These days, we're all watching our bank accounts and making sure we spend our hard-earned money wisely. So with the average American wedding costing nearly $30,000, most of us have put dreams of a fantasy wedding on the back burner. Meet Tavon Ferguson, a 25-year-old woman who managed to pull off her nuptials—complete with a fly gown and gorgeous reception—for $6,000. ESSENCE.com spoke to the graduate student to get the scoop on how to not become a bridezilla, using the Internet to find free labor, and what really counts most when tying the knot.
ESSENCE.COM: Congratulations, newlywed! So, were you one of those little girls who started planning her wedding at 12?
TAVON FERGUSON: I really didn't even think I was going to get married until I met my husband. It wasn't until we started dating that those dreams actually came about. I had ideas of things I wanted to do, but I hadn't been to a lot of weddings so I was very open to the things that I wanted to have for my own.
ESSENCE.COM: So spill the beans, because women want to know-how did you pull this off?
FERGUSON: (Laughs.) I live every part of my life with the motto: I'd rather have more for less. So, whether it's shopping for clothes or the house or even tuition for school, I follow this and the wedding just became an extension of that motto. I was able to get my photographer and deejay for free. I found the photographer, another graduate student, on Craigslist.com. He was trying to get his name out as a wedding photographer. Our engagement and wedding pictures were free. The deejay was the boyfriend of a friend and he was also trying to get into weddings. A lot of people don't realize that most vendors will work for free when they're just starting out as long as they're able to reference you. A friend of mine is a makeup artist and she did my makeup for free that day as my wedding present. One of my husband's friends is a caterer and he hosted our rehearsal dinner for free as well.
ESSENCE.COM: Amazing! What other ways did you save money to jump the broom?
FERGUSON: I purchased my wedding gown from Craigslist.com. I got a $650 David's Bridal dress for $200 with the tags still attached! I was able to purchase 100 invitations from Party City for $30. I hosted a party with dinner and drinks one night and had my bridal party help me assemble them. I got my flowers from Costco and rented a cake for my pictures but served sheet cake to my guests at the reception. We held the ceremony and the reception in the same place and everything: the food, linen, drinks, chair covers, the cake-cutting fee, wait staff was all $5,500. Everything else was only $500. And I even saved on our honeymoon. It was $1500 for the entire trip; eight days and seven nights at an all-inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic. Our airfare was included. [Editor's note: The honeymoon costs are not included in the $6,000.]
ESSENCE.COM: Very impressive, but it seems like it was a lot of work. How did you avoid becoming a bridezilla to your friends and family?
FERGUSON: It is a blessing for people to agree to be in your wedding. I didn't think that it was a privilege for my friends to participate. I didn't want my bridesmaids to spend $200 on a dress that they would never wear again. Knowing that people may not have a lot of money, I went out of my way to find a dress they would all like. I knew I had succeeded when one of my bridesmaids asked if she could wear her dress before the actual ceremony. They were from Delias.com on sale and I got free shipping. I also purchased their bridemaid's gifts, sterling silver engraved bracelets, for $8 from Weddingchannelstore.com.
ESSENCE.COM: What do you have to say to brides who still think they need a year's salary to plan their own dream wedding?
FERGUSON: I think the biggest thing is that your wedding should be more about you and your husband and not about the price tag of the things you think you have to have. If you focus more on it being the perfect day for you and your husband, you will have a lot less stress. You won't compare yourself to your friend that just got married or Star Jones or some other celebrity. That way you're able to add and subtract and create a wedding that is really your own. The type of wedding where people leave and say, "Wow, those two really love each other." Concentrate on making it about you and your husband.