The Money Mustache Community

Learning, Sharing, and Teaching => Ask a Mustachian => Topic started by: MrsBFI on November 28, 2017, 05:22:55 PM

Title: Getting Married on an FI Budget
Post by: MrsBFI on November 28, 2017, 05:22:55 PM
Hi everyone! So I just got engaged (woohoo!) And my finance and I both have the goal of reaching FI. We are somewhat starting out (both of us in are 20's) but I thought I would ask advice from the community about anything that this community has found helpful when planning, attending, or participating in weddings that helped to keep costs down.

I know that to keep costs down we could elope -- we aren't interested in that. Just though I would try to pick your brains about things that you all have found helpful! Thank you!
Title: Re: Getting Married on an FI Budget
Post by: JLee on November 28, 2017, 05:24:00 PM
When my mother got remarried, she wanted a small friends/family wedding.  We used a friend's cabin on a lake. It was basically free (I have no idea what the justice of the peace / marriage license cost, but it couldn't have been much).
Title: Re: Getting Married on an FI Budget
Post by: Askel on November 28, 2017, 05:27:41 PM
This thread has some good advice:

My advice: Don't get sucked into the dumb stuff "you're supposed to do" that you don't care about. Focus on what is important to you. 
Title: Re: Getting Married on an FI Budget
Post by: SavinMaven on November 28, 2017, 07:51:09 PM
Congratulations! I love that you accidentally called your fiance your "finance" in your OP :D Here's to a long and prosperous future together!

There are so many things that can be simply and charmingly done DIY for a wedding. Flowers can be had from even most decent grocery store floral departments these days, especially if you ribbon-tie the bouquets (or have a friend do it) the morning of the wedding. Low-cost catering is easy to come by too, and many communities have off-the-beaten path venues (check with your local parks department, many city parks have small buildings where a lovely reception could be held). You can rent a wedding dress, or buy a dress from the 'evening wear' section of a department store, for a fraction of what it would cost for a gown from a bridal shop - basically as soon as you attach the words 'bridal' or 'wedding' to anything he cost at least triples!

Consider a non-Saturday wedding, a non-evening wedding, a non-meal reception (hors d'oeuvres and cake can be tasty!) and an off-season month to save on whatever you do decide to hire a professional for. 

Know that the cost of the wedding has no bearing on the quality of the marriage (as an MMMer you're already way ahead there) :) Good luck!
Title: Re: Getting Married on an FI Budget
Post by: Gone_fishing on November 29, 2017, 12:04:46 AM
Hmm, I got my dress for $100 from Macy’s.  It was white and looked exactly like a wedding gown but was actually an evening gown.  We had a restaurant meal which is a lot less than catering.  I got orchids from Trader Joe’s to use as centerpieces that guests could take home.  My sisters made our wedding cupcakes as their gift to me.  Everyone had a good time and most importantly it was nit stressful.  But if I were to plan one now, this would be my dream wedding:

Absolutely perfect!
Title: Re: Getting Married on an FI Budget
Post by: shelivesthedream on November 29, 2017, 03:57:26 AM
I made a deal with my now-husband that if we ever regretted not having had a "proper wedding", we would have an epic, all-out, wedding-themed anniversary party one year. Coming up on four years and we're still fine with our fifteen-person, no-flowers, champagne-and-cake-reception wedding. My parents paid for the whole thing after they realised their "small contribution" they had planned on would actually be more than the entire wedding.

This is not your one chance in life to have the best party ever. There will be/you can create other moments to wear a big dress or invite everyone you know. But you can't unspend money. Don't stress yourself out over it. It doesn't need to be the best day of your life.

Remember that with every opportunity that comes up to spend money on things or create stuff to stress about.
Title: Re: Getting Married on an FI Budget
Post by: FindingFI on November 29, 2017, 05:30:52 AM
Congrats! My fiancé and I just got engaged a couple months ago, so we are right there with you. 

Facebook groups for reselling everything from wedding decorations to dresses and finding affordable vendors has been like gold! Yard sale prices, plus the added environmentally-friendly bonus of reusing rather than buying new are a win. Any they will be a great place for us to resell afterwards too. 

