Weddings are expensive events any way you slice it unless you’re willing to cut some significant corners ― like having a cash bar instead of an open one or getting married on a Tuesday instead of a Saturday. But fortunately, there are some small ways to reduce costs without sacrificing fun or comfort.
Planning a wedding on a budget can make it challenging to look at the big picture. Instead of getting overwhelmed by all the important details and the price tags associated with them, start with these small ways to save money. Not only will our simple wedding budget tips and tricks help you cut planning costs, but they’ll add up to one unforgettable celebration. Who says weddings can’t be unique and affordable?
The best part of all is that these tips don’t feel like sacrifices. Are you serving a signature drink? You probably wanted to anyway. But maybe you didn’t realize that this is one great way to see significant savings on your bar tab.
Another great tip? Fill your bouquet and centrepieces with in-season flowers! Local, seasonal blooms are more affordable than imported varieties, and we promise that you’ll love the look.
Follow one, five, ten, or all of our tips and watch the savings follow. Looking for the ultimate Wedding Reception Venue in Melbourne? Look no further, Boutique Events Group is here.
If you’re ready to plan your perfect wedding while saving big, these clever budget-trimming ideas are for you. Read on to see all the tips for making your dream day a little more affordable.
The Case for Eloping
Here’s the easiest way to shrink those wedding costs: Don’t have a wedding, and elope instead.
Yes, there are some downsides to this, but there’s a considerable upside, too.
First, the case against it: You won’t have the experience or memories of a traditional wedding–walking down the aisle on a parent’s arm (or standing at an altar), being surrounded by loved ones, dancing at the reception, and so on.
And your family and friends might be sad or mad that they don’t get to be at your wedding.
Here’s why you might elope anyway:
- There’s a lot less stress if you don’t have to plan a wedding.
- You’ll save a lot of time and energy, as weddings involve many, many details.
- You won’t have to make painful choices, such as deciding whom to invite and not invite.
- You will avoid offending anyone who would not have been invited to the wedding.
- You can prevent potentially contentious issues such as which church or clergy you’ll use and who will be maid of honour, best man, and so on.
- You can save a lot of money!
- You can spend more on your honeymoon–or just put your savings toward a down payment on a home, retirement savings, debt repayment, or any other purpose.
- You can focus solely on your partner, your relationship, and your upcoming life together, making the elopement potentially more romantic.
- You can always celebrate with loved ones another way, such as with a party.
You may consider the pros and cons above and decide that you nevertheless want a wedding — along with all, or most, of what that entails. That’s fine because it still doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg.
Saving for a Wedding Is Easier If the Wedding Costs Less
A little creative thinking can help you spend a lot less on your wedding. Below are some more ideas to consider.
The more of them that you use, the more money you can save. The more minor your expected total cost, the less you’ll have to keep for your wedding.
Live Cocktail Hour Music.
Quality music is often at the top of a couple’s priority list ― after all, you want that dance floor to be poppin’.
But the music playing in the background during the cocktail hour is just that: background music. So it may not matter if it’s life or streaming off a Spotify playlist.
We love good entertainment as much as anyone, and we would be the first people to say to splurge on a fabulous reception band or DJ; however, to get that string quartet for a cocktail hour most often goes unappreciated.
Your guests are chatting and drinking and will never notice if you have piped-in music of any style instead of a live performer.
If live music isn’t all that important to you in general, you can also potentially save a lot of money by having a DJ instead of a band at the reception.
If your ceremony and reception are in two different locations and you have the money to spend on a party bus to shuttle guests, fantastic.
And if not, with the variety of rideshare options available today, it shouldn’t be all that pricey or inconvenient for your guests to use Uber or Lyft.
When it comes to things to skip, you can decide not to offer transportation if you are in a big city with easily accessible cabs.
If you are having a wedding in a more remote or rural area, do know that cabs and rideshare options may be limited.
