Budget Busters (And How We’re Avoiding Them!)

Hey, y’all!

Like I’ve mentioned before in previous posts, Mr. A and I are planning our wedding and putting it on the tab of Mama Dillo and Papa Dillo—that said, spending a ton of my parents’ money on a one day event totally skeeves me out. We’re sticking to a relatively modest budget and are trying to make smart choices to cut back on things without sacrificing general aesthetics or the comfort of our guests. But, let’s be honest here. Even at the most budget-friendly weddings, some aspects of the ceremony/reception are relatively pricey depending on the size of your guest list, no matter which way you slice it. The biggest issue with sticking to our budget remains that our guest list will probably be on the larger size. We’ll be sending out somewhere around 200 invitations. (Read: We’re inviting somewhere around 400 people.) If it was just up to Mr. A and myself, this shindig would probably be much smaller and more intimate, but the general word on the street is when the parents pay, they also have a say. And I’m actually totally fine with a larger scale reception; it’s not what I originally had in mind, but I know my parents are just as excited about this wedding as we are. And to be honest, the idea of throwing a huge party with everyone’s friends and family there to dance the night away and celebrate love and marriage and optimism for the future sounds pretty darn sweet to me.

But with a larger guest list comes the added cost of more people to host, more mouths to feed, more tables, more centerpieces, more alcohol, and well, more everything. If we were going to stick to our budget, something was going to have to give somewhere. And so, we sat down with my parents and brainstormed on ways we could cut back on costs while still showing our friends and family a good time. I’ll break things down into four major categories and show where we’re cutting back to accommodate our large guest list on a smaller budget: Food and Drink, Decor, Entertainment, and Miscellaneous.

Category 1: Food and Drink

  • We’re limiting our choices of entrees, offering our guests the option of either a chicken or meatless dinner. Like I’ve mentioned previously, we’re dishing out delicious Italian goodness from Johnny Carino’s at our reception, and guests will be able to scarf down hearty helpings of chicken parmigiana or fettuccine Alfredo.
  • We’re having an open (but limited) bar. Beer and two different kinds of sangria will be available to our guests.
  • We’re nixing the cocktail hour. Basically, our budget doesn’t have room for a mini meal before the big meal. We’ll have some kind of crackers or something for guests to nosh on while we’re finishing up family photos before we arrive at the reception, but it won’t be anything fancy. To make up for it, we’re having a fun and inexpensive late night snack brought out for guests who stick around to dance the night away! (More on that later!)
  • We’re having a smaller wedding cake and will add cupcakes to make up the difference. We’re also having a groom’s cake, which we’ll be DIY’ing! I’m super excited to have fun with my mom in the kitchen on that one.

Category 2: Decor

  • We’re re-purposing centerpieces given to us for free. We’ve also been collecting glass jars over the past year to incorporate, many of which have been given to us by family friends who’ve been collecting for us!
  • We’re buying our table linens. I feel like that sounds counter-intuitive to saving money, but buying is cheaper than renting. Bizarre, I know.
  • We’re going flower-free at the reception. No floral centerpieces here!
  • We’re capitalizing on the power of dramatic lighting. Lights can do marvelous things for those on a strict budget. We’re waiting until the string lights go on sale after Christmas to swoop in and grab a few armfuls of them to totally transform the reception hall. Between the string lights and candles in glass jars, I’m hoping we’ll achieve our dreamy winter-becomes-springtime garden atmosphere!
  • Ceremony decor is minimal. A family friend is generously giving two floral arrangements she’s making herself to flank the front of the sanctuary. All other ceremony decor will be made by yours truly!

Category 3: Entertainment

  • We’re self-DJ’ing the reception. I feel like this is the biggest budget saver we’re implementing, but it actually didn’t originally stem from a desire to save funds. My dad works as a DJ on the side and already has all of the DJ equipment, typical wedding reception playlists, etc. We’ll designate someone to make reception announcements like cake cutting time and the bouquet toss and whatnot, but mostly we’ll just let the equipment do its thing. I’m also super excited that Mr. A and I will be able to have total control over what music gets played.
  • Most ceremony musicians are family or friends. We’ll be hiring a pianist to accompany the ceremony, but special music will be provided by my very talented cousin/MOH Henna and the equally talented Bromadillo.

