A few years ago, I wrote an article for California South Asian Bride magazine entitled “How to Plan Your Wedding Budget” providing 4 tips I knew would be helpful for any couple beginning the planning stage of their wedding. After the publication of my article, I received so many inquiries from couples asking for additional tips and ways to save money on their special day. As the New Year and 2019 wedding season approaches, I decided to provide 20 ways to save money on your wedding (most of these tips can apply to any type of special event). I hope you find these tips helpful in your planning process. Aside from tips 1 & 2, the remaining tips are not listed in any particular order.
Tip #1 – Set a Budget
Tip number one has both an A and B section. The first step or “A” section in planning any special event is to create a budget. Everyone has a budget. It doesn’t matter if its $25,000, $50,000, $150,000 or $1,000,000, everyone has a budget they want to stay within. So before you pull a number out of the air, think about the vision you have for your event then do your best to match the vision with the budget.
The second step or “B” section is staying within that budget. And personally speaking, this seems to be much harder for some clients to do. Why you ask? Well, if you’re a person who loves to shop, (personal note - I happen to be one of those people), or spend time looking at Pinterest or trolling the web, you can easily get caught up in the moment and get off track. But I promise you, knowing what your budget is before you start planning, and sticking to it, will save you time, money and disappointment.
Tip #2 – Start Your Planning Early
Getting a head start on your planning, affords you the opportunity to shop around for the best deals, venues or prime vendors. Good vendors book their services far in advance. If you’ve always wanted the hottest DJ in the Bay Area spin the music for you at your event, waiting two or three months before your event probably guarantees you will not have him or her. And a professional vendor can usually spot an anxious potential client and may choose to use knowledge that against them.
Feeling rushed to make a decision can sometimes force you into using venues, products and services that really do not fit your vision and can be more expensive. Starting your planning early puts you in the best position to negotiate rates and special deals. Early planning also allows your invited guests, especially those traveling fair distances, time to plan and budget so they can participate in your celebratory event. Whether it’s arranging time off from work, babysitters for the kids, monitoring hotel and flight deals, the more time for your guests to plan, the greater chance they will be in attendance.
When an Event Specialist or Planner suggests avoiding peak seasons, what we are saying is think which season works best for your event and budget. If you’ve always wanted red roses as a design element in your wedding, having your wedding in the month of February may not be the best time – right? So here we go with Tip #3.
Tip #3 –Avoid Peak Seasons
The peak wedding season begins in late spring through early fall (late April through early September). Knowing the peak season for your event, gives you the opportunity to select a date and time that will save money. Unless you’ve dreamed of being a June bride all of your life, opting to have a wedding during the off-season can get you some great deals. Not only on venues, but most vendors offer deals in when facing fewer bookings. Also week days, Sundays and brunch weddings are less expensive than a traditional Saturday afternoon or evening wedding.
Tip #4 - Shop for Samples
One of the largest wedding dress shops in New York holds an annual sample dress sale where you can pick up designer dresses for a fraction of the original cost. Yes it’s to clear our remaining stock of the years dresses but so what. Take a moment and think about that one really, really expensive piece of clothing that is in your closet. The one you debated over before purchasing. You rationalized the purchase by acknowledging the piece as a classic item that could be worn time and time again. Well the same holds true that a 2018 classic designer dress can be worn in 2019 or 2020 and still look gorgeous. This works more if your style leans towards classic, vintage and bohemian versus trendy. Trends change from season to season.
This works well for formal menswear too. You can find discounts of up to 60% on tuxedos, shirts and shoes if you have time to do the research (tip #2) and visit a few different shops comparing prices and determining the look that represents you and your style. Visiting a tuxedo shop in the middle of June is not the best time to purchase one.
