You are getting married!! Congrats!! As you get ready to plan your big day, it can be very overwhelming – and very expensive! You might some ideas as to what you want but your beer budget doesn’t quite add up to that champagne wedding you have in mind.
While your wedding should be your dream come true, it should also not send you into mountains of debt either! Here are some things you can do to help you plan your dream wedding on a budget, while still getting those things you want!
BUDGET WEDDING PLANNING TIPS
How much should you pay for a wedding? There is not a “right” amount. It is only what you can afford. However, the most important thing to keep in mind is that you do not allow yourself to go into debt. Yes, this is a magical day, but don’t spend so much getting caught up in the day and focus more on the fact that you are entering into a marriage.
If your budget is tight, there are things you can do to save some money. For example, if you need to buy items, make sure you purchase gift cards at a discount! You can get a gift card worth $100 but pay just $95. That is $5 in your pocket. You can find them for all sorts of retailers, both online and traditional brick and mortar.
While many may want to hire a wedding planner, that may not be in the budget. You can do all of the planning yourself. There are a lot of great tips and guides you can order, which will ensure you leave NO stone unturned.
If, after you write down everything you want for your day, you find that you are overspending, it comes the time to prioritize. What matters most to you? Do you have your heart set on the dream dress? Then, make that priority one. Perhaps you are not as picky about the food for the meal, then you might be able to spend less on this. What is important to each person will vary, so don’t compare yourself to others and follow your heart.
You can find a great wedding budget template at WeddingPaperDivas.com – under their Resources tab. It is easy to use and will help you stay within your planned budget.
2. GUEST LIST
Inviting too many guests is an easy way to overspend. wedding. While you do not want to hurt anyone’s feelings, your budget really is something that matters. If you can only afford for 50 people to attend, then just pair down the list and have only that many there on your wedding.
If you have to cut down on the number of guests you invite to the wedding, plan a get together after the wedding. Invite those who you could not have there for your special day and celebrate your union (all with a lot less stress).
3. CHANGE THE DATE
Wedding season is during the spring and summer months. If you plan your wedding off-season, you may find that venues charge less. Plan a November wedding and you can incorporate those gorgeous fall colors and might get that hotel ballroom you want.
One thing to keep in mind if you are doing a destination wedding, however, is that summer is often off-season in these areas. You may want to consult with a travel agent to find the time of the year when the costs might be lower.
You can also use the time of the year to take care of decorations for you! For instance, if you get married in December or January, many churches are beautifully decorated with flowers, trees, and lights – that is FREE decor! The same may hold true for your venue. They might have trees or other items decorating the space – and you won’t pay anything for them!
4. LOCATION! LOCATION! LOCATION!
Another trick to planning a wedding on a budget has to do with your location.
Rather than the usual hotel ballroom, why not try a different place? Perhaps an aquarium or historic site has a great location for your event. You might even know a friend with a beautiful backyard and garden. Think outside of the box for your venue location and you might find something which costs much less (or is even free).
5. INVITATIONS / SAVE THE DATE
You can use online sites such as WeddingPaperDivas.com to order your Save the Date and Invitations, rather than using local printers. They sometimes offer discount codes to knock down those costs.
You can even find beautiful fonts online and can create your own invitations. Then, purchase heavy card stock so you can print them yourself. If you do not find them in the size you want (some card stock will even come 5×7), you can just pay a service to cut them for you.
Visit Pinterest and search Wedding Fonts and you will see hundreds of options pop up! Download the font and create your own custom invitation. Add ribbon, stamping or even colored cardstock to them to make them your own!
While Save the Date cards are not always necessary, they can absolutely be helpful if you are having your wedding during a busy time of the year. You can create your own on sites like PicMonkey or even Canva and then just pay to get them printed, at a minimal cost!
6. KNOCK OUT THE NON-ESSENTIALS
One way to save is to skip some of the things you may see at other weddings. By not having a program, you can knock some money off of your budget. You might even be able to bypass assigned seating, which can also save costs on those tags (and also the stress of trying to figure out where everyone will sit at the reception).
7. SIMPLE DECOR
If large elaborate floral centerpieces are just out of your budget, you can still have beautiful tables, for a lot less! Go to Pinterest and search. Check out these few simple ideas:
- If you want floral, why not go with mostly greenery with some floral accents (much less expensive).
- Use small plants or florals for your centerpieces. We did this with green plants and then, we sent them home with family and friends as a THANK YOU for being a part of our day. That turned those plants into a 2-for-1 deal!
