My mother married in a borrowed dress at her local church. The reception was in the church lobby with cake, mints and punch served as refreshments. Today the simplicity seems laughable because everyone we know does so much more, and we see the “more” everywhere we look.
I feel that now more than ever, there is pressure to have an amazing wedding. In the past, there were not thousands of photos posted to social media or millions of ideas posted to Pinterest. It can lead brides-to-be to feel their weddings will not be complete without every detail of the event being handmade or otherwise fabulous.
We aren’t going back to the time of dinner mints served as refreshments, so let’s look at ways to have a wonderful wedding on a budget.
Your wedding day will be one of the best days of your life, and here are 12 tips for making it fabulous while not ruining your financial situation by overspending.
Can I have your number?
Everyone’s budget is different depending on who is funding the event. Some women may get tens of thousands from parents. Or the bride and groom may pay for the wedding themselves.
No matter your situation, it’s important that you do pick a budget.
How much will each family contribute?
How much can you reasonably set aside each month for the wedding?
Keep in mind that a wedding is one day, but the marriage should last a lifetime. In that marriage, you might want money for a home, new car, or travel. The wedding shouldn’t put your brand new marriage under financial stress.
Now that you have your budget, here is how to get the biggest bang for the buck.
1. Limit your guest list
Every person who attends the wedding will directly impact the budget through requiring room for seating, spending on food and drink, invitations, etc.
A larger wedding can also cause stress in other ways. A friend of mine had a 400 person guest wedding. She said it was so overwhelming, and there was no way to speak to all who attended.
If you are spending $75 to $125 per person at a wedding, cutting the guest list by ten people can reduce your spending by roughly $1000. The fewer the guests, the more money you can dedicate to the wedding dress, honeymoon and flowers and the more time you can spend chatting with those who come.
How can you limit the guests?
- If you have large extended families, you can have a small destination wedding and then come home to a large and simple reception if everyone must be invited.
- Review the guest list and consider who are your close friends and family. Eliminate people who do not have an active relationship with you.
- Send wedding announcements to those who do not make the list. Your third cousin once removed may be happy they are not expected to send a gift and attend your wedding but be pleased to receive your announcement card.
2. Inexpensive custom invitations
Invitations can be very elaborate and run $6–15 apiece. That is a huge money commitment for something that most people will toss in the trash after the event.
With today’s online shopping options, you can get beautiful, custom invites for less than a dollar each. If you want expensive invites consider ordering just a few for yourself and parents. If you are creative and have the time, look on Pinterest for homemade ideas.
Cutting your guest list will help you not spend too much on invitations, but remember making even 50 invitations by hand will cost you a lot of time and perhaps craft supplies.
3. Compare all included vs. separate vendors
When I was planning my wedding I found that many places that included all the wedding services (food, beverages, DJ, cake) cost much more than renting a venue that allowed me to bring in my own.
This might not always be true so when researching event spaces find at least a few of each type.
I found a caterer that would allow me to buy my alcohol and just charged me a very small serving fee. I saved a ton of money by buying my champagne at Costco. I also found a baker who used to work at the Four Seasons, to bake my cake. The stay-at-home mom charged so much less than a normal cake shop.
Finding your own vendors will take more time, but consider it if local places that include everything are charging too much per person.
4. Be your own DJ
Depending on the time of your wedding, making a musical playlist on your computer might be the best way to go.
One wedding I attended simply played all Frank Sinatra songs, and it was beautiful.
I had a friend with speakers be my DJ and the event location loaned us a microphone for announcements. This might not work for everyone, but keep it in mind as an option.
5. Flowers and other arrangements
Flowers can be a huge expense at a wedding and are practically required. Instead of hiring an expensive florist, consider a friend who could make bouquets from bulk flowers from Costco or Sam’s Club.
Make flower arrangements from fake flowers from craft shops. The advantage of fake flowers that your wedding arrangement will always look beautiful.
