10 Ways to Cut Wedding Costs Without Sacrificing Quality or Style
Like most young women, I had been thinking about my dream wedding for many years before I got engaged. And like most others as well, I had absolutely no idea how much the average wedding costs (about $28,400 in the United States, according to a survery by theknot.com) until I looked it up shortly after my engagement. I spent just under a year planning my wedding, and throughout the entire planning process, my biggest goal was to have the beautiful and elegant wedding of my dreams... but also to save money in any way I could without sacrificing my wedding's style (and fun). The following are my top 10 tips from the real life experience of planning my own wedding (I got married in September, 2011).
Top 10 Ways to Cut Wedding Costs Without Sacrificing Quality or Style
10. Don't get married on a Saturday
So this one I found by default—I'm Jewish, and because Jewish wedding ceremonies can't occur until after sundown on a Saturday (which would have made for a very late night) I decided, as many Jewish brides do, to get married on a Sunday. Well, once I started planning, I realized a lot of things wedding-related are cheaper on any day but Saturday! Reception venues for instance—my venue cost was about half of what it would have been if I had gotten married on a Saturday. And—because Saturday is the most popular day of the week to get married—depending on how early you start your planning, you might have fewer vendor choices on a Saturday (as they book up) which gives you less opportunity to shop around for deals. As a side note—although I chose a Sunday wedding which was much lower cost than a Saturday one, I've found that often there can be even more savings in choosing a weeknight wedding. I have many friends who have done so and saved considerably.
Invitations are certainly an important aspect of your wedding; they're one of the first things your guests will see and I definitely don't recommend sacrificing quality on these. It's worth it to go with a professional stationer—DIY kits and home printed invitations can save money but they often look cheap. However, you don't have to choose the most expensive invites either. When it comes to simple elegant invitations, the ones that cost a few hundred dollars often look just as classy as those that cost thousands. Don't be afraid to take your time. I spent hours in the stationary shop I got my invitations from, looking at all price range options to make sure I chose invitations that were inexpensive without looking them. My tip is to stick with a simple style (they'll be more timeless anyway!), and paper that is high-quality and thick. Oh, and don't choose a square-shaped invitation—the postage costs more and the styles aren't any better. Also, consider doing picture postcards for your Save the Dates instead of stationary—postcards use less postage, require no envelopes and are cute (I used a picture of myself and my fiancé taken the day we got engaged and ordered my postcards online).
One thing I always pictured when thinking of my dream wedding was the limo ride for myself and my new husband from our ceremony to our reception. Well, as it turned out, our ceremony location and reception venue were only about a 10 minute drive from each other (and most limos have a 1-3 hour minimum). Plus, we had to think about transporting our wedding parties... 3 limos at a few hours each seemed crazy for a 10 minute drive! So we decided to hire just one limo (for 1.5 hours) and have it first take myself and my husband, then swing back for the bridesmaids, and then the groomsmen. Everyone in the wedding party got a fun limo ride, plus we saved money by only having 1 limo and filling the minimum time. Also shop around for limo companies—many I called had 3-hour minimums or charged a much much higher rate for rentals less than 3 hours. But after much calling around I found a great reliable company with only a 1-hour minimum and no surcharges—perfect!
Spend the money on a beautiful venue and then you don't need to spend a fortune (or much of anything on décor). For example, if you're an outdoor type, consider getting married in a rose garden or on the beach. With gorgeous natural scenery, you don't really need to decorate at all! I didn't want an outdoor wedding (I'm from Oregon, and with the amount of rain we get here, I didn't want to risk it!) but in choosing my indoor venue I made sure to choose the most beautiful ballroom I could find. Instead of choosing a hotel (often even in a very high-end hotel the ballrooms can be rather plain) I chose to have my reception in the Portland Art Museum—they have a beautiful Grecian ballroom with majestic columns around the walls and statues decorating the space in and around the ballroom. All it needed were some flowers and candle votives, dim lighting, and strategic white up-lighting on the wall columns. A more beautiful ballroom doesn't usually cost more—choose wisely.
6. Get a DJ
My DJ was only a few hundred dollars and he was great! Live bands usually cost considerably more than a DJ. Just make sure to have in person interviews with the DJs you're considering (to make sure he/she has he type of personality you want as they'll usually also be the emcee of your wedding) and make sure they give you the amount of control (whether it's all of the control or not as much) that you want over what type of music/which songs are played.
