Have you taken a peek at your Grandma’s wedding album lately (assuming she even had and album)? Odds are, what you see, are pictures of beaming friends and family members at the family church or temple. The wedding cake is being cut in the building’s reception hall. There are some streamers and maybe a few poofy bows on visible pillars or columns, and in the background, there is a buffet table, displaying a few salads made by friends and family, some “finger sandwiches”, a bowl of nuts and a bowl of butter mints. Drinks consisted of coffee or punch.
Our point? Things have sure changed, and it puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the modern bridal couple – emphasis on BRIDE! The reality is that your wedding doesn’t have to be lavish or expensive for you to enjoy a meaningful, sacred and tender moment with your future spouse and the ones you love most. In fact, we’d even argue that when you strip away all that hoopla – the wedding is more enjoyable for the people who matter most – the bride and groom.
Eat, Drink, Love, Be Marry & Stick to Your Budget
There are plenty of places where you can get married without breaking the bank, and while still giving family and friends a more than enjoyable afternoon or evening out.
Disclaimer: weddings aren’t cheap – even when they’re cheap. Unless you’re willing to cut your guest list to 25 people or less, get married in a back yard and have a potluck reception (all great ideas, by the way), you’ll be hard-pressed to have a wedding that costs less than $5000.
That being said, there are plenty of options for enjoying an affordable wedding that doesn’t cost anywhere near $31,213 (the average cost of a wedding in the U.S., according to theknot.com). Um, yeah. Don’t spend that much on a single day of your life EVER.
Here is a list of affordable wedding destinations that will put you in the “entirely reasonable wedding budget” zone.
- A Rural Wedding. If you live in a metropolitan area, give guests a fun “local vacation” by planning your wedding in the nearest rural area. For example, if you live in Portland, Oregon – take a little trip to some of the public open space districts, county and state parks or even Aurora’s City Park. Venues like that have extremely reasonable fees, saving you thousands of dollars. Another bonus: rural areas typically have much cheaper hotel fees for you and your guests – but they provide easy access for day trips into the city so out-of-towners get their cake and eat it too.
- A Metropolitan Wedding. If you live in a rural area, it can be pretty fun to get married in the heart of the city. Most U.S. cities have pretty smashing City Hall or courthouse buildings. Your wedding will be cheap (most civil weddings in a public building cost less than $200, including your marriage license fees) and you’ll get some stunning photo ops as well. Case in point: Atlanta’s City Hall rivals many churches and cathedrals in look, especially anything built after the turn of the century. Then, take your reception to one of Atlanta’s many hole-in-the-wall restaurants to give guests some traditional southern cooking. If you live in a metropolitan area and want to have your wedding there, take a look at your city with new eyes, and see where a civil wedding could be fun, simple and quirky.
- The Best of Both Worlds. If you’re looking for something that is the best of both worlds, we recommend checking out the Swedenborgian Church in San Francisco, CA. The venue is gorgeous – and very reasonably priced – plus it includes some important extras (like wedding planner, setup/breakdown, house musician, etc.). Bonus:, you have the option of a gorgeous chapel or a secret garden wedding. For the days before and after your wedding, guests are only one hour away from rural Sonoma County – the heart of California Wine Country – where there are plenty of free activities and affordable wine tasting to be had.
- Beach Wedding. Have you always wanted a beach wedding? Forget traveling to other countries – it’s expensive and way more hassle. Stay here in the lower 48 – and enjoy the lower portion of the lower 48 in Destin, Florida. The beaches are just as beautiful as most of the postcard destination weddings elsewhere – but you’re out of the rat race and the town moves at a slower pace. We just did a hotwire.com search for hotels in Destin, Florida in mid-April (off-season destination weddings are the way to go), and there were plenty of 4-star hotels with prices in the double digits. Not bad. P.S. – the average temperature that time in the year is a perfect 76°.
- Forest or Mountain Wedding. We say go all out and have a camping wedding. But then, we realize camping isn’t everyone’s style. Instead, do a picnic in the forest. You’ll get married surrounded by natural beauty and the picnic tables are already set up. Contact a local deli and have “Picnic in the Trees” theme with sandwiches, chips, veggie and fruit platters – and then add a keg of beer with some wine. Just make sure you check in with the park. National Parks require a wedding permit, as do most state, county or city parks – so visit their website just in case. Check out these 15 Weddings That Went Camping for proof that even the most ‘rustic’ of weddings are gorgeous, authentic and crowd-pleasing.
Other Ways to Save Money on Your Wedding
So, you’ve figured out a way to enjoy a more affordable wedding venue. Now, here are some ways to keep that frugal wedding planner momentum going:
- Make your own invites. Honestly, except for you, your mom and maybe a few other people in your inner-circle, most people throw wedding invites away. So, you don’t want to spend a penny more on something that carries that legacy. Instead, consider DIY Wedding Invitations that can be just as lovely as you want them to be and way more cost-effective.
- Re-think the reception. In most cases, the bulk of the $31,213 quoted above is spent on the reception. The base price for most professional wedding venues’ “is thousands of dollars, and the “extras” add up quick. So, think a little differently. How many weddings have you been to where you truly LOVED the food? In most cases, it’s the same menu, replayed over and over again. One way to save money? Consider slashing the $30 per person cost (it’s actually much more in most cases ) by almost 50% by having a whole different type of catering. BBQ is a great bet, everybody loves it and it rarely costs more than $15 a person. Another fun idea? Start chasing local area food trucks and find a favorite – then talk to them about what it would cost to cater your wedding -super affordable, tasty food and fun to boot. Your guests will love that too.
- Do you really need a photographer? We’re not so certain. When we polled our staff, we agreed that most of our very favorite pictures were the ones friends or family members took and sent to us after the wedding. In this digital age, we say forget the photographer. Instead, grab an artistic friend or family member and enlist their help as the “primary photographer” to ensure certain key moments are captured. Then, inform guests that THEY are the photographers for the day, and have them send you digital picture files. You can pick your favorites and assemble your own wedding album through online venues like PickPerfect, Blurb or – our favorite – BrideBox.
Did you enjoy a picture perfect wedding at an affordable wedding destination? Spread the word and share you experiences in our comment box. We’d love to hear about it!