Top 30 Money-Saving Wedding Tips
Don't miss our ten-week series where you'll find 30 practical, money-saving wedding tips. You'll also find loads of resources and photos. Be sure to check back often!
- 1: Wedding Cake
- 2: Bridal Bouquet
- 3: Reception Tables
- 4: Reception Décor
- 5: Guest List
- 6: Wedding Planning
- 7: Centerpieces
- 8: Holidays
- 9: No Limo
- 10: Wedding Time
- 11: Simple Gown
- 12: Champagne
- 13: Wedding Location
- 14: Pom-Poms
- 15: Wedding Day
- 16: Off Season Wedding
- 17: Christmas Wedding
- 18: Hire Students for Music
- 19: Pre-Owned Gown
- 20: Decorate with Burlap
- 21: Place Card Favor
- 22: Free Location
- 23: Signature Cocktail
- 24: Help From Friends
- 25: Candles for Décor
- 26: Wedding Colors
- 27: Bridesmaids Dresses
- 28: Reception Music
- 29: DIY Centerpieces
- 30: Keep It All In Perspective
Read more . . . Read more . . . Read more . . .
Are you ready for money-saving tips 4, 5 and 6? Let's get started with the 2nd post in our series, 30 Ways to Have Your Dream Wedding. I'll share ideas for Wedding Reception Décor, Your Wedding Guest List and The Importance of a Wedding Planning System.
Ribbon can be incorporated in to your place settings in several ways: To "wrap" your plates, to decorate silverware in a buffet or as a substitute for napkin rings. When you dress up your place settings with ribbon, your tables will look inviting and have that "decorator look"; therefore, simple, inexpensive centerpieces will work well in this situation. (See Tip #3.)
The kind of ribbon you use will depend on the style of your reception. There are a lot of choices from rustic twine or burlap to grosgrain to shimmery satin ribbon and more!
As you can see in the photo below, wrapping satin ribbon around the dinner plate can take your place setting from average to sensational. This requires very little skill. Add an extra touch by cutting the ends of the ribbon in a "V", as shown. Video: "Cutting a V Shape in Your Ribbon".
If you are having a buffet at a rustic wedding, adding twine by itself or with a flower can add an inexpensive, yet special touch that makes your guests feel welcomed. This will set the tone for the entire reception buffet and allow you to save money on other dinner décor.
You can also use ribbon as a napkin ring by tying it around the dinner napkin. It's fine by itself, but you can also add a flower, greenery, or a sprig of rosemary, as shown below. Your guests will be so impressed with your creativity that they will not even notice other areas in which you may have cut corners.
Exclusively Weddings has a variety of ribbon, raffia, and burlap. Click here to see the selection.
If you have "rules" and apply them across the board, with no exceptions, you can generally keep people from having hurt feelings if they are not invited. They will see your decision as applied to all and not take it personally. It can be a huge cost savings to keep the list to a number you can manage, since you will likely be paying a caterer "per person". For example, having 100 wedding guests at $50 per person costs $5,000. If you have 150 guests, that figure jumps significantly to $7,500.
When compiling your guest list, of course, you will want to be sure to invite your close friends and family who you cannot imagine having a wedding without. Plus the list will include your bridal party and their spouses/significant others, the person officiating at your ceremony and his/her spouse/partner, people who were invited to your showers and parents of your flower girl and ring bearer. Those are the people on your "must-invite list".
Some categories below for you to consider yea or nay:
Dates: If you are on a budget, only invite "dates" if the couple is married, living together or engaged to be married. Any other "plus ones" should be omitted from the list.
Attendants' Dates: If you have several bridesmaids and your groom has several groomsmen, this could mean double digits of additional guests. I suggest following the same rule as above and only invite dates for attendants if they are engaged, living together or married.
Co-workers: Inviting coworkers can cause hurt feelings if you only invite some, so to save money and to save friendships, it may be best to leave all coworkers off the guest list.
Relatives: Consider limiting relatives to a particular generation, such as inviting those no farther down the family tree than first-cousins.
Children: Leave children off the guest list except, of course, any children of your own and those in the wedding party.
