When you're caught up in all the gushy happiness (and Instagram pics) that immediately follow your engagement, you're probably not too concerned about all of the horrendous wedding expenses that'll soon come your way. I mean, why focus on finances when you can stare at something so sparkly?
Then, it starts. Shortly after announcing the engagement, casual acquaintances are "liking" your status change on Facebook, and asking questions like "I'm invited, right?" All of a sudden, you start feeling bad. After adding your old coworker from three jobs ago (you know, the one who lent you a buck to buy those Cheetos when you were in dire need), your guest list explodes. It seemed unreasonable to have a small wedding anyway, since your husband-to-be has like, 90 aunts and uncles, all who have 8 billion kids.
Between these big dreams, a glimmer of reality shines through — you're broke. While your parents might have been kind enough to save some money for your big day, it might not be enough to cover your mighty dreams. Unfortunately, all you know about wedding budgets have come from Say Yes To The Dress and Four Weddings prior to this moment, so you're bound to be a bit overwhelmed. According to The Knot, the average wedding costs about $31,213 these days. Let that set in your mind for a bit. Thirty. One. Grand.
Let's get something out of the way. You don't actually have to have a ton of money to get married. Even though it's hard to suddenly think about your post-wedding future, it might be kind of nice to have some savings left over that weren't allocated towards the one night party. Once the wedding dust has settled, you might regret a few of these big items that you went a bit over-budget with.
To avoid any kind of money-related meltdowns, here are a few things you might be spending way too much money on.
1. The Invites
If you're looking for something that truly speaks to you, Etsy might be the way to go. Not only can you easily compare prices, but you can get a bunch of real-person reviews on numerous stationery gurus across the United States. While you might be eager to start spending your budget at this stage, remind yourself that add-ons like personalized calligraphy aren't important. Make sure that your card size is one that'll accept a standard stamp, since non-traditional, misshapen invites can end up costing a fortune in postage.
Save The Dates can be cute, but they're definitely not necessary. Chances are, your parents might be unfamiliar with the tradition. Unless you're planning a destination wedding that'll require a lot of your guests to book advanced travel arrangements (since that's common courtesy), feel free to skip out on ordering them if you're lukewarm about the concept.
2. The Dress
I'm under the impression that brides will look beautiful whether or not their dress was pre-owned, 50 bucks at the thrift store, or 10 grand. While I fell in love with my own dress, I knew that it wasn't the only dress in the world that'd fit the big day. Also, I had zero guests ask me how much it cost, because that's just rude and weird. The only people who knew? My sister, myself, and (later on) my husband. I felt like a million bucks no matter what. Just because the girls on wedding-related TLC shows have a budget of four grand doesn't mean that it's normal.
Even if you've fallen in love with a high price gown, it's better to note what you like about it — is it the neckline, or the fact that it has sleeves? These factors will probably match you up with something else that you, and your wallet, will fall even more in love with.
Also, remember that you only wear it once. Then you shove it in a guest closet in your house.
3. The Shoes
If your dress is floor length, nobody will see them. Get something cute and comfortable, so you don't have to waste precious reception time switching into flip flops, or finding a place to store those gigantic heels that won't trip anyone on the catering staff.
Your shoes shouldn't cause you to trip down the aisle, or spend your honeymoon with an epsom salt soak. Those are really the only things that matter when trying to pick a wedding shoe.
4. The Pre-Wedding Parties
It's fun to have a bachelorette party, but it doesn't need to include a round trip flight to Vegas to celebrate with your favorite girls. While trips are fun, they can drain the bank accounts of both you and your bridesmaids.
If you and your husband-to-be both want to have massive celebrations to celebrate your last moments of singlehood (even though you both technically haven't been single in years), consider having your parties in town. Or at least, somewhere that won't require a passport. Also, remember that taking on the title of "Mrs." doesn't mean that you can't plan a fun trip with your friends in the future.
5. The Bar
Everyone loves an open bar, but the tab at the end of the night might make you faint. Some venues have the bar costs built into their contracts with you (and they might include food as well), so when you're scouting for a venue, think about choosing a place that'll give you more bang for your buck, and less of a headache as far as overall coordination between vendors. Most guests don't really care about being served top tier liquor. They just want vodka.
From a guest perspective, I've been to a bunch of weddings that buy a limited amount of alcohol ahead of time, and had a lot of fun. After all, going to a wedding shouldn't be all about getting drunk — it's about being able to relax and remember things that actually happened when you're surrounded by friends. (Although, I'm convinced that I'm a slightly better dancer when the bar remains open.)
6. Ice Sculptures And Chocolate Fountains
So many people tried to sell me on ice sculptures. I didn't want anything to do with it, since it's pretty much throwing away hundreds of bucks on a bunch of ice that'll take up room, getting comments ranging from "what's this?" to "oh, that's nice I guess." It's not fun for guests, and it's not fun for the bride. It's pretty, but... it's ice.
Chocolate fountains are another novelty. If you've been planning your wedding since you were eight-years-old, chances are they were once a high priority on your wedding must-haves list. If you really feel the need to fondue, go for it. If you just like the idea, remind yourself that your guests will be waiting impatiently in line while your socially awkward uncle tries to figure out how to slowly dip a plate of 15 strawberries into it.
Also, there's a potential for awkward brown stains for everyone who gets close enough. I've seen it happen. It's not pretty. And sometimes it doesn't resemble chocolate.
With a little bit of planning, you can achieve your dream wedding at half the cost. If you've never noticed something at someone's wedding (like, the centerpieces) in the past, chances are these are things you might be able to downgrade when it comes to planning your own. With a careful eye, your wedding doesn't have to set you back financially, while still being everything you've imagined it would be.
Images: HBO; Giphy