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
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.