Happy Friday to all my beautiful brides and grooms! I hope everyone has had a great week and is looking forward to the weekend. I know I am! I’ll be meeting with a few wedding vendors to build up my network so I can offer all of you the best recommendations. My fiancée and I will also be having a belated Valentine’s Day date and then Sunday brunch with a couple girlfriends and mimosas! But before then ... my blog post!
Today I am going to give you 10 tips on how you can save money on your wedding expenses. It’s no secret that weddings are EXPENSIVE! Unless you are a Kardashian (in which case, disregard all of my advice), you are probably on a budget. Whether you are paying for the wedding yourself, have the help of your family or a combination of the two, it’s important to ensure you stay on track with your expenses. After all, the wedding is just the first day of the rest of your married life together and you want to start off on the right track financially. Let’s dive right in to my top 10 ways to maximize your wedding budget!
Tip 1: Limit your guest list.
With most weddings averaging between $100 - $150 per guest, even just 10 extra guests could add $1,000 to your overall price tag! When making your guest list, of course start with family and close friends and see where that number gets you. If your venue assigns a guest minimum, and this initial list has you falling short, then start expanding the circle of guests. It’s easy to get carried away in the excitement of planning and before you know it, you have over 250 people on your list! The typical “decline” rate for most weddings is between 10-20% depending on how far people need to travel. Keep that in mind when making your invite list and invite slightly over your magic number to ensure you meet your minimum guest requirements while still keeping the list to a manageable (and affordable) number.
Tip 2: Pick your top 3 areas of importance and save in the rest
I wrote about this in my first-ever blog post, but it is so important to establish a budget BEFORE beginning any of your planning. After establishing your budget, I recommend picking your top 3 areas of importance. These 3 areas are where you will allocate more of your budget and then find ways to save in the rest. I will use myself as an example here – my top 3 areas of importance were photography (I highly recommend this be in everyone’s top 3 as it really is the only tangible takeaway from the wedding day), food/open bar, and my dress. I allocated more of my budget to these areas and then found ways to save on florals, stationary, décor, cake, etc. This brings me to tip # 3.
Tip 3: Save on the wedding cake
Unless this is in your top 3, this is a great area to pick up some savings. Instead of doing the large, intricate, four-tier wedding cake, get a smaller cake for photographs and the ceremonial cake cut and then serve the rest of your guests slices from a sheet cake. Another option that is becoming more popular is to forgo cake as a dessert option altogether! Cookies & milk bars, mini desserts, donut bars, and assorted flavors of pie are becoming more mainstream and can help save hundreds!
Tip 4: Save on stationary
This is another area where it is easy to save and still have a quality product. There are so many websites now that offer beautiful design templates for Save the Dates, Invitations, Menu Cards, etc. I’ll share what I did for stationary – I used Vistaprint for my Save the Dates (I shopped during a Labor Day sale and my overall cost was roughly $80 for 100 Save the Dates, envelopes and matching blue envelope seals) and then shopped a Christmas Week sale on Shutterfly for my invitations (I spent about $180 on 100 invitations, envelopes, RSVP cards and details insert card). I ordered both pieces early as I knew I would need them and took advantage of holiday discounts like Labor Day sales, Black Friday sales, Christmas week sales, etc. Most sites even have the option to address and mail the envelopes for you. I actually saved even more by setting up a Mail Merge template in Word with a scripted font that I liked and printed the addresses on the envelopes myself. It’s very easy to do, especially if you already have an Excel spreadsheet with your guest names and their addresses and can save you even more on printing costs.
Tip 5: Forgo wedding favors
How many times have you been to a wedding and left your favor on the table? Favors are another area that you could easily forgo without compromising the quality of your wedding. Favors aren’t designed to be expensive but even at a couple dollars a person times 150 people, you could easily save a few hundred dollars here. My suggestion would be to put that money towards something more substantial such as extra open bar time, a cocktail hour enhancement, or transportation for your guests to/from area hotels so they don’t have to worry about driving. Most guests won’t even miss the favor but will appreciate the added enhancements.
