How to Save Money on Your Wedding

Most people regard their wedding day as one of the most important and meaningful of their lives. Many also believe they have to spend a fortune to create a truly special wedding. Fortunately, it is possible to create an elegant and tasteful event on a budget, allowing you to apply the savings to a car purchase or down payment on a house instead.

Read on for some ideas that will help make your big day memorable without requiring you to spend a bundle.

Scheduling

Consider planning your wedding during off-peak months when vendors are more open to negotiation for expensive items such as catering fees and the reception site. Generally, the months of November, January, February and March see less wedding activity. Because Saturday is the most popular day for weddings, you may save money by marrying on a Friday or Sunday.

Venue

Charges for traditional wedding venues can be exorbitant. If you live in a large city, look outside the city limits for better deals. Think beyond the traditional country club or reception hall. Consider an art gallery, park, beach, bed and breakfast, civic garden or zoo. Remember that you may have to rent tables and flatware. Do your homework first to make sure a non-traditional venue is the most cost-effective option for you.

Officiant

Some budget-conscious couples ask a friend or relative to perform the ceremony, adding a special, personal touch to the wedding and saving $200 or $300 at the same time. Some churches offer online ordination, sending credentials by email. Your county clerk’s office or marriage license bureau can tell you whether such an officiant has the legal status to officiate a marriage in your state.

Invitations

Engraved invitations are elegant, but they are also very expensive. Creative do-it-yourselfers will save substantially by printing invitations from their own computers. A number of websites offer original ideas and instructions for making invitations. You might also consider ordering plain invitations and using a hole-punch and ribbon to decorate them. Your invitations will be more memorable for the personal touches you give them.

Wedding Dress

Avoid traditional bridal salons, and consider buying the wedding dress at a department store or outlet. Other ideas include finding a vintage gown you love, buying through a discount gown retailer or online auction site or saving hundreds of dollars by renting a gown. You can make the occasion more meaningful by wearing a gown belonging to a dear friend or family member. Shop for shoes to match your dress in the summer when regular shoe stores stock a selection of white footwear, allowing you to bypass expensive bridal shops.

Flowers

Choosing to wed in an art museum, garden or tastefully furnished home will save money on flowers because these venues already feature attractive decorations. Silk flowers are a cost-effective option for centerpieces and decorations. If you must have fresh flowers, use those that are in season, and buy them from a local wholesaler. Use blooms with larger heads because they give the impression of more flowers using fewer stems. Inexpensive filler, such as hydrangea leaves and ferns, will boost the visual impact of your arrangements.

Food

Food is one of the most expensive wedding items you will buy. Remember that buffets are cheaper than sit-down meals. Holding a daytime reception and serving a brunch or lunch will save you even more money, as will choosing food that is in season. You might consider a potluck-style meal for a small, intimate wedding, saving money on food, preparation and service.

Cake

Wedding cake specialists charge a great deal for their expertise, so look for cheaper suppliers. Get quotes from grocery store bakeries, which often offer considerable savings over traditional bakeries. Consider renting a show-cake for the cake table, and serve guests from inexpensive sheet cakes kept in the kitchen. There is nothing that says you have to serve cake if you prefer other desserts. Cheesecake, brownies and dessert buffets are always popular.

Photos

Photographs capture your wedding for posterity, so you want to make sure they are done well. Look among your friends and family for a talented amateur photographer. Consider hiring a photography student, but ask to see a portfolio first. If you do hire a professional, have the photographer take photos only at the ceremony, and let friends and relatives take care of the reception.

Comments

  1. Let me first say that I am one of your long time fans, and I’ve been inspired and affirmed by your column. but in your enthusiasm for saving wedding dollars, you’ve made some suggestions that really shouldn’t be made. Some are erroneous (buffets often cost more than sit down meals because there is a lot more food in an uncontrolled environment) , some are tasteless (silk flowers instead of simple real ones, fake cakes are gross and costly), some are simply bad choices (trusting an amateur to capture the rapid paced images at a wedding; having a family member officiate when their expertise may only extend to a toast at the family thanksgiving dinner).

