Ask the Readers: 2014 wedding planning: What can you do to save money?

One of  my colleagues just got engaged to his longtime girlfriend, and they've planned their wedding in record time, in my mind: a November 2014 date.

They're trying to pay for as much of the wedding themselves, instead of asking parents to pay for it, without going into any debt.

They've booked a great Jersey Shore location on the beach, chosen menus, flowers. My colleague still has to talk to DJs for music and pricing; apparently DJs have a price menu for every extra beyond playing music (first dance request, bride/father dance request). They are trying to do this in the most cost-efficient way possible and still have a wonderful, memorable wedding.

The average cost of a wedding in the U.S. in 2012, according to The Knot and The Wedding Channel, was more than $28,000! That's insane! That's a down payment on the median-price home in most cities! The median-price home in the U.S. in September, according to the National Association of Realtors, was $199,200.

Yes, a wedding is a once-in-a-lifetime event (except that 40 to 50 percent of marriages end in divorce, according to the Census Bureau — but we don't think about that stat when we get married). And  we know the usual saver advice for couples planning a wedding — having a wedding in a non-peak (May, June, October) month at a non-peak time (Saturday afternoon/evening) are huge savers. But what hidden secrets will save couples money when they are planning their wedding?

Can you help my colleague out with some budgeting advice for a wedding? What wedding planning tips do you have for engaged couples? How can they maximize their dollars when planning their wedding? (And yes, destination weddings that cost their guests hundreds of dollars are not an option. I just did one of those.)

And as a little bit of a throwback, for several years we hosted a video contest – a lot of work, but some great submissions. Our 2010 winner of the Success Stories category was Jessica, who described how she has No Regrets for delaying her honeymoon until she and her husband could pay cash for it. This particular option is not for everyone, but in a nutshell is what the Get Rich Slowly philosophy is all about: Making short-term sacrifices for long-term happiness.

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Mrs. PoP
Mrs. PoP

Elope! We paid <1% of the "average" wedding costs to get married on a boat while we were on vacation. It was perfect and intimate and we (literally) sailed off into the sunset afterwards.
Then have a backyard belated wedding/housewarming party after you've purchased your first home with a down payment that most people would have spent on a wedding.

Money Saving
Money Saving

This is pretty good advice 🙂

Honey Smith
Honey Smith

Most people I know eloped before their wedding, anyway, and still wanted one because they felt it was important (for a variety of reasons).

Mark Wang
Mark Wang

More and more people I know are warming up to this idea and I love it. Esp. when I read horror stories of how people take out debt to get married. Anyone who truly cares for the couple getting married will truly appreciate what they have done to cut down the expenses and take a big leap in managing their personal finances.

Matt YLBody
Matt YLBody

I don’t know how I feel about the idea of eloping. It’s a great way to not spend money. But for some people having a gorgeous wedding/ceremony is important to them. It was for my wife and I. We spent $20k on our wedding without any debt. It was an amazing wedding, open bar, right on the water. Some people here might think that’s a stupid waste of money and better off spent paying off debt or using it to save for a house but eh – I have one awesome memory.

J in CO
J in CO

The best advice I received was to focus on what was important, and direct your resources there. We wanted our guests to have a great time and to eat well, so we paid more attention to food and drinks. I didn’t obsess over flowers or decor. I went with what was in season and went very minimal on decor, and it turned out beautiful anyway. Our wedding was around $12k, for 75 people. We did a Saturday brunch, with several types of food (omelet chef, roasted meats, crepes, etc.) and mimosas and selected wines and beers. Our guests loved it,… Read more »

Steve H
Steve H

I proposed to my girlfriend in August and we’re planning a wedding for early 2015. We’ve arranged to meet with some DJs over the next few weeks and have already met with a photographer. I really suggest getting “all-inclusive” quotes (including any taxes and fees) from as many vendors as you can, as it makes budgeting much easier. The contract stipulates exactly what you get. We’re shooting for $10,000 for 120 guests and are well on our way to hitting that goal. Some suggestions: – Some vendors have discounts for Saturday afternoons. One of our possible DJs is $200 cheaper… Read more »

imelda
imelda

Wow. I don’t even know 120 people.

