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Everyone wants their wedding day to be exceptional, whether you have something flashy or subtle in mind. However, it’s getting harder and harder to have your wedding without an enormous price tag associated with it!
Many of us have to foot the bill for our wedding for one reason or another. So how do you deal with this when the average cost of a wedding in the U.S. is $33,900?
Although we all want a wedding-to-remember, don’t go into debt or take out a loan to pay for your wedding. Most of us are already starting with a negative net worth, thanks to student loan debt. There’s no need to add a personal wedding loan on top of that, especially when there are so many things you can do to keep your wedding costs down.
Instead, use these money-saving tips to make your special day marvelous without making it expensive!
Choose an Unofficial Venue
An official wedding venue with onsite catering is going to cost you a pretty penny. Instead, opt for a more unofficial location.
Do you know someone with land or a property that could be the setting for your big day? A beautiful backyard or barn, woods, or a house on the beach would offer all the makings of a fairy tale wedding without the price.
Rent a Gorgeous Airbnb
Whether it’s a castle in Scotland or the elegant 3-story home twenty minutes from where you live, renting an Airbnb can be a very affordable way to get the wedding venue of your dreams.
To find homes available for weddings, select the filter under “House rules” that says “Suitable for events.” Make sure to communicate with your Airbnb host as well to make them aware of your intentions.
Go to the Courthouse and Celebrate Later
If you want the least amount of planning involved, skip the venue altogether.
Get married at the courthouse in front of your closest friends and family. You can always throw a party later to celebrate with everyone.
Get Married in a National Park
Talk about a beautiful outdoor venue for a fraction of the price. Applying for a wedding permit at a National Park can cost anywhere from $50-250. That’s a steal!
Keep in mind accessibility may be more difficult for your other vendors, and you’ll still have to book a caterer. However, even with those inconveniences, you could still come out ahead price-wise.
Restrictions differ for each park, so if this is something you’re thinking about, make sure to look at the National Park Service website to get all the information. You’ll want to make sure you fill out all the necessary permits and abide by their regulations for booking.
Have Your Ceremony in a State Park
If you don’t live near a National Park and aren’t into the idea of a destination wedding, consider getting married in your local State Park.
Permits are required, and their costs vary widely by state and state park locations. Check with the state park you’re considering to get a better estimate of what their permit rates would be.
Small Town Wedding
Weddings cost more in big cities. Period. A higher populated area means more competition for wedding vendors, which creates inflated prices and not as much room for negotiating.
Have you ever considered having a destination wedding to a picturesque small town instead of a more touristed destination?
Even if you don’t want a destination wedding, you can still get married in a smaller town just one or two hours from the city in which you live.
Not only will a small-town venue be more affordable, but hiring local vendors will be as well. You could always book vendors who live in your area and have them travel with you. However, most vendors will charge an extra transportation fee for this, which adds a higher price tag to the already higher-priced vendor.
Food and Drinks
Skip the Bar
The average wedding guest will drink two to three drinks in the first hour of the reception, and one drink every hour after that. A reasonable estimate is that each guest will have five drinks throughout a 4-hour reception.
With an average drink price of $5, you can expect to pay anywhere from $15-90/person for a 4-hr wedding reception. If you plan to serve only wine and beer, this price drops to $11-33/person, still not an insignificant amount.
According to an article by The Knot, a premium open bar with top-shelf liquor averages $4,147. A full-service bar without the premium liquor will still cost a couple an average of $2,500, and a beer and wine only bar will cost an average of $1,476.
That’s a lot of money! So what if you just…skipped the bar. All that could be saved or put towards another area of your wedding budget that may mean more to you.
Or if you’d like alcohol at your wedding without the price, consider having a BYOB wedding. You have to make sure this is alright with your wedding venue if you have a more traditional location, of course.
Have a Potluck
Having a potluck is easier to do at a less traditional venue. Most official wedding venues have a caterer on-site and wouldn’t be too excited about you saying you don’t want their food, but you’ll bring your own.
Many couples are getting married older and might not need a lot of the things that traditionally come to mind when you hear the phrase “wedding present.”
Instead, request guests bring a dish instead of a present or ask a close family friend to make a meal that’s simple to fix and feeds a lot of people.
Decrease Your Guest List
At a traditional wedding venue, you’re going to pay per person for catering. Instead of inviting everyone you know, consider only asking the people you care about and are closest to you.
After all, it’s your wedding and this day should be about you and your significant other.
Fewer people means less food, a smaller cake, and less alcohol (if you choose to serve alcohol at your wedding).
Select a By-the-Hour Package
If your photographer offers a by-the-hour (3, 4, 5, etc.-hour) package, it can be cheaper than purchasing separate engagements, bridals, and wedding day photos.
