‘I do’… not want to spend a fortune: Planning an affordable wedding

Plenty of space for party tents, with a gorgeous, natural backdrop of the Koolau Mountains!

It’s way too easy to spend a lot on a wedding. There are plenty of ways that the industry has shaped people’s expectations and offers every type of service and product to help you celebrate. But before the wedding planning ball starts rolling too fast, try to figure out what you want most for your ceremony.  Write down a few sentences about how you want to feel, and what you value most about your ceremony and reception.

I want to get married close to home so it’s an easy drive for relatives. I want beautiful natural views in the autumn. I want a private, all-inclusive space so I can feel like royalty.

When my fiance and I started talking about getting married just about a year ago, we actually planned the honeymoon first. Since we live in Hawaii, yet have close family members scattered across many regions of the US as well as a few countries in Europe, we thought that visiting them during our honeymoon made a lot of sense. We shaped our trip around the ‘honeymoon’ part (a visit to Cape Town and wildlife safari in South Africa) and numerous stops in Minnesota, Texas, and the Pacific Northwest to see relatives.

In order to be able to afford our elaborate trip, we wanted to save money on our actual ceremony and reception here in Hawaii. Most hotels and venues offer packages in the tens of thousands of dollars, but we thought: why stay inside a ballroom when Hawaii offers so much natural beauty?

Check state parks, county parks, and other natural areas as potential venues. Since my fiance’s coworker was registered to perform weddings in the state of Hawaii, he offered to marry us for free, at a city park near Waikiki. Our parents attended, and our friends took some beautiful photos of us all (again, for free).

As for our reception, we rented a large outdoor tent from a local business and had the event catered for around 100 people. Total cost? $400 for the tent, $2,500 for the food and drinks. We set up a permit for a space at a beautiful county park on the windward side of Oahu, with plenty of parking spots for everyone. The permit was free. Our friend baked us a selection of cakes as her wedding present to us, and everyone raved about the delicious desserts she brought.  Do you know anyone with a large yard, garden, or home that might be willing to host a party? We asked my friend who has a lovely yard next to a stream if she could host us, but she said that her boyfriend had thought their own wedding could be held there at some point in the future and preferred not to host. Ask around, and maybe you’ll get lucky!

So we made the conscious choice to go for free venues and arranged for friends to help us, and that enabled us to put our money toward our month-long honeymoon. If you and your soon-to-be-spouse are on the same page about what your priorities are, then do your best to stick to your guns to ensure your wedding is what you envisioned.




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