How to Save Money on a Wedding “The Ultimate Guide”
Are you looking for ways to save money on a wedding? We aren’t surprised! And we’ve got you covered.
Some sources claim the average American wedding costs $30,000. That’s a LOT of cash! And with more modern couples now getting married later on in life and opting to foot most of the bill for the wedding themselves, more of them are open to cutting some costs when making important wedding decisions.
That’s why we’ve put together “the ultimate guide” for how to save money on a wedding, organized into categories for easy reference. With a bit of creativity, ingenuity, and help, you can create your perfect wedding with any budget!
Here are some tips for how to save money on a wedding:
1. Printed materials
2. Guest list
3. Cut down on parties
8. THE dress
11. Table Settings
1. Printed materials
Our first tip for how to save money on a wedding begins with all of your printed materials. Many couples are shocked to find that something as simple as wedding invitations can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars, depending on quality and quantity. And that’s just the invitations, not including other printed items such as programs and menu cards. However, there are a few ways to make simple cuts in this area that have a major impact on the overall cost.
Let’s start with the invitations themselves. The easiest way to save money on a wedding is to limit the more expensive paper materials you use to just the main invitation. Use cheaper materials for any other informational inserts. Limiting the use of expensive paper materials such as heavy cardstock and textured letterpress can save you several dollars per invitation, and hundreds of dollars overall.
You can save further by doing away with any extra inserts entirely and direct all information about wedding showers and other gatherings to the wedding website.
Another great money-saving trick to save on invitations is to forego traditional envelope liners. A similar elegant feel can be achieved simply by using a colored or more impressive outer envelope instead. Learn to focus your money on what will maximize your happiness. In a couple of years, you won’t even remember what your invitations looked like.
A creative way to save money on RSVP cards is to use RSVP postcards instead. No extra envelope is needed, and postcard postage is cheaper. Plus, it’s cute!
Limit programs and menu cards
Another way to save money on a wedding print budget is to cut the number of wedding programs and menu cards ordered. Limit one program per couple or party instead of per person. Likewise, limit the number of reception menu cards to one or two per table instead of per guest.
Order all prints at the same time
If you can get organized ahead of time, you can save on extra printing fees and postage by ordering all of your printed materials (invitations, programs, menu cards, etc.) at the same time.
One of the most significant advantages of modern weddings is the advent of wedding websites. Wedding websites allow a couple to relay important information and updates about the wedding easily (and cheaply!) with the click of a button instead of having to print and mail the information to guests physically. Use your wedding website to its fullest potential to save hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars on the cost of printed materials. Having a wedding website will also make it easy to share information to your social media.
2. Guest list
One of the biggest changes you can make to save money on a wedding is to cut the size of the wedding itself. You will find that fewer cuts to wedding planning essentials need to be made if you limit the size of the wedding as a whole. This might mean you could actually have the wedding of your dreams with all the details you’ve always imagined, just a little smaller.
Start by cutting your guest list. Keeping your wedding invites to only close friends and family will not only make your wedding cheaper overall, but give you more time to spend with each guest.
If you have a lot of important people in your life, whittling down your guest list could be difficult. If you absolutely cannot cut certain people, limit the number of plus-ones you allow your guests. This allows you to keep all of your VIPs while reining in the potential bloated size of the overall wedding due to plus-ones. Just make sure you’re strategic with your seating chart so no one feels left out!
You can also save money on a wedding by limiting the size of your wedding party. With fewer bridesmaids and groomsmen to account for, you can cut the costs of florals for each member, along with dresses, tuxes, and bachelor/bachelorette gifts and parties.
3. Cut down on parties
Another way to save money on a wedding is to limit the auxiliary parties and gatherings so you can focus your budget on just the wedding itself.
While elaborate engagement parties, wedding showers, and post-wedding brunches are all fun, they can stretch your overall wedding budget thin. The important thing here is the actual wedding. If you can get the wedding you want by limiting your extra gatherings, that might be worth it to you!
Consider doing away with unnecessary events such as engagement parties. You could also consider nixing a wedding shower altogether and just have everyone bring gifts to the wedding itself.
If there are some functions you just can’t do without, such as a rehearsal dinner or bridal shower, tone down the gathering to make it more casual (and cheap!). Plan something easy and inexpensive like a bridal shower brunch instead of an elaborate event. Even cooking your own food (if that’s your thing!) at events can save you hundreds of dollars.
