How To Save Money On Your Wedding

by Jen on December 6, 2005

Above is a picture of me and my husband on our wedding day.

Weddings can be really stressful and expensive. I don’t recommend spending a lot of money on your wedding. I think a short engagement and a wedding on the more simple side is the way to go. Overspending on a wedding or getting in debt for your wedding is a bad way to start a good marriage. Most fights between husband and wife are over money, so maybe by getting us to be worldly about our wedding, Satan is getting his foot in the door right from the start.

Wait, don’t get me wrong, I’m into looking good and having a reception to remember. People still talk about how awesome our reception was. But you don’t have to spend lots of money to do it. My guy and I spent under $500 on our wedding and my parents paid for the rest of it, about $1,200 more. That’s a good amount of money, but not much compared to the average amount people spend on weddings. Most of the money spent on our wedding was spent on catering and live music.

Using the resources you have on hand and being creative can really pay off. Here’s how we saved money:

Short Engagement: First off, when we got engaged, we set the wedding date only 6 weeks away. We wanted to have a short engagement anyway (you know us “Mormons”), but my fiance gave another reason for the short engagement saying “6 weeks is enough time to plan a wedding, but not enough time to get all crazy and extravagant with it”. We’re both very eccentric and creative people, so we have the tendency to get all crazy and extravagant if we’re allowed to. We knew that limiting our time would help us keep our ideas under control.

Inexpensive Wedding Dress: I’m into fashion and style, which should be no surprise… that’s why I started *Jen* Magazine. Right after I got engaged I of course started looking for a wedding dress. I looked online a little bit, but then I went to some wedding dress places in my city to shop around. I lived in Nashville, Tennessee, and there aren’t any wedding gown places in that area that cater to LDS standards. Out of several places I looked, I only found probably four wedding dresses that would work with LDS modesty standards and garments. Out of those, half of them were long-sleeved gowns, and I was getting married in the middle of August. August in Tennessee is very hot and humid, so those long sleeved gowns were not an option.

So I have, like, two wedding dresses to choose from and I don’t like either of them. One of them was very pretty, but totally not me. It was a big poofy dress that looked very southern belle-ish, like a cotillion dress or something. It also had a big price tag, even though it was on sale. I might have afforded it if it was something I really wanted, but it was too much to pay for a dress I didn’t like.

I decided to look online for a modest LDS Temple standards wedding dress. I found a few retailers and some dresses that might work but I found that the prices were too high for me. The dresses I really liked were too much for me to afford, and the dresses that were lower priced were too much to pay for a dress I didn’t really like. I didn’t think to look on e-bay.

There was a lady at church who used to be one of my Young Women leaders and she ran a bridal show. When she heard I was engaged she had me over to her house to look at and borrow a bunch of her bridal magazines. She showed me pictures of different couture dresses and knowing that I have my own unique style she said she thought I could and should sew my own dress.

I had taken a sewing class my freshmen year of high school and sewn a few things since then but I wasn’t a seamstress by any means. I had a very basic $100 sewing machine that had been a gift from a friend of the family after he saw me going over to use the neighbor’s sewing machine to make something for a personal progress project.

I decided that making my wedding dress might be my best option. It would be inexpensive and the dress would be one-of-a-kind. It would also be a fun project and good experience. It was July, and though I was in college, school was out for the summer. I was spending my time working for my Mom’s business and taking care of my little brothers and sister. The schedule working for my Mom was really flexible and she would understand if I needed some time off. I went to the fabric store and looked at patterns. I didn’t choose any of the wedding dress patterns. I either didn’t like them or they looked way too complicated for me, especially with the limited time I had. I wanted a dress that was slim and simple but different, not big and ornate. I ended up picking out 4 formal dress patterns. I liked the top of one, the bottom of another, the train of another, and the sleeves of another. I used the different parts of all four patterns and even altered those to make my dress.

In all I spent about $110 and a lot of time (worked on it almost every day for a month) to make my dress. It turned out pretty good, and gave me a sense of accomplishment that made the wedding day even more special.

Reception Site: When we began planning our wedding reception we wanted to have it outdoors. The last place we wanted to have it was in the church cultural hall, where everyone seems to hold their reception. The cultural hall is a multipurpose area of the church. It’s uses include being a basketball court and being a seating area for performances that take place on the stage curtained off on one side of the hall. It’s not the pretty place you dream of when you think of the perfect reception. We planned to have our reception on a big grassy hill behind the church. We began shopping for tent/canopy things to give some shade for our outdoor reception. As the days passed by and the weather grew hotter and hotter, we realized we might not want to have the reception outside. It would be way too hot! We wanted to have dancing, and it would be too sweaty if we had it outside. We didn’t want to pay for a reception site, so after weighing all of our available options we grudgingly decided that the church cultural hall was our best choice. But we were determined NOT to have a boring or ugly reception. We would transform the cultural hall into a wedding wonderland.

