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Budget Savvy Wedding: Bargain Becky


For as long as I can remember, my family has referred to me as “Bargain Becky”.  There is little that I buy without a coupon, a clearance tag, or from the confines of a dollar store.  My August 2009 wedding was no different.  In fact, my maid-of-honor based her speech around my frugal habits- it was sweet and perfect!  My husband and I had a vision of a classy, personal affair, where the corners that we cut were cut inconspicuously.  Here is how it came together…


1. The Engagement Ring          Price: Undisclosed  :o)

While dating long-distance, my (then boyfriend) husband, Tim, came to visit for a long weekend during my first few weeks in my new city.  We took an autumn drive and happened upon a cute little antique shop in the middle of nowhere.  We decided to go in and check it out.  Somehow, we ended up at the ring counter.  Mind you, we had talked quite a bit (okay, a lot) about getting married, but never had ventured into the ring-shopping phase.  But once we approached the counter… There. It. Was.  A beautiful, modest ring that I knew had my name written all over it.  Tim insisted I try it on.  I, of course, insisted that I didn’t.  (We had both just started new jobs and were b-r-o-k-e!)  Finally, I gave in, and giddily tried it on.  I loved it, but knew that we just couldn’t afford it right now.  I took the ring off, gave it back to the saleswoman, and left the store with butterflies in my stomach.

Fast forward one year and two months.  That’s right, fourteen months later, Tim proposed with the ring that we knew was ours from the beginning.  I, of course, was shocked.  In fact, the first thing I said when I saw it was something along the lines of, “Where the hell did you find it?”  Well, my wonderful  husband went back to that very antique shop the day he left from that visit so many months before.   We had even been back to that very antique shop many times after, “Just to see what they have.”   (Little did I know, there was a very good reason as to why the ring was never seen there again.  After many perusals at not-as-nice-as-the-one-from-the-antique-shop rings, the beautiful antique was back on my finger.

The bottom line: Consider going antique.  Savings can yield 50% or more.  My 1930s platinum ring cost Tim well under the going rate for new metals and stones.  (Yes, I do know the price- I peeked when we first found it!)  Also, antique is another way to go green and/or avoid conflict diamonds.   Plus, I love imagining the story of the bride (brides?) who wore it years before. 



2.  Ceremony Site/Officiant          Price: $250

We chose to get married at beautiful Hendricks Chapel at Syracuse University.  Because I am an alum of the university, I was eligible to get married there for a fee of only $150!  (Alums are given first priority for booking, and non-alums pay a much higher fee.)  It was perfect: inexpensive, yet still held deep meaning for the both of us. 

Our priest asked for a fee of only $100.


3.  Reception                     Price: $3500 (including tax and gratuity)

We chose to have our 70-person reception in a small town away from the city, which actually happened to be Tim’s hometown.  Although it was a 35-minute drive from our ceremony site, we knew that the food was wonderful and that the facilities were gorgeous.  At Arena’s Eis House in Mexico, New York, our guests had the option of chicken with smoked gouda, prime rib au jus, or salmon with dill hollandaise.  Open bar was included for a grand total of $30 per plate.  Yup, thirty-five.  Any facility that was in the Syracuse metro area was upwards of $60 per plate.   Add in some bacon-wrapped scallops here and some coconut shrimp there, and we had a price we just couldn’t pass up.


4.  Stationary                     $149.12

Save the Dates

I don’t have Photoshop, so I did my best to manipulate Microsoft Office programs into what I needed.  I designed the Save the Dates in PowerPoint and e-mailed them to  We had 4x6 prints made at 12 cents a pop.  Add 42 cents postage (at the time!) and each STD cost 54 cents.  We had envelopes on hand, and we sent out 45 Save the Dates for a total of $24.30.



These were the most costly of our stationary items, but by doing them ourselves we still saved a bundle.  I had been eyeing a particular print-your-own kit for quite some time, and I scooped it up when I found it on clearance at Wal-Mart for only $12!  The kit included 50 5x8 invitations with envelopes, as well as  response cards with envelopes.  My uncle, a retired artist, painted the beautiful flower for us to use.  I scanned it into the computer and put everything together in PowerPoint, which I find allows me to manipulate words and images much better than Word or Publisher. 

