Budget Wedding Guide 2021 Part 1

BearMoney Team

BearMoney Team

BearMoney is the balanced finance blog for new and old Canadians alike. We are a team of people living international that research, write, and share

Budget Marriage Ideas

Planning A Budget Wedding in 2021

Are Weddings Even a Thing During Covid?

You bet they are. In fact, although many weddings are having to adopt new methods and small numbers, there is still a huge pent up demand for couples to say ‘I Do’.

Things are definitely different now though, and many of us won’t be able to, or realized we don’t really want to, drop $40,000 on a single days festivities.

If you were to believe the plots of most Hollywood Rom-Coms it would be understandable to have felt this way about your wedding.

Although planning the wedding of your dreams can take years, and it can put a huge dent in your savings, it’s still ‘what you’re supposed to do’. After the Covid-19 pandemic though, there is very little room for ‘following the crowd.

The wedding budget can be the first instigator for bickering in the early stages of the planning phase. However, a well thought out budget that accommodates the needs of both parties is both entirely possible and still romantic. Love is spontaneous and doesn’t care too much for plans, your bank balance on the other hand…

The wedding planning is, in all actuality, the first truly cooperative thing you’ll do as a married couple. It is a huge undertaking that requires patience, trust, and compromise. It really is a dry run for a healthy marriage.

Before Budgeting Your Wedding

It is always a good idea to define what terms like “success” and “perfect” mean to you and your partner. Knowing exactly what you want from the day is a great head start for the perfect wedding budget and also for your future together.

Note- One word you should never utter during wedding planning is ‘whatever’. Trust me, this can get you a bouquet to the back of the head!

 It is always good to hash out all of your individual expectations, needs and desires well before you have anyone else involved. If you know exactly what you want, no relative, in-law, or wedding planner can make you exceed your budget for something that neither of you want or need at your wedding.

Your relations might mean well, but they are not the people getting married. If you have to tell them to butt out, do it firmly, and quickly.

Before we discuss money let us answer a few quick and easy questions to help you get on track.

  1. Forgetting about your partner, what does your perfect wedding look like?
  2. What does your partner’s perfect wedding look like?

 Take this information and look for anything you may have in common, things that sound better, or things that you may “marry” together (last pun of the article, promise).

  1. What is the least amount you would spend, and what is the highest?

Is there somewhere else you would rather put that money? Your first home? A business? Children? A vacation or longer honeymoon?

  1. Forgetting about everyone else’s needs and requirements (guests), where is your ideal location and setting?

You’ve now defined the scope of your wedding and have a solid idea to defend against other opinions, and financial constraints. Of course, getting from the paper scrap to a well-oiled wedding is another matter entirely.

Do I Need A Wedding Planner?

Depending on your requirements, the cost of a wedding planner can vary dramatically. Most planners charge a flat rate for their services, however they can add on additional fees

These days the rates for a wedding planner start at approximately $1200, to  $5000, and even up to $15,000 for their full-service wedding planning.

So how do you find a wedding planner for your budget wedding?

You don’t!

Don’t get me wrong wedding planners are fantastic. They can assist and guide you through almost every area in your wedding. Ironically, for a hefty fee. They can also help you get the most out of your budget. It is important to remember that you are surrounded by people who will be more than happy to help you plan your dream wedding.   

The stress of the big day is nothing compared to the stress of a marriage. Dive in, you’ve got this!

This is also the opportunity to work with your significant other in an exciting way. Planning the biggest celebration of your lives together can serve as an important foundation to build your future on. Of course, this is assuming you don’t strangle each other as you select the appetizers.

If you want a planner, go right ahead. Just remember that an authentic and successful wedding can be planned by you and your team (friends, family) just as easily, for free.

Yes to the dress? 

A great dress can be got for cheap!

There is a long tradition of tailored and elegant clothing for both bride and groom (although to be fair, the groom has is a lot easier). It is normally very difficult for either party to look bad in their outfits. Especially if you make your bridesmaid(s) wear beige. There are however, some things to consider.

A man can re-wear that three piece suit* again and again, in different fashions and combinations, to almost any formal or casual occasion after the wedding, and he will get on just fine. This, however, is not the case for women and their wedding dress, which is always more impressive.

