Wedding ring - $500; Wedding - $2000; Honeymoon: $600; Spending the rest of your life with your soulmate - Priceless
January 5, 2007 10:13 PM   Subscribe

Poor college student filter: I'm getting married, and have very little money.

I'm in my second year of college, and I am getting married this summer. I need tips on how to have an affordable wedding & honeymoon. I appreciate you advice.
posted by tdreyer1 to Work & Money (37 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Your first concern should probably be to keep the guest list short. Something like half the wedding budget usually goes to entertaining and feeding one's guests. Hosting a first-class wedding for 200 people takes way more creativity than I had.

Intimate Weddings, which emphasizes small weddings and the planning involved, is a really good book in this regard. Hell, I even have an extra copy you can have (email is in profile).
posted by timetoevolve at 10:19 PM on January 5, 2007

Not sure how much positive advice I can offer here. Weddings and honeymoons are traditionally very expensive (even ones done on the "cheap"). In my years as a poor student, there is no way I could have even imagined trying to pay for something like that, but it is entirely dependent on circumstances.

What type of wedding would you like to have? Where are you planning on going for your honeymoon? Poor is relative, how poor is poor? Do you have any kind of income (between the two of you)?

Is there any particular reason you can't wait until you're finished school? You don't mention how much time you have left, but weddings don't necessarily have to be rushed into. Is there any harm in waiting?
posted by purephase at 10:24 PM on January 5, 2007

What are your guest's expectations? We had an 11 am wedding and a lunch reception (soup and sandwiches, but really nice soups and sandwiches, and we really splurged on the cake) in the church's hall. We probably had close to 200 people but it wasn't an expensive reception at all. The church happened to be two doors down from my wife's parents' place -- we didn't get in a car that day until we left for the honeymoon.
posted by winston at 10:30 PM on January 5, 2007

Response by poster: As far as the wedding goes, smaller is better. Definitely under 100. Already planning to have no dinner, just cake & punch.

I have a good paying, steady job which I work part time during school, & full time on breaks, she has a part time, but will be looking for full time since she's graduating this spring.

We're near Kansas City, Missouri, and I want to honeymoon within a state of us. Preferably near a state park with cabins, but that may not work out.

The reason that we're getting married now is because she's graduating and I still have 2+ years.
posted by tdreyer1 at 10:31 PM on January 5, 2007

Response by poster: Winston; what do you mean when you say "wasn't expensive"? I ask because my idea of expensive is probably less than most people getting married.
posted by tdreyer1 at 10:33 PM on January 5, 2007

Vegas. You can do it without korean Elvis, it's cheap, there's quite a bit to do on both sides of the actual date, and most importantly planning is kept to a minimum. Planning and executing a roll your wedding on the cheap is an enormous time sink, something that can really cut into your studies.
posted by Mitheral at 10:36 PM on January 5, 2007

Get married by a judge at the county courthouse, and have an economical reception later?
posted by amyms at 10:43 PM on January 5, 2007

We catered our wedding <4 years ago for under $500, including alcohol and equipment rentals. if you're willing to prepare your own food platters and you have some people who can volunteer as servers, you're golden. you may also be able to hire a local scout troop to help with serving, if you make a donation. (i know people who have enlisted girl guides here in canada.)br>
For 40 people, we had a roast beef, tourtiere (French Canadian meat pie), sliced deli meat, wild rice salad, caesar salad, pasta salad, green salad, rolls, butter, condiments, etc. Coffee, tea, microbrewery beer (not cheap stuff), wine, sparkling wine. We hired a recent grad from pastry school to do our three-level cake. He also made marzipan favours.

My friend did the formal photography as a gift, although we paid for the film & development. My aunt, as a gift, also photographed the entire ceremony and reception.

We used our own music. Used a formal ballroom in the condo we were renting. (But would have used a community centre otherwise.)
posted by acoutu at 10:53 PM on January 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

I should add that, although it was beautiful, it was a ton of work. If my mom hadn't coordinated it all, I don't think we could have done it. Vegas is a good back up idea! :)
posted by acoutu at 10:55 PM on January 5, 2007

Is $2000 your wedding budget, or just an arbitrary number? How many guests are you having? Are you having a church wedding? Does the $2000 include her wedding dress?
posted by thehmsbeagle at 11:14 PM on January 5, 2007

We spent about $300 on our wedding, Universal Life again, we dragged passers-by to be witnesses. Later we told everyone and had a party. We're both WAY happier with how it worked out than any other option. A formal wedding gave us the heebie jeebies.

