15 Ways to Drastically Save Money on Your Wedding
Tell an engaged couple that the average cost of a wedding is more than the price tag of some newer vehicles or a down payment on a home, and we may no longer have a wedding market. According to The Knot Magazine, the average cost of a wedding is around $33,000. That is a huge price tag for many parents to foot, let alone a couple who are paying for the wedding themselves.
In the ten years of being a professional wedding photographer, I have seen some clever and “out-of-the-box” thinking when it came to pinching pennies and minimizing budgets. From paper flowers to renting a wedding dress. The options are out there and I have found what I think will make the biggest impact to your overall wedding budget based on my ten plus years in the industry.
1. Limit Guest List
Having a smaller guest list will have the largest impact on your wedding budget. According to the Knot, the average food cost for each guest attending is a little over $70 per person. Add in alcohol and you can see why this can be one of the largest parts of your wedding budget. A survey of recently married couples showed that 50% of them were able to keep their budgets under $15,000 just by cutting the number of guests attending. That is huge! One suggestion to help make this happen, limit the plus-ones to only the couples who you socialize with regularly. Sometimes, depending on the wedding, this can save you upwards of ten to twenty additional people which equates to a savings of $1,000 just on food, alcohol, and rentals. So if you are not wanting to compromise on anything else, this would be the one thing you should focus on heavily.
This is probably the most heavily researched topic on the web when it comes to trying to minimize wedding budgets. Flowers are only good for one day and then they start to wilt and die. Some species of flowers can only last a few hours before starting to show signs. If real is what you are looking for, expect to pay around $2500 according to Wedding Wire and the Knot.com.
This figure has many brides opting for floral alternatives such as paper or wood flowers. These options come with a much more pleasing price tag and look absolutely flawless. Just take a look at this blush pink wedding bouquet by Etsy retailer, The Paisley Moon!
If adamant on buying the real thing for your upcoming wedding, here are a few tips that could have you saving a notable amount of money without much compromising:
Buy in bulk. Yes, you heard me – go online or to your local Costco or Sam’s Club. Buy the flowers in bulk and then go to Pinterest and find DIY tutorials on how to put together your own bouquets and centerpieces.
Buy in-season. Wanting a specific type of flower when they are not in season could cost you a hefty amount of money. Research which flowers are going to be in season during the time of your wedding and go from there. Your florist can help you in this area as well.
Recycle and Reuse. Take the floral arrangements from your ceremony and have them transported to the reception once the ceremony is done. Many of my own brides have done this numerous times. Bouquets can also be the floral décor for the head table as well. Just lay the bouquets facing outwards towards the guests at the edge of the table.
Alternating tables. Let’s create an illusion by having some tables with tall and lavish floral centerpieces while others display a more affordable and smaller arrangement. The room overall will still look amazing but at a fraction of what it would have cost. Many of my brides are doing this now and the guests are not going to be that meticulous in their observations.
Bigger buds. Check out some of the flowers that are larger in size when in bloom such as the King Protea, Succulents, and Hydrangeas. Less flowers, same size bouquet.
So many couples are getting rid of the wedding programs found at the beginning of ceremonies. Guests tend to not really pay attention to them anyways and the amount you save could be used instead for a couples massage during your honeymoon. Disposable paper programs or a relaxing experience with your new spouse. Hmmmm……
4. SECOND HAND – CONSIGNMENT
In today’s world, the amount of consignment shops and second hand options are plentiful. Everyone is trying to save a buck, let it be selling their wedding items or through purchasing them pre-loved. There is also no excuse for not being able to find such items with the amount of internet and social media at your fingertips. Check out places like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and eBay.
For wedding dresses specifically, you have a few more options available through websites such as PreOwnedWeddingDresses.com and Oncewed, you may even find a dress that has never been used before! If purchasing is not something you are interested in, check out Rent the Runway.
They allow you to rent some amazing gowns which you would simply return after the wedding is finished. Lastly, don’t overlook your local department store like Dillards, Macy’s, and alike. Their ballgown section for proms and formal affairs will often display white or ivory gowns that can easily be worn as a wedding dress. Just remember, with the average cost of a wedding dress toppling over $1500, these options could save you upwards of a few hundred dollars.
