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Wedding Expenses Brides Should Never Pay For

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Get advice from some seasoned wedding professionals on the wedding expenses that couples should do their best avoid!

Wedding Expenses Brides Should Never Pay For

Most of the wedding advice you’ll read online and in magazines is about all of the “must-haves.” In terms of items or services needed for the big day, each of these so-called essentials relates directly to an additional wedding expense. It all starts to feel like a concerted effort to convince couples to spend more money than they should or even need to. In reality, the only things that are actually needed to tie the knot are the couple and an officiant!

Of course, running to the courthouse is the easiest way to plan a wedding on a budget, but that’s not why you’re here reading The Budget Savvy Bride. You want to know how to plan an actual celebration without emptying your bank account!

I’ve shared lots of great advice and ideas over the years here on the blog, including things that I think are a waste of time and money and better off skipped. But I thought it’d be interesting to get the perspective of some wedding industry professionals on which wedding expenses they think are worth the cost, as well as which ones couples should skip completely! Some of the answers may surprise you!

Signature Cocktails
Event design: A. Dominick Events | Photographer: Bonnie Sen

Wedding Expenses You Shouldn’t Pay For

An Open Bar

One of the top items on the list of things to skip is the open bar. (We agree!)

“Offering a full bar can drive up your bar tab as more options mean more product. Picking a few well-crafted cocktails and premier beer and wine can really emphasize the quality of your party without breaking the bank.  And let’s face it, have you ever been disappointed by free alcohol?” – GATHER Events

The folks behind Modern Art Catering echo this sentiment saying, “Don’t overspend on your bar. There are many venues these days that allow you to bring in your own alcohol. This is a big cost savings opportunity for couples on a budget!”

Guests You’ve Never Met

The team at Fete Nashville says, “Don’t feel like you have to invite everyone you know… there is nothing worse than being introduced to new people on your wedding day.” Of course, there could be friends and family on your fiancé’s side whom you haven’t met yet, but this is not the night to be meeting your parents’ coworkers for the first time. “Nothing will affect your budget more than your guest list. If you have a limited budget or need to cut back, start with your headcount. This will affect invites, calligraphy, tables, linens, centerpieces, catering, bar, tableware, desserts, etc.”

Wedding Ceremony Decor
Event design: D’Luxe Events | Photographer: Dean Michael Studio

Ceremony-Specific Decor

“Ceremony aisle decor should definitely play a role in your budget but should not break the bank and should always be something you are able to repurpose into the reception. Especially if your ceremony location is ornate unto itself, don’t waste large sums of money on extravagant florals and decor… remember YOU as a couple are the focal point of the entire day!

I love unique ceremony aisle decor like photos lining the aisle. It’s touching, personal, and also fabulous for reusing throughout the reception space!” – d’Luxe Events

Paisley and Jade agrees, saying, “We love recommending that our clients make their rental items do double duty– for example, using the same pieces for their ceremony and reception seating! Instead of spending money on two seats for each guest, it can be much more economical to cover any labor fees involved in getting the rental items from one location to the next. As a bonus, you automatically create visual cohesiveness between the spaces since you are utilizing the same items – like this wedding that used our Wooden Mismatched Chairs and White Pine Benches both along the ceremony aisle and under the reception tent!”

Simple Reception Table Decor
Rentals: Paisley and Jade | Photographer: Meagan Abell Photography | Venue: Sabot at Stony Point | Planner: Tart Event Company | Floral: Amanda Burnette | Lighting: Lighting Professors | Tent: Rent E-Quip

Huge, Ornate Centerpieces

According to Dee of No Worries Event Planning, there’s no reason to go crazy on fancy centerpieces. Flowers are an important part of the decor, but there is no need for massive centerpieces. Small bottle pieces and found objects, such as driftwood and shells, can accentuate your floral decor. Be sure to let your florist know how many objects you’ve collected and bring them to his or her studio so they have them in hand well before the wedding, and can plan accordingly for how to use them. Read more of Dee’s advice for budget savvy weddings here on BSB!

