Updated: Mar 7, 2020
The only list you’ll ever need. Use these helpful hints we’ve used to save time, money and stress!
You're engaged and now the fun starts!! You get to share your love story with your closest family and friends! You're probably overwhelmed and the enormity of planning a wedding is hitting you. hard. So take a breather and read this post. It'll help put things into perspective and give you a bunch of handy hints as to how and where to save some cash!
Budget + Balance
This is the single most important tip. Plan out each element of your wedding and set a budget for each item. If you end up saving in one area, use it to include or upgrade in another – or just pocket those savings for your future!
Include every single line item you can think of in your budget, and then some, and keep a line item for tax, tips and incidentals. It’s amazing how many little details get missed, especially in the lead up to the wedding. Your wedding planner will be able to help you with this.
Check in with your budget regularly and stay in touch with your vendors to see if things have changed from when you first got in touch. They may be retiring rental stock which they’d hire you for a steal or may have a new option they’d like a client to try for PR. It’s worth keeping your finger on the pulse.
Timing is everything
Save money by being flexible on the day, date and season – Saturday weddings are the most expensive options and depending on your location, there will always be a ‘peak’ wedding season. Choose a week day or morning to save costs. This is a particularly good way to save money if you’re having a destination wedding. Hopefully everyone is so blissed out they don’t even know what day it is!
Also, take your time planning if budget it going to be an issue for you. It’s not uncommon for couples to take a year or even two to plan their big day. If you’re going to lament not having every single element as you envision it, then take your time, save, research and work hard to find ways to realize your dream. Buuuut, having said that, don’t sacrifice things that are important to you for ‘one day’. And do try not to go into debt!
Plan to absolute perfection
Planning your wedding is about budgeting, balancing and… prioritizing! Pick up to 5 important elements and skimp and save on everything else.
Hire a planner!
We have a whole blog post dedicated to this! Sounds odd to spend more money but a planner can, in fact, save you money! Check out this post for 5 reasons why you definitely should hit us up!
Manage your guest list
Work with your partner and family to create a meaningful and manageable guest list. There is no doubt that one of the easiest ways to trim costs is to limit your numbers.
If you don’t have a planner who can provide you with a list of excellent vendors in your price range then use your venues preferred vendors list as a starting point and absolutely do your homework. Get multiple quotes and negotiate hard to get the best bang for your buck.
For the extremely budget conscious, ask around for some free help! Perhaps your cousin is an awesome photographer or your partner’s best friend’s girlfriend does phenom hair and make-up, don’t be shy just make sure to be honest about your expectations for your day.
An all-in-one venue where you can host your ceremony and reception will save you costs in a number of areas – venue hire fees, transport for you and your bridal party and for your vendors like your wedding planner, hair and make-up stylist and florist who may have to attend both venues.
Think outside the usual banquet hall and consider a private estate, botanical garden, Bed and Breakfast private estate or home rental where you can share the cost of the venue with friends or family who stay with you. Better yet, know someone with a large garden or waterfront property - ask to host your wedding there. Just be sure to make sure you’re covered from a liability, clean-up and damage perspective.
Also, check around and see what parks and venues are available to hire from your local council. Rates will be much cheaper than private estates and formal wedding venues. These types of venues provide a fabulous blank canvas for you to customize your wedding as you wish.
Find a venue that doesn’t require you to engage their ‘preferred’ vendors or will at least consider options you’ve discovered. This can save you a lot! The venue’s concern is really around professionalism, liability – making sure they have all the right insurances, and that they understand damage mitigation and clean-up responsibilities.
Wedding stationery + Signage
Go digital – and eco-friendly! Save time and money and create your own wedding website and send digital save-the-date cards and e-vites. If you’re heart-set on printed save-the-date cards and invitations, use any one of the wonderful online printing companies out there. They have a range of options from your basic ink printed styles to gold foil and engraving, and let you customize the colors, font and layout. Save on the invitation itself and spend a little on unique details such as wax seals, feathers, dried flowers, ribbon or create a free monogram and print your own stickers. You can then use your monogram throughout your wedding to add that personalized and highly-styled touch.
Also skip the costly RSVP cards and associated postage and go digital instead. Everyone has access to a phone or email these days and for those who don’t, go the ol-fashioned route and give them a call! You’ll have to in the weeks before the wedding in any case to double and triple check your head count for your caterer and venue.
Also forget individual programs and individual menu cards. One program in the form of a large sign will be enough – and is super on trend - and one or two menus per round table or every 4-6 people along a long table should also do it.
