I’ve talked to brides whose wedding budgets have ranged from barely four figures on up into six figures — and no matter the total price tag, there’s something every bride is interested in: getting more for less.
So I’ve rounded up a few of the biggest money savers my own friends and I have come across while planning our weddings.
Buy sample sales.
Wedding gowns are one of the single biggest purchases you’ll make for your wedding — and unless you’re planning to buy a wardrobe made of pure spun gold sometime in your life, it’s also going to be the runaway winner for the title of Most Expensive Clothing Purchase Ever. But if your dream dress can come off a rack instead of straight off a hand-sewn production line, you’ll save up to 50% on the dress’ retail price. Once a style’s discontinued, your local bridal salon won’t need to keep the sample gown hanging around. I got my dress this way, and I couldn’t be happier if it had been custom-cut just for me.
Beg, barter or steal negotiate.
Found a perfect reception site, but their dinner price-minimum is just too high? Ask if they’ll cut the cost and offer slightly smaller portions for a late lunch reception. (One of my friends did this and ended up serving her guests a delicious meal for under $20 per person.)
Have a unique skill or opportunity that would be useful to potential vendors? Find out if your musician would trade his performance for a free weekend at your parents’ beach condo, or if your photographer will discount her services if you provide free advertising in the community newsletter you run. It never hurts to find out if your vendors are willing to consider a non-cash payment.
DIY whenever possible…within reason!
Centerpieces, invitations, favors — heck, aisle runners, flowers, programs, custom linens, and even food are all fair game when it comes to do-it-yourself wedding preparations. The amount of money you save per project will vary depending on the cost of materials and the would-have-been cost of labor, but if you plan wisely, you’ll find yourself saving $20 here, $400 there. And it will add up quickly. Just make sure you don’t plan more projects than you can (sanely!) handle during your already-hectic-and-stressful engagement. That’s when extra helping hands come in…well, handy. If your bridesmaids, family members, and friends are willing to donate some time and talent, you’ll be a lot better off than if you try to juggle all the projects yourself.
Think: Less is More.
A few long-stemmed roses or a dozen weighing down your bridesmaids’ arms? A lavish string quintet or a solo classical guitar? A splashy stretch Escalade or an understated sedan?
Sometimes the simpler (and thus less expensive) option looks classier and leaves a lasting impression. I’m a big believer in understated elegance. A ceiling draped with hundreds of imported orchids is impressive, but a creative display of several generations of family wedding pictures will be equally memorable — and guess what? Far less costly. Whenever you see a Big Idea that you love, think about how you can trim it down to fit your budget, or if there are any simpler alternatives that would create a similar effect.
Personalize with VIPs.
When you have friends or family whose skill sets intersect with your wedding needs, you’ll find you’re offered steep discounts — or depending on your relationship with these people, free services altogether. Having loved ones help out with your big day preparations will create cherished memories for both of you. And letting loved ones keep you on track on your wedding day might be a bit more calming than having strangers buzzing around you. My friends have solicited friends and family members to be their: hair stylist; make-up artist; photographer; videographer; florist; decorator; baker; coordinator; musician; officiant.
If you don’t have your heart absolutely set on it, save on it — and you may find you enjoy your wedding a whole lot more if you spend a whole lot less!