For most average people, their wedding day is the most expensive day of their life. We’re all budget savvy brides here, so we’re not as lavish as some couples—but still, the $10,000 that’s considered “budget” in this industry is a lot of money. This gives couples a great opportunity to stimulate the economy in ways that are meaningful to us. I don’t know much about economics, but I do understand that if a business doesn’t make money they’ll close down, and so in a sense we’re constantly voting with our money.
Booking vendors and buying things with our values in mind looks different for every person, because everyone’s values are different. Here are just a few of my ideas on how we can vote with our money by Planning a Thoughtful Wedding:
This part definitely isn’t budget friendly, but it is human-friendly. If you opt for diamonds in your jewelry (wedding band, wedding-day jewelry, etc) than I urge you to consider certified conflict free, or Canadian-sourced diamonds. We got our engagement ring through Blue Nile and our wedding rings are made from recycled metals with no diamonds.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, watch Blood Diamond (bonus: Leonardo DiCaprio eye candy). And for a dose of diamond humor, watch this.
This is probably going to be your biggest budget item, and so it’s where you can make the biggest impact. You could choose to set aside a donation for the church where you’re being married. Or support your favorite independent bookstore as an offbeat option. For John and I, we chose to go with a state park. We are big believers in the importance of natural spaces being kept freely open and available to the public. The best part? The 5 cabins, group camp site and beach-front venue for Friday-Sunday was only $1,100. A tiny fraction of what we could have paid to a traditional wedding venue.
This was one of the big-ticket items that John and I wanted to be very intentional with. We’re passionate about the sources our food and supporting local farmers in our everyday lives, so we knew that it was important for us for the wedding. We ended up finding everything we wanted in the café and caterer a mile down the road; she is a founding member of the local farmers market and has access to high quality, local, organic produce. The farther away the food is coming from, the bigger the meal’s carbon footprint is, and when you’re feeding 100 people that can add up. Plus fresh and local is so much tastier than far away and out of season.
When it came time to get a cake, we went for a small family owned bakery down the street from our house. Not only do we love that we’re supporting a local family owned business, it’s less than half the cost of the big & busy city bakery we were first looking at.
Well, it’s someone else money when it comes to gifts, but still. Most engaged couples these days have already been living outside of their parents’ home for many years, and many even live with their partner already. They probably don’t need a colander or a set of silverware, and so registries focused on those “traditional” items are generally more about upgrading or replacing. There are other options! Here are just a few that I found:
I Do Foundation : One of their stated missions is to “Change the culture of the bridal industry so that charity becomes an accepted and expected part of weddings.” Through them you can register for charities (for guests to give) and also give to charities in lieu of disposable favors.
Nearby : for those of us that would prefer unique items from local stores, there’s a registry for that! Instead of registering for a tablecloth potentially mass-produced in a sweatshop, you can register for a tablecloth from a local textile artist.
So Kind Registry : this is the one that John and I went with. It’s a very open-ended registry where you can register for wedding help, charity donations, cooking lessons, or whatever else you can think of. John and I have a lot of creative friends and family, and while I want a family tree album, I would much rather have one made or carefully picked out by a loved one rather than picking one out ourselves and asking for it.
Etsy : support independent artists and get one-of-a-kind items at the same time! $150 to David’s Bridal is hardly noticed. $150 to an artist on Etsy and you’re helping them buy groceries or pay their phone bill. You can find anything here from invitations to sashes to centerpieces.
Tradesy : One of a few different websites where you can find gently used or bought-and-changed-our-minds items for discounted price. Eco-friendly (less waste!), budget-friendly (discounted prices!), and bride-friendly (help a fellow bride make some money back!)
Upcycling : With this one you’re voting with your money by not spending it on things that you already have. There are many free items to be found in your house, on the street, and on Craigslist. Do you really need to buy a card box when you have that cute basket on your shelf? Maybe your neighbor just put a bunch of scrap wood out that you can make wedding signs with? Maybe you’re a wino? Type “wine craft” into Pinterest and you’ll have a ton of different ideas to sift through. Think about your wedding décor and look around your house. You can probably save a lot of money this way.
Thrift Stores and garage sales : Since we got engaged I’ve been collecting similarly-shaped vases from my local charity thrift store. I could have gone to the dollar store and spent the same amount, but by going to the thrift store I’m a.) supporting a company that does good work in my community b.) getting a fun variety c.) getting higher quality than dollar store vases. If you find it at a garage sale you’re helping your neighbor make some extra cash (plus you could probably bargain with them.) I’ve also found an old canvas with a frame that I’m painting our program onto, tons of yarn to make pom poms, yards and yards of tulle, adorable candle holder and more. What aspect of your wedding décor could be found at a thrift store or garage sale?
Weddings have a lot of pieces, and I think if we were extremely values-conscious with every single detail we’d lose our minds and spend more money than we have. But I believe that if we do what we can with what we have, we can make a difference in our communities.
Editor’s note: During this time of quarantine and social distancing, some of the general wedding planning advice we share may not be applicable or possible due to restrictions on events. Please adhere to all current regulations and stay safe and healthy! Learn more here.