*Note, a three piece suit, not a formal tuxedo or something you can only wear once.

Aside from being a beautiful gift to be passed down to your daughter (who may or may not want it for their wedding), or a corpse bride halloween costume, the life of a wedding dress is sadly a once off, and it can be a costly one at that.

Is this all to say that you shouldn’t splash out on a suit or dress that makes you feel and look your best? Absolutely not. Let’s be realistic here though, the effect of the dress depends on you, and you alone. You can totally find a workable dress that slays AND is reuseable.

Find a wedding to suit your authentic self while not breaking the bank
I still wear this suit when playing Call of Duty

Though we had somewhat of an unconventional wedding, my wife and I did look great on our wedding day (see above). I purchased the navy blue blazer off the rack for less than $50.oo and I still wear it to this day. My beautiful bride picked up her dress at her local thrift store for about the same price or maybe even less.

Now this might seem odd, but it was a very ‘us’ choice. Not to mention that our photos still look like wedding photos, and still make me smile.

 In fact, when my wife to be paired this dress with her favorite pair of combat boots it. reminded me exactly why I loved her. She is herself and her own true spirit. She still still wears the combo to this day and every time she does I am reminded of her unique qualities.

The bottom line is, don’t say yes to the dress because society, or someone in your life has made you feel like you have to. Instead, just say yes to your best.

 What colors or patterns make you feel great? What style gives you power and confidence? What makes you feel like all eyes in the room are on you? If that happens to be a $973.oo Vera Wang Dutch Lace Corset Wedding Dress (My wife told me that’s a thing’, or if it is a $20.oo dress from the thrift store that makes you feel amazing and you get a couple of uses out of, that is great too.  

It would be stupid to not at least consider all of your options.

Food and drink

Eat what you want at your budget wedding and still save money!

By your mid to late twenties you will not be shy about the experience of the wedding day or the food and drink that is offered. One of the biggest problems with venue food, aside from its cost, is the lack of flare.

Very often guests will be given a choice of three options, chicken, fish, or vegetarian. Due to the number of guests, the plates go through what can only be described as an assembly line process. This is no fault of the venue itself nor its kitchen staff, it just so happens to be the most effective and efficient way of feeding two hundred mouths at the same time.

Ask yourself this one question:
Would I eat this on my Birthday or on a night out with friends?

If your food is lesser than that, why are you using it? People appreciate delicious food and unique experiences, not mashed potato on a cold plate. 4AM hot dogs would be remembered long after that!

A simple and cost effective solution to the problems that may arise with venue food is to hire something like a food truck. This will allow your guests to eat when they wish to, to go back for seconds if required, it will provide more options for the many different tastes, and you would be supporting a local business. Trust me, paying $75 a head to a hotel chain is pointless.

Or, if you wanted more of a communal feel and budgets is a serious concern, a potluck is a great direction to go.

Where alcohol is concerned an open bar is always a good thing, but an expensive one. The downfalls of an open bar is always that one friend (or seven) who does not know when enough is enough. BYOB and a small cocktail station set up can work .

Beware that many venues will charge a ‘corkage fee’ to let you consume your own alcohol. Even still, your guests will enjoy a free cocktail much more than a $10 beer.


Affordable ceremonies are possible

Sometimes spouses-to-be can set their heart on their “perfect” wedding ceremony only to be heartbroken when they are told that they cannot for whatever reason.

The fairytale is drilled into every young girl to this day, and even though people are breaking free from this ‘type’, it’s still the most popular way. That doesn’t mean a cathedral wedding isn’t a good choice, it might be for you. Again, just make sure it is indeed, for you, and not for everybody else.

Interestingly, the ceremony offers the widest array of options. The wedding world has changed so much in the past 15-20 years that ‘traditional weddings’ can often be practically unworkable.

Just because you have found the person you are to spend the rest of your life with doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you share the same outlooks when regarding religion, belief, or anything else for that matter. In fact it is likely that by now 1 in every 5 marriages is some form of inter-faith marriage.

Luckily though, we live in a world now where anyone can be ordained as an officiant for a wedding. Perhaps the person who introduced you to your significant other would be the perfect person for it? 

