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“You’re getting married! That’s so exciting. When’s the big day? How many attendants will you have? What kind of flowers are you going to carry? DJ or band?”
Lisa Rowan isn’t getting married until October, but she noticed as soon as she had a ring on her finger how quickly she’d move from exclamations of joy about spending the rest of her life with her favorite person onto the details of the upcoming celebration.
It’s easy to get caught up in all of the hullabaloo. But if you’re planning to walk down the aisle in style while adhering to a budget, the process of wedding planning can be more stressful than joyful.
I’m here to help, with a list of 101 unique ways to save money on your wedding — without anyone realizing you cut some corners or skipped a few traditions.
Don’t try to use more than 10 or 15 of these tips on any one wedding celebration, but see whether any of these ideas feel right for you. No one’s going to doubt your love for one another because you don’t have fancy table runners or cute favors.
Ready to create a beautiful celebration of your joy on any budget?
1. Remember, Diamonds are Forever
Popping the question? Spring for a high-quality diamond.
“The center diamond is the most valuable part of the ring,” Jayme Pretzloff of Wixon Jewelers in Minneapolis explained. “You can always remount the diamond into another mounting in the future.”
She also noted that the tiny pave-set diamonds adorning many rings don’t have anywhere near the value of the main diamond.
2. Ditch the Diamonds
Diamonds not your style? Fret not. You are free to profess your love by displaying a stone of your choice, whether it be pearl or peridot.
If you need a little nontraditional inspiration, check out Etsy’s wedding categories. You may find handmade jewelry you love for a price that’s perfect.
3. Fake It With Flair
This tip takes mutual agreement, but it can help you save big on an engagement ring or wedding bands. Ask to take a look at a jeweler’s faux offerings, recommended Melissa Massello of Shoestring Magazine.
“Many expensive-looking rings are made with a decidedly more affordable diamond imposters, like cubic zirconia and moissanite,” she wrote, “The latter of which is a great diamond look for a lot less.”
Time and Date
4. Choose an Afternoon Delight
“Time your wedding away from a full meal if you want to save on catering costs,” recommended April Masini of AskApril.com. Her top pick: a 2 p.m. champagne and cake reception.
5. Pick a Festive Time
Get married during the holidays — your friends and family will already be home!
“Most venues are beautifully decorated, and you’ll have to put less money into making the place look spectacular,” said wedding planner Amy McNall of Unmistakably You.
One small warning: some venues charge a premium for booking during the high Christmas-party season, so make sure to ask around.
6. Go Off Peak
April Masini offers these awesome off-season dates to watch for: “It’s off-season between summer’s end and Thanksgiving,” for some venues, and February is a great time to squeeze in a wedding when “winter break is over and spring flings haven’t yet begun.”
Venues and vendors
7. Forego Tradition
“Consider a bed and breakfast, a public park or an art gallery for your reception,” said Danielle Farrell of Michigan’s Betty Brigade. Farrell used a senior center in her hometown for her wedding, which included an outdoor park area and banquet center, “for a fraction of what it would have cost at a hotel. And it was gorgeous!”
8. Scope Out the Furnishings
When viewing venues, take note of their furniture and tabletop styles, reminded event planner Sacha Patires. If the venue matches your personal style, you could save a bundle that you would have otherwise spent on rentals.
9. Bring the Party to You
The Wedding Wagon in Las Vegas will come to you. All you need is $129 to seal the deal with a witness and photos.
On the East Coast, Washington, D.C. business Pop Wed Co. offers chic elopement services (they even take care of the paperwork!) for $2500. If there’s a similar service near you, a unique package could solve most of your planning problems before they even crop up.
10. Double-Check the Package Deal
“Most venues offer ‘nicer’ things at a markup that you will get cheaper from the vendors,” bride Breanne W. said.
When she considered a package from the venue for her Pennsylvania wedding, she contacted the listed baker directly — and saved $300 on her cake by doing so.
11. Ask for Referrals
Got a recommendation from a friend? Maybe they had a great experience with a vendor and you’re excited to consider that florist or baker as well.
When you contact a vendor, make sure to mention the friend who referred you. There may be a referral discount (or a bonus for your friend!).
12. Have a Planner Help You Save
Wedding planners know how to work with budgets of all sizes, and will go to bat for you over contracts and negotiations.
Not sure if you can afford a planner for the entire planning process? Many offer supplemental help by the hour or day — just get in touch with them to ask!
13. Ask for Help
If you’re getting married at a church where you’re a member, call on its social groups.
“At our wedding,” Trent Hamm explained, “The ‘church ladies’ were a great help with church decoration and other helpful things on the day of the ceremony.” These groups may ask for a small donation in exchange for their members’ time.
“Use vendors that do more than one thing,” said wedding planner McNall. Think about a florist who also rents linens, or a wedding planner who offers decor installation.
“You’ll save on the ‘get me through the door’ fee that you have to pay each individual vendor you use.”
15.Ask About Sponsorship
Yes, I’m serious. Ask your vendors if you can advertise their services at your celebration in exchange for a reduced rate.
Writer Hamm explained how to do it: Simply put a card at each place setting that lists the businesses that helped pull off your big day. Don’t forget their contact information!
