Date: August 28, 2010
City, State: Halifax, NS, Canada
# of Guests: 68
Sigh. We were so determined to keep our wedding cheap—and yet we ended up almost doubling our modest budget!
We were thrifty students who paid for our intimate wedding ourselves in an affordable city. What could have possibly gone wrong?
Looking back, I have two suggestions (that may seem obvious to you, but were not to me):
- Look up prices, don’t just guesstimate. We went over budget slightly in a lot of areas. For example, we assumed a marriage licence would cost about $75, when it actually cost $125.
- Include ALL extra costs. Even though I knew I wanted to spend a bit of money on centrepieces and a guestbook, I assumed these expenses would be so minor they didn’t need to be included at all. Clearly I made this call while still in the newly-engaged bliss stage of planning. As a warning: do not make important decisions at this point!
Besides a couple of splurges, these oversights actually accounted for ALL of our overspending.
I used to have major budget guilt about spending on myself what could have been better spent elsewhere (travel, a home, groceries). I had to learn to let go and forgive myself for wanting and doing the things that contributed to our day being the best of our lives (however cliché that sounds).
And on the day of? The budget couldn’t have been further from my mind.
Wedding Day Costs
Ceremony Site Fees: $350.00
We got married in the parish I grew up in, so we paid a reduced ”˜former parishioner’ fee.
Reception Site Fees: $0.00
We had our reception at a hotel, so the cost for the space was rolled into the catering prices. This choice was the biggest way we saved, since they also included a night in the honeymoon suite, centrepieces, and gave us a discount on our breakfast buffet the next day.
Caterer/Food/Drink (per person if available): $42.90 per person, $2878.30 total
This price included an extra package that we splurged on: chair covers, a glass of wine with dinner, a sparkling wine toast, crudités during cocktail hour, and non-alcoholic punch throughout the night. We saved on the child and vegan meals options and by having a cash bar.
Since our guests spent more than $400 at the bar, the bartending fee was waived. We only had to pay tax and gratuities.
Bridal Gown & Alterations: $1,007.50
This includes the dress, alterations, and pressing it once it had weathered the plane ride to our hometown. I bought the dress in Montreal’s bridal district, where haggling is common. I got a $1,500 dress for $750 (taxes in) without even trying. The longer I stood in front of the mirror, the more the price kept coming down! It also helped that it was the sample model and fit me perfectly (except for the length). I think they saw their chance to get rid of it. Even though it was a good deal, it brought the dress back down into my budget, so it wasn’t really a ”˜save’ for us.
Bridal Accessories (Veil, Undergarments, Shoes, Jewelry): $49.75
The only items I paid for were my blue underwear (something blue), wedge flip flops, and a wristlet. My jewelry was a generous wedding gift from my sister. My veil, headband, and crinoline were free rentals included when I purchased my gown. So in that way, my bargained-for dress helped me save after all.
(And the fact that I’m wearing spandex under my gown to reduce sweating and stop me from sticking to the fabric is a tip I got off the Weddingbee boards. 😉 Thanks guys!)
Groom’s Attire: $686.09
My husband splurged on a new suit, shirt, tie, two pocket squares, and shoes for the occasion.
We saved on our invites by using PowerPoint and emailing it as a PDF to guests. We colour printed and mailed three invitations to the only guests that didn’t have email access.
For our thank you cards we bought a set of 40 green blank cards and handed out as many by hand as possible.
Our ceremony programs were the only paper product we had at the day and they were paid for by my father who got a discount with a local printing business he uses for work. We included our thank yous to everyone and a note about the favours to make them multipurpose.
A good friend of ours is trying to break into professional photography. He offered to do it for free but we wanted to give him something. When he told us he wanted to upgrade his lens so he could better shoot our day, we were happy to offer to pay for it. We also tipped him on the day of.
We had not planned for any videography, but an uncle of my husband’s always films all family events and reunions. Sure enough, he filmed almost every moment of our special day and sent us the video within weeks of our ceremony. To any bride who is thinking of forgoing any type of video, I’d recommend at the very least having someone record the day. You’ll be grateful you’re able to re-watch it! You might even catch some moments you would have missed otherwise (e.g. the look in your groom’s eye as you’re passed off to him). Wanna see what I mean? My husband pulled some clips together into a video:
(and check out 0:29)
Ceremony Music: $50.00
My little brother plays the piano and volunteered to do the music literally seconds after we announced we were engaged. We gave him a small surprise cash gift as a thank you being a part of our day. I grew up listening to my mom sing in church and it instilled in me a love of music. It was very fitting and moving that she agreed to sing the psalm with me so we wouldn’t have to hire a cantor.