5. Sheet Cakes
The cake is one of the centerpieces of your reception and everyone sees it, so make sure you choose a design you love and that fits the style of your wedding! However, don't worry about choosing a tiered cake large enough to serve all of your guests. If you have a larger wedding, as we did, it will take a lot of cake to serve everyone! However, an average-sized tiered cake will look just as nice as a very large one and cost a fraction of the amount. Basic sheet cakes are much, much cheaper than tiered cakes and although they don't look as nice (obviously) after you and your husband cut the first piece, the rest of the cake cutting is usually done in back (verify with your caterer!) and then the cut pieces are brought out. So you can supplement your tiered cake with similarly frosted (but much cheaper!) sheet cakes and none of your guests will ever have to know.
4. Serve wine and beer only, no hard alcohol
If your friends and family like to have a good time and enjoy their alcoholic beverages, as mine and my husband's certainly do, alcohol can be one of the more expensive costs of your wedding, especially as people start with the shots and top shelf liquor. Instead of offering a full open bar, why not offer just wine and beer—or wine, beer and champagne/sparkling wine, as we did. Some people save on alcohol costs by having a cash bar or only serving complimentary drinks for a certain amount of time. My guests enjoying themselves was a top priority for me though, and I didn't want them to have to worry about paying for anything on my big day—just having fun! When you have unlimited wine and beer nobody misses the hard stuff. If you do want to have a full bar, consider bringing your own alcohol as another way to save (our venue didn't allow that though, so make sure you ask about any such requirements!). We chose local wines and beers which our guests thoroughly enjoyed, and we served a Spanish Cava (sparkling wine) that was inexpensive yet received many compliments. Taste test your wines before the event too, because as any wine aficionado knows, there is a vast difference in how much you will enjoy the various wines in any price range.
3. Skip the champagne toast
When it's time to toast, just have each person toast with whatever is in their glass. Some people love champagne but many only take it because it's expected for a toast, and then many bottles go to waste as each person takes a few sips and then discards the rest of their glass. We just had our bartenders offer champagne (or in our case, the sparkling Cava we chose) all night in addition to the wine and beer. The cost was the same as for wine, and that way those who wanted it got it and those who didn't, didn't.
2. Photography Packages
Your wedding photographer is a very important part of your wedding. I recommend choosing the best one you can afford, and make sure to have an in-person meeting before booking anyone to make sure your personalities mesh. Your photographer will be by your side for your entire day... and the photographs are one memento of your wedding that will last your lifetime and beyond. However, don't hesitate to ask for a deal or to customize your own package! One of the most expensive parts of wedding photography is the package (album, etc.) which can run as much as the photographer's time itself! We got the photographer we loved, but we couldn't afford to also get the biggest package so we spent out money making sure we had the best photographer for our entire day. And we figured we can always get an album later. Our photographer told us we could buy one from him at a later time (what a great anniversary idea!). Or, since we made sure to get full rights to all of our photos, we could make one ourselves if we choose. Purchasing his time, but not the album package, was not listed as an option on our photographer's website, but we figured it couldn't hurt to ask—and he said yes. Don't forget to tell someone you really want to hire what your budget is and ask how they can make it work!
This can be one of the areas of your wedding that you spend the most money on, and flowers are definitely not something you want to go without! However, there are many ways to get a big and classy look without choosing the priciest blooms. Save your money for the perfect venue, or the best food because even the more inexpensive flowers can be gorgeous.
First of all, choose flowers that are in season (based on the time of year, and the city you plan to get married in) and ones that don't need to be imported. Roses and hydrangeas are two of the more inexpensive flowers and both give you a large and luxurious look. I chose all white flowers, to stay in keeping with my wedding's black and white color scheme, but both roses and hydrangeas are available in a wide variety of colors. I loved the simple elegance of both my bouquet and my centerpieces—I wanted them to be beautiful but the last thing I wanted was for my bouquet to take away from me (the bride!) or my centerpieces to take away from my gorgeous venue (or to be too large for my guests to talk over). Ask your florist to multi-task, too—mine made me great large arrangements for my ceremony that she was able to transport to the reception to use on the bars.
If you really want to cut costs you can even do the flowers yourself (with the help of your bridal party of course!). A friend of mine recently planned a 'country chic' style wedding, for which the mother of the groom grew all of her flowers at home in advance (a mixed variety of wildflowers). The bride bought silk ribbon at a craft store to tie the bouquets, and saved mason jars from sauce, etc. throughout the year to use to hold her centerpiece arrangements. The day before the wedding, the bridal party assisted her in putting everything together, and with almost no cost her flowers looked gorgeous!