They say that planning a wedding is stressful, and it is. Unless you’re used to organizing events for hundreds of people, no bride (or groom) is prepared to plan a wedding. If you’re trying to save money, it gets even harder.
Fortunately there are plenty of us current brides in the midst of our own planning who are happy to share what we’ve learned throughout this process. These tips apply to those who are throwing a backyard bash or those having a 200 black-tie affair. Whatever your budget, you can find ways to save.
My fiance and I decided early on what was important to us (food, music, venue) and what wasn’t (an expensive dress, lots of decorations). If your resources are limited, then you have to prioritize. Luckily for us, most of what we wanted aligned. But if you want a $2,000 dress and your fiance doesn’t want to spend more than $5,000 on the entire wedding, then you need to figure out a compromise.
I’ve heard of people whose aunt’s best friend’s step-mother owns a beautiful 12-acre wildflower garden that she’ll let you use for your wedding. And while most of us probably don’t have access to beautiful and large venues, your circle of friends might have more resources than you think. A friend of ours offered to take engagement photos and do our invites as her wedding present. One of our officiants is my fiance’s uncle and the other is a close friend.
Even if you don’t have people in your life who can help save you a buck, they might have references for affordable vendors or offer to help setting up. I’ve known other friends who have done day-of-coordinating as part of their wedding present (if you go with this option, make sure it’s your most responsible friend that does this).
I’m glad our friend offered to create custom invites for us. When I looked at the prices of wedding invitations, my heart nearly skipped a beat. Keep in mind that if you’re sending out save the dates, invitations, thank you cards, the cost adds up fast. Stamps are 49 cents now and even a modest wedding can cost you hundreds of dollars in printed materials.
To save, we sent out electronic save the dates through MailChimp. Using an online service allowed me to see who didn’t open their email so I could contact them personally. We’re also doing RSVPs through our wedding website, so we don’t have to print and pay for postage on RSVP cards. If your guests are tech-savvy, this is an easy way to save.
Due to living alone before getting engaged, my fiance and I already have most of what we need. So instead of signing up for lots of kitchen goods and bath wares on our registry, we created a honeymoon registry. We love to travel together and figured asking people to help fund our honeymoon was more “us” than asking them for a Le Creuset pan. We did set up a small traditional registry in case some people preferred to give physical gifts. If you are worried you can’t afford a honeymoon, try doing a honeymoon registry and making sure that people know that’s what you really want.
Since we’re getting married in late April, I assumed we wouldn’t qualify for any off-peak prices. But many wedding vendors consider June-August to be their high peak times and we saved hundreds by having our spring date. If you book a less popular time, then you’re more likely to have the vendors you want be available for your date.
We booked many of our vendors early, before they released their new 2015 prices. Since we were sure of which ones we wanted, we didn’t mind making deposits early. Some will only let you hold the cheaper price with a deposit, so be prepared to pay up if you want to save. One vendor raised her prices by almost double, so I was glad I had already signed that contract! Some venues even charge $1,000 the next year. Once you make up your mind, send that check.
When I was looking at venues, I only asked them how much the rental fee was. The first place we looked at allowed you to hire any caterer and bartender you wanted, so we were free to buy booze from Costco and use a friend with a liquor license. But then we switched venues to one with a list of approved caterers (none of whom we liked) and who required the caterer to serve the alcohol. I hadn’t factored that difference into the decision and was shocked when I found out how much their approved caterers cost. Luckily it still fit into our budget, but it was still a nasty shock.
An easy way to save money is to do your own flowers. Costco can be a great resource for buying large quantities of flowers and even Whole Foods can sometimes make your centerpieces for about half the cost of what normal florists charge. If you can buy your own alcohol, use Costco. They’ll take back anything that you don’t use.
One of the top tips you’ll see for saving money on weddings is to DIY your decorations. Unless you DIY things normally, I would advise against this. Getting supplies can be expensive and if you don’t know what you’re doing, you might spend more money fixing your mistakes. If you decide to make your own decorations, choose simple ones or scour Craigslist for ones from past weddings.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you’re wedding planning. When you set up your budget, make sure to allocate more money than you think you’ll need. Things will always come up that you don’t think of and it’s better to overprepare than be surprised that your budget has been ripped apart. Do lots of research of average prices, ask friends for their budgets and make sure to be realistic, not optimistic.