If you can have the ceremony and reception in the exact location, even better.
Many wedding venues offer tables, chairs and linens included in their pricing.
They may be basic and not your first choice design-wise, but they can certainly get the job done and help you save some cash in the process.
You can save on costs by utilizing any in-house rentals since they would be included in your rental and cost you nothing.
Upgrading rentals can add up very quickly.
Go for a Buffet
One way to shrink your catering costs is to have food served buffet-style, with guests helping themselves to food instead of being done sit-down style by waitstaff.
This strategy can shave some big bucks off the total tab.
And if you’re so inclined, you can use those savings to upgrade the menu; you may only be able to afford chicken if waiters serve the meal,
but switching to a buffet could make roast beef affordable.
Depending on the size of your wedding and your food choices, opting for a buffet over a sit-down meal may save you several hundred dollars at a minimum.
Alternatively, you might consider having just lots of hors d’oeuvres and some stations scattered around with cheeses and other treats.
You can get away with this if you have a mid-to late-afternoon wedding or a post-dinner one.
By serving a variety of hors d’oeuvres instead of a meal (which often includes starters), you’ll have plenty of food, but without the hefty cost of a full dinner for each guest.
You can give guests a heads-up about your food plan by including a line such as “light refreshments will follow the ceremony” in your invitations.
Just how much will this strategy save you?
Well, the cost of wedding food can vary widely, depending on what you serve and which company you hire.
Many caterers traditionally serving a wedding meal will charge between $50 and $150 per guest.
Get Bids for Big Jobs.
Instead of approaching bands, photographers, and other wedding service providers and asking what they charge, consider exploring your options via sites where you can specify what you need and have pros bid for your business.
Be sure to check out their work and their references, of course.
While many photographers, for example, charge upwards of $2,000 to photograph a wedding, you might solicit bids for the job online and end up with someone who will do the job well for $800.
Similarly, you may be able to snag some good musicians or a DJ for a few hundred dollars instead of a few thousand.
If you have some talented friends, see if they’d be willing to offer their services for your wedding either as a gift or at a discounted rate.
For example, they might provide music for your ceremony, be your videographer, bake your cake, or make flower arrangements.
As an example, videographers tend to cost between $1,000 and $2,500.
If you have a handy friend with a video recorder and is willing to document your special day as a wedding gift to you, you can save a lot of money.
Don’t enlist just anyone for specialized tasks, though, or the results may be disappointing.
Perhaps review a photographer friend’s portfolio carefully before approaching him or her, and ask someone who has impressed you with their flower-arranging skills instead of a well-meaning good friend who might not be so good at the task.
When in doubt, go with a well-reviewed professional–this is your wedding, after all!
A friend could even be the one to marry you if he or she is ordained by your state or local government.
If not, there are inexpensive paths to temporary ordinations online.
Just check with your secretary of state or town clerk to find out what credentials are required.
Many friends or relatives of marrying couples around the country have gotten temporary ordination credentials from entities, which charge $50 or less for what you would need to perform a wedding.
Don’t Be So Traditional.
It’s easy to start your wedding planning with traditional images in your head–a big wedding party, fancy venue, sit-down dinner, and so on.
But that scenario might not reflect your budget or your personality. Don’t be afraid to buck some norms and have things your way–or just a different and less expensive way.
For example, many couples want to be married on a Saturday in June or September. Due to the simple rules of supply and demand, that makes weekends during “wedding season” an expensive time to get married.
You can save some big bucks by getting hitched on a weekday, during the offseason, or both.
Venues will typically charge much less at non-peak times, and many wedding professionals (such as photographers, musicians, and possibly even some caterers) will have no bookings on, say, a Thursday in January, so they may be happy to take your job at a discounted rate.
See if you can think of an inexpensive yet lovely and meaningful venue for your wedding–perhaps a friend’s yard, a beach, the park where you and your partner went on your first date, or any other place that has special meaning to you.
