IYKWIM.

 

Is your dd still living at home? Or is she an independent woman earning her way in the world?

If she's still young and living at home, then the wedding is mostly on you, and you can do whatever fits in your budget.  If she's out living on her own and working, and wants to save for all the big stuff, then let her, but as long as you are responsible (and yes, mostly you are), then you stay within your budget, and your budget should not put you in debt.

Does the groom want to pay for beer and wine? Then he can pay for it. If he can't afford it, then don't have it. Or if his parents want to pay for it, then let them. Otherwise, don't have it.

If your budget is disposable tableware and flatware, then that's what you do. I've been to several low-budget weddings where those were used, and they were lovely.

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DD and DGD still live with us. DD graduated from college a year ago and has been working to pay off student loan debt for the past year. They initially planned on a 2019 wedding but DFSIL was offered a promotion that is taking him out of state, hence a shortened engagement, a feeling of urgency, and a decreased time to save for wedding and moving expenses.

It is an exciting, albeit rushed, time in our lives.

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43 minutes ago, The Accidental Coach said:

Here's what we have so far:

Mid-August wedding at 3:30pm in a barn with about 100 guests, includes children

Photographer is a friend of mine and is giving us a deal; DJ is a family friend and giving us a deal

Invites were made on our computer and printed through a Shutterfly-like co and were quite inexpensive (and cute to boot).

Wedding dress is a knock-off from the one she fell in love with and was only $225. She's wearing her cowboy boots.

DGD's dress was bought from Etsy and was fairly inexpensive. She's wearing her cowboy boots.

The bridesmaid dresses were around $75 and can be used for other events. The groomsman are renting gray suits.

Flowers are sunflowers planted by a family friend and growing as we speak. These will be filled in with greenery, baby's breath, and a few blue flowers.

We're going to make the centerpieces and as much decor as we can. DD has found some great ideas on Pinterest that we can do easily and inexpensively.

DD has opted for cupcakes instead of a wedding cake. Yay for me - GF cupcakes are easy to add to the order.

The issues are linens, serviceware, food and alcohol. So far the quotes we have received will double the cost of the wedding. It's insane. The barn has a strict policy of no homemade food; all food must be catered due to liability. And before you say anything, I was not there when DD and DFSIL signed the contract on the venue. They were kind of pressured into putting down the deposit "We can't hold the date without it." "That's a highly prized weekend. I'm surprised that date is open." Then the out-of-the-blue- as they were leaving phone call came in:  "We have someone else who wants that date. Are you going to deposit to hold or not?" So they quickly deposited out of fear of losing their 'perfect' venue without truly considering the implications or other options. When they thought better of it, they would have been out the deposit so decided to stick with it thinking they could save money elsewhere. The problem is that we are having difficulty finding a caterer that will go out there without charging exorbitant fees. It's an 8 mile trip out of town and near a major highway so it's not like it's inconvenient.

Our quotes for renting linens (tablecloths and napkins) are around $800. No one local rents these items (city is too small) and they have to come from the city 50 miles away. This company doesn't rent tableware, flatware, or stemware. We are trying to find other options for these items. It looks like buying will be less expensive than renting. I'm researching disposable flatware, stemware, and tableware.

The barn only has one bathroom and a port-a-potty must be rented. $75 for the construction site portable kind. Two toilets are required by the barn so $150 plus the drop off fee of $50 plus the portable sink that sits outside for handwashing, $50. So $250.00 for port-a-potties & sink. A nice air conditioned portable restroom is $600 and has four toilets and real sinks. This would be heavenly. Hey, I can dream about air conditioned bathroom breaks.

Really - we have to find a caterer that will provide good food (doesn't have to be fancy) to the barn, linens (from somewhere), and serviceware (from somwhere). My vote went for Chipotle! Just kidding. But not really.

The alcohol is being debated.

DH and I won't go into debt and we're doing our best to help DD and DFSIL refrain from accruing any debt but that one error in judgment is making things a bit more difficult.

 

 

You’re doing great so far! I’ve been involved in the wedding industry for the past 10+ years. Here’s my recommendations:

Linens: www.tableclothfactory.com

Much less expensive to buy new versus renting.  Their polyester linens are the same quality you would be renting.  You’ll need to google the dimensions you need so you can order the right sizes. Also check Craigslist or Facebook market place for people reselling.  

Beautiful disposable tableware and cutlery:

www.smartyhadaparty.com

Instead of disposable stemware, Dollar Tree sells plain wine glasses. They can be ordered by the case online. They’ll need to be washed and the stickers taken off, but at $1 each. It’s worth the effort over disposal stemware. I’ve never seen any disposable stemware that looks nice. 

As far as catering goes, that’s so dependent on location I don’t know if I have a good recommendation for that.  Check with local restaurants.  If they won’t deliver or set up, you can buy disposable chaffer stands and Sternos at Sam’s Club or a party supply store.  But food served buffet style will be cheaper than a served meal. Far cheaper. 

Alcohol: serve iced down in containers. When it’s gone, it’s gone. 

The potty situation is ridiculous at this venue. But what’s done is done. Just get as many quotes as you can. Call around in the city also. Some companies won’t have a problem delivering 50 miles away. 

