It’s time to plan your wedding! For many, it’s a day they’ve planned and dreamed of all their life. But now that it’s finally here, the reality of the often astounding costs of your wedding day are staring you in the face. It’s estimated that the average cost of a wedding in the United States is $26,000. However, many couples manage to have a wedding for $10,000 or less by budgeting and using tips and tricks to keep costs down.
We’ve compiled some cost-cutting techniques that will allow you to have the wedding of your dreams without sacrificing on quality.
1. Guest List
One of fastest ways to shoot your budget through the roof is a large guest list. In 2012, the average cost per guest for a wedding was $204. If you reduce from 150 to 100 people, at $100 a head for each guest, you’ll save $5000. Just from reducing your guest list by 50 people. Share your special day with those who mean the most to you, but don’t invite people just to be polite. Your mom’s coworker she talks to in the break room or that guy your future husband sits next to on the subway twice a week don’t need to be at your wedding.
2. Floral Tips and Tricks
There are many ways to save on your floral arrangements, from foregoing them altogether to choosing flowers for your bouquet that are in season. Roses are affordable all year long, and carnations are one the most cost-effective flowers around, available in a huge variety of colors. For bouquets and boutonnieres, choose affordable blooms rather than chic, expensive ones. And to save real money, opt out of floral arrangements as decorations. Use mason jars or vases filled with candles, fruit cuttings, marbles, pebbles, etc. instead. Books, or another unique expression of your relationship, will also make excellent, and affordable, centerpieces.
3. Location, Location, Location
The venue for your wedding is crucial–how many people it holds, whether you’ll need to rent chairs and tables from a third party, and if it creates the atmosphere you want. But many venues overcharge you, asking for $10,000 just for the use of the space. Often, they also lock you into using expensive vendors with exclusive contracts for the venue. Be wary of these money traps when selecting a venue. Many couples choose to hold their ceremony in a free public space such as a park, beach, or church that doesn’t require extensive decoration or come with strings and non-negotiable vendors.
4. The Wedding Date
The time of year and day of the week you get married can have an immense impact on your costs. Saturdays are the most popular wedding date, so if you’re willing to get married on a Friday or Sunday, you might find your venue and other vendors reduce their rates. Additionally, summer months and December are the most popular months for weddings, so picking a wedding date at a less crowded time of year gives you leverage that might make vendors and venues more willing to negotiate.
5. The Dress
A lot of women have their heart set on a particular designer gown, but you can find your dream wedding gown without bankrupting yourself. If you’re set on a very particular style or designer, consider visiting vintage and secondhand shops to find a gently used designer wedding gown. Or if having a new dress is important to you, cut costs by selecting a dress with cheaper fabric (poly satin instead of silk satin) or less embellishments. For designer gowns, look for dresses from older collections instead of the newest season for slashed prices without slashed beauty or quality.
6. The Tux
Have the groom and the wedding party wear basic black, non-designer tuxedos. The fancier the design, whether it’s a unique color or pin-stripes, the higher the price. Alternatively, the groom can wear a nice suit he already owns. If he is in the military, dress uniforms make for stunning wedding pictures, and he’ll most likely already own the outfit.
If your venue is providing the alcohol, be sure to pay by the head, not the drink. That way there won’t be any surprises when the bill comes, which also works in tandem with having a smaller guest list. An even cheaper alternative is to buy your own alcohol in bulk, somewhere like Costco or BevMo, and have the venue serve it. Unless there are other concerns involved, it’s best to have some form of bar service for your guests.
Truthfully, no one knows much about the special calligraphy or the scalloped edge you chose for your expensive wedding invitations. Go for something basic, simple, and clean for a less expensive alternative. All of that special ink, high quality paper, and oversized postage fees increase costs. You can also design and print your own invitations to keep costs low.
9. Dinner Courses
Opt for a buffet or serve three courses instead of five with less food options. Your guests don’t need to choose from steak, chicken, fish, and vegetarian. Cutting one or two options out not only makes the choice easier for your guests, but also makes the cost lower for you. The more the kitchen has to prepare, the higher the catering costs will be. It’s a classic case of keeping it simple making the wedding experience better all around.
Want the hottest band in town? Consider an alternative option, like a music student from a local university looking for experience, or a DJ. A DJ has an endless array of songs and is often less expensive than live music. They often come with their own lighting and sound equipment to add extra flair that won’t come from that live band every other bride is clambering to book.
11. Cut to the Cake
Serve your cake and toss your bouquet early in the evening. Older guests who tire easily will appreciate the gesture, having been included in all of the fun. But what no one will know is that your wedding photographer can go home early, too, reducing the cost of their services. Once all of the big events are out of the way, selfies and iPhone pictures can capture everything you wanted. Make a special Instagram account and create a hashtag for the wedding so that your guests can share any pictures they take with you easily.
12. Wedding Transport
Do you really need that white stretch limo or party bus for you and the wedding party? Leave the wedding in your own car with some homemade decorations. Or if you must rent a car, go for a Lincoln or something more affordable than a stretch limousine. It’s probably not a far ride to the hotel, anyway, so why go for the added expense.
There’s a lot of things you can make yourself–from wedding invitations and save the dates, to centerpieces, place-cards, and wedding favors. If you’re crafty, even better. DIY projects will give your wedding that personal touch and reduce the amount of costly outside services. Just remember to budget your time while you are also budgeting your funds.
14. The Wedding Ring
Opt for a more affordable wedding band, something simple in gold or an alternative metal. You can always upgrade on an anniversary — it makes the perfect present. When you have so many wedding costs on your plate already, don’t stress about spending a lot on an extravagant band. Men can opt for really interesting designs in tungsten, cobalt, or titanium, and the bride can go with a plain metal band or a simple line of diamonds. Anything at or under ¼ carat total weight should be fairly affordable in gold. Finally, check out online retailers instead of box stores or local jewelers to get the best deals.
Use frequent-flyer miles and credit card rewards to plan your trip. If you’re getting married during a peak travel season, delay your honeymoon to the off-season to reduce travel costs. If you don’t have a large registry, ask guests to donate to a honeymoon fund instead. Lastly, be sure to tell people you’re on a honeymoon while traveling. You’ll be surprised at the perks they offer you in order to get that referral business.
Weddings can be a daunting financial endeavor. However, this shouldn’t stop you from having the wedding of your dreams. Look for ways to cut costs wherever you can without compromising your vision, and your special day will be less of a burden.
Share your favorite ideas for saving money in the comments below!