If you are trying to save money on a wedding, consider “rolling up your sleeves” and doing some tasks yourself. But DIYing doesn’t need to be overwhelming. Recruit some of your talented friends and turn “Do It Yourself” into “Do It Yourselves” with a little bit of help!
Wedding planner/day-of coordinator
If you are planning on taking the time to prepare a lot of things for the wedding yourself, you’ll find that a wedding planner might be indispensable. However, wedding planners can be expensive. Consider recruiting a competent friend to act as your wedding planner, or hire them at a fraction of what a professional would cost.
Alternately, if you feel you have the planning under control, consider hiring a wedding planner as a “day-of coordinator.” Many wedding planners will hire their services out just for the day of the wedding at a substantially reduced rate.
If you’ve been planning the wedding yourself, there are always last-minute changes and things to take care of and organize on the wedding day. This can be extraordinarily distracting and stressful and keep you from fully enjoying your big day. A day-of coordinator will be your go-to person for questions from vendors and guests and to take care of any last-minute issues that arise. This leaves you free to accomplish and enjoy your most important task on your wedding day – getting married!
Ask for help
As mentioned before, not hiring professionals for certain tasks related to your wedding doesn’t have to mean doing everything yourself. You’ll find that you have family members and friends who would all love to contribute something towards your wedding, including helping out however they can! Have an aunt with great penmanship? Ask her to help you write out your invitations to save on printing costs. Is your friend a bartender? Ask them to help serve up drinks at the reception. Don’t ever be shy to ask for help from the people who care about you most!
Ways to get the look you want for less
To save money on a wedding without sacrificing the overall look you’ve always dreamed of, the key is to discover ways to get the look you want for less. Do your research! Check out Pinterest boards, magazines, wedding planning blogs, and suggestions from friends for the best ways to achieve an otherwise expensive look at a fraction of the cost.
Let’s get real here. The wedding venue can be one of the most expensive costs of a wedding. But that’s because it’s one of the most important factors! However, there are ways to ensure you get your perfect venue while still saving money on a wedding.
Wedding season plays a huge role in overall wedding costs. A staggering 73% of all weddings occur during May through October each year. This means that demand for all of the top venues and vendors goes way up in this season, so prices also skyrocket. If you have a preferred venue or vendors, you can save money on a wedding by setting the date in the off-season. This could have a huge impact on your overall budget.
You might also consider a holiday wedding. Just make sure you also weigh the pros and cons of a holiday wedding.
If you are set on having your wedding in a specific month or week, another way to easily save money on a wedding venue is to schedule your wedding NOT on a Saturday. Regardless of the season, Saturdays are the most popular day of the week for weddings. With the day itself being part of the weekend plus having the buffer days of Friday and Sunday, it just makes things easy for planning and travel. However, it also makes this day highly sought after and more expensive. Simply shifting your wedding date to Friday or Sunday, or even Monday or another weekday, can make your ideal wedding venue go from dream to reality (both in cost and availability)!
Another way to save money on a wedding is to have both your ceremony and reception at the same venue. This eliminates the need for paying for two separate venues and decorating costs. Plus, it also saves the cost and time of traveling to and from each location.
Some venues might also offer all-inclusive packages that include necessities such as catering, bar service, music, and more! You might have less control over some details, but an all-inclusive package makes planning easier and usually ends up being cheaper overall.
Another money-saving tip to consider is that booking a venue with outstanding architecture and aesthetics might require fewer decorations. Spending less on decorations, especially expensive florals, can free up your budget for other factors that might be more important to you.
Your wedding photos are one of the most important aspects of your wedding. They will help keep the memories of your wedding alive for years to come. But good photographers don’t come cheap and are another major wedding expense. But we’ve got a few tips to help you save money on a wedding photographer that will help cut costs.
Limit photographer time
Instead of hiring a photographer for a full day, consider limiting their time to a few hours. A full day for a photographer is generally around 12 to 14 hours. If you only hire them for 8 to 10 hours instead, you can still get pictures of most of the important parts of the day. The difference might only be a few hours but could also mean hundreds, if not thousands of dollars added back into your budget.
Start with basic packages
Instead of locking yourself into an expensive photo package with all the bells and whistles ahead of time, start with a basic package. You can always decide to get extra prints later, but many couples find they emotionally over-purchase ahead of time and would have been satisfied with less.
Get digital negatives
Find a photographer that will give you rights and access to all of your digital negatives. If you have your negatives, you can choose which photos you want to print later on to frame or send as gifts without having to commit to any ahead of time. You could also email them to loved ones and skip on the printing cost entirely! This will ensure that you print and purchase hard copies of only the pictures you really want.
