It goes without saying that weddings are known for being expensive. We flip through all the bridal catalogues; scour the internet for hours, Pinning and saving our favorite things, deciding our “must-haves” to make our day the Best Wedding Ever.
There are doves and a live band, a seven-tiered cake, and that to-die-for Vera Wang gown, candelabras everywhere, exquisite fresh flowers lining every row, coveted Louboutin heels, and Swarovski crystals dripping from the ceiling.
And then we wake up.
The dream is over and we realize that there is a big, giant elephant in the room: the budget. Don’t be afraid, brides-to-be! The budget is not a Four-Letter-Word. In fact, the budget is your friend, a friend you want to stick with for the rest of your life. Trust me. Once your wedding day is over, you will be glad you created and stuck with your budget and won’t be paying for the Wedding of Your Dreams for the rest of your life.
A budget doesn’t mean you can’t have the best wedding ever. A budget is there to help you decide what is most important to you, to balance the cost with reality, and to keep you out of a mountain of debt. I’ve pulled together some important things to consider when creating your wedding day budget and some easy ways to trim the fat without losing what’s important to you.
- Choose an off-peak wedding date. By having your wedding in an off-peak month, such as November, you will not be competing for prime dates and will have more negotiating power when it comes to price. Ask about rates for a Friday or Sunday. Saturday is the most popular day to get married and that means more money. When my husband and I were married, we chose a Sunday and saved over $1,000 by not having it on a Saturday.
- Elegant wedding venues and reception halls specialize in weddings. Consider having your wedding in a non-traditional location, such as a zoo or park, on the beach or at your family’s home. Not only will you save money, you won’t be competing for the date. Keeping the ceremony and reception in the same location is also beneficial by eliminating the cost of travel as well as conserving time in general. Not only is it easier for you, it is convenient for your guests as well.
Note: Be sure to calculate for catering needs in a non-traditional setting.
- Everyone loves a sale, right? Why not apply the same thought to your wedding dress? Start your hunt by scoping out the annual designer sales where you will pay a fraction of the regular price. Renting and borrowing wedding gowns is becoming a popular alternative. Has your grandmother saved her wedding gown to pass down to you? Not sure? I think it’s time to have a chat! Another option is to purchase your gown at a charity event. Not only are you getting a nice deal, you are contributing to a very worthy cause.
- Catering is one of the most expensive components to the wedding day. Consider having an early event and serving lunch. Dinner is always more expensive. You could skip the food all together and offer cocktails and a dessert bar. Just be sure to indicate that on your invitations. You don’t want starving, grumpy guests at the reception.
I attended a wedding several years ago that took place in the late evening. They provided a dessert bar only with no indication that dinner would not be served. Let’s just say a few of us snuck out for a quick bite to eat. Wedding days are long for everyone. Keep that in mind when making your food choices and be sure to let your guests know if there will not be a traditional dinner.
- Save money by skipping the open bar. Choose a signature drink to be included in a set quantity for your guests.
- Do you really need an upside down, five-tier cake? Gorgeous – absolutely. Cost effective – not at all. Consider having a small, beautifully decorated cake for you to cut and a sheet cake for your guests. Cupcakes are becoming more and more popular, too. If you really, really want a huge cake, consider having faux layers added in to increase the tier size. Yep, that’s a thing and it’s pretty cool. Be sure to add that to your list of questions to ask your bakery if a big cake is on your must-have list.
- I was raised a do-it-yourselfer and as an artist, it was a no-brainer for me to make my own flowers and decorations. You can save hundreds by making your own arrangements. Check your local ads frequently. Stores like Hobby Lobby have big sales on their silk flowers often. Choosing your silks at the right time can help you save even more.
Dead set on fresh flowers? Check out sites like FiftyFlowers and BloomsBytheBox. Ask your local floral shop about seasonal and local flowers to help keep the cost down. Sticking to one or two types of flowers in your arrangement will help keep the cost low.
- Make your own invitations and favors. Just like with the floral arrangements, you can purchase items to make your own invitations. You can skip the favors all together and offer a large bowl of candies instead. Don’t want to mess with printing 125 invitations? Try to choose a design that is on one card to keep the cost lower.
- Create a separate checking account that is strictly for your wedding purchases. Set up an auto-transfer or direct deposit into the account. By keeping your accounts separate, the temptation to spend it on something not related to the wedding will be eliminated. Stay away from charging anything for your wedding. Only charge it if you will pay it off within 30 days. You do not want to walk away from your wedding with a mountain of debt.
- Revise, revise, revise…. and then revise again. I lost count of the number of times my husband and I revised our invite list. Of course you want to include your Kindergarten teacher and your neighbor’s best friend, Peggy. It is the most important day of your life. You want to include everyone who has ever had an impact on you and that is totally understandable; however, it is not feasible. It may be difficult at first, but once you start trimming the invite list, it will become easier.
How do you start trimming? Ask yourself a few questions. When was the last time you spoke to this person? When was the last time you saw him/her in person? Would you attend their wedding? Do you hang out on a regular basis? If you are just work buds and don’t hang out outside of the workplace, it might be time to consider removing them from the list.
All of this may seem overwhelming at first, but I assure you, you will be fine. Start small. Make lists. Make lists for your lists and then make another list. The biggest thing to remember is to find out what is most important to you. Make a 3-tiered list. Top tier = mandatory and most important. Middle tier = desired but willing to negotiate. Bottom tier = not mandatory. By making a divided list and revising multiple times, you will stay organized and on track. It will help you know how much you want to allocate to what you feel is most important.
Often times wedding photography is overlooked. Your best friend’s cousin has a digital camera – he can just take some photos, right? Sure, why not. This might not be the best way to save money on your wedding budget. At the end of the day, when everyone has left and the cake has been devoured, your wedding photographs are all that will remain. They will always be there, one week later, ten years later, fifty years later. Your grandchildren and great-grandchildren will delight in pouring over your wedding album. Decide what level of coverage is important to you, but I urge you, do not cut yourself short in this category. You only have one wedding day. Invest in your memories. That being said, find the right photographer for you. Your budget is important but it’s imperative to have a connection with your photographer. Joe Foreal Photography may be the cheapest, but if Mr. Foreal is rude and his image quality is lacking, is it really worth it? Are you really saving in the long run?
There are hundreds of ways to save money on your wedding day and these are just the tip of the iceberg. The most important thing is to remember what is most important to you and your partner. Discussing your wants and needs, financial situation, and ways to compromise are essential. You don’t want to wake up the day after your wedding and realize you will be paying for it for the next 5 years. You will be so glad you stuck to your budget, I promise.
Be happy. Be married!
Ready to chat about your dream day? Take a peek at my Wedding Guide and let’s meet for coffee!
REAL SIMPLE: Wedding Planning & Budget Basics
Credit Card Insider: Financial Advice for Wedding Planning
The Knot: Budgeting for the Wedding – 30 Ways to save Money on Your Wedding
Martha Stewart Weddings: Wedding Budget Planner