Spring is here and love is in the air. So don’t let the plans for your dream wedding be daunted by economic realities. These days, more and more brides and grooms are footing the bill for their weddings themselves. And a wedding can be one of the biggest expenses you’ll face as a couple. Instead of starting out your financial lives together many thousands of dollars in debt, consider these practical tips for saving money on your wedding.
Most people would just assume that cutting the guest list is the only way to go (less guests equals a smaller venue, fewer invitations, and less food to pay for), but it turns out, there are plenty of other options for couples who would still like to throw the wedding of their dreams.
“I actually don’t like to tell my clients to have a smaller wedding,” says Kathryn Kalabokes of Dream a Little Dream Events. “People are more important than flowers, and for a lot of couples, a smaller wedding just isn’t an option.”
We talked to Kalabokes and Alison Hotchkiss of Alison Events in San Francisco (and author of the recently released book Destination Wedding Planner: The Ultimate Guide to Planning a Wedding from Afar) to get some of their favorite cash-saving tips for your big day:
- Pick a less-popular day. If you want to save some serious cash, book a wedding on a Thursday, Friday or Sunday instead of the coveted Saturday slots. “There are only 52 Saturdays a year, and those Saturdays are gold,” Kalabokes explains. “Most vendors will offer heavy discounts on another day of the week.” Hotchkiss adds, “If it’s a three-day weekend, you can do the rehearsal on Saturday, the wedding and reception on Sunday, and then your guests have all day Monday to travel.” Also look at the off-season, especially if you’re doing a destination wedding. Prices tend to be higher during the peak months of May through September.
- For destination weddings, think locally. “If you have your heart set on a destination wedding,” Hotchkiss says, “try to use as many local vendors as possible.” Flying in decorations or a photographer, for instance, can all make your wedding a lot more expensive. “We just did a wedding where, if we hadn’t flown in the flowers, the couple could have saved a lot of money.”
- Cut your flowers-but not entirely. In order to keep things festive, Kalabokes suggests incorporating fresh fruit and vegetables into floral designs whenever possible; she estimates this could drop the price of a centerpiece from $250 to around $125 in a lot of cases. Also, let your bridesmaids feel adorned with strategically placed flowers, but don’t do a whole bouquet for each one. “If you’re doing peonies, have each girl carry a different color of each flower, or have them place one or their wrists or in their hair,” Kalabokes suggests.
- Be a smart shopper. For décor, raid stores like IKEA, Pier One and Cost Plus for things like candle holders. “This can be a lot cheaper than renting them,” Kalabokes explains. “Then, you can always sell them on eBay later. I’ve even bought stuff off of past clients to use again.”
- Serve beer and wine-but try not to go the cash bar route. “Cash bars are just seen as tacky; people don’t want to pay for their own drinks,” Kalabokes says. Instead, she suggests serving beer and wine, and perhaps one cocktail that fits in with the overall theme of your wedding (but that doesn’t necessarily have to be named after the bride and groom).
- If you have your heart set on a high-end dress designer, try to find a trunk show. At trunk shows, not only will you get a discount on the dress, Kalabokes says, but you may even score some freebies like a veil or alterations, which can add up to hundreds of dollars in the long run. “Even if you have to fly from, say, San Francisco to LA to go to a Monique Lhuillier trunk show, the money you save on the dress and the extras will easily pay for your ticket down there and then some,” she says.
- Don’t go crazy with your jewelry. “Why spend hundreds of dollars on a necklace that you’re going to wear one day?” Hotchkiss says. Instead, she recommends visiting stores like J. Crew, Anthropologie and even Forever 21 to find inexpensive baubles. “Especially if you’re just trying to match something to the dress, you can find lots of really cute, inexpensive options at those stores,” she says.
- On your wedding day, travel to the makeup and hair stylists, instead of the other way around. Having your makeup artist and hair stylist come to your home or hotel is typically much more expensive. “You can have all of the amenities you would in a hotel room if you just go to the salon, like champagne and food,” Hotchkiss says.
- Think “station” instead of “buffet” for food. Buffets were the traditional way to save money on reception dining, but these days, offering guests a variety of stations with small plates is a more stylish (and often cost-effective) way to go. “We’re not necessarily talking a cocktail party here, but rather dishes like short ribs on a bed of mashed potatoes,” Kalabokes says. “This can take you down to about $50 a head instead of around $130 a head for sit-down dinners.” Hotchkiss adds, “You can have one ‘wow’ factor at your event, like an oyster or sushi-rolling station, but really, it’s best to keep the food simple if you can.”
- Pare down your invitations. Brides and grooms today have the tendency to stuff their invites with several pieces: the invitation, a response card, a map, and even additional information cards. Instead, simply print the reception info on your invitation, and ditch the maps. “Also, you can just do a postcard for the responses, instead of doing another envelope insert,” Kalabokes adds.
- Go the DJ route. “Hire a DJ to play at the ceremony, cocktail hour and reception,” Hotchkiss says. “You might lose a little bit of ambiance, but we’re talking thousands of dollars here.” With bands and popular quartets, she notes, it’s easy to get saddled with hourly minimums, which can add up quickly.