Sunday, May 06, 2007

The Affordable Wedding

I read with interest today's Washington Post excerpt from Slate Magazine by bridezilla-in-training Meghan O'Rourke. When my wife and I got married, the trend toward more expensive weddings was firmly entrenched. It is possible to avoid it. We had a fairly large wedding for 175 guests for about $11,000. And we did it leaving our guests happily fed.

There are a few things you can do that are obvious to lower the price:

Pick a reception site where you can bring your own catering. Letting the site provide the food brings up the fee without increasing quality. Avoid country clubs, hotels and restaurants. This leaves public spaces and church basements (although make sure there are no services going on upstairs, as they will make you kill the music during Mass, which can be upsetting during dinner). If getting married in the spring or early summer, or the fall, a tent is nice as well.

Get married in a venue which doesn't need a lot of flower decorations. We got married in a Romanesque church that frankly didn't need any decoration (aside from a few pew bows for reserved seating).

Avoid the linens, fine china and floral centerpieces for the reception. These add thousands of dollars and give your guests nothing but a formal feel. By the same token, guests are happy to be fed. They don't need plated meals. We used Rockland's catering and paid some teens we knew to manage the buffet, with another friend volunteering to manage them. Our guests told us it was the best wedding food they had ever eaten (since it was warm and because Rocklands is, well, superior to most other food).

Rent a DJ rather than a band, although make sure they don't play the theme to Married with Children when you come in.

Order your invitations online. It is likely cheaper than using a stationary store and the quality is sufficient to get the guests to the venue.

On the outfitting, forgoe the long train. Many people want the Julie Andrews look in Sound of Music. However, Maria wore a ball gown with no train and a cathedral length veil. The wedding train on a dress can cost hundreds of dollars and it gets dirty unless you get an aisle runner. A cathedral length veil is twenty bucks of tule that you can have turned into a veil for not a lot of money.

Manage your own guest list. If you have parents who want control of who comes, make them pay. Luckily, we did not have to face this, as our families were more than generous. We also sold some stock when it was high, just before the tech bubble burst. We lost more on the stock we didn't sell for the wedding than if we had used it on the honeymoon or for the downpayment on a condo. While on the subject of guests, assume if they do not RSVP they will not be there. We had extra food and cake because we assumed that those who did not respond would come at the same rate as those that did. We could have saved a thousand dollars if we had counted them as nos.

That's the problem with weddings, once you learn your lessons you will, hopefully, have no way to benefit from them unless you have a daughter (and she will likely want to make her own mistakes).