Selecting how many hours you need and where you want them used can give you more flexibility and control over the package you’re buying. You may not need the Bridals package that’s 3 hours and priced accordingly.
For example, if your photographer offers various by-the-hour packages, you can book a 6-hour package. Spend an hour on Engagements, an hour on Bridals, and four hours on your wedding ceremony and reception.
A by-the-hour package allows you to place more time and priority on the events you care about capturing the most.
Skip Engagement Pictures
Maybe the engagement and lead up to the wedding aren’t as crucial to you as the big day itself.
You might love the fun selfies you two took together when they popped the question. Or maybe you have a friend who’s a novice photographer that wouldn’t mind doing an unofficial engagement photoshoot with you.
If engagement photos aren’t a priority for you, don’t get them just because other people expect it.
Change the Way You Take Your Bridals
Changing up the way you take Bridals is one of the things I did to save money on my wedding photographer. We bought a 6.5-hour package, spent one hour on Engagement photos and five and a half hours on the wedding day capturing the wedding party getting ready, the ceremony, and the reception.
I didn’t allow any time for a separate Bridal photo session. The reason for that was two-fold.
First of all, I wanted to use most of my hours on the wedding day so that we could take all our wedding party photos before the ceremony. I didn’t want anyone missing half the reception because we were all trying to take pictures.
Secondly, I didn’t want to go through the hassle of wearing my beautiful dress and having to get it dry cleaned before the wedding.
This is something that wasn’t important to me, and three years later, I still have no regrets.
Instead of having a separate Bridal session, I told my photographer I wanted to take some pictures on my wedding day of just me in my dress. Once we finished the wedding party photos, she took me to several locations around the venue. We had a mini-Bridal session where she captured several pictures with me in my wedding dress. I didn’t want hundreds; I had only wanted a few.
For me, this was the perfect solution and a big money-saver.
Skip Flowers Altogether
If flowers aren’t your taste, get ready to save big on your wedding. With flowers composing most bouquets, boutonnieres, corsages, and wedding decor, this bill can inflate quickly.
If you like the idea of incorporating flowers into your wedding but are looking for a cheaper solution, consider using a substitute for real flowers.
Think felt and paper flowers, or using broach bouquets.
Order Your Flowers from a Bulk Store
Nothing says you need to order flowers from the upscale, expensive flower shop. Consider buying your wedding flowers from a bulk store.
You won’t even have to buy flowers in bulk and arrange them yourself.
Costco has wedding flower packages anywhere from $100-230. And Sam’s Club offers them from $114-280.
It’s worth a look to see if any of them fit your style and wedding theme. Two-hundred fifty dollars is a steal when you realize the average wedding flower cost is around $2,500.
Get Real Touch Flowers
If you want the look of real flowers without the price or hassle of them dying on you, get Real Touch flowers.
Real Touch flowers are a high-quality artificial flower that looks and feels authentic. This is a great mid-range price option, and it’s what I did for my wedding.
I didn’t want to deal with real flowers or to worry about things being perfect a few days before the wedding. So I found someone on Etsy who made Real Touch flower bouquets, corsages, and boutonnieres. I had no flowers in my wedding decor.
I paid $645 for all this:
- One bridal bouquet
- Four bridesmaids bouquets
- Twelve boutonnieres
- One flower girl corsage
- Five pin-on corsages for mothers and grandmothers of the bride and groom
This was precisely the compromise I was looking for, flowers for the wedding party that were affordable and hassle-free. Considering the average cost of wedding flowers, $645 is a fantastic price!
Get Discounted DIY Supplies
Are you a DIY master or willing to learn how to make decor yourself? See if your favorite craft store has regular discounts.
Hobby Lobby is my personal favorite when it comes to scoring deals on DIY wedding decoration supplies.
Whether you’re looking for photo frames, home decor, or in their wedding section, Hobby Lobby’s weekly ad has 30-50% off merchandise every week. Their deals alternate every other week, so it’s easy to predict when the item you need will go on sale again.
Get what you need for your centerpieces, a frame for the photo you’re putting next to your guestbook, or even the guestbook itself!
If the thing you want doesn’t seem to go on sale or isn’t on sale that week, you can utilize their 40% off any item coupon every time you shop.
Save Items From Your Everyday Life
How much you can save with this tip varies greatly depending on what you want to use for wedding decor. Your theme and the atmosphere you desire for your wedding will be the limiting factor.
If your venue provides the decor, there’s no need for you to do this. However, if your wedding is held in a more non-traditional setting, you’ll have to do more decorating yourself.
Maybe you want a rustic-style wedding. Start saving any food items you purchase that come in mason jars. Collect them from friends and family as well. Or maybe you’ve seen a cute wine bottle centerpiece idea on Pinterest. Save your empty wine bottles throughout the year.
After deciding on your decor, think if there’s a way you can save things you already buy to make this part of your budget more affordable.
