How to Have a Free Wedding
You want a meaningful and beautiful wedding. The only way to have that is to spend $2,000 on your wedding gown, at least $10,000 on food for your 200 guests, $5,000 on the venue, $5,000 on the flowers and decorations, $1,000 on the three-tiered cake—the list is neverending.
Halfway through your wedding preparations, you both sit down to figure out where you both are in your budget. After happily clicking the calculator keys for an eternity, you finally have the projected cost. Alas! You are already $5,000 over your budget. How did this happen?
This sets off a heated conversation filled with finger-pointing. Every single cent from the purchases after that are inspected thoroughly and can easily set off another round of the blame game and accusations.
Then comes "the day" itself. We expect a calm bride, but instead, we have a bridezilla walking down the aisle. The hope for a meaningful and beautiful wedding is gone, replaced by the apocalyptic ambiance of a wedding fraught with arguments and debt.
Weddings Are Expensive
Banks can offer high lines of credit. They are happy to do this because they want you to borrow more. It is simple, really. The more you borrow, the more the bank earns (from the processing fees down to the interest you have to pay). A wedding founded on debt is doomed to a lifetime of monthly repayments, and this is the worst way to start your life together.
This usually means you get to spend tens of thousands of dollars that are not really yours in the first place. The average American wedding costs around $27,000. Imagine spending all that in a one-day event.
It is especially vital nowadays not to follow the trend of impracticality and spending beyond your means. Modern-day marriages are often disposable. "'Til death do us part" has now become "'till debt do us part."
A Wedding Cannot Really Be Free
I have a confession to make: a wedding cannot be entirely free. You will have to pay for the wedding papers and registrar. A Catholic couple like us cannot skip the church ceremony, so we factor in the fees for that as well. For other Christians, you would also have to pay for the officiating minister's time.
However, you can still have the rest free—if you follow the advice in this article.
How Can I Plan a Free Wedding?
- Have a small, intimate wedding.
- Find free wedding and reception venues.
- Have free food.
- Find a free wedding dress.
- Find a free photographer.
- Get a free DJ.
- Have a free bouquet.
- Design your own wedding invitations.
1. Have an Intimate Wedding
This is probably the best tip I can give you to start your wedding preparations. Let's get back to what a wedding really is. It is a ceremony where two people are ritually or legally united as one. I initially wanted a grand wedding, but after realizing how it could affect us—crippling us financially for at least the first few years of our life together as husband and wife—I knew I had to redefine my wants and stick to my needs.
We have become fixated on the material details of weddings, and emphasize impressing people we probably do not even know that well. By slashing down the number of attendees, you can really lower your wedding cost.
How low can you go? Ask yourself that. How many people should be in your wedding? 300? 200? Are you planning to invite your whole clan and village to your ceremony? I am sure you can do better than that. 100? That is still the entire clan, inclusive of 50 or so friends you have not even talked to or seen for years except on Facebook.
How about 20? 10? 6? 4? 0? You didn't misread that. Many couples have gotten married with no guests before. I myself will not go that far. 25 is a perfect number for me, so I will stick to that number, give or take five. Let's analyze the 25 guests who are coming to my wedding:
- 4 (Parents-his and mine)
- 4 (Siblings-his and mine)
- 2 (Grandmas-his and mine)
- 2 (Grandpas-mine)
- 1 (Sibling's wife-his)
- 2 (Siblings' kids-his)
- 5 (Closest friends-his)
- 5 (Closest friends-mine)
A wedding should be about the two of you being united as one, and the closest people in your lives should be there to see it. It makes a ceremony even more meaningful when the people witnessing it care about you both. Ask yourself: who are the people who have always been and will always be part of our lives? They are the perfect guests for your wedding.
2. Find a Free Wedding Reception Venue
A wedding reception area can easily cost you $5,000. Below is a list of free wedding reception venue ideas.
- Church: Sometimes, it is possible to have the reception free in the church grounds if you are a parishioner. A small donation would be at your discretion.
- Backyard: This is the first location people think of as an affordable location for their wedding reception. If you have a nice enough, good-sized backyard for the number of guests you have, then you might as well take that. Another alternative is to ask a friend (or a friend's friend's friend) who owns the perfect backyard to allow you to have your wedding there.
What's good about a backyard wedding? First off, you can customize it the way you want. If you are opting for a jungle-themed wedding, just prop in some plants and voilà! Your own paradise. The second and more important reason why this works is that it is free.
- Park: Many parks allow gatherings without any fee. There will be no privacy, but a lake on one side and a beautifully-maintained garden on the other are nice compromises. A picnic-themed wedding is a great idea. Browse through the photos below and see how other couples have used this theme to make their weddings charmingly memorable.
- Beach: Some beaches are open to the public. Try to find a nice, secluded-enough spot to hold your reception in.
- Boat: Perhaps you and your spouse-to-be would enjoy a nautical theme for your wedding. If a friend or relative owns a boat, that could be a great place to host your reception. Alternatively, the boat could be used to ferry guests to another location (if there are islands nearby).