I used print-your-own postcards ($7, Wal-Mart) for the reception cards and the directions/homemade maps.  (See the map tutorial I used here:  Dollar Store business cards for, you guessed it, $1 were what we used for the for the hotel cards.  The reception cards and hotels cards were made using Microsoft Publisher, directions in Word, and the map was made using PowerPoint.

Lucky for us, our invitations and all of their components still only cost us a 44 cent stamp!  Score!  

Here is the invitation price breakdown:

Invitation kit       $12.00

Postcards            $ 7.00

Business cards   $ 1.00

Postage*             $45.88

Total:                     $65.88

*includes invitation postage and response card postage for 45 invitations

invitation & map:




I designed our programs using Microsoft Word.  We incorporated another flower design from my uncle.  Programs were produced using a tri-fold print-your-own kit that was only $10 for 50 programs.  We were expecting between 70 and 80 guests, so I bought 2 and used a 40% coupon for one of them.  The blue band around the center was scrapbook paper that I already had on hand.  Total: $16.



Thank You Notes

Our wonderful photographer ( e-mailed us this awesome shot from our wedding day.  I added the “Thank You” in PowerPoint and we e-mailed our image to  A box of 12 note cards cost $11.86 and we ordered 4 boxes for a total of $47.44.  Postage for 45 thank you notes brought us to $67.24.



5. Cake          $316

I had been admiring wedding cupcakes for a quite while, maybe even before we were engaged.  We were pleasantly surprised when we found them to be much more cost-effective.  Again, we went outside of the city for this vendor, and each cupcake was only $2.  The icing on the cake: the cupcakes had filling!  We chose three combinations: carrot with cream cheese filling, mint chocolate with chocolate mousse filling, and lemon with raspberry filling.  All flavors had butter cream frosting in three different shades of blue.  Each blue coordinated to one of the fillings, and I whipped up a key in PowerPoint so that our guests could easily identify their flavor of choice.   (I framed it in a frame we already owned.)  We chose to have a small 6-inch cake on top of our cupcake tower.  It remains in our freezer, waiting to be devoured on our first anniversary.  The cost of 100 cupcakes (we wanted extras for leftovers), the small cake, renting the tower, and the delivery fee came to $316.




6. Transportation             $450

Transportation was the detail that I was avoiding. The thought of the logistics and the price stressed me out to no end.  I was ready to turn full responsibility over to my husband when we stumbled upon a fantastic opportunity.

One of the local churches in the area, Liverpool First United Methodist Church, had recently purchased a small bus that they use for church functions.   A family friend mentioned that they had been able to “rent” the bus for her son’s wedding.  We decided to call and get the details.  First of all, the bus was not yellow!  It was a white, beautiful, 14 passenger coach bus.  (Very classy, as far as busses go!)  The church did not charge a rental fee, but asked instead for a donation.  They provided us with a licensed, insured driver (one of the members of the church).  Henk, our fabulous chauffeur for the night, picked up the bridal party, brought us to the ceremony, took us to our reception 35 miles away, STAYED for the reception, and returned us all safely to our hotel at the end of the night.  We asked around to see what other people had offered as a donation.  In the end, we donated $350 to the church and tipped Henk $100.  We easily saved hundreds over what a standard limousine company would charge.  Don’t be afraid to look around for non-traditional alternatives!  It certainly paid off for us.



7.  Rings               $1030              

Because of the age of my engagement ring, we knew that finding the perfect match without breaking the bank would be quite a challenge.  After searching many, many, (many!) jewelry stores, we decided that going custom would be our best bet.  Originally, we thought the word “custom” equaled dollar signs, but we found that going the custom route actually afforded us much more flexibility with design, materials, and ultimately, price.

