The average cost of a wedding is fast approaching $40,000, roughly the same amount as a tiny house, a Model 3 Tesla, or an entire year’s wages. So if that’s a little out of your price range, you need to think about simple ways to save on wedding costs.
First of all, you should sit down with your partner to figure out what is most important to you two about the wedding and what you don’t want to compromise on. For instance, if you’re big music fans, you may be willing to sacrifice a sit-down meal in exchange for a live band, or if you'd like to hire a really expensive location, you might prefer to trim your guest list and get a smaller room in the venue.
Whatever you decide, make sure to keep a note of them, so that when you’re cutting costs elsewhere, you can be reminded of why.
Here are 36 tried and tested simple ways to save on wedding costs to cut the cost of your big day. Not all of these will apply to your specific circumstances, but you can pick and choose the ones that are right for you.
1. Shorten Your Timeline
By picking a date that is sooner, rather than later, you will be forced to streamline your wedding and cut costs without even noticing it. This is one of the best simple ways to save on wedding costs.
2. Or Lengthen Your Timeline
It sounds counterproductive, given what I’ve just told you, but by extending your timeline, you can book in really early with your vendors and possibly qualify for discounts. Plus you can pick up wedding decorations and outfits during seasonal sales.
3. Choose an off-peak Season
During winter months (with the exception of holidays), there are fewer people getting married, so you can negotiate a better deal with vendors. Also, if your chosen date doesn’t coincide with major holidays, travel will be cheaper for your out-of-town guests and your honeymoon.
4. Marry Mid-week
The most popular day for weddings is Saturdays, so you save a bundle by marrying during the week. Also, if you plan to marry in a religious location, be wary of holding it on a day when they normally hold big services as this will also bump the cost for you.
5. Make Invitations Yourself
All it takes is a good quality printer, cardstock, and a design program (some great ones, like Canva, are available for free online) to create your own invitations.
6. Send E-vites
Not only are you saving money, you’re also saving the planet.
7. Have a Friend Officiate
Anyone can become a minister on the internet (although you do need to check the local requirements about whether this will be a legal ceremony), so why not have a friend serve as your officiate?
8. Get Married at a Courthouse
Invite only those closest to you to the ceremony, and save your money for the reception.
9. Choose Somewhere Non-traditional
The more popular wedding venues, i.e. country clubs and hotels, can be incredibly expensive. Why not choose somewhere a little less trendy, like the gardens of a museum, a public beach, your parents’ backyard, or the local college campus? Although, if the location is not equipped to cater a party, you’ll need to factor in the costs of renting tables and chairs, portable toilets, and a kitchen.
10. Choose a Venue That Doesn’t Need Decorating
By choosing a location that is already decorated in a beautiful style, i.e. an art-deco building, you can save on decorating costs.
11. Choose a Venue That Allows outside Vendors
If you can only pick from a set list of vendors, it will be more expensive than choosing your own because of the limited competition.
12. Have Your Ceremony and Reception in the Same Place
You’ll save on transport for the wedding party, may qualify for a combined discount, and your out-of-town guests won’t get lost because of a change in venue.
13. Cutting the Guest List
Most caterers will charge by the head, so consider trimming your guest list.
14. Host the Reception during the Day
Just as there is competition on dates, certain times are more popular than others. By hosting a wedding lunch, rather than dinner, you’ll save money.
15. Have Your Reception at a Restaurant
It’s already set up for accommodating large parties, so all you’ll need to pay for is food and drink (and a tip, of course).
16. Skip the Open Bar
Put a couple of bottles of sparkling wine on each table, enough for your guests to toast with, and have your guests pay for any other drinks themselves.
17. Serve Only Limited Alcohol
If you do want to pay for the bar, be aware that many venues charge per open bottle even if only one drink was served. You may want to restrict your bar to only a couple of options of liquor or even order a keg.
