Weddings on the Cheap

Some suggestions about ways to bring the biggest expenses in check.  I wrote this up for a friend years ago, and most of it was based on personal experience for my own wedding.

Location.  Have it at a friend's place or someplace that doesn't normally do weddings.  There's a novelty factor if you have someplace outside the box.  We did ours in a museum (married in one gallery, then moved to another for the reception).  The friends whose wedding I officiated had a private ceremony at his grandmother's place, then had the reception for all our friends a few days later at our house.

Photographer.  Invite your photo-savvy friends.  We hired pros, but we also told everyone to bring cameras and then I even gave my cameras to friends who didn't have any.  Here are the official totals:  Professionals (two of them) took a combined 642 shots.  Our friends and family took 474 pics.  I've heard of people buying disposable cameras for the guests and developing everything after the big day, which is a good idea too.  You can always scan whatever isn't digital.

Catering.  If you're keeping it relatively small, then it doesn't have to be all that formal.  In fact, do something weird.  Dani's from El Paso and I fucking love sushi, so we had one table of Mexican and one with Japanese.  And a tray of finger sandwiches.  Seriously.  It's just not a wedding without finger sandwiches.  If there's an in-joke about a favorite fast food place (e.g., a story from your first date or something), then get them to cater it.  That would be hilarious, and a wedding is all about making great memories more than impressing people that you're rich.  I'm pretty sure most folks on your guest list already know you aren't.

Cakes.  The "donut cakes" you've undoubtedly seen lately are tacky fun and are probably super cheap to make.  If you've got an idea for a silly custom cake, then I'm sure you could do it at Walmart for a fraction of what it would cost from the pros.  By contrast, we spent way too much on custom cakes, and they were the things I was the least satisfied with after the reception.

Band or DJ.  Make a playlist on your iPod and rent a PA to play it through.  We did have a band for the reception, but I borrowed a friend's karaoke amp and two mics (plus stands) for the ceremony (I highly recommend amplification no matter what the venue).  We borrowed a laptop for the ceremony music, and that was played through my stereo.  I had a serious carload full of AV equipment: laptop, multimedia projector, guitar, effects processor, and amp.  I'm not making any of this up.

Invitations.  Have a print shop to do these instead of a formal wedding place.  I did this; made them in Word and had a local business print them up on sturdy cardstock.  I used the "Episode" Star Wars font off the internet and drew borders with the line tools according to Dani's designs.  They were able to even match the fold-over DnA I designed so that the vellum lined up and perfectly created the effect.

Officiant.  We had one of our friends "ordained" in the Church of Universal Life, and he performed the ceremony.  There were no fees there beyond the marriage license, which was negligible, and it was someone we trusted to make the ceremony meaningful and funny = memorable.

Rings.  The engagement ring was a custom work because I had something special in mind, but rings are another story.  A friend of ours was making jewelry at the time, so he had access to suppliers' catalogs at wholesale.  We bought our wedding bands through him at cost.  EBay is a good source as well, considering the 50% divorce rate in this country.  Pawn shops too, I guess, but I never thought to look there.  I'm too easily distracted by the guitars.

Centerpieces.  It was cheaper to make our own than to rent some.  We bought the vases at Walmart and filled them with coiled red and blue craft wire in a helix since the theme was DNA (after our initials).  I later sold most of them on Craigslist for about half what we paid for them.  For that matter, Craigslist is a good starting point for ideas if not the materials themselves.

The tux.  I already owned one that I bought to chaperon proms when I was teaching high school.  However, I rented a cobalt blue tie to match the groomsmaids' dresses.  Point is: You may already have the base materials and can rent or buy the minor accessories to flesh it out.

The dress.  You could do similar to the above for the ladies as well.  I designed Dani's dress, starting from a standard white gown.  I took photos of it into Paint and Photoshop and sketched onto it the changes I wanted (e.g., removed beading, added straps and piping, drew in a corset back, and took off the train), then had a seamstress do the alterations.  Again, why stick with just what's available on the rack?

Remember, what you personalize will be more memorable than the crap you spend a fortune on.

Copyright 2009 (posted 2012) Alexplorer.
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