There is a perfect balance to be found between your God, your state, and your loved ones. You will (possibly not on the first one) be married in the eyes of all three. You can ‘do you’ and merge the needs of all the others.

The only thing you need to remember is that love is love, and you should celebrate it however you want.

Venue and Reception

Venue ideas for a cheap wedding

Both the venue and the reception itself are a representation of your personalities coming together, it is the ‘I becoming We’. Where you are married and how you celebrate will speak volumes about you as a couple.

This is an area in which knowing exactly what you want will be of the utmost importance. Authenticity is the core phrase for this whole process.

We are now living in the era of the sentimental and the nostalgic. It is very common for people to get married and celebrate their marriage in and around where they first met. In their friend’s backyard, their local bar, or a bowling alley. Perhaps in the beginning this was due to recession or personal finances, but today it is met with joy and considered very romantic.

How many weddings do we go to and there is a unique twist that is ‘very Adam & Eve’ (or Adam & Steve if you like). In fact, if you’re a millennial or younger, not having a unique flare marks you out as pretty basic…

The benefit is that this practice is usually a fantastic money saver. When you have a non-traditional space, you will pay non-traditional prices. This is especially true if you don’t mention it’s a wedding. The price for weddings goes up 30% immediately.

So see if there is a venue for you that works better than the standard four-star hotel near the airport. Make it unique.

Hair and make-up

Hair choices for budget weddings

Again we are met with an unfair situation in regards to men vs women in this area of the wedding. A man can generally looks as good with a $30 haircut as he would with a $100 one.

Unfortunately the societal pressure on women to look incredible is a far tougher playground. These pressures can lead to hundreds of dollars being spent in this department. The pressure to look “perfect” is toxic, but do not let this overwhelm you into making bad decisions.

Just like the dress we need to know where the value is before we make any decisions. Your partner can be the first step into you knowing just how beautiful you are. Your friends also have a great insight into just how perfect you can look, especially the jealous ones.

A good thing to do would be to open a bottle of wine and go through old photographs together and pinpoint the ones that everyone else likes. Remember an outside eye is exactly what you want here. Listen to the people that already think and know you are beautiful and you cannot go wrong.

Having all this information will put you in at a great advantage. Now when you are doing your hair and make-up, or your friend, or a professional hairdresser, you know exactly what you want, and what will make jaws drop.

If the ritual of wedding makeup is important to you, go right ahead. It is just another area where you will definitely save if you consider all your options.

Music, are DJ’s still even a thing?

The wedding music industry is a booming one, from bands to cover bands, DJ’s to singer songwriters, your dad’s highschool puck band to your musician friend who secretly has a crush on you and whose songs are about how you have made the wrong choice. 

Your choices will be many, and can add a lot of unnecessary stress. But “Simplicity is the highest form of sophistication” said Leonardo Da Vinci. In normal terms this means that your Spotify is up there in terms of basic ass wedding playlists (chicken dance anyone?) as well as custom songs.

People tend to lose sight of  the main goal when it comes to this section of the wedding, which is to get everyone on the dance floor and for everyone to enjoy themselves, but how can one accomplish this when there could be anywhere between 50 to 500 people in the same room, all of whom with their own unique musical tastes?

The answer is simple. Let those close to you pick a couple of songs they want, and then pick songs you want yourself. The only catering to the masses you should do is if you want to add some corny songs in at some point.

Bands are great, and can really make a wedding pop, but they are nowhere near worth the money that even a DJ would cost.

Music choices for budget wedding

So, to avoid the pressures and costs of choosing talent and satisfying everyone from your grandmother to your younger cousin who listens to Norwegian death metal, you need look no further than the invitation.

 When you are designing your invitation include a small section for your guests where they can propose a number songs (your choice as to how many) for the dance floor. This will give them a sense of contribution and will ensure their moment to get up and boogie. 

When the RSVP’s return, you and your partner will have complete control over the playlist and can rest easy. You can give everybody a little of what they like, while still cultivating the perfect playlist.

Get creative, get basic, but most importantly, get value for your money!

Take a look at our second part covering X Y and Z to complete your perfect budget wedding in 2021


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