Weddings come in all shapes and sizes, from casual and simple to elegant and extravagant. Whether you decide to get married by a local justice of the peace at a courthouse, or invite hundreds of guests to a large venue, there are cost effective measures you can take to help save money. Here’s how you can get the wedding of your dreams without breaking the bank.
Small wedding (up to 50 guests). When your wedding is small, the costs are obviously more manageable, but you can still use some tricks wedding planners use to keep your big day affordable. If you get married legally at a courthouse, you can save the expense of a special venue and put more cash toward the real party, the reception! With a smaller number of guests your reception can be held at a private home with an outdoor space for entertaining, the clubhouse facility of a nice apartment or condominium complex, a small hotel meeting room, a local community center, or even a church fellowship hall.
Many colleges and universities offer students and alumni facilities on campus to hold their weddings and/or receptions. If you or your spouse-to-be are a member of the military community or belong to a community organization, you may have access to a venue belonging to your group. Airbnb offers the opportunity to rent a home for the weekend, hold your wedding and/or reception there, and house out of town guests overnight. Just make sure you have plenty of room for guest parking, so you don’t upset the neighbors.
One advantage of holding the ceremony and reception at the same location is that you won’t pay multiple site fees. Another advantage of using a private or rented home for the event is the fact that it comes with a kitchen and bathroom facilities on the property, giving you a level of privacy that a public venue cannot offer. Compare pricing and amenities when considering your location, as some facility rental fees include services and accessories such as catering, table service, silverware and linens, where others do not. Don’t just compare price when venue shopping, compare value.
If you have designer taste when it comes to wedding dresses but don’t have a designer budget, check out sites like Once Wed and PreownedWeddingDresses for gently used and never worn designer dresses, or check out your local bridal store for clearance and sale items. If you don’t tell them, people will never know you didn’t pay full price, and once you’re done using it, you can have it cleaned and resell it on eBay, Craigslist, or one of the two sites just mentioned.
To save on wedding gifts you may never use and have a nicer honeymoon than you could afford on your own, ask guests to contribute to your honeymoon expenses instead of bringing gifts. To avoid the expense of a designer wedding cake, have a cupcake tower instead, or order a small designer cake for two to share with your sweetheart and use for the traditional cake cutting photo opp, and have sheet cake to cut and serve to guests.
Average size wedding (50-175 guests). While an average wedding guest list consists of 150 to 200 names, approximately 10 to 20 percent of those invited fail to attend. When both sides of the bridal equation come from large families, the number of guests can grow quickly, especially if children attend the wedding with their parents. One way to keep your guest list to a comfortable number is to specify yours is an adults-only event or include an age range on your invitation (e.g., “Adults and children 12 years old and up”). Since so much of your wedding expense is tied to the number of guests attending, pare down your guest list until you’re certain you have a number of close friends and family that represents everyone you want included in your special day and that your budget can comfortably cover the costs.
Booking your wedding and reception on any day other than Saturday will save you money automatically, as most venues charge a premium for Saturday night events. Consider a Sunday morning wedding with an afternoon brunch, and you’ll likely save a significant amount on facility fees and food. Many locations offer significant discounts for mid-week and off-season events, also. Planning your event on a Sunday followed by a holiday observed on Monday allows people to have the extra day to travel or rest before heading back to work on Tuesday.
No matter what day of the week you schedule your wedding, it’s good to stick to a schedule of events that keeps things running smoothly and helps avoid overage fees from photographers, limo drivers, caterers, and other wedding professionals whose services are essential to the success of your big day, and whose time is valuable.
To save on music, check out local music venues for an act that you like, or visit a music school. If you come across a classical academy, you’ll know the students have been formally trained. Attend an event where a student combo is slated to play, and if they perform well talk to the instructor about using the budding talent to accompany you on your big day.
Large wedding (175+ guests). If both of you come from large families and also have large social circles, it could be difficult to keep your guest list small. When combining families and compiling your guest list, you’ll need to consider who is important to you, your fiancé, your future in laws, and your parents. Including everyone in the guest list alleviates the pressure of accidentally leaving off someone’s favorite uncle, but it could increase pressure in other areas of your planning, especially the wedding budget.
One way to cut back on the expense of a large wedding reception is to limit the timing of your event. Plan for a shorter reception of just two to three hours to help keep costs down and consider having a menu of hors d’oeuvres and wedding cake for dessert, rather than a full course dinner.
With a large wedding, the details can quickly become overwhelming. Hiring a professional wedding planner can be a wise investment that ultimately saves you big bucks. Because of their previously established working relationships with multiple wedding vendors, an experienced planner can negotiate prices more effectively than someone without the benefit of their insider knowledge.
When it comes to decorations, one way to cut down on expenses is to use a venue with its own unique aesthetic appeal and minimize your decorations to enhance the beauty that’s already there. Another cost saving measure is to scour the internet for deals when buying in bulk; Craigslist, eBay, or online auction sites could save you a bundle over buying retail. You just may run across an ad for a glassware company’s going out of business sale and score big. If decorating with flowers, try choosing larger blossoms and intersperse the fresh flowers with a few silk ones, or vice versa. Connect with a local grower for flowers through a farmer’s market or by searching online instead of using a florist shop, and you could save really big.
Opt for a few lush altar pieces instead of placing flowers at the end of each row of seating in a church, and have your bridesmaids carry a single flower instead of full bouquets. Design a bouquet for your maid of honor that coordinates with yours and let them double as the table centerpiece for the bridal table. The fewer fresh stems you have to purchase, the more you’ll save. To add life to your guest tables and give guests a favor they’ll love to take home, use small potted plants such as succulents for lovely living centerpieces.
No matter how big or small your wedding turns out to be, purchasing some disposable cameras and encouraging guests to take candid photos can supplement your official wedding photos with some great candid shots. Have a basket to collect the cameras at the close of the reception.
We hope these insider tips will help you have the wedding of your dreams, whether it’s an intimate affair or a major party. There’s no need to go into debt for your wedding if you take advantage of these industry secrets from wedding experts and keep your wedding costs down.