When I was planning my wedding, I faced many challenges. My then-fiancé and I were fresh out of college, working entry-level jobs on entry-level salaries. We were in the thick of the recession, and neither of our families was in a place to help us out financially when it came to our wedding budget. There wasn’t nearly the number of resources or retailers that exist today, so brides on a budget had limited options. We knew we’d have to make some sacrifices and get creative in order to pull off a wedding we were happy with on our limited funds.
The average cost of a wedding is higher than ever before, and savvy couples are constantly seeking ways to cut costs. After planning my own wedding and reviewing thousands of real weddings for The Budget Savvy Bride over the last nine years, I’ve learned a thing or two about what it takes to cut costs. It all starts with defining your priorities, and everyone’s priorities will be different. Each couple has different values, life goals, and financial priorities and all of these things can have an impact on your wedding decisions. Our top priorities for our wedding were: an outdoor venue that could accommodate all our loved ones, a delicious full meal and beverages for our guests, and beautiful photography to capture every wonderful moment!
I set out to find the best options in each category that maximized our budget and stretched our funds as far as they could possibly go. In the end, the strategies I used to cut costs resulted in pulling off a wedding that easily could’ve cost double the price of what we paid. Want to know how I saved so much? Read on for my tips, tricks, and money-saving strategies!
How I Saved Over Half Off on My Wedding
1. Find Lower-Cost Alternatives
How we saved on wedding wine
When I was getting quotes from different venues and caterers, I saw some insane prices for alcohol. One of the venues I considered would only allow you to choose from their selections of wine and beer, and their cheapest wines were $40 per bottle! Like, I’m sorry. I don’t even spend that much on a bottle of wine for my husband and I on a special occasion, there’s no way in hell I was going to spend that for dozens of bottles for an event. In the end, we opted to purchase Trader Joe’s Two Buck Chuck instead, which saved us almost 90% on the cost compared to the venue we’d originally considered.
You may remember this savvy tip from my CNBC Video: since we didn’t want our guests to know we’d skimped on the wine selection, we created custom wine labels to relabel the Trader Joe’s bottles. It made for such a cute detail, and none of our guests were clued into our savvy booze choices.
Total spent: $350
vs $4320 for alternative
How much I saved: almost $4,000, 90% savings
2. Think Outside-the-Box
How we saved on our wedding catering
As I mentioned, some of the prices we were quoted for catering were astronomical. We decided we might be better off opting for something other than a traditional caterer. So instead of booking a wedding catering company, we opted instead for a local Southern food restaurant. We were able to serve our 150 guests a full buffet-style meal for less than $3,000. This included barbecue pulled pork, grilled chicken, rolls and biscuits, baked beans, loaded mashed potatoes, green beans, and macaroni and cheese, as well as a few desserts like Coconut Cake and German Chocolate Cake! No one left our wedding hungry, that’s for sure. This also included the serving dishes and the staff that refilled the buffet.
According to The Bridal Association of America, the average cost of a wedding meal is $85 per person, including food and service, cake and cake cutting fees, drinks and drink service. So for 150 guests, the average cost of wedding catering is $12,790, meaning I was able to feed my guests for an incredibly significant savings of over $10K just in this area!
Total Spent: $2,673.17
$18pp vs $85pp
How much I saved: $10,000 , 80% savings
3. Barter Your Services
How we saved on wedding photography:
As I mentioned, photography was one of our biggest wedding priorities. After working for a wedding magazine and starting my blog, I became obsessed with looking at gorgeous wedding photos. I knew I wanted to hire a professional photographer whose work I loved to capture our big day. As luck would have it, my fiancé went to high school with a girl who was a wedding photographer. When we met I instantly clicked with her and loved her work. I wanted to use her for our wedding day– but her pricing was a bit out of my budget, even with her “friends and family” discount.
I decided to get creative and put some of my professional talents to work for me. After getting laid off from my magazine job doing graphic design during the engagement, I needed to find work. And our photographer needed help with some various aspects of her business, including graphic design, marketing, and photo editing. We worked out a barter, where she essentially allowed me to work off my photography balance by working for her part time.
Total Spent: $0
vs $3,000 for alternative
How much I saved: $3000, 100% savings
4. DIY What You Can
How we saved on our wedding invitations and stationery:
Since I am a graphic designer, I created, printed, and assembled all my own wedding invitations. I was able to purchase the supplies I needed in bulk to save money on materials, and I used every square inch of that paper to maximize my cost. I was able to not only make our invitations and RSVP cards, but I also used the paper to create our wedding programs, candy buffet labels, and other signage throughout the wedding.
Additionally, I did several DIY projects that added special details to our day. I created gorgeous DIY tissue paper pomanders to line the ceremony aisle that cost just $5 each, vs $50 or more for fresh florals. I also wrapped our eco-friendly wooden cutlery in napkins, leftover invitation paper, and twine for a pop of color on our buffet. These little details didn’t cost us much but added lovely aesthetic details to our wedding.
Total Spent: $140
$1.11 per invitation vs $4 per invitation if I’d purchased them
How much I saved: $450, 70% savings
5. Utilize the Talents of Family and Friends
How we saved on our wedding flowers and cake:
Consider the skills and talents that your friends and family possess, as well as how you might be able to utilize them. For example, my childhood neighbor would always bake our family’s birthday cakes and we loved them so much. I asked her if she’d be willing to make us a simple wedding cake for our big day and she happily agreed! My coordinator did our floral arranging for just the cost of the flowers, which was a significant savings as well.
Flowers Total Spent: $400
vs $4000 (average floral budget)
How much I saved: $3600, 90% savings
Cake Total Spent: $0
vs $500 or more
How much I saved: at least $500, 100% savings
So what do you think about my money saving strategies? Are you impressed by how I saved money? Feel free to share your own money-saving strategies in the comments below!
Editor’s note: Due to the pandemic, some of the general wedding planning advice we share may not be applicable or possible due to restrictions on events. Please adhere to all current regulations and stay safe and healthy! Get more pandemic wedding resources here.