When I got engaged in January, I was collecting a healthy salary as a PR director in the hospitality industry. When I lost my job in March, after the pandemic brought the travel industry to its knees, I found myself left with a champagne wedding plan and a beer budget.
Not yet ready to abandon my ambitious wedding ideas, I found ways to forge ahead with my near-dream nuptials by buying time and maximizing what’s left of our budget. Before you slash your guest list to “two and a few” or sign up for a Zoom wedding, I’m here to tell you, with a few shifts in expectations, it is possible to keep the planning process moving forward despite a rocky outlook on your income.
Here are seven ways to responsibly plan a wedding with no job:
1. Tap Into Family Favors Now
If loved ones who offered to contribute to your wedding are still financially stable enough to chip in, call in those favors now. If the in-laws were covering the rehearsal dinner, see if they’re open to fronting you the cash now since it’s often the heftiest and most time-sensitive elements, such as your venue or caterer, that need to be booked ASAP. The idea is to save your own wedding funds for deposits in the latter half of your timeline after you have (hopefully) reinstated your income.
2. Don’t Rush Your Vendor Interviews
This. Takes. Time. Searching, scheduling, waiting on estimates, circling back with questions, and comparing quotes is a lengthy ordeal. This is especially true if you don’t have a planner vetting vendors for you. Think of this as an advantage when you’re out of a job—the one thing you want to “buy” right now is time because vendors will be vying for a deposit as soon as you make a decision. If you don’t have those funds lined up, you want to linger in this process. In addition to thoroughly weighing our options, we got brilliant hacks on cost-cutting ideas simply by having a lot of these conversations. One planner casually suggested a reputable caterer that we hadn’t found online who quoted us half of what others were proposing!
3. Don’t Shy Away From Out-of-Budget Vendors
As you come to understand who is or isn’t able to work within your budget during consultations, it never hurts to ask if vendors have colleagues in their expertise they can refer. As we interviewed planners, we quickly realized the full-service providers were out of budget, but still walked away with invaluable insights from those we spoke with. “They may not fit within your budget, but so many of the best wedding pros are well-connected and willing to share,” says Allison Davis, Founder and Principal Producer of Davis Row. She advises not talking yourself out of having conversations with wedding pros whose work and brand you admire solely because of budget concerns. “Be forthcoming about what you’re comfortable spending and what your goals are (mentioning how much you love their work certainly doesn’t hurt, either), and you might be surprised by what comes back to you,” Davis shares.
4. Seek Out Enthusiastic Upstarts
Emily Monus of Emily Monus Events recommends seeking mutually beneficial relationships with vendors who are newer to the game. “Everyone needs their start, and sourcing vendors who are beginning their event provider journey can be mutually beneficial,” Monus shares. “You save money while they build their portfolio. Did I mention the enthusiasm factor? These are the vendors that need YOU rather you needing them. I have never been disappointed.”
Everyone needs their start, and sourcing vendors who are beginning their event provider journey can be mutually beneficial.
5. Avoid Tempting All-Inclusive Packages
As we started counting costs per head during our venue search, we were initially tempted to take advantage of all-inclusive packages that appeared to be on-budget per person. However, when we took a closer look, we realized we couldn't stretch our current cash flow to cover those hefty all-in-one deposits. Instead, we’re bundling where it makes sense for us, i.e. leaning toward a venue that has tables and chairs included but no in-house caterer, and we're booking everything else separately to spread more manageable deposits over our timeline.
6. Barter Your Skills
When the time comes to talk numbers, it’s commonplace to negotiate, but during a time where the industry is as strapped for revenue as couples are for cash, a more strategic approach is to tap into your own skillset and think about what services you can exchange that might sweeten the deal. “Are you a wiz with web sites, or can you reach out to your network to add to the vendor's list of contacts?” asks Sage McRae, Founder and Creative Director at Sage McRae Event Design. “If you can help the vendor secure future work beyond your own wedding, you become more than a client—you're part of their marketing team.” And, if you’re not employed full-time right now, putting in a little work for your wedding vendors could really pay off!
7. Go Halfsies
Faith Folayan, Owner and Creative Director at This Love Weddings, suggests sharing florals with a couple in your area getting married the same weekend with a similar design aesthetic. You can use a marketplace such as Bloomerent that touts a 40 to 60 percent savings by matching you with another couple or try asking if your florist is open to this arrangement and might have a couple to match you with.
Be warned though — Folayan advises there is a chance the florals could get damaged if not repurposed correctly. “Enter at your own risk, but with great planning, communication, and collaboration this is an option to consider!”