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The Backyard Blog

Unique take on popular topics, useful resources and financial advice by renowned writers, specialized experts and experienced bloggers.


September 24th, 2015

101 Ways To Save Money On A Wedding

The average American wedding costs in excess of $25,000. That’s an enormous amount of money to spend on a celebration that lasts only a few hours — indeed, it’s more than many people earn in a year. But your dream wedding doesn’t have to break the bank. There are many ways to save a little here and scale back a little there when planning your big day. From feeding your guests to staging the perfect ceremony, you don’t have to spend a fortune to have a wedding that’s fun, memorable, and full of love. Here are 101 tips and tricks to get you saving.

Her Dress, His Tux:

1. A brand new gown might be nice, but so is a heritage gown that has special meaning for you and your family members. Wear your mother’s or grandmother’s wedding gown if they’re available, well-preserved, and the correct size.

2. Ask married friends if you can borrow their gown. Chances are pretty good that they won’t be wearing it again anytime soon (or ever).

3. There are great deals to be had at bridal consignment shops. Most gowns have been worn just once, and some haven’t been worn at all. As a bonus, ask about selling back your gown after you’ve worn it to get some cash back.

4. Hit up trunk sales and sample sales for a great deal on a brand new wedding gown.

5. With more and more bridal outfitters realizing that brides may not want to keep and store their wedding dress, gown rentals have been gaining popularity. Look into renting a dress.

6. Vera Wang, Isaac Mizrahi, and all of the other big name designers have a line of wedding gowns. They’re beautiful, of course, but they’re also ridiculously expensive. An off-brand dress can be just as lovely, and you’ll spend a fraction of the cost of a designer dress.

7. If it’s an option, buy your wedding dress in a state that does not charge sale tax on clothing.

8. If you’re having a more casual wedding, consider buying a white dress that isn’t technically a wedding dress. They’re often priced much lower than wedding gowns.

9. Make your own veil. It’s a simple sewing project that even the most novice tailor will be able to do.

10. Don’t spend a fortune on expensive jewelry for your big day. If you want something especially flash but also expensive, ask friends and family members if they can loan you a piece of their jewelry as your “something borrowed.”

11. Wear high quality costume jewelry. Who will know that you’re wearing fake pearls instead of real ones?

12. Buy shoes that you can wear with other dresses, and don’t spend too much on them. If your smile’s big enough, no one will be looking at your feet anyway.

13. Ask a friend who is good at doing hair and make-up to do yours on the day of your wedding. (It can even be their wedding gift to you.)

14. If the groom and his groomsmen are renting tuxedos, rent basic ones. Designer brands are often available, but they cost considerably more per rental, and they look almost exactly the same as the off-brand tuxedos.

15. Some tuxedo rental shops will give the groom a free rental if his family and groomsmen rent their tuxedos there as well. Look into these possibilities before deciding on a rental shop.

The Invitations:

16. Keep your guest list manageable. Even cutting ten people from your list will save you a good chunk of change.

17. Save the date cards are not really necessary, especially if you send out your invitations early. They’re an extra expense to print and mail.

18. If you do use a save the date notice, consider sending them as postcards. They’re cheaper to print and cheaper to mail

19. Or, send your save the date cards as an email.

20. Keep your invitations simple. Things like full color, embellishments like ribbon and foil, and thick lined envelopes will all drive up your printing cost.

21. Print one invitation that invites guests to both the ceremony and reception. Printing a separate invitation card for each costs more.

22. Buy invitations that can be mailed in regular size envelopes rather than square envelopes. The latter will cost a little bit more to mail, which may seem trivial, but if you have a sizable guest list, that little bit will add up quickly.

23. If you want custom thank you cards, order then when you order your invitations. You’ll often get a discount.

24. If you’re the crafty DIY type, look up some invitation tutorials online, fire up your ink-jet printer, and make your own.

25. There are services that will assemble and stamp your invitations for you, but to avoid the fee that they charge, set aside a few hours with your betrothed and do them yourselves.

26. Having a calligrapher personally address envelopes may be a nice touch, but at a few bucks per envelope, it’s an unnecessary expense. Instead, learn how to write calligraphy, or type addresses in an ornate font on your computer and run the envelopes through your printer.

27. Keep the number of pieces of paper in your invitation envelope to a minimum to reduce postage costs. For example, rather than including printed directions, you could simply direct guests to a website or give brief GPS instructions.

