Your Princess Perfect Wedding on a Pauper’s Budget

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Your Princess Perfect

Wedding on a Pauper’s Budget

Table of Contents

Introduction                                3

It Starts with a Ring                     3

Wedding Budget                          4

It’s YOUR Wedding                       4

Cut the Crap                               5

Wedding Planner                         6

The Wedding Dress                      7

Day & Time                                        7

Venues                                      8

Food & Drink                              9

Flowers                                      9

Photography & Videography          10

The Cake                                   11

Invitations                                  11

Eco-Weddings                             12

7 Hidden Budget Killers                 12

Conclusion                                  13


Your Pretty Princess Wedding on a Pauper’s Budget

Today, many women spend tens of thousands of dollars on glamorous weddings.  The competition to have the “biggest and the best” on “the most important day of your life” is fierce.  But you actually don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a fabulous wedding.  It is simply a matter of deciding what features are important to you and how to cut the costs.  You can still have everything you want and keep your wedding on a budget if you plan carefully.

It Starts With a Ring

Traditionally, a man buys a ring and suprises his girlfriend with it when he proposes.

Traditionally, the man or the couple would go to the local jeweler and look at the 100 or so rings available and make a choice.

Traditionally, a man would spend two times his monthly income on the ring.

But things aren’t so traditional anymore.  In the modern world, the woman is often involved with the purchasing decision from the word go.  Now, there are online diamond jewelry outlets that have tens of thousands of ring combinations and will save you a ton of money over a retail store.

At the time of this writing, Zales was offering “specials” on half carat engagement ring diamond solitaires for $1600.  Blue Nile online store’s “build it yourself” ring was $1050.

You not only save money at Blue Nile, you get to design your own ring.  You can select diamonds on the basis of their clarity, carat, color, and cut.  You also select the setting and can incorporate things such as the bride and groom’s birthstones.

Another nice feature is that you can order the ring in the bride’s size from the outset which means there is no delay in getting a standard size ring resized.

Finally, when you start the wedding process by saving on the ring rather than spending an outlandish amount at a retail store, you set the tone for the whole wedding budget.

Wedding Budget

The next thing we need to look at is deciding on the overall wedding budget.  A sensible thing to do is establish a top figure that you are willing to spend (say $10,000) and develop your budget at 80% of that (say $8,000).  Weddings have a way of costing more than you planned, so plan for the unexpected from the beginning.

The bride’s father typically had two roles: write the checks and walk her down the aisle.  But things have changed.

First of all, with wedding expenses what they are, many fathers are not willing to foot the bill all by themselves.  Also, as couples have delayed getting married, they have some money to pay for the wedding themselves.

Early on in the wedding planning, sit down with all of the people who are going to be paying the bills and ask what their contributions can be and what they expect in return.  You can involve fathers, mothers, step parents, and groom’s parents.

You can ask people to chip in a certain amount toward the overall budget or you can ask them to pay for specific things.  Perhaps an aunt will pay for the wedding flowers while your step father will buy the dress.  If you get commitments for specific things, the people who are helping you foot the bill will feel that they have more control over their budgets.  They may also be willing to spend a little more because it is for one thing and not for a general budget.

Keep in mind that once you get financial commitments from people, they start to work them into their own budgets.  If you go back and ask for more later, they may not have the money.  So, try to stick with the budget you set forth at the beginning.

It’s YOUR Wedding

The traditional wedding lament of all brides has been “It’s MY wedding,” when mothers, mothers of the bride, and other relations have tried to run the show.  This lament has traditionally fallen on deaf ears.

But, if you are paying for more of the wedding yourself or if you are trying to control costs, you have more of a say in how the wedding will unfold.

For instance, if you are trying to keep costs down, the guest list will reflect the people you really want there, not your third cousin’s ex wife’s nephew (unless he really is a close friend of yours.)

You can also keep the wedding costs under control by limiting the number of attendants.  Every member of your extended family does not need to be part of the wedding party.  You can tell them your budget simply does not allow for this and ask them to sing in a duet or read a poem instead.

If you are planning a wedding on a budget, it also frees you to think through all of the aspects of a wedding.  Is the Unity Candle ceremony important to you?  If not, ditch it and save $50.

If you are planning a wedding on a budget, insist on having more control over the details.  This (hopefully) once in a lifetime experience can be brought in at the cost allocated only if you don’t give in to everyone else’s wishes.

