Beautiful weddings on a budget
38 ways to save money on your wedding
Want to throw a wedding without throwing away all your savings? Establishing guidelines and sticking to your budget will help. But saving money doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll need to cut corners on the things you love; it just means making smart choices along the way. Here are some sneaky ways to stretch your dollars on the way to the altar.
Setting the date
Saturdays are the most popular – and expensive – days for weddings, so why not consider another day such as a Friday or Sunday. Many ceremony and reception venues, as well as other vendors, will have less expensive rates on weekdays and Sundays. You might also find that some bigger venue sites are more willing to accommodate small weddings on an off day.
Think off-peak season and save thousands! Consider scheduling your event between late September and early spring, avoiding the more expensive “peak season.” If your guests require accommodations, affordable rooms are often more readily available during the off season.
The guest list
Cut your guest list. The simple truth is that there is no quicker, easier way to save money than by limiting the size of the event.
Hold your wedding and reception at the same venue. The payoff: one less site fee and no need for a limousine to ferry you between locations. It also helps cut down on the cost of decorations.
Set your sights on venues that specialize in weddings, as these often offer great package deals that include everything from food and flowers to decorations and a wedding cake.
Some bridal boutiques offer designer trunk shows where you may be able to find a great gown at a great price.
Scout sales in the months leading up to your date, and don’t overlook a dress that is one or two sizes too large; custom tailoring can make it a perfect fit. If you plan to wear white, look at all white dresses, not just “wedding” dresses.
Food & drink
Consider having a morning or afternoon wedding, so you can serve lunch instead of dinner. That will keep the cost of food way down. And, unless you have really outrageous friends, guests tend to drink less alcohol in the afternoon than in the evening.
Hold down expenses by having a buffet instead of a sit-down meal. (But not all buffets are less expensive than sit-down dinners; get estimates on the price of both serving options from your caterer before you commit to one or the other.)
In place of a full meal, have an hors d'oeuvres or dessert-only party.
Skip the traditional, pricey steak and seafood entrées in favor of ethnic fare such as Mexican, Italian or Indian dishes. It’s trendy and usually less expensive than traditional wedding fare.
See if your reception site will allow you to bring in your own offsite caterer.
Instead of offering a full bar, save money by serving only beer, wine and a signature drink of your choice.
Pare down your cake bill by having the baker prepare a small custom-designed cake for photos and the cutting ceremony and a large sheet cake (which is less expensive to make but still delicious) to be served to your guests. Have the cake sliced in the kitchen and your guests will never know they aren’t eating the confection they watched you cut.
Serve beautifully decorated cupcakes – or even a variety of doughnuts or French macarons – instead of an elaborate wedding cake. You can stack these sweet treats on a large, cake-shaped, tiered tray.
Flowers & decor
Have your flowers work double duty: Flowers that decorate your ceremony site can be used as centerpieces at your reception site.
In place of elaborate bouquets, let each bridesmaid carry a single exquisite flower, like an orchid or a calla lily.
If you are getting married outdoors, let the scenery do the work for you. Or choose a venue that doesn’t need much décor, such as a garden or art museum.
Hold your wedding around the holidays, when ceremony and reception venues are already decorated for the occasion.
Check out the local nurseries and flower shops in your area and consider swapping more expensive stems for less costly stems of the same color. Gather your craftiest friends and family, florist’s tape and foam and ribbons and have a DIY floral arranging party.
Music & entertainment
Enlist a friend or relative who plays an instrument well, or has a good voice, to perform a song during the ceremony. Chances are, he or she will feel honored to be asked.
Book a DJ, since these pros generally cost less than bands. Bonus: You only need to provide food for one person instead of a group.
Photography & videography
Hiring a professional photographer to document your day in pictures is a must. This is one category where every dollar counts, and instead of scrimping make sure you go with someone whose style you love because it’s hard to put a price on memories. That said, consider ways to control costs:
Some pros may offer special promotions depending on the time of the year.
Consider booking a photographer for fewer hours, such as eight to 10 hours instead of a full day (12 to 14 hours).
Hiring a photographer and videographer from the same company may get you a discounted rate.
Save money, time and trees by emailing your save-the-date cards.
Instead of enclosing reply cards in your invites, direct guests to RSVP online at your wedding site.
Print the reception time at the bottom of your invitation instead of on a separate reception card. You’ll save the cost of the paper and the additional postage.
Instead of printing individual menu cards for every guest, create just one menu – with a chalkboard.
A good wash and wax to a family or friend’s nice car may be the simplest way to save on transportation costs. Your uncle with the classic car may be willing to play chauffeur for the day.
Rings & jewelry
For your wedding bands, consider metals other than gold or platinum such as titanium or palladium.
Comfortable with the unconventional? Don’t overlook buying a ring without any diamonds. Consider other precious gems and stones, which can be less expensive yet still stunning.
Generally, the more metal within wedding bands, the more expensive the product, so you can significantly reduce cost by simply choosing a thinner product.
Shop at a place where engraving is complimentary.
Favors & gifts
An elegant favor given out at the reception doesn’t have to be spendy, especially considering most guests won’t hang onto it afterwards. A beautifully wrapped chocolate is always deliciously in style.
Set up a candy buffet where guests can assemble their own favors and get a sweet treat while they're at it. Bulk candy is often less expensive than personalized gifts, and you can buy it in colors that match your wedding theme.
Choose wedding favors that do double duty, like small silver or gold frames that might hold guests' table cards.
Or just skip favors completely. That’s better than spending lots of money on something your guests won’t remember anyway.