Just saying there are plenty of ways to do a cheap wedding. None of them are going to look like anything in Modern Bride magazine, or involved the wedding industry.
posted by maxwelton at 11:26 PM on January 5, 2007

We had a really nice catered wedding with 40 guests, reception at a very nice river-side golf course with a fancy cake from one of Portland's top bakeries for $5,200 -- and that includes the rings. You can definitely do it for $2,000 by finding more ways to save.

Here are where the money goes, with one possible allocation:
1. Location - $500
2. Officiant - $300 & license
3. Food - $500*
4. Alcohol - $300*
5. Clothes $300
6. Reception entertainment - nothing
7. Photos - $100 or less
8. Invites - Very little

* (very much depend on number of guests invited, and alcohol is not mandatory at all)

I've got tips on everything except the officiant, and I'm just basing that estimate on what I paid. If you have a family minister or a friend who's able to perform marriages you can do that for less.

Location - $500
First, a question: Will you be getting married in the town where you go to college? Or in your home town (if it's different)?

If you are getting married in your college town, think about using a pretty college building for the event and reception. Odds are good that you can get access for cheap. If you're getting married in your home town, consider your family church (if there is one), or parks and community centers. If your parents have a nice house or a good yard, that is another good place for a reception -- and possibly for the wedding too.

If you can find a pretty place, don't worry about decorations as much. Nobody is really going to care if you have centerpieces of ribbons on the walls or covers on your chairs or anything else. Nice napkins and tablecloths are all you really need.

Guest list
The key to keeping your food and alcohol expenses low : keeping your guest list small.

This takes restraint on your part: You can't invite all of your friends and acquaintances, especially since those who have significant others will want to bring dates. By just inviting your closest friends you'll make the event much more intimate, and you'll also save a lot of money.

This also takes a lot of parental management -- especially management of mothers, according to stereotype and my experience. Siblings, grandparents: OK. Cousins, aunts and uncles: Probably not, unless you have a really small family. Mom and dad's longtime friends: Sorry, no. It's extremely hard to be firm about this. Parents have a way of throwing guilt trips at their kids. Too bad.

40 is about the most guests you can reasonably have on your budget. If you can't handle having that few, you either need to come up with more money or you need to have an ultra-casual potluck for your reception.

Two key things: 1-On your budget, you'll have to do a lot of the work yourself. 2-It's much cheaper to feed people in the morning or the afternoon than at night, so you're better off having an earlier wedding.

For $10-$11 per guest, you can have a very nice make-your-own sandwich buffet table with breads, cheeses, meats, vegetables. You can have soft drinks, water, cookies. And you could throw in some interesting pre-made hors d'oeuvres from Costco or elsewhere.

You can also save a lot of money on cake by going with a sheet cake in your favorite flavor.

If drinking's not that important to you, you can save a lot of money by skipping alcohol altogether. Otherwise, beer and wine are cheaper than the hard stuff. Plan for about 1.5 drinks per guest. Some will want more, some will want less. You don't need to finance a drunken bacchanal, and it's not the end of the world if you run out.

One of you probably wants a pretty dress. One of you wants a nice suit. Thrift stores and craigslist are your friends. My husband got his suit for about $50 at a thrift store, spent a lot of money on nice shoes and a good shirt, and wore a tie he already had. I got my dress for $60 off craigslist, and I love it.

The problem with second-hand fancy clothes, though, is that they tend not to fit perfectly, so you really need to budget $50-$80 for alterations.

Alternately, if you can adjust your expectations for wedding attire you can find very pretty white dresses and very stylish non-suit men's clothes that cost a lot less than the formal stuff, too.

Reception entertainment
It's all about the ipod/mix-CD wedding. There are drawbacks to this -- nobody is going to announce any events like first dance, toast, cake cutting -- if you don't hire a DJ, band, or MC to do it. But you may have a friend or sibling that's really suited to this kind of thing. Enlist this person. Also, it takes a LOT of work to pull together playlists. You probably want several, so you can play different music depending on the mood. And you need to either buy or borrow speakers that will be loud enough for everyone to hear through.

Still, if you gather your favorite people around you -- your most loved family and friends -- they're not going to worry about whether the music is perfect and seamless or the audio is a little crackly. They are there to celebrate your marriage, don't worry about the details.

