Amy Dacyczyn allowed her creative juices to flow when it came to frugal living. She began a newsletter, called The Tightwad Gazette, in 1990 and ran it until late December 1996. Her name became synonymous with frugality, cheap living, and being a tightwad, and her books have lived on (and probably will continue to do so well into the next century).
So, what does this frugal guru have to say about that most expensive of life events: the wedding?
To find the answer to this, I poured through three of her books, The Tightwad Gazette, The Tightwad Gazette II, and The Tightwad Gazette III to see if she could shed some light on saving money on weddings.
Potluck Receptions are Okay
Dacyczyn had her head on her shoulders when it came to weddings. She writes, “Weddings are one of the few experiences I feel justify financial investment. The objective is not to spend as little as possible or enough to impress royalty. Rather it is to spend enough to satisfy your reasonable expectations while not going into debt.”
She is well aware of the tackiness-factor many people have attributed to potluck weddings. But, this didn’t stop her from having her own potluck reception. She writes, “Before you gasp at this “tacky” suggestion let me make a case. Budget-catered meals tend to be very poor. Even the better ones offer only two predictable choices and rarely justify the cost.”
Dacyczyn suggests that you can play up the look of potluck dishes by serving them on elegant platters (borrowed, of course). To keep everyone from brining the same dish (and hopefully not tuna casserole), you can include a line on the wedding invitation where the guests can indicate what they will bring in lieu of a gift. You can also include a blank space next to “I will call for a suggestion”, and provide your phone number.
Contribution Wedding Gifts are a Great Idea
Dacyczyn talks about how weddings nowadays are much different from what they used to be. There are lots of people getting married at older ages, or getting married a second or third time, and so gifts of toasters and other household accessories that they likely already own are not appropriate. This is why she suggests holding a contribution wedding gift. Some examples she’s seen are a friend donating the use of a vintage 1920s Packard to transport her Uncle for his wedding as his gift, or friends playing music at the wedding and reception instead of purchasing a food processor.
Find Rings at a Pawn Shop
Instead of buying brand new jewelry, Dacyczyn suggests window shopping at jewelers to get an idea of what you want, and then looking at pawn shops to actually make your purchase. She points out that new rings quickly lose their shine and get a beautiful patina anyway, so you might as well buy used. Heirloom engagement rings are another great option.
If You Want to Go All Out, You Should get a Bridal Consultant
In the end, if you do want to spend lots of money on a first-class wedding, Dacyczyn suggests that you also spend money on a bridal consultant. She writes, “because [a bridal consultant] works regularly with suppliers she can steer you to the best values. You will very likely receive equal services for less than you can find on your own, making her services essentially free.” The fee is typically a percentage of your overall budget, such as 15%.
Consider the Date You Marry On
Most of us know that if you get married on a weekend, or off-season, you will save a lot of money. In fact, that’s what my husband and I did. We got married in April in PA, had beautiful weather, and shaved $2,000 off the cost. But did you ever consider getting married on a day most consider unlucky? Dacyczyn talks about getting married on Friday the 13th. Apparently she’s had readers do this and save lots of money because other brides did not want to be associated to the bad luck.
Finally, Dacyczyn is not shy about telling people to barter with businesses for what they need for their wedding. You could barter non-professional services (if you have a personal relationship with the business owner) such as babysitting or housecleaning, or you may be able to do part of the work yourself to decrease the cost. However, she is adamant that the bride and groom hold up their end of the bargain. She says, “If a business person has a positive experience he will barter with others in the future.”