Expert Tips for Stretching Your Wedding Budget
By now you know all about do-it-yourself décor, and you have had your fair share of hair and makeup tutorials. The only way to significantly reduce your wedding budget, however, is to have a frugal mindset for every aspect of your wedding, from DIY decor and makeup all the way to food and drinks. Here are a few insider tips on stretching that wedding budget as far as it will go.
Before you jump to flowers or venues, the first thing to check off is the guest list. The size of your list determines the flexibility in your budget. Dividing guests into categories will help you when you need to make cuts. These categories include family, bridal party, close friends, friends, co-workers and “I-bump-into-them-often,” as Chloe from The Little Canopy describes them.
Keep the bridal party as small as you can. Chloe warns brides to make this list from memory without scrolling through Facebook. When you have 500 “friends” on Facebook, it can be a slippery slope. Decide which of your guests will be allowed plus-ones (if any) and be sure to account for those extra guests in your numbers. When Chloe and her husband planned their wedding, they swapped friend lists and crossed off people they hadn’t heard mentioned or met during the time they dated. There may be exceptions, but this is a good way to narrow down the list, and ultimately, the cost.
Once you have whittled your guest list down, choose your idea of a comfortable budget. If the budget is your priority, then you must be honest with what you are not willing to exceed. According to Chloe, an average wedding is $27K, but she has seen plenty of stunning weddings under $8K—they just require more creativity. Chloe’s blog features a free wedding budget calculator to help you determine the cost of your wedding before you start spending.
And now for the fun stuff. Décor is important to express your personality as a couple, as well as tell your love story. But let’s get this out of the way—it’s important to remember that “DIY” does not always mean cheaper. Always compare the prices of creating your own projects versus simply purchasing items in-store.
Flower arrangements are pricey, but fortunately, you can put those together yourself (or with the help of a few talented friends and family members). If you have your mind set on flowers, then consider having designated helpers to carry the flowers from the ceremony to the reception so they do double duty as decor.
Candles or Christmas lights could drastically transform a room, but without enough lighting, your best DIY efforts could still seem like not enough. Balloons are convenient for filling up big spaces at little expense, Chloe suggests.
As far as music goes, your guests are there to celebrate you and have a good time. It is okay to skip the DJ or live band and create your own playlist instead. Have an outgoing friend MC your wedding. This is more personal anyway!
Don’t forget the cost of invites! Stationary and postage adds up in a hurry. With everything from ‘save the dates’ to thank-you cards, you will definitely want to go virtual if you’re determined to keep your costs at a minimum. Have fun creating a video with your fiancé that you e-mail to your guests as a save the date. You can also e-mail more sophisticated save the dates and invitations via e-mail. Have your guests RSVP electronically as well to even further cut down on costs (and up your organization-factor).
If you prefer print invitations, keep in mind you can probably hand deliver most of the invites without going to too much trouble. Jessica from The Budget Savvy Bride recommends ordering one-color designs and adding in your own embellishments later. She swears by using Download and Print for invitations. Programs and menus are not mandatory for a wedding to function. You could also create one big menu at the entrance of the reception in replacement of multiple menus. You can save on a seating chart by allowing guests to sit wherever they please.
The food and venue are likely to hurt your wallet the most. Think beyond wedding venues to beautiful backyards, gardens or other places you may have a personal attachment to. Venues can be tricky due to their rules on catering and their inflexibility with costs. Some all-inclusive venues, however, can be much cheaper because they include tables, chairs, linens, flowers and lighting—possibly even extra hands to help set up, serve and break down the event. If you choose a professional wedding venue, pick a date outside of popular wedding seasons and days of the week. Even avoiding Saturday will help cut down the overall cost.
Choose cheap, but fun food, like sliders or tapas for your menu. Make your own cake or cupcakes, and keep them simple! If you are not into baking, the local grocery store offers reasonable deals on customizable cakes. Jessica warns brides to be weary of replacing a buffet with hors d’oeuvres because the extra staff needed to carry the trays will raise the price.
Whatever you do, if you’re trying to keep costs down, do not have an open bar. An open bar takes the cost almost entirely out of your control. Keep the alcohol options to a minimum, or even do not serve it at all. Some couples even offer a number of drink tickets to each guest at the beginning of the evening.
Guests are less likely to drink during a daytime wedding, so consider that as you make your plans. And buy liquor at a store that offers discounts on bulk purchases, making sure to ask about their return policy for unopened bottles.
Vintage or used wedding dresses are the way to go if you are planning on not spending much on your dress. Rent The Runway also offers rental wedding dresses. Call bridal shops prior to making appointments so you know ahead of time how their prices range. And never, ever walk into a store outside of your budget—your dress is not there.
Luckily, the flower crown trend is popular for weddings at the moment—as opposed to the pricier veil and jeweled options—and is a simple project to create on your own. Wear minimal jewelry and pieces that you already own (or borrow) if possible. Get your bridesmaids together to practice hair and makeup. This is a fun opportunity to spend more time together as a group, and you will save everyone money by skipping costly appointments.
Photography is difficult to bargain. You will always have the photos to look back at your wedding, and you want to capture every moment. You can save money by cutting the number of hours you hire the photographers, but hiring a couple photographers or a videographer is worth the money. Encourage guests to take photos on Instagram using a specific hashtag that you can check out later… after the honeymoon, of course.
Finally, the take-away. Wedding favors can be optional, but you can always do a simple DIY project or anything small and thoughtful, like a note. Thoughtful favors are more meaningful for guests as opposed to something purchased and impersonal. You can save a little more by doubling the table decorations as wedding favors, or giving favors to couples, instead of each individual guest.