This is a little trick of the trade that can truly help you save a lot of money on decor for your guest tables. Instead of spending so much money for large centerpieces or elaborate decor for the guest tables, purchase up-lighting for the entire room. It transforms the reception space and when paired with lit candles on the table, the centerpieces won’t have as much of an impact compared to before adding the colored lighting. Purple, pink, blue, and yellow tend to be the favored hues for reception lighting. Also the DJ may offer lighting to compliment his music packages which makes it convenient and sometimes affordable, depending on your negotiation powers. If DJ doesn’t offer it, try Gray Phoenix in Pittsburgh.
6. WEDDING PLANNER
Talk about negotiation power. Wedding planners are not shy when it comes to this area of planning. They have networked with business professionals in the wedding industry and built relationships that allow them to perhaps strike a deal or discount to throw your way. In addition, their experience and knowledge in maximizing budgets may truly help you keep costs down, if not save money you didn’t expect to. Don’t have the money to afford a planner, the amount of savings you may receive with hiring one could allow you to have the additional finances to afford one.
Plus on the up-side, they can alleviate stress during the planning process as well. If you cannot afford to hire a professional for the entire process which averages about $2800 for full service – start to finish, some companies have what is called a “Getting Started” option. This allows you to utilize the planner’s experience and connections to find and book venues and vendors as well as create an initial budget. Not sure where to start? Try Paige at No Worries Weddings in SW Florida or Natasha at Hello Productions in Pittsburgh. They have years of experience and are amazing to work with.
Let’s face it, many guests are going to look forward to the bar and the alcoholic beverages being served. I have seen so many weddings (especially destination weddings) where over half of the guests were hanging out at the bar the whole night. The costs associated can really kill your budget so here are a few ideas to help save in the area of liquid entertainment:
Limiting the types of alcohol to only beer, wine, and one signature drink can save you roughly $10 to $15 per person. Have a guest list of 200, that is over $2000 saved – Cha Ching! Plus guests can still attain liquid courage to party the night away on the dance floor on beer and wine. Whatever you do though, don’t nix the alcohol. That is my biggest advice to you, I have seen receptions become very monotone because it was an alcohol free event. Only do this if there is a personal reason attached, not for monetary savings. It will overshadow a lot of your efforts in other areas of the wedding unfortunately.
Skip the Champagne toast entirely. It has been recently found that only 50% of your guests won’t even touch the drink and 25% will only divulge in a sip. Instead, keep it visible and at the bar for those who may be interested or you could have the waiters serve the guests with an alternative option such as wine, just before toasts start.
If this is an option at your venue, do it! Go to Sam’s Club or Costco, maybe even online through a wholesale distributor that allows consumer purchases, and grab bottles of alcohol. You will save a bucket load and then the only other cost associated would be hiring the physical body to serve the alcohol to your guests. There are many bartenders who would love the opportunity for a little extra side cash in addition to their regular jobs. Worried about liability, there are catering companies who will offer just a bartender for a small fee.
This is an area of wedding planning where the options to save money are varied and plentiful depending on your creative skills or bargain shopping abilities. Have neither one? We got you.
For the creative and aspiring artists – you can easily make your own. Go to Dafonts.com to choose a font type, and design your own in programs such as Microsoft Word or Photoshop. Don’t have those programs? Then jump onto websites such as Shutterfly, Vista Print, or my favorite – Mpix.com. They are a sister company to the professional photo lab I use, Millers Lab. They have designers that contribute to the gallery of designs available to use. Lastly, you can always go on to Etsy and buy a pre-designed template by a freelance artist or designer and have them printed either at home with cardstock or by uploading the design to Shutterfly or Vista Print.
This is the age of Millennials. We order food, choose our gro-ceries, make reservations, book appointments, and shop all online. Why not announce, invite, and RSVP to a wedding online as well? Especially with web-sites like My Wedding and Greenvelope.com, saving up-wards of $460 has never been easier or more convenient!
My Wedding.com – Allows you to pick your own wedding design and personalize it which is key for many who would like to truly showcase your own personality through your wedding day.
Greenevelope.com – is literally almost all inclusive. Amanda Arrigotti of Greenvelope.com told Martha Stewart Weddings about the tools available such as RSVP, Plus-one tracking, open rate management, registry announcement, wedding website link inclusion, photo sharing, survey questions to collect meal preferences, allergies or song requests, and more. That’s crazy and definitely worth at least checking into.
The average cost of invitations can easily be around $460. If you choose engraving for your stationary which is the industry standard, and have 100 guests to invite, its going to cost you upwards of $500. Thermo-graphic writing looks identical to engraving and cost only a fraction of the price. For 100 invites with thermographic writing, you are looking at a price tag of $229. That is almost half of the cost!
