Note: all photos are courtesy of With Love Photography
The BH and I were married this past August.   We were engaged for about a year and a half and spent a lot of time going back and forth with our parents about the arrangements.   One thing that was top of mind was keeping costs down as much as possible because we intended to pay for it ourselves.
As horrible as this may sound, the BH and I had absolutely no interest in a wedding (our initial plan was to go to City Hall).  I just didn’t want the inevitable stress that comes with wedding planning.  However, we wanted to honour our parents’ wishes to celebrate the event so here are some of things we did to lower costs:
Tips for Saving Money on Your Wedding Day
1.  We got married north of the city.  Toronto can be really expensive for weddings.  Granted, the glamour of some of the city’s venues is something that is not as easily replicated.  But being non-city people we were perfectly content being married at a greenhouse.  As part of the ceremony package, we also received an officiant who would read the vows and pronounce us married.  Look for packages whenever possible.
2.  Limit the guest list.  This is definitely not as easy as it sounds, but guests are the main cost driver and impact your food and beverage costs and invitation costs.  Sometimes, a large guest list can also lower the number of possible venues that are open to you.  I understand how tough this one can be because I went through it myself.  In the end we won out because I was super stressed and told everyone I couldn’t take anymore of the back and forth that was going on.
3.  We printed our own invitations.   The fancy paper place close to where I work charges a whopping $0.75 per 5×7″ card and another $0.55 for a matching 5×7″ envelope.  In the end, I ended up finding large plain index cards (a pack of 100 cost maybe $5.00) and printed the invitations on these using wedding invitation templates off of the Internet.  Then we went to Staples and bought a pack of 100 5×7″ envelopes for a fraction of the price.  Again, if paper quality is important to you, then don’t go this route.   Think of it this way: your guests are likely to throw the invitation out right after writing down the details.  We further lowered our costs by asking guests to RSVP over the phone or by email rather than sending us back an RSVP card with a prepaid envelope.
The caterer at the greenhouse let us bring in our own refreshments.  A great way to limit costs and it doesn’t hurt to ask.  A super talented friend of mine made these cupcakes as her gift to us!
4.  Negotiate.  All we wanted was the pictures on a DVD so we shopped around for a photographer who was willing to accommodate what we were looking for.   We also didn’t feel that we needed him for an entire 8 hour day so we negotiated his services for 6 hours instead (and saved a few hundred in the process).

The restaurant where we had our reception
5.  Consider hosting your Reception at a restaurant instead of a banquet hall.  Restaurants typically don’t charge a rental fee, so all you end up paying for the is the food, beverages and gratuity and service fees.  At first we considered serving food at the greenhouse, but found the catering fees and rental of glassware, plates and cutlery to be really adding up.  On top of that we would also have been charged rental fees for the venue and hourly fees for staff to serve the food and clean up.   In the end we found a beautiful restaurant nearby that was in an old Victorian style home that had its own private dining rooms.  While the set menu we served wasn’t cheap, we still saved a lot on initial set up fees.
6.  No open bar.  I understand this one may not sit well with most.  In our case it really made no sense  at all because a) my dad was paranoid of an accident and b) my relatives and the BH’s relatives don’t really drink.   This doesn’t mean that we had no booze though.  We still offered wine with dinner.  If you wanted to really limit the costs you could also put 1 or 2 bottles on each table to indicate that it has to be rationed.  Do what makes sense for you though.

7.  I bought my dress secondhand.  I had heard of an organization called the The Brides’ Project where brides donated their gowns to support cancer research.  I admit that I was skeptical, but wasn’t having much luck in my gown search.  Everything was either too expensive or not my style (more strapless than I could count!).  At the Brides Project, the volunteers were very helpful and I ended up finding a gown with a beautiful fabric for $400.    Including alterations I ended up paying $700 because the dressmaker essentially reconstructed the entire top of the dress including the boning (the dress was originally a strapless gown).  In the end though I got a beautiful gown that was very much my style (and it didn’t matter to me that it was secondhand).
8.  No wedding party.  The BH and I had no entourage.  No bridesmaids or groomsmen.  This helped us to avoid any politics and made things much simpler.  I didn’t have to worry about shopping for dresses other than my own and it was a blessing in disguise on my wedding day, when my hairdresser was late by an hour.
There were some areas that we splurged on:
1.  Makeup.  I’m useless with makeup and I was very impressed with the makeup artist’s portfolio.  She understood fully that I wanted to look natural and essentially made me a very good version of myself!  Always go with a professional if you can, because this woman was on time and prompt.

2.  Flowers.  All we ended up ordering was my bouquet and boutonniere for the BH.   At first I was shocked at the price of my bouquet, but the BH reminded me that a skinny bouquet would look silly and good service is important.  I was thrilled with the bouquet in the end!
3.  Food.  As I mentioned before, the food wasn’t cheap.  But being a foodie it was well worth it!
4.  Photo permits.  We could have done without a permit, but Union Station in Toronto has beautiful architecture, so we coughed up $200 for the permit.  Our photographer was able to get some great shots in the end that added some variety to the shots that were taken at our wedding venue.
So there you have it.  I understand that the above may be controversial topics (ie. no open bar) but the point is that it worked for us and every couple should find something that works for them.   You don’t need to have a huge budget for a beautiful wedding.  Ours was very simple but we still get compliments about it to this day!  (And we stayed well within the $10,000 mark)


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