The average cost of a wedding in the U.S. is over $25,000, according to most sources. That’s nuts (though not as pricey as these weddings). Luckily, there are a handful of wedding-planning hacks that can save you thousands of dollars without sacrificing style or setting on the big day. Nor will you have to start axing friends and family from your guest list. With these tips, you and your spouse can start your lives with a little extra cash knowing you weren’t complete suckers in the wedding game.
Wedding Flowers Hacks
If there’s one thing that will shock you when planning a wedding, it’s the exorbitant cost of flowers. Between centerpieces, ceremony décor, bridal bouquets, and boutonnieres, floral arrangements typically make up approximately 10 percent of the wedding budget: a lot of cash for something that grows straight from the ground and dies in a couple days. With that being said, consider these cost-effective solutions:
In recent years, greenery has become a wildly popular alternative to traditional flowers. Earthy, rustic, and boho-style weddings call for leaves and greens, which are longer-lasting and less expensive than flowers. Consider eucalyptus, ferns, baby’s breath, rosemary, thistle and other foliage—perfect for natural table runners, centerpieces, arches,and bouquet fillers.
Your bridesmaids no longer need their bouquets after they walk down the aisle. In fact, those expensive bundles usually end up crushed on a table at the reception. Instead, leave empty vases on the tables at your reception, and have your bridesmaids sneak in after the ceremony and fill the vases with their bouquets. This trick is especially useful for couples with large wedding parties. You can also transfer ceremony décor to your cocktail hour or reception and save more money in the flower budget.
Choose In-Season Blooms
Do your research and talk to your florist about which flowers will be in season at the time of your wedding, then create your floral scheme from there. Local, in-season stems are the way to go, and significantly less expensive than out-of-season varieties that have to be shipped from around the world.
Along the lines of buying in season, consider alternatives to pricer flowers. Peonies can be replaced with Garden Roses and Carnations for the same large blooms. Stephanotis becomes expensive for a flower that’s used as a bouquet filler and Yellow Freesia can do the same and smell just as good.
If you have the time and (for the most part) know your shit, skip the florist. With a little bit of DIY arranging, you can order your flowers straight from the source and cut out the middle man.
Keep it Simple
The more time consuming the arrangement is, the more expensive it will be. Limit yourself to one or two types of flowers rather than complex, diverse arrangements. Instead of big centerpieces that guests have to work their way around, scale back on size.
See more wedding flower hacks
Wedding Reception Hacks
Planning the ceremony is relatively easy: find an officiant, set up chairs, walk down the aisle, and you’re set (well, not completely) Planning the party is the difficult (and expensive) part.
Don’t Get Married on Saturday
This is the easiest way to save money on your wedding reception. Saturday might be the most convenient day for both you and your guests, but venues will, without fail, jack up their prices for a Saturday affair. Choose Friday or Sunday instead—people will still come!
Stick to One Spot
Hold your reception at the same site as your ceremony to eliminate the cost of transporting guests between venues. See if the venue will offer special deals and services if you choose to hold all your events there.
Wedding favors are a nice idea, but most of the time they end up getting thrown out or stuffed in the miscellaneous drawer (we all have some form of this at home). Skip pricey vendors and enlist friends to help you make your own.
Find venues that allow you to have the freedom to hire whatever vendors you want. Many places have their own set of vendors they allow in that might be outside of what you want to spend.
Follow Vendors on Social Media
Start your research early and begin Facebook-stalking possible vendor choices. Vendors are there promoting themselves and with that will offer different kinds of promotions and discounts that you can take advantage of.
Renting vs Buying
Immediately, you’ll assume renting all the decor will be cheaper. You’re only using it for one day, right? Take the time to actually compare prices with the rental companies to the price of buying these items and might be surprised. When you buy, you also have the option to sell back those items if you wanted.
Wedding Invitation Hacks
Choosing the right wedding invitations can be more difficult than you might expect. With a crazy number of options to choose from—fonts, colors, letterpress, gold foil, envelopes—here’s how to save money on wedding invitations.
Use one envelope
Have you ever opened a wedding invitation and found three more small envelopes inside it? Don’t do that. Eliminate the cost of ordering additional envelopes in different shapes and sizes and put all of the information in one envelope. It’s helpful for your guests to have everything they need in one place, too.
Phone a friend
We all have that one friend with impeccable handwriting. Rather than paying extra cash to have names and addresses written in calligraphy on your envelopes, ask an artsy friend to help you address your invitations.
Embrace the digital age
It seems like a wedding is no longer a wedding without a website (and a hashtag). Use that to your advantage. Forego extra slips of paper for maps and directions and post the information online. People will probably Google your venue anyway. Furthermore, digital printing is less expensive than letterpress and other options when it comes to invitation typography. If you choose the right font and theme, digitally printed invitations will look just as beautiful.
Embrace the Digital Age Completely
Use your wedding website to your full advantage. Many offer the option for customizable evites so you don’t have to waste ink (and time) on printing invitations. Have guests RSVP online so you don’t have to print or buy RSVP cards and you’ll probably have an easier time keeping track of response. You also have the bonus of this being eco-friendly option too.
There’s Custom and Then There’s Customizable
Invitations will brag about being completely custom made, but the price is hardly anything to brag about. Some places, though, will offer customizable invites, so you can work within a template and still make some unique choices.
Don’t try to save money by ordering less invitations. Always order extra in case some get lost in the mail or you end up inviting more people than you anticipated. Having to get more invitations at the last minute is going to cost you extra, and even more so if you’re only ordering a small quantity.
