How to Save Money on Your Wedding—Part I

by on November 24, 2009 · 13 comments

According to Bridal Bargains and various other sources, the average 150-guest wedding in the United States costs around $30,000!! Ofcourse, this number is an average, so it includes the million dollar weddings as well as weddings that are $500 (as pointed out by the authors of Bridal Bargain). But based on this average, where is all of this money spent?

  • Apparel: $2,102
  • Rings: $6,280
  • Music: $1,120
  • Miscellaneous: $2,049
  • Ceremony Site and Officiant: $800
  • Flowers: $1,103
  • Cake: $692
  • Reception/Catering: $12,722
  • Photography: $2,650
  • Videography: $1,450
  • Invitations: $407
  • Limo: $610
    • Source: Bridal Bargains, 2009

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Paul and I are engaged, and we are getting married on April 17, 2010. Could you ever see us spending nearly $30,000 on one day? I don’t think so. There are many ways that we are finding to decimate this number. With a little bit of forethought and smarts, we are planning the wedding of our dreams without killing our finances. Check out the following ways that we have found to save money.

Apparel: Average Cost $2,102

  • My entire wardrobe costs less than $1,000 (and this has been years in the making; I still have clothes from when I was 16!), so how can I justify spending over $1,000 on a gown I will wear for one day? However, I do want to look fabulous. Fortunately, to placate both my desire to look fabulous and my need to save money, I got my gorgeous gown for $500.10 at David’s Bridal. What’s even better is that they let me take it home that day (usually you have to order your gown and wait up to six months to bring it home). My budget was $500, and the dress was actually $550; I asked if there was an upcoming sale, and the woman went to her desk to look it up. When she came back, she said “surprise!” and gave me a discount of $150! After taxes, I came in just over budget by ten cents. Not bad.
  • My sister and I are going to make my veil. If you look at a veil, it is literally just long, lacy material with some occasional beads and other decorations sewn on. Why spend upwards of $250 for that? Plus for me, it is a complete afterthought from my gorgeous gown. I bought some tulle (lacy fabric) from Hobby Lobby craft store at 50% off, paying about $3.99 for 3 feet. I will pick up a hair comb with some rhinestones from Claire’s, and viola.
  • Paul is going to get his tux rental for free. Many stores will give the groom his rental for free if his groomsmen rent from that store, such as Men’s Warehouse.

Cost Savings: Approximately $1,551.90

Invitations: Average Cost $407

Our 75 invitations cost us $29.00. They are utterly perfect, and found at a location I never would have thought to look at for wedding invitations: Wal-Mart. I was in Wal-mart one day shortly after getting engaged, and happened to walk down the wedding aisle. There they were: our invitations in our wedding colors (a light bluish/green with chocolate brown). The invitation set includes the actual invitations, jackets with envelopes, response cards with envelopes, seals, ribbons and an extra invitation for testing. We will need to print them—which I have not decided if it would be more cost-effective/convenient to do at home with our printer, or at an Office Max or Office Depot—as well as put postage on them.

A word about postage; I took the entire invitation bundle to the post office yesterday to find out how much it would cost to send each. The cost will be $0.61. With about 60 invitations going out, and the cost of $0.44 per response card, it will cost us approximately $62.00 in postage. I plan on signing up for a free trial on Stamps.com to take advantage of the free $25 in postage you receive to cut our invitation cost even further.

Cost Savings: Approximately $310

Reception and Catering: Average Cost (for 150 guests) $12,722, or $85 per guest

Probably one of the best ways we are able to save money in this category is by not inviting 150 guests. That was pretty easy for us though; we have a list of priority guests that we both agreed on from the beginning (or perhaps we don’t even know 150 people intimately enough!). Our guest list is approximately 55, with each guest invited to bring an additional guest. Because our wedding is out of state, many of these people are not likely to come. We think we will have 60 people present in total for our reception.

Planning our wedding for an out-of-season month is another way that we saved on our reception/catering. We were able to negotiate a 17% discount from the original cost of $100 per person, which means we are paying $83 per person. Now, before you start commenting about how high this number is, please be aware of what is included: reception site, butlered hor d’oeuvres, several course meal, alcoholic beverages (beer and wine), all taxes and gratuities, linens and china settings, fresh flowers centerpieces, candles, and background music. This place is also offering to play our first dance music, songs for dancing with our parents, and then play whatever music we would like for the rest of the reception so that we do not have to hire a DJ if we prefer not to. In other words, we are saving on linen/china rentals which most catering companies charge for, as well as money for centerpieces, and possibly money spent on a DJ/dance floor (though we still have not decided yet). Plus, most places we priced added taxes and gratuities and alcoholic beverages on top of the per guest rate, and not built into the per guest rate.

