It's no secret that weddings can get very expensive very quickly, and if you're not careful about your budget, you could still be paying for your big day when you celebrate your fifth wedding anniversary.
But you can still throw a fabulous bash on a budget. In fact, there are tons of tiny ways to save money during the wedding planning process that when added up can total over several hundred dollars.
Here are the 15 best tips for saving money on your wedding and how to think smartly about your budget.
Set a budget
The best way to set yourself on the right path when it comes to wedding budget involves the simple act of first defining your budget. You and your partner need to sit down, tally up your income and monthly expenses leading up to the wedding and come up with a number that you both feel comfortable spending on your big day. When you have a number that you both feel good about, you'll feel empowered as you start speaking with vendors and pricing out flowers.
Remember, some cities and locations will cost far more for weddings than other places, so if you live in an expensive city, then your budget may not go as far as you need it to. But you can always extend your engagement to give you more time to save or host your wedding outside the city at a less expensive location.
Now is also the time to start speaking to parents about any financial contributions they may be making to your wedding budget. Not all parents may be able to help pay for a wedding, but if your or your partner's parents have ever mentioned wanting to contribute, then it's time to have an open conversation about what they had in mind. Be open and thankful for any contribution, but always be ready to pay for your wedding.
Don't forget to factor in your honeymoon! Whether you plan to go on a honeymoon right away or wait, you'll need to think about where you want to go and how long you plan to be gone. You can always build a honeymoon registry (more on that later) to help offset those costs, but start thinking about them now while you're still deciding on a budget number.
Create a budget spreadsheet for all expenses
Once you and your partner have decided on a budget, create a spreadsheet and start tracking all expenses related to your wedding. As you start paying vendors, add all expenses to the spreadsheet so you can both keep track of expenses, no matter who swipes the credit card.
When you build your spreadsheet, set off separate sections for expenses, such as catering, flowers and decor. Then set a smaller budget for each section that when added together totals your big budget number. Not all sections should have the same budget, and you can always reallocate money as some expenses become more important than others.
Find a gorgeous location
Want to save on decor and flowers? Choose a ceremony and reception location that dazzles and needs no decor. When the scenery itself is enough, you won't have to splurge on decorations.
Consider alternate dates and times
Saturday nights tend to be the most popular times for weddings, but you and your partner can actually save a lot of money by booking venues on other days or at different times of the day. If you're not serving alcohol, consider having a Sunday ceremony and reception around lunchtime. For smaller weddings or those where nearly every guest lives close to the location, a Friday evening wedding might also fit.
Shop around for every vendor
No matter what vendor you're looking to hire — a caterer, a venue, a photographer — shop around. It takes a little more time, but when you compare prices and services, then you'll have a better chance of getting the service you need that still falls within your budget.
To save a little money, seek out younger vendors. Seasoned wedding photographers, hairstylists and makeup artists can charge you an arm and a leg for services, but you can find photographers and artists new to the business who do great work but don't have the experience just yet to charge premium prices. You should, of course, not expect free services or to pay anyone in “exposure,” but finding a beauty school student or grad school musician might save you some money.
Ask a million questions
When speaking with vendors, come with a list of questions. You might find that while some businesses charge more, they also might provide more services, which could save you money elsewhere.
For example, ask potential venues:
- Will you set up for the ceremony and reception?
- Is there a fee to move chairs from the ceremony space to the reception?
- Are tables and chairs included in the price?
- Will linens be provided or do I need to rent them?
- At what time can we access the space on the big day?
- Is parking available or is that a separate charge?
- Is there space to get ready on site?
- Will we be responsible for cleanup?
Some venues may be more expensive, but if they provide linens, tables, chairs and moving services, then they'll probably be less expensive than a venue with a lower price tag and only a few of those amenities. Some catering services may also provide linens, so it's best to look at these two service providers at the same time.
Make a list of questions you might have and write them all down. This will help you remember to ask them all when you meet with vendors, and of course, don't forget to take notes.
Choose a honeymoon registry that lets you access funds immediately
As more couples pay for their own weddings, honeymoon registries have grown in popularity as a fun way to help fund the honeymoon. Instead of buying traditional gifts, such as a toaster or blender, wedding guests can give honeymoon experiences. Some treat the happy couple to a lovely spa day, while others send you and your partner on a fun snorkeling excursion.
The one catch with some of these registries is that you can't access your gift money until after the wedding — unless you want to pay a fee. This can be an extremely unpleasant surprise as you try to juggle wedding and honeymoon expenses on your credit card. Before you choose a honeymoon registry, make sure this hidden fee is nowhere to be found. At Hitchd, we allow couples to access their funds whenever they need them.