- You might even be able to find mason jars with a ribbon tied around them and candle inside – for little to nothing per table!
- Mirrors with tea light candles (reflects the light up and gives a great illusion.
8. RENT IT
When it comes to decorations such as tablecloths and even centerpieces, you can find retailers who will rent these items to you! These companies have already paid for the items and you just use them for a nominal fee.
They will sometimes even drop them off, set it up and even do the clean up for you! It’s is a great way to bring in the design elements you want, without hurting your budget.
The number one way to save here is to buy in season. When flowers are not in season, you will pay a premium rate to get them sent to your florist to be used for your wedding. Instead, ask your florist which are available at a lower cost.
If you really want those special flowers, use them sparingly. Instead of full bouquets filled with your favorite blooms, use other flowers and then add the expensive ones sparingly. That way, the flowers are included, but you knock down the cost.
Another way to save money on your bouquets is to use a bit more greenery than flowers. They will still look gorgeous, but since greenery costs less, you can save money this way as well! You can also use larger flowers. By doing so, it will take fewer flowers to make the bouquet, which can really drop the price of your flowers.
If you want flowers to adorn your tables, you can use plants with a few flowers mixed in or even lanterns with one or two flowers with a candle in them. Scaling back on the flowers on your tables is an easy way to save on your wedding budget.
Have your bouquets serve double duty! When I got married, my bridesmaids and I all placed our bouquets across the head table. We had instant floral decor – without spending any more money! Then, when the day was over, they just grabbed their bouquets to take home with them.
Check with your grocery store rather than a flower shop. Our wedding flowers were absolutely beautiful – and no one knew that they came from our grocery store floral department! In fact, our floral bill ended up being around 1/3 of the quote from the florist!!!
If you feel silk flowers is the way you want to go, that is always an option. Keep in mind that if you have to hire someone to make them into bouquets and more, you may quickly be at the same total you would be if you purchased real. However, if you have a friend who can do this for you, maybe you could swap her work in return for babysitting her kids for her! Where there is a will – there is a way!
This is where a lot of money can be spent. Make sure you walk in and tell your salesperson exactly what you can afford to spend. A good salesclerk will NOT show you anything outside of your budget (as you would hate to fall in love with something you can not afford).
When looking at your gown budget, make sure you also include the costs for your veil or headpiece, earrings, necklace, shoes, and alterations. These other items often get overlooked and can make that dress budget shoot higher in a minute!
If your mother or grandmother have a gown you want to wear, that would probably mean the world to them. For the cost of alterations and a good cleaning, you can not only get a free gown but also wear something of sentimental value.
Borrow jewelry and accessories. Wear your grandmother’s pearls and your mom’s diamond earrings. This will not only save you money but also will instantly be your “something old AND something borrowed.”
Shop the sale racks. There are times when bridal stores will sell off last season’s dresses. Contact your store to find out when they will offer this and try to get in on that sale if you can. You can do a search for a store near you to learn more.
Visit a mass retailer, like David’s Bridal, Macy’s, JCPenney, etc. These stores sell gowns and sometimes, have prices which are much lower than higher end designers. I actually bought my own gown (many years ago) at David’s Bridal and paid just $250!
Consider buying pre-owned. This may not be the most ideal, but it is a fit for some women. They don’t need or want a brand new gown but have a dress in mind. One such site is PreOwnedWeddingDresses.com. You can search by style, size, etc, to find the dress that will work. Keep in mind that you will need to know what you want before you buy from here and will need to also pay for alterations to make sure it fits properly.
You might even want to just rent your wedding gown. After all, your guy will rent his tuxedo, so why not rent your gown too? You can visit RentTheRunway.com (for example) and find a gown you can rent at a fraction of the cost! (You can also do this for your bridesmaids too – so they aren’t stuck with a dress they will never wear again).
This is the one area where you don’t want to just hire “anyone.” These are your memories of the day, so you want to make sure you use a good photographer (and videographer if you want one).
You don’t have to purchase a large album right away. Hire a good photographer for his or her time and see if you can’t pay for the images so you can print them yourself (mpix.com is a great site). You can even order your own wedding photo book or album at a later date (when your budget allows). You may pay a bit more for the rights to the photos, but it can be worth it to purchase add-on items and prints as you can afford it.