28. Have your invitation weighed at the post office, and then buy postage in the exact amount you’ll need.

29. Instead of paying return postage on RSVP cards, create a free website for guests to use for RSVPs.

The Ceremony:

30. Clergy and professional officiants typically charge a fee to perform a wedding ceremony. However, the Universal Life Church will ordain anyone to perform a wedding ceremony for free. If you’re not interested in a religious ceremony, this is a good way to save some money.

31. Choose a reception venue that also has space for your ceremony. You’ll save on the second site charge.

32. Save on printing costs by skipping a program. People generally know what to expect from a wedding ceremony, so they’re not entirely necessary.

33. Keep the ceremony to the allotted time to avoid overtime charges from your officiant and any musicians who perform.

34. Do the ceremony privately earlier in the day or the day before, then invite your friends and family to the reception.

The Venue:

35. Think outside the box when it comes to choosing a venue. Places like museums, libraries, parks, and spaces on college campuses will often cost less than more traditional wedding venues.

36. Look into venues you may be able to get inexpensively or for free. For example, if a close family member is a military veteran, you may be able to use the local VFW hall for a nominal charge.

37. Get married in your backyard. It’s totally free!

38. Choose a venue that already has tables, chairs, table linens, dishes and silverware, and all the other little things you’ll need for your big day. Otherwise, you’ll have to pay extra to rent them.

39. Hold your reception in a restaurant. They’ll have everything you’ll need, and you probably won’t be charged a site fee. Offer a limited menu to ensure that Uncle Bob doesn’t order the $60 cowboy ribeye.

40. Many venues will offer to “wrap” or “drape” guest chairs for a small charge each. Two dollars per chair may not sound like much, but if you have 200 guests, that’s $400 — which you really don’t need to spend.

41. Choose a rather plain venue, like a large hotel dining room or a black box type theatre, then decorate it yourself using paper, fabric, and lots of creative lighting.

42. Find out if your venue has a list of preferred vendors. Using them can get you a deal, which can save you lots.

43. Seek out a venue away from a big city, where the rental fees (and just about all of the other wedding costs) tend to be lower.

44. Find a resort in a beach town and have a tropical yet casual destination wedding. As an added savings, your guest list will be considerably smaller than it would have been if your wedding had been held in town.

45. Make your own small favors to be placed at each table.

46. Or, skip wedding favors altogether. They’re usually forgettable to attendees, and it’s an expense that can easily be cut from any wedding budget.

Food And Drinks:

47. Think carefully about what meal you offer your guests, since some entrees cost a lot more than others. Chicken and pasta, for example, cost a lot less than filet mignon.

48. Have your reception at lunch (or brunch) time, which is usually less expensive than dinner

49. Buffet or “strolling” dinners are often less than sit-down dinners.

50. So is having your meal family style, where there are big platters of food to pass on each table.

51. For outdoor weddings, do a hog roast or a barbeque. It’s comfort food that everyone will love, plus it’s a lot cheaper.

52. If you’re having a cocktail hour as part of your reception, limit the amount of hors d’oeuvres you put out. People generally want just a snack before their meal anyway.

53. Or, offer only finger foods at your reception rather than meal-type items

54. Have a local ethnic restaurant cater your reception. It will cost much less than standard caterer, plus it will make your wedding one to remember.

55. Have a cake and dessert reception instead of a full meal.

56. Want a big traditional wedding cake? Instead of a bakery, which will charge a premium on wedding cakes, find a skilled home baker or culinary student and order your cake from him or her.

57. Keep cake flavorings simple and easy. Chocolate and vanilla are usually more affordable than, say, almond and passion fruit.

58. Buy a sheet cake instead of a traditional tiered wedding cake. Sheet cakes are easier to construct and easier to decorate, which means they’re easier on your wallet.

59. Don’t offer guests an additional dessert. Cake is plenty.

60. Get cupcakes instead of a full cake. It’s cheaper, plus you’ll avoid the cake cutting fee that many venues charge.

61. Instead of unlimited open bar, consider having just beer and wine, or just wine. If you and some of your guests prefer liquor, offer one or two “signature wedding cocktails” rather then a full open bar.

62. Limit bar time. You often pay by the hour, so consider having open bar for just the first hour or two of your reception.

63. Hold your reception at a place where you can bring your own alcohol for your guests. Venues and caterers often mark up alcohol by quite a bit, so you can save a lot by buying your own keg of beer or cases of wine.