Jane
Jane

I don’t consider this an unusual number at all. We invited over 200 and at least 120 came. Family alone can equal at least 50-75 of that number, especially if you have a large or a close family. Plus we ended up inviting a lot of the close friends of my husband’s parents, even though I didn’t know them at all. At the time it annoyed me somewhat, but in hindsight it was the right thing to do. These were people that had been involved in their lives, and we still run into them fairly frequently.

cathleen
cathleen

We had 340. Yikes.

Both my husband and I grew up and still live in the Bay Area and invited all family. (Mom youngest of 8, dad youngest of 9)

It was all family or none 🙂

And we only had 5 regrets!

25 years ago and still fresh in my memory 🙂

Ann
Ann

I don’t think 120 is unreasonable at all, especially if you invite both sides of the family plus family and close work colleagues. If the bride and groom both invite 20 family members, 20 friends, and 10 colleagues you’re at 100 guests, and that’s a pretty limited friends list when you consider people often come as couples.

Sarah
Sarah

I am unbelievably jealous of your wedding date–being a bit of a nerd, I really wanted to have a pi day wedding, but my fiance didn’t want to wait that long to get married.

Money Saving
Money Saving

It sounds too expensive already… A Jersey Shore beach location with menus? My wife and I got married in the church and had our reception next door in the gym. We served food buffet style and her brother cooked everything. We had a nice cake made by Ukrops (local supermarket), she bought her dress on clearance, we booked a just starting photographer to get super rates, and we found a very modestly priced DJ for 4 hours of songs. It was a great time – the people made it fun, not all the expensive crap. Not sure if you’re married… Read more »

Mike B.
Mike B.

Amen to all of the above. Also, aligning with the off-peak date advice, go off-peak time. If your reception falls at lunch or dinner time, you’ll be expected to provide a full meal. We timed it so the reception fell in the early afternoon, neither lunch nor dinner, and served deli sandwich fixings. Alcohol also drives the price up. If you have an open bar, you’ll pay through the nose. Certain people find a guest-paid bar to be tacky, so we simply said one glass of champagne per guest, no other alcohol, and all the soft drinks they could drink… Read more »

cathleen
cathleen

Yikes.
I cannot imagine going to a wedding and being cut off at one glass of champagne.
Sorry.

Waverly
Waverly

Agreed. I have been to so many uber-religious “no booze allowed” weddings. What I remember about ALL of them is that the people who attended who would have liked to have some drinks and complained the entire time.

No thanks!

Marsha
Marsha

I think it’s sad that some people can’t enjoy an event without alcohol. Do you go to weddings for the free booze?

Waverly
Waverly

Reply to Marsha:

No, I don’t go to weddings for free booze. I go to weddings to celebrate people I love. BUT.
Weddings are social occasions and alcohol is a social lubricant. At the non-boozing weddings I’ve been to, there was still plenty of socializing, but the people who wanted to have some drinks weren’t as pleased to be there as the non-boozers. A wedding is a party, after all. What’s wrong with booze at a party?

Daniel
Daniel

It’s not that you can’t have fun without alcohol, it’s just that alcohol makes it that much more fun that I can’t imagine not having it. As for attending the weddings for the free booze? No, because you have to buy a gift, so it’s not necessarily free. You attend weddings for the friends, the family, the couple. The open bar though is the icing on the cake 😉

cathleen
cathleen

re: Marsha

There are two separate issues.
One is a dry wedding reception. Fine.

The other is offering one glass of champagne and then cutting people off. That is the opposite of hospitality.

Would you invite someone to your home for dinner and then cut them off after a glass of wine or a dinner roll? Of course not.

Which is why “cash bars” and having people pay to attend your reception are considered “improper”. But to each his own.

Riki
Riki

Cash bars are an interesting topic. Where I live in Canada, they are totally normal and nobody bats an eye. In larger cities this is definitely not the case but overall it’s very cultural.

(FTR, I’m a wedding photographer and I go to a LOT of weddings).

Beth
Beth

I think it depends on the venue. When my friends got married, the venue said that for a cash bar there had to be at least $3000 is sales or the bride and groom had to pay the difference.

They ended up going with an open bar and came out ahead.

Mrs. PoP
Mrs. PoP

Off peak days and times are great for saving on the venue, but please realize that by making friends and family members take more time off work (if they need to travel on Thursday to attend a Friday wedding, for instance…), you’re really passing some of those costs onto them. So please be considerate of that, especially if the guests that need to travel are early in their careers and might not have many (if any) paid vacation days. Off peak days and times work best when most people are local so as to avoid extra work-days off for travel.