Tip 6: Attend bridal shows
My suggestion to maximize your time at bridal shows would be to do your research before you go. I think they are most beneficial once you have a venue and date confirmed (of course you could go without these pieces and also book a venue while you’re at it!). Make a list of all the vendors you are looking to book and then check out the bridal expo website to see the list of vendors in each category that are attending. This gives you the opportunity to research each vendor in advance, decide if you like their style and read reviews from other brides. A lot of vendors offer incentives or discounts to brides who book them at a bridal show. If you go in having done your research and the vendor you want is available for your date, you may be able to take advantage of their booking incentive at the show.
Tip 7: Book off season
This is a very well-known tip but the more flexible you are on date, the better your chances of scoring a discount. Wedding season for most venues is May-October. The majority of places will offer an incentive to book in their off season. I experienced this first-hand. I thought I wanted a June wedding until I toured the venue I ended up booking. They offered such great off-season booking incentives that I saved around $10,000 by booking April vs. June. Fridays and Sundays are also typically less expensive than a Saturday so if you can make one of those days work, the better your chance of getting a discount.
Tip 8: Beer & Wine vs. Full Open Bar
Another way to save money on beverage costs would be to offer beer and wine vs. a full open bar. Make sure to discuss open bar options with your venue/caterer. An experienced catering manager will find ways to work with your budget. There are endless options with the bar – if it isn’t in your budget to offer an open bar for the entire wedding, consider open bar for cocktail hour and then offer bottles of wine on the table with dinner.
Also make sure to discuss a host bar on consumption vs. a flat rate open bar. If you don’t have a heavy drinking crowd, a host bar on consumption may be a better option for you. For those of you not familiar with that term – this means that the bartenders essentially keep a tab of how many drinks are ordered and bills you at the end of the wedding on what is actually consumed. This typically works out in your favor if you don’t have heavy drinkers. If you do have a heavy drinking crowd, going with a flat rate would probably be the better option. This type of bar means that you go in knowing your costs and you are paying the same amount regardless of how much your guests drink. Most venues offer a hybrid of the two as well – you can always provide a lump sum and offer open bar until that amount has been reached and then switch to a cash bar. Make sure to ask questions and know what your options are.
Tip 9: Save on Décor
My first tip with this would be to make sure your décor serves double duty. For example, if you have bridesmaids, what are they going to do with their bouquets after the ceremony? I always suggest to have extra vases on hand and have the planner set the bouquets in the vases on cocktail hour tables after the ceremony. This saves you from ordering additional flowers to decorate these tables with. If you have ceremony flowers, make sure your planner also brings these either into the cocktail hour or reception space. For extra décor, think about the things you remember when you go to someone else’s wedding. Have you ever remembered what their napkins or linens looked like? Chances are you probably didn’t, so unless this is a Top 3 for you, don’t splurge on these. Check Facebook for wedding groups in your area. Many brides are looking to resell their wedding décor and you can score some great pieces at a fraction of the cost than if you bought brand new. Most of this décor has only been used once so it is still in “like new” condition.
Tip 10: Forgo the band/DJ for cocktail hour
Most venues have a house sound system that you can plug into at no charge. Create a killer Spotify playlist for cocktail hour to help save on some of your music costs. Guests are busy mingling and chatting during this time so the music is only intended as background noise. Book the band or DJ for the reception only and you should see some additional savings.
I hope you enjoyed this post and picked up a few tips to help you maximize your wedding budget! An extra 11th tip – hire a wedding planner! In many cases, a wedding planner can actually help you to save money as they have relationships with reputable vendors in the area, they can offer suggestions that you may not have considered to make your budget go further and they can help save you time (which is priceless!). Thanks for stopping by this week and as always, Happy Planning!