You might even have a potluck instead of a catered affair, which can save thousands of dollars.
Brides often buy their dresses at bridal shops, but you might instead find a unique $250 dress online instead of springing for one that costs $1,000 or more.
You might look into finding service providers at local schools, too. If there’s a photography school near you, you might hire a talented student for your photography needs for much less than a seasoned pro.
Skip the Favours
If you’re trying to trim your budget, wedding favours are an easy thing to eliminate that guests are not likely to notice, let alone miss.
The cost of these trinkets can add up, especially with more extensive guest lists. After your guests have come to your wedding and ate, drank and danced for hours, they don’t need a piece of chocolate or a picture frame to take home.
Do you want a box of those leftover knick-knacks collecting dust in your garage for years to come? No one cares about a pen or a shot glass with your wedding date carved into it.
Your guests probably won’t mind that you didn’t spend $300 or $600 on little favours for everyone.
After all, they’re showing up for you, not for free goodies.
If you think they will mind, or if you want to give your guests some token of your appreciation, then come up with something inexpensive, such as seed bombs, customized key rings or magnets, homemade cookies, or lollipops.
A little searching online will turn up gobs of ideas, some of which will likely appeal to you.
Downsize Your Invitations
Skip paying for custom calligraphy and gold engraving.
Some couples pay invitation preparers more than a thousand dollars — sometimes several thousand — for 100 to 300 invitations.
That might include $500 for a design and then many hundreds for inner and outer envelopes, ribbons, embossing, and so on.
You can find lovely and inexpensive invitations or invitation designs on Etsy.com and elsewhere, saving a lot of money.
For example, you might find a design you love, and the designer might personalize it with your names and wedding information and then send you a printable file of that for just $50 or $100.
Then you take the file to a printer or do the printing yourself at home if you can.
Alternatively, many designers will order the printed invitations for you, perhaps charging $1 to $5 each.
You could even make your invitations, perhaps with the help of a crafty friend. You might use rubber stamps for a nice effect, and you can buy excellent, thick papers at office supply stores or online.
Printing on linen can look extra fancy.
You can address the envelopes yourself, too — maybe even making a party of it with some friends. You could also see whether anyone in your circle is good at calligraphy and willing to help out.
Paper wedding invitations can become rather pricey between the stationery and the postage, especially the more ornate ones.
Paperless e-invites may not feel quite as formal, but they will help you whittle down your budget (and they’re eco-friendly, too!).
We know this won’t be popular, but don’t spend tons of money on fancy invitations if you’re on a tight budget.
Yes, they are the first impression, but I’ve had clients who spent thousands on invitations and people still asked for the information that was printed out for them.
If you have sure guests who aren’t particularly tech-savvy, you can always order a small number of printed invitations to mail to those people and send e-invites to the rest.
No one cares about the invitations, past good design and precise information, and most of your guests are not going to save them.
And, if someone does give you a hard time about it, then it was a mistake to invite them to your wedding in the first place, you know?
If you don’t want to go the digital invitation route, you can eliminate some of your other wedding paper goods, such as programs or menu cards, instead.
Buy Your Liquor from a Store That Will Take Back Unopened Bottles.
You don’t want to run out of booze at your wedding reception, which is why you (or your wedding planner or the liquor store you’re buying from) should estimate generously, ordering more than you need.
That’s all well and good, but after the big event, you don’t want to end up with costly leftover cases of alcohol that you can’t return.
Fortunately, many liquor stores will deliver alcohol and later refund you for unopened bottles. If the alcohol provider you’re working with won’t do that, consider looking for one that will.
A party without cake is just a meeting. And you probably don’t want your wedding to feel like a meeting.
That said, throwing down serious dough on a giant wedding cake and other dessert options may be overkill.
Cut the Cake Early in the Reception
Here’s a money-saving trick that many people never think of: Don’t put off cutting the cake at the reception.