Beth
Beth

In my experience, the size/grandeur of the wedding has nothing to do with the happiness or length of the marriage. I think people sometimes forget that 😉 I’m not married yet, but the weddings I was involved with the couples decided to “choose their battles”. One couple wanted to spend more on a photographer and didn’t care that much about flowers, for example. Another bride found a great deal on her dress to keep costs down. One couple I know had a small wedding so they could spend more on the honeymoon. Figure out what’s most important to you and… Read more »

Jessica w
Jessica w

I totally agree, while being a poor college student, it is awesome to be invited to be in the wedding party, but once you find out you have to find your own transportation, lodging, and food for all non wedding events 5 states away that gets pretty pricey. Not to mention getting the 100-200 dress and shoes they want as well as using their expensive hair dresser before the wedding. We had a cheap wedding, I wrote about below, and if we had, had bridesmaids/groomsmen we would have at least paid for their tuxes and dresses and gotten them a… Read more »

Jeff
Jeff

Yes, pay for the dresses and tux rentals. My girlfriend had a bad experience where she was asked to be a bridesmaid: not only did the bride call off the wedding just after the bridesmaids had gotten their dresses but also the dresses couldn’t be returned so they couldn’t get their money back. As you can guess that bride lost a few friends over that.

Carla
Carla

I had my sister pick our her dress, I did “approve” it but it was her dress to wear and her dress to keep. Problem solved, LOL.

Tina in NJ
Tina in NJ

The most memorable part of my wedding was the way we included our son, then 4, in the wedding. At a cousin’s wedding, a friend of theirs was Native American. His wedding present to the couple was a ritual blessing. Her brother and his wife sang a special song during the ceremony. Every magazine and website will tell you what every wedding needs. What makes a wedding memorable are the things that are unique to that particular event. And the best of those don’t cost a lot, or anything.

Sam
Sam

It totally depends on the type of event you want to have. It is hard to save money if you want to have a live band, open bar, great food, a wonderful location, etc. You can certainly have trade offs, like we scrapped the cake and had minimal decorations (b/c we already had a beautiful outdoor location that did not need decoration) but then we spent that money on the band, booze and food. While there may be no difference between the marriage outcome of a low budget vs. high budget wedding there is certainly a difference in the experience… Read more »

Mary
Mary

A lot of money can be saved on flowers by buying from a local grocery store instead of a florist. Also consider using “green” as the wedding color– green plants are much cheaper than flowers.

GC
GC

As someone who got married this year and eloping wasn’t an option, I saved money by: 1) Having the ceremony and reception at an untraditional location-a historical house that was converted to a small performing arts center. My venue cost was 1/3 to 1/2 of what the traditional places costed for a Saturday evening event. My SIL was married at her parent’s private HOA community clubhouse, which was also a great price. You do have to read the fine print and ask a lot of questions at any location. 2) Since our venue didn’t care which vendors we used, we… Read more »

Jessica w
Jessica w

We got married in 2008, but our wedding was a total of $3200. Half of that was the photographer. Our location was a historical site, and we rented it for a shorter time since we knew the wedding itself would be cheaper, and had our friends actually book it. They were part of the historical society so it only cost us $200, also weddings held on Fridays or during the week tend to be cheaper. We printed and and designed our own invitations, and everyone called and asked where we bought them they looked really good! We just found a… Read more »

Jessica w
Jessica w

I also meant to say that we had a lunch reception so alcohol wasn’t expected, and the church we were having it in didn’t allow it anyway.

Brian@ Debt Discipline
[email protected] Debt Discipline

If they have already booked the venue with food and flowers I’m not sure where the opportunity will be to save to much $ will be.

Beth
Beth

Agreed. They might be able save some money on the invitations and decorations, though, as well as what they’ll wear.

I agree with what everyone else stated – find out what’s important, then spend your money there. If you want nice photographs, then get a great photographer.

Also, don’t “hire” relatives or friends to do work for you, especially if they offer to do it for free. You get what you pay for!

Beth
Beth

Apparently there are two of us Beths 🙂

I agree you have to be careful hiring friends or family. It’s a business relationship, and needs to be treated as such. That being said, I’ve seen some some great instances of people contributing their talents to a wedding. It would be a shame to have missed out on that.