Always opt for in-season and local items. Whether it’s flowers, food or décor, anything nearby and in-season will be much cheaper than that which needs to be shipped, trucked or flown in.
Manage your expectations.
We’d all love to have our dream “Pinterest-worthy Wedding” (so over that phrase!!). The reality is those weddings often have budgets in the over $80-100K range and that is just not possible for many couples. Focus on what is most meaningful to you and what is going to make the most impact.
Make it Official
Ask a close friend or relative to officiate your wedding. It takes only a few moments for them to do the paperwork and it’s a lovely memory to share with them and to personalize your wedding.
Basically, just ditch ‘em or at least get creative with inexpensive ways to thank guests and remember your day. This is probably in the top 5 suggestions you’ll find around wedding blogs, and for good reason. Thank guests with a wonderful experience – good food, good booze and great entertainment. Treat them to a gorgeous setting for wonderful photos – memories last a lifetime. A cardboard box with a few chocolates lasts about 5 minutes.
Is a fancy car really necessary? Uber and Lyft both have luxury car options and the cost is about a third of that of a hire car. Just be sure to have a game plan and allow a little bit of extra time.
It’s easy to forget that your honeymoon is also a wedding expense! Instead of registering for gifts, ask friends to contribute to your honeymoon fund! Or try the new mini-moon trend where you jet away for a few days after the wedding to recuperate, and take a longer honeymoon when the finances recuperate!
There are certainly many nuances and are cultural differences as to who pays for what when it comes to the wedding party. It’s fairly customary in the US for the bridal party to pay their own way. You can save some additional some dosh by limiting the size of your bridal party in order to limit the number of gifts you need. If your bridal party is paying for their own attire and you’ve allowed them some freedom to choose their own get-up which they may wear again in the future, and allowed the bridesbabes to do their own hair and make-up, they’ll be less likely to expect a pricey gift. If you’d still like to show your appreciation, a lovely handwritten note with a handmade item is a genuine gesture of appreciation. Divert a portion of the savings from not providing favors to your bridal party – there it is! That balancing act we were talking about!
Save on the pre-wedding events
There are so many traditional events in the lead up to the wedding. There’s the engagement party, the bridal shower or couple’s shower, the bachelor and bachelorette parties, the pre-wedding cocktail party, rehearsal dinner and post-wedding brunch. If your wedding day is your main focus, choose which of these (and any other) events you really want to host and then put everything you would have spent on those additional events into your big day.
Utilize non-traditional avenues. There are a lot of non-traditional options, especially if you’re not precious about your dress or suit being brand-new and custom-ordered. There are a number of online and brick-and-mortar second-hand options, sample sales, and consignment stores which offer dresses at significantly lower prices than retail. Also consider renting tuxedos or looking at chain or high-street stores (online and brick-and-mortar) which offer on-trend and affordable options (H&M, Top Shop, Zara and ASOS, are just a few of our favorite options). Also, don’t forget to budget for alterations, undergarments, shoes and accessories (veils, jewelry, pocket-squares, belts, suspenders etc).
Take advantage of trunk show discounts. If you’ve fallen in love with a dress that’s part of a designer’s most recent collection, enquire with the designer as to when they’ll be hosting a truck show near you. Bridal salons don’t stock every single dress in each designer’s collection. They pick a few they think will appeal to their clientele and have only those available. A trunk show is similar to a pop-up event. The salon will have a much more extensive range of that particular designer’s dresses available – and designers will often offer a 10% discount on dresses purchased during the trunk show.
Be prepared. If you’ve got time, start sourcing your dress at least 8- months ahead of time to avoid excessive rush fees.
Borrow! Veils in particular can be extremely pricey and realistically, your friend or relative proably only wore theirs for a few hours. If they don’t want it back, see if you can customize it by changing the length, removing the blusher or adding a new comb. Borrowing jewelry can also add a sentimental touch to your day. Also, sites like Adorn.com let you borrow stunning jewels for a super-affordable price.
Think about recuperating some costs after the wedding by selling your dress and any decor items. It still requires the upfront investment and it’s risky on what you’ll get back, so be prepared for any eventuality. Also, donating your dress, flowers and décor items will entitle you to a tax deduction!
Capturing those memories – Photography + Videography
No doubt, after all is said and done, all that will remain of your wedding day are your photographs and video. Almost all couples will tell you to invest in a good photographer and videographer. Our view is that you should try to get the best photographer and videographer you can in your budget – right now. That is, if you’re drawn to a particular photographer, go for the basic package and upgrade with prints, albums etc later. Or limit the time you have them available. Think about whether ‘getting ready’ photos are really important to you and if you really need your first look captured. Also consider how late you need your photographer to stay. Is an hour or two of candid dancing photos enough, or do you want them to stay to capture your departure? Do you need a second shooter the whole time, or at all? Reach out to your favorite photographer and explain why you want to work with them (trust us on this one). They’ll be much more inclined to see if they can cater a package to your price-point.
