We had visions of our dream wedding reception: twinkling candles, great food and an open cocktail bar.
We wanted a distinctive, memorable atmosphere where our friends and family could meet each other, share laughs and end the night with sore feet from dancing.
The trouble was the cost.
As a 30-year-old college graduate saddled with student loans, money is something I don’t have much of. My husband is foreign, and while he worked regularly in his own country, moving here means his income is capped at exactly $0 until he is issued a work permit.
So we really wanted to save money on wedding expenses.
As soon as we got engaged, we did what all couples do -- we told everyone!
The more people we talked to, the more we realized no single word raises the rates for services as quickly as the word wedding. My husband moved across the ocean to marry me, but the mounting wedding costs was going to price us out of having one!
Did the w-word condemn us to debt-inducing prices? We decided to find out.
We began by cold-calling our favorite venues. I asked each place about their rates, and took note of what each wedding package included and charged.
Days later, I called again. This time, I asked if the properties were available for private parties. I explained that my husband and I were already married and wanted to arrange a gathering for our families who were unable to attend our wedding.
Every single venue was cheaper to book for a private party than it was for a wedding, often by thousands. Plus, there was no difference between what was included in a private party rental versus a wedding rental. If, for example, police security was part of a package, it was provided for both.
We got married at a courthouse on a random Tuesday in March with only a U.S. Marshall as our witness. The wedding cost us $72.
Months later, our finances improved, so we called our favorite venues. I described with complete honesty what I wanted. I didn’t want anyone to feel duped, so I told them everything -- we wanted a dinner and a chance to exchange some homespun vows in front of loved ones.
Because we were already married, every location we called offered us their corporate or private party rates.
Here’s the full breakdown of what our venue charged for a wedding, versus our delayed reception.
If we were hosting a regular wedding reception at this venue, we’d need to budget $16,000, not including music, the sleepover or décor (excluding candles).
All told, our private party will cost $4,350.
Waiting to throw our reception until months after our wedding helped us cut our wedding costs by $11,650.
By avoiding ready-made wedding packages, we’re throwing the party we want at the venue of our dreams -- without blowing our budgets.
Your Turn: Would you have a reception months after your wedding date to save on costs?
Kerry Aberman studied creative writing at UCLA and UMN. She is currently freelancing and writing her first book, while living with her British rocker husband in New Orleans.