Experienced wedding photographers can be extremely expensive. If there is a photographer with a specific style you like, consider finding an up-and-coming photographer with a similar style. You will end up with comparable wedding photos, but at a fraction of the price.
Check out social media to find photographers with styles close to yours. Or, if the photographer of your dreams is clearly out of your budget, you might ask them if they have an associate photographer they could recommend. Associate photographers might share the style, but at a more affordable price.
Although a formal string quartet for the day would be elegant and lovely, that’s probably out of the price range for many couples. But the music at your wedding doesn’t have to cost a fortune. There are ways to save money on a wedding, enjoy great music, and have a blast.
Hire a DJ
The easiest way to save money on a wedding budget allowance for music is to hire a DJ. Find a DJ that has a great all-day inclusive package that can cover the ceremony all the way through the reception and everything in between. Many DJs can provide MC and DJ services to keep things moving along, aid with some simple lighting design, and even offer help with a photo booth set up. The more help your DJ can offer in their packages the better, as bundling those items into your music budget can free up some funds for other things.
Seek out graduate students
Consider seeking out musicians from a university graduate program if you absolutely envision your wedding with live music. Graduate music students are highly talented, and likely more eager to perform at a reduced price to help build up their resume.
8. THE dress
Let’s talk about wedding dresses. Finding that perfect dress is one of the most important parts of the wedding planning process and the wedding itself. Therefore, it is also one of the most important (and expensive!) costs of a wedding. That being said, there are some strategies you can use to get the wedding dress of your dreams, while still being able to save money on a wedding.
Get your dress early
Regardless of the route, you choose in purchasing a wedding dress, if you want to save money on a wedding, make sure you get your dress early.
Many brides recount that they knew they had found the perfect dress as soon as they tried it on. But even if you’ve found the perfect dress, that doesn’t mean it fits perfectly right away. Most dresses need alterations of some kind to get that perfect fit tailored to the bride’s individual shape. And those alterations cost money and time! If you tiptoe around the dress shopping process and find that perfect dress late in the game, you will have to rush order your dress and your alterations. This can cost you hundreds of dollars that you could have saved if you had simply made it a priority earlier.
If it’s always been your dream to walk down the aisle in a fabulous designer gown but you’re not a Rockefeller, don’t lose hope! There are ways to save money on a wedding dress even if it’s a high-end designer gown. One of the best ways is through a sample sale.
A sample sale is when a bridal shop will sell the samples of designer dresses that brides try on from off the rack in the shop or boutique. This helps the shop make room for more samples from designers’ newer collections. Depending on how many times the dress has been tried on and how long it’s been in the store, you could end up scoring a designer gown anywhere from 20% to 90% off the original price. Those are some major savings! And those savings make designer wedding dress dreams possible for many brides.
Sample sales happen a few times a year, so be sure to get yourself on the email list of your favorite bridal shops to get updates. Also, if you’re at a shop when a sample sale isn’t currently running, don’t feel shy about asking if they have any samples available yet. It’s possible they’ve already got some stashed away for the next sale and would be willing to part with them early. It never hurts to ask!
If those designer tags are essential, another way to save money on a wedding dress is to head to your nearest designer trunk show. Trunk shows are great because you know you’re getting the newest and latest designs. And if you shop during a trunk show you’ll likely get a few hundred dollars off the gown. Some places will even throw in complimentary customizations and alterations, which saves you even more!
If it’s all more about the moment to you and you don’t have your heart set on owning your wedding dress, consider renting it! Websites such as Rent the Runway allow you to rent your dream designer look at a fraction of the cost to purchase it. The only catch is that once the event is over, you have to return the dress. Just think of yourself as Cinderella! (As you should on your wedding day!)
If you’ve got the perfect dress already but want to feel like a queen on your wedding day with high-end jewelry you probably can’t afford, you can rent that, too! Sites like Adorn will let you borrow diamond jewelry with a several thousand dollar price tag at the cost of just a few hundred dollars for your big day.
Deals on social media
Another way to save money on a wedding dress is to follow your favorite designer brands and wedding dress boutiques on social media and sign up for any mailing lists. This helps you keep up to date with any sales or discounts they might be offering. And you might just get lucky with the perfect deal on the perfect dress!
One of the top 5 most expensive costs of a wedding is the florals and decor. Flowers are beautiful, ceremonial, and elegant and make any occasion feel special – but they can also be highly expensive. Therefore, one of the most significant ways to save money on a wedding is to be flexible when it comes to your wedding florals.
