Bridezilla’s Latest Frugal Wedding Ideas

My sister has her first job as an RN lined up (woohoo – exactly the job she wanted, in the hospital she found herself drooling over!), but it doesn’t start for another 6-7 weeks. In other words, she can spend that much time doing what she really ought to be doing: getting the wedding details completely sorted out. When discussing how her costs compare to that of the “average”, I’ll be using CostofWedding statistics from where we grew up in NJ (upper-middle suburbs) rather than Aspen, since their numbers are pretty wacky thanks to its popularity amongst the rich and ridiculous. I mean famous.

CEREMONY & RECEPTION DECOR:  This weekend, she’ll be buying seedlings and half-barrell planters with the intention of growing some of her own flowers for the wedding – not for the bouquets, but for reception decor. It’s an outdoor wedding and she loves wildflowers. Her original plan was to go out and pick them nearby, but realized that might be an unnecessary stress on the Big Day. Smart girl, she’s listening to our mom. Her fiance has a garage workshop with a glass-cutter, and they plan to cut wine bottles and put big white pillar candles in them.
Average cost of flowers for reception & ceremony decor (not including bouquets, corsages, etc):  $1400-$2200
Anticipated grow-your-own costs (seedlings, planters, food, candles, but NOT the wine, hah!):  $300

WEDDING PLANNER:  She’s not really doing the whole Wedding Planner thing, but a friend of our other sister has offered to help with contacts and hopefully some troubleshooting at the event if any is needed. In return, she’s giving the woman some free personal training. She doesn’t really need a whole planner, just someone to keep her on point.
Average cost of a wedding planner for “Getting Started” + “On-the-day Coordination”:  $1800-$3100
Actual cost to bride:  ZILCH – maybe $200 worth of personal training on the barter system

PHOTOGRAPHY:  Neither of them want video, so it’s all about the pictures. Bridezilla is very photogenic, and the groom doesn’t care much about the pictures. She found someone in Denver I think, whose candid shots she just loved. The woman does it as a sideline and is seriously underpricing herself. My sister actually had to say “plus expenses, right?”
Average cost of photography for Rehearsal + Wedding:  $2100-$3500
Actual cost:  $700 + expenses (expecting  $400-ish)

WEDDING DRESS:  She fell in love with a Paloma Blanca gown that retailed for $1700, and then found it on eBay as an unworn bridal salon sample for $500. Apparently 4 months after she tried it on, the designer came out with a new line. We are all under strict orders not to mention the eBay thing.
Average cost of wedding dress:  $1200-2100
Actual cost of her designer gown:  $500 + removal of stupid fabric flower

ENGAGEMENT RING:  She was offered a budget of $10K to buy a ring, and really liked one that was going for about $8K. Then her final semester of nursing school started, and she shoved ring shopping onto the back burner for a few months. That would be the same few months that saw the demise of Lehman and the emergency bailouts of AIG, Citibank, Merrill Lynch, etc. In that time, the price of platinum dropped to be on a par with gold, so her procrastination saved her fiance $2K. According to an investment banker I had on my table recently who likes to put her money in precious metals, my sister’s ring has appreciated 20-30% based on the setting alone. Average cost:  $4400-$7400
Actual cost:  $5900

BAND AT RECEPTION:  She considers this one of the areas worth splurging on, since her fiance loves to dance. He’s not good at it, but that doesn’t stop him. I’m looking forward to spectating upon this – he’s 6’5″. Could be hazardous!
Average cost of reception band:  $1700-2800
Actual cost:  $1500 or $1800, I forget – will update when I find out

CEREMONY & RECEPTION VENUES:  She really really really wanted an outdoor venue for everything, which tends to make things significantly cheaper. They will probably rent a tent, but have not organized that yet. My family used to own a massive two-masted pink-and-white striped beast with matching cooking tent, but alas, it was auctioned off when they sold off the stunning estate my grandfather bought for a song in the 1950s. Sigh. Anyway, in exploring her options, a friend offered up her boyfriend’s Christmas tree farm/ranch an hour outside Aspen. She took our mom to see the place in January, and it got the nod of maternal approval. It’s free, but will involve hiring coach transportation for everyone because (a) parking is minimal, and (b) the ranch owner wants a commitment to absolutely no chance of drunk-driving.
Average cost of ceremony + reception venues:  $5900-$9800 (are you kidding me??)
Actual cost:  ZILCH + tent rental + coach

TABLES & SILVERWARE:  Bridezilla is acknowledging defeat on being able to bring down the cost of renting chairs and dishes, but she’s well-connected with the local restaurant industry, and some of them are closed around the time of the wedding because it’s the Off Season for Aspen. She’s thinking of talking them into letting her use all the silverware and maybe a few of the tables.
Average cost for “Reception Rentals” (tent, tables, chairs, etc): $2800-$4700.
I’ll bet she swings it for less than $1500 not including the tent (we consider that venue-related).