A lot of people make a big deal about having really fancy journalistic-style high-quality photos. You don't have to be one of them. You probably want two kinds of pictures: posed pictures of you and your new spouse alone and with various combinations of family members; more candid pictures of wedding stuff as it happens.

To get the posed pictures you want, you just need to find a few friends and family members with digital cameras who are willing to show up to the wedding site an hour or two early. Think about who you want to be photographed with, and ask all those people to show up early. If you're superstitious about the groom seeing the bride in her dress, do this between the ceremony and the reception.

Get at least 10-15 shots of every combination of people, some zoomed in on upper bodies and some from head to toe. At least one should turn out OK.

Ask everyone who has a digital camera that you've invited to take lots of pictures at the ceremony and the reception.

Buy a $20-$30 digital camera card reader. Bring your laptop (or borrow someone's). Designate someone to be the official card reader, and have this person go from guest to guest about an hour and a half into the reception and ask for permission to get the photos from their digital camera.

We got 900 pictures this way, and about 90 of them pretty good, maybe 20 are really great. Then you just have to pay for prints.

Make them yourselves. Don't worry about being perfect. Maybe print them with the campus printers, using the high quality paper you can get at Office Depot and doing some folding. You can find templates online with a little googling. Don't forget to send out stamped RSVP postcards with your return address.

Top tips for keeping expenses low
* Don't buy any books about weddings, even budget books, because they are pretty universally very commercial and will probably all make you feel bad about having a completely reasonable budget.
* Don't buy bridal magazines, which exist for the explicit purpose of trying to get you to spend more and feel bad when you don't.
* Check out the craigslist wedding forums, they tend to have smart, independent thinking people from a broad range of budgets on them.
* Check out's kvetch forums, men are also welcome.
* If you're not crafty, don't be overwhelmed by the Martha Stewartyness of some people who go nuts about making the perfect invitation, etc. Do what you can manage and don't compare yourself to anybody else.
* Expect everything to cost about 10 to 15 percent more than your first cost estimate and try very hard to stay under budget initially in order to meet your budget at the end.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 11:26 PM on January 5, 2007 [10 favorites]

On not preview, I retract: "40 is about the most guests you can reasonably have on your budget. "

If you're just doing punch and cake, you can have a pretty nice cake and still have probably 100 guests.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 11:29 PM on January 5, 2007

Seconding maxwelton

I married my only husband in 1991 with 10 guests, no fancy clothes, a celebrant, and a restaurant meal all up for about $300. We're still married. We actually spent a heap more time thinking about the marriage than we did the wedding.

I would recommend not buying into the commercially driven industry - what you need is your sweetheart, some good heartfelt vows and the legalities covered. Everything else is gravy.

I think something that makes a ceremony more beautiful is nature, so if you can find a nice garden to do it in, all the better. A family barbecue afterwards and spend the weekend in bed. There you go. No debt. The ring? Not necessary. Nor the honeymoon.
posted by b33j at 12:05 AM on January 6, 2007 [2 favorites]

croutonsupafreak has some great ideas. It's been 14 years since I did this, but let me give a suggestion on flowers.

A lot of people will just tell you to skip flowers completely, because it's such an over the top expense. But you can make it work. We found a wholesaler where we could get several dozen roses cheaply. If you have a farmer's market, you can probably pre-arrange something with a local grower to pick flowers up the morning of or day before the wedding.

We got large glass vases at a dollar store and decorated them with ribbons for the tables. The bridesmaid's bouquets were loosely tied with ribbon, then another dozen was wrapped up in fabric (leftover from the dress my mom made for me) and tied with ribbon for my bouquet.

Also, take advantage of the setting to limit the decoration you need. We had a winter wedding, so the hotel still had the Christmas decorations up, and it looked much nicer than any floral arrangement we could have bought. If the location is going to be too stark, then borrow potted plants from home, friends and work to soften mood.

