Advice for saying “I do” without going into debt

Updated: Sep 21, 2018

Written By: Mrs. Horizon

About 10 months ago while in the mountains of Colorado Mr. Horizon and I were watching a sunset when he popped the big question! It was the perfect way to ask while doing the stuff we both love to do! We told all of our friends and family and everyone was very excited for our next big step.

Then began the monumental task of planning a wedding (in less than a year, I might add). I started doing google searches looking up “frugal weddings”, “how to have a cheap wedding”, “weddings under $__” and on and on and on…

There was a major theme in all the blogs, articles, and pages that I visited… weddings are EXPENSIVE! It seems that everyone knows this and yet it doesn’t stop the average American wedding from being nearly $35,000!!! When I read this I thought I was going to pass out. Mr. Horizon and I were not going to spend so much money on one single day so we went to work trying to put together the day of our dreams for a realistic price!

Below are a tips that we learned along the way to make your special day amazing but not so pricey.

1. People are willing to help!

When you ask someone to help at your wedding they are more than willing to lend a hand to make your day fantastic! At our wedding, our cake, pictures, and snacks were all donated by friends, I just had to ask them if they would be willing to help. I offered them all money for their services but they all opted to donate their talents to helping Mr. Horizon and I have a great wedding. Their personal touch on everything made our wedding that much more special! Many people helped with other things as well such as setting up, taking down, getting paperwork in order, helping at the ceremony… I could go on all day. What I am trying to say is that people want your wedding to be a fantastic day and they are more than willing to help out in many different ways all you have to do is be willing to ask!

It doesn’t stop with friends and family though, coworkers and neighbors are almost always willing to lend a hand. I even met a lady in the airport on a work trip and after talking for a while it came up that I was engaged. She immediately asked if I needed anything because she had owned a wedding consignment shop which had closed but she still had all of the jewelry. She let me borrow a headpiece, earrings, and a necklace for our wedding all because she wanted to do what she could to make our day even more special!

2. Traditions were made to be broken

Mr. Horizon and I kept very few traditions during our wedding. No engagement party, no official engagement photo shoots (we did take engagement pictures though), no bridal shower, no bachelor party, no bachelorette party. Basically no extra nonsense. We are both not into parties so having more than one (the wedding) seemed insane, so we didn’t. We didn’t even have a rehearsal dinner because our wedding party was very small (only a maid of honor and best man). Extra parties associated with weddings not only stress you out financially but usually do the same to your wedding party. The average cost today for someone to be a member of a wedding party is nearly $750!

Also wedding food, although there are few spoken traditions, have patterns as well. How many weddings have you been to that have pay-per-plate rubber chicken with instant mash potatoes and sad green beans? I haven’t been to tons of weddings but that sums up about 70% of my experiences. Also, Mr. Horizon and I knew that getting RSVPs is an exhausting experience yet it seemed like a pay-per plate meal was expected of us. So we solved both problems by having a build-your-own burrito bar! We got a set amount of food (for the number we invited) and everyone enjoyed a delicious burrito bowl! That wasn’t even the best part, even with all the bells and whistles on our burrito bar we saved $5 per plate over the cheapest pay-per-plate option we found and it tasted way better!

3. Remember, it is YOUR day!

This may come off as very selfish but it isn’t. Many people will want a say in your wedding and generally it will cost you money. Stick to your guns and do what YOU want not everyone else. If you appease everyone else you will end up with a $35,000 wedding that is not what you love, but what everyone expects! For example, alcohol is a major player when it comes to wedding expenses. Many people seem to expect open bars but they can cost you a fortune and generally lead to some interesting behavior. Mr. Horizon and I don’t drink so we weren’t very willing to spend money on alcohol. We bought a set amount of beer so when it was gone that was it. No one complained that there wasn’t more alcohol there because they knew it wasn’t a priority for us and it was a day to celebrate our wedding.

4. Compromises aren’t bad

In the wedding world it seems that compromising is the end of the world. “You shouldn’t compromise on your wedding day!” “This is your big day! Don’t compromise! Go all out!” You can hear these ridiculously over used phrases from the moment you get engaged to the moment you say “I do”. But guess what? THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH COMPROMISING! Most of the time the person saying these things is a salesman or saleswoman. Does it really matter if you have carnations rather than gladiolus? The only people who will know what kind of flowers they are the florist and you! No one else will notice (not even the love of your life). At the end of the day you and your spouse will be married while being surrounded by family and friends, and isn’t that all that matters? So don’t be afraid of “compromising” on your big day. Prioritize what is most important to you and if it isn’t in the top 3 (maybe 4) things then compromise on it and save yourself a bundle!

5. Don’t be afraid to DIY

Mr. Horizon and I are probably some of the least craftsy people out there so initially DIY seemed kind of unreasonable. But we took to Pinterest and used it to come up with fun and frugal table centerpieces, a guest book (we used cross country skis!), card boxes, relationship timeline collage, and other miscellaneous wedding decorations. We spent a few weekends traveling to visit family and then spending time with them putting some of our DIY decorations together. So for the price of gas and the raw materials, our wedding decorations came together while making memories with family! For example, we visited Mr. Horizon’s father who has been in construction for a long time. We wanted a plaque for the ‘guest book’ skis that said our last name and the wedding date. He helped us figure out what exactly we wanted and how to do it. By the end of the weekend we had done a bit of fishing and also had a great plaque fixed to the skis that now hangs in our living room instead of having a guest book buried in a closet somewhere!

6. There is no such thing as perfect

While I was planning our wedding, I heard about brides throwing up because they were so stressed about making their day perfect. I wasn’t that stressed about making it perfect and it’s because I realize that life isn’t perfect so why would my wedding be any different? I basically made sure the logistics of the wedding would work and picked out a few pretty things and then bam… we had a wedding, flaws and all. If I had worried about our wedding being perfect then I probably would have spent more money on everything and drove Mr. Horizon crazy. Instead, I picked the things I prioritized (being married in our church, having our reception at our favorite nearby state park, and having our friends and family attend) and made the rest of the wedding fit that.

For example, many times brides spend mind-boggling amounts of money on their dresses. This wasn’t my biggest priority so I rolled the dice and bought a dress from an Etsy shop ( I sent the owner my measurements and six weeks later a package showed up at my door with my wedding dress inside. It was beautiful but it wasn’t quite right. I asked one of my mother’s friends who does lots of alterations and turns out a bit of material needed to be taken off the straps. So for $250 and a few hours of patient sewing and discussion I had a wedding dress! A similar dress was being sold at a bridal shop for $750 plus alterations. If I had wanted it to be “perfect” right away I probably would have spent four times as much!

Our wedding had a beautiful ceremony and a fantastic reception. I loved that my friends and family were so happily involved and that we did what we wanted to make our day special! I also loved the imperfections at our wedding because they made the day even more fun! Our cake knife broke while we were cutting the cake (one tradition that we kept) and it gave everyone a good laugh and a great memory! Basically, my best piece of advice for a wedding is if it is financially stressful then evaluate it against your priorities and see if it aligns with any of those. If it doesn’t then find a new solution.

Weddings can be stressful and expensive but with the few pieces of advice in mind you can make it a day you won’t forget but you won’t go into debt to do it. Our wedding with about 75 people cost $4700 plus the cost of flowers (Mr. Horizon’s father paid for them and refuses to tell us how much they were). Below is the breakdown of where the money went:

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