Top 10 Tips for Saving Money on Your Wedding
Updated: Mar 5
Picture this: a couple gets engaged. Within a few days, she's pinned thousands of inspiration images for the perfect wedding. He has imagined the unlimited stream of alcohol to enjoy with his college roommates. And then they sit down to make their ten thousand dollar budget only to realize that they've dreamed up a sixty thousand dollar party.
It happens for almost every wedding I plan. The wedding industry is always on the rise and wedding costs these days can be astronomical! But there's good news for us midwesterners: according to the 2019 WeddingWire Newlywed Report, the average wedding in the Twin Cities costs only $23,000, a whopping $10,000 less than the national average! But it's still $23,000, which is rather a lot for most of us.
Don't fret! It is totally possible to have a dream wedding that is affordable, beautiful, and that you and your guests will cherish for the rest of your lives.
While there are hundreds of ways to shave wedding costs, I've highlighted ten here that I feel are most important.
1. Invite Fewer Guests
This is hands down the easiest way to save on your wedding. Consider what each guest costs: on average, about $120 for food and beverage, $5 for a favor or souvenir, nearly $30 on dining and flatware, roughly $15 on stationery and postage, and $3.50 just to rent their seat at the table (or $7 if you're not reusing their chair from the ceremony).
Simply cutting one name from your guest list could save you up to $350! So when cash is tight, this is a no brainer.
2. Do Away with Plated Meals
Have you ever been to a wedding where the caterer serves some boring mushy dish? Or perhaps you've experience, like I have 25 times at least, the way too dry, rubbery chicken with rice pilaf that provides just enough moisture to make the chicken bearable? Now, get this: those plated meals often cost $75 - $95 per head.
More and more couples these days are turning to stations, buffets, and food trucks, or even a smörgåsbord of hors doeuvres for their weddings. On average, meals served in this style cost only $15 - $30 per head (a savings of $60 - $65 per head for those keeping track)!
Plus, the food is often MUCH more delicious. From fresh grilled BBQ sliders to wood fired pizza (update: RIGHT after publishing this post, I went to Instagram and saw that Apples 2 Apples Catering in Farmington has this on their menu...check them out!!) to deep fried anything, the menus for buffets and stations will have your guests begging for more while wondering how you were able to afford such incredible food.
3. Bundle Your Rentals
It can be all too easy to find the perfect linens from rental shop A, the perfect drapes from rental place B, rustic vintage decor from a specialty rental company, romantic lighting from a specialty lighting shop, and audio equipment from an A/V supplier.
Consider that when you rent these items, you're not just paying these businesses for the items. You're paying them for the staffing required to pull and restock the items, for their inventory management software, for the delivery, and more. So when you rent a bunch of stuff from a bunch of different companies, you are paying a lot more than you would if you got all of your rental items from one or two places.
Knowing that, be sure to ask your venue if they supply lighting and A/V equipment (or even tables and chairs). Try to ensure your DJ brings their own lighting and audio package. Wherever you can, bundle your rentals until you are only using one or two businesses to supply all the equipment you need for the day of your wedding.
If you absolutely need to add rentals from more than one or two businesses, consider picking up and dropping off some materials yourself (or send a friend) to at least save on delivery fees.
4. Set a Limit on Drinks
It's no secret that alcohol isn't cheap. Spend an hour or two with some friends at a bar, and you'll be reminded of that fact. Pay for an open bar at a wedding with 180 guests, a bar setup fee, and service fees for the bartender, and "isn't cheap" becomes an understatement!
Cutting back on drinks is a great way to save big on the day of the wedding.
A few ways to do that include: having a signature cocktail or two instead of a full bar, doing ticketed bar service (ie, you give each guest two tickets for free drinks and they pay for the rest), only having an open bar for the first hour of your reception, having a cash bar, serving only wine and beer, stocking the bar yourself, and limiting the types of drinks being poured (including eliminating top shelf liquors).
Many couples these days are even foregoing a champagne toast and encouraging guests to use whatever drinks are already at their table, or substituting champagne for a more affordable drink.
Remember that this day is for you. You want your guests to have a good time, but they don't need unlimited free booze for that.
5. Get Your Flowers Wholesale
If you've got a little bit of time, a knack for crafting, and an eye for color and balance (or if one of your family members or party members have these skills), buy your flowers in bulk and DIY the arrangements!
When you hire a professional florist to do the arrangements, it's easy for a bridal bouquet to cost anywhere between $150 to $250 (and more for centerpieces, ceremony decor, corsages, boutonnières, and more! When you buy wholesale, you can probably put together a bouquet for $25 to $50.
Before my floral friends attack me for this post, I'm not saying some DIY knowhow replaces the years of experience, training, creativity, and industry secrets of a professional florist, but when money is tight, wholesale is the way to go.
Just do a Google search for floral shops and farmers who sell wholesale / in bulk direct to consumer (that direct to consumer bit is important since most wholesale flower shops only sell directly to floral professionals). Market Flowers is a great option in the Twin Cities, but there are many more!
