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The Top 10 Ways to Save Money on Your Wedding

At $27,000, the cost of the average wedding is as much as a down payment on a home. Unless you’re lucky enough to have parents picking up the tab, chances are you will be trying to cut corners somewhere!

Everyone wants to have a special and memorable wedding, and it is possible without forking over a year’s college tuition or even taking on more debt.

If you want to have the perfect wedding and still be able to buy a home and save for retirement, here are the top 10 ways to save money on your wedding.

1. Planning

Wedding coordinators are expensive and may also be overrated. If you have the time and the skill, planning your own wedding can be both a money saver and a fun way to bond with your future spouse. Seating charts, choosing colors, and menu tastings can be enjoyable as long as you are both interested and don’t feel rushed.

If you need some help, use online planning tools like the planning tools from The Knot, or ask friends and family you trust to give ideas and pitch in if needed. Sometimes wedding coordinators have really good contacts and can save you money on catering and reception, but the cost of a wedding coordinator can reach up to 15 percent of the overall wedding budget. Do the math and figure out what works best for you and your partner.

2. Flowers, Flowers, Flowers

Flowers are one of the most visible, but also most expensive parts of a wedding. Make sure you price different types of flowers and choose something within your budget. Talk with your florist and utilize the less expensive parts of the bouquets such as greenery and smaller, decorative flowers.

A friend of mine planned her wedding for midsummer and her mother actually grew all of the flowers in their garden. They put the bouquets and decorations together by themselves and it was one of the most amazing flower displays I have ever seen at a wedding!

3. DIY Party Favors

Making your own centerpieces and favors can really help the budget. Sometimes simplicity is the best way to go, and handmade items such as placeholders can help to make people feel special and more at home. If you have a lot of guests a handmade place card says “I thought of you when I made this and I am honored you are part of my day”.

4. The Dress

It has to be said: not everyone needs a designer dress, especially since they tend to come with a designer price tag. If you are on a budget spending more than 10 percent of the budget on one item of clothing does not make a lot of sense. There are a lot of places that can make designer style dresses at a fraction of the cost. No one is going to be looking at the label on your wedding gown and let’s face: you only wear the thing once!

5. The Reception

Usually about 46 percent of the overall wedding budget is spent on the reception location rental and the food. This means if you can negotiate a good price on both the reception rental and the catering you can really cut your budget.

Most wedding businesses have a “season” and the price can change drastically from June to September. Having the wedding “off season” can save you some serious dough. Also, feel free to play catering companies against each other. While the hourly rate for servers may not be negotiable the price of food and linen rental certainly is!

6. Invitations

You do not have to spend hundreds of dollars on your wedding invitations. Most people have a computer and software powerful enough to design elegant invitations. Use them to your advantage and make the invitations you want at a price that makes sense.

Not feeling creative? Another affordable and really great way to make invitations is to commission a local art student to design and produce your invitations. Art students are cheaper than a professional wedding invitation service, and you can help an aspiring artist to get some much needed exposure. Your wedding invitations are sure to be unique, memorable and affordable!

Or, simply shop online. WeddingPaperDivas.com is one site that provides unique, high-quality invitations and thank you notes for a fraction of the price of local stationers.

7. Desserts

One of the most common mistakes people make when planning a wedding is to overestimate the amount of desserts needed. Between dinner, cocktails, and wedding cake, most people will not be eating a huge amount of desserts. Get an accurate count of your guests and make sure that the size of the wedding cake and the amount of desserts are proportionate.

8. Entertainment

There are a lot of choices when it comes to music for your wedding. Live music tends to be more expensive than a DJ, but music is one of the most important parts of the wedding. Discuss what kind of entertainment you want to have with your partner and shop around for the right entertainment at the right price.

If you have your wedding in the off season and you get pricing from more than one band or DJ, chances are you will have some room to negotiate price. Much like the catering company, the entertainment people have some leeway in what they charge.

9. The Wedding Party

A large wedding party can really put a dent in your wedding budget. Don’t get pushed around by friends and family who want to be a bridesmaid or a groomsman. It is your wedding, and only you and your future spouse should be dictating the number of people in your wedding party.

If you each want five, then find a way to make it happen on a budget. If you only want a maid of honor and a best man, then that is what you should have. Regardless of the number make sure you shop around for best prices on clothing. Bridesmaid’s dresses can be incredibly expensive. The fewer bridesmaids, the fewer bridesmaid’s dresses.

10. Alcohol

Unless you want to pull Uncle Jim out of the Koi Pond during cocktail hour, consider alternatives to the open bar policy. It will save you money, but it also might save your wedding! Many people choose to have an open bar for only one hour. Other people have complimentary wine and beer but charge for beverages with hard alcohol.

One way to save money is to buy the wine from a wine dealer in bulk and negotiate a rate. Most catering companies will charge an “uncorking fee” for wine that you supply yourself, but the fee is negotiable and depending on how much you paid for the wine the uncorking fee may be worth it!

What About You? Are you planning a wedding and looking for ways to save? Or have you already tied the knot without spending a fortune? Let us know your tricks!

