Maybe you (or someone close to you) got engaged over the holidays. Maybe you've enjoyed your engagement for awhile and are ready to set the date and start planning. Either way, a wedding is a most special day for you, your friend or a family member’s new life together. Almost always however, anyone who has ever attended a beautiful wedding party knows that after the celebrating is done they all wonder, “What the heck did they spend on this shindig?” Weddings can be very, very expensive, and it’s not uncommon to spend $20,000, $30,000, or even $40,000 today on one today, with the average exceeding $30,000! But there are ways to save money on a wedding while still making your day extra special.
So many weddings come later now since people are waiting longer than before to tie the knot. As a result, the wedding costs are falling on the bride and groom more often than ever. The last thing you want to do is make that most exciting, beautiful and happy day the beginning of a huge new ugly debt!
So what can you do to still have a really special day, and yet not go broke in the process? Well, having attended many weddings over my lifetime (including 2 of my own), I can tell you I’ve seen all kinds take place. I have been to an extravagant wedding that took place in a foreign country (which must have cost in the hundreds of thousands 😲) as well as small intimate parties that were simple, elegant and beautiful without burdening the budget, and everything in between.
While I didn't get involved in planning my first wedding, I was a full-fledged partner in planning my second, and we had an amazing wedding for a mere fraction of the average cost. After my own experiences and doing a little research, I’ve come up with a list for you to consider as you plan your wedding day. So here are my tips on making your wedding special, unique and affordable without giving up the beauty and thrills!
Simple Ways to Save Money on a Wedding
When to Start Planning
The traditional school of thought in planning a wedding is that once you decide, you should spend about a year to plan, book, and shop and do all the detail work for your wedding. The bulk of the planning often falls to the bride, but when the responsibilities are shared together with the groom, the time frame can be shortened. It’s factual that the less time spent on planning your wedding day the less you will be tempted to over spend. Your more practical approach is a good way to start so that you aren’t constantly second guessing your decisions and you can spend the best time on the really important things.
If on the other hand you must start the process further in advance, there are opportunities to use that extra time beyond the one year tradition, to obtain seasonal bargains which you can use for the big day. Things like silver and gold decorations at 75% off prices after Christmas or a ring bearer suit or flower girl dresses after Easter time at reduced prices. It’s not my first choice, but if you use good judgment it will save you money.
How to Set the Date
Off-peak times of the year are in November, January, February, and March (avoid Valentine’s Day however!). These months can be as much as 25-35% off the prices of venues, food and all the trimming. If you live in colder climates, the savings can even be greater than that. June weddings are the most expensive by traditional measures so that should be considered on your planning.
Next you'll need to consider the day of the week. For the most savings, any day but Saturday night! Without question, Saturday nights are the most expensive time to plan your wedding (even Saturday brunch will be less expensive). The way around having it, is think about Friday evenings or Sundays are a great alternative. This still allows you to have your guests have the weekend time available even if they are travelling to you wedding.
Where to Hold the Wedding
Traditional venues like country clubs, elegant banquet facilities, and fancy restaurants may be very special, but they will cost you dearly. Think about nontraditional places as they can become your unique way of making it special and truly memorable! Places like the beach, or a special private home like mom and dad's or a close friend's. Using a large backyard and renting things like a tent and tables and chairs can be much less costly that those other places and you have a lot more control over everything you want to happen. Catering a backyard event is becoming a very popular option, just don’t go quite as far as the one seen in The Godfather!
Shopping for the Dress
The dress is one of the most important style choices at any wedding and is also usually the most expensive as well. Designer dresses can run into the thousands of dollars and you will most likely wear it just one time in your life! My recommendation is to shop around for the dress that you really love and yet you can afford. Try shopping at designer websites online for their special sample size sales or clearances if that works for you. A Vera Wang dress was recently found on her website that was originally $2,500 for just $499 on sale. Even your local boutiques will promote gowns that come in a variety of sizes at 50-80% off during the year. You can also try craigslist, eBay, and sites like that for “slightly used” or even never used wedding dresses, veils, shoes, etc.