Budget, bulk, filler flowers
Our first tip to save money on a wedding floral budget is to be open to having your florist use budget or filler flowers and order large blooms in bulk.
Florals such as baby’s breath and carnations are generally considered filler flowers and are less expensive. However, using these “budget blooms” as the stars of the show can still be very elegant while also saving you a ton of cash. Have your florist tastefully accent the arrangements with a reduced quantity of your more choice blooms. This way you can still incorporate some of your favorites at a fraction of the cost.
Another way to save money on wedding florals is to use just a few types of large blooms purchased in bulk. Florists can usually get a pretty good discount when they order certain flowers in bulk which can help shave the overall cost of florals down significantly. Using just a few large, monochromatic blooms bunched together as an arrangement can be a simple and extra chic floral motif. It is also a lot cheaper than complicated arrangements too. Think lovely bunches of uniform white or lightly-colored calla lilies, hydrangeas, and tulips!
Keep it in-season
If your preferred flowers are shockingly expensive, it might be just because they are out of season. Buying flowers in season is way cheaper than acquiring them outside of their peak months. If you are trying to save money on a wedding, stay flexible with the flowers you choose and select from what is in-season for your wedding date. Your florist will no doubt come up with something beautiful for your big day, and you’ll be much happier when it comes time to pay the bill.
Greenery vs. blooms
Floral greeneries such as eucalyptus and ferns are usually considered accents in arrangements. But using greenery on its own or as the main part of an arrangement or bouquet can be understated, minimalist, and still extremely elegant. And way less expensive than a plethora of blooms.
If you are really trying to save money on a wedding floral budget, don’t use flowers at all! Or use a very reduced quantity. Incorporating flower alternatives into the decor can be surprising, fun, and beautiful! Think of archways of sleek balloons rather than blooms for fun! Or achieve a glowy and romantic mood with hundreds of candles as the show-stopper instead of flowers.
Wedding party alternatives
A great way to make some cuts to your floral budget is to use some floral alternatives when it comes to your wedding party.
Although it’s traditional for each groomsman to be adorned with a boutonniere, use simple pocket squares instead. The look will still be elegant, and you’ll save a ton.
Similarly, your bridesmaids traditionally will all walk down the aisle with individual bouquets. And if you have a lot of bridesmaids, that really adds up on your florist’s bill. Consider instead using some bridesmaid bouquet alternatives. It will be unique, unexpected, and a heck of a lot cheaper!
No glass vases
Ask your florist not to use glass vases, as those are more expensive. Plastic vases come in a variety of colors, sizes, shapes, and styles that can fit any decor and are much more budget-friendly.
Repurpose your flowers
If you do have a wedding party full of bridesmaid floral bouquets and groomsman boutonnieres, repurpose them after the ceremony as decorations for the reception. If you’re shelling out the cash for all those flowers, you might as well get the most use out of them as you can!
Your wedding catering can be a major expense, especially with a large guest list. Modern weddings can be host to anything from elaborate cocktail hours and multi-course meals to a simple and relaxed coffee and dessert reception. So depending on your approach to catering, this is an area where you can cut some major costs and save money on a wedding.
Source catering from outside the city
The first way to save money on a wedding catering budget is to source your catering company from outside a city. If you live in a major city, those high-end catering companies charge significantly higher prices for their services due to their location. Finding a reputable catering company from the suburbs or surrounding area will be much cheaper for the same or similar services. This will help you stretch your catering budget to get more of what you want or redirect funds to other areas of your overall wedding budget.
Avoid hard to prepare foods
Hard to prepare specialty foods like sushi, complicated appetizers, or anything requiring on-site/on-demand preparation can add elevated elegance to your wedding. But that elevated elegance will be reflected in the elevated price tag. You can save money on a wedding by keeping your menu simple. Most chefs will agree that a simple dish or appetizer can still be just as elegant as a complicated one when prepared and presented well.
Want to really save money on a wedding? Forego the cost of a traditional catering company and servers entirely! Instead, keep it casual and opt for your favorite local restaurant to cater and serve it up buffet style.
A buffet-style reception helps reduce catering costs since people can serve themselves without a serving staff. And the food usually stretches farther, as not everyone will choose to eat or will eat reduced portions if they aren’t that hungry.
Local restaurants will usually have some good deals on catering for large parties, and meal options that make it all easy.
Another great option to keep your catering casual and save money on a wedding is to hire a food truck. A food truck will take all the guesswork out of your catering budget, keep everything simple, and is a casual and fun option for your guests. The best part is that cleanup is a breeze!
