Oh that's a catchy title, no? Now, I know I'm an unusual person and bride... I am happy to do everything on the cheap and not concerned about many aspects a younger or more 'typical' bride would be. But we had a very nice wedding for about 60 people, overlooking the bay, with wonderful food, booze, and cake. We not only paid zero dollars for it, we actually came out ahead. Compare this to my (wonderful and awesome) best friend who chose a castle wedding in Europe 7 yrs ago, and who is still paying for it. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that approach, I was there and it was spectacular. But that's not really how I roll. So here, I'll share my tips for how we put on a perfectly excellent wedding for free.
Use your Connections!This is my biggest tip. Everything listed below was possible because of our many friendships and work relationships in our community. If there is anything you can barter for, get at cost or free from your friends... work it. This is the one time in your life when asking for favors is welcomed. I couldn't believe how enthusiastic everyone was about helping us. Your people love you and want to contribute to your big day. Let them!
Our wedding location was a building that is run by our local university. It's located right on the bay, facing a beautiful pier full of boats. It happens that my husband was very involved in the building of it. Through his work connections at the college, we were able to rent the main meeting room, with a kitchen and huge balcony, at the student club rate of about $300. This included tables, linens, and setup/cleanup. Hey now! That's amazing by pretty much any standards. We held the ceremony on the balcony overlooking the pier, it was beautiful.
Our wedding officiant was my brother. He did an amazing job, so much so that multiple people afterwards came up and asked him to marry them as well. You probably know someone who can provide this service for you. I don't know the ins and outs, but I hear it's very easy to get certified to conduct weddings.
Our food was insane. It was catered by one of my maids of honor and her husband, who happened to own a killer local restaurant. (You might not be *that* lucky, but you might know someone who loves to cook or bake or works at a brewery, etc.) They provided the food, cake, beer/wine, and flowers for cost. Which was awesome enough... but they also had a daughter who was getting ready to drive. And we had a car for sale. So we ended up trading our car straight across for all of these services. I know, it's nuts! But even if we had paid dollars, we could have covered it with the extra money we made at the wedding... which I'll discuss in a moment.
For our photos, that is one thing I would have done differently in retrospect. I wasn't really that concerned with getting super professional photos. I have a nice camera, so I asked my friend's daughter who is an artist type, to do it for me. I think I paid her $80. Well, I love her very much, but it didn't go well. There were various issues, but I didn't know that until the next day when I looked at the pictures. Ugh I was so upset! It was my own fault totally... I should have communicated with her better, and checked in with her more often. Lesson learned. But! Luckily, another talented friend came to the rescue! My other dear friend's husband is a hobby photographer and brought a huge fancy camera, he took amazing photos all night. He sent them to me, and between the two we had many lovely shots of our wedding. If I had to do it again, I would pay more attention to this aspect for sure.
DIY As Much As Possible
As you know, I'm crafty. I loved doing many of the things myself. If you are not so crafty, I bet you have at least one friend who is. Ask them! Hold a little party to make some things if you can! It's fun, and again your friends will be dying to help out.
I have already posted about making the invitations, clothing, and jewelry (see 'Wedding Geekout' tag below). I saved a ton of money with just those three things.
I also made the decorations for my water themed wedding, and I kept them pretty simple. While I was working on my dyed wedding clothes, I used 2 yd lengths of cotton fabric as color testers. So I ended up with a bunch of cloths in the wedding colors, which we used on the tables. I picked up some of those classic spherical glass candle holders, which are all over the thrift stores, and cheap enough to buy new. Then we went to the beach and got sand and shells to put in the bottom (that was fun to do with some of my girls the week of the wedding). Boom, beachy candles for each table. I added a puff of tulle under each one, with a few more shells. It was cute! Then we hung some little twinkle lights in the room, and that was it. Simple, but the room looked nice with all the color on the tables.
Our music was provided by a central sound system in the building (you can also rent a sound system fairly cheaply) connected to my ipod. I created two huge music play lists... one slow for dinner, one faster for dancing. Boom done. It was great. Just press play and go on with your fun. For our walk-down-the-isle music, I was lucky enough to have two friends play clarinet & violin. Ok, I'll tell you the secret about them lol. They put together a classical arrangement of the "Uncle Fucker Song" from the Southpark movie, which is "our song" (but that's another story!). Haha now you know. Only our friends who are SP fans got the joke, otherwise it was just a lovely classical song. Talented friends man, what can I say?!
So I think I've covered most elements of our wedding. And now for the big tip on how to pay for your wedding... drum roll...
Hold A Wedding Raffle!Yes!! Maybe this sounds kind of funny or tacky to some people... but really it was wonderful fun! I have to give credit to my brother, who came up with the idea for his own wedding. (Unfortunately, he ended up with only 2 items to raffle off.) The guests loved it, and many were happy to get involved by providing prizes or competing for the best ones. I loved that our guests were the ones taking home all the gifts! I am getting married at 40 yrs old. I don't need more stuff. I need to pay off my wedding, or have a nice honeymoon.
|The prize drawing itself was quite a show. My brother is hilarious!|
On the invitations, I put a blurb something like this:
"Instead of bringing gifts, please participate in our Wedding Raffle featuring beautiful items created by our talented friends."
Then, on the rsvp card, there was a line that said "I would like to contribute a prize to the raffle, please contact me," and a space for their contact info. It was amazing how many folks wanted to contribute! Such a great variety of stuff... we had water color paintings, home baked pies, gift certificates, artisan chocolates, framed doodle art pics of Elvis, jewelry, pottery, wine, multiple local food baskets, and more. Some of the items were collected during my craft fairs in the summer, bartered for my own clothing. Overall, we had about 25 prizes.
|Yes, that is an Obama bobble head.|
We used two long tables to lay out the prize display, each one had a description card (what it is, who donated it, etc.) and a mason jar in front of it. We got regular little carnival tickets and sold them for $1 each. People could put tickets into any jar they wanted, as many as they wanted.
Again, your friends and family want to give you stuff on your wedding. This is a cool way to let them give you things they can make themselves or provide through their business (spending little or no money). Or they can give you dollars (any amount, anonymously) by buying raffle tickets at the wedding. And let me tell you, the more the booze flowed, the more competitive and generous people got with their tickets. In the end, your guests have fun and are able to take something home with them.
Of course, we also got some of the traditional cards with money as well. So that was really nice.