Simplify the Celebration Season
From graduations to weddings, having kids involved in special occasions can be costly. But smart shopping will keep you from breaking the bank.
When my oldest son got married a few summers back, seven of his eight siblings were in the wedding. Needless to say, with five dresses, four suits, and one rehearsal dinner to buy, saving money was on my mind. However, I knew I didn’t want the financial stress to overshadow the joyousness of our occasion. If you find yourself in a similar circumstance as summer approaches, here are some tips for simplifying the season.
The first and best way to reduce the stress of big occasions is to communicate from the very beginning. “The heavy work needs to be done on the front end by asking specific questions about the expectations,” says Joshua Becker (becomingminimalist.com), author of Simplify and Clutterfree with Kids.
While it’s an honor for kids to be included in a wedding, Becker encourages doing the math before accepting the invitation. If finances are a big concern, be bold enough to inquire, and incorporate those expenses into your decision. “The members of the wedding party want to oblige the desires of the bride and groom, of course, but knowing those in advance will make the process smoother and simpler.”
Another way to save both money and sanity during those big events is to ask for help, as chances are good that family or friends would love to help make the occasion special. “You can find quality decorations, food, and photographers among your existing relationships simply by looking to friends who love serving,” says Becker.
Memphis mom Lyssa Zimmerman, agrees. “I am a photographer by trade, so I was happy to offer my services for a recent family wedding,” she says (her photos are featured here). What’s more, when the bride and groom expressed that they were open to having help, friends and family also provided food and decorations. This lowered the family’s stress level down considerably. “It felt good to be part of a very low-key wedding where details were not the main focus,” she says.
“Comparison shopping really does pay,” says Laura Estrada, whose daughters, Sophia (3) and Katie (6), were in a family wedding in Chicago last summer. Instead of paying $40 for two pair of wedding shoes, for instance, Estrada kept hunting, finally paying $12 for both pairs with a store coupon and BOGO sale.
Deborah Mitchell, owner of Summer Kids consignment shop, says looking for gently used items is another way to save. “I often see name-brand dresses in stores at prices that I wouldn’t even pay for my own clothes,” says Mitchell, and savings can often add up to as much as 90 percent. Not only does her store carry formal apparel for as little as $10, but accessories, too. “And we stay competitive with the chains by offering mobile apps for coupons, Friday Facebook specials, and email coupons.”
s the big celebration approaches, keep searching for savings. “When two of my husband’s brothers got married a week apart from each other in another state, you can imagine the stress involved in traveling with four kids during the holidays,” says Zimmerman. However, they booked plane tickets early and went a step further by carrying snacks onboard, thus avoiding costly airport prices.
Be Lavishly Simple
My son and his fiancée quickly settled on a morning wedding and were delighted to find that daytime events are less expensive: an omelet bar costs less than a sit-down dinner; suits for a morning wedding are also much less than for an evening event. And because my husband and I had to have eight kids and ourselves presentable at 10 a.m. the day of the wedding, we opted for a rehearsal lunch instead of a rehearsal dinner the night before, again saving on the menu.
From graduations to weddings, avoiding the stress of overdoing also makes special occasions more enjoyable. “The simplest events are often the happiest,” says Becker, “because they require less money, less stress, and keep the focus on the celebration rather than decorations, accommodations, or food.”
Keep it simple by remembering to be you. “Eliminate early your need to impress people with decorations, gifts, food, or other extravagances,” says Becker. “Just because everyone is doing something a certain way doesn’t mean you have to,” says Becker. Keep it simple by determining what you want your occasion to represent, and then decide what elements need to exist to accomplish that goal.
As Leonardo da Vinci observed, simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
Margie Sims is a writer and mother of 10 who lives in Richmond, VA. She will (very simply) celebrate her son’s graduation from high school in June.