Our biggest spending reducing strategy has been to find a venue that allows us to do everything ourselves, so we are only paying for the things that we actually want.  A local kids summer camp rents their entire property including the overnight cabins for the whole weekend for way less than the site fee at a traditional wedding venue.  So we are picking our favorite BBQ spot as the caterer for $15-20 per person instead of the typical $75-100.  We are bringing in a couple kegs from our friend's brewery and some wine from the liquor store instead of an overpriced cash or open bar package. No per slice fee for cutting a cake from a bakery not on the venue's preferred vendor list.  No extra fee for having the ceremony on site.  And overnight accommodations for every guest, if they are ok with bunk beds, is already included which is perfect for us since we have a lot of guests traveling from 2 hours away or more.  I also like that a kids camp is benefitting from our rental fee instead of some country club.  We also considered group rental areas at local and state parks, but the kids camp provided was better value and flexibility.

Just found an incredible dress shopping a sample sale at a bridal salon.  Took some time to hunt down a style I loved that was also my size, but totally worth the time and effort!  I also looked at department store dresses and bridesmaid dresses in ivory.

Most importantly, make sure it's what you and your future husband want, not what your parents or anyone else wants for you.  Do the things that are important to you and skip everything else even if it's one of the things that's "supposed" to be in a wedding. 

Title: Re: Getting Married on an FI Budget
Post by: chasesfish on November 29, 2017, 05:39:42 AM
Ours was reasonable in 2004...

Early afternoon wedding in a church, reception in the church's open hall afterwards.  No alcohol, cake and light food, friend setup as the DJ.  Worked for 100+ people.  I think we spent more on the rehearsal dinner than the wedding.  It went well.
Title: Re: Getting Married on an FI Budget
Post by: 2Cent on November 29, 2017, 05:57:02 AM
Use the resources at your disposal. If you have family/friends that have a skill that you could use, ask them instead of hiring an expensive professional. There is always someone with a great camera. Someone with baking skills, someone with a sound system, someone with access to a good location, etc. Just think what you want and what is most important. If your family is the creative type, you can give them control of some timeslot and see what they come up with. But in the end it's a one time thing, so don't worry too much about an extra $100 here and there to have some things extra nice, or just more convenient. You will not regret that.

If your family is not into budget things, be sure to keep them out of the loop for choosing things though. It is painful to have to keep telling that things are too expensive, and you will likely either cave or feel bad afterwards.
Title: Re: Getting Married on an FI Budget
Post by: Crease on November 29, 2017, 06:11:20 AM
It helped that neither my wife or I wanted a big wedding. She came from a culture where weddings aren't big to-dos and I just hate being the center of attention. We booked a private room at a great restaurant that didn't require more than a food and drink minimum, invited our closest 50 friends and family, and had my cousin officiate the ceremony (he knocked it out of the park too). The afterparty was at a karaoke bar. Everyone said they had a great time and appreciated the sort of casualness of it (i.e. they saved money too!). And most importantly, it was perfectly us.

Title: Re: Getting Married on an FI Budget
Post by: formerlydivorcedmom on November 29, 2017, 10:41:28 AM
Ours was similar to Crease's wedding - we were married and held the reception at our favorite restaurant..  We got their private room (large and already pretty) for free.  They allowed us to store cupcakes we purchased elsewhere in their fridge and then had their wait staff put them out for us, and they customized the day's menu for us (basically, we got to choose the restaurant's "specials" of the day, and we provided a limited menu to our guests to choose from).

In return for having the rehearsal dinner there, we got the private room the night before and were able to decorate it as we wished.  Centerpieces were small terra cotta pots we painted our colors and planted real flowers in; we sent some home with guests and planted the rest in our flower beds.  My bouquet didn't have a single rose in it - we used flowers in season and cheap (I LOVE the alstroemerias they sell at the grocery store for $2.99 for a big bunch, so that was the bulk of my bouquet).

