When my now-husband and I got engaged, my first thought was, “Yay!” followed quickly by, “Wonder how much this is going to cost?”
With the cost of an average wedding at around $27,800, that’s not an odd second thought to have. And while we ended up having a small ceremony—with just the two of us and one witness—at City Hall, we did spend months planning a full-on extravaganza before deciding to go casual.
To help you plan your own amazing wedding that won’t break the bank, I thought I’d share with you a few of the cost-saving tips I picked up along the way. 1. Tap Your Friends
If you’re anything like me, you have some pretty amazing and talented people in your life. If you’re interested in asking them to help you out on your wedding day, make sure you’ve seen examples of the work you’ll be asking them to do, and that it matches what you had in mind for your special day. Of course it’s always nice to give them some money or an extra special gift for their help, but in the end it could save you thousands if you don’t have to hire a professional. For example, one of my high school friends is an amateur photographer, and she snapped the shots of us on our wedding day (picture above). Her work was fun and personal, and saved us upwards of a couple thousand. I tapped a talented friend to do my make-up that morning, as well—and I’ve never felt more beautiful.
2. Pick Where You’ll Splurge
You’d be surprised, but once the ball gets rolling on your wedding planning, it can be tempting to fall for the gold-foiled, Belgian chocolate guest gifts, the mile-high fancy flower table display and the 10-piece orchestra to play “The Way You Look Tonight” while you walk down the aisle.
This all adds up incredibly fast.
It always helps to have a conversation with your partner in advance of the actual planning to each pick one thing that really means the most to you, and to agree to splurge on that. If music is something you two bonded over, maybe you go for the fancy New York City band. If you’re really a florist at heart, perhaps dipping into your pockets for amazing flowers on your big day will be what really makes the difference. Even though Chris and I wouldn’t be spending the average cost on our own wedding, we still had our splurges. We knew we wanted a car service to drive us around the city on the day so we could take pictures, and we wanted to stay in a beautiful hotel with amazing views of the city—and those two splurges really helped make the day extra special.
3. Pick Your Guest List Wisely
The guest list. It’s where most brides and grooms (and their families!) run into problems. While it may feel crass, at the end of the day, most weddings come down to a per-head cost, meaning the more people you invite, the more you’re going to pay. If there’s any way to convince your mom not to invite her whole book club, or your father-in-law not to invite his whole “old college crew” that he hasn’t seen in years, it could save you big in the end.
4. Pick Off-Peak Times
If you can, picking a wedding date that is considered “off-peak” in the industry could save you as well. For example, having a November wedding, or a wedding in January, February or March (outside of Valentine’s Day, of course!) might save you 20-30% immediately. Getting married on a day other than Saturday generally saves big, as well.
5. Take It Down a Notch With the Food
This is controversial, but it’s not uncommon these days for couples (especially young ones who happen to be paying for most of the wedding themselves) to not serve full meals. I recently attended a wedding where guests were served delicious appetizers and tons of desserts—and I can tell you I didn’t leave hungry.
If you opt for this type of reception, be sure to make it clear on your invite that guests are getting appetizers and not a full meal, so you temper their expectations before they arrive (and they can eat something ahead of time if they want to!). You also might consider having the celebration outside of the normal dinner hour.
Tell us—what are some of the ways you cut the costs on your own wedding?
Cheryl Lock is a personal finance writer at and former editor at LearnVest and Parents magazine. When she’s not writing, she enjoys travel, which she blogs about at wearywanderer.wordpress.com.