And if you haven't talked with a person on the list within the last year, you probably should cross them off, too. Make sure each and every invitee is someone you really want to be there.
When using a wedding planning system you can keep track of every wedding detail. You can avoid rush charges because you have ordered everything on time. You will know what questions to ask your vendors and will have a place to note exactly what price you were quoted, whether or not you have a signed contract yet, etc. There are just too many wedding details to keep track of them "manually".
Several years ago I created the Organized Bride planning system that is a top-seller at Exclusively Weddings. There are lots of wedding planning systems in the marketplace and whether you choose The Organized Bride or any of the others available, you'll more than cover your cost.
Chances are that you have not planned an event of this scope. You likely have not worked with bakers and florists and caterers before. Knowing what to ask and keeping track of your budget and expenses will go a long way in keeping your costs under control.
And after the wedding all of the details will be in one place as a memento of your special day to be cherished and shared for years to come.
Photo Sources: Wedding Chicks/Luna Photo; Decorating for Events; Style Me Pretty
The third post in our series of money-saving ideas includes adding fruit to wedding centerpieces for extra pizzazz, the benefits of an autumn wedding date, and using a friend's car instead of a limo.
And your guests will be so dazzled by the fruit embellishments that they won't even notice that you have used inexpensive flowers!
Mason jars, burlap, ribbon and budget-friendly daffodils create a unique centerpiece design, as seen below. The addition of lime slices cranks it up a notch to fabulous!
Apples are best used uncut. The large fruit helps anchor the flowers and creates a professional-looking centerpiece.
In this photo below, the lemons are not cut in thin slices but left rather "chunky". This provides a good base to support the flowers.
Sliced oranges and whole lemons added to a vase of low-cost daisies creates an impressive, colorful display!
[Photo Sources: Shutterstock, In Love With the Small Things, Elisa Cicinelli Photography, Our House]
In this post I will focus on fall weddings and all of the free and inexpensive elements available for decorating.
A few of the many free and low-cost items you can use to decorate for fall are:
- Multi-color fall leaves
- Pine cones
- Gourds and mini pumpkins
- Fall vegetables and fruit
- Dried corn or popcorn
- Dried wheat and/or cattails
As you can see in the photo of the autumn-inspired buffet below, seasonal flowers paired with pumpkins and pine cones creates a table that looks like it was created by a pro!
Pumpkins can be used as vases and as bowls. The use of pumpkins in creative ways will not only save money but will instantly add lots of pizzazz.
By adding lentils and acorns to a vase of seasonal flowers, you can create a custom "decorator" look for less.
Inexpensive popcorn and a seasonal leaf add a lot of style to a simple, white candle.
Want some bling ... just add glitter!
For a fall wedding you will have access to a large array of Halloween décor that would not be available during the rest of the year. And if you can shop after the holiday you will likely find some useful items at sale prices. One savvy bride we know bought stylish candelabras, shown below, on sale during the Halloween season for her November wedding.
There are so many more money-saving ideas for fall weddings that I didn't have room to put them all here! Our Pinterest board has a lot more.
[Photo Sources: Country Living, Corner Paint, Little Shamrocks, The Thrifty Crafter, HGTV, Amanda Jane Brown, Ken Kato Photography]
But if you use a limousine service you will have to commit to a minimum of three to five hours at $75+ an hour, depending on your location, type of car, etc. Also, during springtime with lots of weddings and proms, the price can rise considerably.
Taylor and Andrew made their getaway in a friend's restored Austin Healy.
[Photo Sources: Carl Butler of Keepsake Memories Photography and Agape Memories Photography]
Tips 10, 11, and 12 in the fourth post in our series will cover having the wedding at a non-meal time, so you can serve pick-up food instead of a full meal; choosing a simple wedding dress and pairing it with a "statement necklace"; and letting guests toast with whatever they are already drinking, instead of serving champagne.
There is really no end to the choices of finger food you can serve at your reception. One idea is to serve some items in shooters. This way you can control portions and it is a way to impress your guests with your creativity!