Cut the Crap

In the rest of this report, I’m going to tell you how to get the best deals on numerous parts of the wedding.  But before I do that, I want to recommend that you cut the crap.

That is, what parts of the wedding or wedding gear do you NOT really need?  There is an entire wedding industry that exists solely to sell you stuff.  Brides often feel guilty if they don’t buy it.  They think that they might miss a momento 50 years from now if they don’t buy it.  But think about the number of moves you’ll make in your lifetime and the current living space you have and ask yourself whether you will actually keep all of those wedding “things.”

For instance, are matching “Bride” and “Groom” Champaign flutes really necessary?  Are you going to keep them always and forever?  Personalized flutes can cost $80 and up.  Do you really want the thing you make a toast with taking up 1 percent of your budget?

Another thing you might want to consider is the markup on anything associated with a wedding.  Unity candles can cost $100 in the special wedding section of a store.  But, a $12 candle from Target could serve the purpose just as well.

Also, think about all of the clothing that gets sold with “bride” on it.  Sure, you want to let the world know that you’re married, but six months from now, are you still going to want to wear sweats that say “bride”?  Your identity may be wrapped around getting married right now, but later, those clothes may actually be embarrassing.

Your wedding party does not need all of the “stuff” either.  Your best friend is never going to wear that “maid of honor” sweat shirt again.  Don’t feel compelled to buy these trivial things that add up to big budget items.

Finally, think about what personalized “swag” is really necessary at a wedding.  Do your reception guests really need matchbooks with your names on them?  All of those things add to the total bottom line price, and many of them don’t add any real value to the event.

Wedding Planner

Most wedding planners charge in three ways.  First, there is an upfront fee.  Then there is a percentage of the total budget.  Finally, there is a cut from the vendors for each purchase.  Not all charge all three, but if you decide to have a planner, you should know just how they make their money.

For instance, if they get a cut from vendors, they will probably steer you to their favorite and higher priced ones so that they receive higher commissions.

Also, if they take a percentage of the total budget, they will always be looking for ways to increase your spending because that increases their own bottom line.

You might decide that you have enough time to plan the wedding yourself and spare the expense of a wedding planner.

If not, consider using a stay at home mom who wouldn’t mind making some extra money as your planner.  Most would be happy to make a few hundred extra dollars.  Stay at home moms know how to cut corners.  They’ll save you money rather than urge you to spend more.  They are also willing to pitch in and make handcrafted wedding favors rather than have you spend the money on professional ones.

The Wedding Dress

In most weddings, the single biggest expense is the wedding dress.  I’m not going to tell you to go cheap on this as this tends to be the part of the wedding that the bride is most attached to.  But, I will offer suggestions that can save you money if you are open to them.

First of all, if you are size 6, 8, or 10 and live in a big city, try going to the Sample Sales that happen about three times a year.  You can often get designer dresses at a fraction of their price.

Another suggestion is to go to where you can get designer dresses at 50 to 75 percent off.  Remember to budget for alterations if you take this route.

Then there are vintage wedding dresses.  Some brides have their mother’s or sister’s wedding dresses altered.  This tradition of “keeping it in the family” can actually enhance the wedding while reducing the bottom line.

If there is no one in the family whose dress you care to wear, you can always buy a used or vintage dress.  Some brides aren’t particularly attached to their dresses and are willing to sell them for not much money.  Vintage dresses are often inexpensive and add character to a wedding.

Another option is to rent a wedding gown.  In many large cities, there are places where you can rent gowns by the week.

Day & Time

Traditional weddings happen on Saturday evenings.  But if you are not locked into that time slot, you can save yourself a bundle.

On weeknights, ceremony venues are often up to 50 percent cheaper.

And, having your ceremony earlier in the day can save you a significant amount in food and bar costs.

A morning wedding followed by brunch or lunch has a much lower overall food cost than a dinner would.  Also, people will drink less at this time of day so your bar tab will be lower.

A 1:30 wedding followed by an English style High Tea can be quite elegant, very romantic, and also cheap.  You can even take over a small tea house for your reception.


Just as the time slot for your wedding will have a big impact on the budget, so will where you have it.  There are two components to most weddings – the ceremony and the reception.