Published or updated on June 30, 2010

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  1. Karen says:

    Having worked as a wedding photographer, here’s my two cents. Yes, sometimes thousands of dollars is a reasonable asking price for their equipment and training (if they have a good portfolio as evidence). If photography is really important (more so than say, booze or music), then go for it. Remember though, no, you do not need them from morning to night. Most photographers have a flat fee for a fixed amount of hours, say, 5-6 hours. However, they might charge you extra every hour after that. Here’s a little secret, the last one to two hours of your documented wedding is unusable. Why? The groom is slooshed, the kids are tired, the parents are grumpy. Photographers get the best dancing shots in the first hour from when the reception dancing begins. After that, it’s no longer fun photos and just kind of sad.

  2. Jun says:

    Anyway I can save money on my wedding is going to be welcomed by me. I have been searching blog after blog and article after article trying to find good tips and ideas. So thank you so much for posting this, it’s definitely going to help.

  3. If you negotiated the “final” price with each of your wedding vendors and even saved 100 – 300 per vendor this really does add up in overall savings. never be afraid to ask for a lower price right before signing… the vendors will be counting on your business by the point of the contract and when you hit them with a request for a little more savings before signing, they will be afraid to lose your business and most likely give in.

  4. Heather says:

    I feel like I could write a book on this topic, having just gotten married and still reeling in the glee of loving our wedding and not owing a dime on it. And, no, our parents didn’t pick up the tab. We have a lot of friends getting married this summer who are going into deep debt for their wedding because they are convinced that they HAVE to, that it’s normal and expected to spend $50K+ on a wedding and to take out loans to do it. Nonsense. Anyone who tells you it is reasonable to go into $50K worth of debt for one party must not care very much about you or your future. For us, we set a budget, and then we stuck to it. We figured we could save up $11K in one year, so that was the max we could spend on the wedding. Then it came to deciding what was REALLY important to us, and finding cheap ways to do everything else. This meant: wine and beer instead of mixed drinks, renting speakers and using our ipod playlist instead of hiring a DJ, hiring a “just starting out” photographer we found on craigslist, folding our own paper pompom decorations, having my aunts make pies instead of buying a wedding cake, getting an off-the-rack $300 dress from David’s Bridal, and hiring a local woman to arrange flowers she bought in bulk. Knowing the economy is suffering, we also told our wedding party to just wear something they already had (in the right color) so they wouldn’t have to spend a fortune just to be supportive of us. I felt so good about the choices we made – we supported local businesses, our event was very personal because our friends and family helped so much, and no one went into any debt for the party. Parties should be fun! Not stressful! You can check out some of our pictures here (halfway down the page – Heather and Carlos) – jessicapriest.wordpress.com.

  5. In this economy, im sure it’s possible to negotiate lower prices… if not, take your business elsewhere.

  6. Jessie says:

    My fiance and I are planning our wedding on our own and we are saving $ by doing the following;

    1. Catering: We got Sunday dinner reception instead of Saturday and were able to negotiate significantly with the caterer.

    2. Flowers: We are using the centerpieces as the aisle decoration.

    3. Invitations: I (the bride) am a graphic designer so I’m making them by hand. I went for simple, 2-part invitations, not a FOLDER of 10 things that some invitation designers want to charge $10/ea for! My invitation is just the invitation and one sheet with address and our website URL where guests can RSVP online. We’re including RSVP postcards for “older” people, but by directing our “younger” guests to RSVP online, we’re able to save paper and postage.

    4. Wedding day accessories such as ring pillow, flower girl basket, guest book, garter, gift card box, cake serving set: I purchased all of these from a craft store using coupons, sometimes one item at a time. I ended up spending $65 for all.

    Like others said, don’t go cheap with the photographer. Also, splurge on your honeymoon, not the wedding! The wedding is not for the couple, it’s for the guests.

  7. rb180 says:

    We just got married for less than $10,000. We took advantage of all of the mentioned cost-saving tips, and also:

    – have a family member or friend act as the officiant
    – invite LESS people, and instead be surrounded by your closest family and friends. your guests will have a more personal experience, you’ll actually get to talk to every guest for more than 1 minute each, and it keeps the sentiment of the day the focus of the wedding
    – the groom doesn’t necessarily need a new suit, shoes, belt, shirt, etc.
    – the bride doesn’t need new shoes
    – wear jewelry that you already have, that belongs to a family or friend (especially if it’s a grandmother or someone who can’t make it to the event, as a way to honor them), or make your own!

    One bit of advice: don’t skimp on a photographer. You don’t need a huge fancy package (you can print your photos if they give you digital copies), but the style, type, and quality of photos will be one of the only things left after the day flies by. The pictures are forever!

  8. Nodapic says:

    Getting married in the Midwest is definitely also a cheaper option than the coasts (if you have the option).
    We got married in Northern Minnesota; $50 for the Reception Hall, $8 a plate for the meal and a voluntary contribution to the church roofing fund… Oh, and the professional photographer was $1000, including a free engagement shoot.

  9. Honey says:

    Considering 59% of people are married by age 29, there should be a LOT more posts on this topic. You could easily do a full post apiece on each of these 10 things and that is just scratching the surface.

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