So…I happen to be in the midst of wedding planning right now. (I guess that’s the first time I’ve mentioned that on the blog??) And I have to say, the expenses add up fast! Nate and I are getting married in Boston, which is a pretty expensive area wedding-wise. Plus, it’s a destination wedding for everyone, including us. So the DIY options are slim, and Nate and I (okay, mostly I) have had to jump through some hoops to keep costs down while still ending up with an elegant Boston wedding. So while I definitely can’t say that I’m a wedding planning expert, I can say that I’ve put a lot of thought and research into how you can cut costs when hiring local vendors for your wedding.
For me, the main concern with budget has been knowing when to DIY and when to outsource. You have to be realistic about DIYing anything around your wedding day, after all. (Who wants to find a ton of flowers and put bouquets together the day before their own wedding??) Outsourcing to local vendors is definitely more expensive than doing things yourself, but so far I’ve found that there are a lot of ways to cut costs in your wedding planning—even when you’re doing a lot of outsourcing. So, without further ado, here are the best tips that I’ve found for saving money on your wedding, sorted by expense—all while still ending up with a wedding day that is both elegant and worry-free.
I don’t really have much to say here other than do your research! Venues often charge less for weddings that happen during the week or during the off-season, so that could be a great way to save on cost. Additionally, look at the people you know and see if any of them happen to own property you could use. You could pay them a modest fee for the use of their space if necessary, and you’ll have the luxury of being able to decorate the space however you like in the days leading up to your wedding. A simple backyard can be transformed into a beautiful reception space with the right planning.
Food is another one where my best tip is to simply do your research. A lot of venues have a list of caterers they like to work with, but if food isn’t that important to you, you could consider having a more affordable caterer approved by the venue. Full-service caterers do tend to take care of complete set-up and takedown at the venue, so keep that in mind if you know you’ll have family or friends who would do that instead.
One place where I think you really can save on food costs, though, is the wedding cake! First, ask yourself if you really need a wedding cake. Many people would be just as happy having a regular cake from a local bakery, and taking that route is much more affordable. In addition, keep in mind that not everyone loves cake. Plan on having enough cake for about 60% of the people at your wedding, especially if there are going to be other dessert options.
Flowers are really a wedding essential, but unfortunately working with a florist can get crazy expensive. Like, thousands of dollars expensive. If you want to save money on flowers, you have a few options.
First, you could decide not to do flowers at all in some places. You could, for example, hire a florist for only bouquets and boutonnieres—and then do something non-floral for your centerpieces and other reception decor.
Second, you could DIY your flowers. If you’re considering DIYing your flowers, I highly recommend doing it through a company that specializes in DIY flower kits, like Bloominous (#notsponsored). They make DIY flowers easy because they ship everything to you a few days before the wedding, and then all you have to do is put everything together. No need to run around to various grocery and craft supply stores the day before your wedding!
Band, DJ, or DIY? Those are essentially your music options from most expensive to most affordable. If music isn’t that important to you (i.e., there isn’t going to be a ton of dancing at your reception), then I recommend DIYing your music, at least to some extent. You could, for example, hire a DJ only to set up the necessary audio equipment, like this article mentions. Then, you’d simply let one of your guests take over as DJ.
For the truly audio savvy, you could rent equipment through a company. An audio expert will help you gather everything you need and arm you with the knowledge needed to set up audio at your venue. My dad happens to be an audio junkie who owns some basic audio equipment, so I got kind of lucky there.
Photographer costs vary significantly depending on where you live. A good photographer in Boston, for example, will cost you about $4,000 minimum (yeesh!), and a good one in Salt Lake City could cost as little as $1,800. So if you’re having your wedding in an expensive city like Boston, then I highly recommend flying your photographer in from somewhere more affordable, like Utah. I saved $1,000 on my wedding photography by doing this, and I ended up with a photographer I love more than the Boston ones anyway.
If you’re lucky enough to know a skilled wedding photographer personally (who wouldn’t be devastated about having to work on your wedding day, of course) then you could consider striking up a bargain with them. One important note here—wedding photography is a lot of work, so don’t put your friend in an awkward position by asking them to do your photography for an extremely low price. Express to your friend that you still want to compensate them generously. You might consider working skill swapping into your arrangement to keep costs down.
Ah, the dress. It seems like the moment you tack the word “wedding” onto any white dress, the cost just skyrockets. If you want to save money here, I recommend looking at white bridesmaid dresses, formal full-length dresses, or bridal/bridesmaid separates. These are easier things to buy online anyhow, and I found it easier to get exactly the style I wanted (with sleeves!) Online shops like ASOS and BHLDN often have a few great options.
One more final tip I thought I’d share—I think it’s really important at the beginning of the wedding planning process for you and your fiancé(e) to decide what is most important to you in terms of your wedding. Choose one or two things and agree to pay for what you want, and then find ways to budget on those other, less important things. You might even decide to nix some things altogether, like the photo booth, wedding cake, guest book, and reception favors. Don’t get caught up in all the wedding traditions; just do you!
I hope these tips have proven somewhat useful; and if you happen to be in the early stages of wedding planning, good luck!