33 Ideas for a Simple Inexpensive Muslim Wedding

If you want a traditional wedding that you have attended of other families and friends, or are caught up in “gotta have that”, “what will my friends or family think,” you will be stuck in an emotional roller coaster. On one side you and your mind want things to be simple and inexpensive, on the other your heart tugs at you and you want it to be elegant and wow everyone. 

Here is the reality. You can have anything (within reason) but not everything. For each decision, you, your spouse, and family need to ask, “Is it nice or necessary?”  Don’t try to impress and you will offload a lot of inbuilt stress. Below are some ideas to get the help you along.

  1. Cut the guest list; again and then again. It is easy for the guest list to bloat. The cost of your wedding is proportional to the size and number of your guests. Of course, there are many other factors discussed below. Cut the extras, the kids, the couple when you only need the one, the nice to have’s, the club buddies, the people who don’t really care or count.
  2. Cut the fancy reception hall or hotel in favor of a nice home or outdoors. The reception as a percentage is for most people the largest hole in the wedding budget. Slash it by having the reception in a spacious family or friends home or outdoors in the garden, park, or another venue.
  3. Cut the catering and do pot luck or have family friends with cooking talent assigned to making certain dishes. You can provide the ingredients or most probably they will be honored to help.
  4. Follow the one-dish rule eg One appetizer, one main dish, one dessert.
  5. If you are using a caterer buffet is cheaper than a formal sit-down meal.
  6. Cut the florist. Have a simple bouquet for the bride.  Raid family or friend’s gardens by cutting roses or other flowers, trimming the thorns, and putting in a few select cases. Go to Ikea for vases, candles, and other accessories.
  7. Borrow or rent the wedding dress. Think about it, is it worth spending lots of zeroes for a few hours. If not what about getting graduation or other dress which can substitute as a wedding dress.
  8. If you are going to buy a wedding dress and accessories, look everywhere beyond wedding dress stores and departments. Look for simple dresses without all the handiwork and details. Look online. Look at the discount stores. Look at sample dresses. If you have good contacts in your parent’s home country, they can have a custom dress made for you at a lower cost.
  9. Do online invites eg Evite or hand design and copy them or use a postcard from sites like Vistaprint.
  10. Be your own DJ, bring a home stereo, iPod/iPhone, and have your favorite nephew or niece have a fun time running the show.
  11. Family and friends do not need to wear matching clothes. It can be business casual or whatever the best clothes each person has. Just a simple coordinating theme eg ties for men or some other accessories for women is all you need. If it’s really important you can rent tuxedos and other dresses.
  12. Cut the makeup, you may gasp. Do your own, or have a friend who knows her stuff do it. Remember less is more. You don’t need a lot to look good.
  13. Cut the fancy jewelry.  Borrow family members or friends. Just one eg pearl necklace or simple pair of earrings is all you need to accentuate your face, body, and dress.
  14. Buy decorations when there are sales going on or through Craigslist or other supplies store. Use candles to accentuate. Put floating candles in a bowl.
  15. Plan a simple, local honeymoon. You don’t have to go anywhere exotic, save that for another time.
  16. Ask a family or friend with good project management and communication skills to be the wedding planner.
  17. Pay attention to detail. It is Ok to take shortcuts but know the terrain well.
  18. Cut the dowry (mahar). By that we don’t mean eliminate it; it is a requirement for the nikah. However, the trend these days is for the bride’s family to set large dowries. The Prophetic way is to make it meaningful but affordable for the groom. Not something he has to save for life or go into debt for.
  19. Similarly in Desi cultures (India/Pakistan etc), the bride’s family has to provide a large dowry to the groom’s side. This can be furniture, a car, and other expensive items. This is a cultural custom that Muslims have adopted from their surroundings. You are giving the greatest gift to your daughter, ditch the bride’s dowry.
  20. Cut the gifts to every family member and at every event eg Engagement, Nikah, Reception, Walimah. Local customs can dictate that each side gives gifts to not only the bride or groom but also to the parents, siblings, uncles, aunts.

    Although giving gifts is a nice gesture, when it becomes expected, it takes the heart and soul away behind the gesture.  Again communicate this upfront, “let’s eliminate the gift exchange,” it keeps life simple.
  21. If you are going with a formal venue for the reception, remember for the meal,  lunch is cheaper than dinner, mid-week is less costly than the weekend. Fridays and Sundays are less costly than Saturdays.
  22. For rings, you can go with simple gold bands. Instead of a diamond ring, you can opt for some other semi-precious stones or crystal.  In Islam gold is not permitted for men. Besides platinum which is very expensive, you can go with tungsten or titanium. You don’t have to broadcast the details, it’s your little secret.
  23. Skip the theme or wedding color and you remove a large constraint on what you can or cannot have at the wedding. Go for the rainbow!
  24. Avoid holiday seasons eg summer when the costs for both venues and travel are the highest. Also, avoid holiday weekends as they are more costly.
  25. Have the nikah and the reception in the same place.
  26. Depending on state and city law, the nikah may be conducted by anyone. Find someone in the community who speaks well eg gives khutbah and lets them officiate and skip the Imam’s fees.
  27. Skip the favors or assemble your own. They don’t need to be fancy. Eg a Date, a Candy-Almond, some M&Ms for color, and maybe a dried fruit piece.
  28. Avoid fancy wedding cake vendors. Check out a local bakery and order a small cake for cutting and get a flat sheet cake to serve the guests.
  29. Ask friends or students at a local film school or photography club to take pictures and videos.
  30. Ask guests to share their photos on your wedding blog, website, or in the cloud.
  31. If you do have a photographer ask for the digital negatives. You can have the prints and photobooks done cheaper yourself through Costco or Shutterfly.
  32. Ditch the limo, and have a family friend who has a nice set of wheels drive you.
  33. A wedding is one day in your life. Don’t get so caught up in it that you or your family go into debt trying to cover it and the expectations of all those around you.