64. Don’t buy the pricey champagne. Guests will generally just take one quick sip after the toast anyway.

65. Or, instead of buying champagne for the toast, toast with whatever you’re drinking.


66. Hire talented students to do things like perform classical music at your ceremony, take wedding photos, and more. Students will usually do these services for about half of what a professional might charge, but will almost always deliver comparable quality.

67. Rather than a “wedding” band, find a talented local band and hire them to play at your reception. You may not get all the songs you want, but you get great live music for a lot less money.

68. A DJ is almost always less expensive than a band.

69. Or, skip the DJ, create a playlist of songs you want to hear, and play it through the venue’s sound system. Ask a friend who loves music to be in charge of starting and stopping the music at key times during the reception.

Photos And Video:

70. Instead of ordering an expensive wedding album from your photographer, find a photographer who will give you all of the photos as part of your wedding package, then put the ones you like in a self-published book from any photo website. You’ll have a bound album for a lot less than a traditional wedding album. Plus, if parents or other relatives want a copy, it’s easy and inexpensive enough to order more copies.

71. Put disposable cameras on each table with a note for guests to take photos for you. You’ll be surprised at how good some of them turn out!

72. Or, skip the cost of disposable cameras altogether, and put notes on tables asking guests to email you the photos they take at your wedding (don’t forget to include your email address) or post them to social media and tag you.

73. If you want video as well as photos, ask your photographer if he or she can provide video services as well. Usually, getting both from the same provider will save you some money.


74. Use flowers that are in season for the lowest prices

75. Larger flowers means you have to buy fewer of them, which helps to keep your cost down.

76. Carry a small bouquet, and have your bridesmaids do the same.

77. Bigger tables means fewer tables, which means fewer centerpieces to buy.

78. Create your own centerpieces by using inexpensive glass bottles (which can be found at any craft store) and redistributing flowers from large, inexpensive grocery store bouquets or wholesale markets.

79. Use small centerpieces instead of large ones.

80. Or, to save even more money, use large votive candles surrounded by rose petals on each table. Your only expenses will be a box of petals and a case of candles.

81. Make paper flowers instead of buying real ones. They’re a lot less money, and you’ll never have to worry about them wilting.

82. Get married in a botanical garden, park, or other place with lots of greenery. The natural surroundings come free with the venue, and then you won’t have to spend much on additional flowers.

Other Tips:

83. Make a budget and stick to it to avoid spending too much.

84. Prioritize. If one thing is really important to you — say, a harpist playing music at your ceremony — then you need to be willing to compromise financially on other aspects of your wedding.

85. Ask if you can negotiate a lower price. Remember, everything is negotiable. Many times, for example, a wedding service provider will lower his or her rates if you offer to pay with cash.

86. Hiring a wedding planner may seem like an unnecessary expense, but one who is experienced can help you negotiate lower prices on everything, saving you in the long run.

87. DIY as much as you can. Find fun ideas on Pinterest to inspire you.

88. Avoid getting married in June, when fees for everything tend to be at their highest.

89. For the most leverage when it comes to negotiating, consider picking a date in the winter, late fall, or early spring.

90. New Year’s Eve tends to be an expensive date, as does Valentine’s Day, when prices for flowers, champagne, jewelry, and other items get jacked up.

91. Saturday evening weddings tend to be expensive. You’ll typically get better prices from wedding vendors if you get married on a Friday night, or even during the week.

92. Many receptions last four or five hours. By making yours just two or three, you can save a substantial amount on both food and beverage costs and venue fees.

93. Skip the limousine if you need transportation from the ceremony to the reception. It’s a lot of money for a short car ride. Instead, ask a friend who owns an especially nice car if he or she would be willing to drive you that distance.

94. Involve your creative friends in your wedding for invitation design, flower arranging, photography, and more. Friends will often offer their services for a greatly reduced rate or even for free in lieu of a wedding gift.

95. If you’re having place cards for your guests, write or print them yourself.

96. Or skip place cards entirely and let people sit where they want to sit

97. If you’re buying plain gold bands for your wedding rings and you know your sizes, order them from a discount website. They’ll look exactly the same as the ones you’d get at a jeweler, but they’ll cost about half.

98. Keep the bridal party to a minimum, even down to just a maid of honor and a best man.

99. Keep attendant gifts simple.

100. Don’t say the W word! Vendors know that people are emotional about their wedding and mark up prices as a result. By not mentioning that something is for a wedding, you may be able to save a significant amount.

101. Don’t get too hung up on paying to make sure everything is perfect on your wedding day. Ultimately, you want to focus on the marriage and not just the wedding.


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