18. Choose Less Expensive Dishes
Choosing to serve chicken or vegetarian meals will be a lot cheaper than beef, duck, or pork.
19. Have a Potluck Reception
If you’re having a less formal wedding, ask your guests to each bring their own dish, which will not only save money but also ensure that everyone gets to eat something that they love. Pro Tip: Create a wish list to ensure that you don’t end up with five casseroles and no soup.
20. Cut down on the Elaborateness of the Cake
When it comes to wedding cakes, most of the money is spent on labor, so go for a simpler finish that will take less time, i.e. ribbons to match your color scheme or real flowers as opposed to sugarpaste ones.
21. Choose a Small Cake
A small, but well decorated, cake will be perfect for your wedding photos. If you’re worried about not having enough to go around, serve your guests sheet cake instead.
22. Ditch the Cake
Choosing a less traditional dessert will still be a crowd pleaser and might be way cheaper.
23. Shop the Sales
There are heavy discounts on last season’s designer outfits for people who keep an eye on the sales calendar.
24. Rent Your Outfit
There are so many stores that rent wedding outfits to couples who don’t want to spend a lot on something they only wear once. Just remember that you’ll probably need to rent it for enough time to get it dry cleaned.
25. Buy Second-hand
There are numerous places where you can get second-hand wedding outfits from eBay to Goodwill to Brides Against Breast Cancer. You might even get lucky and find an outfit that hasn’t been worn.
26. Make Your Own Centerpieces
It’ll definitely take longer than buying them, but if you can follow a guide and you have an eye for color, you can create your own centerpieces.
27. Order Your Flowers from a Discount Store
Did you know Costco has major savings on wedding flowers, including bouquets and centerpieces? If you don’t have a membership, try your local flower market or supermarket.
28. Use Local and Seasonal Flowers
Shipping flowers in from out of state or having them grown under controlled conditions increases the cost, so try to use local, in-season flowers when possible.
29. Use Fake Flowers
They may not have the smell, but they do look just as good. Plus, they can be reused or sold after the wedding.
30. Skip Flowers
Rather than floral centerpieces, use other decorations, like candles or books, which can be reused again and again.
31. Choose a Shorter Timeframe
Many photographers or videographers will offer a cheaper package if they are only required for a couple of hours, as opposed to the whole day. Save money by having them cover the ceremony and the beginning part of the reception i.e. your first dance and cutting the cake.
32. Choose a Photography Student/apprentice
They won’t cost as much as a fully trained photographer, but make sure to check their portfolio first, especially their portrait photography.
33. Skip the Disposable Cameras if You Have Children Attending
Many children will use them to take out of focus photos of their eyes and other people’s feet, which you won’t find out until you’ve already paid to have them developed.
34. Skip the Band and DJ
Use a playlist on Spotify or a CD to get the songs you want, exactly as you want them. Just put someone in charge of setting it up as you get to the reception and making sure that the right song starts playing during the official wedding dances.
35. Make Your Own Favors
If you have the time, make your own salted caramel fudge or macaroons, or buy some family-size bags of candy and split them up into small bags.
36. Or Skip Them Completely
Rather than shelling out for favors, explain to guests (preferably before the wedding) that you’ll make a donation to charity instead.
There will be some things that you won’t want to cut costs on, but don’t feel bad about it. If you’re going to splurge, make it something that you will be happy to use again and again.
While many suit-wearers will find that they can buy a suit for their wedding and wear it to every special event for the next twenty years, it’s a little harder to do that with a wedding dress. However, if you choose a timeless wedding dress style and are willing to customize the dress (shortening it, dyeing it, etc), you can reuse it for other formal occasions.This is also true of wedding decorations, like fairy lights or non-floral centerpieces, which can be used to decorate your home and make every day feel special.
Now, I want to hear from you. Have you recently gotten married and want to share a money-saving tip of your own? Do you have a story to share about using one of the above tips? Let me know in the comments below.