You can certainly opt to save more money than we have in this category, such as having an hor d’oeuvres-only cocktail reception. However, we chose to not do this for two reasons. Number one, when we priced for a cocktail-only reception, some locations still were going to charge us $50 per person, and that didn’t even include alcoholic beverages! We are getting a lot more value for our money with our reception site. The second reason, and most important reason, is because we have a lot of guests who are traveling several hours by plane to see us marry, and are also having to pay for hotel and transportation costs. We would like to show them a good time, and let them know how much we appreciate their extra efforts to celebrate our occasion.

Cost Savings: This one is difficult to quantify yet; it appears we are only saving $2 per guest off of the average, which would net us a savings of $120. However, because of the all-inclusive offerings of this place, we will be saving money on florist costs, possible DJ/music costs, and linen/china rentals. Also, there is no reception site fee. Finally, we are only having around 60 guests and not 150 as in the example above, yielding us a savings off the average of $7,650.

Wedding Bands: Average Cost $1,980

For us personally, this is a category we did not want to skimp on because even though our celebration of marriage is only one day long, a ring is for life. Still, we managed to save a decent amount of money on our wedding bands. There are great resources online for wedding bands  and many of these sites realize customers’ hesitancy of buying fine jewelry over the internet. So, some online shops encourage you to get the jewelry checked out by a jeweler, and they give you 30-60 days to do this. If you are not satisfied, returning your item and getting a full refund should be an easy task. And if you use Swagbucks to search online (sign up using this link to receive 3 free swagbucks to start you out; I currently have 397), then you can earn free gift certificates to online merchants like Amazon.com, which has an amazing array of wedding bands to choose from at fantastic prices.

After all of my researching online, Paul and I went to several jewelers to try on different styles and metals and see what they looked like in person. I was not satisfied with anything that I tried on. Then I happened to need my engagement ring resized, so I went back to the original jeweler Paul had purchased from, and there it was! Not only was my perfect wedding band, in my size, waiting for me on display, but it just so happened that this was the one week out of each year (leading up to Thanksgiving) that all jewelry was on sale for 50% off!! With this sale, our rings were much cheaper offline than online, and we walked out of the store with them. After taxes, we spent $1261 for both of our bands, and left very satisfied.

Cost Savings: $719

Cake: Average Cost $692

My sister is a whiz at making cakes—even tiered ones. So she is making our wedding cake! We came up with a design with her help, and she is making a mock one for us to see first. We will be paying for all of her materials, as well as for her labor/creativity, and will be still saving a small fortune!

Even if you are not fortunate enough to know someone with great baking skills, you can save money in this category by having a small tier cake that you cut in front of everyone, but serving cake to your guests from a cheaper sheetcake in the back. Your guests will not know the difference (or care), and this could save you hundreds of dollars.

Cost Savings: Approximately $450-$500

Miscellaneous

There is not necessarily a category devoted to the following ideas, but they are cost saving measures for us. For one, we are borrowing several items. My friend Aurora got married two years ago, and offered to give us an unused cake cutting knife someone had given her, as well as a beautiful ring bearer’s pillow her mother made, and a handmade flower girl basket. We will never use these items again, and it makes it more special knowing that it is coming from a friend then to just purchase these items from a store.

Also, I love bubbles, and want them to be blown into the air when we walk back down the aisle. A craft store near us was having a 50% off sale on bridal items, and so for $9.99, I was able to snag 72 bubble containers for our guests!

As a final thought, a great way to save money on your wedding is by making a budget, and sticking to it. Microsoft Office has an excellent and free wedding budget excel sheet where you can input what you want to spend (in the estimated column) and then what you actually spend in order to both budget, and keep track of your expenses throughout the process. Remember to figure out what your priorities are, and spend the most money in those categories.

How to Save Money On Your Wedding Part II

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

BluSky

Lol, you have clothes that are 10 years old? I have some that are 20 : ) True, they’re well worn but by no means rags. Pay upfront for good clothing and you’ll end up saving money because it will last much longer than an item that may cost a lot less but also isn’t made nearly as well.

Reply

Rick M

if you really want to save some money on your wedding bands, be sure to research all of the popular metals that are used for wedding bands today – platinum, palladium, gold, titanium and tungsten. Platinum is the most expensive, but also the most durable, so you get excellent value for your money. When you scratch platinum, the ring does not lose mass, and it can be refinished to look like new over and over. Gold will scratch off, and white gold isn’t naturally white, so it will turn yellow over time. If platinum is not an option, then I would consider palladium. Palladium is the better option over white gold if platinum is not an option.

And while I like the look of tungsten and titanium wedding bands, they can not be sized. So keep away from the pizza and beer, and make sure you renew that gym membership, too!

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CentralNC

We invited 50+ people to our wedding and did everything on the Bridal Bargains list except videography and limo – all for under $2,500.

No, it wasn’t a potluck at a city park :) It was a catered event at nice location downtown.