Rent Your Dress
A great way to get a traditional wedding dress without the high cost is to rent it! After all, you aren’t very likely to wear it again.
Many websites like Rent the Runway, Lending Luxury, and Poshare allow you to affordably rent wedding dresses that would cost you thousands if you paid the retail price. For instance, considering just these three sites listed above, you could rent a dress from $30-800.
These companies have hundreds of bridal options from which to choose. You can find everything from a pants suit or an elegant cocktail-style dress to a fairy tale princess floor-length ball gown.
If you’re worried about the rental not fitting correctly, some sites offer overnight shipping, a backup dress for a small fee, or free return shipping. Just check the rules and conditions for the website you decide to go with before you purchase your rental.
Shop Bridal Boutique Sales
Whether you go to a bridal shop with many locations or a locally owned bridal boutique, sales are likely to happen sometime during the time you’re wedding planning.
Keep a lookout, especially around popular shopping holidays, and arrive early the first day discounted dresses hit the rack so you can get the first pick. Hopefully, you’ll find your perfect dress at a huge discount!
Purchase a Non-traditional Dress
White wedding dresses tend to be more expensive. This isn’t always the case, especially when it comes to designer dresses.
However, white has been the traditional color for wedding dresses for many years. As we’ve seen with other wedding budget line items, the more in demand something is, the more you’ll pay for it.
I chose a champagne-colored dress for my wedding, but I think that’s still too close to white for me to have saved much. The more non-traditional you get with color, the less you tend to pay for a dress.
Don't Buy a "Wedding Dress"
You may be more traditional or have more traditional tastes and want a white dress or something very close to it. And that’s okay! That’s what I did.
To get the look you want without the price tag, consider buying a white dress from a place other than a bridal boutique.
Something I learned while planning my wedding is that if it’s labeled “wedding,” it will automatically cost more.
Instead, search online or at your local mall or department stores for a white dress that’s not intended to be a bridal gown. Don’t forget to check other boutiques in your area that aren’t bridal boutiques as well.
Rent Your Tux or Suit
Just like a bride’s dress, if a groom isn’t likely to wear his tux or suit again, don’t buy it! There are so many retail stores where you can rent a tux or suit for a low cost.
This seems to be the route most grooms take when it comes to getting their wedding attire. However, did you know there are also online tux or suit rentals that are even more affordable than renting from a brick and mortar department store?
That’s right! Online retailers like Menguin, Generation Tux, and Friar Tux offer tux and 3-piece suit rentals for around $140. Generation Tux provides additional perks to the groom if groomsmen also rent from the website. If five groomsmen rent, the groom receives his rental free. With seven groomsmen renting from the site, the groom gets to keep his rental!
Skip the Tux
There are numerous choices when it comes to a groom’s attire; he doesn’t have to wear a tux.
If you want a formal affair, a 3-piece suit can be a little more economical than a tux depending on the brand. However, you can save even more if you take the groom’s attire in another direction.
Have the groom and groomsmen wear dress slacks and a long-sleeve, button-up dress shirt and dress it up from there. Different combinations of accessories you can add to get your desired esthetic are a tie, suspenders, a hat, or a vest, to name a few.
Raid Your Closet
This tip works more often when it comes to a groom’s attire since wedding dresses typically have a different look than your typical women’s dress clothing.
So what do you already have in your closet? Some guys have more dress clothes than others because they like dressing up. Maybe you own a suit already that goes with the wedding esthetic, or you have the dress slacks and shirt that you’re planning to put with other accessories on the big day.
Before going out to buy or rent your groom’s attire, check through your closet to see what items you may already have.
Get Shoes that Aren't Wedding Shoes
Just like buying a wedding dress, purchasing wedding shoes at a bridal boutique, or any shoes that are labeled “bridal” will have an inflated price.
If you want new shoes to go with your dress, get some that don’t say “wedding.”
Rent Dress Shoes
If you rarely wear dress shoes, don’t buy a $50-100 pair that’ll never leave your closet again. Besides being able to rent your wedding dress or suit, you can also rent shoes for your wedding for a fraction of the price!
However, most shoe rentals appear to cater more towards a groom than a bride. The less abundant women’s shoe rental websites boast renting designer shoes, which can cost $100 or more just to rent for a few days.
On the other hand, Menguin, Generation Tux, and Friar Tux offer shoe rentals for men at an extremely affordable price, between $20-30. With a cost like that, it makes renting wedding shoes a simple decision for grooms that’ll never wear them again.
Wear Shoes You Already Own
Do you want to save the most on your wedding shoes? Don’t get any. Pick a pair of shoes you already own to wear on your special day.
Think about it: you already love them and you don’t have to spend time breaking them in.