Save the Dates

Antonia Christianson Events says you can totally skip your save the dates if you’re looking to cut an unnecessary wedding expense! “The Truth Is, Wedding Save the Dates are a trend that has stuck around for ages, but you aren’t doing something wrong if you don’t send them out! We love a great save the date like the next gals, but especially if you are worried about your budget, or your guest count, forego save the dates! We often guide our clients to only send out save the dates to those guests you would be devastated if they weren’t in attendance at the wedding, not to everyone on the list! If you are worried about the budget, chances are, cutting the guest list is the easiest way to help shave off dollars spent. Giving guests a years notice to mark their calendar will only make the guest list grow…not shrink.”

If you’re set on sending a save the date, Feathered Arrow suggests going digital. “It’s starting to trend more and more, and it’s a great way to save a couple hundred bucks. Plus most people prefer to RSVP online anyway.”

Wedding Cookies and Milk Favors
Event design: Moxie Bright Events | Photographer: Aurelia D’Amore Photography

Wedding Favors

Another popular wedding expense to cut from your list is wedding favors. Harmony Creative Studio begs you to reconsider giving favors to your guests (with some stipulations, of course.) “Please, lovely couples: Stop wasting your money on wedding favors! Especially anything of the non-edible variety. I have a not-so-small collection of bottle openers, shot glasses, cookie cutters, engraved bells and other things that wedding guests don’t want, will never use and always leave behind. Things like cookies, candy and other treats will almost always be more well received, but even those are left behind nearly 1/2 the time.”

“My advice: take the several hundred dollars (or more!) that you would spend on favors and put it toward something your guests are more likely to want and/or remember. Interactive things like photo booths, caricature artists and lawn games or thoughtful welcome gifts for out-of-towners are more likely to be remembered than trinkets than end up in drawers and the back of cabinets.”

Soiree8 Rentals suggests a charitable donation in lieu of a favor. “Instead of spending money on favors for each guest, make a donation to a charity. Decide an X amount and contact a non profit organization! It will be a HUGE hit at the wedding too, your guests will love it!”

Moxie Bright Events agrees saying, “If you really want to give your guests a favor, make it a donation to your favorite charity, or make it edible and DELICIOUS! A shot glass with your names on it? No way. Cookies & milk for the car ride home? YES. Super fun and everyone will love it!”

A Large Bridal Party

“A way to save money is to keep your bridal party small, 5 and under. If you have a large bridal party, you’ll need a lot of personal flowers. This could easily eat up your entire floral budget if you’re not careful.” – I do, I do! Wedding Planning

wedding program
Stationery: Lepenn Designs  |  Photographer: Kerrie Mitchell  |  Styling: Kerrie Mitchell

Wedding Programs

Hoopla! Events says you can feel free to skip the printed programs for your ceremony. “I can’t remember the countless number of times that I’ve seen ceremony programs go to waste! A majority of them get tossed after all is said and done. It’s more important for guests to be present than glancing down at their program to see what’s next. Do yourself the favor and skip on the programs and put that money you’re saving elsewhere in the budget!”

Gold Leaf Event Design and Production suggests using chalkboards in place of printed programs. Lepenn Designs agrees. “Instead of paying to print a program for each of your guests limit it to one per couple/family. Or opt to have one large sign with ceremony wording for guests to see as they enter your ceremony area.”

Rush Fees and Overtime

“When it comes to wedding planning, time is money. We encourage our couples to communicate their needs as thoroughly as possible to their wedding vendors in advance. They should also request a list of key deadlines from each vendor throughout the wedding planning process. This helps avoid paying “rush fees” or “overtime” fees to vendors because they waited until the last minute (or too late) to make a decision.” – Howerton+Wooten Events

Anything That Doesn’t Matter to YOU

It’s YOUR day, so if something isn’t a priority for you, feel free to place your budget and focus elsewhere. “When looking to make short cuts, rule out the things that are not as important to you. Not everyone has to have a band or DJ, some people prefer streaming from an iPod,” says Kate Uhry Photography.

Hopefully, with the help of this industry insight, you can ignore any unnecessary “must-haves” and keep your wedding budget in check! Be sure to check out our wedding budget tips for more money-saving ideas. Happy Planning!


The Budget Savvy Bride is the #1 Online Wedding Planning Resource for couples who want to plan a beautiful wedding on a budget they can actually afford. Check out our best-selling book on Amazon, The Budget-Savvy Wedding Planner & Organizer!