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Five Wedding Extras You Can Skip

Some say your twenties are the best years of your life. They are years to be carefree and have fun. They are years to grow as an adult, and to find your place in the world.

They are also the years of:

  • Weddings
  • Weddings
  • And more weddings!

You will spend many weekends every year attending other people’s weddings. And then, you may spend the better part of a year planning your own. It’s a process that will try your patience and, quite possibly, cost a bundle.

As I plan my own wedding, I’m quickly realizing why they call it the “wedding industry”, because what an industry it is. And wedding vendors know that. They’ve found ways to make us believe that countless little “extras” will somehow make our big day even more special. (Hint: It’s not the “stuff” that makes a wedding special; it’s the people). And it adds up: the average American wedding costs $28,000.

Fortunately, there are a lot of ways to save money on your wedding. For example, not every wedding needs all of those extras. In fact, if you’re really trying to be frugal, you could probably forgo a lot of the wedding details. Here are a few suggestions:

1. Save the Dates

“Save the date” cards have become more and more popular in recent years. Save the dates started as simple reminder postcards sent out three to six months before the wedding, but they can evolve into an expensive detail.

For large weddings, the custom save the dates can cost almost $1,000 if you create fancy magnets for every invited guest and send them out via snail mail. Although most guests do appreciate an early reminder, consider opting for electronic save the dates. Many weddings websites and greeting card websites are offering electronic save the date services at a fraction of the cost, or even for free.

2. Disc Jockey

At wedding receptions, DJs can help to run the schedule smoothly, get the crowd energized for dancing, or announce various activities throughout the night. On the other hand, some DJs can take things too far and kick things off with that “Who Let the Dogs Out?” song even though it topped your do-not-play list.

Yes, DJs can be helpful, but for weddings on a budget, they’re not always necessary. The good news is that many wedding venues have gotten hip to the times and now have iPod capabilities included in their sound system. This works out great because you can create all sorts of different wedding playlists and not have to worry about some DJ playing your most-hated songs.

Already got a great iPod? Then your wedding music can be free! Even if not, the hundreds of dollars you save on a DJ will buy a lot of songs on iTunes.

3. Catered Bar

One of the biggest expenses at any wedding reception is the beverage bar. If you want to treat your guests and provide a beer and wine bar, or even a full bar, the cost of booze can quickly skyrocket, especially when you have to pay a caterer a price per head for the drinks. Still, there are those that believe a wedding without complimentary alcohol is cruel and unusual punishment.

Solution: Seek out a reception venue (friend and relative’s backyards work great) that allow you to BYOB. The mark-up that caterers place on alcohol is high, so it will save you tons if you can buy and bring in your own liquor (and any other beverage, for that matter). Once you’ve bought the liquor, you can call catering companies and just hire a couple bartenders for the night.

4. Church Décor

Florists and decorators want you to think that you’ll need your ceremony and reception decorated to the max. And for some ceremony sites (think outdoor weddings), decorations may be completely necessary. However, if you’re marrying in a church, consider forgoing most decorations for the ceremony.

Many churches-–-old and new––are already decorated in their own way with beautiful alters and stained glass. In addition, some churches will not allow you to decorate certain areas since they are considered sacred. It might be worth it to avoid the hassle all together and take advantage of the already-included décor that your ceremony site has to offer.

5. Customized Anything

This is where vendors really start to get their claws in you. Before you know it, they’ll have you convinced that you want—no, need—personalized candies on every table, an engraved cake stand, and a three string quartet playing as you enter the reception hall. All of those things are fine and dandy to splurge on if they’re in your wedding budget and they’re actually something you want, not just something that a revenue-greedy salesperson has told you that you must have.

If it has always been your dream to have customized candies at your wedding, go for it. Just beware that merchants see your wedding as a money-maker for their company. Only splurge on what you know will make you happy. More than likely, you’ll just be happy to have your friends and family around to celebrate your special day.

Just Remember

When it comes to planning your wedding, remember to spend on things that are in your budget and will make you happy. In the end, the only two people you should worry about pleasing are you and your fiancé.

What about you? What expenses will you avoid or have you avoided at your wedding? What common expense do you think can be done away with at weddings?

Published or updated on July 16, 2010

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About Amber Gilstrap

Amber is a twenty-something CPA from Kansas City, Missouri who loves writing, working out, and---of course---finding fresh ideas for saving money. Follow her on twitter @amberinks.


We invite readers to respond with questions or comments. Comments may be held for moderation and will be published according to our comment policy. Comments are the opinions of their authors; they do not represent the views or opinions of Money Under 30.

  1. Jackie says:

    Is it me or does it seem like a video of the wedding is unnecessary? Aren’t photos enough? How many people sit down and watch their wedding video more than once?

  2. Moneyedup says:

    I also do not think that an iPod really replaces a DJ, or a live band. It just doesn’t have the same feel and guests will pick up on that. Instead of opting for expensive entertainment, something I have recently seen as a wedding is the MC leading fun games and competitions throughout the evening. It was a lot of fun and got everyone involved.

  3. I think an iPod is fine for background cocktail/dinner music but not for the reception afterwards. An iPod can’t take requests or read the crowd in order to keep the dance floor full – which is key to a great party!

    Not a huge fan of not supplying the alcohol for your guests either but your solution is a good one.

    • Heather says:

      We used an ipod and it was great. We packed the playlist with dance songs and everyone danced. The real key to getting people to dance isn’t just music, though, it’s making sure you don’t feed them too much starchy stuff (no potato or pasta bar!!) and getting on the dance floor yourself. If the bride and groom are cutting loose, everyone else will, too. Our other friends that are getting married this summer ended up cancelling the live band they’d hired because they thought our i-pod playlist was so much fun and so much more personal.

  4. I disagree with the DJ being left out. Music makes the party and, while offering an ipod for music, you do have to have someone operating that ipod and who wants one of their guests, or the bridal couple taking time out from the fun to stop it for announcements and such.

  5. Sam says:

    Planning ahead (I’m not talking about a few weeks but maybe 6 months or more here!) will help you save a lot of money. One, you can always shop around for the best prices in everything. My cousin got married in a church, and instead of spending money to get the church decorated, she just spent a little more extra on the bridal and entourage bouquets. Invitations were sent out in a traditional fashion, but they were able to save money because she made simple ones on her computer and just had them printed out.

  6. They have this thing called email now. You can tell all your guests to save the date and spend zero on postage.

    • Email is NOT a reliable way to let guests know about an upcoming wedding. For one, email isn’t always reliable – you know that pesky junk folder, Greg? And, some of the older folks may not have email. Heck, I know some young people who never check their email! So, unless it’s a really informal wedding with few guests, stick with the good old government mail.

  7. Lindsay says:

    We used postcards from the city we were getting married in for our Save the Dates – everyone loved them and we only spent about $100 total, including postage!

  8. Only 5? I think there are a lot more extras you can do without including favors (after all, I expect guests are already being treated to a fabulous party to thank them for attending the ceremony).
    I disagree with the DJ being left out. Music makes the party and, while offering an ipod for music, you do have to have someone operating that ipod and who wants one of their guests, or the bridal couple taking time out from the fun to stop it for announcements and such. What do you do about requests? Plus, it’s nice to have an emcee to help the party keep moving. A good DJ shouldn’t break the bank. I think it’s money well spent.
    Let’s see a list of “must haves” or items we cannot do without.

  9. kt says:

    i have seen weddings with motorcades that were too large. I think that if you are out to save cash too many flashy cars following you around is something to be forgone

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