With the average wedding costing just over $30,000 these days, brides are often looking for crafty ways to cut down on their budget wherever possible. Many vendors know they can upcharge for their services, and brides can easily get taken if they aren’t savvy spenders. Did you know more than 45% of couples go over their planned budget?
Sure, many people can easily spend upwards of $50,000 on their big day, but it’s seriously a waste of money if you are able to get creative and think outside of the box a bit. Remember: this is just one day of your life and you don’t want to start out your marriage in financial ruin because you decided you needed to have peonies, a grand ballroom at the Ritz, and a horse-drawn carriage.
37 Ways to Trim Thousands off Your Wedding Budget
Maison Meredith Photography
I’ve compiled a list of 37 ways to save money on your nuptials; you don’t have to use every tip, but utilizing even just 5 or 10 of these ideas could save you thousands on your big day!
1. Keep your guest list small.
With catering costs at about $68 a person, the difference between inviting 120 or 150 guests can cost you a couple thousand dollars. If there are any unfamiliar business associates of your parents, long-lost relatives whom you haven’t seen in 20 years, or anyone else that you wouldn’t truly miss on your big day, they probably won’t be offended if they don’t receive an invite. I have a few friends who have not extended an invitation to me for their nuptials, but I can’t say I’ve been upset over it, because I know how pricey occasions like these can be.
2. Don’t break the bank on your dress.
It’s a myth that a gorgeous gown has to cost a small fortune. You’d be pleasantly surprised by some of the beautiful, affordable designs on the market today, and the Wedding Shoppe actually offers a good variety of designs in the $500-$1000 price point. Some of my favorite designers in this range are Mon Cheri Bridals, Alfred Angelo, and Blu by Mori Lee.
3. Shop sample sales.
You can save thousands of dollars on gorgeous designer dresses by shopping the out-of-season floor samples. My older sister was able to score her designer bridal dress for a seriously great deal at a sample sale, and it suited her perfectly. Call up your local dress shop to find out if they have any sample sales coming up. Be sure to research ahead of time and know exactly what silhouette, fabric, and designer you are interested in, since you’ll need to make your decision quickly on these sale days.
4. Don’t buy two bridal dresses.
Many brides are now buying two designs for their ceremony and reception, however this can be a significantly large added cost for most women. Instead of purchasing two separate dresses and totally blowing your budget, try shopping for a cocktail length or tea-length dress, then add a full skirt over it. Many designers like Tara Keely even offer convertible dresses, which provides the wearer with two looks in one dress.
5. Host your event on a Friday or Sunday.
By skipping Saturday receptions, you can automatically trim thousands off your venue rental. Try throwing your celebration on Memorial Day weekend or another 3-day weekend; this way, you can host a Sunday ceremony and people still have the next day off of work!
6. Skip the seated dinner.
One of the most expensive aspects of your big day will be catering. A great option for casual daytime receptions is passed hors d’oeuvres with a generously appointed appetizer station. You can also offer cocktails and a cake cutting ceremony, too. You’ll easily save thousands on a plated dinner and your guests will enjoy all of the delicious nibbles.
Erin Johnson Photography
7. Find a venue that is flexible with your vendor and catering options.
When choosing your venue, be sure to find out if they allow outside vendors to operate on their premises. Venues with fixed vendor lists essentially offer a monopoly to the bride, not giving you any flexibility in terms of price or menu options. If you can choose your own photographers, caterers, etc., it will be easier to customize everything to your taste and budgetary needs, and you may even be able to bring in your own alcohol and bartender, saving you even more money.
8. Get creative with your cake and desserts.
As we all know, wedding cakes are insanely overpriced. One of my favorite tricks that I’ve seen friends do at their receptions is to order a small one or two tiered cake for the bride and groom to cut into, then have a large sheet cake in the back, which can be cut and served to guests. Nobody will ever know your smart secret, and everyone will still get a delicious slice of cake! Many couples are even foregoing the cake altogether and opting for a dessert station equipped with tasty macarons, cupcakes, cookies, and other sweet treats. Often homemade!
Brian Bossany Photography Bellagala Photography
9. Keep tasting crowds small.
Most people don’t realize it, but many caterers will charge per-person for food tastings. Instead of inviting your parents and attendants along, enjoy this occasion with just your fiancé and you’ll save some money in the process by keeping the crowd small, too!
10. Opt for a digital photography package.
Many professional photographers will charge an arm and a leg for prints, bound books, and framed photos. Ask for your photographer to just provide you with a digital package of edited photos. You’ll save hundreds (sometimes thousands) off of the photographer’s prints, and you can use one of many online services to make your perfect, personalized book at a fraction of the cost.
11. Skip the professional hair and makeup.
If Kate Middleton can do her own bridal makeup, you can too!