I hope some of this is helpful. 

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Is there a church in the area that has linens it would lend?  Given the description of the venue, I can't imagine using anything but disposable dishes.  It doesn't sound as if there is any place to do any washing of items, and I can't imagine transporting large number of plates and utensils somewhere to wash them.  

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OP, once that's all added up, how much of a loss would the deposit be? 

If they love the venue too much, and are willing to double the cost for the bathrooms and catered food and linens from the big city, then they'll have to pay for it...? But if they might be willing to lose the deposit in order to change plans to something the family can afford, I would at least float that idea. Tactfully.

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Well, I ordered disposables from Occassions. It was less than 1/4 of what DD's first bid was and we think they look beautiful. I can't wait to see what they look like once they arrive.

Thanks so much, ladies. When I told DD that TWTM ladies found those for me she was thrilled. 

Now if you can help me find white table cloths and burlap table runners...

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Burlap table runners: get yard goods and cut them yourself?  It’s not like they need to be “finished.”  

I’ve used and reused yards of quilting fabric and sized it by folding.  I’ve never hemmed anything for a one-use situation. 

Whit table-cloths—same.  At least if it is for rectangular tables.  Yard goods, cut and unhemmed.  

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8 hours ago, Tibbie Dunbar said:

OP, once that's all added up, how much of a loss would the deposit be? 

If they love the venue too much, and are willing to double the cost for the bathrooms and catered food and linens from the big city, then they'll have to pay for it...? But if they might be willing to lose the deposit in order to change plans to something the family can afford, I would at least float that idea. Tactfully.

$1500 deposit.

Buying the disposables saved $500+ off renting the serviceware. If I can find linens for less than $250 that will save another $550. DD is looking into borrowing white table cloths from somewhere and burlap table runners should be inexpensive so we might be able to get it under $100.

We're also looking into reducing the cost of the dinner. If we can drop this by $1000-1500 (or a bit more) we should be good. Maybe. There's just not a lot of time left. 78 days till show time.

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Post your local Craigslist or local sales site ISO runners, tablecloths, and other items you need.  I have a family member in the wedding business and he reports seeing the very same centerpieces and other items at multiple weddings throughout any given summer.  Christmas string lights are very popular decor here and those seem to make the rounds over and over.  It's possible that someone (or someones) local have an earlier summer wedding with similar taste.  Keep in mind that you can also sell your reusables after the wedding.

On the port-o-john, insist that the provider also have an outside hand washing station (if you don't go with the full bathroom option).  Hand sanitizer is not enough!  Especially if food will be buffet style!  

That said, all bets are off these days.  There is no such thing as "cheap."  Do what you can afford and don't worry one little bit.  We had friends with a very tight budget that had a late evening wedding (after dinner) with elegant champagne toast, cake, dancing, and cash bar in their back yard (with those Craigslist lights all over the place).  The whole thing cost less that $2K and seemed very luxurious.  

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Really, there aren't hard and fast rules.  What you need to do is find a budget, and then figure out what you can do within that budget.  If your budget, like most, is limited, you may have to decide what is important to you.  If having all of a big family is important, you may need to go for a wedding that is smaller in other ways.  If having a formal dinner is important, you may need to have a small guest list.

Often, the way you do this is to choose the right type of event.  If you have a formal dinner party at a hotel, paper plates might be pretty weird.  But a fire-hall lunch catered by the church ladies - no problem, paper plates would be ideal.

I will say that I have rarely seen an open bar these days except at a very very posh wedding.  More commonly a drink is offered with the meal, and then a cash bar, or no alcohol at all, or only cash bar.  People have different feelings about these options and local custom will be a factor.

I would be careful about "expectations" wither the ones you are told exist, or the ones your child and her future husband have.  It seems pretty common for young people to have entirely unrealistic expectations about weddings.  Sometimes they need a dose of reality and it's better IMO if it is decisive.

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If you have Netflix, there's a show on there right now from Australia called Cheapest Weddings.  Many of the ideas look fantastic and you can see the different priorities of the families as they put it all together.

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I'd definitely be looking at local barbecue places for the food. Barbecue would be perfect for a barn! 

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For my wedding, there were some things I did to save money:

No formal photos, I don't like them most of the time anyway.  Lots of people took candids and some of them were great.

No special cars - this always seemed like a colossal waste of funds to me.

No silly take home items like wee flowerpots or fake rings for the guests.  People usually just throw that stuff out anyway. No candy either, just spend that money on the meal.

Not many flowers.  My bridesmaids (only 2) had them, I had them, I think my dh.  We didn't by them for the church or the venue which were both already attractive.

I also spent a total of about $30 on my dress, maybe not an option for most.  But I know quite a few people who spent only about $100 and looked great.