Jon
Jon

Perhaps it’s a family tradition, but we relied on the kindness of family, friends, and church family in our own wedding, and in the weddings of our children some decades later. An old friend of ours was a pastor, and we got a great deal to use his church and have him officiate and his wife played the organ. My mother and her friend made artificial flowers for decoration. My wife’s mother sewed her wedding dress, and her sister did the calligraphy on the invitations and took the photos. There was a brief reception at the church with cake and… Read more »

smirktastic
smirktastic

Number one most important thing – do NOT watch any of those annoying bridal reality shows (Say Yes to the Dress, I’m looking at you). Focus on what matters, spend on what’s important, skip what doesn’t. That includes favors. Nobody cares and most of those almond thingys will end up in the trash. And, as others have said, don’t overlook the DIY factor and helpful/talented friends and relatives. Most of them are happy to help, all you have to do is ask.

All the best to the happy couple for a long and wonderful life together!

Malcom
Malcom

My family wanted a cash bar and my MIL wanted an open bar. We compromised and had 2 bottles of wine on the table (red and white) and limited the rest of the alcohol to 100 beers and 100 martinis. (We had a 40s style wedding). This saved us a lot of money. No one seemed to miss a large selection of alcohol.

Page
Page

My husband and I had our wedding last December for just around 4k. We had A LOT of help from family as far as food and decor goes. We just did finger foods and fixed them all ourselves and only used decorations that were already in the family. I also ordered flowers online and my sister and I made all the bouquets ourselves. One thing I don’t recommend doing is going cheap on is either a photographer or a videographer. Invest in a professional so you can enjoy those pictures or videos the rest of your lives. It is worth… Read more »

Caitlyn
Caitlyn

Think outside of the box. Instead of getting catering (all of whose quotes were outside of our budget), we decided to hire a food truck. People will love it or hate it, but we’ll still be in our budget!

Also, make compromises: we’re having a professional photographer capture the ceremony, but not the reception – friends and family will be doing that.

We should be right on target for our $5000 budget – but I can report back on that in 3 weeks!

Priswell
Priswell

Very Interesting! I like this idea.

Rena
Rena

Oooh … food truck. I didn’t even think of that, and Seattle has a *ton* of great options!

Other awesome Seattle ideas:

Pike Place Market on the day of (or day before) for awesome, inexpensive flowers.

You can get married on a WSDOT Ferry for just the price of a ferry ride/person (currently $8 per adult, $4 per senior/child), and have incredible views of the city and the mountains behind you.

Cheryl
Cheryl

You can save a lot in terms of your choices with the flowers. We did bouquets and boutonnieres, but skipped on centerpieces. That can add up to $1,000 (or more) fast. Also choose flowers that are in season. If you pick daffodils (a spring flower) for a November wedding…you are going to pay a premium for forced bulbs being grown in a greenhouse. I also saved a bunch enlisting the help of family members and bridesmaids to make my own favors, centerpieces, placecards, etc. We also had a friend marry us and another friend play the music at the ceremony.… Read more »

Kali @ CommonSenseMillennial
Kali @ CommonSenseMillennial

The best way to save is to keep the guest list low and don’t worry about showing off to other people. If at the end of the day, two people who love each other and are devoted to spending their lives together are married, then your wedding was a success. Everything else is just extra – so don’t get bogged down in thinking you have to spend to have this or that.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo

YMMV, but we got married in the courthouse for the price of the marriage license plus cab fare. Almost 10 years and going strong, plus another 19 months of prior shacking up.

At first my wife missed not having had a wedding, and there were plans and talks of re-weddings at some future date, but after she witnessed some family wedding catastrophes she became very happy she dodged a bullet and all future plans have been cancelled. Ha!

Kelly
Kelly

Obviously the easiest ways to save money are by doing non-peak days/seasons and cutting your guestlist, and if you don’t do those things then frugal folks will judge you immediately. I have about 100 people in my family, just counting grandparents, aunts/uncles, and cousins, and they all live in town and are close to my husband and I. By the time we included his family and our friends, the guest list ballooned, but we made sacrifices elsewhere to still be surrounded by the people we loved on our special day. We did lots of small things to save money, and… Read more »

Kristen
Kristen

Wait, what DJs are they looking at that nitpick prices like that? I’ve NEVER heard of that before! They need to find some more people to interview. We’ve been to weddings in something like 10 states now, all close friends that we talked wedding prices with, and no one has ever mentioned something like that. We got married and the DJ billed per hour! That makes so much more sense to me.