The ceremony was at 11 am on Saturday (although I didn't ask him to, the manager actually delayed opening by 10 minutes so we wouldn't be interrupted), then they took lunch orders while we posed for pictures, we ate, then shoved the tables back and danced from an ipod playlist until about 4.  We were cleared out by the time their dinner rush started.

We only invited people we loved AND saw regularly.  We had about 60 people total. 

It was so much fun.  I love my friends' weddings that are all fancy, but everyone who went to ours said it felt just like US - our favorite foods, our favorite plants, our favorite people, casual and loud and a little bit of chaos.
Title: Re: Getting Married on an FI Budget
Post by: MoneyMouse on November 30, 2017, 05:05:10 PM
I have four friends (two couples) who've gotten married on the cheap and they've been the best, most meaningful ceremonies I've been to.

B&A - Family Farmhouse Wedding
B&A took their nucleus families (parents and the one sibling for B) to Jasper, where they stayed in a nice, but frugal hotel, did a bunch of hiking and did a civil ceremony in a lawyer's office in the company of their parents and sibling.

When they got back into town after a weekend away, they hosted a potluck/bring your own outdoor games reception for all of their friends - literally everyone they liked was invited out - to join them A's aunt's family farm. It was fantastic, and cheap. None of us brought gifts, just food we made ourselves. Lots of dogs, lots of friends and lots of fun.

J&A - Community Hall
J&A got a small (75 people) church wedding and rented a small (100 person capacity, about the same 75 people from the church) community hall for an open reception. They had a cash bar to help cover their costs for the catering (really cheap college-style buffet food, which fits their personality as a couple just fine) and a cake made by one of their friends. A works as a video game distributor and "borrowed" some of his demo stations to set up Super Smash Bros, Mario Kart and Mario Party play "booths" for everyone to enjoy. A friend was the DJ and no one was expected to bring gifts.
EDIT: OMG, I almost forgot about one of our favourite parts of this one! J&A went to Costco and went hog-wild on the candy aisle. I think they spent maybe $50 but got more candy than everyone could eat. We all got to take some of our favourites home. It was a smashing idea.

Another fun option, though I won't call it Mustachian because the main wedding party went on a trip to visit the bride's family in Greece, was N&G.
After their return (where I assume everyone financed their own way - the families are both quite frugal ordinarily), they had an open invitation to bring food and drink to one of their parents' house, and set up a projector and screen their dad owns to put on a looping view of the pictures from the trip. A friend was the DJ and they ordered in pizza. We all chilled in the backyard, chatted, threw around a frisbee and learned about the trip.

Personally, I think having a "bring food and your drink" party in a nice hall, park or house is a nice way to go. Ceremonies aren't necessary unless one partner really really wants it, and even then I'd recommend keeping it to a small number of attendees. Something that really struck me about the celebrations above is that they felt a lot more personal and happy than the big waterfront hotel-hosted shebang. I felt isolated, surrounded by stiff family drama and crying babies, and not at all able to connect with family or friends being sat at a numbered table. With the ones above, I could mix and mingle as I wanted, approach the bride/groom/wedding party as I wanted and chat with people I'd never met before about how we're connected through the happy couple.

Plus, I feel with a more loose-formatted gathering, you have the option to really share who you are with your friends and family, instead of holding up some fake fairytale-esque image you've paid someone else to spritz up for you.
Title: Re: Getting Married on an FI Budget
Post by: Lady SA on November 30, 2017, 05:30:14 PM
Your single biggest expense with a wedding will be accommodating guests. Venue large enough to hold your guests, meals and beverages for everyone, rentals for everyone (chairs, tables, plates), etc.

So instead of focusing on small-impact cost savings like cheap attire and diy decorations (well, you should do that too!), I would focus first on optimizing your guest list. Paring that down (be ruthless! It sucks but has to be done) will be the single biggest impact to your budget. Paying for a 10 or 20 guest wedding is a hell of a lot cheaper than paying for a 100 or 200 person wedding.