Most party rental companies have shot glasses available. You can also use plastic if you prefer. Check prices to see which is the best option for you. Plastic glasses can be purchased online for as little as $90 for 500.
Simple tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches are taken to "another level" when served in shooters!
Rather than paying a pro to create a fancy vegetable display, serve the veggies in shooters, with dressing included.
Sweets also work well in shooters.
Recipe for lemon meringue pie shooters.
Photo Credits: finefrostings.com, thevibeagency.com, honestcooking.com
When looking for a wedding gown with your budget in mind, try focusing your search on gowns that don't have a lot of elaborate lace and hand-sewn embellishments. A simple gown can be lovely and elegant and one way to give it some extra pizzazz is to pair it with a statement necklace.
And the necklace is a better use of your wedding budget because it is not just worn on the wedding day, but can be worn at other festive occasions for many years to come. It will likely hold sentimental value, since it will be a special reminder of your wedding day every time you wear it.
An alternative to purchasing a necklace is to see if your mother or a good friend has one they can loan you. It can then be your "something borrowed."
A statement necklace complements a simply styled gown very well and lends a sophisticated touch to your wedding ensemble. It may be an option you want to consider.
[Photo Source: Liz Seymour Photography and Matt Yung Photography]
When it is time for wedding toasts, your guests can toast with whatever they are drinking ... even water! You can save a considerable amount of money by not serving champagne to all guests for the wedding toasts.
Champagne and sparkling wine can vary in price from $9.00-$20 and more for a bottle. You can get about 6-10 servings per bottle, depending on the size of the glasses, so the savings can add up.
It's nice to go with tradition and have champagne and special toasting glasses for the bride and groom, but there is no need to do this for all your guests.
[Photo Source: Emily Takes Photos]
This fifth post in our series of cost-savings ideas focuses on, having the ceremony and reception in one location, using pom-poms for décor and having the wedding on a day other than Saturday
If you are renting chairs, you can save money by having a set up similar to that in the photo below. Use the chairs for the ceremony and move them to the reception afterward. This can only work well if you can move your guests to another room for cocktails while the chairs are being moved.
When you have your ceremony and reception at one one location you can save money in several ways. First, you will not need transportation from one site to the other. If you are renting a limousine this will allow for less time on the "limo clock". It will also be easier to use some of your wedding décor at the reception without having to hire someone to pack it up and transport it. And if you are renting the location you will have negotiation power since you will be renting for a longer period of time at one location rather than a short period at two.
We know one thrifty bride who used the bridesmaids' bouquets as reception centerpieces. The bridesmaids carried hand-tied tulip bouquets. The reception tables were pre-set with water-filled glass vases and when the ceremony was over the bridesmaids just added their tulips to the vases.
In general, everything will be easier to plan and execute if you have both the ceremony and reception at one location.
[Photo Sources: Project Wedding and My Wedding]
Making Pom-poms is an easy DIY project and with Pom-poms you won't need professional expertise for styling at your venue. There are so many ways to use them! They look great hanging from the ceiling or from tree branches and as aisle markers. Pom-poms are very versatile ... you are only limited by your imagination!
Pom-poms can be made for less than $3.00 each so you can get a lot of "bang for your buck" as the saying goes! Exclusively Weddings sells tissue in a choice of 22 colors. Instructions on how to make pom-poms.
Pom-poms can create a "wow effect" both indoors and out.
Pom-poms are placed in flower pots for lots of pizzazz! This entire display was created for about $20. If you'd like to make it, here is a link to a detailed tutorial: Cheap & Chic Centerpiece
Pom-poms are a colorful and inexpensive way to bring your wedding colors in to your wedding ceremony.
More ideas using Pom-poms:Pinterest - Lanterns and Pom-Poms
[Photo Sources: Louisville Wedding Blog, Love Laughter Decor Blog, Lauren Gossett Photography]
Most weddings are held on a Saturday, which means that wedding vendors are busy on that day and likely will charge top dollar for their services. But if you have your wedding on a Friday or Sunday (or other day of the week) you will have less competition for their services and will have a better chance of negotiating an attractive price. Before setting your date, meet with some vendors and discuss rates for Saturday vs. other days and if the difference in price is significant, then it may be worth it to have your wedding on another day.