Also consider renting a dress just like men do with tuxedo choices or think about consignment shops and second hand stores. Vintage stores may have really unique items that may suit you even better than a designer dress. Any of those choices can save big bucks and you can still look terrific!
Deciding on Food and Drink
One thing that can save you a small fortune is to consider a luncheon or brunch instead of a dinner reception. It’s always less expensive and my guess is that you can save thousands if you have a fairly large guest list. Also think about a buffet with a cocktail hour rather than a sit down dinner service choice. Again, much more cost effective.
When choosing the menu options, limit the number of entrees. There’s a big difference in the cost when you’re choosing from 3 or 4 items to serve rather than 2. Even less expensive is to make one a choice of pasta and have the chef offer several sauces to make it seem like a wider variety for your guests.
When it comes to liquor choices, you can do a few different things to cut your costs. Most traditional weddings use a full open bar, but that is very expensive, what you can do is supply “choice beverages” that are very popular like screwdrivers, whiskey sours, and a few others that the guests can pick from, along with wine and beer. By eliminating the full bar, you won’t be expanding the bottle usage to fancy and expense drinks. By the way, many venues charge you per bottle open, so if one person want a tequila sunrise you’re paying for a whole bottle! Some friends have gone with beer, wine, and champagne toast only.
Choosing the Cake
You wedding cake is all about the labor costs to decorate it. One great way to save is DIY! You and family or creative friends can decorate with things like ribbons, real flowers and lace trim.
Size matters as well. Smaller cakes are obviously less expensive, but did you know that the higher it is (number of layers) also makes a big difference? Recommendations are that you use a smaller cake for show time, cutting pictures. etc., and then use a sheet cake held in the back room to serve to guests later. You can save a lot when doing it that way.
Picking the Flowers
Stay in season for flower choices to save money. Florists can get you anything but there are costs to that. You can make your own floral centerpieces to save, and stick with a theme and flower choice. Buying a lot of one kind will get you big discounts. Try online sources for flowers. Costco has packages that are about 50% less than your typical florist.
Picking a simple one or two color scheme is cheaper and “monochromatic” has become a hip, cool trend. Avoid cascading decorations that require a lot of wiring and labor.
Photography for the Memories
Most people care a lot about the photos. After all, when the day is done, these are your permanent memories of the event to have and share forever. You can hire a great photographer, usually in a package with a minimum number of hours and photos. That’s the most traditional and expensive way.
My suggestions here is to consider using a photographer for a specific time frame, and the using your friends and family to supplement the photos with candid shots that you can incorporate into your album.
Talk to others about the number of pictures and packages they used to see what’s right for you. Portraits are important so look at the photographer's work in advance.
Sometimes you can hire a student who is attending a photography school to get those posed pictures and candid shots. That will save you at least 50%, but make sure they have references and you have seen their work.
Entertaining the Guests
Usually the couple chooses between a band and a DJ, of which the DJ is typically much less expensive. But if you're on a tight budget, consider recorded or streaming music.
Invitations, Centerpieces, and Favors
DIY! What more can I say. Have a get together with your friends and assemble the invitations, name cards, and favors. I recommend you plan homemade cookies for favors and that will save a bundle and make it personal. No one is looking to get wealthy at your wedding with jewelry and picture frames. It’s the token and the thought that counts. For centerpieces, I’d recommend candles rather than something extravagant and expensive.
Your special day is your decision. It should be a beautiful time you share with your loved ones and not just about the glitz and potential hole you are climbing into with debt! So use your best judgment and follow some of these ways to save on a wedding. Enjoy your wedding day, and if you do it with a lot of thought, you’ll have only the good memories for your lifetime (without the debt payments)!
Are you planning a wedding? Do you have any other money-saving ideas to share?
Couple silhouette image courtesy of khunaspix at freedigitalphotos.net (with changes)
Bridge and groom image courtesy of stockimages at freedigitalphotos.net
Cake image courtesy of Rosen Georgiev at freedigitalphotos.net