Little did I know when I got engaged that I was willingly jumping into a world of complete insanity – what is more commonly known as “wedding planning”. I knew weddings were expensive, but it wasn’t until we started planning our wedding that I realized why. There is SO MUCH STUFF that you need to pick out…and ultimatley pay for. Thankfully my bride-to-be is as budget conscious as I am, so we’ve found a few ways that we’ve been able to save ourselves a boatload of money through the wedding planning process. We’re still going to end up spending a ton of money, but here’s how we’ve been able to save $12,000 (and counting!) on our wedding budget.
10 Tips That Will Help You Save On Your Wedding
1. Realize That Nobody Cares About The Fine Details. – Ladies, this one is directed towards you, and while it may sound harsh, it’s absolutely true. When you’re planning your wedding it’s very easy to get caught up in the fairy tale of creating your “perfect” day without stopping to realize that none of your guests care about the vast majority of the choices on which you’ll spend a lot of time and money.Thinking about spending extra for the super fancy invitations and the envelopes with the silver leaf inside the flap? That invite spends a week on somebody’s refrigerator before it ends up in the trash along with the outrageous envelopes you spent $1 a piece on. Friends of mine spent $3 each on chair covers for all the chairs at their reception. Do you think anyone who was there remember what they looked like? Doubtful. We even found venues that charged extra for certain colors of napkins, it’s a crazy world out there!Weddings are full of money traps like this. The earlier you realize that no one cares about most of your wedding minutia, the more money you’ll be able to save yourself by not getting nickel and dimed thinking you need to have it there. Focus your spending on the truly important things and your guests will think everything is just as “perfect” while you save your budget.
2. Keep Your Guest List In Check - When we started planning our wedding we had a list of over 300 people we wanted to invite. That was all fine and good until we got down to brass tacks and started adding up the cost of each guest. When you realize it might cost you over $100 per person to have them at your wedding, you find it easier to assign importance to your friends and family. :)My fiancé and I have been together for almost 9 years now, so it was easy to come up with an approval system for people who might be on the fence of getting an invite to the wedding. If, after as long as we’ve been together, the other one of us hadn’t met that person more than once, or didn’t know who the person was without getting the back-story, they were out. This doesn’t work with some distant relatives who you’re obligated to invite, but it works wonders with some of the acquaintances and childhood friends/neighbors we were fretting over. In the end we were able to trim about 100 people off of the invite list. Our Savings: $7,500 (at least!)
3. Employ Your Friends/DIY - We have a friend who is a really talented graphic designer. So instead of buying the pre-designed and over priced “save the date” cards, invitations, and table cards that you find online, we had our friend design them for us. In the end we got a beautiful, one of a kind design that looks like we spent a lot of money having specially designed for us! In reality it cost us a little over $100 to print them on Vistaprint and a few nights of babysitting as a thank you for doing the work for us. Our Savings: ~$600Friends of mine have a circle of friends who happen to be very musical. Instead of hiring professional musicians to play during their ceremony they had their friends play. It ended up being a really personal and memorable touch, and I’m sure it saved them hundreds!
4. NEGOTIATE! – When it comes to wedding planning, just about everything is negotiable. One of my biggest priorities for the wedding was to have a live band. When we found one we liked and had them quote us a price it was about $500 more than we were looking to spend. I explained that we really liked the band, but were only looking to spend $____. Without much prodding the manager said they would come down to our price. A few days later (after speaking with our venue) I called up the band manager once again and explained that our venue had a professional sound system in-house (it doubles as a concert venue) and the band wouldn’t need to transport their own mixers, speakers and other sound equipment. I asked if he’d be able to knock anything off the price because of the trouble that would save them and he agreed to knock $200 more off of the price!Similarly, our photographer knocked $300 off of their price if we paid in cash, and my fiancé was able to save a few hundred dollars on our cake and flowers by negotiating as well. Simply put, try to negotiate with all of your vendors. You might not always save a ton of money, but more often than not they’re more than willing to work with you on price. Our Savings: ~$1200
