Wedding Ideas

Tips for planning a wedding during a recession

Posted At : March 3, 2009 5:12 PM   |  Posted By : Bridal Network   |  Views: 16,969
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Where to save and where to splurge

He proposed. You said yes. Then the recession hit, and budgeting for your wedding became more important than ever.
You're not alone. This year, brides are increasingly budget-conscious and prioritising your needs and wants will help make your wedding a success!

Where to save


Shop around with decorators and décor rental companies and get the best price possible. Rent as much as possible so that you're not stuck with piles of decorations you're not likely to find a use for again.

Don't go all out, the less you spend the better. People are not going to know if you spent $5 on a centerpiece or if you spent $50 on a centerpiece. The next day you are stuck with all these things you are probably never going to use again. Yes, this is your big day and you want to make it perfect, but I think marrying your sweetheart is perfect. People see that, not how much you spent to make this day happen
~ Jodi Baker, who married in Lloydminster, Alberta in 2008.

Raid your home, office and the homes of friends and families for wedding-worthy décor - who says every centerpiece has to be the same? Use a common color or theme to unite different pieces and your wedding will be even more unique, beautiful and memorable.

Be creative! A little craftiness and some elbow grease will go a long way.

Explore your options. You can spend as little as $5.00 or as much as $100.00. Real flowers are nice, but all are thrown away at the end of the night. Don't kid yourself by thinking someone is going to take the centerpieces home! Talk to your decorator about fake ones. A good decorator should have some nice options
~ Kaylie Franklin, an event planner and decorator from Marwayne, Alberta.


No one is going to hold it against you if you have a toonie bar instead of a loonie bar or open bar. You can also forego having an open wine bottle on every table and simply announce that wine is available at the bar. Not everyone is a wine drinker, and many of those open bottles would have gone to waste.

When it comes to having the bar, don't do an open bar because you end up paying for the wasted alcohol. Try either them paying for their own drinks or a toonie bar. It will save you in the end
~ Angela Doolittle, who was married in Bonnyville, Alberta in September 2008.

Editor's note: also read this article and this article

Multi-purpose vendors

Many wedding vendors do double-duty when it comes to weddings. For example, Kaylie Franklin's company, Happily Ever After, offers wedding planning, wedding consulting, decorating and décor rental services. My own company, Jennifer Jacula Photography, also offers custom invitations.

Take it out of town

If you live in a city that's surrounded by smaller towns nearby, simply by moving the reception outside of the city, you can save big bucks. For example, you can rent Vermilion's brand-new Regional Centre for the whole weekend (Friday set up to 2:00 Sunday) for just $800. You'd be hard-pressed to find such a nice facility inside city limits for less!


Leave the limo behind and have your best man drive you around in the coolest vehicle you can borrow, be it a friend's dad's hummer or someone's antique cadillac. They'll be happy to lend you a ride for the most important day of your life; they'll probably be honored that you asked.


Be environmentally friendly and budget conscience by foregoing RSVP cards. On your invitations, include your RSVP information and ask that people call or e-mail you with their reply. You'll save on the cost of the RSVP cards, envelopes and the additional stamps.

When looking for invitations, don't be afraid to ask what you can do for less - tell your designer your budget and see what they can do with it. I recently quoted a couple just over $1,000 for invitations. With a format and paper change, and by ditching the RSVP cards, I was able to create awesome custom invitations for under $350.


Skip the hot appetizers during cocktail hour. Instead of two kinds of meat, offer one that almost everyone is sure to enjoy. Have one less salad. Offer only two dessert choices instead of three.

I think we probably could have spent less on the food, but where we had our reception (the Provincial Museum) required that we use one of two caterers, and there was no oven on site - so a lot of the food had to be prepared ahead
~ Lindsay Whittaker, who got married in Edmonton in 2008.


Everyone loves the look of an amazing wedding cake, but is it really worth the cost? Having a small, beautifully decorated cake for you to cut, but serving guests portions of a sheet cake or cute cupcakes, will save you some moolah.

Editor's note: or, try a fake cake for display and sheet cake for the guests


What does anyone really do with all the favors they get at weddings? Make a donation to your favorite charity and place a card on each table stating that in lieu of favors, you've made a donation. If you want to make it more personal and you have a seating plan, you can make donations to a charity that is meaningful to each guest and leave a hand-written card at each place setting. Some ideas: your local SPCA, MADD, 4-H club, church, missionaries, women's shelter, foreign aid, or donate to a local group for a specific project they're working on.