Reception Music: $341.13
My husband had hours of fun selecting a playlist for our cocktail hour and dinner to be played on his iPod. It was hooked up to an amp we borrowed from my dad. We were originally going to have the dance music done in the same way, but about a month before the wedding we splurged on a secret wish we’d always both had—and hired a very affordable local karaoke DJ! In addition to being a blast, it also allowed us to live out my wish of us performing ‘our song’ (Come What May – Moulin Rouge) at our wedding. Definitely. Worth. Every. Penny.
Originally we were not sure how we were going to afford the bouquets for myself, two bridesmaids, and our flower girl. Then I found out (if you can follow this) my best friend’s mother’s best friend is a florist at a local grocery store, and she generously did my flowers at a heavily discounted price. Luckily I don’t have many strong preferences about flowers so when I showed her the style and colours that I wanted she said she knew how to mix expensive and cheap blooms to create my desired effect. I ended up absolutely loving them.
We donated money to the local Refugee Aid Society that helps new immigrants settle and adjust to life in Canada. My father, MIL and FIL all arrived in Canada as refugees, so it was a meaningful choice for both of us.
My husband’s good family friend and ”˜aunt’ is a professional cake maker who had also made my MIL’s wedding cake. As soon as she heard we were engaged she offered to make our cake as her gift to us. My husband was especially touched, since she made all of his birthday cakes growing up.
There was no official fee for hiring our Catholic priest, but we did give him a tip.
I guess I saved by functioning as my own coordinator using timelines and spreadsheets. Every time someone offered to help, I wrote down their name, and then gave them the newest task I had realized existed (e.g., “make sure extra programs don’t get left behind at the church.”).
Both were done at salons. My husband’s first words to me on our wedding day were, “I really like your hair.” I guess that means it was worth it. 😉
Wedding Party Gifts: $827.61
This ended up being one of our most expensive splurge areas, but included gifts for our parents, wedding party, readers, bridal shower hosts, and MC. Gifting people generously was very important to us as a way to show our gratitude to all the people we love and all the work they were willing to put in.
We had two attendants each, plus a ring bearer and flower girl. We saved by having the children ride with their parents, the bridal attendants with mine, and the groom’s attendants with his. The week of the wedding my best friend’s mom floored us by offering the use of her new white VW convertible, complete with her husband as chauffeur.
Since we had our reception at a hotel, free use of the honeymoon suite for the day and night of the wedding was included in our package.
Centrepieces: The venue provided a mirror, martini glass, tea light, and clear rocks, to which we added green underlay (material bought by me and sewn by a friend with a machine) and green rocks. ($30.56)
Flower girl and ring bearer baskets: From the dollar store. ($2.83)
Seating chart: Created in PowerPoint again (my new best friend), printed in colour, and affixed to a bulletin board of my sister’s. ($18.00)
Guestbook table: I bought paper in different shades of green and brown and cut them into squares for people to write on. They will soon be scrapbooked into our wedding album. We provided pens, and I made a framed collage of us through the nine years we’d dated. The cost of that frame and reprints ended up being a minor splurge. ($68.56)
Last minute food for our newly hired DJ: ($19.84)
WEDDING DAY TOTAL: $8,439.13
TOTAL COST PER PERSON: $124.10
All Inclusive Costs:
Wedding Bands: $28.22
This was the cost of resizing and polishing my MIL’s and FIL’s wedding bands. They never wore theirs after the ceremony and they had just been sitting in a box for 30 some years. It makes our wedding bands so much nicer and more personal, especially as they have a loving marriage we would like to emulate.
Rehearsal Dinner/Day After Brunch: Free!
My parents hosted the rehearsal dinner at our home for out of town family and the wedding party. The brunch was supposed to be paid for individually by each guest, but my MIL paid for everyone at the last moment, since we got a stellar price per person for hosting it at the same hotel where we held our reception.
Flights to and from Halifax: $621.32
I never considered the cost associated with actually getting to our hometown for the wedding, but there it was. Luckily, we caught some seat sales.
The honeymoon was gifted to us by my MIL and FIL as our very generous wedding present. We spent a week at the adults only luxury all-inclusive Secrets Silversands in the Riviera Maya, Mexico. We just paid for massages, excursions, and tipping while we were there.
Marriage license & Notarization: $25.00
Mostly free! My dad paid for the license since he had to do all the legwork for us anyway as we were out of province (and he never let us pay him back). We did have to pay to have a notary witness our signing of the application before mailing it home for him to deal with.
Marriage prep course: $215.00
It was mandatory for being married in a Catholic church, but we were glad to get a chance to stop and plan our marriage, rather than just the wedding.
ALL INCLUSIVE TOTAL: $1,431.14
GRAND TOTAL: $9,870.27
All photos by Jeff McCrossin
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