Tip #5 - Wear Suits:
I don’t consider myself to be old fashioned but I do believe that every man has invested in owning at least one decent looking suit – usually black or blue. And this is a great way to help cut the wedding budget. Let the groom and groomsmen wear suits instead of tuxedos. The average cost of renting a tux is $200.00 (according to WeddingStats.org). Asking your friends and family members to spend that amount to participate in your wedding, can put them in an awkward position. It can also add more expense to the couple by paying the cost for that must-have family member who can’t afford the rental on their own. Allowing them to wear a suit they already own is more economical and I guarantee, much more appreciated by your wedding party. If you must have consistency with the groomsmen, have them wear the same color shirt and ask them to purchase the same tie, kerchief and socks.
Tip #6 - Let Bridesmaids Wear Dresses They Already Own
Piggybacking on from Tip #5 let the ladies wear dresses they already own. Asking women to wear the exact same dress is a tradition I have never understood. Seriously ladies, what event have you ever attended and was thrilled to see another woman in the exact same outfit as the one you’re wearing? Even celebrity magazines have a comparison section called “Who wore it better” with two pictures of the same outfit worn by different celebrities where people vote on who looks better. Expecting two or more women to wear the exact same thing and be happy about it is a myth! So why ask your best friends and family members to do it just because it’s your wedding? Why not simply choose a color palette, give them a few parameters, and let them be free to make their own choice? And if you must have uniformity, have them wear similar hair adornments or shoulder wraps. Yes it’s your day, but allowing the people who mean the most to you to be comfortable in something that looks and feels good on their own body, not only helps on the budget but you will notice the positive vibes being transmitted to you by your bridal party and it will be captured in your photos.
Tip #7 - Buy Discount Shoes
This should be an easy one. There are several discount designer shoe stores where you can purchase shoes for you and your bridal party. Plus most have the ability to order the quantity you need in the color you looking for. Here is another area to be thoughtful of yourself and those in your wedding party. If you know you like to party like its 1999, select shoes that are stylish but also comfortable. The “S” factor can be a Godsend to your wedding party – slippers or sneakers.
Tip #8 - Use Flowers in Season
Flowers are one of Gods special gifts to all of us. They can be beautiful and fragrant but also very expensive. But if you know what’s in season and what’s not, you will save plenty. Learn what flowers bloom all year long. Know what flowers are in season for the date you’ve selected for your wedding. There are so many options to choose from, having some insight will help in your selection process. For example, hibiscus and perennials bloom year round versus hydrangeas and some roses. Talk with your florist about different options. Consider adding succulents or baby’s breath into your design. Whatever your vision, try to include in-season flowers versus requiring tulips to be flown in from Holland. A real budget buster might I add.
Tip #9 - Limit Your Attendants
So here I go again talking about a personal pet peeve. I have never understood the reason for having 12 bridesmaids and 12 groomsmen, plus a maid-of-honor and best man, plus a ring bearer and flower girl. That’s 28 members in the bridal party alone. And most of them probably have a significant other and maybe a child or two. So at a minimum, you’re already looking at 50+ people added to your guest. I just don’t get it unless you’re like the Heppner or Ionce families (17+ children each). Limiting the number of attendants can cut down your expenses significantly i.e. fewer bouquets and boutonnieres, meals and drinks and wedding party gifts. It can also cut down on the drama from varying personalities, organizing a large group, limiting hurt feelings and getting everyone to the wedding on time. This is important to remember because most venues have an allotted time for your event and will charge overtime fees. And if you’re waiting on 2 of your 12 bridesmaids or groomsmen to arrive, this can add up quickly plus have a domino effect on the remainder of the day. Sometimes smaller is better.
Tip #10 - Limit Your Guest List
Some marriage customs include guest lists of 500 or more. But on average the number of guests is around 120. Here is a great opportunity to reduce your costs by selecting a number that truly represents your budget and vision. Like most brides, you’ve been dreaming about your wedding since you were a little girl. Now that it’s here you want everyone you’ve ever known from elementary school through college in attendance, plus family. And don’t forget the friends your parents want to invite. That adds up quickly and can blow the budget wide open. Remember the goal here isn’t to wake up the next day in debt large enough for a down payment on a house. Your goal is to publicly acknowledge the love you have towards each other and the commitment you are making to each other. And that should be shared with those closest to you both; and those few extras your parents want to invite (remember you wouldn’t be here without them). Yes a little guilt-ing but what can I say. I’m a mother!
