Weddings don't have to mean going into debt
After taking their marriage vows Aug. 30, 2008, at St. Catherine of Siena Church in Ithaca, newlyweds Liz and Brian Quadrozzi climbed aboard a vintage fire truck and rode to nearby Six Mile Creek Vineyard. There they spent the afternoon with their wedding guests, who toasted their marriage before enjoying ice-cream sundaes in the glow of a setting sun.
Later that evening, pairs of guests wandered away from the party to take quiet moonlit strolls under a starry sky, the faint sounds of music and laughter drifting toward them from across a small pond.
The newlyweds are proud of the way their special day turned out, Liz Quadrozzi said, especially since they doubt most of their guests could tell their wedding cost approximately $8,000.
The Quadrozzis have reason to be proud of that figure. These days the average American couple spends approximately $27,800 on their wedding, according to www.theknot.com, the go-to wedding-planning Web site for many brides-to-be.
That figure is probably intimidating for many couples considering marriage, but the Quadrozzis proved that with some careful planning and a little extra work a couple can plan a beautiful wedding that won't plunge them deep into debt. Father Robert Kennedy, pastor at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Rochester, said he encourages such economical yet still beautiful weddings.
"The church expects none of the frills that happen at American weddings. The church is not requiring expensive clothing. The church wants you to be dressed up for your wedding day, but ... you don't have to spend fabulous sums of money," he said.
Father Kennedy often encourages couples to think simply when it comes to flowers, for example. Blessed Sacrament is beautiful already without the addition of elaborate floral displays, he said.
"Many brides and grooms choose just the flowers for the bridal party and a few pew decorations," he said.
Some grooms and groomsmen choose to purchase matching business suits instead of renting tuxedos, and Father Kennedy has attended several receptions held in cabins in local parks and catered by local restaurants. The more relaxed atmosphere doesn't detract from the classiness of these receptions, and if anything helps guests enjoy the receptions more, he said.
"I usually say to couples, 'You have choices. You do not have to succumb to everything the wedding industry says you have to do.' They can have a wonderful time and a classy experience without spending a fabulous amount of money," Father Kennedy said.
The Quadrozzis visited a number of banquet halls when they started planning their wedding but were turned off by the high prices of the halls' packages. Instead they chose Six Mile Creek Winery, which rented them a tent, chairs, lighting and a dance floor in one package and provided an all-wine open bar that was cheaper than the full liquor bars offered at other venues, Liz Quadrozzi said. They were able to split the cost of the tent with another couple celebrating their marriage at the winery the next day.
A local restaurant catered the reception, and the Quadrozzis paid $14 per plate instead of the $35 per plate quoted at banquet halls, she said. The baker at a local P&C grocery store made elaborately decorated cakes with a beach theme for $250, "which is still a lot for a cake but so much cheaper than anything we had seen," Liz Quadrozzi said.
Brian Quadrozzi, a fireman with the Ithaca Fire Department, was able to procure a ride to the reception for himself and his bride on the vintage truck. The rest of the wedding party followed in minivans chauffeured by family members, thus eliminating the need to rent a limousine.
The couple scrapped their original plan to order $40 centerpieces from a florist when the bride-to-be decided to make the centerpieces herself, saving the couple approximately $500. The bouquets and other flowers were relatively inexpensive and all made from flowers that were in season, Liz Quadrozzi said.
When dress shopping, Liz Quadrozzi mentally set a price limit and told herself not to feel pressured to buy anything that day.
"When we went in the shops I didn't want to try on anything that was over $500," she said.
Her strategy paid off, and she wound up purchasing an elegant gown in a discontinued style on sale for less than $200, Liz Quadrozzi said.
With a little bit of effort, the Quadrozzis were able to find bargains even in areas where they were unwilling to cut corners for their wallet's sake. They secured their photographer's $1,800 package for just $900 by booking by the end of 2007, for example.
Throughout the entire planning process the Quadrozzis were careful not to spend more than they could pay off in a reasonable amount of time. By looking at their current savings, income and expenses they estimated how much they'd be able to save by their wedding date and how much they could afford to charge on credit cards. They opened up a bank account strictly for wedding savings and considered that money off limits, even when facing unexpected car troubles.
The couple also kept their focus on what was truly important, Liz Quadrozzi said.
"Our favorite part was the ceremony, and that cost us like $50," she said. "All that other stuff really doesn't matter 50 years from now."