And you can get the wedding rings for much less than $500. My husband got a replacement band from here for about $99. (Chef-greasy hands-garbage can-dumpster-yuck)
posted by saffry at 12:18 AM on January 6, 2007

I didn't read everybody else's answers, but I've been the officiant at several inexpensive weddings so feel like I'm a small authority. How about these ideas:

a) Do you have friends with a nice yard/garden/farm? Set up there and get some friends who can cook to make a couple chafing dishes worth of simple food (pasta?).

b) Rent a meeting room at a nice-ish hotel for the ceremony (bonus: people can stay there) and have the reception at a cool bar/restaurant down the street.

c) the ocean always works. Barefoot beach wedding ceremonies are pretty and easy; everybody can camp nearby and party hard afterward.

d) Just invite people you like and pick a place that will hold them. It's amazing, really... when you put a wedding together people just tend to like it. Even difficult relatives and annoying friends. They'll all cry. They'll all bring presents. Nobody will remember that you didn't have a florist or 3 forks for the reception meal.

Good luck.
posted by maniactown at 12:45 AM on January 6, 2007

Try looking at department stores for a wedding dress. I found mine (long, strapless, delicate silver embroidery all over) at a high-end department store for under $200. No one who knew could believe the price I paid, and no one else knew. Also, think about second-hand wedding gowns, unless that would make the bride sad, in which case, go new. I've worn mine once, and I have no attachment to it. I wish there were a freecycle for wedding gowns, because I would happily give mine away to help another bride out.
posted by gokart4xmas at 12:48 AM on January 6, 2007

I am also a student, and got married 18 months ago at a ceremony with about 100 people.

We ended up spending about $8000 (I think - different people paying for different things), but $6000 of that was on the catered dinner (for about 100, with wine, but no bar). Since you aren't planning on the dinner, you are already well ahead. In fact, without a dinner, I'd say your budget was quite comfortable.

(At one point I suggested potluck to save money, but it was vetoed by our parents, who had the right since they were paying. My friend's sister did have a potluck wedding, hosted by her husband's church (he is a minister), and it was a success. Having a strong community like a church helps, especially as churches also have venues with kitchens and without mandatory catering contracts (i.e. you aren't allowed to have any food except what you buy from them - many venues try to lock you in this way).

I started itemising the costs for our wedding, but I realised that was silly because a) my memory sucks and b) your costs, your needs will be different.

But there are many ways to save money, some of which have been mentioned here. First of all, you need to think about what is important to you.

Are really good, posed photographs important to you? Then you will want a professional photographer. But we decided we actually preferred candid shots, and we love our entirely-photographed-by-family albulm.

I think that you could have dinner for 100 people on your budget (if you wanted), but you have to think more creatively and maybe lower your expectations (potluck, self catered with lots of freezer space, cold buffet) - after all, you need to get in well under $20/person (since that is the budget for the entire wedding).

Ways we saved a lot of money:

- have a friend or relative do the photography. Make sure they have a good camera, preferrably digital (cheap reproduction) and that everyone looks at them (and not the other relatives snapping away) for the group shots

- don't get a whole churchful of flowers. Flowers are very expensive and for some weddings they can cost as much as your whole budget; ours cost only $70 because we didn't buy much (just the bride's bouquet, one bridesmaid's and several buttonholes, and even then we went to a local grocery/florist and not a straight out florist). If you want to decorate the church, try a couple of cheap flowering pot plants (we did this, $7 each, and got to keep them after), or flowers from a friend's/relative's garden. Make your own centrepieces to decorate serving tables.

- like croutonsupafreak mentioned, don't hire a DJ; do the music yourself by preparing mixCDs. You don't just save money, you also get music that you and your fiance actually like (this was a big plus for me).
Also, if you want a master of ceremonies, you are better off asking a friend who is good at speeches, since they do more than a DJ is willing anyways (our MC made up games about us, mostly making fun of the groom, his brother).

- Make your own wedding cake (possibly get it professionally decorated): this was a must for us, because we wanted an English/traditionally Canadian style wedding cake (fruitcake with marzipan and Royal icing), and no one sells that any more in Toronto. Also, we meant to have it professionally iced, but we wanted to make the marzipan (my mother-in-law used to be an organic chemist and cannot abide artifical almond flavour), but no one would ice with our marzipan, so she did it and it was stunning. So we saved a great deal of money there. Fruitcake is really good as a wedding cake, by the way, heavy and satisfying.

Other ideas:

- Make your own wedding favours, or find cheap ones online - we found lots of things like wedding themed bubble blowers for about $0.50 each, and that was the only favour we had.

- Does your fiance already know what sort of dress she would like? Is there any chance of getting it online or perhaps used (they sell used dresses for charity) and then having it fit to her by a relative/friend?


I've realised that the most important words in this whole post have been "relative" and "friend". We were actually out of the country until about a week before the wedding, so it was crazy, but it only happened because they were so amazing.