Okay, this tip is really only for those who are actually adept at cosmetology.
For my best friend’s marriage, she went to a few makeup trials, but was unhappy with the results each time. The makeup was too heavy and she didn’t feel like herself, so I volunteered to do her hair and makeup. I knew her taste and I know a thing or two about styling, so I felt comfortable enough doing this. I gave her a simple curled updo, which looked gorgeous with her veil. For her makeup products, we went to the cosmetic counters at our favorite department store and picked out the perfect products for the occasion, and she was able to keep all of the makeup after, too! Once again, only do this if you are comfortable applying makeup and styling hair; otherwise, this is definitely something worth paying a bit extra for.
Erin Johnson Photography
12. Have a daytime ceremony and reception.
You can honestly save thousands if you like the idea of a brunch or afternoon tea reception. Event spaces will charge less for use of their space in the daytime, and catering will be significantly less expensive, too. You can also get away with just serving mimosas and save on the open bar.
13. Make your own bands.
Not only is this idea adorable, it is extremely creative and makes for a memorable experience, too. There are many studios across the country that offer couples the opportunity to create their own wedding bands by hand. You’ll save money on your jewelry too, as many engagement ring stores upcharge their inventory by ludicrous amounts.
14. Hold your ceremony and reception at the same venue.
If you only have to pay for one venue, that’s a pretty easy way to save! Not only will it cost less, but your guests won’t have to worry about hauling themselves across town to get from one place to the next. This will save on transportation costs for everyone, and will take away stress from your celebration, too.
Cassie Rosch Photography
15. Skip the open bar.
Okay, before you start freaking out, I’m not suggesting you offer a cash bar or no liquor at all. A great option that many couples are opting for is to provide wine, beer, and one or two specialty cocktails. This can save you a good chunk of change, and your guests will still have access to tasty libations during your party. See if your venue allows you to bring your own liquor in, and shop for all of your supplies at a discount liquor store.
16. Block off a set of hotel rooms for a discounted bulk rate.
Hotel costs can be truly prohibitive for some, but most hotels will offer group discounts if you block off a set of rooms for your party. You can include this information on your official wedding website, so guests can call the hotel and book a room under your group rate.
17. Use your creative friends for DIY projects!
Yes, DIY can be stressful if you decide to take on a bunch of projects on your own, but if you enlist your trusty Bridesmaids, friends, and family to help, making some decorations from scratch can be a fun activity and will save you some serious dough, too.
18. Hit up your local wholesale flower market or farmer’s market.
Your DIY-savvy group definitely comes in handy on this one, too. If you are on a serious budget but don’t want to give up having beautiful flowers, you could opt to do your own arrangements. Be warned, though: this is a time-consuming and stressful operation if you are ill-prepared for this or if you don’t allocate proper time for this, but if you can get all of your Bridesmaids together right before your nuptials to do a floral assembly line, you could save hundreds of dollars by purchasing your flowers directly from a wholesale flower market.
Erin Johnson Photography
19. Book an off-season date.
If you are flexible with dates, consider having a late autumn or winter ceremony. Venues will generally have more openings and may be willing to come down on their prices if demand is low.
Janelle Elise Photography
20. Don’t pay for a full-service coordinator.
Most of the time, all you will need is a day-of coordinator. If you have people in your life who are hyper-organized and committed to making your day perfect, it’s definitely possible to get by without one, but having someone looking over all of your details on your big day will take a lot of stress off of you and will allow you to enjoy your special celebration.
21. Look into free or low-cost venues.
Looking for an affordable or free place to host your celebration? While it’s difficult to find, it’s not impossible. State parks are great options for outdoor enthusiasts, and provide gorgeous backdrops for photos, too. Or you could call on a friend or family member with a large house to host your reception at. Be sure to keep in mind linens and furniture rentals will be an added cost if you go this route, so you’ll want to compare the added costs of vendors decorating a place from scratch vs. a full-service venue.
22. Get creative with wedding favors for guests.
Favors can quickly become expensive, especially if you are hosting a large celebration. Most people don’t expect a favor, but if you are insistent on providing your guests with a small token, try to budget no more than $3 per person. Some great, economical options are a self-serve candy bar area, or a code to a digital download with the couple’s favorite tunes.
Cassie Rosch Photography
23. Utilize your friends and family who offer creative services.
Do you have a cousin who is an aspiring photographer? Maybe he’d like to take photos of your big day at a reasonable cost! Is your best friend a graphic designer? Hello, personalized invites! Maybe your circle of friends has a band, seamstress, baker, singer, officiant, or other creative genius. Not only will your loved ones be thrilled to provide services to you, they’ll likely be willing to give you a lower price than other professionals. They’ll appreciate the business and will be honored to take part in your big day, and your money will be supporting a creative freelancer!
