If all goes well, you’ll only get married once. And that’s good news for your wallet, considering the average nuptials cost $33,900 in 2019, according to wedding website The Knot.
However, you can bring that number down in many ways. Here are 10 suggestions to help you save money on your wedding.
- Pare down the guest list.
- Be selective about your venue.
- Look for less expensive food and drink options.
- Eliminate extras from your budget.
- Opt for minimalist invitations.
- Think twice about do-it-yourself flowers.
- Consider alterations before buying a dress.
- Skip the wedding cake.
- Have a daytime or midweek wedding.
- Use an all-inclusive package for elopements.
Pare Down the Guest List
If you need to save money, start by taking a second look at your guest list.
“Your guest list is going to determine how much you spend,” says Amy Shey Jacobs, founder and creative director of Chandelier Events in New York City. “For every 10 guests, you have another table and another centerpiece and more invitations.”
With many states limiting the size of gatherings to slow the spread of COVID-19, opting for a virtual wedding can be an effective and acceptable money-saving option. These weddings may have a handful of close friends and family present while others watch the ceremony via a livestream.
Be Selective About Your Venue
Wedding planners say the venue and catering can account for half to three-fourths of a couple’s total costs. When looking for a venue, consider one that is inclusive and will provide seating, lighting, linens and other necessities. Some venues have minimum revenue requirements, which is another factor to keep in mind.
As people seek to create safe environments, outdoor venues may become more popular. However, Shey Jacobs says people should be mindful of having a rain plan should the weather not cooperate. What’s more, she cautions people against assuming a backyard wedding will be the cheapest way to get married. Once you’ve set up tents, laid down a dance floor and rented portable toilets, the price can quickly rival that of a venue.
Look for Less Expensive Food and Drink Options
The traditional sit-down meal is expensive, but many people aren’t fans of budget-friendly buffets. The compromise may be to try something like a cocktail reception that can be less expensive but still feel upscale.
For some weddings, food trucks can be a fun and trendy option, says Merida Alexander, owner of Events by Merida, which is based in the greater Philadelphia area but has planned events globally. She had one client use taco trucks that charged $20-$25 a head which was a quarter of the cost of traditional catering options. However, it might not work for everyone. “It is informal,” she says. “It’s a very different vibe.”
Don’t forget to rein in the cost of drinks as well. While cash bars are frowned upon, limiting the bar to beer, wine and a signature mixed drink can reduce overall costs.
Eliminate Extras From Your Budget
Every couple should start their wedding planning by deciding which items are nonnegotiable and which can be cut if money runs short.
“I love videographers, but it’s an extra expense that’s not needed,” says Kim Newton, founder and lead wedding coordinator with Kim Newton Weddings in Alexandria, Virginia.
Other examples of items that may be easily cut are a morning-after breakfast for guests, bridesmaid “proposal” gifts and wedding favors. Alexander says some couples now are opting to make a donation to a favorite charity in lieu of favors.
Opt for Minimalist Invitations
While invitations can set the tone for a wedding, the cost adds up quickly. “They can come out to thousands of dollars,” Alexander says.
Reducing the number of inserts is one way to cut costs. Another is to double-check addresses so money isn’t wasted on postage for invitations that are returned to sender. Rather than having people RSVP via the mail, using a wedding website to track guests can be a more cost-effective option.
For those who are comfortable with the idea, e-card invites are the cheapest way to invite guests to a wedding. They are also a green option for those concerned with sustainability.
Think Twice About DIY Flowers
Instagram and Pinterest may have you dreaming about making your own floral arrangements, but wedding planners say it could lead to a stressful wedding day and not much in the way of cost savings.
For instance, centerpieces that include fresh blooms should be arranged the day of the ceremony. Even if a couple has hired a day-of coordinator to handle these last-minute details, creating centerpieces can be time intensive and will require the coordinator to bring in extra staff to handle the request.
“In the long run, hiring extra workers is like having a florist,” Newton says. DIY flowers may not result in any significant savings but could add extra work for brides and grooms as they plan for the big day.
Consider Alterations Before Buying a Dress
Buying a dress can be expensive, but altering it isn’t cheap either. “I’ve heard of some alterations costing $600,” Alexander says. “I’ve heard of them costing $2,000.”
The more layers in a dress, the more expensive alterations will be. So think twice before buying a gown with a large amount of tulle. To save money but still achieve a full look, Alexander suggests seeing if a petticoat under the dress will have the same effect.
When a dress does need to be altered, don’t feel obligated to go back to the shop that sold you the gown. A less expensive seamstress may be found elsewhere and provide similar service.
Skip the Wedding Cake
Wedding cakes can cost several hundred dollars, which doesn’t seem like that much compared to the day’s overall costs. However, it is an expense that can be very easily trimmed nowadays. Cupcakes, donuts, candy and s’mores bars are some of the latest trends for wedding desserts, and all may cost less per serving than a traditional cake.
Using an alternative doesn’t mean you have to forego a photo opportunity when it’s time to start the dessert course. Alexander had one couple who each took a bite from opposite ends of an ice cream sandwich to create a unique and memorable moment at their wedding.
Have a Daytime or Midweek Wedding
To get a reduced rate on your wedding venue or catering, consider moving the wedding to a Thursday or Friday night instead of Saturday evening. Scheduling a daytime event could save you money on the venue and also allow you to have a brunch reception or lighter meal, which will also cost less.
Use an All-Inclusive Package for Elopements
State restrictions on large gatherings could continue for quite some time. For those who don’t want to delay their marriage, an elopement or virtual wedding may be the best option.
Some venues offer elopement packages which include accommodations, an officiant, hair and makeup services, photography and more. “Right now is the time to get in on those all-inclusive packages,” Newton says. As wedding destinations seek to attract couples, some venues are dropping prices.
Those who plan to hold a reception for family and friends later should be careful that they don’t end up paying double for some expenses. For instance, some brides may insist on a separate dress for each day, which could be an expensive choice.