Our relatives and friends did so much for us. In addition to our parents paying the bulk, our mothers sewed my dress, baked and decorated our cake, my brother-in-law was MC, my bridesmaid played the processional (while processing - she was playing a Japanese flute) and my brother handled the rest of the music (sound system), my other brother-in-law took the photos, my father-in-law was chaffeur and general cook for the week. And my stunning husband not only made my headdress, but parts of his own suit as well. (What did I do that week? I don't remember. Stripped down to underwear a lot for fitting after fitting.)
posted by jb at 12:54 AM on January 6, 2007

Yes, our wedding rings were only about $250-300, and mine was even comfort fitted. (Just like the One Ring). They were bought in the US, but in Connecticut (more expensive than Missouri?).

Again, it depends on what you want. We knew we didn't want any stones, just plain simple gold. If you or your fiance really wants to have stones in your ring(s), that will increase the price.

In all, it's about balancing out what is important to you. Prioritise what is important, and skimp economise strongly on what is less important.
posted by jb at 1:02 AM on January 6, 2007

I just attended a wedding that was held in a courthouse in the middle of a weekday, followed by lunch at Old Country Buffet. It was entirely laid back, with everyone hanging out in the lobby snapping photos until it was time to enter the courtroom. By "everyone," I mean their 25 or so closest friends and family members, who were invited not by engraved invitation, but by telephone. The groom wore a suit he already owned, and the bride wore a new dress, but just a normal dress from the store that she'll be able to wear again, not a lacy white once-in-a-lifetime dress. There were no bridesmaids or groomsmen or even a flower girl or ring bearer. There was no photographer...these days there's no need for one, as everyone has a digital camera. There was also no need for a band or DJ. I'm not even sure that the bride carried flowers. There were no decorating expenses, and no charge for the reception venue. I'm certain that they did the whole thing for under $500, probably much less.

As for saving money on the honeymoon, buy an Entertainment book for the area you live in. It will allow you to save half off hotels all over the country, so you can stay at a nice hotel for the same price as you would normally pay for a lesser one. Get a place with a refrigerator in your room and eat granola bars for breakfast and sandwiches and deli salads for most meals. You're going to have to carry luggage anyway. Just carry one more bag of food, including beverages. You really don't need to pay $1.50 for a bottle of soda from the hallway vending machine. You must have an interesting city or scenic area within driving distance, so transportation costs should be minimal.
posted by textilephile at 3:55 AM on January 6, 2007

I hate the idea of spending lots of money on a wedding. HATE IT. It's so stupid to be kicking all that money out at the start of the marriage, which is when you should be saving. Spend less on the wedding and spend more on the Honeymoon. It's all about YOU, not feeding and entertaining people who are perfectly capable of feeding and entertaining themselves.

So we spent less than $1,000

We got married on the beach-FREE

Brought everyone breakfast from- Couple hundrend

Rings- Couple hundred

Paying photographer and priest-couple hundred

Took everyone to lunch and local historic tour at Fort Pulaski- 'nother couple hundred.

We only had about 15 at the wedding. We're private like that.

Got married at the crack of dawn and then spent hours playing on the beach. It was great.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:23 AM on January 6, 2007

Poor college student filter: I'm getting married, and have very little money.

Look, if you don't have money, then don't go spending money!!! Stay within your means!!

What's important is the marriage, not the expense.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:28 AM on January 6, 2007

When my husband and I got married we cut corners in a lot of ways and still managed to have a traditional, Catholic church, white-dress-and-tux wedding.

1. Instead of a DJ we made a long playlist of mp3s and hooked our computer to some speakers.

2. Instead of real flowers I waited until silk gladiolus were on sale at Michael's and made all the bouquets with the help of my mom and my sister. It's nice because I still have my flowers, but my sister, who used real orchids at her wedding, couldn't get them to dry and had to throw them out.

3. We hired an art student to do all the photography for $400 (we probably could have bargained for less).

4. eBay was wonderful for a lot of the little incedental items such as our unity candle holder, my headpiece, etc.

5. We made our own invites from kits from Wal-Mart.

We wanted a full-on, traditional wedding with everyone there, but if you scale back on your wedding you'll save even more.