Tip #11 - Use Non-traditional Items
There are so many creative ways to decorate; you don’t have to go the traditional or expected path. And if you’re not the most creative person, there are a multitude of websites you can scour through for design ideas. Just don’t get overwhelmed. Instead of decorating your space with flowers, try using candles, fruit, pails, luggage, lanterns, chalkboards or photographs of family and friends. It’s your day and you can do whatever your heart, and budget, desires. Take the limits off and reach deep down inside for those uniquely yours ideas that truly represent you as a couple.
Tip #12 - Use a Reply Postcard
Using a postcard has always been a fun way of receiving your RSVPs. This is a DIY option and one where that can be really personalized with photos, favorite quotes or fun quirky fun facts about you. The lighter weight of a postcard costs less postage when mailing of your wedding invitation and less return postage. You won’t save hundreds, but every little bit helps.
Tip #13 - Hold the Wedding and the Reception at the Same Location
Having your ceremony and reception at the same location is a big money saver for so many reasons I don’t have time to name them all so let me give you a quick list of reasons
- Easily re-purpose some of the ceremony decorations to the reception space.
- More time for the photographer to take formal pictures following the wedding, while guest enjoy drinks and appetizers.
- It forces you to invite only people you want at both the wedding and reception. Now there’s always an exception and here is one of them. If you are a member of a large church family and your wedding has been announced to the entire congregation, then this tip is not as beneficial.
- No traffic concerns.
- Less travel fees for vendors.
- Better pricing for dual space at one location versus pricing at two locations.
- And the list goes on but I think you get the message.
Tip # 14 - Get a Smaller Cake
There are many different symbolisms associated with the wedding cake. According to Wikipedia, one tradition of the bride and groom cutting and sharing a piece of cake before their guests was to “symbolize their union and promise to forever provide for each other”. With the emergence of individuals being more conscious of what they eat, the traditional wedding cake has lost some of it appeal. Let’s face it, fondant allows a baker’s creativity to run wild but tastes horrible. And with more people’s diets ranging from gluten-free to vegetarian to vegan, you don’t want to spend thousands on a 4-tier cake that looks beautiful but won’t be eaten.
A really good wedding cake can cost a thousand dollars excluding the delivery, set-up and dowels/pillars fees. So why not get a smaller cake that you enjoy and will look beautiful for the cake cutting ceremony and photos; and alternate dessert options that speak to the variety of your guest?
True Story - for one of my clients, cheesecake was the only cake she would eat and that was the only option she wanted to serve. And we’re talking no additional flavors added like chocolate, strawberry or caramel. But the groom loved chocolate and most other cakes and desserts. This became a really touchy subject for a while. But we were finally able to come to an agreement of a smaller cheesecake for the couple’s cake cutting ceremony and photos; and dessert bar featuring a variety of miniature dessert including vegan and gluten free options. I remind everyone again be thoughtful of the guests you’ve invited to your event. They too have made some sacrifice and that deserves some consideration
Tip #15 – Make Your Own Wedding Favors
Here is another opportunity to personalize your wedding, spend time with your bridal party, have a good time and save money. The average cost of a nice and thoughtful party favor can range from $ 2.50 and up. If you’re having 150 guests, well you do the math. But if you and your wedding party have a “wedding favors” get together, you are bound to save some money. Decide on the favor, purchase in bulk and it’s possible to cut the cost by 50%. And the memories will last a lifetime.