“This tends to be very effective advertising,” Hamm noted. Word of mouth is powerful advertising indeed, especially if some of your guests are planning their own upcoming weddings.
16. Phone a Friend
Skip clergy or justice of the peace fees by having a friend officiate.
“Usually there’s no fee to register in your state and getting ordained online is quite inexpensive,” said Kelly R. Just make sure your selected officiant is comfortable with public speaking! And do treat them to a kind gift for their services.
17. Don’t Guesstimate Your Guest Count
“You’ll have to give a guaranteed number of guests — especially if it’s a seated meal,” warned Teddy Lenderman, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Perfect Wedding. If you have fewer guests than the guaranteed number, you’ll be paying for empty seats.
“’I think’ and ‘I guess’ are the two phrases you don’t want to use when it comes to guaranteeing your guest total for the caterer. This number equates to money — at times, lots of money.”
18. Consider Your Guest List Carefully
“The best way to save money on a wedding is to cut the guest list, hands down!” wrote wedding and event planner Danielle Rothweiler.
She even did a little math for us: “If you have a guest count of 200 people, that’s 20 tables of 10; but by bringing it down to 150, you just eliminated five tables. That means five fewer centerpieces that you need to have, and 50 fewer meals and bar tabs.”
How do you decide who makes the cut? Rothweiler said, “We tell our clients that if the person hasn’t shared a drink, a laugh, or a cry with you in the past year, there’s no reason they need to share all three at your wedding.”
19. Take Note of Tipping
When you plan your budget, don’t forget to factor in gratuities. Some of these will be spelled out in your contracts, like that of your venue or caterer.
But don’t forget those smaller gratuities. Getting your hair done at the salon? You’ll be tipping. Getting chauffeured for the day? There’s another tip. U.S. News has a tipping guide that can help you work gratuities into your budget.
20. Don’t Save the Date
“Skip the save the dates,” wrote Courtney Lutkus of Southern California’s Simply Radiant Events. “They’re fun, but not necessary.”
Cutting these early notices could save you $100 or more — and that’s before the cost of postage.
21. Test Your Handwriting
Calligraphy is on trend, but hand-lettered envelopes can cost $3 each!
Instead, solicit your wedding party or family members to help you address invitations. Remember, the envelope will end up in the trash, but your invitation will likely get prime real estate on someone’s fridge. It makes sense to save money on the piece that will go straight into the recycling bin.
22. Design on a Dime
Got design chops and want to craft your own invites?
“Finding the perfect typeface that’s also free is a bit like searching for the Holy Grail,” commented Martha Stewart Weddings. They recommend checking out dafont.com and abstractfonts.com for free or donation-based styles.
23. Turn Up the Heat
Lea Armstrong of WeddingPaperDivas.com told Martha Stewart Weddings that thermography can be an affordable alternative to engraving. While the methods differ, Armstrong assured that the look of raised ink is almost identical. The price of printing? You can cut it in half.
24. Get the PDF
“Find a graphic designer to design your stationery and send you high-res PDFs that you can print and assemble yourself for invitations, table numbers, and favor tags,” suggested wedding planner McNall.
Not sure how to find a designer? Check Etsy: most printable suites cost under $100 if you request minimal edits.
25. Go Digital
Dreading buying stamps for your invitations, response cards and thank yous? Go digital by checking out services like Paperless Post or Greenvelope.
“Tools include RSVP and plus-one tracking, open rate management, registry announcement, wedding website link inclusion, photo sharing, survey questions to collect meal preferences, allergies or song requests,” noted Amanda Arrigotti of Greenvelope.com.
Alex D’Antonio, Community Engagement Manager at Weddington Way, agreed with Arrigotti. “Guests will appreciate receiving an electronic save the date (versus a paper one) where they can easily reference details and information wherever they are (and immediately add your big day to their calendars!).”
26. Don’t Be Square
The U.S. Postal Service hates square envelopes.
OK, we don’t know that for sure, but we do know that square envelopes require more postage than the standard rectangle — each one is subject to a 21-cent fee on top of the cost of the stamp. Those cents add up quickly!
27. Skip the Tissue
“Sheets of tissue between layers of invitation packages were used in the past to prevent ink smudging,” explained Carolyn Garin and Kathleen Hughes of The Anti-Bride Etiquette Guide.
“They’re likely unnecessary for your modern invites, and you can even skip the interior envelopes for most invitation suites.”
28. Sign, Don’t Seal, Deliver
Use a postcard for each guest’s response instead of a card with an envelope.
“The cost to print these is about the same as an enclosure and envelope, [but] the big savings is in the postage,” author Lenderman remarked.
29. Send Guests Online for Details
Services like The Knot and eWedding offer free wedding websites where you can list accommodation options, directions and a link to your registry. List your wedding website on your invitation or an accompanying note, and you’ll be able to skip a few of those extra cards people usually lose from invitation packets.
30. Choose a Promising Newbie
“We got lucky and found a wedding photographer who was still building her portfolio,” Florida bride Katie S. commented. “If you reference her current pricing, we saved 70%.”
How do you find a newbie who has the skills of a pro? Katie found hers through friends’ recent wedding photos on Facebook. Remember to ask friends for referrals!
Want 70 more tips? Check out the rest of The Penny Hoarder’s tips here: 101 Creative Ways to Save Money on Your Wedding