How to Have a Free Wedding
You want a meaningful and a beautiful wedding.The only way to have that is to spend $2,000 on your wedding gown, at least $10,000 on the 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 simply does not end. Half-way through your wedding preparations, you both sit down and figure out where you both are in your budget. After happily clicking the calculator keys for an eternity, you finally have the amount. Alas! You are already $5,000 way over your budget. How did this happen?
It must have been the exotic belly dancers, booked to entertain the guests at the reception, or the fireworks display, arranged secretly by the groom as a surprise for his bride... This sets off a heated conversation filled with pin-pointing. Every single cent from the purchases thereafter are inspected thoroughly and can easily set off another round of the blaming game and accusations.
Then comes The Day itself. We expect a calm bride, instead, we are treated to a sight of a bridezilla walking down the aisle. The meaningful and beautiful wedding is gone, replaced by the apocalyptic ambiance of a wedding fraught with arguments and debt.
I Am No Bridezilla!
Wait a minute! I do not want that wedding and neither do you. Let me just tell you that if a meaningful and beautiful wedding is what you want, then you can have that without ever opening your purse.
I am also on the first stages of planning my own wedding with the low to zero cost in mind. Let us be open to the fact that it is definitely possible. Others have done it and so we can, as well. But before we can talk about the how, let us first understand the wedding debt trend.
Till Debt Do Us Part
A bank can offer a really high line 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 interests you have to pay). A wedding founded on debt is doomed to a lifetime of monthly repayments, and this is exactly the worst way to start a life together.
This usually means you get to spend tens of thousands of dollars which are really not yours in the first place. The average American wedding expenditure averages around $27,000. Imagine spending all that in a one-day event.
This reminds me of a Shania Twain song, Ka-Ching, about how we spend money that we do not possess. As a result, we create this mess and how do we get out of it?
"When you're broke go and get a loan
Take out another mortgage on your home
Consolidate so you can afford
To go and spend some more when
You get bored"
It is especially vital nowadays not to follow the trend which is impracticality and spending beyond your own means. Modern day marriages are often disposable. "Till death do us part" has now become "Till debt do us part."
Not Really Free
I have a confession to make. A wedding cannot be entirely free. You would have to pay for the wedding papers and registrar. As for a Catholic couple like us, we cannot skip the church ceremony so we factor 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 what's written here....
Tip #1. Have an Intimate Wedding
This is probably the best tip I can give you to start off your wedding preparations. Let us get back to what a wedding really is. It is a ceremony where two people are ritually or legally united as one. I also 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 the needs.
I am also trying to get my head around the fact that this wedding is not a 'me' wedding. Instead of an 'us' wedding, it has become just the bride's. We are fixated by the material details and impressing people you probably do not even know that well. By slashing down the number of attendees, this will help to really lower your wedding cost.
How low can you go? Ask yourself that. How many people should be in your wedding? 300? 200? What? 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 whole 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 did not misread it. Many couples really have done weddings with no guests before. However, that is too much. I personally will not go that far. Twenty-five is a perfect number for me so I will stick along that number, give or take five. Let us analyze the 25 guests who are coming to my own wedding:
- 4 (Parents- his and mine)
- 4 (Siblings- his and mine)
- 2 (Grannies- 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 you both 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 really give a darn 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 in your wedding.
"Why Wasn't I Invited?"
Now, how to tell the other 75 that they are not invited... That is the dilemma and you just have to be blunt-but-loving when explaining it to them. First off, do not go about calling people that they have not been invited. If they ask, then you answer.
Ariel from www.offbeatbride.com lists out some of the blunt-but-loving reasons you can use to explain your situation. Read the whole article here.
Now you have a good excuse!
Tip #2. Have a Free Wedding Reception Venue
A wedding reception area can easily cost you $5,000. How about we enumerate the free ones here?
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 own discretion.
BACKYARD-- This is the first location people think of to be as economical as possible when it comes to their wedding. 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 reception there.
What is 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 voila! Your own paradise. Second and more important reason why this works is that it is free.
PARK-- There are many parks that allows gatherings without any fee. There will be no privacy but a lake in one side and a beautifully-maintained garden in 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-- There are beaches which are open to the public. Try to find a nice, secluded-enough spot to hold your reception in.
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 good advertisement. A wedding will boost their PR.
Tip #3. Have Free Food!
A potluck wedding may not seem to be mainstream but people who are budget conscious do this. Other couples have also done this for generations and is embedded in many cultures.
You probably want to 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 drinks 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, pork on skewers to be grilled afterwards. One positive thing about this is the fact that each puts so much heart into making/buying the food-- and you would be able to taste it!
Caterers could easily cost you $10,000 for a 200-head party.
If your mother-in-law knows how to bake delicious home made cakes, just ask her to make one for your wedding. It may not be the cake in the magazines but it would be perfect for your wedding.
Just dig in and stuff your face, ladies! These cakes look fantastic!
Tip #4. Have a Free Wedding Dress
If you think that the wedding dress is a have-to-have, and you simply do not want to purchase or rent one, you may want to find if there are some organizations that accept donated wedding dresses to be given to brides who are financially unstable.
Another way is to approach friends or relatives (or their friend's friend's friend) who have 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.
Tip #5. Have A Free Photographer
A professional photographer can easily cost you around $800 - $3,000. Now that is a waste of good money. As photographers run their own business, you may want to approach them and strike a bargain: cover your wedding and they can use it as a platform to advertise their business. That is a win-win situation there.
If that does not work out, try to look for a budding photographer in your family or perhaps, that friend of yours who is brilliant when it comes to taking photos... Exploit these talents lah! You will be more comfortable and confident striking pose upon pose when you know the person behind the camera. No fees at all.
Before the big day, try out different angles and lighting and explain it to your friend/relative how you want some of your shots to look like. This gives them the idea of what photos you are aiming for.
Tip #6. Have a Free DJ
The question is: do you need a DJ? They cost around $500. Disc Jockeys play music; music you can find on iTunes. There you have it, fellow brides! Your iPod is the answer. Just hook em up to a loudspeaker and ask another guest to serve as a DJ in your wedding.
If you do not have an iPod, just use the reliable laptop. Download tons of wedding-appropriate songs beforehand and let them play out on your special day.
If you want to learn the basics of how to DJ your own wedding with an iPod, read A Practical Wedding's article here.
Tip #7. Have a Free Bouquet
One way is to harvest newly-bloomed flowers from your own 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.
Here 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.
Tip #8. Have 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 thing you have to spend on is the paper and ink.
But if what you want is a free one, 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 aspect of the wedding.
Right now, I am scaring the fiancé.
He is worried that we might going to end up asking friends and family to bring their own food. Well, what is wrong with that? Everyone's family and at least at one point in our lives, we all ate the delicious dishes created by our family and WE 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 for getting engaged! Now go plan that free wedding!