Rack up points with your credit card
If you feel comfortable, using a credit card to help pay for wedding expenses might help you earn a little bit of cash back. Since your charges will be higher, you'll be earning more points, which can then be used to lower your bill or to pay for expenses at certain stores.
Design a low-key table centerpiece
Some couples like to make a big splash with table centerpieces, choosing large vases with tall flowers — but all that does is block guests from speaking with each other from across the table. Save some money on your decor and design low-key centerpieces that look nice and won't get in the way.
Opt for one-time fee honeymoon registries over pay-per-transaction registries
When it comes to payment for honeymoon registries, there are two basic fee structures: one-time fees and pay-per-transaction fees. For one-time fee structures, you and your partner will pay it once when you launch your site and then never again. You can receive an unlimited number of gifts and never pay a transaction fee, and you can access your money whenever you need it, making budgeting much easier.
Pay-per-transaction fees might sound better in theory, but you and your partner might end up paying a lot more in fees depending on how many gifts you receive. If you're expecting over 100 guests, then your transaction fees will quickly eclipse what the one-time fee would have cost you.
One-time fees are also better structures for budgeting. You know what you're paying, and you won't have to face a surprise fee when you go to withdraw your funds.
Keep an eye out for wedding dress sample sales
Wedding dress prices can vary drastically, and it can be hard to stomach spending so much money on a dress that will be worn just once. If you want a designer or designer-looking dress on a budget, then start looking out for sample sales in your area.
Sample sales happen when bridal boutiques need to sell off their samples to make room for next season's gowns. Most of these dresses have been worn for minutes at a time, but some will have some wear and tear on them. You won't have much of a size selection with sample sales, but as long as the size difference isn't terribly drastic, the price of the dress plus alterations (which you'd still have to pay if you ordered a brand new dress) should still be lower.
You can save a lot on your dress budget by buying a sample dress, so keep close eye on the dress details and you can probably find a dress that you'll love.
Skip the top-shelf liquor
An open bar at a wedding serves as a great crowd pleaser, but it can get expensive very fast. Instead of going all out with top-shelf liquor, skip the hard liquor entirely and choose a beer and wine bar. Choose a few diverse wines and beers so all your guests can find something they like, and your guests will be satisfied.
Remember, no one will remember in a week what kind of liquor you served, but they will remember the great feeling they had celebrating and dancing.
Opt for buffet-style meals over served ones
Having plates served to your guests may look a little more elegant, but it does come with some drawbacks. On the whole, it's more expensive than buffet- or family-style meals. It also depends on the speed of the kitchen and the service of the wait staff. If something holds up the kitchen or a server needs to call in sick, then you may have hungry guests waiting to be served.
A buffet-style meal may not be as fancy, but it allows all guests to eat at their own speed and put their own plates together. It'll save you some cash, and it'll keep the party flowing.
Go minimal with cake and desserts
It's hard to flip to a romantic comedy that ends in a wedding that doesn't have a towering cake. Those big tiered cakes may look decadent, but they're also expensive. They take a long time to make and bake, so pastry chefs charge appropriately for their time. And in the end, no matter what flavor combination you choose, not everyone will like the flavor.
By the end of the night, your guests will probably be too full from dinner and alcohol to eat much for dessert, so keep it minimal. Cupcakes have become popular alternatives to one large cake because you can order multiple flavors and they're less expensive. You can always order one large cupcake for you and your partner to cut.
Give out favors guests will actually use
Have you ever received a wine or martini glass as a wedding favor, printed with the couple's names and wedding date on the side? Or maybe a small container with bubbles? These favor may look cute all wrapped up on a table or set on each seat, but if you choose these types of favors, then you're almost guaranteed to be bringing at least half of those favors home with you.
As much as you'd like a martini glass commemorating your wedding day, your guests probably don't. It's one glass, not a pair, and it will probably sit collecting dust in the back of a cabinet — or be thrown out entirely.
If you are going to give party favors, choose something that everyone will either eat or take home. Mini alcohol bottles with a personalized tag are always crowd pleasers, and if you're going to have a short break between the ceremony and the reception, leave candy party favors on each plate. That way, everyone will have something light to snack on, and you won't waste your money on party favors you end up giving to yourself.
What makes a wedding memorable really centers on the love in the room — the love you feel for your partner and the love your families and friends feel for you both. That — and not the fancy cake or dress — is what will keep guests talking about your wedding for years to come.
Looking for the #1 way to fund your honeymoon? Hitchd.com has you covered.
Hitchd is a new type of honeymoon registry that helps fund your adventure of a lifetime. Think of us as your very own wishing well, Kickstarter, and travel planner, all rolled into one beautiful experience.