One way to save money is to combine the two.  If you want to have a reception at a particular hotel, plan to have the ceremony on the patio.  If you are set on having a church wedding, see whether there is a social hall appropriate for decorating up for the reception.

Also, look for “all in one” facilities dedicated to weddings.  Most cities have a venue such as this which have both chapel and wedding features.

Another option is to go back to your alma mater.  Many colleges have beautiful chapels that are available for alumni to rent for a pittance.  You can choose to hold the reception in a university venue or off campus.

If you don’t want an “all in one” setting, you can save money by looking at alternative venues as well.

For instance, the ceremony doesn’t have to be in a traditional wedding venue such as a church.  A wedding at a beach or a park can be had for the price of a permit.

Receptions can be held in a number of places – not just hotels and country clubs.  For instance, take over the back room of a restaurant and take advantage of the lower prices that it offers relative to hotel catering.  You can even rent the whole restaurant as a private party for a fee.

Food & Drink

We’ve already touched on this subject in the past two sections, but there are additional ways to save money on food and drink.

First of all, compare the prices on buffets vs. seated dinners.  Typically buffets are several dollars cheaper.  If you are inviting guests with picky tastes (vegetarians, kosher but will eat fish, etc.) you can also provide a selection for these folks as part of the dining experience.

When you talk to the caterer about your food choices, tell them that you are working on a budget and ask for recommendations.  Many times they know how to use seasonal foods to decrease the overall price.  They also may be willing to decrease the price in an initial competitive bill if they know they aren’t assured of your business.

As far as the bar bill, consider going with the regular rather than the premium bar.  These days, people understand that brides and grooms are on a budget and don’t expect the “best.”

And, if you are using a venue other than a hotel, don’t be afraid to dispense with the bar altogether and provide your own wine and beer rather than have the caterer handle this portion of the reception.


Flowers are another big expense for weddings.

If you are having your ceremony in a church, try to plan it near Christmas or Easter when the church itself already is decorated.

If that’s not an option, use only in-season flowers.  Some times of the year peonies cost a fortune.  At other times, you can fill the hall with them and not break your budget.  Your florist will know when the two times are.

Be honest with your florist about your flower budget and take his advice on presenting the best array on a modest budget.  He’ll know what flowers look nice but don’t cost a fortune.  You can give him a budget, a color scheme, and “banned” flowers and let him plan the rest.

February is the most expensive month for wedding flowers.  Not only are flowers not in season during this time, but you are also competiting with the Valentine’s day supply of flora.

The alter flowers will only be seen from far away so you can get away with using cheaper flowers up front.

Some people recommend that you should move the flowers from the ceremony to the reception hall to save money.  But, this doesn’t always work.  Talk to your florist, the church coordinator, and the reception venue to see if this is practical.  Be prepared for one of the three to say it isn’t.

The absolute cheapest flowers are carnations.  If you like them, you can use them more liberally than other kinds of flowers and still come in on budget.

Finally, you should think about arranging simple flowers yourself rather than spending a lot of money on a florist.  If you have people who want a role in the wedding, this is a good job for them.

Photography & Videography

Short of having a friend take your pictures and video (which can be a good idea if you are on a really tight budget), there are ways to cut the expenses of the photographer.

First of all, you should know the standard contract calls for a certain amount of time.  If your wedding runs long, there will be a surcharge which can be up to $250 an hour.  So, if the minister is long winded or if you anticipate a bridesmaid won’t turn up on time, budget for overtime.

Next, figure out how much photography you want at the wedding and what can be done in a separate session.

Also, consider bunching shots together.  Have all of the wedding party shots an hour before the wedding.

Finally, ask two or three friends to “shadow” the photographer with their digital cameras.  Give each of them a different time slot.  That way if they capture a great image, you won’t have to buy it from the photographer.


There are several ways to save on wedding cakes.

First of all, if you are having your reception at a hotel, ask them whether they make cakes.  Usually they will.  They will taste every bit as good as the bakery you’ve got your eyes on and will look good as well.  Even if the cost is the same, the hotel has an advantage.  Hotels charge a “cutting fee” of $2 to $5 on outside cakes.  If you have 200 guests and the cutting fee is $3.50, that’s $700 in addition to the cost of the cake itself.

Next, consider having a smaller cake.  If you want a “big” cake, have some of the layers be decorated cardboard boxes.  Then, serve your guests from sheet cakes in the back.