Choose a Simpler Cake
The more complicated you make your wedding cake, the more expensive it’ll be. Think about choosing a more straightforward design or having fewer tiers than you initially intended.
Just because you might have an extensive guest list doesn’t mean you can’t have a two-tiered cake if you want. Not every guest has to have a piece of wedding cake.
Remember, there’s usually a groom’s cake for guests to eat too, or you could always have other desserts laid out near the cake table so your guests can still have something sweet.
Skips the Groom's Cake
Guests like to see the intricate groom’s cake, but does the groom care about it? To some, this may be very important, but maybe it doesn’t matter to the groom.
If not, have some other, less expensive dessert like cookies or cupcakes. My husband’s favorite dessert is brownies, so for his “cake,” he wanted a pile of caramel-smothered brownies.
Want your invitations to turn out exactly as you imagined, but need to skip that high cost? Well, have you considered creating your invitations?
Purchase scrapbooking paper on sale from your local craft store. Remember those Hobby Lobby sales I mentioned earlier? Use scrapbook paper, lettering, and embellishments to handcraft each invitation.
Admittedly, this is the most time-consuming option. However, if you have the time, it can get you intricate invitations without the retail price.
Depending on the number of guests and whether or not you do Save the Dates, it may not be a feasible option for you based on time commitment. I would only suggest doing this for a smaller wedding unless you’re really up for the task.
Etsy + Graphics Services Shop
Etsy, the well-known handmade and unique gifts website, has many shops that sell wedding items, including invitations. This is the route I took for my wedding invitations.
Searching for invitation designs on Etsy will yield many results and give you plenty of styles from which to choose.
Purchase the pattern you like, and the shop owner will work with you to craft your Save the Dates, invitations, RSVPs, and Thank Yous. Once you’ve approved the designs, they’ll email you the PDFs so you can take them to a local graphics services shop. The PDFs of all my wedding stationery only cost me $60.
From there, you need to price check printing costs at your local graphics services shops. Get creative and think out of the box as well.
My local hospital has a graphics services shop. Anyone can use it. However, I had a friend who worked at the hospital and let me use her employee discount. I only paid $194 for one hundred invites, one hundred Save the Dates, one hundred RSVP cards, and the envelopes for all of them.
Most people wouldn’t think to check out their local hospital while price-checking graphics service shops. Think about unconventional places like that where more affordable services may be available for you.
Attend Bridal Shows & Enter Contests
Many vendors offer discounts if you book them on-site at a bridal show. You should never sign up with anyone on the spot without seeing their work first. Research who you’d like to hire, then schedule them in person if you know they’ll have a booth at a bridal show to take advantage of their discounts.
Besides vendor discounts, many bridal shows have drawings or contests you can enter to win prizes.
This is how I won a free photo booth for my wedding. It was something I wanted, but it just wasn’t in the budget. At a bridal show, I entered a contest and was alongside forty other women who had to dig through a giant cake to find rings that corresponded to various prizes. While others were gently sifting through the cake, I rolled my sleeves up and demolished it to win, not caring if cake got all over me.
When you don’t have the money, you have to get creative.
Leverage Your Skills & Acquaintances
Do you have a relative, old friend, or other contacts you can draw upon for wedding discounts?
I know someone whose aunt was a florist and an old friend of her husband-to-be was a photographer. Both offered her significant deals, and this saved her so much money!
If you don’t have any personal contacts, do you own your own business? If so, then you probably have a product or service you could exchange or a discount you could give a wedding vendor for a discount in return.
Get Married in the Morning, Afternoon, or on a Weekday
Many vendors and venues will charge less for a morning, afternoon, or weekday wedding since it’s not as popular of a time as an evening or weekend wedding.
Keep in mind that not as many people may come if you get married on a weekday, but the savings are evident.
During the week, most vendors are off. Vendors may offer lower rates, or you may be able to negotiate prices down since these are slower times for vendors and venues.
Don't Get Married Around Christmas or Valentine's Day
Not only are there plenty of couples wanting a “Christmas” wedding, but many companies are also booking popular venues on weekends for their work Holiday parties. As I’ve mentioned before, higher demand means higher costs.
My husband and I got married in December due to his school schedule. We booked the venue a year in advance, and the only reason there was a spot available is because we wanted a Saturday afternoon wedding.
Another time to avoid saying “I do” is around Valentine’s Day. There are so many romantics wanting to get married on Valentine’s Day that you may have to wait longer for an available venue, and you’ll pay more for a popular spot.
Now it’s time to use these tips to make your wedding day memorable without the added financial stress of trying to afford a $34,000 wedding.
There were three areas of my wedding where I was okay with paying more to get exactly what I wanted: my dress, my photographer, and my videographer.
Decide what your non-negotiable things are. Pay for those to get what you want, but take advantage of these incredible ways to save when it comes to the other wedding budget items you’re flexible on.
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