9. WEDDING CAKE
Alternatives have started to become a trend in the wedding industry. More and more couples are opting for non-traditional treats and desserts while others are marrying the two together (no pun intended!). Here are a few ideas on how to save on a cost that averages $500:
COOKIES & DESSERTS
Here in Pittsburgh, cookie tables are HUGE! Metaphorically and sometimes even literally (I have seen an entire room dedicated to cookies). Guests also LOVE cookie tables, sometimes raiding them before dinner is even served. So why not upgrade the cookie table to include mini pastries and desserts? Make it an elaborate dessert table. Want to save even more money? Make inexpensive take home boxes and use them as favors for guests to take their favorites home with them (I elaborate more on this down below for favor options).
Who does not love pies. They are also affordable and you could even easily DIY this without too much hassle thanks to Pilsbury and his ready made dough. Fillings are endless too, you can do coconut cream, banana, triple berry, strawberry, and the list goes on. Take it to the next level by including mini pie flavors as an additional option to choose from when they choose their meal on their RSVP’s. Then at the wedding, give it to them as favors. You could have larger pies as the dessert with little take home versions as favors.
KEEP THE CAKE
Cannot go without a wedding cake? Try these couple of tricks to help cut costs:
Naked Cakes: This has grown from a rare wedding trend to almost a staple in the industry. They are chic, natural, and organic looking. You can add sprigs of flowers or greenery, a few berries or a light dusting of powder sugar and you have a delicious art piece. The labor involved in icing and piping is eliminated so is the associated cost.
Image Source: Bernadette’s Boards
COMBINATION: You can have your cake and eat it too while saving money. Instead of a large cake to feed the entire guest list, have a smaller one for just the two of you. This will allow you to still have your cake cutting photos on top of just being able to have that one cake design you have always dreamt of but couldn’t afford. Smaller equals more affordable. Display the cake on a top tier with the bottom sections being filled with either cupcakes, donuts, cookies, pastries, or really anything you want. Cake pops are becoming popular too so that could be an option as well.
The average cost of catering for a wedding is roughly $70 per person. This goes back to number one on the list for cutting costs. If you cannot limit your guest count then your next option to save with food is how it is served. There are numerous options now versus a time where you only chose plated or buffet. Below are the methods of serving your guests from most expensive to least expensive:
This is the most expensive option when deciding on how to serve guests. This is usually due to the added man power it takes to plate and serve the dinners on time.
This is become quite popular and there are so many creative ways of displaying the food or the types of food at your wedding. It is a more creative version of the traditional buffet. Instead of having a long table with the food lined up in a row, you section off each grouping to their own table. For example: Pasta bar, food carving station, and sushi table are just some examples. I have seen couples organize the tables by cuisine. Have your guests go from Mexican cuisine to Italian depending on the table they visit. This creative approach entices your guests to mingle from table to table while striking up conversations with fellow guests. It makes for a great experience in dining and I have seen many guests thoroughly enjoy themselves.
This option has been around for decades in the wedding world. It is a simple set up which requires less staff from the caterer versus food stations. It is basically a long table of large metal serving dishes with heaters under them (Chaffers). There are usually plates, salad, and rolls found on one end with a handful of servers helping guests with food.
Side Note: The downside of buffet and stations are of course the wasted food when all is said and done. There are so many out there that could really benefit from your wedding leftovers. I strongly urge you to look into ways of donating the extras by contacting your local homeless shelter, soup kitchen, Ronal McDonald House, Senior Citizen home, or hospice center. Also remember that when choosing food stations or buffet, the time needed to have all guests served and fed will increase compared to plated dinners. The additional time can be as much as 30 additional minutes so plan accordingly when looking at the reception timeline.
Remember those traditional little sac of pastel almonds back in the 80’s and early 90’s? You don’t have to be in your 40’s or 50’s to remember these suckers. They have been the wedding favor mascot for decades. Chances are, you probably have a memory of them from watching a relative painstakingly putting them together at a dining room table somewhere in America growing up. Thankfully, the era of bagging candy covered nuts and giving them to your guests as a thank you has ended (although online retail stores like Oriental Trading and Candy Warehouse beg to differ). Now it is a form of not only expressing who you are as a couple but also to give your guests something to take away from your wedding day and actually enjoy. You can be creative and have mini potted plants or succulents or express your love for all things sweet by having guests take home bags of their favorite candies or treats. Sadly, this expense can add up and depending on the amount of guests you have attending your wedding, it climb to well over a few hundred dollars. This doesn’t mean that you have to ditch being creative and go back to the pastel almonds – please do not go back to the pastel almonds. Instead, try out the following suggestions to help you save on cost without sacrificing on creativity:
Nothing states personal like homemade treats. You could send guests home with a small box of Mom’s famous brownies with a cute recipe card. Not big on treats, then create your own bath soak or potpourri and put them in little glass jars which can be ordered in bulk online.
