Lessons Learned: Wedding Experience – Tight Budget and Creativity

A couple of things that I learned from my wedding, back in 1998, is that it you don’t have to spend an enormous amount of money to have a beautiful and memorable wedding. The trick is to be flexible. Don’t be set on how it should look or turn out. Let what you find guide you and make sure that having fun is your top priority. I think the lesson still holds true today, as I learned again with my daughter’s wedding, 16 years and one day after mine.

For Mike and my wedding, we kept it simple. We didn’t want to spend our entire savings on one day’s event. We knew we could have the same amount of fun on a tight budget. A judge married us, the ceremony took place on the Judge’s farm, and our reception and dance were at the county fairgrounds. We had the dinner catered by Divine Swine—no china needed for a pig roast—and the food was awesome. My dress cost $125.00 at Dayton’s Department Store with a small alteration fee. Mike and the groomsmen wore black pants and white shirts. The bridesmaids wore black dresses from JCPenney.

My wedding
My wedding

We were also creative. We made our own wedding invites. Our flowers came from a wholesale shop, a wedding gift from our boss, and we literally had buckets and buckets of roses for under $100 dollars. We made my bouquet, the bridesmaids’ bouquets, the men’s boutonnieres, and part of the table decorations out of those flowers. We also used drinking glasses, found at a restaurant supply store, as candleholders for the rest of the table decorations (and we still use them as our everyday glasses today). My parents did buy us a small wedding cake, but our kids made and decorated three small cakes. They had the best time decorating them.

 My daughter married last weekend. She and Stu kept their wedding simple as well. Their wedding was a little more spendy, as wedding costs have increased over the years. And my daughter wanted a traditional wedding dress for her to wear and formalwear for Stu. They were both beautiful. The rest they kept on a tight budget. They had their wedding, service and all, at a small hotel. They had the dinner catered by a local meat store and they could bring in their own keg and liquor.

 They too were creative. I helped them make their wedding invites. My daughter bought silk flowers—all on sale—and we made her bouquet, the bridesmaid bouquets, and the boutonnieres. Their wedding cake and cupcakes were made by a lady who liked to bake as a hobby (unbelievable how good they were), and the tables was decorated with candles and felt-flowered baby jars filled with candy.

Men's boutonnieres made from bullet shells.
Men’s boutonnieres made from bullet shells.

Weddings don’t have to eat up your entire savings. Make what you can, like the invites or the bouquets. Buy as much as you can when it’s on sale or use coupons. We used Michael’s and Hobby Lobby coupons for regular priced items. And be flexible on color, style, or theme. For example, my daughter wanted real birch wood candleholders for table decorations. When she learned that the decorations wouldn’t work, her new mother-in-law found antique wine glasses at Goodwill. For $25.00, she bought 100 glasses to decorate the tables. The best part is that they looked great and the guests loved them, especially when they could keep their glass if they wanted.

 I remember the fun that I had at my wedding. We had things go wrong. We stayed flexible and made changes as needed. And I wouldn’t have changed any of it – the planning or the day. And seeing the way my daughter smiled on her day, I think she’ll feel the same way about her wedding.

My daughter's wedding
My daughter’s wedding

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