Rehearsal dinner

Instead of getting it catered or eating out, have a hot dog roast and s'mores! Everyone will have more fun, and it's less work and almost zero clean up involved.

Evening reception

Have an early evening wedding followed immediately by the dance and a light meal at midnight. You'll spend hundreds instead of thousands on food.

It is a really big trend now to not have a full meal. Incorporate cocktail tables into your decor and lose some of the larger tables. Not everyone sits at the wedding and if they want to have the option of more seating, consider putting a few stacks of chairs in the coat room. This will also cut down on your centerpieces on each table, said Franklin.

Bridesmaids dresses

Even if they're paying for their own dresses, a budget-friendly option that they'll REALLY wear again would be appreciated by your ladies in waiting. Skip the bridesmaid section completely and go shopping for the perfect little black cocktail dress. Make it match your wedding colors by adding a sash or simply by choosing flowers that match your colors.

If you're going with the usual bridesmaid dresses, consider donating them afterwards to an organization like The Princess Shop, so they can by recycled as grad dresses for girls who otherwise couldn't afford a beautiful dress.

Disposable cameras on each table

By the time you factor in developing, these little puppies end up costing you $10 each. Multiply that by 20 or more tables and your money would be better spent on an extra hour or two of professional coverage by your photographer.

Everyone these days has a digital camera. If you still want to see those candid photos from your wedding, bring your laptop and invest in a multi-card reader (about $30) and ask guests to stop by the laptop station to let you download their cards before they leave (enlist a teenager to help you with this!), or leave cards on each table asking guests to e-mail them to you.

Don't be afraid to ask

Asking for a discount from your wedding vendors might not get you money off your final bill, but plenty of vendors will throw in a little something extra to secure your business - after all, they're feeling the recession, too.

Where to splurge

Fresh flowers

There simply is no substitute for the beauty and elegance of fresh flowers in your bouquets. Scrimp where you can by choosing flowers that are in season, but fresh flowers are a must for every wedding.

Never go with fake for your bouquets! They may look good walking down the aisle but come picture time you will be able to tell! said Franklin.


let's face it. The food is eaten. The invitations are thrown away. The tux goes back to the rental company. The dress gets cleaned and put in the back of your closet. Photographs are the only thing you will have left to remind you of your wedding day (besides your husband, of course!), so they should be your biggest priority. Get the best photographer you can afford and budget enough to get a gorgeous album afterwards. Whatever you think you'd like to spend on photography for your day, double it and that's what you should be looking to spend.

This is one thing I always tell my brides to spend money on! At the end of the day you will have this! I got married seven years ago and regret never putting the money out. Contact your photographer to see what they have that will fit with your budget, said Franklin.

Editor's Note: the author of this story is a professional weddding photographer :-)

Wedding planner

Having a wedding planner can actually save you money in the long run - they already have contacts within the wedding industry and they know where to find everything you're looking for. A good wedding planner will help you create, and stick to, your budget


Don't forget to factor in what your time is worth. If you get paid by the hour and planning your wedding is taking you away from work, paying someone else to do the legwork for you might end up being cheaper in the long run - especially if they can do it more efficiently than you ever could.


Many brides enlist their family and friends to decorate and tear down decorations before and after the wedding, but that time could be better spent elsewhere - and it will be one less thing you have to do on your wedding weekend.

While I was really happy to have kept within the budget we set for ourselves, I wish I could have spent more money on the decorating, etc. This is purely due to the fact that my very amazingly decorated wedding was solely on the backs of those I love. My mom, aunts and friends did an amazing job - but I would have loved to provide them with some help, said Whittaker.


A good DJ can get the party going and keep it going, while a bad one will be a major downer for a wedding. Not having a professional DJ can be a downright disaster.

"We really regret not hiring one," said Stefanie Taylor, who got married in Campbell River, BC in December 2008. Taylor used a laptop with a play list and a borrowed sound system, but guests messed around with the play list and almost damaged their friend's sound equipment, which could have meant a very expensive apology to their friend.

Sitting down together early in the planning process to prioritize what is important to you as a couple will help ease the stress of planning a wedding and minimize arguments.

Know what's most important to you and your groom. I found that even though we scrimped on some of the things that day, the things I most wanted to be important that day - flowers, venue and my dress, looked fabulous, said Whittaker.

Happy planning!

Jennifer Jacula is a freelance writer and wedding and portrait photographer from east central Alberta. You can visit her website at

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