Why? Well, getting to it early in the reception can allow the photographer and videographer to wrap up their work earlier and thus charge you less.
Otherwise, they may be hanging around for an extra hour or two to document the last major event. If your photographer is charging you $200 per hour, you might save $200 to $400 with this tip.
Once the cake is cut, and the dessert bar is open, guests immediately move on to dancing and hanging out, anything but eating dessert.
Get enough so that each guest can have one slice or a piece of whatever you’re serving, make it pretty to look at, yummy as hell and leave it at that. You’re still going to have to throw some away, but not as much.
Another option is to cut a more minor, decorative cake for the photos, but have your caterer cut and serve a simple sheet cake in the same flavour.
And if you and your partner don’t have much of a sweet tooth, you shouldn’t feel like you have to serve a wedding cake just for the sake of having one.
Do not spend the money if the tradition does not matter to you or your fiancé. Check out our list of shops to get your Wedding Cake in Melbourne.
Invite Fewer People
This one might make you wince, but you could save many thousands by making some tough decisions and inviting fewer people to your special day.
For example, imagine that you’re planning a wedding with 200 guests and your fixed costs (dress, limo, musicians, photographer, cake, etc.) are about $10,000.
Meanwhile, your cost per guest (for food, favours, rented chairs or table settings, etc.) is $100, totalling $20,000 for 200 guests.
That’s a total of $30,000.
If you can shave that invitation list in half, your total will be only $20,000 — $10,000 for fixed costs and $10,000 for variable guest costs. That’s a hefty savings of $10,000!
Even trimming the list by 50 might save you around $5,000.
Spend a little time thinking about how many people have to be at your wedding.
Don’t assume you have to allow every adult to bring a “plus one”; you may be able to trim your list significantly by only inviting known couples and having single folks attend on their own.
Skip the Wedding Planner — or Don’t
Many couples hire a wedding planner or coordinator to do much of the work for them.
This can save you a lot of time and aggravation, but their services don’t come free.
They typically cost between $1,500 and $3,000 or so, though some can cost much more or less.
If you take on this role yourself, you may be able to save hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
That said, if you’re terrible at organizing and multitasking (they’re not skills that everyone possesses), or if you don’t have the time for wedding planning, then you might do well to skimp elsewhere and to hire a pro.
After all, your time is worth something, too.
One survey of folks occupied or recently occupied with wedding planning found that the median time spent on it was about 10 hours per week.
If you earn just $12 per hour, spending 10 hours a week on wedding planning for 50 weeks is worth about $6,000 of your time.
A wedding planner might be well worth it.
Also, remember that while a good planner will cost money, he or she will likely save you some money, too, by knowing where to find reasonably priced goods and services.
Save Aggressively for Your Wedding and Minimize Financial Pain
The average engagement period is about 14 months.
If yours is in that neighbourhood, too, you probably have about a year or a little more in which to sock money away for your wedding. (Of course, you might be quick about it, going from engagement to wedding in just two or three months or less — or you might be engaged for several years, too.)
Come up with an estimated total cost (and perhaps add on an extra 5% to 10% for unexpected expenses), subtract from it the amount you already have socked away that you can spend on the wedding, and divide the remainder by the number of months until the big day: That’s how much you’ll need to save each month.
For example, imagine you’re expecting to pay $20,000 for a wedding that’s 18 months away, and you have $5,000 in the bank that you can spend on the wedding. That leaves a $15,000 shortfall.
Divide that by 18 months, and you’ll see that you’ll have to aim to save about $833 or more per month.
If that’s an alarming sum, you might look into trimming the cost of the wedding — or delaying it while you save more money. Need help planning your wedding? Check out our list of Wedding Event Planners here.
Delaying until you can afford the wedding you want can be better than going into debt for it. (Be sure to plan for the fact that some expenses, such as deposits for rentals and caterers, will need to be paid in advance.)