Before making the final decision though, please be sure to check with some of your favorite wedding guests who live out of town and make sure they would have no problem attending. Also, check with your bridesmaids who might be coming from out of town and see if another day would work for them.
This week in our series, 30 Ways to Have Your Dream Wedding for Less, Part 6, I'll share ways to save by choosing a date during the "off season", having a Christmas wedding, and hiring students to provide the music at your ceremony.
Because there are fewer weddings during this period, wedding vendors will be much more likely to work with you on price. If you can do some research well in advance, you can make sure of what the off season dates are for the area of the country you live in, as it can vary a bit.
There are some common-sense considerations to think about, though. For example, if you've always wanted an outdoor wedding, whether or not this would be practical in late November will depend on what area of the country the wedding will be held in.
Also, you may find that during the Christmas season some wedding vendors are busy with Christmas parties and events; so if that is an issue with vendors you are considering, you may want to choose a date that is just outside the typical Christmas season.
If your December wedding will be held in a church, you will avoid having to spend any money on the décor because the church will already be decorated for Christmas. Check with your church to see when they plan to decorate before you finalize your date.
And you can save on decorations for your reception if you take advantage of the large amount of wintry and festive items that are available during the Christmas season. You may even have Christmas decorations from your own collection that you can use. Also, in many parts of the country you will have access to plenty of lovely natural items to decorate with such as pine cones, holly, and evergreen branches.
An example of how you can use Christmas tree ornaments in your reception décor is seen in the sparkly placecard holder below. I found a site that has easy-to-follow instructions to show you exactly how to make it.
Christmas Place Card Holder
Inexpensive ornaments can also be used to create place settings with pizzazz. Some added seasonal greenery completes the look.
Standard candy canes can be used in several ways. They are inexpensive and yet they can create an impressive wintry décor. Instructions on how to make the cute place card holder below:
With a winter wedding you can serve inexpensive comfort foods such as hot chocolate and create a lot of oohs and aahs if you make the presentation special as shown in the display below.
[Photo Sources: Sew Many Ways, Photobank, Sew Many Ways, Hostess with the Mostess]
Be sure to have them audition for you -- then you be the judge. And if you find the perfect person or group, have them sign a contract outlining the details of the gig. Don't rely on a handshake!
Before settling on the amount you will offer, get some prices for professional musicians and then offer about half the average amount to the student musicians.
[Photo Source: Style Me Pretty]
This week's tips include choosing a pre-owned wedding gown, using burlap in your ceremony and reception décor and having place card holders double as favors.
Your wedding gown can end up being a huge wedding expense, but you can save money if you consider wearing a pre-owned wedding gown. Sites such as Preowned Wedding Dresses and Once Wed have thousands of wedding dresses for you to choose from. In most cases, you can save 50% and more and some of the dresses have not even been worn; they are either samples or new dresses that are being sold due to cancelled weddings.
And if you have found an in-store gown you like, be sure to check the pre-owned sites, as your exact gown might be there at a fraction of the price.
Burlap is made from jute, a 100% natural fiber and it generally sells for less than $3 a yard. Online stores such as Save On Crafts have 10-yard rolls for $11. Burlap is considered to be the most affordable of the natural fibers.
I found the wonderful burlap wrap, shown below, at Save-on-Crafts for $14.99 for a set of 12. I love that the edges have been frayed for effect, but sewn to prevent unraveling. Just add ribbon, a standard jar and some cut flowers or branches and you will can have a centerpiece that looks like it was done by a pro at a price of $5 or less each.
Burlap also looks great when paired with lace. Since you need a small piece of burlap and an even smaller piece of lace, your budget still stays intact!
There are so many ways that burlap can be incorporated in to your wedding!
Our Burlap Ideas Pinterest board has lots more ideas for you.
