How to Shave $5,000 Off Your Wedding Expenses
So many of my friends come to me for tips on how to save money on life’s great expenses.
I fancy myself an expert on how to shop for food in a more cost-effective manner, where to find the best discounts on home décor, and how to have an awesome vacation on a budget, but when it comes to cutting costs on a wedding I’m as clueless as the next guy. (See also: Alternative Wedding Ideas for Big Savings)
When I have to answer a wedding-budget question from my friends, I turn to Josie Daga, founder of PreOwnedWeddingDresses.com. If I can't answer my friends' questions about how to save on their wedding, I know she can. Not only did Josie fix her problem of not being able to unload her wedding dress after her wedding by creating a business designed to help other women do it, but she's an all-around wedding genius. And she should be, too. She's attended more than 100 weddings, and she's been a bridesmaid in at least 14 ceremonies. That's a crazy amount of weddings, but they've given Josie inside knowledge on the best money-saving tips and tricks for the big day.
According to The Wedding Report, the average cost of a wedding in the United States is about $26,000. With Josie’s suggestions, however, you can slash that price tag by more than $5,000 in areas where you don’t have to sacrifice quality, and your guests will never know you skimped. Take a look.
My husband and I didn’t have a proper wedding, but we did throw a celebratory party for our family and friends about six months after we said our I-dos. The actual party was more important to us than the invitations that our guests would eventually throw away, so we opted for e-invites. We saved many hundreds of dollars by going that route — money that we threw back into the food and bev budget — but I totally understand that many of you (brides, at least) aren’t willing to forgo formal invitations…and you don’t have to.
Josie’s advice: “Invitations are the first impression you give your guests of your wedding. They should signal the style of your event and reflect your personality, but don’t need to cost a fortune. Letterpress will cost you $750 on just 100 invites and response cards, but you can get an equally beautiful invitation with thermography for $400. That’s a savings of $350, and most guests won’t know the difference.”
My husband and I saved big here when we eloped because, well, we’re two dudes. Not everyone is so lucky, of course.
Josie’s advice: “The average cost of a dress and accessories is $1,500. You can cut the cost of your dress by 50% ($750) by purchasing a preowned gown. Most preowned gowns have been worn only once, with great care, and many have never been worn at all. Or, if your heart is set on a new gown, sell it after your big day and recoup 50% of what you spent.”
Of course, if you don't like the idea of wearing a preowned dress, there are other ways to cut costs on the gown, which include renting a dress (yep, you can do that) and shopping last-season sales. The latter can save you 30% percent or more off your dream dress.
My husband and I saved lots of money on the place where we got married because it was at a courthouse in Connecticut, but we did rent a venue for the party. A nice reception venue will never be cheap, but you can save a pretty penny if you put in the time and effort to search various establishments and compare prices and amenities.
Josie’s advice: “Having your ceremony and reception at the same place can save you $1,000 by reducing costs on everything from venue fees to chair rental to delivery fees. And you’ll reduce the carbon footprint of your wedding, which benefits everyone."
This is another area where it paid to be two guys getting married because neither one of us are particularly interested in flowers. In fact, we didn’t have any flowers at all because we had a winter party, and I decided to have centerpieces that included white-painted branches instead of flowers. Still, flowers are crucial for some, but they don’t have to cost a bundle.
Josie’s advice: “Wired bouquets can cost 40% more than equally beautiful hand-tied ones because of the time it takes a florist to create them. Spend $100 instead of $140 on a bridal bouquet and $50 instead of $70 on flowers for your four bridesmaids for a savings of $120. You can also use fewer flower arrangements at your reception by creating larger tables. Instead of tables of eight, host tables of twelve; for 140 guests, you’ll need 12 centerpieces instead of 18. At $75 a centerpiece, you’ve just saved $300 on flowers.”
An open bar was a nonnegotiable expense at our party — it was a must-have (and I won’t attend any wedding without one) — but we were able to score a win by getting the venue to add an extra hour of liquor service for no additional cost. If you can’t or don’t want to have an open bar, consider select cocktails instead.
Josie’s advice: “An open bar is a big expense that can easily reach $2,800 for a party of 140. Instead of stocking a full bar, offer your guests beer and wine along with one or two signature cocktails. Make the signature cocktail fun by creating it in your wedding colors, or offer a 'Bride’s Recommendation' and a 'Groom’s Recommendation.' In addition to injecting your personality into your event, you’ll save at least $800 on the bar tab for those 140 guests.”
Not only is a DJ far less expensive than a band, but a DJ also provides a mix of tunes that everyone is sure to enjoy. Also, you get into very dangerous territory with a band because some guests might not like their style, which can bring the party down if the guests start dozing off after dinner.
Josie’s advice: “The music at your wedding is a big part of setting the tone — and creating the fun of your party. Both a band and a DJ will do a great job, but at very different rates. You’ll spend at least $3,000 to hire a good wedding band, but only $1,100 for a DJ. So pocket the savings and let your guest hear 'Party Rock Anthem' just the way LMFAO sings it.”
The savings so far:
- Invitations: $350
- Dress/ accessories: $750
- Venue: $1,000
- Flowers: $120
- Centerpieces: $300
- Bar: $800
- Music: $1,900
Total Savings: $5,220
More Smart Ways to Save on Wedding Expenses From Josie
- Use your bouquets on your cake table. They’ll look gorgeous and you won’t need to spend money on any other decorations.
- Opt for passed hors d’oeuvres instead of stations. Guests tend to eat less of the passed version — which can add up to savings.
- Skip the champagne toasts. No one will even notice.
- Use table runners instead of expensive tablecloths. The look is just as elegant.
- Order a smaller cake. Order a “show cake” big enough to feed 75% of your guests, and serve the rest from a less expensive “kitchen cake." No one will even know and your cake cutting photos will look just as silly.
Where did you cut corners on your wedding costs? Were you able to reduce your budget in a big way for your big day? Let me know all about your savvy spending in the comments below.