24. Ask your vendors for any freebies.
If you are paying thousands of dollars for flowers, ask if your florist is willing to include the groom’s boutonniere for free. Or perhaps your venue will include an extra hour of set-up time in the beginning. The more you are spending, the more bargaining power you generally have.
25. Choose a venue with included amenities.
Look for event spaces that provide linens, chairs, tables, and wait staff. This will help you save money on small add-ons and will take the stress out of your day.
26. Choose a buffet style dinner instead of plated dinner.
Buffets are a great route to go, as food costs are generally lower with buffets. Be sure to have a catering person manning the stations and serving people their food, as portions can easily get out of control with people serving themselves.
Brian Bossany Photography
27. Re-sell your items afterwards.
If you spent a small fortune on decorations or your dress, much of this can be re-sold online to other brides looking for a deal. As long as you aren’t attached to these items, it’s a great way to make back a bit of money after your big day.
28. Skip the engagement party and day-after brunch.
With so many events from the engagement party, bachelor party, bachelorette party, bridal shower, rehearsal dinner, and morning-after brunch, it’s easy to see how things can get to be so expensive! Try to skip the unnecessary events; by eliminating the engagement party and morning-after brunch, you’ll easily save yourself a few thousand dollars in catering and event space costs.
29. Save on postage and paper.
While many people still like to send invitations via snail mail, you can save a bit of money by issuing your save-the-dates by email. You can also save a small fortune by foregoing paper RSVPs and have your guests RSVP through your wedding website.
30. Simplify your décor.
One of the most beautiful and effective decorative elements is candles. Luckily, these can be bought for reasonable prices in bulk and will add a romantic and intimate feeling to your event. You don’t need grandiose statements or swinging chandeliers to make an impact – just decorate with beautiful flowers and lots of candles—you could even string some bistro lights on the ceiling, which can be purchased for reasonable prices.
Ali Kvidt Photography
31. Look into renting an estate or villa.
I’ve always loved the idea of renting a large villa for a few nights and letting my close friends and family stay in the house before and after the celebration. The amount you would spend on a venue for a few hours would likely be the same as renting a large house for a few days, and you’d have time to set up and decorate just as you like (plus, you’d save on hotel costs!) Just be sure to check with the owners of the home that you are able to host a celebration there, otherwise it may cause some issues if you don’t communicate with them ahead of time.
32. Hire music students to play processional music.
Contact your local university’s classical music department and see if they could recommend their favorite music students to provide processional music for your big day. They’ll cost a fraction of professional musicians, but they will be thrilled for the performance opportunity and many university music students are extremely talented and capable musicians already!
Tandem Tree Photography
33. Take your honeymoon a few months afterwards.
Many couples are choosing to wait a bit before taking a costly 7-day honeymoon trip across the world. Rent out a local hotel suite for a night or two and pop a bottle of champagne to celebrate in the meantime. You’ll thank yourself that you waited a while, and you’ll feel less guilty about splurging on your honeymoon if you are a bit more financially stable.
34. Choose a DJ over a live band.
On average, DJs cost less than half what a live band will charge you. Find someone who is willing to play music that is suited to your taste, and don’t feel bad if you want to forbid the chicken dance or YMCA from the playlist.
Amanda Marie Studio
35. Keep your bridal party small.
These days, it is customary to give your Bridesmaids and groomsmen a small gift to show appreciation for their participation. If you have 10 Bridesmaids and 10 groomsmen, you’ll be purchasing 20 gifts for your attendants! Try to only include your very best friends in the party (who will still be in your life in 5-10 years?) and you can opt for homemade gifts. I’ve helped knit wool scarves for Bridesmaid gifts before, and it was a heartfelt and appreciated token.
Eileen K Photography
36. Skip some of the unnecessary pre-wedding pampering.
While a manicure and pedicure may be important services to feel groomed and pretty, you probably don’t need a massage right before your ceremony (keep that for the honeymoon!) Try to eliminate any extra grooming services that aren’t required, as salon treatments can add up very quickly.
37. Remember your Bridesmaids’ budgets, too!
Did you know that participating in a friend’s nuptials as a Bridesmaid costs up to $1,700 or more? From hosting the bridal shower and throwing the bachelorette party, to purchasing a Bridesmaid dress, accessories, hotel costs, beauty services, and more, it is expensive to be a Bridesmaid! Be sure to provide your ladies with fun, affordable, and versatile choices for their gowns. They’ll be sure to appreciate your consideration of their budgets.
Some of my favorite designers at the Wedding Shoppe for budget-conscious but fashionable styles are Kennedy Blue, Bill Levkoff, and Allure.
There are so many other ways to save big – just remember to shop around, explore your options, and never feel pressured into making a big purchase without being sure of your decision!