Category 4: Miscellaneous

  • I’m totally DIY’ing all wedding-related stationery. That includes invitations, menus, ceremony programs, the whole shebang. It’s a lot to undertake, but going the DIY route makes our invitations $1.50 per invite INCLUDING postage for both the invitation and RSVP, and our programs turn out to about 30 cents a pop. You seriously can’t beat that.
  • My dress was discontinued, and therefore stoutly discounted. I went to try on dresses without actually intending to buy one and ended up finding “the one”! I did kind of break a cardinal rule of dress shopping and didn’t even pay attention to price tags when we were trying them on. Luckily for me, it ended up working out in my favor in the end!
  • I’m wearing my mom’s veil instead of buying a new one. It needs a little re-working, but I’m super excited at the prospect of both wearing something sentimental AND saving some cash. It doesn’t get better than that.
  • We’re DIY’ing the bridesmaids’ bouquets and groomsmens’ boutonnieres. We’ll have a local floral shop make my bouquet and Mr. A’s boutonniere, but the florals for our wedding party will be made ourselves. We’re doing baby’s breath for both the bridesmaids and the groomsmen, so it should be relatively easy to manage. I’m excited!

You’ll notice the one big budget item I didn’t mention was photography. While I do consider our photographer to be a “steal” in terms of current wedding industry prices, our decision to book him was not based on his price, but rather his portfolio and the meetings we had with him. We stuck to our budget in terms of how much we allotted for photography, but we weren’t out to save as much money as possible when we went searching. We could have paid much less for photography if we wanted to, but both Mr. A and myself felt that photography was something high up on the wedding priority totem pole.

I guess the point of this post was to just share how Mr. A and I are cutting back on a few things we felt were “unnecessary” for our big day and maybe in the process offer some helpful tips to others on a restrictive wedding budget like we are. Hopefully someone out there in Internet Land can use these same techniques to help manage their own wedding day budgets. If so, that makes this obnoxiously long post worth it!

How are you cutting back to save and otherwise stick to your wedding budget? What wedding related items did you decide to live without, and what were your non-negotiable “must haves”? Any other suggestions on ways we could slash our budget even more?


Mrs. Armadillo

Houston, Texas
Wedding Date:
March 2013
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  1. msdragon Bee
    Mrs. Dragon 814 posts, Busy bee @ 1:13 pm

    We saved a TON by using friendors instead of experienced wedding vendors! I also DIYed a lot of the decor and we self-DJed which turned out wonderfully.

  2. mstreasure Bee
    mstreasure 1655 posts, Bumble bee @ 1:52 pm

    This is a great post!

  3. buffalo Bee
    buffalo 178 posts, Blushing bee @ 2:34 pm

    I think your list is great!!

    I will say that I planned to by Christmas lights at after christmas sales last year for the same reason, and the shelves were gone BEFORE Christmas! (Bizarre, I know). Maybe just keep an eye out for sales close to Christmas, It’d suck to wait for after and then they not have any!

  4. camel Bee
    camel 703 posts, Busy bee @ 3:27 pm

    We’re making a lot of similar cuts like DIYing the flowers, using thrift store/vintage items for decor, making the STDs, invites, and other paper goods ourselves. Oh and my brother is going to be our DJ!

  5. Member
    lealorali 4827 posts, Honey bee @ 4:49 pm

    I only spent $620 on my dress, which needs just a hem alteration. The dress seems like a stupid thing to spend so much money on. Mine wasn’t considered a bridal gown so SLASH went the price!
    MOH is a graphic designer so saving some bills with simpler invites designed by her.
    We negotiated with every vendor and ended up saying about $2000 with out catering company (total is still 11,000 all in). Hotel night is included in that. I guess when I think about it… overall I am not having a budget wedding!!!

  6. mspony Bee
    mspony 9265 posts, Buzzing Beekeeper @ 5:10 pm

    It sounds like you are being really smart about your budget, lots of great ideas here!

  7. Member
    abbyLtib 16 posts, Newbee @ 6:51 pm

    I am a DIY-er too, I was able to score my brand new wedding dress, tags still on it, at a second hand store that had bought out a bridal boutique, for $250, just needs to be shortened for me, which my friend is an up-and-coming designer and agreed to do if for free, score! I also have also found some awesome deals on craigslist and on the classifieds through here.

  8. Guest Icon Guest
    Stacey H., Guest @ 1:38 am

    @abbyLtib:Hi, please, Oh please, if she is shortening your dress, do not let her cut the hem off to shorten it. I wouldn’t take a chance of once gone, it’s gone!

    Since you got such a good deal buying the dress, I am saying this from experience, no seamstress is as good as a bridal seamstress who works in a bridal store as her full time job and is used to working on layers upon layers of special fabric.

    I know that “Davids Bridal” employs seamstresses who are on site for example. Macy’s, Nordstroms, local bridal shops. Maybe one of their pro’s would be happy to have a side job of extra money hemming your dress.

    Blessings to you over this time, and happiness upon your final dress fitting.

  9. Member
    MaggieL 494 posts, Helper bee @ 5:54 am

    We also used tons of our friends, friends of my parents, and family to help out with almost every aspect! We were able to have a 175 person wedding for around $5,000. I felt the same as you- even though my parents were paying, I didn’t feel comfortable with them forking out so much!

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