6. Use a Credit Card with Cash Back Rewards
I really hesitated putting this one on the list. Like, REALLY hesitated.
Let me be clear before you read on: no couple should go into debt to pay for their wedding. Is that clear? Do NOT go into debt to pay for your wedding. If that part is really clear to you, please, read on! Otherwise, skip to #7. If you're even thinking about going into debt to pay for your wedding, read this article from LendEDU first and hopefully it will scare you away.
As long as you're certain you can pay back your full balance at the end of each billing statement, using a good rewards card can save you a bunch of money on your wedding (or at least reimburse some of the costs). Say you have the Citi Double Cash MasterCard, which pays back 1% of everything your purchase and another 1% when you pay your bill. Assuming you pay your bill each month and spend the Twin Cities average wedding cost of $23,000, you'll make $460 back! Or, if you get a new Chase Freedom Unlimited Visa, which has 1.5% cash back rewards and a $150 spending bonus for using the card, you'll get $495 back!
Heck yes! Free money! Just be sure that whatever card you use doesn't have an annual fee or you'll just end up paying that money you saved back to the credit card provider.
One more thing: DON'T go into debt to pay for your wedding!!
7. Be Your Own DJ
Or rather, let a computer do it.
If you know the music you want to be played during your ceremony and reception and you know how to build a playlist on iTunes, you're already half way there!
Be sure to bring audio equipment with you or see if the venue will provide it. Build a playlist with a lot of upbeat music and some slow tunes thrown in every so often. Make sure you have a friend or family member who can set up the system and press play on cue. And voila! You have an instant DJ!
You can even take requests from guests in advance on their RSVPs for the wedding, so everyone gets to hear a little bit of something they love!
8. Get Married on a Weekday
Most people get married on Saturday. And sure, it makes sense since that's probably when mosts guests are available to attend. Simple supply and demand that we all learned in high school Economics suggests that vendors can charge more on the days when they're busiest. And they do. Oh yes, they really really do.
Did you know there are several venues that charge $8k for a weekend wedding and only $3k for a weekday? Even for lower scale venues, you may be looking at a difference of $500 to $1k.
And I get it: it's often not practical to have your wedding in the middle of the work week. People work, after all! So often, we just bite the bullet and fork over the extra cash for that Saturday wedding.
However, if you're planning a destination wedding, I can't stress having a weekday wedding enough. Your guests are coming on a vacation with you! Let them arrive on Monday, join you for your wedding on Wednesday, and fly home on Saturday, allowing them to recoup before heading back to work on Monday. Things get stressful and awkward when people have to take vacation time for a weekend destination wedding. And you won't believe how much it can save you.
Good for your guests, great for your wallet.
9. "Hire" Your Friends
I'll admit I'm kind of cheating here since I already told you that not hiring a florist or a DJ would save you money, but taking it another step further, not hiring anyone to work at your wedding will save you money.
Okay, so unless you do a true backyard wedding, you may not be able to get away with not hiring anyone. Most venues will at least require that your caterer be a certified professional and some may insist that your photographer and other vendors be professionals with insurance policies.
But if there is any wiggle room, and you really need to save on cash, asking your family and friends to do what people traditionally hire others to do will save you money. Your uncle Tom went to school for photography and now works 9-5? He'd probably love to stretch his creative muscles again and photograph your wedding! Your friend is handy with a sewing machine? She'd probably be honored to hem all your groomsmen's pants.
At my own wedding, my friends were my day-of-coordinator, DJ, emcee, setup and teardown crew, videographer, and more. All I'd say is that if you do ask your friends to do work for you for no pay, treat them to a gift card to their favorite coffee shop or gift them an extra special bottle of wine. Spending that extra $25 to say thanks will make them feel loved and will still save you thousands.
10. Hire a Wedding Planner
Of all the things on this list, your best bet for saving money on your wedding is to hire a planner. You might be saying, "Hey, I'm no fool! You literally just told me to hire friends instead of vendors and now you're telling me to spend between one and ten thousand dollars on someone and that's supposed to save me money?!"
With a good planner on your side researching the best deals on supplies, setting and sticking to a budget, dedicating hours of their time to negotiating rates with other vendors, and staying up to date on the latest wedding trends and secrets (that often aren't even accessible to the general public), you will absolutely cut down on costs! While I've listed ten ways to save costs here, your planner knows hundreds...maybe thousands of time and money saving tricks!
Not to mention, vendors want planners to refer them to our clients. I can't tell you the number of times I've been invited to have coffee with vendors who say something like, "If you refer me to your clients, I'll give them 25% off my services." I've even had photographers tell me they'll do a wedding for free just so they have an opportunity to work with me (and hopefully keep working with me in the future).
Just avoid hiring a planner that takes commissions from vendors. If your planner is getting a cut of the vendor's fee, they aren't working with your best interests in mind.
Woodland Events offers some of the lowest cost planning packages in the Twin Cities and never takes a single commission from any vendor. Get in touch with us today and set up a complimentary consultation by clicking on the "Contact" tab at the top of this page.
We look forward to serving you!