    As a professional officiant, of course I would think that last suggestion is a bad plan for anything but the smallest, most informal gathering, and in many states it’s not legal. Your uncle Phil simply will not command a room like a professional officiant can, and it’s a terrible way to start the day of celebration.

    All the wedding pros that I consider colleagues pride ourselves in our ability to work within our couples’ budgets; our careers depend on that. Most of our clients get our experience, our heart and our work with the fond hopes that their day is meaningful and magnificent. Our expertise is worth every cent.

    • WOW you’re a bummer. I certainly did not hire an officiant, my cousin was perfect and added a special touch because he knew us both so well. My stepdaughter both made and decorated our cake (it was modest, shes no cake boss or anything) but it was beautiful with stunning detail and it was delicious. And my keen-eyed friend was our photog. The pictures turned out beautifully and she made it our wedding gift so it was free,

      All I’m saying is it depends who you know. My wedding was professional quality at a fraction of the price

  2. And a PS: the best way to cut the cost? Cut the guest list and cut the bridal party. Each guest is another meal, part of another centerpiece and tablecloth, a save the date, thank you note and favor. Every member of the bridal party? Flowers, a gift, an invite to the rehearsal dinner, and a thank you note. It all adds up.

  3. For our cake, we found out that a woman who worked in the local university’s cafeteria bakery had a small wedding cake business that she ran out of her home kitchen. Not only was the cake tastier than anything we tried anywhere else, but she could make assurances about our allergy concerns that no other bakery would touch AND the entire cake cost what some bakeries were quoting as their delivery price! The most important lesson I learned throughout the whole process was that you need to prioritize. Pick one or two things that you really want to splurge on, then you can skimp on the rest. For us, we wanted our guests to be very well fed and watered, so we picked a better catering package but skipped the limo, ceremony musicians, and I used silk flowers for the ceremony that I arranged myself.

  4. Thank you so much for these tips! I’m getting married next fall and I’m desperately trying to keep the costs as low as possible so I’m very grateful for any kind of advice. My friend already suggested I become a member of barterquest.com and barter for a wedding gown – which is exactly what I did and I’m just so happy I got the wedding dress of my dreams without spending a single cent.

  5. I saved an enormous amount of money on my wedding by doing the following:

    - booking with a one-stop-shop in a popular nearby tourist destination. I used their outdoor wedding site, their indoor reception building, their florist, their photographer, their caterer, their DJ, and their cake baker. I got to pick out the general items on the menu, and the food was served as a buffet. There were a small number of photos included in the package and family and friends were given the opportunity to purchase their own off the website (my parents purchased the full set, for example.) The cake was absolutely delicious and the flavors I wanted. Was it an exquisitely decorated, top-notch, New York City-ready cake? No, of course not, but it was wonderful anyway, and tasted amazing. The florist only made corsages and boutonnieres for our parents/grandparents. I made my bouquet and my one attendant’s bouquet out of silk flowers (sorry, Celia Milton, I guess I have no taste.) and still have my bouquet on display, it was so gorgeous. I got so many complements on it, and not a single person made any comment about it being made with false flowers. Maybe they were thinking it in their head, as Celia and others may imply, but they certainly didn’t say anything to me, and I can still enjoy it to this day, many years later.

    2- I created my own invitations with a kit that cost about $50, and they turned out beautifully. They were on hand-made paper with overlying velum that I printed on my ink jet printer. I made save-the-date cards and magnets using magnetic sheets I ordered online and cut using one of those big cutting slicers at Kinkos. Lots of compliments on those, many people wanted to know where I ordered them, and I had the pleasure of telling them I designed and assembled them myself.

    3- I chose an off-season time, being married in early November, when the trees still had color to them and it wasn’t too cold to have an outdoor ceremony.

    4- I had 70 total guests.