Tip # 16 - Ask for Help
The Bible says “Ye have not because ye ask not” James 4:2. I’m not sure where the notion came from that if we ask for help, it makes us seem weak or needy or something else damaging. But I’m here to tell you, ask for help. You might be surprised by the response from family and close friends. Your “Bestest” friend from college (making a ton of money) might be willing to purchase your cake for you as a wedding gift. Or that frat brother who used to always take more than his share of the pizzas and beer during spirit week, just might remember the time you insisted on driving him back to the dorm after having a few too many; and want to help finance part of the open bar. Don’t underestimate the goodness in others. And don’t let pride stop you from asking. What’s the worst they can say… sorry I wish I could but I can’t right now? Okay, thanks for considering. One caveat – I’m not suggesting you ask that one relative or friend who will never, ever, ever, let you forget they helped you, every time they see you, call you or talk with other family members and friends. To me, it’s not worth it and I’ll scale back some place.
Tip #17 - Limit the Open Bar
This tip can save you big if your guests are the type who enjoys celebrating with a little sparkling wine and beer or something a little stronger. Having an open bar invites your guests to over-indulge and can cost a pretty penny. But I am also of the school of thought that some libation should be offered free of charge.
To have the best of both worlds, you can set a maximum amount you are willing to cover in advance with the venue and bartender and once it’s reached, then it turns into a cash bar. Or you can offer each guest two drink passes and if they want more, it’s back to a cash bar. This can also be helpful for the guest who will only have one drink. They can provide their spare ticket to another guest for their enjoyment.
The final decision is up to you. If you want to provide free drinks all night long, just be prepared to up the cost for this line item but find something else that is not as important to you where you can reduce costs.
Tip #18 – Take Photos before the Wedding
I am sure everyone has heard of the superstition “Its bad luck for the groom to see the bride in her wedding dress before the ceremony”. That originated a long time ago when arranged marriages were the custom and the couple could not see each other before the wedding. But let’s get real here. Most couples today have, shall we say, seen quite a bit of each other prior to marriage. According to Living Together and the Law, by Nolo.com, “7.5 million unmarried couples are living together (which translates into 15 million people”. But we’re talking about saving money. Permitting your photographer time to take those intimate shots (the First Look) of the bride and groom, wedding party with the bride and groom and some family photos prior to the ceremony, eliminates the rush and drama after the ceremony. Stop and think about it for a moment. Following the ceremony, guests are lingering around, trying to congratulate the newly married couple, take pictures on their phones etc. The wedding party has scattered and family members are enjoying seeing out of town family members. These actions, although well meaning, interrupts the flow and timeline of your professional photographer, who you have paid in full. Extra time equals extra money. Taking as many photos as possible prior to the ceremony might even allow you time to spend with your guests during the standard cocktail hour prior to the reception.
Tip #19 – Re-purpose Items You Already Own
If you’re like most of us, you have a ton of things lying around the house that has moved with you from place to place over the years because “one day I’m going to need it”. Now’s the time! Take a good look around the house and see what you can use or re-purpose for your wedding. Christmas ornaments can be repurposed by placing them in cylinder vases and using them as decorative items in the foyer of the venue, or on the escort cards or gift table. White icicles lights can make a great backdrop for photos or on the dance floor. Candles can add a great touch on the steps to the entrance of a venue at an evening reception. Using what you already own can make a significant difference to the purse strings.
Tip # 20 - Hire a Professional Event Specialist
You might think I’m a little bias regarding this tip, but it is a very important one. Professionally trained Event Specialists know the “ins and outs” of the event industry. We know the best time of the year to secure a venue. We know how and when to negotiate pricing. We don’t get caught up in the magnitude of options available because a professional event specialist already knows what’s available and has seen most of them. We know the latest trends like the wedding color trends for that year and the following year (2019 color trends, according to Seckford Hall, are going to be greens (like Meghan Markel), purple hues, and blue and blush).
Professional event specialists have worked with numerous vendors and have formed relationships that will guarantee the best services for your event within your budget. We help keep you focused and are there for you from beginning to end. Like any other profession, event specialists have acquired the tools and experience to bring your vision into fruition and save you money in the long haul.
Meredith Walker is the CEO, Owner and Executive Event Specialist of Posh Events and Affairs, a full service event planning company more than capable of turning your dreams into possibilities and your possibilities into reality.
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