Good luck!
posted by christinetheslp at 5:54 AM on January 6, 2007

Our wedding was as cheap as was legally possible. There was a state license fee, and the judge at the county courthouse did the ceremony for free; the courthouse workers were the witnesses. There was a ring, too (maybe $200? it's been a while...) that had doubled as an engagement ring, and we wore clothes we already owned, so the total cost, from beginning to end, was about $250, give or take.

We told our friends and family afterwards, but we could have invited them and then gone out for drinks and dancing afterwards for not much more money. As students, there was no way we could justify spending money on a dress to be worn once, or on flowers, catering, etc. We just didn't have that kind of money, and we talked about it, and we decided that we wanted to be married, rather than wanting a big wedding.

So that's one extreme. We chose this because we had plenty of friends, equally poor, who put themselves deeply in debt to afford the "proper" kind of wedding, and that was not how we wanted to start our married life. And, as students, time was tight, and we just weren't interested in spending the hours and hours of planning and phoning and arranging it takes to put on a cheap-but-big wedding. It's cool when people do it, and I love being invited; we just weren't interested in taking that on.

I really liked what two friends of ours did --- they eloped to an island resort, got married on the beach on the first day, combined the wedding and honeymoon, and had a great time. It cost more than we spent, but no more than they would have spent for the honeymoon anyway (I think the cost of the marriage itself was included in the cost of staying at the resort, but if it was extra it wasn't much.) Other friends did the same sort of thing, but just flew to Vegas for the weekend. It makes a great romantic story, it's cheap, and because you are going out of town no one complains about not being invited.

So my advice is 1) whatever you do, do it out of cash or with family money --- do not take on debt for a one-day event. 2) If you don't want to invite people, and you don't want them to feel left out or insulted, the best thing is for you to leave town and get married, and tell them later. Staying in town, like we did, means everyone will complain that they weren't invited. 3) You can save lots of money and still have a big and fun event, but you will "pay" with time and effort. Personally I find a handmade invitation and a band made up of friends a lot more meaningful than "correct" engraved invitations and a professional band, but lots of people will look down their noses at that sort of thing. If those are people who's opinions matter to you, proceed with caution.
posted by Forktine at 6:23 AM on January 6, 2007

Pretty much everyone here is giving the same advice I'm about to give, but I'm going to articulate it a little differently, and maybe that'll help: question everything you've ever associated with the idea of "wedding."

You don't need dancing.
You don't need alcohol.
You don't need to feed the guests a whole meal.
You don't need to get married at a "traditional" time of day.
You don't need to send out formal invitations with pre-paid mail-back envelopes.

Basically, question everything. Don't be bound by popular culture's ideas about what a wedding looks like. Take a look at popular culture's ideas about marriage and you'll see why its ideas about weddings are pretty wack.

Think about getting married at dawn, and then having breakfast afterwards. (on preview, Brandon Blatcher covered that one)

Think about having a small, small wedding that's just for family, and then having a potluck party with friends later on.

Think about getting married on some day when the church will already be decorated (Christmas, Easter), thus cutting down on decorating expenses.

Whenever you (or your fiance) feels like you're being "weird" by having a different wedding, re-frame it in your mind as being "funky" and it'll make it a lot more fun.

And, as Brandon Blatcher said, the more you can take out of your wedding budget and put into your honeymoon budget, the better.
posted by Alt F4 at 6:35 AM on January 6, 2007

Instead of cheap substitutes for all the traditional-wedding frills, eliminate the frills and go nice on the things that you care about. Do you really need to wear a white dress? Do you really need professional photography? Do you really need bridesmaids and bachelor parties and open bars? Cutting these costs to zero - not just a smaller amount, but zero - frees you up for the stuff that matters, whatever that may be.

1. Instead of a DJ we made a long playlist of mp3s and hooked our computer to some speakers.

I went to a really nice, classy wedding reception where this was done and the result was wonderful. You don't need to pay some asshole hundreds of dollars to look bored behind a soundboard and tepidly encourage your grandma to do the chicken dance.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 6:40 AM on January 6, 2007

I agree that you don't need anything, but there may be some things you want. Our parents, for instance, wanted a dinner, and did not want potluck. We wanted a ceilidh. So we had a dinner, and a ceilidh band, but no DJ.

It's about prioritising, and working out what things are important to you. Make a list, most important at the top. Most everything can be economise on or eliminated (except the officiant), but some things you won't want to.

