The average cost of a wedding in the U.S. today is around $31,000, according to TheKnot.com. And while that average is pulled up by people who go way above and beyond that amount, there’s no denying that most weddings are expensive.
But for many, the idea of spending the equivalent of the cost of a mid-range car on a single day seems both wasteful and silly — not to mention the fact that new research indicates that couples who spend less money on their wedding are more likely to stay together. (Maybe that’s because they’re not starting married life under a pile of debt?) So for more and more frugal couples, a big part of planning their big day is figuring out how they can get the best experience for the lowest amount of money.
But as with anything related to frugality, when it comes to wedding costs, there are savers and there are extreme savers. These seven couples went the extreme route, saving money in ways the rest of us probably wouldn’t even consider. Check them out and see if you get any great ideas of your own… or if you just find yourself shaking your head.
1. Turn Something Old into Something New
Sara Cotner and her fiance Matt wanted to keep their total wedding budget under $2,000, so they knew they had to get creative. One of the ways they cut costs was by opting out of buying wedding rings and instead having their own rings custom-created from melted-down old jewelry donated by friends and family.
The old gold was sent to Green Karat, a company that recycles precious metals to create eco-friendly jewelry. The total cost of the rings for Sara and Matt came to only $109 after their account was credited more than $1,000 for the donated gold.
2. Get Corporate Sponsorship
It’s not every day you find a couple whose names create cute combinations like “Kimye” and “Brangelina.” But when a couple with the last names “Burger” and “King” gets engaged, the whole world takes notice — including a certain super-successful fast food chain.
Illinois residents Joel Burger and Ashley King were known jointly as “Burger-King” since they were classmates in elementary school, so when Joel proposed, it only seemed natural to take some of their engagement photos at their local BK. The photos got the attention of the State Journal-Register, which ran a story on the couple, and from there things went viral.
Before they knew it, Joel and Ashley were on Skype with a Burger King representative learning the company wanted to pay for their entire wedding — which, of course, will feature plenty of merch with the BK logo on it, including those famous Burger King crowns we all loved growing up.
3. Ask Your Guests to Foot the Bill
Sites like Kickstarter and GoFundMe are no longer just for those seeking help paying for life-saving medical procedures or patronage of their artistic endeavors. It’s becoming increasingly popular to use these crowdfunding sites to fundraise for life events, including wedding ceremonies and honeymoons.
In some of the more infamous instances, this strategy has backfired spectacularly. Some couples only raise a fraction of what they’ve asked for, others are forced to take down their campaigns after they go viral and strangers start berating their selfishness, and it’s safe to assume in all cases that more than one wedding guest has felt personally affronted by a couple’s blatant cash grab. (You want a multiple-event wedding that spans the globe? You’re gonna have to pay for your parents’ flights yourself.)
4. Serve Your Reception Dinner From Food Trucks
Food trucks at weddings aren’t a new idea; hip couples have been booking them for a while now to serve late-night noshables when their guests get hungry from all that dancing. But more and more couples are considering food truck catering for their main reception meal, including Kelsey Hopson-Shiller and her wife Julie, who discuss how they planned a “food truck wedding” on the blog APracticalWedding.com.
Pros of bringing in food trucks include giving your guests a taste of the local dining scene, introducing them to fun new food trends and the potential to have each guest’s order customized to their request. Cons including long lines of guests as people wait to order and have their food made, and the possibility that not everyone will like what you’re serving up.
If you’re thinking of going this route, book several trucks and have appetizers and refreshments on hand to keep those in line from getting hangry.
5. Fake the Cake
Traci O’Donnell didn’t want to pay $1,500 to $2,000 for a fancy three-tiered cake for her daughter’s wedding, so she found an alternative that looked just as fancy but only cost a fraction of the price: a faux, styrofoam-filled cake that was purely for show.
More and more brides on a budget are embracing this trend. These fake cakes can be covered in real icing and fondant and either have a pre-cut “slice” built in or a top tier made of real cake for the cake-cutting ceremony. You then serve guests plain old sheet cake that’s kept behind the scenes in your venue’s kitchen.
O’Donnell paid $500 for her fake cake, but you get one for as little as $40 or $50 on Etsy or even less if you buy styrofoam tiers from the craft store and decorate them yourself. Just make sure the icing on your guests’ sheet cake matches that of the dummy cake, and hopefully no one will know the difference.
6. Fake the Ring
Traditional wedding “etiquette” (read: marketing) says a man should blow the equivalent of three months’ salary on an engagement ring. One blogger named Lillie and her fiance Colin were having none of that. They bought Lillie’s ring together “in the back of a sketchy store” for a grand total of $25.
How, you ask? Because the square-cut jewel on a silver band was actually made of crystal.
The couple actually switched out the fake ring for an heirloom from Colin’s family on the big day, but they had fun showing off their counterfeit diamond up until then, and Lillie still plans on wearing the fake one when traveling internationally or doing dirty work. And judging by the overall positive reaction in the comments on her confession post, plenty of other brides are more than happy to consider getting a fake ring, for keeps, for their own engagements.
7. Lie When You Book
Can’t stand the fact that the price for everything from flowers to photographers is jacked up the instant you say “wedding”? Neither can some brides who’ve decided to carefully omit the fact that they’re getting married when booking vendors for their big days.
By fibbing and saying they’re booking for a “big party,” these brides may save on things like hairdos and vendors decor, but they run the risk of the vendors finding out the real reason their services are required — and reneging on the deals. You could make the argument that lying by omission is taking frugality a step too far; we all want to save a buck, but is hoodwinking a professional, whose livelihood comes from his bookings, really the best way to do it?
Another potentially shady suggestion from Money Crashers: Save on your professional makeup by saying you’re a bridesmaid instead of the bride. Sometimes salons charge twice as much to make up brides as they do their entourages.
Your Turn: What do you think of these savings strategies? Would you ever consider adopting any of them for your own wedding?
Kelly Gurnett is a freelance blogger, writer and editor who runs the blog Cordelia Calls It Quits, where she documents her attempts to rid her life of the things that don’t matter and focus more on the things that do. Follow her on Twitter @CordeliaCallsIt.