Weddings Aren’t Going to Put Us in Debt

How will you handle weddings for 8 daughters??! 

We’ve now had one wedding and it was a beautiful event with a total cost of $3500 including the formal wear for the bride, a junior bridesmaid, 3 flower girls, two boy’s tuxes, Dad’s tux and the mother-of-the-bride dress. We had 125 guests and a garden reception with buffet and string quartet.

 First, the food. For future weddings we will plan an elegant menu of simple, make ahead food that we’ll freeze 3-4 weeks before the wedding. I’m imagining crepes with a creamy chicken or seafood filling. A fresh green salad with some special touches like mandarin oranges and toasted almond slices and some delicious rolls will round out the main course. Appetizers can include crab & artichoke dip, fresh veg.s, cheese cubes and crackers, deviled eggs with a touch of caviar, and fruit kabobs. Wedding cake, now that one daughter has a cake business, will be made by her. If we didn’t have her talents we could still make a homemade cake. We would bake the layers in advance and freeze them, then ice the layers and refrigerate them the day before the wedding. The morning of the wedding we would assemble and do final icing then decorate with pre-made frosting flowers or fresh flowers.  Simple beverages save money and don’t require lots of bartending help. We’ll use pretty self-serve pitchers of rosemary water and big glass decanters of punch or lemonade.

 Flowers: There are several reasons why I will encourage my daughters to marry in the warm weather months. One is that we can use the outdoors for entertaining space and the other is that there will be flowers to pick for free, whether we go to a cutting garden or collect wild flowers. For a winter wedding, should one occur, I’d use all the free greens I could collect, branches with berries, and a small amount of inexpensive flowers. Mixing votive candles in with the flowers will add even more sparkle for very little cost. The bride’s bouquet would be a splurge area I’d spend more money on because it’s front and center, not just an atmosphere creator.

Music: Some ideas for inexpensive music include CD’s which are arranged and sold just for this purpose, friends who play or sing beautifully, and a string quartet hired through the high school or college nearby. We’ve now had one wedding and we used a just such a string quartet. They were wonderful and elevated the whole tone of our garden reception. They cost one fourth of the rate of other string quartets. My eldest, the bride, found them through the local classical music station.

Special Duds: Catalog bridesmaid’s dresses save tons of money. Our favorite catalog for this is Chadwicks. There are not many choices but they are usually classic and beautiful…no lampshade dresses here or those nightmares that a bride says you’ll wear again, but no way will you wear it again.  Online searches for pageant wear yielded budget worthy flower girl and junior bridesmaid dresses for our daughter’s wedding. We even bought tuxes for Dad and brothers (one of whom was 8 months old). It was less expensive to buy a tux for Dad than to rent one, and we have seven more daughters to marry off.

Locations: How about a wedding on a non-traditional day? Maybe the Sunday of a 3 day weekend. The church will already have altar flowers you might be able to use. Reception halls charge more on the weekend evenings so not using the ballroom on Friday, Saturday or Sunday should save a lot of money. Maybe the Monday holiday itself would work. Have a weekend of festivities and end with a Monday late morning wedding followed by a brunch. People then have the afternoon and evening to get home. We have a large yard and are already thinking of landscaping that will lend itself to pretty wedding sites. If we don’t build a gazebo, a removable arch will still provide a pretty spot for saying vows. The reception can be held under a big (rented) tent if there’s too much sun or any rain in the forecast. In case of downpour I’d have a banquet hall lined up as a back-up. It might cost a lot but it might also save the day!  My daughter was married in the University of Virginia Chapel and had her reception in one of the Pavillion gardens. The chapel cost $200 and as a graduate of the University she could use the garden free of charge. So, while venue could have cost thousands, it was only $200 for her wedding.

Cake topper and cake: My mother-in-law makes Faberge style eggs. Our own wedding cake topper was a plaster (not plastic!) bride and groom figure from Steve’s grandparent’s bakery. His mom made the egg and placed the figure inside it. It’s far more elegant than most toppers. Our daughter has started making these eggs too, and I’m encouraging her to make them to sell, especially the cake toppers. There is so little on the market to choose from, she should do very well because she’s offering a tastful alternative to the cheap plastic bride and groom toppers. We will probably make our own cakes and freeze the layers. Then we will assemble the cake the morning of the wedding. A simple layer of icing can be applied before freezing, but the ornamental stuff needs to be done after it’s thawed. The person doing the cake can’t be expected to do something else the day of the wedding (like be a bridesmaid). By the time cake is served, most guests aren’t hungry. Serve small portions and expect some guests to decline. If you’re purchasing a cake, you’ll save a lot of money by buying a smaller cake. Wedding cake is priced by the slice usually, so get less cake.

As we reminded ourselves when our first daughter got married….”it’s a party”. We had to put it into perspective. On a poverty level income we couldn’t justify spending a third of our annual income on a wedding. Really, it’s the marriage that’s important. The wedding needs to be seen for what it is, a party following an important ceremony.

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