Having helped plan weddings and events for years, if there’s anything I’ve learned for sure, it’s that just about everyone stresses about staying within budget. Sometimes, achieving that rustic “DIY” look can cost much more money than one would ever have expected. Whether the wedding is an elegant evening affair or an intimate DIY luncheon, no bride or groom is immune to worrying about costs. But fear not! I’ve put together my 10 best tips for how you can stretch your wedding budget without sacrificing anything on your big day.
1. Get Married Off Season: Think about picking a date that’s not in the spring or summer. If you get married in the off-season, your venue and vendor pricing will likely be less expensive. Given that demand is slower during months like January and February, you’ll have more negotiating power with vendors and will be able to work out a much better deal. And you’ll actually find that many of your friends and relatives will welcome the additional benefits that come with off-season events (e.g. the novelty of attending an event during a slower period, cheaper airfare and hotel blocks, etc.).
2. Stick with Simple Invitations: I am a paper fanatic at heart, so trust me when I say that I’m that one weird wedding guest who actually pores over the wedding invitation. But even for me, these invitations invariably end up in the garbage. With this in mind, try doing something simple, like a postcard, which can be memorable and elegant, while saving money (and trees) along the way. Sites like Etsy, Hello Lucky, and Minted all offer amazing wallet-friendly ideas for single-page invitations or save-the-date postcards.
3. Go For Secondhand Wedding Items: Scour thrift stores and eBay for everything from vintage floral containers to antique postcards to use as table numbers. Ruffled actually offers an entire marketplace centered around recycled wedding items. There, you can find everything from gently used lanterns to vintage stationery. And be sure to take advantage of these sorts of resources even after you get married. Once you’ve sealed the deal, why not sell some of your items for others to use on their big days?
4. Get Creative with Décor: Even if your venue doesn’t need a lot of decorating, you’ll still likely need table décor or centerpieces of some sort. I love hearing about creative ways to decorate without breaking the bank. One example I love comes from a wedding planner I work with who utilized feathers in lieu of flowers for arrangements at her own wedding, saving her thousands relative to what she would have spent on flowers. Another bride whose wedding I attended simply placed floating votives in vases of varying heights throughout the space. And even if you go with flowers, consider a seasonal single bloom, placing flower petals in water with votives, or even just arranging petals on the table with mood lighting or candles.
5. Repurpose Items: Why not leverage your ceremony décor for the reception and after-party? While it’s common practice for bridesmaids to don their bouquets on the cake table, there are so many other creative ways to repurpose items. I got married in a church and used large arrangements to flank the altar, but then we reused those same arrangements behind the bars during cocktail hour. The small lanterns you use to line the pews and ceremony seating? Reuse them to add pizazz to your bathrooms. Even small arrangements can be repurposed as centerpieces if done thoughtfully.
6. Use Your Own Booze and Bartender: Some caterers allow you to supply your own drinks and bartender. If that’s an option, it can cut costs wildly. As long as you have ready hands to receive the goods and a place to store them, this is a really smart way to save money. But be aware that this isn’t for the fainthearted. You should put a seasoned bartender in charge to ensure ice is delivered, lemons and limes are ready to go, bitters are procured, and the beer is cold. And make sure to order enough! An online drink calculator can be a great resource for ensuring your wedding won’t run dry.
7. Serve a Signature Cocktail: A signature cocktail is a great way to infuse your own personality into the wedding without much work. But did you know that having one can also be a huge cost-saver? By offering one or two signature cocktails that echo your tastes, you can forego a fully stocked bar in favor of something even more memorable. While I don’t always remember every wedding detail, I rarely forget when couples serve a signature drink. From a wedding where a Korean bride offered a twist on a Mojito using Soju in lieu of rum, to a New Orleans wedding where the couple served Old Fashioneds as a nod to their Southern heritage, I always remember signature drinks that feel personal and thoughtful. Even if you forgo hard liquor altogether, you could consider adding a signature beer or wine – perhaps a type that you discovered on a trip together or at your favorite restaurant.
8. Think Outside the (Cake) Box: While wedding cakes can be delicious, I never forget when couples try to get more creative. Some of my best memories of attending friends’ weddings are of making huge sundaes at an ice cream bar, getting to eat fruit dipped in a chocolate fountain, or even filling bags with sour candy after dancing. Having a dessert that’s fun or interactive can be more memorable and budget-friendly than you’d think. If you’re tethered to a cake, you can always reserve a small sweetheart cake for the couple and serve other guests options like ice cream, doughnuts, or even pie.
9. Pay in Cash: Many brides and grooms I’ve worked with don’t know that most vendors are willing to cut a deal if the payment is made in cash. This helps them avoid credit card processing fees. And fewer fees for them means less markup for you!
10. Work with a Planner: If you want to cut costs even more, find someone to assist you in implementing the above strategies (and the right person will help you come up with even creative ways to save!). While hiring a traditional planner can cost you thousands of dollars, I’ve recently launched a startup called Revelr that offers on- and off-line planning services for a fraction of the cost. We also feature free planning tools on our site, like our Wedding Budget Calculator to help you get your budgeting on track early on.
While cost-cutting strategies aren’t the most romantic part of the wedding planning process, if I’ve learned anything in my years of hosting and planning events, it’s that there are budget-friendly ways to make every wedding, no matter how fancy or low-key, elegant and unforgettable!
I'm Anne, a Texas-raised, NYC-based wife, mom, and entrepreneur. When I'm not planning weddings myself, I work as the cofounder and CEO of Revelr, a site that matches talented wedding planners to creative brides and grooms at upfront affordable prices.
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