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I got married 14 years ago.  We were on a strict budget because I had been let go at work and had not found new work yet. My parents gave us a sum they would pay for the wedding. ($6000 I think it ended up being) Anything over that we would have to come up with.  We had an afternoon wedding so a sit down dinner was not expected. We did not serve alcohol at all. (Having the reception at my Baptist church I'm not sure if it would have been smiled upon. But I didn't want to pay for it or have the hassles of having to deal with alcohol when there were defiinitely children around so it was off the table.)  We bought fabric and my dress, the bridesmaid dresses, and the ring bearer vests/flower girl dresses were all homemade.  the single biggest fee for our wedding was the photographer because I knew I wanted good pictures. We bought flowers at the grocery store and the great-aunts that had come in for the wedding used them and ribbon I'd purchased to decorate the church (I'd planned to make decorations myself -- but failed at falling through. But it turned out I was marrying into a crafty family that were able to make do with the supplies I had!)

 

We did serve food as well as the cakes (Catered by my best friend's oldest daughter -- so she gave us a deal on her services). And we bought plates, etc at the Dollar store (Thanks to my best friend stepping in, we had enough of these. I had planned on one plate per person but she insisted on getting many extras -- and she was right.)  Decorations were things like the wedding quilt we'd had made on a PVC frame. And Dollar Store Streamers.

 

ETA: We did not have a professional videographer either. It was not in the budget. But we gave my Uncle a home video camera and he got a video that was good enough to send to the grandmother who could not travel to come to the movie and for us to watch going down through the years.

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13 hours ago, Danae said:

The most important thing is to invite guests who love the couple and will be happy to be a part of their celebration whether they are served a piece of grocery store cake on a styrofoam plate and a plastic cup of punch or a full catered dinner on fine china.

After that, spend the money on the things that are most important to the couple and look for ways to cut corners on the rest.

This. 

Also, some people I know told their kid, if you want “X” kind of wedding, then the guest list gets pared waaaaaaay back. 

Regarding asking people to provide services for this wedding as “their gift”, I would be very careful about that. A friend asked me to play piano as “my gift” and even though I am not even close to being a professional (I had never before played for pay) it offended me. Now, that could be just me and my problem, but I thought, “that’s how expensive of a gift they expect me to give them.” And she didn’t really ask, she just told me. 

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11 hours ago, The Accidental Coach said:

Here's what we have so far:

Mid-August wedding at 3:30pm in a barn with about 100 guests, includes children

Photographer is a friend of mine and is giving us a deal; DJ is a family friend and giving us a deal

Invites were made on our computer and printed through a Shutterfly-like co and were quite inexpensive (and cute to boot).

Wedding dress is a knock-off from the one she fell in love with and was only $225. She's wearing her cowboy boots.

DGD's dress was bought from Etsy and was fairly inexpensive. She's wearing her cowboy boots.

The bridesmaid dresses were around $75 and can be used for other events. The groomsman are renting gray suits.

Flowers are sunflowers planted by a family friend and growing as we speak. These will be filled in with greenery, baby's breath, and a few blue flowers.

We're going to make the centerpieces and as much decor as we can. DD has found some great ideas on Pinterest that we can do easily and inexpensively.

DD has opted for cupcakes instead of a wedding cake. Yay for me - GF cupcakes are easy to add to the order.

The issues are linens, serviceware, food and alcohol. So far the quotes we have received will double the cost of the wedding. It's insane. The barn has a strict policy of no homemade food; all food must be catered due to liability. And before you say anything, I was not there when DD and DFSIL signed the contract on the venue. They were kind of pressured into putting down the deposit "We can't hold the date without it." "That's a highly prized weekend. I'm surprised that date is open." Then the out-of-the-blue- as they were leaving phone call came in:  "We have someone else who wants that date. Are you going to deposit to hold or not?" So they quickly deposited out of fear of losing their 'perfect' venue without truly considering the implications or other options. When they thought better of it, they would have been out the deposit so decided to stick with it thinking they could save money elsewhere. The problem is that we are having difficulty finding a caterer that will go out there without charging exorbitant fees. It's an 8 mile trip out of town and near a major highway so it's not like it's inconvenient.

Our quotes for renting linens (tablecloths and napkins) are around $800. No one local rents these items (city is too small) and they have to come from the city 50 miles away. This company doesn't rent tableware, flatware, or stemware. We are trying to find other options for these items. It looks like buying will be less expensive than renting. I'm researching disposable flatware, stemware, and tableware.

The barn only has one bathroom and a port-a-potty must be rented. $75 for the construction site portable kind. Two toilets are required by the barn so $150 plus the drop off fee of $50 plus the portable sink that sits outside for handwashing, $50. So $250.00 for port-a-potties & sink. A nice air conditioned portable restroom is $600 and has four toilets and real sinks. This would be heavenly. Hey, I can dream about air conditioned bathroom breaks.

Really - we have to find a caterer that will provide good food (doesn't have to be fancy) to the barn, linens (from somewhere), and serviceware (from somwhere). My vote went for Chipotle! Just kidding. But not really.

The alcohol is being debated.

DH and I won't go into debt and we're doing our best to help DD and DFSIL refrain from accruing any debt but that one error in judgment is making things a bit more difficult.

 

Have you checked into buying the linens instead of renting?  Dh and I did that.  I still have them.  We got them at SAMs .....seems like we spent about $100 on 8 round white table clothes.  

 

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