Maybe photography is important to you, maybe the rings. Maybe it's having all your friends and family and a big wedding with lots of tasty cake. (The last was really important to me - I was going to go down the aisle in a pair of jeans before I cut the guest list substantially).

It will be a process of negotation between you, your fiance and your families (who may have their own expectations - my husband and I believed that our wedding wasn't just about us, it was about the whole family, being united by our wedding - we just got the most out of it and we are forever indebted to them).

But no matter what, it's always worth it in the end.

So congratulations in advance!
posted by jb at 7:11 AM on January 6, 2007

When my parents got married, they rented out the town hall, bought a used wedding dress, kept the wedding party tiny, asked a friend's band to play, and had a well-organized pot-luck reception.

They were in a hippy town in the mountains of California where people will tolerate bluegrass music and making their own food for a wedding, but I think most of the guests saw the pot-luck part as a way for them to give my parents a wedding gift they really needed. It also enabled them to invite more people than they would have otherwise and still keep it very cheap.

I think they just asked their closest family (aunts, uncles, parents, and siblings) to coordinate with eachother and each bring a dish. Easy.
posted by samsarah at 7:17 AM on January 6, 2007

I just have a teensy question. I still don't get why you're getting married. What does her graduating have to do with having to get married?
posted by onepapertiger at 8:58 AM on January 6, 2007

Where did you all buy your rings? We got ours at Sears. Mine is a heavy 14k gold ring, his is a heavy-heavy white gold milgrain edge ring with the comfort fitting, and we paid 35 and 60 USD respectively. They are nice and plain and not at all cheap looking.
posted by oflinkey at 10:25 AM on January 6, 2007

onepapertiger, not to derail, but there are many reasons to get married while still a student. For instance, student health insurance plans typically suck, and if tdreyer1's spouse is going into the workforce, he can hook up to her plan. Also, where I went to school, married students were exempt from the rule that you had to live in the dorms for 3 out of your 4 years. Also, perhaps they are getting married because they love each other and want to spend the rest of their lives together? That's why I did it, anyway.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 10:56 AM on January 6, 2007

jb writes "have a friend or relative do the photography. Make sure they have a good camera, preferrably digital (cheap reproduction) and that everyone looks at them (and not the other relatives snapping away) for the group shots"

Some tips for your friend.
posted by Mitheral at 1:06 PM on January 6, 2007

You might want to check out the IndieBride message boards. Lots of advice and ideas there about non-traditional weddings, including ones that needed to be inexpensive for whatever reason.
posted by misskaz at 2:56 PM on January 6, 2007

This article from the sadly missed PickMeUp mailout has some fun but sensible ideas. Not that I get dreamy eyed about having a wedding, but if I was to get hitched I'd do this.

#23. Get an ice cream van to turn up instead of doing dessert, and arrange a 'tab' with the driver.
posted by pipstar at 5:28 PM on January 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

Buy each other a simple gold band from a "big box" store.
Tell no one.
Years later,
Have kids.
THEN watch the $$$ pour in.
Don't know why, but Parenthood is a cashcow;
Romance is for those on a budget.
posted by Dizzy at 6:34 PM on January 6, 2007

Ignore the wedding industry. You don't need most of the stuff that is advertised. You have 2 connected events: 1. the marriage. If you're religious, use your church, if not, the school has chaplains, and may have a chapel or hall (which may be tied to the school's expensive foodservice vendor). It's easy to find an officiant. Ring(s) if desired. The big ring with a stone can come later, or not at all. Expensive bridal gown, tuxedos, etc., are not required. Music can be recorded. There are wonderful readings available and your family and friends can help make it meaningful.

2. The celebration. It can be a breakfast, a potluck, a beans-n-franks picnic, etc. You can do simple photocoped invitations, or make crafty ones. Get friends to help plan some music. Pictures are nice to have; ask everyone to bring digital cameras and burn cds for you. Do the range of family shots - they're very nice to have later on.

You will probably get some cash gifts that will help pay fpr the honeymoon.

Do what's meaningful to you, and you'll have a wonderful day to begin this new phase of your lives together.
posted by theora55 at 8:14 PM on January 6, 2007

Some ideas:

My fiancee and I are also students--grad students, which means we don't even have mom & dad to take care of the bills for us!--and we've been able to arrange what looks like it will shape up to a fantastic ceremony. (Of course, it hasn't happened yet, so I can't be for sure.)