We worked with our brilliant jeweler, Tom of Lennon’s Jewelers, to come up with a design that matched my engagement ring to a T.  The biggest factor influencing price: metal choice.  My e-ring is platinum, but we decided to go with a palladium wedding band.  Throughout the process, we learned that palladium is much less expensive than platinum, but it still has very similar qualities to its more pricey counterpart.  Platinum and palladium are very close in color and density, and also age similarly over time.  White gold, however, would yellow next to my platinum e-ring.  The best part?  My band only set us back $880, compared to a platinum band which would have been well into the thousands. 

Here is what Tom came up with, next to my 1930s e-ring.  It looks like they were made for each other, eh? 

Tim found his ring easily.  While perusing the shops in Alexandria Bay, New York we stumbled upon his band in a small jewelry store.  It was just what he wanted: palladium with a bit of milgrain around the edges to coordinate with mine.  The store was asking $600.  I wanted to wrap it up; Tim wanted to shop around.  After some extensive research, Tim found the exact same ring at  for $150.  The price also included free sizing.  (FREE!)  It pays to do your research!

photo: Vanessa Finch



8.  Flowers          $500

Does your local grocery store have a floral department?  If your answer was yes, then chances are that they can do flowers.  Our family had been using Price Chopper for all of our floral needs for years, and our wedding was no exception.  We decided to use all white, in-season, inexpensive flowers in all of our arrangements.  I had no particular flower preference- just white and cheap.  I knew they would look great all bundled up in my bouquet. 


For only $500, this is what we got…

1 bridal bouquet

5 bridesmaid bouquets

1 groom boutonniere

8 groomsmen/father/grandfather boutonnieres

6 mother/grandmother/reader corsages

2 BEAUTIFUL arrangements for the altar… which never made it to the altar.  We left them on the bus.  Oops.  I am sure they looked lovely next to our cooler of champagne.


Things we decided to go without…

A tossing bouquet: Although we did do a bouquet toss at our reception, I planned on using my own bouquet.  (“What am I going to do with it after the wedding?”)  As it turns out, I loved my bouquet too much to part with it, but one of my generous bridesmaids (apparently a non-sentimental one) offered hers up for the toss. 


Carnation pomanders for the pews: At 50 bucks a pop, we decided that our guests would not care whether or not the pews were decorated.  Our ceremony site was already beautiful on its own, which is probably why no one noticed the bare, flowerless altar.

 Photo: Vanessa Finch


9.  Bridal Style                              $892

My dress

I’ll admit that I splurged on my dress, but I justified it with all of the money we were not spending in other areas of our wedding.  After all, I wanted to look good.  My dress still came in at $820, shoes were $60 (dyed blue to match the bridesmaid dresses) and my purse was $12.  I decided skimp in other areas, instead. 


Bridal Make Up

 I used to work at a department store, and I knew Sharon from Clinique.  I had bought products from her before, and I had my make up trial done when a store was having a makeover promotion going on anyway.  With the exception of the eye shadow I bought (for everyday use), this trial was completely free!  Make up on my wedding day worked the same way.  I made an appointment for a free “makeover” and bought myself some lip gloss for touch ups and later use.  Although I offered, Sharon refused to take any money from me.  I thanked her later with a healthy Dunkin’ Donuts gift card.


Hair/Bridesmaid Make Up

 Katie, one of my bridesmaids, did everyone’s hair and the girls’ make up.  She’s not a pro, but let’s just say she has a lot of experience when it comes to hair and makeup.  She took care of us for every important occasion in college, and I knew I could trust her for the big day. 

I wanted to look like myself, and 95% of the time I wear my hair down, so that’s what we did.  Katie “volumized” my curls and I was ready to go.

Another savings tip: Go veil-less.

Girls’ dresses

I know David’s Bridal sometimes gets a bad rap, but they were the perfect option for girls of different shapes, sizes, price points, and zip codes.  All 5 bought cocktail length dresses in the same color and material.  Style was up to them.  They each paid anywhere from $80 to $150, and they all looked stunning.  And maybe- just maybe- they can wear them again?  (A girl can hope, right?)



10.  Groom Style                         Free           

Free groom’s tux with  4 or more groomsmen rentals.  ‘Nuff said.