OFFICIATOR:  Since the legal joining of their lives happens in a municipal office with pen and paper, they figure this doesn’t matter. Therefore, they’re having the person who introduced them do the honors.
Average cost of Friend/Family Officiator:  $180-$320
Actual cost: A gift, guessing a $100 value

By my calculations, she has saved about $8300 so far, based on the low end of the average range. And that’s only the beginning – she’s not interested in having a lot of the fanfare involved in most American weddings – no ring bearers/flower girls, groom probably won’t wear a tux, she thinks favors are stupid, and she’s doing a fairly simple invitation with postcards RSVP. It’s interesting to see what she thinks is worth shelling out for and what isn’t – tells you a lot about a couple.


12 Responses

  1. It sounds awesome! Is there a honeymoon? (I just realized how odd that word sounds!)

    • We suggested a pre-wedding honeymoon because she’ll have been in her job only 7-8 weeks, but she was just diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. She’s very outdoorsy and wants to find a way to manage it before going on a honeymoon – it’ll likely involve something like hiking Patagonia or cycling New Zealand. She anticipates arranging a long weekend somewhere nice, like Lake Tahoe.

  2. Our splurging was on food, and photography. All of the flowers, cake, and favors (homemade and canned pickles and jam) we’re making ourselves.

  3. I’m sure there’s an origin for it, but she actually seems oddly not-Bridezilla in the financial aspect of her wedding planning. I like the creativity they’ve got going on! [Plus the nice timing-discount on the ring. Also very nice.]

  4. Oh, BTW, was she just diagnosed w/RA because she’s displaying a lot of symptoms? I’m always curious about fellow RA experiences.

    • She started displyaing symptoms a year ago, but in the past month it had become unbearable – up all night crying in pain. And she’s got a ridiculously high pain threshold! She described it as feeling like she was going to break, took hours to be able to move in the morning. She called me on her drive from Idaho to Colorado to google her doctor’s phone number so she could make an appt asap. In the past 10 days she’s had 2 doctor’s appts, 1 set of labs, 2 acupuncture sessions, an Rx for Celebrex, and 2 visits with an alt medicine guy (naturopath, I think – but reminds me a lot of my British osteopath by description). She starts her first nursing job in 6 weeks and wants this under control by then.

  5. I am so definitely interested in what people find important or not

    For me, food is #1 in weddings. If the food sucks or is cheap, you might as well have cancelled all the decor just to serve GOOD food

    I’ve gone to so many bad weddings with bad or overcooked food.. and it was in supposedly good places! pshaw.

  6. Ooof. Sometimes alternating cold/heat treatments will help control the pain a little, depending on where she’s hurting.

  7. Hi Kate,

    I’m sorry to leave an off-topic comment here, but I could not find an email address for you. Over at Pants In a Can (, you recently left a comment about your BoA credit line being cut.

    I’m a reporter at Money magazine and was wondering if you could share your anecdote in a story I’m doing. If you’re interested, can you please email me at ***** or call 212-***-**** by Monday?

    Thanks so much!

  8. Wow, $6k for a ring? I feel a lot better now. Ours only cost $900 (me) and $1000 (hubby). (I said if I was tagged as taken, he had to be too!) Then our actual wedding rings cost about $100 for me and $130 for him.

    Oh, talking about silverware and such… If she can’t borrow it for free/cheap…. We got ours at Sam’s Club. Nice, serviceable stuff. (And we used MyPoints for it all!) It was $3.22 for 24 metal forks. The same for spoons. Can’t remember what the knives were.

    Then she can just sell the silverware on eBay or Craigslist.

    Oh and we got perfectly nice white tablecloths at Kmart. I happened to find a special the day before Thanksgiving. Every size was $3. So we spent about $70 after tax. And I sold them after for $50 or 60. Can’t remember. Anyway, I think the normal prices are only another buck or two.

    Can’t help with plates. We lucked out and found some clearanced glass plates at Bed, Bath & Beyond. We got then for 49 cents each! (They were sent to the store incorrectly. Later that summer, we went back and they were selling the plates officially this time, so we REALLY lucked out!)

    But the glasses we got at Ikea pretty cheaply. I think for 80 glasses we paid about $40-60. Except everyone just decided to use the cans and such. So we were able to return them.

    I guess I’ll have to do a wedding post after all… I keep putting it off. We had a good time. Everyone enjoyed it.

  9. […] thinks it’s unfair of me to call my sister “Bridezilla”(!), thought my post on some of the unusual things she’s doing for her wedding were worth a larger audience. Thanks, MSN! And welcome to everyone who has clicked through for a […]

  10. Thats a nice wedding planning.i’ll b wedding in three months time and i need tips from u on how 2 plan the wedding.Pls kindly send it 2 my box.

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