Wedding Dress Hacks
Tread carefully here. The dress is, for the bride, the most important, statement-making purchase of the wedding. It will come at a high price, especially for something that’s only worn once, but this is not the place to skimp.
That said, if your bride does bring you into the dress decision-making process, you can (carefully) throw in a few general suggestions for how to save money on the wedding gown.
Does she love the top of one dress and the bottom of another other? Gently suggest that it would be best for her to find one in which both top and bottom work. Chances are she’ll find one she loves exactly the way it is, and you won’t have to pay for multiple dresses, pieces, and alterations.
Try Something Borrowed
While the thought of renting a wedding gown or buying used isn’t as romantic as purchasing one’s own, it is much more practical. The concept is now mainstream, with plenty of rental options available online. Consider sites like www.borrowingmagnolia.com, which lets you order online, try at home, and rent. And www.preownedweddingdresses.com is an online marketplace where she can buy or sell used gowns at amazing prices.
Pick from Last Season
Assure her there’s absolutely no shame in buying a gown from last year’s collection. It’s unlikely that her bridal style will change the moment a new collection comes out, and she’ll be saving herself a lot of money by picking an on-sale style from last season as opposed to a brand-new, in-demand design.
Change it Up
Consider bypassing any dress that has the word “wedding” in front of it. Cocktail dresses and evening gowns are of the same quality and look but don’t come with the markup of a wedding dress. More and more brides are wanting to break out of the tradition of the white gown and are going towards alternative choices like jumpsuits and formal separates.
Some designers will have sample sales, where the price of the dress has been drastically marked down. Only pursue this option if your bride is open to making a firm decision right away. Sample sale dresses are paid in full and don’t typically have return options.
A veil on its own can easily cost over $100, and that’s before you add all the other accessories. Consider if these items are needed, and whatever makes the cut look for in other places besides bridal boutiques. Etsy offers many handmade choices at the fraction of the cost.
Wedding Photographer Hacks
A picture is worth a thousand words—and will cost double that in dollars, at the very least. You want to remember your special day, but beware of extra fees, hours, and add-ons that could break the bank.
It’s easier than ever to create a wedding album yourself. That means you can ask your photographer for an online-only photo album and print the photos yourself in a cost-effective way through an album-making site. You’ll save hundreds by forgoing the photographer album option. Your guests will also be able to access your site after the wedding and browse photos.
Get You Own Wedding Album
If you still want a physical album, buy one yourself. Your photographer may try to offer one as part of a package, but getting your own is still less expensive. Print the photos yourself and organize them in a unique way to tell the story of your wedding.
Stay on Schedule
Photographers typically charge by the hour, so on the big day be sure to stick to your schedule. If you’re late to your ceremony, all wedding-day events will get pushed back and your photographer might have to stay longer and charge extra.
You can also cut back on hours by having the photographer stay for only part of the reception. Everyone is a photographer these days, so ask your guests to take plenty of photos once your professional photographer leaves so you can still remember those later moments. Or leave disposable cameras on every reception table and see what your guests capture.
Select a wedding photographer that lives near your venue so you don’t have to pay for airfare, mileage, accommodations, etc. If you have friends or family who have used photographers in the area, ask for recommendations and find out if the photographer offers referral discounts, which can save you up to 20%.
Use Your Guests
All of your guests are already taking as many photos as the can to update their Insta stories — use this to your advantage. Announce a #hashtag for the day and rake in all the extra pictures.
Ask About Referral Discounts
Ask your photographer if they have a referral program, and if they do send your engaged friends straight to them. Taking advantage of this may help you get money knocked off the total price, or earn credit towards different packages (so you can get those extras, like the wedding album.)
Wedding Food/Drink/Catering Hacks
People come to a wedding for the couple—but they stay for the food and drinks. You want to make sure your guests are happy and fed. Here’s what you can do: serve up some delicious fare without spending too much on needless high-end touches.
Limit Your Bar Options
If you decide to include an open bar at your cocktail hour and reception, opt to offer only beer, wine, Champagne, and one or two signature cocktails. Your guests will still have plenty of booze, and you won’t have to buy countless bottles of every type of liquor that often end up going to waste. Another option is to provide an open bar during cocktail hour, but a cash bar at reception. Or cut off the open bar one or two hours into the reception.
Go For The Buffet
Wedding formalities have been put on the back burner in recent years. You’re no longer expected to provide a full three- or five-course meal. Choose a buffet dinner instead of a sit-down dinner and let your guests pick the foods they love best—everyone wins.
Keep Hors D’oeuvres Light
With a full meal on its way after cocktail hour, and plenty of drinks in between, there’s no need to dish out endless appetizers to your guests. Keep it to a few delicious passed hors d’oeuvres that will hold your guests over without filling them up.
Depending on the venue, you might be able to bring in your own booze. Go wholesale shopping for your liquor and, if you can, find a place with a buy-back policy. This way you can insure you don’t run out of booze–and if you overestimate how much people will drink, then you can return the leftover for a small restocking fee.
Have a Signature Cocktail
Provide hard liquor in a crowd pleasing way without the price. Have a signature cocktail or two that guests will love and you don’t have to supply an array of other options. Keep them simple with a few ingredients and easy to make.
Let Whole Foods Take Care of It
Some supermarkets, like Whole Foods, offer catering (and even floral) services. Check in with them and see what you can include for a fraction of the cost going through other catering services.