Money-Saving Tricks I Learned Planning an Elopement
I used to love weddings. Then I started planning my own, and all of a sudden, I wanted to cry.
A few months ago, my fiancé and I decided to tie the knot. We thought we'd somehow manage to have a wedding in Seattle, followed by a Seattle-area reception and then another reception in India, where his parents currently reside. It seemed like a good idea until we realized that we would need, and did not have, the following: money, resources, lots of spare time, and a love of planning stuff. (See also: Alternative Wedding Ideas for Big Savings)
The thought of flying to an exotic destination and eloping did occur to us, and then we remembered that we couldn't afford that, either (see above, Money: We ain't got none). So we decided to have a technical elopement instead. It turns out that eloping can save you a bundle of cash, and not just because you avoid having to feed a couple hundred friends and relatives.
See, in the wedding industry, an elopement is really just a small wedding. It doesn't have to be spur-of-the-moment, and it doesn't have to be an exotic destination wedding. It turns out that many vendors treat any wedding under 14 people as an "elopement," and some offer cheaper packages. I had never thought of our upcoming nuptials as "eloping." I mean, who sits around planning to elope for 10 months?
Apparently, plenty of people. Once we finally decided to keep the wedding as small as we conceivably could, we found that plenty of other people have had teeny, intimate weddings on a dime. Here is some of what I have learned when planning my elopement:
Tiny Venues Can Be a Blessing
Because our wedding party is so small (10 people including the bride and groom!), we were able to book a local garden conservatory for the ceremony location. The Volunteer Park Conservatory is very strict about what you can do with the space during a ceremony — no decorations, no flowers, and no "set-up." This will save me a bundle of money, because otherwise I would have blown a few hundred dollars on Chinese lanterns and flowers, easily.
Go with Local/Seasonal for Flowers
If you do get to hold a bouquet on your (tiny) big day, you can pull together a gorgeous floral arrangement at your local grocery store or florist. Just buy the flowers loose, choose local or in-season flowers, and never utter the word "wedding" within earshot of your florist.
Ask for an Elopement Ceremony
Because our ceremony is going to be mercifully short, our secular wedding officiant is charging less than half of what he would charge for a full-scale wedding ceremony. We met with him a couple of times and worked out most of the ceremony details over email.
Bargain with a Photographer
Our wedding photographer's package is literally 1/3 of the amount of a full day of wedding photography and includes "engagement photos." We're skipping many of the day-of photos of everyone preparing for the wedding, because we don't like that kind of thing.
Put Your Wedding Online for Those Who Can't Attend
I'm not big of being filmed, but we are in the midst of bargaining with a videographer to have our very short ceremony filmed so that we can put it online and share it with the bazillions of relatives and friends that we couldn't have at the wedding. What, you thought YouTube was only for cute kitten videos?
Scout Reception Locations
Having a nice dinner for 10 people in Seattle isn't that hard — most restaurants we have spoken to have been able to quote us reasonable prices for our party. We haven't settled on a dinner venue, but since we're spending less than 2K on the rest of the wedding, we can afford to splurge on a nice dinner.
Get Married on a Weekday
Getting married over a weekend is expensive, but if you only have a few guests, see if you can talk everyone into attending a weekday wedding. We are getting married on a Thursday, which is one reason why so many vendors were ready and willing to work with us. It's easier to book venues, too. (Hat tip to Christina @ Northern Cheapskate for the reminder!)
Did you elope? What are your ideas for saving money with a small wedding?