Something happens when you start planning a wedding. Well, two things. First you realize you’re in the wrong career because professionals in the wedding business must be making a killing based on what they charge. (You want me to pay $50 to rent each chair?) And second, everything feels incredibly important. You need “blush” tinted roses, not “pink” ones. It’s a recipe for a budget-breaking disaster. Thankfully, this doesn’t happen to be the case and with a few tips you too can save thousands on your wedding.
The average cost of a wedding today totals $26,000, a number which used to surprise me until I planned my own wedding. That and my budget was half the average.
Going in, I knew I had to find ways to save money. Coming out, I learned even more ways I could have gotten that number down.
10 Ways to Save Thousands On Your Wedding (And Still Live Happily Ever After)
- Buy your dress used or from eBay.
I can see the look of horror on some of you bride-to-be’s faces right now, but think about it. You will wear this dress for exactly one day of your entire life. Yes, the pictures are forever, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still look fantastic and save some money too.
I looked into the site, Once Wed, where former brides sell their used dresses at a fraction of the cost. It’s a great place to get that designer dress you wanted, but spend so much less. And remember, it’s not like the bride before you wore it out; she wore this dress for one day. A good dry-cleaning will bring it back to just about new.
However, I ended up buying my dress from eBay for $500, new with tags. It was a J.Crew dress similar to one I had always dreamed about. For an extra $200 I got it tailored to fit me perfectly from the same tailor that did Ronald Reagan’s suits. I saved hundreds if not thousands going this route, and threw in a little history to boot.
- Offer a buffet instead of full-service dinner.
Some people may turn their nose up at buffet dinners, but the best food I ever had at a wedding was a buffet, and how a food tastes is what guests remember, not whether it was served. Sit-down dinners can cost thousands of dollars more than a buffet due to the amount of servers you need, and the cost of plating. Notice I didn’t say skimp on the food; choose food that tastes good! Because if your guests are full and happy, chances are they won’t care they had to get it themselves.
Full disclaimer, my husband and I did end up choosing the sit-down dinner over buffet, but only because our wedding was casual and rustic, and this was one way to make it a little more elegant. It ending up taking one of the biggest chunks in our budget but we cut back in other areas instead to make up for it.
- Create your own centerpieces.
The average cost of the average wedding centerpiece is between $30 and $100. Multiple that by however many tables you have and you’ll find yourself with a hefty price tag. Other than recent weddings I’ve attended – because I’ve become more aware – I can’t remember a single centerpiece I saw previous. Or going home thinking, “Wow. Forget how the bride looked or the food, man was I blown away by that centerpiece!”I’m willing to bet your guests are of the same mind.
You can get as creative as you want with the centerpiece and Pinterest is always here to help. However, simple elegance can be just as beautiful too.
While planning my wedding I knew I wanted log centerpieces for the vases to sit on, but I found out they cost about $10 a piece. Fortunately for me my husband grew up near the Amish and his family asked them to cut logs for us from his grandfather’s trees. While you may not know any Amish (shame), there is always the option of finding a local mill and asking them to cut you the logs. Who knows, they may even give them to you for free.
As for my centerpiece flowers, we purchased roses and greenery for $350, and supplemented with hundreds of hydrangeas my mom’s friend generously donated. To save even more money my mom put together all the vases herself.
While this may seem like a lucky break, there is always the option of growing them yourself, which my mom also did for my sister’s wedding.
- Skip the corsages and boutonnieres.
I realize some of you fancier folks may think I am talking blasphemy here but it’s one of those details that at the end of the day I doubt you will miss. We sure didn’t. In the busyness of the day we forget to get them out of the fridge and pin them on anyone until after the ceremony and photos. And I can tell you, they weren’t cheap either.
However, if you feel you absolutely need them and cannot live without, I’d suggest looking into a wholesaler who can sell them to you at a cheaper price than a florist, or giving your florist a budget to stick within and letting them work their magic at that price.
- Borrow jewelry and other accessories.
My mom had a collection of crystal necklaces from my great aunt that my bridesmaids and I were able to wear. But you may have some fashionable friends who would love to let you borrow a few pieces. My friend Hannah graciously let me borrow her rhinestone headband that she herself wore at her own wedding just two weeks earlier.
- Get creative with your decorations.
Whew, I went through major sticker-shock researching prices for backdrops, photo-booths, and chandeliers – all of which I wanted. A simple colored background usually cost between $500-$1500, photo booths around $500, and each chandelier another $200 each.
Instead, we ended up hiring my pastor’s wife from home who created the head table backdrop from wood pallets, sheets, vases, and the flowers that were donated. She also used pretty chairs we both owned, along with rugs, pillows and picture frames to create a photo booth area. Lastly, one of my favorite design elements came from from a family friend who suggested we use a hoola hoop to create a chandelier that my dad hung up for us. And it was beautiful! The same family friend’s daughter is also a talented artist and created many of our signs.
- Buy bridesmaid dresses on sale. Although this didn’t come out of my budget specifically, with the exception of my sister-in-law who was pregnant at the time, I found my bridesmaid dresses on sale at J.Crew for 70% off. Now, my sisters could not try them on before hand, and there were a few fitting issues, but looking at the pictures I don’t think anyone could tell. I also found the adorable flower girl dresses on sale at Macy’s for $11 each. If you don’t purchase dresses that are labeled specifically for “bridesmaid” or “flower girls” you can end up saving a lot of money.
- Skip the DJ or band.
For some of you this may not be an option, and that’s fine. We all have to choose the one or two items that are most important to us and invest in those. While it would have been amazing to have a live band, it was just too out of the price range for us so we did the best we could with what we had.
Thankfully, my husband’s friend Mary is an amazing pianist and played during our ceremony. It was live, simple and perfect.
For the reception we just ended up using a playlist which my husband’s friend managed for us. And since we had line dancing at the reception, playing Shania Twain worked out just fine.
If you’re lucky, you may even have friends in a band who would be willing to perform at a discounted price, or even offer it as a gift.
- Email Save-the-Dates and online RSVP
One of my favorite ways we saved money was by sending out email Save-the-Dates, and later, putting a card in our formal invites directing people to RSVP through our website, rather than mailing back the cards. We did it out of necessity because from the time we got engaged to our wedding was 2 ½ months. But it also saved us hundreds of dollars and we were able to receive instant feedback whether guests could attend or not. Additionally, the online RSVP was included on our wedding website so guests could easily access accommodations, travel info, and things to do in the area. (Like visit Niagara Falls!)
The email Save-the-Dates and online RSVP worked so well I’d recommend using them even if you have a longer engagement and money is not an issue.
- Last but perhaps most important of them all: get the rights to all your wedding photos.
I remember being very dejected when researching photographers after learning that their service would not only cost thousands of dollars, but I’d have to pay hundreds of dollars extra to gain rights to those photos. Worse, some never gave the rights and you’d have to go through them to print every single photo forever.
Now, a good photographer is worth every penny, and I may be bias, but I believe I got one of the best. But truth is, it’s a big cost and printing those photos after can add up.
My photographer was a huge blessing in not only was she amazing, but also gave full rights to my photos so my husband and I can print as the funds allow.
The real key to saving money is being flexible with the details, being smart about what guests will and will not care about, and doing your research. I hope that armed with these tips you too can save thousands on your own wedding and still live happily ever after.
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