Miss Growing Green
Miss Growing Green

We got married last year and paid wayyy less than the “average” wedding costs. Here are some tips 1) Consider the venue- we got married at St. A;bans Chapel in the Snowy Range, Mtns., Wyoming. It’s basically just an outdoor alter with seats, and was $75 to rent for half the day. Since we had beautiful mountain scenery surrounding us, the venue, decorations, and seating we already taken care of for $75. 2) Invite less people. Not that many people REALLY want to go to your wedding. In fact, most people find it a burden to have to fly out… Read more »

Ruth
Ruth

Some great advice above. I got married in March 2013 for under $2500, with a very nice buffet and open bar. We did not have family or friends help, except for a friend was our dj for $100.00 We cared about a nice cake and spent $10 at Micheals on a cake decorating course and $40 on nice pans. We spend about $50 on ingredients and made our own 8 (buttercream frosting with yellow cake, and raspberry jam inbetween) layer cake, 5 layer (chocolate amaretto) grooms cake, and 4 layer gluten free vegan, sugar free cake. It took a lot… Read more »

mike
mike

It all depends what you want. We kept ours to around 4k by a couple things:

-Inexpensive nice Dress at Jessica Mclintock $150
-only 1 person standing for each
-Reception for the 50 most important people in our life at a room at historic restaurant in a romantic historic part of town by the water
-open bar for 1st 2 hours, most people left by the third hour ,
-string duet for music for ceremony and first 2 hours $250
-Basic flowers only and table settings handmade,

Karla
Karla

Got married 31 years ago…you know, I don’t remember much about that day. But in the last 31 years…OMG the memories.

We, like others, didn’t spend a lot and our friends and family gifted us some of the important bits and pieces (like paying for the license itself) At the end of the day, that’s the part that I remember.

A budget now? I’m with the others…if you have to have family, make it simple and about the people. Otherwise, small, small celebration (elope if your religion allows it)

Make it about the people.

Honey Smith
Honey Smith

When I see the $28K stat I wonder, does that include rings? My engagement ring and the stones in my wedding band are CZ and the bands are white gold, so they were pretty inexpensive. My husband’s ring is also white gold and was very affordable. My dress was $110 because the store was closing (though I think it was $150 more or so for tailoring).Get the most comfortable shoes you can, I was practically in tears by the end of the day my feet hurt so bad. No one really sees the bride’s shoes anyway. I think considering not… Read more »

Apple Baroo
Apple Baroo

I’m not sure why people think that they need more than a year to plan a wedding. I just got engaged in September of this year and am getting married at the end of December. Venue, photographer, flowers and dj were all booked within the first few weeks. We’re getting married on a Sunday evening – Dec. 22nd – so not only do we have the entire venue to ourselves (it’s considered an off-season date) but all of the vendors gave us some kind of discount. It seems to me that the more time you give yourself to think about… Read more »

Babs
Babs

We got engaged in August and married in December on a Saturday at noon because that is when the Polka band I wanted was available. A good thing too because the temperature dropped to 15 below that night. The polka band was great fun!

Kelly
Kelly

Engaged in December, married the following July. ITA long engagements = more troubles. Ours was at the local conservation club, married outside next to a stream. Cost abut $200 to rent, would have been half had we been members. (this was 16 years ago). My parent’s friends helped SOOOO much – decorating, setting up, grilling. We had a potluck-style reception. Not something for most people and I’d probably do that differently, but I’ve heard from multiple people that our wedding was one of the most fun and memorable because it was relaxing and like a backyard BBQ. I only had… Read more »

Courtney H.
Courtney H.

We had our wedding at a church and the reception in the church hall. Food is expensive so we just had a BBQ buffet catered by a local restaurant for $7.95/person!! Food was less than $1000 total and all of the guests really enjoyed it.

partgypsy
partgypsy

We eloped so I’m not sure how much it cost. We had a small gathering at our house after being married (less than $100, said no gifts), and then my father had a small reception for just the immediate family when I visited. the only thing I regret, is I only had a disposable camera for the actual wedding, and the pictures came out distorted so I don’t have great photos of the actual day. In retrospect I would have recruited someone with a good camera and good skills (like my sister, who was in another state) to be there,… Read more »