Find someone who is just getting started doing photography. These people usually charge much less than big name photographers, because they are getting started. You may also find that they take even more photos since they are newer and want to ensure that they do what you want (rather than higher end professionals, who are often set in their ways).
If you have your wedding on a weekday evening, you might save a bit on the cost of the photographer, as you are not competing for the prime wedding time (which is Saturday).
Make sure you visit with several photographers and get their estimates. Make sure it is all spelled out in writing for you. Are there hidden fees such as travel expenses? Does the cost include any prints? Do you get the prints on CD to own yourself? Does the fee include a set number of hours? Then, don’t be afraid to negotiate. If you find one person will charge $200 more than someone else will, try to negotiate the price down by offering to pay in cash or seeing if you can swap out an hours worth of time taking the photos to some prints instead.
When you send your thank you notes to your family and friends, include your email or create a DropBox folder which is open to sharing, and ask them to send the photos they took to you. You might find some of the best shots were taken by someone other than your photographer. In fact, they might get something your photographer missed!
There is nothing like a live band playing at your reception. However, that can be very expensive. If you opt for a DJ, you can often cut the costs by more than 50%.
Make sure you know the time you want them to perform or play. If you stick with 4 hours, that is pretty average. If you want them longer than that, they may charge higher fees. For that reason, let your DJ or Band know what time to start playing and when to play that final song.
Some musicians/DJs may offer a discount if you pay in advance and/or pay in cash. It is always worth asking to see if they are willing to negotiate the price if you try this method of payment.
If you can’t afford a larger DJ or band, you might check with your local college music department. There are sometimes groups who will provide your musical entertainment at a fraction of the cost (just make sure you get references and check them before you book them for your wedding).
There is a misconception that appetizers will cost less than a full meal. That may not be the case. It is best to compare the cost of appetizers only, sit down meal or even buffet to find out which one is the lower priced option. When my husband I got married, the buffet cost less than the meal.
This goes back with your venue, but if you can find one which allows you to use your own caterer, you might be able to save. This will allow you to visit with caterers and possibly even negotiate your price down. If you go through a hotel, you will have to use their restaurant and will be stuck paying the price that they charge.
Have your family cook the meal. If you have a family member who LOVES to cook, or perhaps even does some catering on the side, ask them to help! Even if they do not cover the entire meal, you might be able to save on some appetizers or even desserts!
This is the centerpiece of the reception. Cutting the cake with your spouse and feeding one another a slice. These can get very pricey rather quickly!!!
Have a smaller “real” cake and then have sheet cakes to serve guests. There is no rule that says your guests have to be served cake from the tiered version. Sheet cakes cost much less than a large cake and are an easy way to save.
Opt for cupcakes. This is an option which can be used along with the smaller wedding cake. Have your cake in the center of your table and surround it with a sea of cupcakes for your guests. The best part is no one has to cut or serve the cake as they are already served up for you!
Cut smaller slices. If you do want everyone to have a slice of your cake, have the person serving cut the pieces a bit smaller. The cake will go further to serve more.
Check with your local grocery store. These bakers do a beautiful job making all sorts of cakes – including wedding cakes! They often charge much less for them as well.
Visit your local culinary school. This is a great way for chefs in training to practice those skills. They have an expert chef helping them so that your cake will still look absolutely perfect, so no worries that it will look like your 5-year-old niece did the decorating.
Hire someone just getting started. Someone who has just started their own business will often charge a lower price for newer customers, as it helps give them experience, references, and even advertising! If you can find a local baker instead of hitting up a large bakery shop, you might find your cake for much less.
Stick with buttercream or whipped icing. Fondant is very expensive. It looks very sleek on a cake, but it is the most expensive option when it comes to decorating.
You might also use a few small flowers as the topper and even to embellish the sides – saving you costs on decorating.
15. WEDDING NIGHT
Rather than pay for a high priced limo to whisk you away from the ceremony, have a friend drive you in a nice car. We had a friend with a convertible which was gorgeous. He decorated it and we were driven away in it rather than paying hundreds for a limo.
Skip the honeymoon suite. While it is romantic, it is also very expensive. You can get a regular hotel room or even suite (outside of honeymoon) and save. After the long day and all you’ve experienced, you will probably arrive late and get up to be checked out by noon. Save the additional money towards your honeymoon, where you will be able to enjoy it more!
When it comes to planning your wedding, remember that it is just one day. Your marriage is a lifetime. And, you don’t want to start it out with a mountain of debt.