Before my now-wife and I tied the knot last year, everything I’d ever heard about planning a wedding made it sound like an expensive nightmare. But it didn’t cost nearly as much as we anticipated. So how did we manage that? By following a few simple tips and, most importantly, staying positive.
Nuptial costs are ballooning, that’s for sure. In 2017, average cost of a wedding in the U.S. was $33,391, according to the Knot — and that’s not including the honeymoon. Want to get married in New York City? That average shoots up to a whopping $76,944. But it doesn’t have to be that much of a spend.
Here’s how you can plan your big day while saving some cash and staying, mostly, stress-free. Based on some back of the envelope math we managed to save nearly $10,000 by cutting down on transportation, having the ceremony and reception at the same location, nixing a video package and booking during the right time of year.
When to book
Wedding season usually runs from about April to October. And that makes sense. The weather is warm, so you don’t have to worry about snow hindering travel, and you get the added option of having your event outdoors. Who wouldn’t want to have a wedding then?
Anyone who wants to save money, that’s who. The cooler months tend to bring lower prices for venues — but if you’re going to be inside during your ceremony and reception, why not have it in the off season?
My wife and I got married during the first weekend in April, just before wedding season kicked off, and it saved us about $20 a plate. For a party with 150+ guests, that’s big.
If you really want to save some cash, have your wedding on a day that isn’t Saturday. Friday weddings are totally doable and can be far less expensive. Better still, try having your wedding the Sunday before a holiday, so you’ll still save, and your guests will have the next day off.
For the wedding party
You don’t want your closest friends and family members to break the bank for your wedding. So, instead of having the guys rent their suits, ask them to buy them. You can usually find great suits on sale for the same price as a rental, and they’ll have a new suit when it’s all over.
If you’ve got women in your wedding party, try to find a dress they can easily wear for another occasion. Don’t make them buy unflattering dresses they’ll never want to put on again.
As for wedding party gifts, check out sites like Etsy. We found personalized bottle openers with wooden handles, personalized tie clips, handbags and more for our party. Throw in tiny liquor bottles, and you’ve got some thankful friends.
Double up where you can
An easy way to keep from spending a fortune on your wedding is to double up. When it came to flowers, for example, my wife and I used the table centerpieces pieces to decorate the hall where we had our ceremony. During the cocktail hour, the florist simply moved them from the ceremony area to the reception hall, and no one was the wiser.
This one might sound odd, but for our wedding, our DJ pulled double duty as our minister. Not only did he give us a break on the fee to marry us, but he made the ceremony incredibly fun.
Finally, try to have your ceremony and reception at the same location. This can be tough to pull off, because you’ll need to find the right place. But it will help cut down on transportation costs for your guests, since they won’t have to travel from the ceremony to the reception.
If you’re going to a hotel after the party, ask if they offer complimentary shuttle service for large parties. That can make for some big savings.
What you don’t need
All of the videographers in the world are going to hate me for this, but I recommend not springing for a wedding video. Hire a great photographer, sure. Those photos are going to last a lifetime. But how often are you actually going to watch your wedding video? Once, twice, maybe three times? After then it’s back into the DVD cabinet.
Besides, chances are all of your friends and family are going to shoot videos and photos with their smartphones. I’d suggest setting up a cloud account where they can share everything they shoot with you later.
We happened to get lucky, because our DJ/minister threw in a video as a surprise on our wedding day. But we went in fully prepared to not have a video and were fine with it.
You don’t need a magnificent wedding cake, either. Think about it. How many weddings have you gone to where you’ve actually eaten the cake? I’m willing to guess none. Everyone is more interested in the pastries and cookies anyway. Our own cake was real, and our guests still stuck to the pastries.
Instead, you can get a stand-in cake that you can cut, then serve a sheet cake instead.
Take a deep breath
This tip isn’t going to save you much money, but it will save you some headaches. The fact is, no matter how much you want your wedding to be perfect, something is bound to go wrong. But, and this might be hard to believe, no one is going to notice except you and your significant other. Everyone else will be too busy eating, drinking and dancing to care that a bouquet is lopsided, or that the DJ played a song you asked him not to.
Just enjoy the day. And don’t forget to tip your bartender.
This story was originally published May 23, 2018 as “How to save almost $10,000 on your wedding.”