There are very few brides or grooms out there that don’t have a worry in the world when it comes to figuring out how to budget their wedding. As wedding photographers, Mike and I get to see a lot of cool wedding ideas in action. We love it when we see a couple who is creative about how to save money. In recent years, the DIY crazy has swept the wedding industry, many thanks to websites like Pinterest stoking a fire that was already smoldering.
But what if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t want a DIY wedding? What if the idea of making your own decorations makes you break out in a nervous sweat just thinking about it? OR, what if you’ve already got the DIY thing maxed out, but you still need ideas to get the budget beast under control? Well, fear not! You can still save some serious cash with any of the ideas below. (Oh, and if you haven’t gotten your rings yet, check out my guest post on Offbeat Bride about how to save on your rings, too!)
Go for the package deal.
Most wedding vendors offer packages. If you look at their package prices versus their a la carte pricing, you’ll likely notice that the package includes a discount. Sometimes these discounts are significant. If an offered package doesn’t exactly fit your needs, you’re better off asking for them to customize the package as opposed to building your own from scratch. Why? Because that discount will likely still remain if you customize. This is true for most vendors… yes, even us wedding photographers. Bonus points if you can find a package deal that includes two or more vendors!
Saving money on a dress doesn’t mean you have to buy a knock-off from China.
There are SO many ways you can save on wedding dresses. There are two main “camps” for those wanting to save on dresses. Some brides just want something that looks pretty, but not necessarily the long formal gown. And then, there are those who just want a traditional, beautiful gown without blowing through thousands of dollars. So, here’s my suggestions for both sides.
If you have your heart set on a traditional, formal dress:
- Consider finding trunk shows, which can offer special discounts on designer gowns.
- Many wedding shows have sample sales at steep discounts.
- Look for consignments (No, I’m not talking just Goodwill here). Check local second hand or consignment shops.
- Online designers can be a great option – IGIGI, Dolly Couture, Sydney’s Closet, and BHLDN are offer great lower-cost options than many “designer” dress retailers.
- David’s Bridal. It isn’t for everyone, but sometimes you just can’t beat the deals.
- Prom dresses! Many are just as pretty as wedding gowns, and are usually much cheaper (even the white ones!) for similar styles. (And, if you shop in late spring/early summer, you might be able to get a steal!)
- You could also consider going to a salon, being honest about your budget, and asking them to help you find something affordable. They will probably be more helpful than you’d assume.
- Have a dress made just for you! This can actually be cheaper than buying off the rack, and it’s custom!
- Find a dress that fits you really well already, so that alterations can be kept to a minimum. Also, if you go “train-free” you don’t have to pay for a bustle (or skip bustling, which can be a huge pain during dancing).
Personally, I bought my gown at a trunk show WHILE asking for help, and wound up with a designer dress that was amazing for less than I would have spent at David’s Bridal (I know, because I went there first). The dress fit me beautifully, and I only needed a minor alteration on the bust, as well as a bustle.
If you just want something pretty:
- Online retailers like ModCloth, Lord and Taylor, and Free People are all good options. There’s tons out there, though.
- Look into buying a bridesmaid or prom dress. This is especially true if you don’t mind a little color, but can even be found in white/cream. Shop right after prom season for even better deals (though less selection, obviously).
- Go custom!
- Check your local stores during sundress season to see if something pretty pops up.
- Go short. Less material = less cost. It’s just that simple.
- If you’re renting tuxes, don’t worry about going with the fancy tuxes. Most people won’t know the difference.
- If you’re renting tuxes, you can often get the groom’s tux free if you rent a certain number for the day. Check with the rental company.
- If you want something you’ll own and get more use out of, go for a suit, rather than a tux. Look for good sales at your favorite place to shop, or consider places like K&G or Burlington Coat Factory.
- Skip the jacket, and simply wear black slacks, a dress shirt, and a black tie for a casual/cool almost formal look for way less.
- Skip the formal wear altogether. Khakis and a nice shirt are a great way to dial back the formality, especially for beachy or nautical themed weddings. Jeans and cowboy boots are a cool option for all those trendy rustic chic weddings, too!
Creative ways to cut the catering bill.
