With the average American wedding costing almost $30,000, it’s getting more and more expensive to throw the party of your dreams. Unless your last name is Warbucks, you’ll need some tips and tricks to help you save money on your big day. Here are a few ideas to make the most out of your wedding budget.
1. Cut down your guest list. This is probably the biggest thing you can do to trim costs. Think of it this way: each guest adds an additional fee at the bar, for food, for cake, for invitations, and sometimes even at the venue. To avoid hurt feelings, it’s best to cut guests in groups. Do Mom’s coworkers from her last job really have to be invited?
2. Consider a traditional venue. It may surprise you to learn that it’s often cheaper to get married in a synagogue or church than in places advertised as “wedding venues.” Have the reception at a local restaurant afterward, or invite everyone to your place for a backyard barbecue, cake, and punch.
3. Make and print your own save-the-dates or wedding invitations. Some professional printers can charge up to $15 for each invitation. This can include letterpress text, embossing, envelopes, and by-hand addressing services. Get creative and make your own.
4. Do some DIY decorating. Though you may not think of it when the florist asks you if you’d like a centerpiece for each table, these decorative details add up. A really popular idea because everyone can see your handiwork is to enlist your bridesmaids to help you make pretty centerpieces that go with your theme; order crafting supplies from a wholesaler or pick an inexpensive item like mason jars to fill with fake flowers.
5. Get a little help from your friends. Do you have a friend who’s a DJ? How about a professional photographer? Ask them if they’ll offer you a special rate on their services as a wedding present. Tread cautiously, though – if they decline, you should still invite them to celebrate with you, and only hire someone whose work you’ve seen and trust.
6. Trick the calendar. The busiest seasons for weddings are Spring and Fall. Rates at venues and from caterers typically drop in the off-season; call for a quote with two different prospective dates. The difference might surprise you. Daytime weddings are also generally priced more reasonably than night weddings, as daytime food service is often lighter and less elaborate.
7. Buffets beat sit-down dinners. It’s often less expensive to serve food buffet-style rather than having a sit-down dinner. Work out with the caterer what your cost per plate will be, then compare costs with a general buffet for that number of guests. If you choose the buffet, as a bonus, you won’t have to spend the extra money to accommodate special dining requests (gluten free, vegetarians, and kids).
8. Put a cork in the open bar. Yes, many people consider it gauche to throw a wedding without a full open bar. But those cocktails can add up, while you’re also paying for one or more bartenders. Consider an open bar restricted to wine and beer, with just one bartender manning the drink station. Your alcohol-imbibing guests should have nothing to complain about, and it’ll be safer for everyone to drive home afterward.
9. Forgo the big wedding and spend the money on the reception. Some couples don’t care about standing up in front of all their friends and making a commitment; they just want the festivities afterward. If this is you, consider romantically eloping or just inviting your parents to a civil ceremony. Then put your wedding budget toward throwing a night for your friends, extended relatives, and coworkers that they will never forget.