We focused on 3 things: Ambience, food and a professional photographer. The first 2 contribute to having a good time, the wedding album is the one thing that brings back those memories over the years.

Don’t skimp on the photographer, good wedding pictures are priceless and you only get one shot at getting them right. We interviewed several photographers (and their previous work) before hiring one.

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Crystal

Congrats on the upcoming nuptials! My husband and I absolutely loved our wedding day!!!

My only regret was not having a wedding video. Neither one of us can remember exactly what our vows were since we wrote them ourselves and have lost our “notes”…plus I cried all the way through so nobody could understand me anyway. :)

Our photographer was awesome and inexpensive. He had been a photographer for years, then moved to California for a few years for a different business, so when he came back to Houston he needed to build up his references again to restart his photography business.

He took more than 400 shots spanning from the chapel and us getting ready, the formal shots, and all the way through to the end of the reception (about 6 hours) for about $450-500 in 2005. That included 10 prints and 2 CD’s (one of every single shot and another of his 200 favorites). His name is Charles Spruell and his number is 832-265-3228.

I still have a few wedding photos on my cubicle wall and we still look at them every once in a while at home…he did a fantastic job of getting shots of everybody and lots of situations despite the fact we were too ignorant at the time to know what we wanted.

Our expenses were as follows:

Apparel: $300 ($125 gorgeous David’s bridal special, a $150 tux with tails and accessories rental, and my mom spent $25 on all the materials to make my 5 foot long veil…it was amazing and decorated with shinies and fake pearls…the patterns were awesome against the back of my dress and went great with the train)

Rings: $250 ($250 for hubby’s band, my bands are from his mother, and my engagement ring is from his grandmother)

Music: $0 (my mother set up a sound system and we played CD’s)

Miscellaneous: $500 (reception decorations and the fake flowers used for bouquets and decorations)

Ceremony Site and Officiant: $250 ($150 for chapel and organist and $100 for the preacher)

Flowers: $50 (the roses that my youngest sister handed out as the flower girl)

Cake: $125 (3 tier decorated in our light blue wedding color from Kroger’s)

Reception/Catering: $500-$800 (reception hall for 60 guests and linens were $125, my mother bought trays from Sam’s Club of shrimp, vegetables, meat, and fruit, my MIL baked and decorated an awesome groom’s cake, and my aunt-in-law and my MIL decorated the tables with glitter and little reception souvenirs)

Photography: $500

Videography: $0 (But please get one if you think you’d love it…)

Invitations: $100

Limo: $0 (our reception hall was in walking distance and we lived nearby)

So our whole wedding was less than $3000 and was absolutely fantastic!!!

Reply

Amanda L Grossman

Hello Everyone!

Thank you all for sharing your information and experiences. Have a great Thanksgiving!

Reply

Ken

I’m starting my wedding videography business and I’ll be happy to video your wedding at no charge for the experience and a referral if you like the DVD.

Reply

Amanda L. Grossman

Hello Ken!

I appreciate the offer; I am getting married in PA though (not Houston)…where are you located at?

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Sarah

We have the same wedding date and we are reading the same Bridal Bargains book, which I found through the Houston library! Good luck to you in your marriage and bridal bargaining! I look forward to reading more about it! I have found many ways to save, but it still seems like such an insane cost!

Reply

FruGal

Hello Sarah!

That is so cool that we have the same date and are using the same book! It is quickly approaching…are you guys ready? I think we’re in a good place. My Maid of Honor purchased the Bridal Bargains book for me as an engagement gift (she used it herself), and it has been a great resource!

Best of luck!

Reply

irishdaze

Thanks, Crystal, for letting us in on a great photographer at an affordable price!

I’d really like to know about anyone else’s photographer experience. Seems to me that anything marked “wedding” has an automatic 300% mark-up!

Other wedding cost-savers: Buying alcohol from Costco/Sam’s (they’ll let you return unopened containers for refund), having the local college of hotel management serve your reception/bar (they’ll do it for almost nothing and break their butts to do a good job!), and shopping for things without the word “wedding” (i.e. disposable cameras, invitations, photo albulms, bubbles, birdseed, shoes, jewelry/accesories, DJs, photographers, caterers, bakers, transportation, etc.).

For example . . .

These bubbles are “ideal for weddings” and cost $0.28 each: http://bit.ly/9gNSjY. These bubbles are “great for birthday parties” and are $0.13 each: http://bit.ly/99xlgJ

Yes, the bottle styles and colors are different, but this was a quick search and I’m positive better options are out there!

This 15-shot disposable flash camera will “help you capture memories from your special day” fo $1.95 each. This 27-shot shot disposable flash camera is for no discernable intent and runs $2.25 each: http://bit.ly/d2qREm

The 15-shot camera has a white cardboard cover, the 27-shot camera has a rainbow cardboard cover. Just tear off the cover!

Just observations . . .

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