If your wedding is a more intimate affair with just close friends and family, make it potluck style! If you really want to save money on a wedding, the potluck option is the way to go. Let a few of your friends and family members get involved and make the dishes to serve at your reception. Why waste all that money in your wedding budget on fancy catering when your dad’s barbeque is famous and you know your Great Aunt Linda’s potato salad is unbeatable!?
Skip or skimp passed appetizers
If you are going the traditional catering route, you can still save money on a wedding catering budget when it comes to passed appetizers. When passed apps are reduced or eliminated completely, you can save on the extra serving staff. If you must serve passed appetizers, limit the number of options.
Or better yet, serve appetizers that guests can grab for themselves. An elaborate charcuterie table is always an easy crowd-pleaser.
Save on kids’ meals
If you have a significant number of guests with kids attending your wedding, ask your caterer about kids’ meal options. It is likely they have separate cheaper meal options for kids or offer reduced portions for the smaller appetites.
Another way to save money on a wedding is to be open to new ideas about your wedding cake. A traditional wedding cake is your reception show-stopper, which also means it’s a significant part of your wedding budget.
You can majorly reduce the cost of a traditional wedding cake by being strategic when it comes to the frosting and decorations, or reducing the size of your decorated cutting cake and serving sheet cake to the guests. Or you can really cut the costs of a wedding cake by cutting out the wedding cake altogether! There are plenty of fun, trendy, and inexpensive wedding cake alternatives that are definitely worth considering.
11. Table settings
Table settings at your reception can be elaborate and expensive or simple and another way to save money on a wedding.
Use disposable/compostable bamboo plates
If you’re keeping things casual, consider forgoing dishware entirely and going the disposable route. This doesn’t have to be tacky though! There are several elegant and stylish options these days for disposable dinnerware sets. You can even go the eco-friendly route with tasteful bamboo varieties. Your budget will thank you, and so will your clean-up crew!
Cut down on linens
Renting fancy linens can be expensive. Instead, use your venue’s standard cotton linens, and accent them with decorative runners. This will significantly reduce the price per table and lighten your decorating costs.
Use a statement glass
If you can’t imagine your wedding without traditional dinnerware, you can still save money on a wedding decorating budget. The key is to keep it mostly simple, but incorporate a statement piece that you spend a little extra on.
For example, perhaps choose a colored, etched drinking glass to add a pop of style to your table setting, while using standard (and more affordable) options for the rest.
Another effective way to save money on a wedding decorating budget is to repurpose your chairs. After the ceremony is over, you can use the same chairs at your reception place settings. While this will cost a moving fee, it will likely be much cheaper than ordering two whole sets of chairs.
Alcohol is a huge variable when it comes to budgeting for a wedding. Obviously, going alcohol-free is the cheapest option. But if you just can’t imagine your wedding without that champagne toast and a little booze, no worries! There are ways to make alcohol available to your guests and still save money on a wedding.
Stick to beer and wine
The most straightforward approach to save money on a wedding alcohol budget is to stick to beer and wine. Having a few beer and wine options available for your guests is acceptable, appreciated, and affordable.
No top-shelf liquor
If you are wanting to offer a full bar to your guests but still save money on a wedding alcohol budget, go ahead and nix the top-shelf liquors. You can easily save hundreds or thousands of dollars by not serving these extravagant liquors. Stick to the more affordable options. Your guests will still appreciate the full bar, and you will appreciate the difference when it comes time to pay the bill.
If your venue allows a BYOB policy, this makes things very simple. Bring in some simple options for your guests, or have them bring in their own and call it a night! This is a great money-saving option if you’re keeping things casual.
Limit signature drink to cocktail hour
Having enough special ingredients for a signature wedding cocktail available for your guests the whole night can really add up. Skipping on a signature cocktail entirely is easily the cheapest option. But if you absolutely must have one, you can still save money on a wedding alcohol budget by limiting your signature drink to be served only at the cocktail hour, or within another specified amount of time. Choosing a “one signature drink per guest” option would similarly reduce overall cost as well.
Serve champagne only from the bar
Not everyone likes champagne. And that’s a good thing because champagne in bulk can get pricey. So instead of serving a glass of champagne to every guest for that champagne toast, make it available only at the bar for those who really want it. Other guests can toast with a drink of their choice. This cuts down on waste and cost without cutting down on festiveness!
And this all leaves more champagne for you to toast as newlyweds to a wedding well-planned and a budget well-kept!
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