- Library: Some libraries could be considered beautiful, magical places to host a wedding reception. There are plenty of well-known libraries that charge fees for hosting events (such as the New York Public Library), but it may be possible to find a library near you that would be willing to host a small reception for free.
- School: Maybe you met your future spouse at school (or in college) and want to start your lives together by paying homage to the place where you first fell in love. There may be fees involved (especially if it's a university campus), but you might be surprised about how affordable it can be to book a local, scholarly venue.
- Unusual location: If you would like to hold your reception in the place where you both met—say, the airport—then prepare to convince the airport big shots and perhaps have the media get wind of your plans as well. Businesses want advertisement, and a wedding could boost their PR. Please note that this tactic is risky in that there could be a high chance of your request being rejected, depending on the exact location and venue type.
3. Have Free Food
A potluck wedding may not seem mainstream, but budget-conscious people occasionally do this. Other couples have also done this for generations, and it is embedded in many cultures.
You may ask, "Isn't it rude to ask your guests to bring food?" Well, if your guests are the ones closest to you, they most likely would not mind. In fact, they would be willing to help any way they could. In lieu of a wedding gift, perhaps you can ask each to bring a certain type of food or drink to be shared by all after the ceremony.
For instance, one guest would be tasked to bring a case or two of Coca-Cola, while another might bring pork on skewers to be grilled afterward. One positive thing about this is the fact that each puts so much heart into making/buying the food— and you'll be able to taste it!
Caterers could easily cost you $10,000 for a 200-head party.
Free Wedding Cake
If your mother-in-law knows how to bake delicious homemade cakes, ask her to make one for your wedding. It may not be the cake in the magazines, but it could be perfect for your wedding.
Asking a friend or relative with excellent baking skills to bake your wedding cake can help them feel as though they've participated in the big event, and also shows them that you trust and respect their culinary skills.
4. Have a Free Wedding Dress
If you think that the wedding dress is a must-have and you simply do not want to purchase or rent one, you may want to find out if there are local organizations that accept donated wedding dresses to be given to brides who are seeking budget-friendly options.
Another way is to approach friends or relatives (or their friend's friend's friend) who recently tied the knot. If they are willing to lend you their dress, then you do not have to spend $1,000 to walk down the aisle.
5. Find a Free Photographer
A professional photographer can easily cost you $800-3,000. As photographers run their own business, you may want to approach them and propose a bargain—cover your wedding, and they can use it as a platform to advertise their business. That has the potential to be a win-win situation.
Not all photographers will be willing to trade their artistic talents and skills for free advertising, but if the professional photographer is someone you know or perhaps someone up-and-coming in the photography world but not yet established, you might have a better chance of working out a deal for free or reduced-cost photography.
If that does not work out, look for a budding photographer in your family, or perhaps that friend of yours who is brilliant when it comes to taking photos. You will be more comfortable and confident striking pose upon pose when you know the person behind the camera and can avoid paying the high fees associated with professional photography.
Before the big day, try out different angles and lighting, and describe to your friend/relative how you want some of your shots to look. This preparation gives them an idea of the kind of photos you'd like for your wedding.
6. Get a Free DJ
The question is: do you need a DJ? They cost around $500, minimum. Disc Jockeys play music; music you can find on iTunes. There you have it, fellow brides! Your iPod is the answer. Just hook it up to a loudspeaker and ask another guest to serve as a DJ for your wedding.
If you do not have an iPod, use a reliable laptop. Download tons of wedding-appropriate songs beforehand and let them play out on your special day.
Tip: If you have specific music in mind for the reception, it might be worthwhile to compile a playlist beforehand, so you're not leaving the song selection up to chance (or one of your guests).
7. Have a Free Bouquet
One way is to harvest newly bloomed flowers from your backyard or someone else's. However, if it is winter and flowers are nearly non-existent, try the toilet. The secret to having a free bouquet is the tissue paper.
Below is a video tutorial on how to transform that toilet or Japanese crepe paper into a beautiful bouquet.
This is a bouquet that you can keep days, weeks, or months before the wedding. If you prefer another design or color, you can always change it up without spending anything.
8. Design Free Wedding Invitations
There are tons of free DIY crafts online that demonstrate how to create incredibly cheap wedding invitations. There are also printable and customizable ones. The only things you have to spend money on are paper and ink.
But if what you want are 100% free wedding invitations, you might want to call up the guests you have in mind by phone, or better yet, go house to house and invite them personally. If you do this, you can properly explain and ask for their help when it comes to the potluck meal aspect of the wedding.
Now my fiancé is worried that we might end up asking friends and family to bring their own food. Well, what's wrong with that? Everyone's family, and at least at one point in our lives, we all ate the delicious dishes cooked by our family and loved every single bite.
If we can all remember that a wedding is not supposed to be only about the brides, but about how two souls are united by the holy sacrament of matrimony, then it would be easier to stick with the needs and not the wants.
Congratulations on getting engaged! Now, go plan that free wedding!