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How I Moved Up My Wedding and Saved $17,000

wedding budget diaries

Growing up, many people dream of their perfect wedding. They fantasize over every detail, but probably forget the most important piece to make it a reality (besides a bride and groom). 

Money. 

A wedding is probably the most expensive one-day event you’ll put on in your whole life. Every detail needs to be taken care of and that’ll cost you both money and time. 

But what if I told you that your dream wedding can still be what you want while also saving thousands of dollars? Chances are that you wouldn’t believe me.

Read on to hear my story on how I saved $17,000 on my wedding by actually moving up our wedding date

Some Background on our Engagement and Wedding Story

We got engaged on a walk through a state park near John’s house when we were both sophomores in college after 2.5 years of dating. Fast forward to senior year of college, we were living together near school and working full-time. It was at this point that we started to plan what our future would look like.

We didn’t make the best decision when starting to plan our wedding as we reserved the most extravagant venue that I thought would result in my dream. We didn’t think too much about the cost at first because we knew we’d have help from our parents plus 1.5 years to come up with our contributions to the wedding budget.

While we were excited to have our dream venue reserved, one that was always booked out, wedding planning was causing us a crazy amount of stress. Watching the numbers start adding up with each detail was overwhelming.

That’s when we decided that something drastic needed to happen. We moved up our wedding from September 2017 to July 2016 and changed our venue along with many of the vendors. Many factors went into this decision and it was a hard one to make. Most of all, we just didn’t want this to be how we remembered this special time of our life.


Read this: Learn How to Find Affordable Wedding Venues


3 Values We Prioritized In Our Decision 

Deciding to move up our wedding so drastically was a huge decision, and one we didn’t take lightly because it affected our family and friends too. These are the top values we prioritized when making our decision.

Stress on Our Relationship

Wedding planning is stressful! Sure, there are great wedding planners and resources online that can help. But, the number of details that go into wedding planning was making my head spin.

From venues to music to flowers and more, the list was going on and on. Planning such an extravagant event was taking a toll on our relationship as well as our relationship with our families. And, we weren’t even a year out from the projected date! 

I knew that we couldn’t deal with over a year more of the burden, so we knew that it was time to take a drastic change. The decision confused much of our family and friends, but it was the right decision for us.


If wedding planning is stressing you out, let us help! Join us in our Facebook Group for brides on a budget to get advice, support, and inspiration for your big day! Get Started


Impact on Our Finances

Planning a wedding that is projected to cost $36,000 will put weight on anyone’s shoulders. Sure, we had help from our families, but not that much help!

It was difficult to learn how to budget for a wedding in addition to normal household monthly expenses. Because we wanted to pay for it all in cash rather than taking on more debt, the wedding was set to impact our other financial goals.

We’re very detailed when it comes to our finances, so we put all of our wedding expenses into a Google Sheets budget template. It showed that by putting all of our extra earnings towards the wedding, we wouldn’t be able to make large payments towards student loans, work on increasing our emergency fund or continue saving up for a house.

All of these things were very important to us because we have a FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) mindset. We could see our projected FI date increasing in a FIRE Calculator and it made our stomachs turn.

To us, the financial burden was not worth it. We could not let one day outweigh our existing progress and future.

Time Spent

Another factor that went into our decision was the amount of time spent on wedding planning. We already worked crazy hours while going to school full-time, so every other available moment was going to wedding planning.

The two of us value our time and wanted to be able to focus on other things we enjoyed, maybe even relax a little. We were already living together and knew that we loved each other, so it didn’t make sense to wait another year and three months to say “I do.” So, instead of dragging it on for that long, it made sense to move it up! 


Breaking Down the Budget: Before and After

To give a bit of clarity to the situation, here is a real breakdown of our wedding costs for 65 people before and after moving up the date and changing venues. Please note that we did not have all of the vendors booked from the “before” column when we made our decision, so they are based on quotes and contracts we received. 

In essence, we drastically cut down on the complexity of our day to save time, stress and money.


Before:After
Venue$12,000$10,882.67 Catering Included
Catering$8,325
Officiant$600$550
Music$2,070 (harp, cellist, DJ)$1,170 (DJ)
Photography$3,233$1,113
Videography$1,599$1,299
Flowers$4,000$2,500
Dress, Suits, Alterations (for us & wedding party)$2,500$1,647
Decorations$2,000$300
Invitations & Thank Yous$245.12$245.12
*TOTAL*$36,572.12$19,706.79

As you can see, we had a grand total of $17,000 in savings! That’s crazy! And believe me, these are real numbers. I went through all of my old spreadsheets, notes, and emails to find the breakdowns.

A huge saving in these numbers was accounted for in the venue and catering costs. Our original venue was expensive. They nickel and dime you for everything and require you to use their approved vendors. 

Here are a few other cuts that you can see in the breakdown:

  • Music: we had our DJ play during the ceremony and reception
  • Photography: went through a family friend for the same quality but a steep discount
  • Flowers: going through our own vendor rather than an approved vendor decreased costs
  • Decorations: DIY decor rather than paying for the upcharge of the venue’s decor cost a lot less

Save Money On Your Special Day

One important lesson that I learned through the process of planning our wedding is that money doesn’t buy happiness. I can assure you that on our wedding day, I was not even thinking about the original venue we booked. It turned out gorgeous, even though we cut down on a lot. 

We had help from both of our families, so our contribution was decreased enough that we could still prioritize our financial goals. Some people might say that spending $19,000 on a wedding is not budget-friendly, but we overcame the pressure of expectations to put together something that we look back on with a smile.



How To FIRE Sam Fire

is the co-owner of How To FIRE, a blog that discusses financial independence and early retirement. She uses her BS in Finance and MBA to help others get control of their finances through budgeting, saving, investing, side hustles and travel hacking. Due to following the FIRE Movement’s principles, she was able to quit her high-stress job in the financial services industry in July 2019 to pursue her side hustles full-time. When not working, she enjoys spending time with her dog “Simba” and traveling with her husband, John.