11. Reception Décor                  $70.88


Table Numbers

I knew I wanted to keep the reception décor simple, chique, and cheap.  I found a fabric that I loved at JoAnn’s, and immediately bought enough to make 14 12-inch squares for the centers of our tables.  Fabric cost: $28.  Our 14 blue glass candles holders were $1 each (from the Dollar Store), and the votive candles were only $5 at Wal-Mart.  I made our table numbers in PowerPoint and e-mailed them to Wal-Mart.  (12 cents apiece x 24 pictures = $2.88)  The numbers were propped up in pre-beveled wood blocks from A.C. Moore that I spray painted silver.  We sawed a groove down the middle for the pictures to slide into.  (25 cents apiece x 12 pictures = $3.00)  Total table décor: $52.88

 (See the table number behind the flowers?)

Guest Book

We opted not to do the traditional guest book and instead used “guest plates”.  We found two gorgeous plates at the local Syracuse China tent sale.  Each plate cost us 3 bucks, and 2 ceramic pens from A.C. Moore cost us $5.  Our guests signed our plates throughout the night, and we popped them in the oven to seal the ink.  Now we have a charming wedding keepsake that we can admire (or even eat off of) each day.   Guest plates total: $11


Place cards

I bought blank place cards at Staples for $7.  The pack had 60, which was more than enough because I was making one place card per couple.  I printed them at home, labeled food choices with scrapbook paper I had on hand (another color-coded detailed), and mounted them to a bulletin board I already owned.   Total: $7



12.  Favors and Finishing Touches                            $120

These final details were definitely items that we could have done without, but I loved them too much to scratch an opportunity for another craft project!


Water Bottles

Our ceremony site was not air conditioned, and I was afraid a heat wave would settle into upstate New York on our wedding day.  I decided to make custom water bottles, just in case.  We bought half pint bottles from BJs ($24) and printed the labels on “photo business card labels” that I found at the Dollar Store.  (80 labels for $1.)  I designed the labels in Microsoft Publisher.  Notice the blue paisley?  I scanned our centerpiece fabric into the computer and used it for some of the finishing touches of our reception.  You’ll see more in a bit.  Total water bottle cost: $25


Tic Tacs

These were once a front-runner for the favor, but when my dad said they were a bit tacky, I decided not to use them.  (I obviously did not understand his humor at the time…)  Later, I went ahead and made them anyway because I loved them.  I designed the labels in Microsoft Publisher and printed them on more Dollar Store “photo business card labels”.  I cut them to size and stuck them on.  BJ’s had 24 packs for $12.  We bought three and once again used a pack of photo business card labels. Not so tacky anymore, eh?  Tic Tac total: $37

 "Mint to Be..."


Sparklers and Matches

These became our “official” favors and included a note of thanks to our guests.  I found the sparklers online at ($45 for 244 sparklers), bought the matches at Wal-Mart ($8), covered them in photo business card labels ($1), printed the note on business cards ($1), wrapped them in cellophane candy bags (Free, had them at home) and tied them with pretty blue ribbon ($2 at Wal-Mart).  Were they necessary?  No, but I can’t wait to see them in the video.  Sparkler total: $57

 The match boxes said "Perfect Match" along with our date...


Compact Mirrors

My mom ordered cute compact mirrors for my shower.  Well, they arrived the Monday AFTER the shower, so she gave them to me to put in the Ladies’ Room during the reception.  I used my favorite paisley pattern and photo business card labels to treat our female guests.  Cost to me: $1  (Thanks, Mom!)


Drink Umbrellas

This was a project I discovered only one week before our wedding, and I stayed up all night on my last Saturday as a single woman to complete them.  They were from, and they were adorable.  I already had the scrapbook paper and skewers, so this project was completely free!


 Our total thus far was $7278.  With a final tally of just about $10,000, we were able to add in a few splurges (i.e. photographer and videographer), a little printer ink, and lots of love for a fabulous budget savvy wedding. 

After all the, the memories are free.  :o)

Last Updated: August 4, 2013 at 1:08 am
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