How to Save Money When Planning Your Wedding

Weddings are expensive, and even the most cost-conscious bride can see her costs skyrocket out of control. Don’t let tears of joy turn into tears of sorrow when you see the total bill. Here are a few great tips to stay within your budget and have the beautiful wedding you’ve dreamed of.

Wedding Costs Have Soared

In 2017, the national average cost of a wedding was $33,391, not including the honeymoon. The #1 thing you can do to control costs is to set a realistic budget and stick to it. The bride and groom can put together a shared budget spreadsheet to help keep track of spending. Be sure to include a small cushion in case you decide to take advantage of some available upgrades as you go through the wedding planning process. It’s the little things that tend to slip through the cracks like sales tax, tips for all of the vendors and service charges that are often separate from gratuities. Pay close attention to these charges since they can add as much as 30 percent to the total cost.

Take Your Time

Having a longer engagement period may allow you to take advantage of sales and save big—especially on wedding and engagement rings, the wedding gown and bridesmaids’ dresses. Also, both you and the groom will have more time to accrue birthday cash, holiday gifts and tax refunds to create a “wedding bank account.” Some couples even ask for cash in lieu of gifts to help pay for the wedding. NOTE: Once you decide on your venue and caterer, don’t delay in putting down a deposit because these things, along with the best limos, bands, DJs, etc., are booked very quickly and prices can go up

Or, Plan Quickly

r some brides, months and months of planning is just too much time. A shorter timeline helps them stick to the tasks at hand and stay within their budget. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and forget about the budget over a longer timeline. When the big event is just around the corner, a shorter planning period will help some brides focus, stay on track and streamline the process in order to be calm, cool and collected on their special day.

Setting the Date

Choosing the date of your wedding carefully can save you even more money. While Saturday is traditionally the most popular day to be married, consider a Friday evening or Sunday wedding. Having your reception during the day is becoming more popular since lunch is almost always less expensive than serving dinner. Also, you may want to consider having your wedding at off-peak times throughout the year when there’s less competition for dates. This gives you more negotiating power with venues and vendors. For instance, you can save 20 to 30 percent of the cost of a wed- ding by planning it for November, or from January through March, instead of June.

Choosing Your Venue

The Venue is often the single- biggest wedding expense when planning a wedding, averaging $15,000 nationwide according to You’ll have many beautiful places to choose from, including vineyards, museums and historic locations, as well as the traditional country clubs and hotels. Many times, where you have the wedding will drive the cost. Your venue can consume as much as 50% of the budget, so take a close look at locations in your price range and ask what wedding packages they offer. Can you eliminate certain items to save money? Be careful of some all-inclusive venues. They usually have hidden costs and fees that can quickly add up. In addition, some venues may use a “preferred vendor” list, which may or may not fit your budget. An easy way to save money is to select a venue that allows you to bring in your own favorite vendors. This will not only give you more control over your budget, you’ll also have more vendors to choose from. In many cases, this will save you thousands of dollars; usually enough to cover some or possibly all of the cost of the venue.

Feeding Your Guests

A good caterer will work with you to stay within your budget and still create elegant and delicious meals, drinks, desserts and appetizers. By far, the most expensive meal is the traditional sit-down dinner or buffet. As an alternative, you could save by hosting an elegant cocktail reception with decadent desserts. Or, consider serving a combination plate with chicken and grilled shrimp. This will lower your cost since you won’t have to purchase extras of every entrée to allow for guests who change their meal selection. Pair the entrée with pasta or a mashed potato bar and let the chef shine by creating delicious sauces. Sides can be a medley of fresh vegetables or a nice fresh garden salad.

Did you know alcohol is one of the biggest wedding expenses?

Most reception sites charge for every bottle opened, even if it was for just one drink, so you might consider offering a limited bar. Choose a signature cocktail (or a series of signature cocktails) that use one type of liquor. Or, only serve beer, wine and enough champagne for toasts. Another great option is to find a venue that allows you to provide your own alcohol and bartender. This can save you thousands of dollars and you may be able to avoid catering and hall up-charges, labor charges and hidden fees. By providing your own alcohol, you may also be able to purchase the bottles in bulk and negotiate an unopened bottle return rate with the vendor.

Wedding Attire

You and your significant other want to look amazing on your special day. However, the price of a wedding gown and accessories can be a major source of anxiety. Never fear, there are several ways to save. Shop designer or sample sales and find out when annual trunk sales will take place. A sample sale can save you up to 70 percent on gowns, headpieces, veils, and shoes. You may get lucky and find a $3,500 dress for $200. Be sure to join email lists at bridal gown salons so you don’t miss out on any specials. You might also consider renting or borrowing a dress. Second-hand and consignment shops are all the rage these days and there’s a

good chance their wedding gowns have only been worn once! Look online, too. If a bride changes her mind about her dress or must postpone the wedding, you might be able to scoop up a gown that’s never been worn.

The Wedding Cake

The cost of a wedding cake is all about the hours of work involved, so forget about all the labor-intensive flowers and piping. Instead, try wrapping satin ribbon around each layer. It costs just a few dollars and looks lovely. You can have a smaller, yet wonderfully decorated cake on display for

cutting, then have a larger sheet cake in the kitchen for serving.

Beautiful Flowers

DIY – it’s time to put your Pinterest pins to the test. The biggest challenge with do-it-yourself flowers is thetime commitment, so be sure to take this into consideration if you choose to make the centerpieces for the cocktail tables or the rehearsal dinner. You can help keep costs down by choosing local seasonal flowers for your reception.

Photos and Videos

Consider hiring a photography student or someone with just a few years of experience photographing weddings instead of a high-end wedding photographer. Make sure you review his or her portfolio to be sure they have taken the style and quality of photos you desire. Photographers usually offer packages based on the number of hours they’ll work, so save time and money by streamlining your photo schedule. Create a timeline for all group photos and make sure your attendants know to be ready. Photograph all of the major family groups and events first, and then release the photographer when the party starts.

Invitations, Programs and Favors

Take advantage of the talents of your bridal party and other friends and family. Anything you can make yourself becomes a fun and memorable activity and can save you money. Think about skipping the favors and instead, place a bowl of candies on the cake table with a classy note saying, “Please enjoy these candies. In lieu of favors we’ve donated to our favorite charity.”

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