Finally! You’re getting married, and you have a wedding to plan. It’s your wedding. These are exciting times, but there’s also the elephant in the room. A big one. It’s best to tackle him at the outset to avoid heartaches later. That elephant is – budgets. How do you plan a wedding on a small budget?
In the context of weddings in India, families often end up in debt. Parents begin saving right from the birth of a child – not just for the education but also for the marriage. The amounts people spend for a few days of extravagance can be downright obscene. But while Big Fat Indian Weddings are still a norm, more and more socially conscious couples are shunning this path. These are young couples, just starting out in life with new jobs and looking to plan their wedding on a budget, using their own money.
When my wife and I got married back in 2001, we were on that boat. We were determined to spend our own money on our wedding as a matter of choice. Having just started out in our careers, we knew we would have our wedding on a small budget. And that’s what we did.
Today, in 2018, the budgets have sky-rocketed and planning a wedding can give anyone nightmares. But it doesn’t have to be. Once you understand the critical budget heads in a wedding, it is quite simple to plan a beautiful wedding on a much smaller budget.
Here are our top tips to plan a wedding on a budget
1. Choose an off-season wedding date
When setting your wedding date, consider an off-season time of year for your area. Venues offer great deals in the off-season. And not just venues, but almost every wedding vendor will provide off-season discounts.
For instance, in tourist destinations in India like Goa, Kerala and Jaipur, the prices for wedding venues and almost every other vendor can shoot through the roof during peak season. Weddings in Goa peak from October to mid-March. Consider a wedding in June, July or August, and you can get fabulous deals.
June to September is the time of the south-west monsoons in India and places like Goa and Kerala receive heavy rains during this period. So be prepared for showers. But hey, if it rains, consider it as blessings from the Universe and have a rain party! As an added benefit, the beaches are quiet, the landscape is serenely beautiful and green, and your guests will love it.
2. Try a weekday wedding instead of the weekend
If an off-season wedding is not on the cards, consider a wedding on a weekday. Weekends are always in demand. And demand increases the price. By avoiding a weekend date, you could get yourself a deal even in peak season. This is especially true for venues but can also apply to other wedding vendors.
3. Choose an offbeat venue
A popular venue has two drawbacks. It can get hackneyed for your guests, and it can be highly priced. So why go with the crowd? Pick an off-beat venue like a park, your favourite restaurant, a nature resort or even a temple or church.
Restaurants are happy to host parties and will close their doors for regular guests. The added advantage is having the venue also do the catering. This can reduce costs as the venue could come free.
Try to get a venue that provides tables and chairs along with the linen. This will take a chunk off the table (pun intended) from your budget expenditure.
A park or nature resort is also a good option for a memorable wedding, while also being within budget. There are many venues in Goa and other destination wedding venues in India, where you can go against the flow and opt for a unique venue for your budget wedding. The key is to look around.
Another advantage with offbeat quaint venues is you can cut down on the décor as in most cases you could use the ambience as your natural backdrop and keep décor minimal.
4. How about a morning wedding and reception?
With the date settled, now we tackle another key cost in wedding décor: lighting. Not only do you need good lighting, but you also need to factor in costs for a standby generator. Venues generally insist on this to avoid a bad reputation in case of a power failure during the reception. All of this adds to the costs. So, when planning a wedding on a budget, how about eliminating this unnecessary cost by having a day wedding?
In 2001, my wife and I chose a morning wedding and hosted our reception in a garden. Not only did we not need lights and standby generators, but it also made for better pictures with daylight and greenery all around.
5. Rent your wedding dress/suit
Wedding attire can be a significant strain on the budget. Wedding dresses and suits don’t come cheap. But consider this: your dress is rarely (if ever) worn again. Isn’t this obscene?
One option is renting your wedding attire. Many stores now offer rental services. If not, consider using your mother’s wedding dress or saree or even a sibling’s or cousin’s hand-me-down. There’s absolutely no shame in that. You are a conscientious citizen, the garment industry is the second largest polluting industry after oil, and you value slow fashion. Your action can make a big statement.
6. Or buy off-the-rack instead of designer
In case renting your wedding dress or suit is not an option – perhaps there are no rental services in your area – then purchase attire off-the-rack instead of going to a designer label. You can get something at a fraction of the cost. You don’t get to say Mr So-and-So designed your dress, but then, do you really care for such superficial fluff? You understand a wedding is just a day and so also a wedding dress.
A better option is to buy attire you can use after your wedding. This makes for so much more sense than splurging on attire that you wear for just one day.
7. Hire a DJ or an off-beat live band
Entertainment at your wedding sangeet or reception is a vital element of the fun at Indian weddings. But you don’t need to think of your wedding as a music concert. What you want is good music you and your guests can enjoy and dance to. By hiring a DJ or even a small live band – not the kind that performs at concerts and shows, you can ensure your guests have a good time while also keeping within your wedding budget.
Go over a suggested music selection with your DJ, let him know the average age and demographics of your audience and he can come prepared for everyone to have a good time.
8. Consider a few tasty dishes on the menu
All too often food goes waste at Indian weddings. It’s usually because couples (and their families) tend to over-cater – an “I had more dishes at my wedding than you” syndrome. But you are a conscientious couple. You don’t want to go down that road. Get your caterer to give you a small but excellent buffet. Your guests will thank you for it.