[Photo Sources. Liane McCombs, Etsy, A Bryan Photo, Anna K. Photography, Candice Benjamin Photography, Kristyn Hogan, Melissa Munding, Sophia’s Sign Boutique, Haydon Photography, Jen Rodriguez Photography]
These "double-duty products" from Exclusively Weddings will add pizzazz to your reception tables and your guests will enjoy using them at home later.
If you were to rent a hall, hotel ballroom, etc. you likely would be required to use their catering department and other resources and would not be able to bring in your own food or beverages. You would probably be charged for them to slice and serve your wedding cake, as well.
So, if you are on a budget, think of your close friends and relatives who have homes or back yards that might be the perfect location for your wedding. This is not something to ask casual friends ... only those who you are very close to. Your own home or that of your parents might also be an option.
When you are "in control" of the location you will be able to provide the food yourself. You will be able to choose each of your vendors and negotiate prices for each. Yes, this will be more work for you but if you are on a budget, you will be able to get more "bang for your buck" this way.
[Photo: My Wedding]
An open bar can be a substantial expense at your wedding reception. If you plan to serve alcohol you may want to consider some cost-saving options to the open bar.
One possibility is to serve wine and beer but if you want to save money and still have a "wow" factor, think about having a signature cocktail instead.
With a signature cocktail, you can pre-mix the drinks so you can control the amount of alcohol used. Another advantage of pre-mixing the cocktail is you can use a less expensive brand of liquor. And of course, you won't need a bartender.
One way to serve the signature cocktail is to have a table set up with the main pre-mixed beverage and all of the extras that your guests might want to add. For example, a Bloody Mary bar will be a treat for your guests and relatively easy and inexpensive for you to set up.
You may want to include several kinds of hot sauce along with condiments such as lemon, lime, celery, olives and you can consider adding bacon and/or shrimp as well, depending on your budget. The two photos below show how it can be set up:
[Photo: Hello Love Blog]
[Photo: Squash Blossom Babies]
Some ideas for your signature cocktail are shown below along with links to the recipes. The glasses can be pre-decorated and guests can then pour their pre-mixed cocktails.
Recipe and Photo Source:
If you are having a summer wedding, it might be fun to have a watermelon cocktail as your signature drink. Everyone loves watermelon! (Links to recipes are provided below)
Recipe and Photo Source:
Row 3: Watermelon Keg
More Signature Cocktail ideas on our Pinterest Board: Wedding Cocktails
To get started, write down each task that you need help with and then think of who might be able to help you. For example, if you have a friend who is the "hostess with the mostest", get her help with planning the reception menu. And if you have a relative who has a knack for finding the best bargains, see if she will come with you to shop for reception accessories. Enlist the help of your "crafty" friend to help you determine which items you can DIY.
Once your perfect wedding day is over, be sure to thank those who helped you by getting them a little thank-you gift and writing a heartfelt thank-you note.
With candles, you can add a lot of ambiance to your reception décor without putting a big dent in your budget. There are sites that sell candles in bulk for very reasonable prices. For example, Candles4Less sells 72 glass votive holders in a variety of colors, for around $40, with candles included. They can be used on your dinner tables, buffet tables, dessert tables, etc. That $40 will go a long way to adding romance and pizzazz to your venue.
Floating candles and bowls can be paired with votives, as shown below, if your budget allows. These are also sold online in bulk. Each bowl with three floating candles costs around $10, depending on the size and number of candles.
You may also want to consider using wine bottles as candle holders. You can use plain wine bottles or you can decorate them with paint and embellishments. Check with local restaurants as they are likely to let you recycle their bottles at no charge.
A little ribbon and wrapping paper can add a decorator touch to simple bottles.
Mason Jars can also be used to hold candles. Consider Epsom salt, either plain or with color added, for a special touch.
[Photo Sources: Wedding Goal, Style Me Pretty, The Inspired Room]
Before finalizing your wedding color, take the time to search online for some of the items you plan to buy. If you don't see many choices in the color you are considering, you might want to select another color instead.
Just this week, we had one of our Facebook fans ask if we had any suggestions on where she could find wedding accessories in her (uncommon) color because she was having a really hard time finding anything.
