With the average wedding in the U.S. costing about $33,000, I am sure you are thinking HOW IN THE WORLD CAN I HAVE A DEBT FREE WEDDING SIS?? Well, let me tell you, it is not easy, but it is definitely attainable. My husband, Jason, and I, Adreanne, just celebrated our first anniversary this March. We are lawyers in Cincinnati that got hitched in my home state of Virginia. Our most epic couple Halloween costume was when I was a “Trap Queen” (created a crown made out of unused mouse traps) and he was Fetty Wap (eye patch and all). We still work out together even a year after our wedding and we absolutely love Barbados.
Back to our regularly scheduled program of having a debt free wedding. Let me set the scene: Jason proposed to me in February 2017 at our first date location, the oldest bookstore in Ohio. I was quite shocked when he pulled out my mother’s wedding ring (first savings) and got down on one knee. Soon after our engagement, we discussed our vision for our wedding and put it on paper. Then, we contacted our married friends who shared a phenomenal budget excel spreadsheet and filled it out. Having a budget, helpful and gifted family members, a one-stop shop venue, and a day-of coordinator kept us on target to our debt-free wedding.
Budget: Your family has gifts, use them
As Teja discussed in the previous blog, having a wedding budget is “major key” *DJ Khaled voice*. We had our wedding on a Friday in March, which equated to saving hella money because it was on a weekday. When budgeting, you should always overestimate your expenses, so when things are due, you aren’t caught slipping with overdraft fees or credit card interest. You should also include your honeymoon, bachelor, and bachelorette parties in your wedding budget! You want to be able to enjoy your honeymoon and respective parties debt free, and you’re going to have to spend a little money on those honeymoon pics for the thank you cards.
When setting your budget, you should ask your family early on how they can contribute to the wedding. Keep in mind, it’s not always finances that someone can contribute, sometimes it is time. Thankfully, our dads contributed monetarily; my mom bought my wedding dress and accessories, hosted my bridal shower, and helped coordinate things in my hometown so our day was perfect; and Jason’s mom bought the wedding cake. (Side note about wedding dresses, you can rent them so check that out before you say yes to a $1,500 dress.) My graphically talented brother, Durane, designed my save the dates (bookmarks of course), invitations, and seating chart. We printed our save the dates and invitations with Vistaprint, which was super affordable. Speaking of invitations, buy a pack of stamps every paycheck if you plan to send them via mail and not electronically. If you do plan to send them electronically, at least mail paper invitations to your older guests because they may not have internet or a computer. My creative aunt Toni made my cardholder, which looked like a stack of books and I could hardly believe it was made out of cereal boxes. On the day of the wedding, my uncle Darry graciously officiated our wedding as he is a pastor of his own church. My uncle Terry Bazemore and his daughter Kira were our photographers at a discount, and my cousin Kevin Stephenson helped with photography and was my videographer (footage was gold).
Below is a snapshot of the budget sheet we used (reach out to Denee for the actual spreadsheet!)
Venue: One stop shop can help save money
We got hitched in a beautiful museum where we had our wedding, cocktail hour and reception all under one roof. Because the wedding and reception were at the same venue, and the venue was walking distance or a 3-minute Uber from the hotels where our guests stayed, we did not have to arrange transportation. No limos, fancy rental cars, or party buses! Additionally, our venue was BYOA (Bring Your Own Alcohol)! By bringing our own spirits and wine, we were able swerve up-charges on alcohol that tend to come with wedding venues.
Things we cut and miscellaneous ways to save
No Engagement Party: We did not have an engagement party because ain’t nobody got time for that and the cost can be like having two receptions.
Buy v. Rent Price check: It was cheaper for the groomsmen to buy nice navy suits at Macy's than to rent a suit/tuxedo at Men’s Wearhouse. So always price check.
Shameless plug for Day-of-Coordinator: David Mann and his team saved us so much money because they were a packaged deal. He provided day-of services, created our floral arrangements and centerpieces, and gave affordable and awesome vendor suggestions (including our DJ, bakery, and linens). We were able to be in the moment on our day with no stress at all.
Remember, we ain’t getting no younger so you might as well do it do it do it debt free! Start your marriage off on the right foot, not in debt for one ephemeral day.
Feel free to email me if you have questions: firstname.lastname@example.org.