Eliza
Eliza

I know not everyone will like the ideas I suggest. I will also say that I have been married twice; my first wedding was large and more traditional/expensive, and ended in divorce 7 years later. Which made it far easier for me to be very frugal the second time around (I had no illusions, fantasies, and I had 3 young children at that point). My second wedding was perfect and cost $2,000 about 10 years ago, including my dress, the rings, the flowers, the fee for the minister, the invitations, the photos, the music, the food and the rehearsal dinner.… Read more »

CW
CW

We got married 6 months ago. My biggest piece of advise, which others have already mentioned, is to focus on what’s important to you and prioritize this in your budget. Our church service and the musical accompaniment was important to us, so we paid accordingly. Our church fee was $1000 and the choir $500, but we sing in that choir and met in that church, so it was important to us to get married there, with the choir singing. My dress? Not as important. I bought a sample dress in-store for $299 that was exactly what I wanted. My sister’s… Read more »

Eric
Eric

Remember that if you doing things to impress people you are going to have to spend a lot of money to impress some people. Your true friends are going to be happy for you. Keep it simple and special. I have a wonderful wife that didn’t NEED a whole lot to make our wedding a wonderful event. She worked with one of the ladies at Hobby Lobby (flower department) to buy artificial flowers when they were on sale – and she and this lady put together all our flower arrangements, her flowers, and our boutonnieres. She had another friend do… Read more »

Tara Murphy
Tara Murphy

I just got married last year I had a beautiful ceremony and reception for over 100 people for $5000. The most important thing we did was to find a venue where we could control the food and alcohol. A friend sponsored us to use the clubhouse at her gated community which was beautiful and only cost us $150.00. We negotiated with our own caterer and had a lovely buffet dinner, we bought all the alcohol ourselves on sale and then hired a bartender off craigslist. We also found a photographer from craigslist who was very inexpensive and did a great… Read more »

Ali
Ali

Just got married this June! Here are my “pro” tips … – Sam’s Club and Costco sell flowers in bulk – they are beautiful, and totally cut the floral budget by 3/4 what we would have paid with even a “cheap” florist. – CRAIGSLIST and Ebay should be your #1 and #2 for anything and everything. You don’t need to buy new all of the decor and accessories. I can’t even calculate how much I saved on centerpieces and they looked exactly like the ones I saw in a magazine and loved. – On that note – SELL everything you… Read more »

zoranian
zoranian

Think about what you really want from a wedding. If your priority is having a huge party to show all your friends and family how much money you have and that you are “better than them” then yes you will spend a fortune. If your priority is to have a great time and not really care about what other people think about how much money you have, then do the following: – plan for an afternoon wedding. We had our wedding at 1:30pm and provided some finger foods at the reception for about $5-7 a guest (rather than $15+++ for… Read more »

Amanda
Amanda

I’ve some friends who had a fridge magnet that said “The cost of the wedding is inversely proportional to the longevity of the marriage.” Their marriage is closing in on the 40 year mark. 29 years ago, my husband and I were newly minted college grads and utterly broke. We spent a bit over $300 – and that included the license. We bought no flowers – it was a lovely church, needed no decoration. It was a mid-morning wedding, and I hated all the dresses I saw in the shops, so my Mom and I made my dress, and my… Read more »

SwampWoman
SwampWoman

We had a small ceremony in the Army chapel where we were stationed. We had no family there, just a battalion of friends (grin) to make sure neither one of us chickened out. Thirty six years later, we wouldn’t change a thing.

Tami
Tami

A couple ideas we used to save on our wedding: -Utilize friends and family wherever possible. Saves money and makes it more special to have them involved. They also may have great connections! My in-laws were able to reserve their golf club for a nominal fee. My husband’s aunt made our cake. The photography teacher at his school was delighted to photograph us (also let us use his discount to have the photos developed). -I made the invitations myself with a laser printer and some beautiful handmade paper. -The church ladies’ group did the flowers for us and enabled us… Read more »

Tami
Tami

Shoes were one of the best decisions I made. I went with a pair of silver ballet flats I picked up for $10. They were super comfortable the whole day and I’ve been able to wear them again many times since.

Lizzie T.
Lizzie T.

