My last part in my wedding series! I’ve written on wedding dresses, bridesmaids, hair, makeup, & now finally to the wedding itself! I’m going to tell you how to save money on your wedding, & also what I did with mine!
I’m going to start off again, with numbers. There are some couples out there who willing drop $100,000 or more on a wedding. Keep in mind that a wedding is just ONE party. Unless you’re coming from a culture where weddings last a whole week, usually weddings are a single party, & then they’re over. And like I mentioned once before, the number one reason why people get divorced? Money. Don’t bankrupt yourself trying to get the wedding of your dreams. I read a statistic once that the more money you spend on your wedding, the more likely you are to get divorced. Think Princess Diana. She had a regal wedding, with one of the longest trains in the world, & her wedding was a worldwide media event. And she ended up with a messy, messy divorce that was splashed across headlines across the world. My point? It’s not always about the wedding. I wrote once that nobody cares about your wedding dress in divorce court. You can have the party; the point is to find a middle ground that won’t break your wallet at the same time. And I’m here to give you options!
How to find vendors: the photographer, DJ, florist, etc.
This is always a tricky question. And you never know going into a wedding, who is the best in the business, who charges more, & who will just plain rip you off.
How I did it: I inquired at several restaurants / catering halls first, as to where to plan my wedding. Once I picked it, I asked the manager who they prefer to work with; & who has the best deals. Tip: I always think the best advertising is through word of mouth. Ask your married friends if they liked their DJ, or the restaurant they chose. I quite liked a DJ at a friend’s wedding, & I asked her for their phone number & at one point I met with them. Another tip: I’m not crazy about them, because they CAN be pricey, but a wedding planner is worth considering. If you find someone who knows all the good deals, and the best vendors in town, this could save you some headache & money.
Location, location, location is everything. Even in weddings. And there are many factors that go into WHERE you have your wedding. Here I will list tips for the budget couples looking to save money:
-Have the wedding in a restaurant: Restaurants are usually less expensive than catering halls, & more intimate if you want to have a small party. And because large events in most restaurants are not as common, they are usually more accommodating than a catering hall would be.
-Have your wedding in the suburbs vs. the city: That could shave thousands off the price tag of the whole party. You don’t need a wedding with a view of the city skyline; to have it in a beautiful restaurant in your hometown will make a big, big difference in the price tag. Remember, in big cities, EVERYTHING is more expensive, simply because of the location. A popular trend in weddings: Have your wedding outdoors under a large tent. Usually they’re white, but they could be any color. This is a lovely idea if you want to get married outdoors, & by far easier to do in the country / suburbs vs. the city.
-Have your ceremony & reception in the same place: That would save you money on decorations, carting your family & friends back & forth, & there’s nothing stopping you from having an altar, or canopy erected in your reception area. Or having the ordained person coming to the reception. If you opt on having them in separate places, you will also have to spend more money on decorating both! Also there are vendors that will charge by the hour, (i.e. the DJ, or photographer) and having it in one place will save you money.
-Have your wedding during the off season: It’ll be easier for you to book a date, as well as save you thousands! Catering halls / restaurants, will be more attentive, vs. swamped with other weddings.
-Avoid famous locations in your wedding: At one point during my wedding planning, we inquired about having our ceremony in a botanical garden. Sounds pretty, but they were going to charge us $700 alone just for the ceremony! I nixed the idea & saved myself $700!! Alternative: If you really have your heart set on having some famous location / landmark as part of it; there’s no stopping you from having your photos taken there! I had some of my wedding photos taken outdoors by the Brooklyn Bridge!
Right: Fondant flowers, Left: Real flowers
Yes, the cake. Some of us have dreamt of our wedding cake, what it would look like, how many tiers it would be, etc. BUT do you know the average price of a wedding cake in the US? $400!! For a cake!! That’s more than you pay for your water bill! And I’ve been to many wedding where I’ve seen waiters just throw out lots of cake. Yep, slices & slices of it go in the garbage. I think at one wedding I saw them trash half the cake! Why? Because not everybody eats it. Usually some people have left the party before they even cut the cake, or many are too full from the banquet to even think about dessert. Your money goes down the toilet, & your cake has gone to waste. If you insist, tell them you want to take the leftovers home, & you can save it for yourself / family.
-Choose a reception hall where a cake is inclusive: In some places that’s rare, but that’s what I did for my wedding. And that saved me some money! My wedding cake was free!
-Get a smaller cake than the number of guests you have: i.e. if you plan on having 250 guests at your wedding, aim for a cake that’s maybe for 200. That would shave some money off the price of the cake. And remember, not everyone is going to eat cake.
-Or have a smaller tiered cake & supplement with a sheet cake (hidden in the kitchen): This could save you a lot of money. The sheet cake doesn’t need to be decorated, & your guests will never know the difference between which is which.
-Have the cake decorated with REAL flowers vs. fondant ones: Fondant flowers are always beautiful, crafted by pastry chefs, but also are more expensive. Simply because of the manpower & time it takes to make them. If you ask your florist to decorate your cake with REAL flowers, your cake will still be beautiful & far cheaper. And honestly most people can’t even tell the difference. Tip: if you have an outdoor wedding, DO NOT use buttercream frosting. You don’t want your cake to end up looking like a soft puddle.