DIY: We had been to receptions in the cultural hall before and they always looked so empty. It’s not that there weren’t a lot of guests, but the hall is sooo big that the guests were too spread out. This spreading out discouraged mingling, so you would have everyone separated into little groups of people who knew each other. The spreading out also discouraged dancing because people are more likely to dance if they’re in a crowd. We wanted our friends and family to get to know each other and we wanted to encourage people to dance because we love dancing. So we decided to create a smaller area within the hall for the reception. Our idea was to somehow drape fabric from the ceiling to make a curtain or partition around the reception area. The hall lights would be down and the smaller reception area would be lit from the inside, so that you wouldn’t notice the rest of the hall.

We bought many bolts of a cheap white fabric from Walmart, and dyed it with RIT dye to match our wedding colors. Then we got together and took a day to make the fabric into curtains by cutting it to the right lengths and sewing one of the edges over so we could put a pole or rope through it to hang it. After a lot of trial and error, we came up with a way to hang the fabric from ropes strung across the ceiling creating fabric walls.

Borrowing Stuff: We purchased a few things, but we borrowed most of the decorations for the reception. From the friend who ran the bridal show we borrowed a bunch of white Christmas lights and big stand-up flower decorations that she had used to decorate the bridal show one year. She also let me cut a bunch of hydrangeas from a big beautiful bush in her yard… and those were the only wedding flowers I used! A friend from Chris’s ward owned a landscaping business and was able to let us borrow a bunch of big trees that were due to be planted in a new subdivision a few days after our reception. The trees had their roots and dirt tied up in burlap and they could stand up. Lugging the trees into the cultural hall was a chore for those who helped us. But it made the reception look really cool!
-Jen

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous January 12, 2005 at 3:28 pm

That is a BEAUTIFUL dress! And congrats on your wedding!

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luvd yourr artcle.encourages the budget lds bride! luvely dress too.short engagements make sense when continents & school dont separate you.we're a long distance lds couple-in-waiting & very excited about our future.aurora February 26, 2013 at 12:05 am

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Jen January 12, 2005 at 4:14 pm

Thanks!

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Anonymous January 25, 2005 at 5:04 pm

My mom is a great seamstress, so sewing a wedding gown sounds great. But how stressed our were you? Weddings are stressful, anyway, but I wonder, if you spent so much time on the dress, and you weren’t a very experience seamstress, was it stressful for you? Personally, I get all stressed over little projects, making it fit and such. I can’t imagine trying to sew my own wedding gown with four different patterns and more alterations!

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Anonymous February 18, 2005 at 11:42 am

i am amazed your dress turned out so well. my mom has sewed for twenty five years for me and although she is very good in lieu of surviving the whole experience she said ‘dont evern ask” when I broached the subject. Alot of things can go wrong when you are sewing especially when you are inexperienced, I think renting a wedding dress is a great option, often you can rent a more beautiful and elaborate dress than you could ever afford.
I rented a wedding dress for $275 and $75 of it was a deposit for the dress. No offense, but I think you spent alot on your wedding! I spent $500 total on mine, which is more than some of my friends spent….I think renting is a great option.

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Cassandra February 22, 2005 at 5:18 pm

I’m very impressed that Jen made her dress…and that Ashley in Vegas found that dress (it’s gorgeous!) Personally, I spent as much on my dress as some of you spent on your whole wedding (a little over $500), BUT I managed to be smart about it in the end. After my wedding, I rented the dress out and then eventually sold it so it worked out great – I MADE money on my dress!

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Jen May 2, 2005 at 9:30 am

Wow, that’s awesome that you made money. I think that’s smart and a good idea for others.

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Anonymous August 28, 2005 at 8:28 pm

LOVE the tree idea. My wedding was just a few days after Christmas. We collected all the live Christmas trees we could from friends and family (at least 40) and hauled them to the building where we had our reception. There, we stood them up and had a “forest” reception. We chose not to put lights on them, so it was very natural looking. Everyone loved the smell, and it looked AMAZING–very unique. The same effect could be gained with artificial trees. Bear in mind, many churches require real trees to be sprayed with fire retardant. This is a minor expense, but does take some time.