Food + Beverage
A casual affair
Reduce the formality of your wedding and reduce costs significantly. You can save bank by choosing a cocktail, picnic, buffet, family or BBQ style event, and it just might be a little more reflective of who you are as a couple. Don’t be afraid to be unique! Let your wedding be a true reflection of who you are as a couple.
Skip desert and just serve your wedding cake, or forgo wedding cake altogether! These days, it’s all about your wedding reflecting you as a couple. Some couples aren’t at all attached to the idea of cutting a cake so why do it if donuts or fairy floss or something savory is your jam? Also, it’s totally acceptable to serve just your cake for desert. Most guests are out and about dancing and mingling so desert is often a wasted expense in any case. And most wedding cakes are delicious anyway!
If you do want to cut a cake as a couple and serve wedding cake, think about having a small cake for cutting, with a sheet cake in the back for serving guests.
Also talk to your baker/caterer and florist about decoration options. It is almost always cheaper to decorate your cake with fresh flowers (there are always a few extras floating around after the arrangements are all done) or a topper than delicate and intricate details created by the baker.
Limit the booze you serve. It’s fairly common to serve only beer, wine and softies at weddings these days. If you’d still like a touch of the hard A, work with your venue, caterer or bar service to serve a signature drink – this is extremely popular as a wonderful way to personalize your wedding day.
It’s also super easy and popular to hire a keg, especially with all the wonderful craft beers out there. Also, consider the new mobile-bar trend. There are seriously cute little campervan options which add an interesting talking point, and really reflect you as a couple.
Décor + Styling
This is by far the one thing that will get you your Pinterest-worthy wedding, so let’s be smart about how we get you there.
Save on décor items and use items other than fresh flowers or in addition to fresh flowers, which can cost a bunch! Use fruits, sea shells, drift wood, natural items, crystals, geodes, candle holders of all types – tapered, crystal, plastic, wood etc to achieve a cohesive, styled look.
Select a venue that is independently gorgeous so you need little else in the way of décor - some candles, fairy lights and a few scattered florals or décor pieces and you’re good to go.
Get creative and DIY. In a world where it feels like everything has been done before, get creative and craft what inspires you. This will help save money on your floral bill in particular. Some florists have minimum spends which start at $2000. If you’re heart-set on flowers, always choose in-season and ideally, local flowers. If you’ve got the time and inclination, you can always DIY your flowers. There are a number of online wholesale options and farmer’s markets where you can order exactly what you want ahead of time. Just make sure to carefully plan the delivery, research how to re-hydrate and have a plan for how they will be transported to and from the venue or venues if your reception will be held at different venue to your ceremony.
But do be selective about what you choose to DIY. In the end, by the time you buy all the materials, you may be better off just paying a professional to do it. Have a plan and don’t try to experiment unless it’s not going to affect your budget (significantly) to do so.
Music + Entertainment
This is a very personal decision. Some couples are super keen to have a cool band or DJ play at their wedding whereas others are happy to get a playlist together and hook up the iPod or iPhone. It’s a personal preference, just make sure to hire the right equipment and get a game plan together for special moments like your ceremony, first dance, father-daughter, mother-son dance and cake cutting.
Ask local cultural and community organisations to see if any offer decent rates for a cultural performance. This is particularly lovely at destination weddings. Your guests will love being immersed in the local culture.
Also look for young and local up-an-coming talent who you vibe with and might be a hell of a lot cheaper than that established wedding band everyone recommends. You’ll be giving a young artist some much-needed stage time and getting a bunch of originals! Mix this up with your DJ or iPod for variety.
Use your ceremony arch/arbor etc décor to create a photobooth – it’s pretty easy to re-purpose and will create a fun activity for little additional cost – except for that of a tripod.
Ask a friend to Emcee. Most couples probably aren’t seeking out a paid Emcee specifically but it often comes as part of your DJ’s package or as an add-on. If you’ve got a good friend or relative who can command the room and stay on track (with or without the help of your wedding planner) you could probably skip this expense.
We hope this helps you plan, balance, prioritize and manage your budget so that you can truly tell your love story.
We'd love to hear your budget-saving tips - so please feel free to comment or email us to share!
The Wild Luxe Weddings Team