-Have an artificial cake: This is what one bride did: She had a 5 tiered artificial cake made for her wedding, (with just one section that was real for the cake cutting) & in the kitchen they had cut up a different cake for her guests. Sound silly? Hey she got great pictures, & she saved herself hundreds of dollars on a wedding cake!
This above wedding cake is fake. Gorgeous isn’t it? Can you tell the difference between the real thing & a fake one? It’s actually made out of styrofoam! They’re becoming more common now, as there are companies that rent out ‘fake cakes’ for couples to save money. Interested? Search ‘cake rental’ and find a vendor in your area!
-Or have a Cupcake Cake: This is actually cheaper than having the whole wedding cake. This is for the girls who love cupcakes! And all you would need is the top tier for cutting. If you really want to go inexpensive, you could get all your cupcakes from Costco. (And who says you can’t? Restaurants get their supplies from places like Costco & BJ’s all the time!) And then have your florist spice it up with some flowers!
-Have a dessert bar: This I think by far is cheaper than going for the whole wedding cake. I went to a wedding once where they featured a table dedicated solely for desserts. There was even chocolate fondue fountain, where we could dip strawberries / marshmallows in chocolate. This is where you can save, because you can get the desserts from anywhere. Pick up some pastries or pies from your local bakery, or ask some of your relatives to bring something in! I think people were more excited about the dessert bar than the actual wedding cake! If you do opt for a dessert bar, whatever you do with the wedding cake is up to you. (If you want to get a smaller one, or hey, even go for the fake one!)
The Centerpieces, bouquets, & decorations
Sometimes I’m awestruck at other weddings I’ve been to, where the centerpieces look like they cost more than $100 each! But honestly, this is where you can save money. And of all the things people remember at your wedding, people don’t remember what the centerpieces were.
-Use artificial flowers: They’re less expensive & no one is going to check. Real flowers & artificial ones were mixed in at my wedding, & people couldn’t tell the difference.
-If you do use real flowers, use flowers that are in season: Rare flowers are by far more expensive. Always inquire about the price of each when you go to your florist. This greatly varies depending upon what time of year you have your wedding.
-Use candles or other non flowers in your decorations: I did! And I love candles! There’s no rule saying that you can’t! I did lovely flowers inside vases filled with water, & floating candles! They even sell floating candles at Ikea! And you can put all different kinds of candles with your centerpieces. When the room is dark, it makes for a very romantic ambiance! And you don’t have to use only candles!
Green plants are usually less expensive than flowers, or you can include things like balloons, lanterns, paper pom poms, lights, in your decorations! It’s up to you to be creative!
-Have a DJ instead of a band: Unless you have one musician, usually bands / orchestras cost more money. You can save yourself thousands just by having the DJ play the music for you during the ceremony & reception.
-Have a friend play the music for you: You would have to ask someone to do this favor, but this will also save you a lot. With modern technology, you can use apps like Spotify to set up your own playlist at your wedding! All you will need is a friend who is tech-savvy to watch the computer throughout the party (At least offer some kind of compensation or a thank you gift in return).
-Send evites, or set up a website just for your event for people to RSVP: I’ve been a couple of weddings now where the invitation was completely online. If you are old fashioned & would like to have the card & envelope invitation, you can save money by sending them to only close friends & family.
-If you do have a paper invitation, stick to ONE page: If you print out dozens or hundreds, you can save on the cards, envelopes, as well as stamps.
Food & Drinks:
-Cut out some courses: Usually restaurants / catering halls have set menus for weddings, but you don’t need ALL the courses they offer. i.e. if they offer like 3 appetizers, you can cut out 2. (Do you really need 3 appetizers?) The restaurant I chose offered more than one dessert; and I was like, ‘What? People can’t even finish the cake!’ And I quickly nixed that idea. Again, this is where you can negotiate to shave down that price.
-Swap out some things: I did at my wedding! i.e. if they offer seafood on the menu, & you swap it out for chicken / beef, this will also shave off the price of the menu. And don’t be shy to negotiate. This is YOUR wedding, & you’re spending thousands of dollars. This is the time you need to step up & be aggressive when you bargain.
-You don’t need an open bar: Some people love to have these, & if you’re insisting on having an open bar at your wedding, you can tell them to set a limit on drinks. Also this is a great way to prevent people from getting drunk (which, trust me, you dont want) at your wedding, & will save you some money.
-Stick to beer & wine: And maybe some champagne for toasting. There are some couples who do a signature cocktail for their wedding (in lieu of an open bar). I went to a wedding once & there was only beer & wine & I don’t think people even noticed.
-Have friends / family help prep the food: If you’re getting married in a location where the food needs to be catered, i.e. in a tent, at home, at the beach, etc., you can ask friends / family to help pitch in. Especially if you have people in your family that love to cook! i.e. ask one person to make the appetizers, another person (or more) to make the entrees, & ask the groomsmen if they can pick up the alcohol. Sound informal? It has been done before! My brother-in-law had a restaurant bring in the catering for all the food at his wedding; it could’ve been just as easily prepared by friends / family! I can’t say for everyone (because prices vary greatly around the country) but I paid $800 a table for my wedding. Imagine if you paid for the ingredients yourself (& had people pitch in, & help you prepare it) Think of ALL the money you would save!
And that’s it! Check back if I update this article! Or, check out other articles in my wedding series!