If I were to do it over again, I would 100% elope (or have a destination wedding and invite just our best friends and parents). The stress of the last 2 months was NOT fun, I wish I had kept my $9k in my pocket instead of wasting it on a big party (which is what a wedding really is), and I wish I had been able to have a relaxed time with my closest friends and family instead of running around, only having time to say "hi" and "bye" to everyone in an effort to greet all our guests... It was a lovely day but honestly would have been so much better if it were MUCH smaller, fewer people, and less pressure.
Title: Re: Getting Married on an FI Budget
Post by: shelivesthedream on December 01, 2017, 02:08:14 AM
Agreed on cutting the guest list ruthlessly. We had fifteen people including us and the priest. Sure, there are some people we could have invited but didn't. I wouldn't say that we *regret* not inviting those people, just that we acknowledge that they were borderline and we made some harsh cuts. But honestly, people move in and out of your life. Some o our closest friends now, we hadn't even met yet. A few people at our wedding we now see about once a year (moved away, life circumstances change...) Much like with everything else, you will never have the perfect guest list.

The main decision to make, I think, is whether you are prioritising the 'stuff' and 'look' of the wedding (flowers, catering, dress) or maximising the number of guests. If it's the former, go at your guest list with a hatchet because each additional person will add expense (more food, another table to decorate, bigger venue). If the latter, you need to get the cheapest venue possible and let go of all the fancy stuff and of having control over food because your guests WILL be bringing at least some of it.

But I repeat: this is not your only chance to have the best party ever. Other opportunities will arise and can be created.
Title: Re: Getting Married on an FI Budget
Post by: GardenBaker on December 01, 2017, 01:43:28 PM
I know you said you didn't want to elope, but when I got married, I called an elopement company and they would offer packages of their services and meet you at a choice of several local venues. They had several city sites (like the botanical gardens) that could be reserved as well as several non-denominational chapels. We chose a chapel that was free to use for 2 hours, but we made a donation. The elopement company provided the officiant, brides bouquet, grooms corsage, the photographer (who took over 900 photos), and the cake. I upgraded the cake to include a second cake we could take home and freeze for  our anniversary and upgraded to a fuller bouquet. Overall, including dress (I bought a white fancy formal dress off Amazon) and alterations I only spent $1,500 out of pocket. We had 12 guests, cake and a champagne toast. My in-laws treated us & our guests to dinner at a nice italian restaurant afterwards.

We still had guests and weren't married by Elvis hahaha.
Title: Re: Getting Married on an FI Budget
Post by: zeli2033 on December 04, 2017, 12:02:51 AM
Throwing my 2c in since I recently got married.

1. Before you start planning, sit down with your fiance and write out a wedding mission statement. What does this event truly mean to you both? What are your three non-negotiables? Is this the time for you to feed everyone you love really amazing food? Is it about dancing the night away? Or do you want to actually spend time with the people you invited? Cull down each of your lists to 3 only, then share with each other and get on the same page. It will make planning MUCH easier if you know what you're not interested in and will help you maintain a clear vision without getting swept up in someone else's expectations.

2. As has been said, be very deliberate about your guest list. It might feel challenging to make the cuts but at the end of the day, it's about who you truly want present when you take this step. Not about placating those who invited you to their wedding. Or that weird uncle you never see who your mom expects you to invite despite his tendency to overindulge and call you by the wrong name.

3. Choose an off day/off time/off season. Makes it way cheaper. We did late morning ceremony, brunch reception. Best thing ever.

4. Try non-traditional venues or food options. We got married in the restaurant we held our reception in (during their closed hours, which meant the amount we paid was just bonus for them and was very affordable). It was quirky and awesome. Plus there was no stress getting from ceremony to reception since it was in the next room.