We decided to get married, largely because of the requirements associated with Peace Corps service. We both applied to Peace Corps and realized we'd rather go together. So, this is a little bit of a shoestring wedding. At the same time, though, we also think it's pretty important to fulfill a couple of rituals. It's healthy to do that: to remind yourself that this is real, and to involve family members who remember their own vows and

As we want to leave for Peace Corps in July, we need to furnish a Marriage Certificate by January. So, we picked Dec. 29--which is perfect as the church will be fully decorated, as will the restaurant. We're getting married in Cape May, NJ, which is one of the most popular destinations for the mid-Atlantic, but since it's in Winter, it's not so expensive.

Nevertheless, this is what our costs are. We have 30 guests.

-Rings: $150 for both

-Church: $300 for church rental

-Pastor: Free; it's an old family friend--who largely inspired my fiancee to enter Peace Corps, as he is a Returned Volunteer

-Music (during the ceremony): Free; my future father-in-law is playing the hymns on guitar. For the processional, as he walks my fiancee down the aisle, we will be playing a recording of the bride and her dad playing "Jesu, Joy of Man's desiring" together on a two-piece arrangement on guitar. She'll also be singing in the ceremony.

-Dinner: $1300. Of course, this is the most expensive. But, we're able to wing it. We got in touch with a couple of local restaurants and we found one that received acclaim from the NYTimes. A grandparent went out to see that it was okay, and he said he loved it. They're not charging anything extra for the room or the reservation; just an expected plating fee for our homemade cake. The estimated costs are around $40 a person, which is quite reasonable. We figured that we'd just find a restaurant that would cost around that much and have a nice dinner. The room is called the "Library"; it has a fireplace and all the amenities we need. A lot better than some cheesy caterer in a big tiled ballroom.

-Cake: Free; my fiancee's mom is a huge cake hobbyist and has made several wedding cakes.

-Entertainment: not really necessary. We'll have an iPod with our favorite nice songs for the dinner.

-Favors: $50; I'm making homemade marshmallows & hot chocolate for the guests, and Mary is including a homemade CD with some love songs she's recorded, as well as the aforementioned processional and anthem.

-Dress: Mary got a dress on target for $50; there's a whole line out on that website now which purports to have decent, reasonable, new stuff, if you're into that. She looked forever online and on eBay and in thrift stores, but finally succumbed to the Target piece, and she's pretty happy about it. She got her shoes and a jacket on sale on Black Friday for under $90.

-Photography: Free. Our two uncles are both professional photographers, and two of the members of our bridal party did photography as part of their undergrad. I love the digital card reader idea. Great idea, really.

-Bouquets: $50. We'll get about 5 dozen roses at Wal-Mart the day before and pin them up.

-Invitations: $10. We bought these invitations on Target and printed our own, (quite elegant looking!) invitations. Who cares about those dumb response envelopes. If you've done it right, family will call and say they got your invitations and that they'd be glad to come. Another option: a wedding website where guests can RSVP online.

-Oh, and Honeymoon!: We managed to find tickets to Europe for $400 a piece for 3 weeks. We got tickets between Ireland and the Czech Republic (where Mary studied), and from there to Morocco, and home for another $200. Our budget for the trip itself is about $500 for food and housing for the three weeks, since we'll be in relatively inexpensive places. And, since we were successful in being cheap, we're looking to change our flight (40/person) to stay longer in Europe. It's the most important to us; it's great to spend time with family, but it's important to have a new start somewhere where you're not stressed out by papers and health insurance and yadda yadda yadda. We may splurge for a $30 (!) room in Morocco for a night or two and really do the honeymoon thing.

The real message (sorry) is that you ought to be creative! Figure out what your talents are, and where there are talents in your family, and cover the whole thing that way. You and the bride should definitely talk over your expectations for the ceremony itself--for instance, Mary was hesitant to have a CD playing for the processional, but I thought it would be more feasible for us to do so, so we found a compromise in doing some of our own recording. Being clear about the possibility of hymns or scripture is important, too.

Of course, as everyone else has already mentioned, this is about you as part of a new family. Do the things that you would do in a ceremony with family. It's not prom, and it's not for anyone else, so do what you want to do. It's also really easy to make something meaningful without paying a lot of money for it.

Congratulations ahead of time! Have fun!

(and don't forget the gifts part. We almost forgot until my parents hinted something. If done right, the wedding could pay for itself :) )
posted by GilloD at 9:24 PM on November 28, 2007

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