5. Shop Around - In addition to negotiating with your vendors, you should make sure to do your due diligence and shop around with as many local vendors as possible. There’s a lot of price variation from vendor to vendor! In the quotes we’ve gotten we’ve seen things like a $400 price difference in cakes, and $1000 in difference with different flower vendors! Just like with any major purchase, do your homework and shop around for the best deal.My finance ended up saving $900 on her wedding dress, and still got “the one”. She found the dress she wanted to “say yes” to at a local bridal shop, but it was about $400 over her budget. Instead of breaking her budget, she got creative. She started looking around and found her exact dress, brand new with tags, on a site called Tradesy which is a peer-to-peer market place for designer label women’s clothing and accessories. Unfortunately the girl who had originally purchased the dress had to cancel her wedding. Her dress was still brand new and hadn’t been worn or altered at all. My fiancé negotiated the price down a little, a friend who lived in the same town as the girl with the dress agreed to check it out and pick it up for her and in the end she got her dream wedding dress and came in well under budget! Our Savings: ~$1000
6. Cut The Cake - Spoiler alert: wedding cakes are overpriced! One of the more popular ways to save (and one we’re utilizing) is to have a smaller “display” cake, and have larger sheet cakes in the back that will be the ones cut and served to guests. You’ll save hundreds on the cost of your cake and your guests will be none the wiser. Another popular option is to forgo the cake all together. I’ve been to weddings that have served cupcakes, brownies and donuts instead of traditional wedding cake. I’m not sure how much cheaper they are to buy, but if you have a friend or family member who is a great baker it’s worth a look to see if you can save money and be a little different all at the same time. Our Savings: $300
7. Trim The Bar & Menu - While I think it’s important to have an open bar and show your guests a good time, that doesn’t mean you need to break the bank on it. Most venues have different food and bar packages that they offer for weddings. We’re lucky that our venue was very flexible with letting us tailor their packages to our wants and needs. By cutting out things like table service for wine, a champagne toast for all our guests, and by cutting out the top shelf liquor from the bar we were able to save a few hundred dollars on our bill. Another option is to have a “family style” meal, or just choose the less “fancy” dinner options provided.
We were stuck on our steak option, Filet was obviously the top choice and it tasted amazing at our sampling. But I’ve never had a filet at a wedding that was anything but average. Having to cook 100 steaks to serve at the same time doesn’t produce the same results as you’d get in a typical restaurant experience, so we opted for the less expensive cut of steak. By being flexible with the bar and the menu we saved ~$500
8. Don’t Go Overboard On The Engagement Ring – The engagement ring is the first wedding expense you’ll incur! Forget about the 3 months salary rule and consider buying your engagement ring online. I’m not going to go into too much detail here, as I’ve covered this a few times before – If you missed it, check out “How Much Should You Spend On An Engagement Ring” and “Buying An Engagement Ring Online – My Blue Nile Experience” My Savings: $800
9. Hold Your Wedding In A Naturally Beautiful Venue - Our reception is going to be held in a recently restored church from the early 1900′s that’s been re-purposed as a concert venue and art museum. It’s an absolutely beautiful room, which means we don’t have to spend a dime on decorating it to make it look fancy and elegant enough for a wedding. Outdoor venues are also great for this purpose. When your venue looks amazing on its own, you don’t need to spend a lot of (or any) money decorating it! It wasn’t something I originally considered when knowing I’d be dissatisfied in a plain banquet room, but it’s a welcome bonus.
10. Forget The Favors – 90% of the time your guests end up leaving them behind on the tables anyway. Trust me, no one is running home to plant a tree to commemorate your love with the seeds you gave them as a favor. And what are they going to do with that candle, or champagne flute personalized with your names and wedding date on it? You think they’re breaking those out for the toast on New Years Eve?Honestly, the best wedding favor I’ve ever received at a wedding doubled as the desert. The couple had cupcakes from a local bakery in a box at each seat on the table with an attached thank you card from the bride and groom. Delicious, thoughtful and memorable! Our Savings ~$200
With just those 10 tips we’ve been able to save over $12,000 on our wedding so far, and we’re not even completely through with the planning!
Bonus: Two Huge Ways I Wish We’d Saved On Our Wedding
There are two huge ways to save on your wedding that will save you thousands of dollars on top of everything I’ve already listed out. The first – Consider getting married in the “off-season”. Everyone gets married in the spring and summer, and the prices for everything wedding related during those months reflects it. By getting married in the October – April time period you’ll probably be a be able to throw your wedding for half of what it would cost in June or July.
If those months don’t work for you, consider having your wedding on a Friday or a Sunday. We found that venues charged much lower rates for non-Saturday weddings, and in most cases even waved their required deposits or minimum spends.
Readers: Do you have any additional tips that can help the young lovers out there save on their weddings? Is there anything you wish you did differently for yours?