If you’re like me, your eyes probably bugged out of your head when you were looking at catering costs and realizing many options out there were for $40/person or more, and that was for the buffet options! For us, self-catering was never an option, so that was a big area we knew we needed to be careful in. Here’s some of our favorite ideas to save on your catering bill!
- Find out if one of your favorite places to eat offers catering. I’m not talking about your favorite 5-star restaurant. I’m talking about the little Italian place you go to for dates, or the little gyro place that you always take your out-of-town friends to when they come to visit. These will often be lower-cost options than caterers that specialize in fancy wedding meals.
- Think of alternative types of cuisine. We had a couple recently that catered with gourmet pizza. It. Was. Awesome. And they told me that it was way less expensive than if they’d gone with the traditional caterers they’d considered.
- Food trucks are in the same category – unusual food, great creative presentation, and so much fun in addition to saving money!? Who doesn’t love that?
- Go for cupcakes. Did you know that most caterers charge a cake cutting fee? If you have cupcakes, there’s no fee. And cupcakes can even cost less than a “serving” of wedding cake, too.
- Skip the champagne toast. Have your friends and family toast with whatever is in their glasses, and you’ll also skip out on pour fees, the cost of the booze, and potential corking fees as well!
Venues – identifying your lowest cost option.
Before I was a wedding photographer, I was a bride. One of the biggest causes of sticker shock for me was realizing how expensive it was just to rent a place to get married. If you can afford an expensive venue, there are often a lot of perks that come with them. Some include items you would otherwise need to rent (from simply tables and chairs, and sometimes including linens, decor, and even china!). So it is always a good idea to do a full cost comparison to see what you’re getting, and what you’ll need to spend money on elsewhere if it isn’t included. That being said, here are some alternative ideas that maybe you haven’t thought of.
- A local park – many allow you to rent out certain areas for ceremonies and/or receptions.
- Local community centers are often less expensive than “wedding venues”, and often still include the tables and chairs.
- Consider a weekday wedding, or a wedding during the late fall or early spring. You’ll probably get a better rate than you will on weekends or during the summer or holidays (remember, venues book up for holiday parties during December, and often don’t consider this a time for non-peak pricing).
- Consider renting out a restaurant or a banquet room. Sometimes you can actually do this for nothing more than a food/drink minimum.
- Getting married at your church? You can look into whether they have a reception space you’d be interested in using.
Saving on decor.
- Recycle. One of the easiest ways to save money is to re-use your ceremony decor during the reception. Bouquets make great head table decor (and gives everyone a place to put them down!). Aisle and altar flowers can easily be re-purposed if you’re careful with design. You can also buy decor that you can use in your home after the wedding, or use as gifts.
- Donate it. If you can donate your decor to a non-profit after your big day, it’s a tax write off. No immediate savings here, but you will see some come tax time. There are several wedding related non profits out there, too, so look it up!
- As for flowers – think outside the box! One of my bride’s actually contracted the horticulture program at the local women’s prison to do her flowers, and they were amazing! If you’re using a regular florist, incorporate lots of greenery and in-season flowers to cut the bill down.
- Also, if you’re careful with your venue choice – you may not need a lot of decor at all.
Cut your guest list, cut your costs.
This is probably the easiest way to cut down on the cost of your reception. Each person you don’t invite is one less person you pay the caterer for, one less place setting to rent, one less chair to rent. Ask yourself if including that person is really worth it to you. (And if you’re the one footing the bill, it’s your say! If your parents want to invite their friends/collegues – they can always offer to pay for them!)
Hire a planner.
Seriously. I didn’t, and wonder sometimes if I should have. Planners (the good ones, anyway) have lots of contacts in the industry that often times will offer them referral discounts. I’m not talking kickbacks, I’m talking savings that are directly passed on to you! Also, they can help you in so many other ways by keeping you on budget, and running the big day itself.
This may not save you money, but an experienced wedding photographer can take beautiful photos of even the most frugal events and show off how special it really was. And if you have a friend or family member who is a photographer – ask yourself if you want them working that day, or free to celebrate with you!
Interested in finding a great deal on an affordable wedding photographer? Your search is over! We are the Seattle area’s answer to fantastic, yet affordable, wedding photography. Check out our packages here!