Did you know that the cost of the average wedding in the U.S. is $28,000*? That’s an awful lot of money to spend on one event, especially when you consider that just 12% of couples have wedding savings when they get engaged, according to a study by Behind the Wedding Budget. This means that for many couples, the honeymoon is over as soon as those bills start coming due.
Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way. With some careful planning, prioritizing what’s important to you and your spouse-to-be, and by following some of the cost-cutting tips outlined here, you can have the wedding you desire and your budget, too.
Choose your number-one priority
Most couples-to-be have some fantastical dreams about their wedding day. Maybe it’s an enormous wall of flowers that will be outrageously beautiful and make guests’ eyes pop. Maybe it’s an elaborate, custom-made wedding gown that will turn you into a vision. Or maybe it’s a wedding aisle filled with hundreds of floating candles.
Whatever your dream, it probably costs a pretty penny to fulfill. To avoid going into debt for your special day, choose the one item for your wedding that is most important to you, at almost any cost. Trim costs in other places to leave extra room in your budget for your numero uno, and if you start to feel like going overboard in another area, remind yourself that this part of your wedding will be just like you’ve dreamed.
Skip the invites (average cost: $590)
Snail mail is so last millennium. Bring your wedding up to date and tighten your budget by creating a cost-free e-invite that includes all the wedding details along with an option to RSVP through an embedded link. You’ll be doing your wallet, and the environment, a favor!
Choose a nontraditional venue (average cost: $10,500)
A typical venue can take the biggest bite out of a wedding budget. Make your wedding extra-special and save on costs at the same time by choosing an out-of-the-box venue, like an art gallery, your favorite upscale restaurant, or even atop a scenic lookout point. Just make sure to factor in the cost of amenities you may need to rent for your location, such as lights, tents, silverware and flatware, and portable bathrooms.
Skip the rehearsal dinner (average cost: $1,900)
Yes, you can get married without the rehearsal dinner! Wouldn’t you rather skip the practice round and put that money toward something with lasting value? If you feel like you need a rehearsal to make sure everything goes smoothly, ask the officiator and the members of the bridal and groomsmen party to practice the ceremony only in a short, no-food run-through.
Choose a non-bridal gown (average cost: $1,600)
Everything on your list becomes more expensive when you tack on the word “wedding”. Save on one of these expenses by purchasing a gown that is not designed exclusively for a wedding. Any floor-length white gown you pick up in a department store or boutique will do, and you can always add embellishments to dress it up a bit. You’ll still save a fortune on the cost of your bridal gown.
Limit your guest count (average cost per guest: $70)
Each person at your reception really counts. So many parts of your wedding, from the catering, to the bar, to the cake, cost more with every added person. Keep your wedding intimate by only inviting guests who will add real joy to your special day. You can limit the plus-ones, specify that the reception is adults-only or restrict the guest list only to people who are currently in your life instead of inviting every old friend and acquaintance. Trimming 20 guests from your list can easily save you a thousand dollars.
Get flowers from florists’ overstock (average cost: $2,000)
If you’re getting married during a busy wedding season when florists have events several times a week, you may be able to get your flowers at a fraction of the usual cost — or at no cost at all. Ask floral designers about excess inventory they need to get rid of before it goes bad. They may be more than happy to have you take these blooms off their hands for a low price, or even for free.
You can also save on the cost of flowers by sticking to in-season and locally-grown blooms only. As a bonus, flowers that didn’t have to travel for hours or days to get to your wedding will look fresher and more vibrant.
Rethink your cake (average cost: $500)
Every tier on that creamy cake will cost you. Consider a shorter or narrower cake for pictures and cutting, and have the caterer serve a frosted sheet cake so there’s enough for all your guests. If you dare, you can also save a few hundred bucks by opting for a nontraditional dessert, like your favorite pie or warm brownies with store-bought ice cream.