Or keep your budget in check and time your wedding reception over tea or snacks instead of lunch or dinner. Offer your guests some exquisite pastries, and they’ll remember it for a long time after.
9. Design and print your own wedding cards
It is surprising how the costs of wedding invitations have risen over the years. Today, it’s considered normal to receive a wedding invitation that’s as thick as a little book, not just on paper but also etched on wood or metal. Then there are invitations with designer perfumes and other paraphernalia.
Bring the wedding budget in check. Design your own card. There is plenty of software that you can use to design your own wedding invitation cards. Some online printers also offer free templates you can use. Add your own words or a poem that holds meaning to the two of you.
Once you are done, how about sending out the invitations as e-cards over WhatsApp or email? Most of your guests are online anyway. And for those old aunts, uncles and grandparents not online, print a few using a digital printing service and save a ton of money.
10. Do your own makeup (if you do it daily)
You do your own makeup every single day. Why do you need to spend a small fortune on a make-up artist at your wedding? In case you don’t trust yourself, call a friend – perhaps your bridesmaid. It would be so meaningful, instead of a beautician and all her paraphernalia. Even your wedding images would be that much more intimate.
11. If you love baking (it’s a rage these days) bake your own cake
Wedding cakes have risen from one to two tiers to towering monsters. But how about getting your girls together for a bake party as part of your pre-wedding fun and baking your wedding cake? Wouldn’t this be a story for the album?
12. Get your friends and family to help create DIY décor
There’s no end to décor at wedding receptions. Especially for Indian weddings. For a couple looking to plan a wedding on a budget, consider DIY décor. This can be more tasteful than the most opulent setups. Focus on simple table pieces and one or two focal arrangements for the venue. There are tons of ideas on Pinterest. Try stringing prints of your best photos during your dating years or put up a barn ladder adorned with floral arrangements. How about a DIY guest photo booth incorporating simple frames and props?
Remember, your guests are there to have a good time with you. Anything else is meaningless.
13. Hire a bus or van for the whole entourage
Transportation costs can add up to the total wedding budget, one vehicle at a time. Are you going to arrive in a Rolls Royce, BMW or Mercedes coupe? What about the entourage?
As an alternative to the done deal, how about hiring a bus and coming to the ceremony/venue? In Mumbai, you could even consider the red BEST buses. There’s a whole lot you can save, but more importantly, it could be fun along the way.
14. Gifts for groomsmen and bridesmaids
It is a fad today for brides and grooms to offer personal gifts to the entourage. If you are considering this, why not give a hand-made gift that expresses your gratitude towards your friends who are beside you on your Wedding Day? The same holds true for wedding favours (if you really must).
15. Better yet, just eliminate the bridesmaids and groomsmen
Want to save a ton of money and avoid upsetting some in your friend circle? How about eliminating the entourage? With no entourage, there’s no spending on their attire nor gifts nor transport. And what’s more, you avoid upsetting someone because they were not part of your entourage.
That’s what we did at our wedding. Did you know the concept of the entourage came about in an age when the bride and groom needed protection? Do you need protection today? It’s just a fashion from tradition.
16. Keep the guest list in check (an intimate wedding is always a memorable one)
This one’s the key to planning a wedding on a budget. We’ve intentionally kept it last because it’s the trickiest to pull off. But you’ve got to address the thorn in the side. Yes, guests are there to have a good time with you. The key is “with you”. But this is not possible with a mammoth gathering now, is it? The google wedding speech joke “Thank you all for coming. Our wedding wouldn’t be the same without you, but it would be a whole lot cheaper” contains a sugar-coated bitter truth. Bloated wedding guest lists are common in Indian weddings. A wedding in India is for the family, the extended families, the friends, neighbours, colleagues and associates as well as the friends, colleagues and associates of the parents. Not being invited could be construed as an insult.
But more and more young couples are beginning to change this trend and plan intimate weddings with just close family and friends. And parents too are wising up to this. It’s not just to keep the wedding budget in check. By having a small guest list it’s possible to make a wedding more memorable. Planning a wedding on a budget does have advantages beyond financial.
So, there you have it – 16 tips you can use when planning a wedding on a budget in India. But there’s one more bonus tip before we close.
17. BONUS TIP: Don’t hire a wedding photographer
Aether Visual Storytelling has been in the business of wedding photography and films since 2005. We believe wedding images are important from a legacy point of view and not just for sharing beauty shots on social media. After your wedding is over and the guests are back home, the cake is eaten, and the décor is down, your wedding images are all that remain. It’s the images that will inform your children about the start of their parent’s journey together.
You have two choices. Go with wedding photographers with experience. This comes at a price. But you will not regret it.
Or, if you’d rather not spend on a good wedding photographer, its best to not hire a wedding photographer at all. Don’t waste good money on cheap wedding photographers. You’re likely going to receive your images and films after a year or worse.
Instead, hand your guests cheap digital cameras and have them document your wedding from their own perspectives. It could make for some unique photographs. At the end of the wedding, your guests can leave the cameras for you, as they sign your guestbook.
But do remember to put together the images in a printed book. That’s all that will remain from your wedding.
17 tips that will help you plan a wedding on a budget. What do you think? Have any of these tips helped you plan your wedding? Or do you have your own tips to help other couples looking to plan a wedding on a budget? Share it in the comments.
And have a fabulous wedding.