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Anonymous October 31, 2005 at 8:24 am

I think this is a wonderful website. I am from the UK and am getting married in 7 weeks. It is so wonderful to read things for advice. i have my wedding dress – it is so gorgeous!
i hope it doesnt rain on my wedding day – it is the week before christmas, so please pray for snow hehe!
Susan x

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D.S May 19, 2006 at 8:06 am

WELLDONE on making your dress. But most lds brides to be arent that skilled or courageous. Here is another tip. Chose the dress you really like regardless of cost. Take pictures and make notes and take it to someone who is experienced you will get the dress you want with your own personal touch for a fraction of the price.

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Kayla May 23, 2007 at 10:57 am

Jen,
This sounds exactly what I am going through right now. I want an outside reception in September, however living in Arizona, it’s not cool enough by then. I didn’t want to use the cultural hall, but that seems like my only option right now. With all your trial and error of ways to hang the curtains, what ended up working for you?

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Jen May 23, 2007 at 11:22 am

We sewed the top of the fabric down to make a loop like curtains have. Then we strung rope through the curtains and tied the rope to metal rings that were already existing high on both sides of the cultural hall walls. I don’t know the original purpose for the rings being there, but they were there so we used them. They were those metal rings that look like a really thick screw but instead of having a screw head they bend into a ring on the end.

We had a rope strung with curtains hung on both sides of the cultural hall which effectively cut off the long sides of the cultural hall and made the space inside the curtains a more cozy square which is what we wanted.

We had the cultural hall lights dimmed and the area inside the square was lighted with lights we brought, including white Christmas lights and other lights. We had only one of the cultural hall doors open, and we had a walkway made of rope lights that took you from that door into the square where the reception was.

Good luck!

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Kayla May 23, 2007 at 6:12 pm

That sounds great!!! Thanks! By the way those rings were probably for a volleyball net… Thanks so much!

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Jess August 16, 2008 at 6:35 pm

Another GREAT hint for keeping the cost down on wedding expenses is to be careful about when you buy things throughout the year…

I know most LDS engagements are very short (mine will be! haha. you know us mormon girls!) and a lot of people would think I’m jumping the gun, but I am starting to look around and see what my options are even before he’s popped the question (I’m very confident he’ll be asking by the end of january– he’s not very good at secrets and although he won’t tell me WHEN it is, I do know its coming.)

Amyways, what I was going to say is b/c LDS engagements are so short it is hard to watch for good sales and really shop around for the expensive things. BUT b/c I know its coming up soon I splurged and bought all of my bridesmaids dresses this last week. Because its summertime and retailers don’t want to hold unto prom dresses until next spring its a great time to grab them quick! I found 7 matching floor length formals for 100 dollars.

If you are as sure that itsgoing to happen as I am, its not such bad idea to go ahead and do it! Besides.. even if he doesn’t end up being “the one” tese dresses are so ME that I can adapt them to my wedding- no matter who its to! (But I hope/pray its him!) ๐Ÿ˜€

Thanks Jen for the hints!

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Mรณnica November 27, 2008 at 8:01 pm

Hellows girls! All of you are so awesome and smart! I’m going to get marry in 3 months! So, I have a lot time to prepare my reception. And like you, Jen, I’m going to do the wedding in the culture place! Here in Mexico, this place is smaller, only I need to do the curtains.. but the lights around the place is a great idea! I’m going to follow all your tips. Thanks for your help. If you have a picture of how you decorated the cultural place, please send to me.. I really need ideas XD.. thanks a lot girls :*

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JessieDee March 6, 2009 at 5:19 pm

Hey there! (This is Jess from a couple comments up! about buying in the right time of year!)

I mentioned before that He’d propose by the end of January, right? Well, he went down to one knee on January 24th ๐Ÿ™‚ Good man! lol. Anyways.. I got the ring and I’ve got the man, but I didn’t get my short engagement… we are waiting until June 19th so his parents can be there, and in the mean time I’m going home (my family lives a few states away) so I can be with my mom to plan and get everything squared away ๐Ÿ™‚ And os I can work to save up money for once we are married. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Tiffany May 28, 2009 at 8:40 am

Does anyone have pictures of their cultural hall wedding tent?

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Megan February 13, 2010 at 9:36 pm

Hi, I rent LDS (modest) wedding dresses and I am located in Logan but will rent all over Utah and Idaho. Check out my website and email me for an appointment!
mrsdresses.blogspot.com
mrsdresses@gmail.com

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