The best piece of advice I can give is to decide what is really really important to you, spend money on that, and forget all the rest. It was really really important to us to feed our families really good meals; food is very important to us. So we had a fairly lavish (yet pretty cheap) rehearsal dinner at our favorite Lebanese restaurant, and had the reception at the restaurant where we had our first date and got engaged. The cake was from a fancy French pastry shop and everyone said it was the best wedding cake they ever ate.… Read more »

Jess
Jess

Wow, Saturday evening is NOT considered an “off-peak” day… I’d say it’s the peak day of the week! And May, June, and October are also the peak months here in New England – where is your friend based that a Saturday in June is off-peak??? My husband and I got married on a Friday in October, which cut our venue cost significantly – but not as much as if we’d chosen a Sunday or weekday. (We chose the particular date because it was our anniversary.) We spent on what was important to us: good food, good company, and an open… Read more »

Jess
Jess

Wow, I kept remembering things as I read the comments! My brother’s gift to us was designing and printing the invitations (he was a printmaking major in college) – we helped with some of the manual labor, but it was his first big project. Also, our photog’s price included engagement photos, so no extra money there (although I think those are becoming more popular these days). DH’s sister addressed the invites for us, and we used The Knot’s online RSVP system to track who was coming instead of including stamped response cards.

Ely
Ely

I think ours cost < $5k and that's including FIL's splurge on food and flowers. Ours was the first proper wedding for any of our parents' kids – BIL & SIL eloped & quickly divorced, & neither of my sibs had married yet – so it was a treat for his mom & my grandmother to have an actual wedding to go to. My in-laws hosted the event at their house; we had 20 guests; friends and family offered photography, videography, and officiating services. We received wine and champagne as a gift from my husband's work associates. My non-traditional dress… Read more »

Becky @ RunFunDone
Becky @ RunFunDone

I had my dream wedding for $5000. We got married on a beautiful private beach, and it was great! I’d say that location is one of the easiest ways to make or break your budget. We got married at a resort during the off season, which meant venue cost was 50% off. Then, the resort we chose didn’t have catering, so we saved a lot of money by being able to shop around for lower-cost caterers. Also, because the resort didn’t supply catering and we didn’t ask our caterers to serve any drinks, we were able to buy alcohol at… Read more »

Dayiz
Dayiz

1. Sit down with your fiance/ee and write down a mission statement or a list of values you want your wedding to convey. This will help you prioritize what’s important if you get caught up in the frenzy. For DH and I, we wanted our wedding to reflect our covenant to God and we wanted it to be our first act of hospitality to our community as husband and wife. So everything we chose from that point on was informed by those ideas. 2. Put 10% of your wedding budget in a savings account and vow to not spend it… Read more »

k-ro
k-ro

One of the things that helped me budgetwise was a wedding planner. I know it sounds like an extravagance, but the one I hired helped me immeasurably in finding vendors, doing an initial rejection based on what I was wanting, checking their references. And her knowledge of the industry and wedding etiquette saved me a lot of time and headache. She was able to advise if a vendor’s price was reasonable or unreasonable, and to make sure contracts stipulated things that I wouldn’t have thought of (but would have learned to my disappointment at some point down the road!) I… Read more »

Sam
Sam

I agree, my wedding planner saved me tons of money because planners have close relationships with vendors and vendors often give discounts to planners that they don’t give to the public.

The money I spent on a planner was some of the best money I spent.

Jerryaki
Jerryaki

As others have pointed out here, when there’s a budget it’s important for the engaged couple to pick out what’s important to them and focus their resources on that. However, that’s really got to be balanced with the experience that they are giving their guests (a.k.a. please at least feed them well). I attended a wedding once where the couple clearly was on a budget (fine) so they had the groom’s family make food (also fine), but they were in the kitchen the whole night (kind of sad) and there wasn’t enough food for all of the guests (not fine).… Read more »

Carla
Carla

I just got married last month and we spent way less than the so-called national average, and we planned it in less than 6 months. 1. Kept it small. I don’t have a large family and my husband doesn’t have any living relatives. We planned to have about 30 attending and ended up with less than 20. 2. Dress – I paid less than $100 for a dress from nordstrom.com. Nordstrom tailored it for free when I got it in. 3. Small wedding party – My sister and his best friend stood up for us. She picked our her own… Read more »

Carla
Carla

Continued: Though we didn’t spend much on the wedding, people STILL had ideas for us that would not have worked: Backyard – We don’t know anyone in the city of Portland with an adequate yard to host, even a small wedding. Park – October + Portland + outdoors = rain. Though we had a beautiful October in hindsight, its usually quite wet. Friends to cook/bake – Ummm, no thank you. Quests and family to help – All of my family is from out of state and came here on a tight schedule, (my sis and father works in education, cousin… Read more »

Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life
Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life

Use your friends, family, and bridal party to help rather than hiring out. The bridal party can set up tables, chairs, decorations, etc. Family members can contribute dessert, even the full meal if someone is a talented chef. Have any photographer friends? Florist friends? Seamstress friends? Friends of friends? Let people make their services a gift to you on your wedding day.