When you go to the bakery to inquire about cakes, don’t tell them it is for a wedding upfront.  Get them to commit to a price first.  Everything related to weddings tends to get a price inflation.

Finally, consider the cupcake cake.  These are popular right now and cost significantly less than traditional wedding cakes.


Wedding invitations are quite archaic.  They were designed in a time when women left calling cards when they visited neighbors.  They were also designed for a time when there wasn’t technology that allowed people to respond in any way other than mail.

So, the components of an invitation include the invitation itself and its envelope plus a reply card and its envelope.  There may also be a variety of enclosures.

While you want to have a nice invitation because this will be a keepsake for you and for many others, the other portions of the invitation are no longer necessary.

You’ll save money on the stationary, of course.  You will know that right off the bat.  But what you may not realize initially is that you are cutting your postage cost by a significant amount.  The complicated envelope will fall to under $1 and you won’t have to put return postage on the response envelope (which most people won’t bother to use anyway).

Ask your guests to RSPV by phone, email, or on a dedicated website.


Most brides these days want to balance their dreams of having a “perfect” wedding with their desire to live in balance with the environment.  But these don’t have to be mutually exclusive.  In fact, when you choose to have an “eco-wedding,” you may actually be able to save quite a bit on the wedding’s bottom line as well.

For instance, when you “think green,” you are going to do some of the things we already talked about like reduce the number of pages in the invitation.

But you’ll also do things like reduce the number of cut flowers decorating the church, choose to give more sensible favors, and cut down on the paper products.  You might also serve a vegetarian entry instead of a meat entry both to show your support for ending factory farming and to save money.

In order to avoid looking “cheap,” you need to integrate the environmental philosophy into every aspect of your wedding.  From invitations made from recycled paper to carbon offsets for the wedding itself, be consistent about the day.

If you have all of the “things” you need, ask your guests to buy a tree in your name from OxFam or TreeGivers.

Also, consider taking an environmentally friendly honeymoon as well why not try these out.

Doing these things shows that you care for the earth and that you are not just looking at the bottom line.

Seven Hidden Budget Killers

There are some things that Brides just don’t know to budget for ahead of time.  This means that when they get back from the honeymoon, they are faced with unexpected bills to start their married life.  Here are seven hidden budget killers to watch out for.

  • Band Equipment – When you get a quote from the band, it will include the musicians’ time and the basic equipment.  But if your venue is large, extra speakers and microphones might be required which can potentially tack on thousands of dollars to the cost.  Before booking your band or DJ, explain the venue set up and get a firm cost for performing there.
  • Gown Alterations – When you select your wedding dress, the price of the alterations is not included.  Simply re-hemming the dress can cost $100 and more time consuming alterations go up from there.  Don’t feel that you have to have the alterations done by the store though.  Taking it to a less expensive seamstress can be every bit as nice and not nearly as expensive.
  • Welcome Bag Delivery – Hotels charge a premium for welcome bag delivery.  They won’t even tell you about this upfront and often charge up to $7.  Ask about their policy up front.  If it is too expensive, ask if they will do a delivery at check in instead.
  • Rental Transportation – You’d think that for the price your vendor is charging for the chairs (or other rental items), delivery would be included.  But, most often it’s not.  So, check the small print to find out what the rental cost is going to be because this can top $500.
  • Taxes – Okay, the government doesn’t “hide” taxes from you, but they do charge it on everything and you may forget to calculate it in.  A wedding cake that costs $1000, will cost you an additional $100 in Los Angeles.  Just keep it in mind.
  • Coat Check – If you are planning a winter wedding in July, you may forget that you’ll have to pay for a coat check at the hotel.  Have a good estimation of how many people you’ll be having at the reception and ask the venue planner what the coat check fee will be.
  • Gratuities – A “service fee” is NOT a tip.  Don’t underestimate the number of people you’ll need to tip as part of the entire wedding process.


Weddings are expensive.  Unless you go to city hall with a minimum of fan fare, you are going to spend a significant amount of money on the affair.  But, by setting a budget and by being aware of the costs of each individual aspect of the wedding, you can keep the money under control.

Your wedding may be the most important day of your life, but many vendors will prey on the emotional aspect of “getting it right” and “once in a lifetime” to add costs that really aren’t necessary.  Having a plan will help you keep everything in perspective. to read more about this topic visit love advice


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