Another idea is to use flowers for the wedding party only and use candles or other décor items for the reception table centerpieces. One friend of mine bought red candles in all sizes from the Dollar Store and paired them with mirrors and Confetti to make beautiful centerpieces that cost only a few dollars per table.
6. Be flexible on the day & time
I was married on a Sunday because my event location in Atlanta was booked over a year in advance on Saturdays. I didn’t know it at the time, but by booking on Sunday, all my other vendors cost less.
The photographer, caterer, and coordinator was less because Sunday is a less busy day for those in the wedding industry. We helped people make it back home in time for Monday morning by having our wedding in the early afternoon.
A Sunday before a Monday holiday is another option, and you will always have a day off the day after your anniversary. If you guests are all located nearby, then a Friday night might work.
If it must be a Saturday, consider a morning or early afternoon time slot. If you are serving lunch instead of dinner, people will not likely eat or drink as much either, and you’ll have more time to head to the airport or relax before leaving for your honeymoon.
7. Get digital wedding photos
Not all wedding photographers will give you digital copies of your wedding pictures. I think it is extremely important to find one that will do this.
If you photographer controls your photos, you will pay 100X more for individual photos. Your wedding album can be restricted in size. If you ever want more pictures, you will have to rely on the photographer having the pictures still.
I got the digital prints and made a huge wedding album online. My friend did not get her digitals and had to pick only 50 photos that her photographer would include in the wedding album she could afford. She also had to pay $15-$25 dollars per photos for individual prints while I can order mine to this day on mpix for less than a dollar a piece.
8. Hire a day-of coordinator
This might seem counterintuitive, but hiring a “day of” wedding coordinator saved me a lot of time and money.
She was not a full on wedding planner, but someone who was going to handle the details of the day and save me the stress. She had helped on a thousand other weddings, so she had a lot of great suggestions for vendors and locations.
For example, she knew the former Four Seasons baker who made my cake and recommended my event location. I paid her a few hundred dollars for a couple meetings prior and peace of mind day-of.
She saved me her fee with her recommendations and made the whole day easier because I didn’t have to play event director on my wedding day.
9. Bake the cake!
OK, I didn’t like this idea much, but my husband-to-be was a great dessert maker, and he wanted to make his own groom’s cake.
If you don’t live in the South, a groom’s cake is a cake that usually whimsically shows off some interest of the groom. I’ve seen video game helmets to guitars to fish shaped grooms’ cakes.
My husband made a chocolate rum raisin cake my mom still talks about to this day. Brides will likely be too busy to bake a wedding cake, so ask around for friends or a friend of a friend who might be talented. Get outside of the cake box and do something else.
Many people offer mixed desserts instead of cake. Lauren Conrad, former The Hills star, offered her guests 30 pies as the dessert. Other ideas are a Sunday bar, candy stand with bags for guests to fill, homemade ice cream, etc. The sky is the limit.
10. Have the hotel send the car
Instead of hiring a car service that might cost a few hundred dollars, consider staying in a great hotel that will send a car for you. This worked for me because both my wedding and our hotel were in downtown Atlanta.
Instead of renting a car, we booked a great room at a nice hotel, and the hotel sent a town car to pick us up when the reception was over. They were happy to do it, and we got to spend the money on the room and not a car.
11. Keep an eye out for deals
If you find an event location, caterer, or another vendor for your wedding, you might stalk their website and Groupon or Living Social for discounts.
Wedding Conventions also have tons of vendors who may be giving out convention discounts. A friend found her event location and they were having a party to drum up more bookings. My friend went because there was a drawing and won her bride’s cake from the location.
Check Facebook pages of the locations as well and see if they are posting discount information or deals.
12. Negotiate everything
You can probably save 10% on your entire wedding just by asking the right questions.
You can save big, big money on your wedding by applying these tips. You’ll have the wedding of your dreams and your purse.
Question: When is your big day and how are the savings going? Please leave a comment below.