The phrase "till death do us part" has many implications — like committing yourself to someone forever, merging bank accounts with that person indefinitely and forever intertwining your life with theirs (both the good and bad parts). Whether you are opting for a big shindig or a more intimate gathering, perhaps no implication is as extravagant, or as binding, as the actual cost of your nuptials.
According to wedding website The Knot, the average cost of a wedding in the United States is at an all-time high of $33,931. Needless to say, it can be hard for couples to stay within their budget as they plan the wedding of their dreams.
If you're early in the wedding planning process, you might have the big things covered, like the venue. But as you make your wedding plans with your local bridal boutique, a wedding planner, or even if you’re taking on the task yourself, consider some of these more detailed, yet commonly overlooked, elements. Keeping these items in mind and planning for them in advance can help save time, and even money — who doesn't love that?
Here are some tips from brides who saved money on their big day
Wedding saving tips you can do yourself
- Save the date announcements. If you have tech-savvy guests, feel free to use an electronic option like Paperless Post®. Or, if your wedding locale is a destination for many guests, instead of traditional save-the-date cards, send out postcards featuring the destination where your ceremony will be held. It’s a unique way to save on postage!
- Invitations. One easy way to save money is to make your own invitations, or at the very least, address the envelopes yourself. To cut down on costs, consider these tips:
- Talk with your local wedding store to see if any of the stationary vendors they work with have clearance or discontinued deals. Using stationary the vendor is trying to get rid of could help you save big, especially on larger orders.
- Avoid personalized wedding invitations and consider a service like Wedding Paper Divas.
- For smaller quantities, explore Etsy.com and other handcrafted sites. Keep in mind, you’re paying for the extra touch so some options may be less budget-friendly, and you might not save as much as you’d like.
- And don't forget that many of your guests are part of couples and/or families — meaning you don't necessarily need to budget one invitation per guest.
- Centerpieces and decorations. Flowers are a staple of wedding receptions. They can be expensive. A local florist can help guide you through a variety of options to fit within your budget. As an example, typically, you have the option between tall arrangements and low arrangements to use as centerpieces. By choosing low arrangements or less expensive flowers and greenery, you could pay a fraction of the cost. Also, consider:
- Adding some height to any arrangement by using candles, unique vases or mason jars.
- Recycling and repurposing wedding items like your bridesmaid bouquets after the ceremony. You can feature them (again) as your dinner table or cocktail hour decorations.
- Ditching flowers altogether and tap into your inner creativity (or simply browse Pinterest). Bookworm couples might find that old or antique books, tied together with ribbon or lace, make a unique and memorable centerpiece.
- Visiting with your local bridal center or boutique. They can offer advice on other creative ways to spruce up your wedding and reception.
- Place cards. Place cards — you know, the cutesy cards that designate where your guests will be sitting — don't need to be super fancy. After all, they could be considered glorified name tags. Try a DIY craft, like "clothesline and tags" place cards. Handwrite your guests' names on sizable tags and attach a clothespin that designates their table number. For an (even more) personal touch, intersperse photos of the bride and groom!
- Thank you notes. Similar to the save the dates, invitations and place cards, consider your thank yous for the shower, the wedding and the gifts at the same time. Carry the look and/or theme through and make or order them at the same time. Planning for the time investment, effort and cost upfront could help avoid multiple orders and cut down on extra trips to the wedding store or additional shipping costs.
Wedding saving tips that break with tradition
- Guests. One of the biggest things you can do to control wedding costs is host fewer people. Sure, it’s exciting to get hitched and you want to share that experience with everyone you know. If you have to cull your list, consider whether it’s necessary to invite the "nice" co-worker you exchange pleasantries with, but not much else. Will your friends' children fully appreciate your nuptials? While there are some fixed costs to weddings you cannot control, much of the reception scales linearly with the head count. That means with fewer guests, you'll spend less money on a venue, food and even decorations.
- The other white dress (or black tux). Your outfit for the wedding day, the dress (or tux) and all that goes with it, is probably already on your mind. But don't forget about the special outfit for any other events — like showers, bachelor/bachelorette parties or the rehearsal dinner. Make a list of all your events and start shopping for outfit ideas early so you can hit those end-of-season deals.
- Food. The cost will vary according to venue, but cheaper options may surprise you, and doing your homework could save you a significant amount of cash.
- If your reception is held in the late afternoon, consider serving heavy appetizers instead of a full meal.
- For larger weddings, check the value of plated meals versus a buffet dinner.
- As far as cakes go, remember that many of your guests will be too full of dinner to stomach a slice of their own. Order a smaller cake that serves a fraction of your guests for show, and fill the gap with a less expensive sheet cake. Consider serving something different like cupcakes or pies instead!
- Buy an "experienced" or simple dress. Sample sales, eBay, Etsy, Craigslist and resale stores are the holy grail of finding inexpensive wedding dresses. While brides may have to search a little bit, the search will be worth it when you’re boasting for years to come about how you spent less than $500 on your wedding dress.
- The catch when bargain hunting, besides embodying detective-like tactics, is that your dress may have already been worn. If that doesn't bother you — and it shouldn't — you can also search online databases, like PreownedWeddingDresses.com, for worn-before options.
- If you don't feel sentimentally-inclined to keep your wedding dress past the big day (and your history of spilling food on yourself is sparse), renting your dress is another way to cut down on costs. Additionally, you can splurge on your dress and get your money back post-wedding by selling. There are several online outlets that can help you sell your gently-worn dress.
- Check with your local bridal or wedding salon and see if they have any upcoming “trunk shows” or “sample sales.” During these events, a discount is often available on purchases.
- Host the rehearsal dinner. While it might be nice to have the wedding party gather at a restaurant, consider hosting a “pot luck” style dinner at your house, or have a family member or close friend host on your behalf. With the purpose of the rehearsal dinner being to bring the families together, the intimacy of hosting this event yourself (or by one of your wedding party) might be appreciated.
- Embrace a new trend. Give your guests a unique wedding experience that will keep them talking about the day long after they've recycled your save-the-date card by incorporating a new or up-and-coming trend into your big day.
- Cut costs on flowers by having your bridesmaids carry a single flower bouquet — or even carry one yourself.
- For a sure-to-be-buzzed-about music and dancing experience for your reception, offset the cost of hiring an entire band by combining a DJ with a single or multiple musicians of your choice.
Every wedding is different. You may want to include some or all of these things as a part of your wedding. No matter what you are planning for, you want to enjoy your day, and the time with your fiancé leading up to it. Update your wedding checklist to include what's important to you to feel ready and confident in planning the wedding of your dreams. And remember, with your impending wedding, your insurance needs will change. Be sure to chat with your insurance agent to learn how, and to uncover what potential discounts might be eligible to save you even more.