If there is an unusual color that you absolutely love and want included in your wedding, perhaps you can use it as an accent in some way instead of as your main color.
Having a main wedding color that offers you lots of opportunities to easily find accessories will make your wedding planning easier and will allow you to take advantage of a large variety of shopping options and sales.
There are also lots of great sources online that will save you a bundle. One of our favorites is Simply Bridal.com. They offer hundreds of Bridesmaids dresses and all of them are under $100.
Both dresses in the photos below were purchased at Dillard's department store on sale. The one in the bottom photo was about $50 and the bride bought a dress, too, and made the flower girls' sashes and the ring bearer's tie out of it. And in both cases, these are dresses the bridesmaids definitely wouldn't mind wearing again!
[Photo Credits: Jen & Chris Creed Photographers and Liz Seymour Photography]
Music App: One suggestion is to handle the music yourself by using your music library with a wedding music app.
Below is a screen print and details from a popular iTunes app called My Wedding DJ that has useful features including helping you plan the music, removing pauses between songs and more!
Besides buying the app (most are under $5.00), you will need really good speakers and a microphone, which you can rent or perhaps borrow from a friend, unless you own these items. Having powerful speakers is important because the music needs to be loud enough to fill the room.
Even if you have the music taken care of, the reception will need someone to get the party going. Think of who among your friends and relatives might be willing to take the mic now and then to encourage your guests to get on the dance floor. Enlist the help of the best man and/or maid of honor to introduce those who want to do toasts.
Part-Time DJ: There is no doubt that a DJ can keep the party going and make things easy for you. If providing the music yourself is an option you'd rather avoid, you could use the music app for the cocktail hour and part of the reception and then have a DJ come in later. You can shave time off their bill this way.
College Student DJ: Also, if there is a college music station in your town, see if one of the DJs would be available to handle the music at your reception. It is likely that the price would be considerably lower than you would pay a professional.
As you are making the decision on which option you prefer, take some time to think about the pros and cons of each option. For example, if your wedding is in the evening and your venue has a large dance floor, then it may be worth it to cut another element in your budget to allow for a DJ. However, if your wedding is during the day at an outdoor venue then dancing may not be as important and options to having a DJ might work very well for you.
One idea that is relatively easy to do and is very budget-friendly is to paint glass bottles or vases to fill with flowers. Thrift-shop vases can typically be purchased for under $1.00 each and when sprayed with paint they can create lovely and inexpensive centerpieces.
The photo below shows thrift-store glass vases and containers that have been painted with matte black spray paint. Here's a link to details of how this look was created: Painted Glass Vases.
Both the "Before" and "After" photos are included below:
And you don't really have to use actual vases. You can use everyday bottles. Start collecting them well before the wedding date and before you know it, you will have a nice collection to work with. Here's a link on how the bottle below was painted. Painted Bottle Vases
The wine bottles below are painted and trimmed with lace. You should be able to get empty wine bottles free from most restaurants. Detailed step-by-step instructions.
When painted with chalkboard paint, glass containers can be used both as table numbers and centerpieces. Detailed instructions.
We have more ideas on our DIY Wedding Centerpieces Pinterest board.
This last tip has a simple message: When you are planning your budget, think about what really is important and realize that what will make your wedding truly memorable is having those you love sharing this day with you. Think about your budget and how much you can really afford. You certainly don't want to be paying off your wedding credit cards for years to come. Having the wedding you can afford will help get your married life together off to a good start.
Ali, one of the team members at Exclusively Weddings was invited to write a blog post for Huff Post Weddings last year when she was engaged. Her post might help you put things in perspective. The Pressure to Have a Unique Wedding.
The quote below, taken from Ali's post, is one that we suggest you keep in mind as you plan your big day.
An elaborate and expensive venue, opulent decorations and exotic food will not be what your guests will remember when they think back on your wedding. They will remember a beaming and happy bride and the love that radiated between you and your groom. They will remember the honor and pleasure of sharing the most important day of your life with the two of you. Being with those you love and adore and sharing your special day with them will be what will stay in your heart long after your wedding day is over.