There's no getting around the fact that weddings are expensive. However, having a wedding—even paying for one on your own—doesn't have to put you in debt. Plenty of couples are able to successfully afford their dream wedding, or a slightly modified version of it, without burdening their families, risking their financial future, or losing control over their plans due to too many cooks in the kitchen. Here, we asked couples to share the savvy skills they used to save up and pay for their wedding days.
Holly S. and her fiancé always knew they'd pay for their own wedding. "We never expected either of our families to pay for our wedding, so we're using several methods to pay for it ourselves," she says. That includes taking second jobs ("My fiancé is driving for Uber every morning before he goes to class") and putting any monetary gifts towards the day's expenses. The couple is also putting every extra dollar they have into a separate account to cover the celebration's costs, including their entire tax return, which Holly says helped put a big dent in their bills. The bride also says that determining which details to prioritize helped make choosing the elements to splurge on a little easier. "We had to decide from the very beginning of planning which aspects of the ceremony and reception were most important to us and where we could compromise to save," she says. "The food, destination, and my dress were non-negotiables, but we agreed to forgo a DJ for a playlist I'm putting together and we're trying to borrow as many items as possible."
Saving wisely and sparing as many expenses as possible was something Maggie L. and her now-husband also prioritized. And their effort paid off: The couple was able to plan a $44,000 wedding without incurring any debt or placing the financial burden on their families. "We both come from wonderful families, but it was paramount to us not use any of the retirement savings they worked so hard for," the bride says. "We didn't want to call on any favors or have things that didn't feel like 'us.'" After Maggie's grandmother passed away in 2013, she says she received a small inheritance, which she saved for her future wedding. "I decided it would be most special to use it to start a wedding fund rather than spend it on any other experience or thing." Even so, saving as much money as possible was essential for her and fiancé. "We worked our butts off, never turning down extra hours at work or side jobs. We pinched pennies and got creative," she explains. "I stayed at a job I hated longer than I wanted because I was throwing money at the wedding fund, we didn't go home for the 2017 holidays, we share a car, and we do modest date nights—we made sacrifices that paid off so richly."
While Amanda R. also made saving a priority, she utilized another method to pay for her wedding: She and her fiancé scaled back on any big-ticket expenses they could. "We started by identifying the biggest costs for a wedding—venue, photographer, entertainment, dress and suit, and food—and then figuring out how to save money on each," she explains. They chose a small, fee-free chapel for their ceremony, asked a family friend to officiate, had another friend perform music in lieu of a wedding gift, and hosted their reception in a historic home-turned-restaurant that included tables, chairs, and linens in the price.
Cutting back on large expenses was Tracy D.'s goal, too, but instead of hiring less expensive vendors and asking for favors, she decided to DIY as many elements as possible. "To stay within our budget, we made a lot of things ourselves, like the table décor, signage, and printed materials," she says. But one of their biggest savings actually came from the food side, which is often unheard of. "We hired two food trucks for the evening, both of which came with low minimum orders, and offered a short menu at each truck (a couple of mains and sides at each)," she explains. "The trucks kept a tally and gave us a total at the end of the night, and we ended up spending less than $12 per person for amazing food—plus the trucks provided all the dishes and utensils!" For Tracy, paying for her own wedding was a great lesson in budgeting, planning, and prioritizing as a couple. It also gave her and her husband complete control over their big day.
This aspect of control was of utmost importance to Joanne J. and her new husband. "The approval and veto process started and ended with the two of us," she says. "It created, in my opinion, a stronger relationship and bond with both my mother and mother-in-law who each assisted us with subsidizing wonderful, thoughtful moments surrounding the wedding, but not the actual wedding." She explains that she has many friends who came out the other side of their big day really angry and resentful because they didn't have a lot of say over how things went because they weren't footing the bill. Luckily for Joanne, this was not the case!