I'm getting married in October, and my fiance and I are wholly dedicated to making sure we don't begin our marriage with debt. That means being realistic about what we can afford to spend to host our friends and families at our wedding, and then sticking to the budget religiously. By being honest about our finances and figuring out the kind of bash we want to have (casual and easy-going, with great food and lots of beer), we've found that there are lots of ways to save money on what would otherwise be a very expensive day. Here are some of our best money-saving tips.
Decide Where to Splurge.
Without a Kimye-sized wedding budget, you already know you'll have to cut back on a lot. But you don't have to cut back on everything. If having great photos is a high priority, don't settle for an ameteur photographer (your uncle's buddy's daughter might be an untapped talent waiting to be discovered, but probably not). Splurge on the photog you want, then spend less (or nothing at all) on something you don't care as much about.
For those areas of the wedding that aren't as important to you, ask friends for their help. Is your future sister-in-law super organized by nature? Ask her to help coordinate on the day of the wedding. We're skipping on hiring a professional florist, and instead asking the bridesmaids to help put together their bouquets and some centerpieces the morning of the wedding. For anything you DIY, do lots of research for online tutorials. If you can't tackle it in advance, consider doing a small practice run a month or so before your big day.
Limit Your Head Count (and Maybe the Wedding Party Too).
The easiest way to shrink the bottom line of a wedding is to limit the guest list. A larger head count will mean you spend more on food and drinks, but there are other areas where you can save by limiting the guest list, like chair rentals and wedding favors. Consider, too, shrinking the bridal party if you can swing it. Fewer bridesmaids and groomsmen mean fewer bouquets, bouttonieres and wedding party gifts.
Location, Location, Location.
City weddings set against a nighttime skyline are stunning, but they also carry a heavy price tag. Venturing out to a small town nearby for your bash will yield a significant savings on the venue and catering — the two largest expenses in most weddings.
Step Outside of Wedding Season.
The most popular times for weddings are Saturdays from April to October, and wedding vendors know it. Many venues charge less for events on Fridays and Sundays and during the winter months. Your other vendors and talent, like caterers, bartenders or makeup artists, may have a lower minimum spend or require smaller time commitment for off-day weddings, too.
Go Big and Buy (or Rent) Less.
You can save a bit on flowers for bouquets and centerpieces by choosing big buds — large blooms visually go further, so you can get the same impact from fewer stems. The "go big" maxim can apply to other wedding details too, like cupcakes, ceremony benches or wedding programs (set up an oversized itinerary at the entrance to your ceremony and skip on the personal printouts).
Get On the List.
At the start of your engagement, sign up for a free email address just for wedding planning. Use it to enter contests and sign up for email lists with bridal expos, websites and potential vendors to find coupons and discounts. You can also sign up for deal sites like Groupon, Living Social or Loccly with your wedding email (so many photo booth deals, you guys). Then when the big day is behind you, trash it to protect your personal inbox from junk mail.
Rent, Borrow & Buy Used.
Attire is one spot where it's convenient to borrow or rent. Men's suits and tuxes can be rented from a local suit shop, and Rent the Runway is a great option for bridesmaid dresses, jewelry, veils and other accessories. Soon, you'll even be able rent a wedding gown from the site Borrowing Magnolia. If you want to hang on to your dress after the day is done, consider a buying a pre-owned dress from a local bridal consignment shop or online from a site like Once Wed. In addition to attire, you can often find wedding decorations and other details for sale from former brides and grooms on sites like Tradesy and the wedding classifieds on The Knot, Ruffled, and Weddingbee.