    5- I bought my wedding dress from a bridal boutique but it was on sale. I had to lose about 15 pounds to fit into it, but I did and it fit perfectly, and I have to say I felt like a million bucks, even at 50% off.

    6- I gave my maid of honor carte blanch about her dress, just asked her to have it be “burgundy” … she found one at JCPenny on sale and was beautiful.

    7- My husband was married in his military uniform, so no tux rental for him, just his best man, and we shopped around for quotes and found a simple tux at a great price

    8- We drove our own cars, no limo cost

    9- we booked a rate in a hotel so all the out of town guests could get a discounted rate, and it ended up being an amazing condo-like place with full kitchens, living rooms, and all beautiful and up to date.

    all of this may make me tacky or tasteless, but I was told by a woman who rarely bestows compliments that it was a beautiful wedding, I was a beautiful bride, and that everyone had a wonderful time.

  6. Oh, I also made all of the favors and table decorations, I made a “wishing tree” by finding a super interesting looking branch with curly Q off-shoots, cut out burgandy and gold “leaves” and hole punched them, tied on twine, put out pens for people to write best wishes and missives, sign their names, etc, and hang onto the “tree.” The branch was supported in a vase filled with stones. It was in essense a 3-D guest book that was almost free, except for the construction paper and twine.

    each table had a low round glass bowl with water, floating candles, and colored stones. I went before the ceremony and setup the reception hall myself with my maid of honor and the best man.

    The reception hall allowed us to bring in our own alcohol and beverages, and I limited it to soda, bottled water, beer, and champagne, which my nephew and the best man served to the guests.

  7. I was actually just stressing and searching information about wedding planning like crazy! These are all great ideas that I WILL be talking with my fiance about in the morning :)

    @Janel – I love love LOVE the wishing tree idea!

  8. I think some of these are wonderful money saving tips, in the short run. But I can assure you that skimping on a professional photographer is going to come back to bite you later. I say go for it if you are a super cheapskate, but if you have ANY desire to relive the memories of that day, pass them along to your family some day or have any reasonable expectation of quality just drop some coin on the photographer and have it done right. You don’t get a do over. You don’t get to repose for your pictures. You don’t get to see gramma Mary at your wedding again. Of all the things to skimp on this one is the most costly. There are ways to save, like finding a good one at a good price, but hiring a friend or relative is a terrible, terrible idea. I know, we did. We regret it any time we talk about it. For all the money we saved I would have spent that in a second if I knew what we would have gotten instead.

    Also the disposable camera idea is mostly nonsense. Sure it may work in some cases, but for us and many of our friends who did it it ended up costing more than expected and providing nothing worth keeping. I have not seen it turn out well yet, though your mileage may vary. I am all for cheap, but only when it saves you more than it costs. And the cost to us in lost memories and good pictures is too high. Skipping out on decent photos is taking it a bit far. We have 1 good photo from our wedding. 1. Thats it. And its not even all that good, just not as bad as the rest. Do yourself a favor and don’t skip hiring a professional who can actually deliver under these circumstances. Or do like the other poster says and get married at a resort where they take the photos for you. At least its better than your cousin.

  9. I think that these are just suggestions that may or may not suit each individual couple, depending on their personal circumstances and preferences. My husband made very few ”demands” about our wedding except that it be in a church ( much cheaper than at many dedicated wedding venues, in our case just a donation to the church in question) and that the meal be sit-down rather than buffet. Okay, so that was probably more expensive BUT I chose to have my very talente mom make my wedding dress and veil and go with a simpler design. We did have a gorgeous cake… that also served as dessert, thus saving quite a bit on dessert costs… having 70 guests definitely helped also. The more people, the costlier, regardless!

  10. These are great suggestions. I’m actually planning my wedding right now with a very strict budget, and I had no idea how much some of these things would cost and it is crazy how much people charge for some things. We found a great art gallery that is just beautiful and far cheaper than a traditional reception hall, and it has a lot of decorations already so I save that way as well. I’ll definitely be taking a look into a few of these ideas to save some money. Thanks!

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