Good luck. HAVE FUN.
Title: Re: Getting Married on an FI Budget
Post by: Guava on December 04, 2017, 06:02:51 AM
I had what looked like a big, anti-mustachian wedding. In truth, it probably would have been if we didn't receive such generous gifts that ended up paying for the entire wedding and then some. We started off wanting to do a courthouse wedding and a big backyard bash for about 100 people.  Once we started looking into the costs to cater and get tents and everything, we started looking at venues for comparison. I found this amazing deal on a chapel and banquet hall in a strip mall that cost me only 600 combined to rent for the night. The food was $20 a plate (which is cheap for weddings) and amazing. (Total wedding, ring, dress, and everything else cost ~$6,000)

Our moms made or bought all of our desserts because we didn't want cake.  This was all done ahead of time. I found mason jars at my grandma's house for centerpieces and my mom bought bulk sunflowers the morning of the wedding. My dress was used - a $900 gown that cost me $350 and is currently up for sale. My hair and makeup was a gift from a friend. My maid of honor used a dress from another wedding, husband a pair of dress pants he already had. We bought matching $3 ties for the men on Amazon. We had family bring cameras to take our photos and everyone took candid shots during the reception with their phones. The only thing we really splurged on was the cheapest photobooth we could find ($600) and that was worth every penny for the memories and usb drive. We brought our own alcohol too.

I would say don't cheap out on the food. That's what everyone remembers. Not one person talks about discounted venue with mediocre bathrooms and a few stained ceiling tiles because they remember the food, the cheap house dj, photobooth, and the booze. Also keep in mind if you are going to ask people to do a lot the day of such as make food they may not get to enjoy the day at all. The day was important to our parents and I didn't want them to be hustling around trying to cook or do who knows what. We wanted everyone to be relaxed and have a good time. That's exactly what we accomplished.
Title: Re: Getting Married on an FI Budget
Post by: Ocelot on December 04, 2017, 06:34:30 PM
Courthouse and a couple of my wife's friends. I think with the donut I bought on the way (I was so hungry) it cost about $30 all up. And we didn't have to sit through some awful ceremony! Money well spent and I still got a top-shelf wife out of it.
Title: Re: Getting Married on an FI Budget
Post by: MayDay on December 04, 2017, 07:02:26 PM
We were able to do a fairly traditional wedding for ~150 people at lunch time for very cheap.

Saturday morning wedding (went to church there so almost free), lunch reception for ~10$ for food plus gratuity and wine.  No full bar- just red wine, with one glass poured per guest, and a second if they asked, but not volunteered.  This was at a country club in a medium sized town, so "nice" but not fancy. 

It was much more expensive for us to go to a hall because would have had to separately rent tablecloths, figure out catering, etc, and it was all just included at the country club.  But lunch and no dance is what really made it cheap.

But in retrospect we should have done ~25-50 people in a restaurant, or a destination, or something.  Even 150 people, which is in on the small side for a "big" wedding, we barely got to talk to people and it was all a blur. 
Title: Re: Getting Married on an FI Budget
Post by: robartsd on December 05, 2017, 04:49:03 PM
In my church, a church wedding with cake and punch reception in the church hall is the norm. While this is an inexpensive way to include everybody, I don't remember most of the people who came. We viewed the reception as an opportunity for people who cared about us to celebrate with us, not as a party for ourselves. If you want meaningful time with your guests, keep the list small.
Title: Re: Getting Married on an FI Budget
Post by: merlin7676 on December 07, 2017, 11:37:36 AM
We went pretty frugal for our wedding two years ago compared to a traditional wedding.

Husband was in Hawaii anyway for a work conference.  So I flew out there to join him for a long weekend. We each flew out of best friend to be our best men.
Got married on the beach at sunset. A friend of his that lived in Hawaii also came to the wedding.

Then the five of us had a really nice dinner afterwards.  Then we went to another beach and drank champagne under the stars.
Title: Re: Getting Married on an FI Budget
Post by: FLBiker on December 07, 2017, 02:56:04 PM
We eloped.  We had a nice ceremony with a pastor whose backyard is the Great Smoky Mountain National Park ( - $99.  After that, we drove around the park in our wedding clothes taking pictures.  We rented a cabin (~$100 per night), cooked most of our meals, did a bunch of hiking, it was awesome.
Title: Re: Getting Married on an FI Budget
Post by: 2Cent on December 08, 2017, 07:35:04 AM
You should watch Cheap Weddings on Netflix. (