Another option you could have is skip the favors all together and instead make a donation to your favorite charity on behalf of your guests. Then have little place cards at the tables informing the guests that they have made a donation and then list the organization.
Turn your cookie or dessert table into DIY favors. This tends to be such a huge hit with guests that you may even witness them shoving more than one box of cookies into their purses to take home. This is a no-fail option. Go online and order labels with your monogram on them. Then go back on line or open up a new tab on your Chrome or Safari and order blank cardboard or paper disposable boxes in bulk. Display them by the cookie/dessert table and you are done. Favors are complete. Really want to save money, eliminate a traditional wedding cake too. Now your dessert table just saved you lots of money in areas of wedding cake and favors!
This one may take some sacrificing for many. You may not be able to have your wedding on a non-Saturday due to the work schedules of guests. If that option is not available as venues will typically discount for days other than Saturday, then try having a wedding date set for off-peak season. This can vary depending on your location, for example, Florida’s off-season is during the summer due to the heat and risk of Hurricanes compared to Pittsburgh’s off-season is the winter time when all vegetation is dead and traveling can be hazardous. If you choose a date around a holiday, you can utilize the venue’s décor which will in-turn help you save on your wedding budget. If the date and time of year is not negotiable for whatever reason, then try to think outside of the box. Country clubs and hotels are going to be popular choices with a reflecting price tag. Look into alternative places like huge empty homes that have been on the market for a while – contact the realtor to see if the owner would be interested in renting the home out for a day or even a week if it is a destination wedding and you wish to have it second as accommodations (depending on if the home is staged or furnished). Another option is to look into restaurants who have a large event room or an art studio. Being creative in this area may save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.
Pittsburgh Opera House (Photo by: Maria Angela Photography)
Yes, as a wedding photographer, I am including this one. This may get me some backlash in the community but I would be lying if I didn’t include the potential savings in this area. Over the years, I have helped a lot of brides in maintaining their budget when it came to photography. The truth is, the most important aspect of wedding photography is the actual coverage itself. You cannot redo bad photos so make sure you are looking at reviews and seeing a few weddings to make sure they are consistent. With that said, once you have found your photographer, hire them for the basic coverage. All products and prints can be purchased down the road, of course double check this with the photographer you plan on hiring. Some may not honor the current pricing of products a year later when the wedding is done. See what your options are for future product purchasing first. By only selecting coverage only with copies of your high resolution images, you could save a potential $1000. Also see if you can lessen the amount of hours you are having your photographer, you may not need ALL DAY coverage. Many of my clients have been told they needed upwards of 11 hours of coverage when actually they were able to get everything they wanted covered on their wedding day in less amount of time. At $300 per hour, that can really add up.
Ever heard of a honeymoon registry? This is a really neat idea and my own sister actually introduced me to it when she got married a few years back. Instead of picking dishes that you will never use or beautiful crystal flutes that will look great in the box they came with sitting in a closet somewhere in your home, try having a honeymoon registry. Sites like Honeyfund.com allows you to register for contributions to your wedding, down payments for a home, donations to charities, and of course your honeymoon. If the honeymoon is what you are interested in, guests can purchase add-ons to your vacation such as transportation, excursions, adventures, couples massages, and more. Have a lavish honeymoon at the expense of your guests!
Riviera Maya, Mexico (Photo by: Maria Angela Photography)
This is something that I think is really cool and I hope one day, I get a bride who implements this into their wedding. So a creative way to save money and receive services or products at a discounted price is to have them sponsor your event. Let me explain – In exchange for a discount, you would have a nice printed place card at each table setting or table with a list of the vendors who helped you pull off such a gorgeous wedding. This is free advertisement for the wedding vendors and you get to save a lot of money, depending on the amount of vendors participate. I know first-hand that this works because I had to do something similar for an event years ago and got almost everything at a ridiculous fraction of the price just by advertising their businesses!