Sandi_k
Sandi_k

Sorry, but I couldn’t disagree more! Using family and friends as free labor to keep wedding costs down is CHEAP, not hospitable at all. There are other ways to keep costs reasonable that don’t include abusing your friends’ and families’ good nature. Many of them have already been mentioned – book off-season or mid-day; limit attendants; limit guest list; serve champagne only, instead of a full bar; do your own flowers; limit the formal photos to 4 hours or less. Our intent was to serve as GRACIOUS HOSTS, not to create our wedding day on the extracted labor of our… Read more »

Carla
Carla

@Sandi_k – I totally agree. I wanted my out-of-state family members to relax on their days off and mini vacation, not work for me for free!

SLCCOM
SLCCOM

Some of us are cash-poor and would far rather donate our services and talents than money. Plus, doing it for a friend or relative lets us make it extra-special.

I would have loved it if my niece had let us play in a swing band for her reception.

Carla
Carla

I totally get but I would rather do for other than ask anyone to do anything for me. We just did without certain things we didn’t want to pay for. iPod for music worked just fine.

SLCCOM
SLCCOM

She didn’t ask. We offered. There is a huge difference. I also offered to do her centerpieces.

I love her dearly, but sometimes the biggest gift you can give is to accept the gift someone wants to offer.

Sandi_k
Sandi_k

Accepting an offer from loved ones is a whole different thing than PLANNING YOUR WEDDING based on the EXPECTATION that others will do the work so you can keep costs down.

We had help with centerpieces, floral arrangements, table cards, etc. But we didn’t assume that we would get that assistance, nor did we budget with that expectation.

Jason
Jason

The Knot and The Wedding Channel have a vested interest in reporting some “average” number that probably disregards a lot of variables. They get a nice sliver of every wedding cake, so they want couples to feel good about spending “only” $15-20k. I’ve never seen a realistic figure quoted, but I think $10k is a more reasonable average (i.e. half spend more, half spend less). My favorite tip is to stock the bar from a liquor store that will refund unopened containers. My final tab was $400 on 200 guests. We didn’t have many heavy drinkers, so that helped even… Read more »

Kate
Kate

Wow! I’m jealous about the bar tab! That’s my husbands favorite tip about getting married at a venue where you can bring in liquor and then return bottles if needed. We did that, but spent about $1600 for 100 people or so. I wonder if we overpaid at the liquor store or just drank a lot 🙂

Kel
Kel

Google Median vs Average, you’re comment clearly meant 10K is the median not average. If you read about the Knot’s article, they did point out that the $28K number was an average and not a median.

Waverly
Waverly

Eh, this is the kind of article that ends up with a lot of pearl-clutching. “You spent HOW MUCH on your wedding?! Why, back in 1973 I spent $200 on mine and I’m still happily married!” The fact is that weddings are expensive. If you save up cash to pay for your wedding, you don’t go into debt, you have a good time, and you get the wedding you want, who cares if it costs $28,000? Mine did. It was fun. We paid cash. We loved how it turned out. We’re still married and have no regrets about spending $28,000… Read more »

Beth
Beth

Haha, thank you, that’s true. To add to your excellent point, I’ll just say as long as the happy couple isn’t fundraising among the relatives for more cash to pay for this event, then it shouldn’t matter how much the couple spends on their wedding.

SAHMama
SAHMama

My husband and I had a $3k wedding in 2002, and that number includes our wedding bands, the dress I wore, flowers, officiant fee, food, cake, groom’s tux, invitations, chocolate fountain, rental of the church hall.

I had quit my job to start grad school, he didn’t have a job yet having just graduated from college.

We didn’t take a honeymoon. We postponed that until we could pay cash for it, in December 2005. And yes, I got pregnant the next month after that and we haven’t had a vacation since. We do have 3 kids now though, haha.

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