Everywhere You Can Cut Costs While Planning Your Wedding
Even with the national average cost of a wedding riding high at $33,931, we're here to tell you there's no reason to go into debt over wedding details. Focus on the elements most special to you (like having a completely personalized unity ceremony or serving a completely organic menu), and remember what the day is really about: your marriage. Here are some straightforward ways to trim your wedding budget without feeling like anything's missing at the celebration.
1. Guest List
The easiest way to cut costs is to trim your guest list. As hard as it is to veto potential guests, even a few subtractions from the list will help you save on everything from ceremony chair rentals to food. For example, if you invite 100 guests instead of the original 150, and your wedding comes to $100 per person for food and drink, cutting your list by 50 people will save you $5,000. Pretty big difference, right?
2. Wedding Style
The less formal the party, the more affordable it will be. Instead of a full, sit-down dinner, opt for a brunch reception or more laid-back barbecue-style meal. Choose a venue with a low-key vibe, like a beach, which lends itself perfectly to a simpler, more relaxed celebration with fewer bells and whistles.
Choose one fabulous element and keep the rest of your wedding invitations simple. Remember, top-quality paper, fancy typography techniques and custom-colored inks increase the price, as do decorative envelope linings and multiple enclosures. Use response postcards or DIY your save-the-dates. To keep postage costs down (which may look small, but can really add up), stay away from oversize or overweight styles.
4. The Dress
Have your heart set on couture? You'll be surprised how much you can save by choosing a less expensive fabric or a style with fewer embellishments (like hand-beaded crystals). And don't underestimate the power of a good trunk show. If you're in love with a certain designer, see if any nearby bridal salons that sell their designs are having a trunk show. Check out more ways to save on your wedding dress here.
Wear basic black, nondesigner tuxes or suits. Encourage everyone in your wedding party to rent formalwear from the same place—you might get a group discount, and often that means the groom's tux comes free. If your wedding is semiformal or casual, a nice suit you already own will work perfectly.
Choose a town car over a limousine—it looks just as sleek and will get you from A to B. If you really want the limo, don't stretch it: Stick with an average-size car, and have only one for the to-be-weds. Leave out the amenities and have the wedding party carpool, take cabs and/or Ubers, or pile into regular town cars.
A simple solution for blooms is to swap expensive varieties for less expensive ones—your florist can be super helpful pointing you in the right direction. For example, if you exchange Black Magic roses for more reasonably priced deeply colored dahlias in all your bouquets and table arrangements, you'll save at least a few dollars per stem—even little substitutions add up and can save you big time. Beyond that, always use locally sourced, in-season stems when you can. Your florist should be able to recommend other easy ways to save so don't be shy about asking questions. Read here for more tips on how to save on wedding flowers.
Exchange vows in a naturally beautiful place. Pick a public park, flower garden or an already ornate house of worship so you don't have to spend a dime on decorations. Another great option is to hold your ceremony and reception in one spot—it will cut travel time and moving time for any vendors you're paying by the hour.
9. Reception Site
Skip the at-home wedding. You may think you'll be saving money by getting married in your backyard, but that's not always the case. Between tents, chairs, flatware, linens, catering and portable bathrooms (and that's just skimming the surface), at-home weddings are often more costly than those at a reception venue already equipped with everything you need, like a hotel or golf club.
Reduce the number of overall dinner courses. Two or three delicious courses is far less expensive, and arguably even better, than seven pretty good courses—quality over quantity is the name of the game here. Keep your menu simple by sticking with the specialties of the season and region. And if your venue allows, buy your own alcohol. Have the caterers bring out the fancy Dom Perignon for the toast, but then switch to a more budget-friendly prosecco or sparkling wine for the rest of the night—get all the celebratory fizz at a fraction of the cost.
Order a one- or two-tier cake with the exact design you want, then have several sheet cakes of the same flavor cut for your guests in the kitchen. Stay away from tiers, handmade sugar flowers and special molded shapes. Have your caterer decorate each plate with a flavored sauce, instead. Forego fondant if you can—buttercream frosting is tastier and less expensive.
12. Reception Music
If you're going with a live band, keep the ensemble small. If their equipment is modern and up to date, a small combo band shouldn't sound as small as it is. Or have the band do double-duty, playing at your ceremony and reception. Alternatively, opt for a DJ. The best DJs and bands are in highest demand on Saturday nights, so try Friday or Sunday for a slightly discounted rate. (A Friday or Sunday celebration will usually reduce other vendor and venue costs as well.)
Consider filming only the ceremony or reception, and nix complicated editing and special effects. (But you'll want at least minimal editing done, otherwise you'll end up with four to eight hours of video, some of which isn't so interesting.) Whatever you do, don't skip videography altogether—you'll regret it. Consider this: Wouldn't you love to watch your grandparents' wedding video? You'll thank yourselves for hiring a videographer for years to come.
Hire your photographer for the ceremony plus a limited number of hours at the reception. Keep prints simple, and as with videography, stay away from special treatments like sepia tones, multiple exposures and split frames, which up the bill. Select your photography package carefully—some include parents' albums, an engagement photo session and a second shooter, but many don't, which means you may pay an additional fee later.
15. Wedding Rings
Your wedding rings are special, so if you want to make an investment now, that's totally your call. Otherwise, choose silver or white gold wedding bands for now, then upgrade to platinum or higher quality gold as a future anniversary splurge.
Utilize frequent-flier miles you've earned using your credit card to pay for your flight (and your wedding). Avoid traveling during high season, the peak tourist time when things are most crowded and in demand in a certain location. Check airfares for departures out of nearby, smaller cities—Milwaukee instead of Chicago, Baltimore instead of DC. Or get a package instead of purchasing plane tickets, hotel and food separately. And definitely let people know you're on your honeymoon. It could result in perks like chilled champagne waiting for you in your suite, or free upgrades to nicer accommodations. To learn more about honeymooning for less, check out these handy honeymoon budgeting tips.