These days you hear a lot about how out of control wedding costs are. I’ve seen quotes as far back as 2013 where the average cost of a wedding is over $28,000 dollars. People go into debt for years to ensure their special night and the attached honeymoon go off without a hitch. That being said, this being a personal finance blog you know the Full Time Finance household managed to do a wedding and honeymoon for much cheaper. How much cheaper? This post will talk about how our wedding and 11 day Hawaiian honeymoon cost less than $3500.
Limiting the Guest List
Myself and Mrs. Full Time Finance got married back in 2010. Neither of us wanted a large wedding, but we still needed a wedding of about 50 people. My extended family especially is large, so even cutting down to 50 people was quite a feat. Ultimately we limited our invitees to direct family plus a select few friends who offered to help with the wedding. This required making it clear to uninvited cousins, aunts, uncles, and friends that we wanted a small wedding. We tended to not invite people of certain categories, for example the only exceptions for cousins was one who came to be a photographer. Limiting by category removed some of the “why wasn’t I invited” family drama that inevitably comes from a smaller wedding. No one felt like they were singled out for a lack of an invite.
No DJ, just an Ipod
Our limit of 50 people was not only limited by finances. My wife also is a bit of an introvert. As such she didn’t want to be the center of attention for a huge room of people. Therefore we also cut expenses like a DJ. My wife didn’t want to be up and dancing in front of a room full of people. Instead the music for the event was some songs from our mp3 collections randomly looped on an iPod into a stereo system. Total cost, nominally the cost of electricity. The side benefit being we got to choose the songs that had meaning to us.
Church Weddings are Cheaper
For the wedding my wife chose a church for the location. In total this cost us about a 200 dollar donation to the church. It fit with my wife’s desires to be married in her childhood church. A family friend of ours is a retired pastor. He delivered the sermon which kept the costs further in check as we were not paying for a ministers time.
Backyard Reception for the Win
After the wedding we did our reception at my in-laws back yard. Catering in our case was done by the culinary catering service from the local University. Total cost per plate was around 20 dollars a person. So about 1K on food costs. The food was actually really good, though we had chosen a back yard barbecue approach for our reception which is why the costs were so low. Burgers and hot dogs more fit our lifestyle choices. Besides you can’t mess up hot dogs, BBQ, and burgers. I don’t think I’ve ever had a fantastic wedding meal. I’d rather have great hotdogs, burgers, and BBQ then poor quality Salmon and steak. Beer was the alcohol of choice. We had a friend who is a part owner in a brewery. He did us the great favor of bringing us a keg and borrowing the taps from his business. I gather we are still one of the few people to ever have their beer on tap at their wedding as they do not sell kegs to the public. Anyway, everyone seemed to have a blast despite it being one of the hottest days of that summer (man was it sweltering). Because of the size we got to meet with each attendee individually. It felt much more personal than some of the huge fancy weddings I have attended.
Used Wedding Dress saves Big Money
For the dress my wife bought a used dress from a used bridal dress store and had it adjusted to fit her. I believe the total cost here was about 500 dollars. I utilized a suit I already have, so no tux rental in this case.
Lean on your friends for Photography
In our case we have 2 friends who are amateur photographers. Both of them were exploring expanding into side businesses of wedding photographers. We paid them each 100 dollars to photograph our wedding. One of the photographers specializes in People. The other historically specialized in cars. Between the two we ended up with a fantastic mix of setting and people pictures. Beyond the 200 dollars total for their pictures we paid another 50 for them to produce us a photo album of our wedding. Our choice here not only kept our costs in check, but I gather also helped spark our cousins now successful photography business.
Memorable but Not Extravagant Wedding Gifts
Finally for wedding attendees we provided gifts of a picture of them on the special day and higher end chocolates. Total cost about 150 dollars.
Total Initial Cost of the Wedding, $2,100
So total cost for our wedding was 1K (food)+200 (church)+500 (dress)+250 (pictures)+ 150 (chocolates) or 2100 dollars. But what about the honeymoon to Hawaii. How did our wedding and 11 day Hawaiian honeymoon cost less then $3500 when we are already exceeding 2000 dollars?
Honeymoon Travel Gift Card Registry
It’s common at weddings for guests to provide gifts of a nominal amount. In our case we were both well established in our lives. We largely had all the traditional wedding gift items. As such instead of asking for a mixer, we asked for money put into a Marriott gift card fund. All told 95 percent of those attending put money into this fund (to avoid upsetting more traditional older attendees we did throw 1 or 2 traditional gifts on the registry for them to choose). When all was said and done these gifts paid for 11 nights split between the JW Marriotts on both Kaui and Maui. So our honeymoon housing was free.
Honeymoon Flights on Miles
For the flights to Hawaii we used my frequent flyer miles from my business trips. Our points paid for economy American Airlines flights from Philadelphia to the airport on Maui. After six days we took a puddle jumper to Kauai. After six days on Kauai we flew home. Qantas at the time charged us 25 dollars and about 190K points for the 2 of us for this trip. So add another 25 dollars.
Excursions and Food were still Expensive
On the trip we spent a decent amount of time eating out. (figure about $400 plus another $150 for the lunches and breakfasts we generally made ourselves in kitchenette in the hotel) We also took some more expensive excursions: A helicopter ride around Kauai’s Napali coast ($200) and a couples message ($200). However we also did some cheap things. We hiked the Kalalu trail to the end and camped over one night (20 dollars for a camping permit). Easily this is my favorite hike of all time, 11 miles of up and down around gorgeous uninhabited coast to a hidden quarter mile long beach with maybe ten other people present. It’s for serious hikers only, but if you ever get a chance I strongly recommend it.
We did Rent a Car
We also hiked numerous trails in Maui. This included hiking to the bottom of the crater It was like what I would picture walking on the moon to be. A total unworldly experience. We drove along the famous road to Hana and stopped at numerous places along the way to swim under and over waterfalls, taking in the beauty as we went. In Kaui in addition to the prior mentioned trail we did still more hiking and offloading around the great outdoors of the garden island. Finally we lounged on the beach. It was one of my favorite vacations and something we want to some day repeat. In order to get around in both locations we rented a car at ($400) which rounds out our total costs for the trip.
Total Honeymoon Costs: $1,395
So the travel to Hawaii added 25 (flights)+ 200 (helicopter ride)+ 200 (couples message)+ 550 (food) + 20 (camping permit)+ 400 (rental car) So add in another 1395 for the Honeymoon. So combined this brings us to 3,495 dollars for the whole deal. As noted our wedding and 11 day Hawaiian honeymoon cost less than $3500. The one thing I didn’t mention when I started this post was my father in law gave us $4K dollars towards our wedding. As such the real cost to our budget of 11 days in Hawaii and our wedding provided about 500 dollars towards our Mortgage. With or without my father in law’s help, I hope this post illustrates you do not need to spend 28K to get a wedding and honeymoon worth a lifetime of memories.
Do you have a story of keeping costs of your wedding and honeymoon down? I’d love to hear it.