Finance

How to Save Money on a Wedding: 90 Savvy Tips

Weddings are back — and more expensive than ever.

After two years of cancellations and postponements, an estimated 2.5 million couples are expected to get hitched in 2022, according to The Wedding Report, a research company that collects and forecasts wedding statistics.

All that pent-up demand — plus inflation and supply chain issues — are driving up prices on everything from floral arrangements to bridal dresses.

“I think the biggest issue is that many of the popular vendors and locations are booked up this year and into next year,” said Shane McMurray, CEO of The Wedding Report. “Because that’s the case, other options are also getting booked and pushing prices up.”

Expect an average wedding to cost around $27,000 this year, according to a forecast by The Wedding Report. That’s up 12.5% from pre-pandemic levels.

Getting married in exactly the way you want can mean spending much more than you would have before the biggest wedding surge in 40 years began.

But we’ve got dozens of ways to save money on your wedding. If you want to walk down the aisle in style without breaking the bank, prepare to be flexible, creative and patient.

Contents

How to Save Money on a Wedding

Your final wedding cost will depend on many factors, including the guest list size, the number of vendors you hire, food, location and more.

So start by creating a short list of “must haves” for your big day. Be willing to compromise or think outside the box on everything else.

“Setting priorities will get you grounded and help you stay on target with your budget,” McShane told The Penny Hoarder.

For example, if you and your fiance care most about food, scale back spending on flower arrangements and ask a friend with a good camera to be your photographer.

Ready to create a beautiful celebration of love without the financial heartache? Here are our 90 best expert tips on how to save money on every aspect of your wedding day.

The Engagement

Couples spend an average of $6,000 on an engagement ring, according to The Knot 2021 Jewelry and Engagement Study.

Here are a few ways to save money on the bling.

1. Remember, Diamonds Are Forever

If a traditional diamond ring is in your plan, be savvy when you go jewelry shopping.

“The center diamond is the most valuable part of the ring,” Jayme Pretzloff of Wixon Jewelers in Minneapolis explained. “You can always remount the diamond into another mounting in the future.”

She also noted that the tiny pave-set diamonds adorning many rings don’t have anywhere near the value of the main diamond.

So if you’re going to make a significant investment in a ring, focus your dollars on the element that has the most value: the main stone.

2. Fake It With Flair

This tip takes mutual agreement, but it can help you save big on an engagement ring or on wedding bands. Ask to take a look at a jeweler’s faux offerings, such as cubic zirconia or moissanite.

3. Ditch the Diamonds

But what if diamonds — real or fake — aren’t your style? Fret not. You are free to profess your love by displaying a stone of your choice, whether it be pearl or peridot.

If you need a little nontraditional inspiration, check out offerings from small vendors on Etsy and Shopify. You may find handmade jewelry you love for a perfect price.

A bride and groom walk hand in hand in a forest.
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Venues and Vendors

Venues tend to be the most expensive part of a wedding. Expect it to make up about 30% of your overall budget.

Couples spent an average of $10,700 on a wedding venue in 2021, according to a survey by wedding planning website The Knot.

Here’s how to save on the ceremony, the venue and the vendors.

4. Forego Tradition

Not every wedding reception needs to be in a big hall. Thinking outside the box can save you big bucks.

“Consider a bed and breakfast, a public park or an art gallery for your reception,” said Danielle Farrell of Michigan’s Betty Brigade.

Farrell used a senior center in her hometown for her wedding, which included an outdoor park area and banquet center “for a fraction of what it would have cost at a hotel. And it was gorgeous!”

Other non-traditional venues include restaurants, breweries or vacation houses.

5. Scope Out the Furnishings

When viewing venues, take note of their furniture and tabletop styles, said event planner Sacha Patires.

If the venue matches your personal style, you could save a bundle that you would have otherwise spent on furniture rentals.

6. Bring the Party to You

Looking for a unique all-in-inclusive experience on a budget? Companies across the country now offer to bring the party to you.

The Wedding Wagon in Las Vegas will come to you. All you need is $129 to seal the deal with a witness and photos.

On the East Coast, Washington, D.C. business Pop Wed Co. offers chic elopement services (they even take care of the paperwork) for $2,500.

Other companies offer elopement packages that include accommodations, an officiant, hair and makeup services, photography and more — at a fraction of the price of a traditional wedding.

7. Double-Check the Package Deal

Buying from individual vendors may be more cost-effective than buying a package deal from your wedding venue. Contact vendors directly to compare prices.

On the flip side, some venues include items such as tables, chairs, flatware and linens in their rental fee. A venue with a higher price tag might be worth it if it supplies you with the things you need.

8. Ask for Referrals

Got a recommendation from a friend? Maybe they had a great experience with a vendor and you’ll want to consider that florist or baker as well.

When you contact a vendor, make sure to mention the friend who referred you. There may be a referral discount (or a bonus for your friend).

9. Have a Planner Help You Save

Wedding planners know how to work with budgets of all sizes and will go to bat for you over contracts and negotiations. Whether it’s a destination wedding or a backyard wedding, a planner can help make your vision a reality.

The cost to hire a planner varies widely, from a few hundred dollars to as much as $4,000 for higher-end planners.

On average, you can expect to pay $1,600 to $1,800.

Not sure if you can afford a professional to plan your entire wedding? Many offer supplemental help by the hour or day.

10. Or, Forego a Professional Planner

A super-organized friend with their own transportation and take-charge attitude is just as valuable as an expensive wedding planner. Let this be your friend’s wedding gift to you, and put them in charge of wedding day logistics.

11. Ask for Help

If you’re getting married at a church where you’re a member, call on its social groups.

Note, however, that these groups may ask for a small donation in exchange for their members’ time.

12. Multitask

“Use vendors that do more than one thing,” said wedding planner Amy McNall of Unmistakably You.

Think about a florist who also rents linens, or a wedding planner who offers decor installation.

“You’ll save on the ‘get me through the door’ fee that you have to pay each individual vendor you use,” McNall said.

13. Ask About Sponsorship

Ask your wedding vendors if you can advertise their services at your celebration in exchange for a reduced rate.

Word of mouth is powerful advertising indeed, especially if some of your guests are planning their own upcoming weddings.

A friend marries the bride and groom at their wedding ceremony.
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14. Get Hitched by a Friend

Skip clergy or justice of the peace fees by having a friend officiate your wedding ceremony. Becoming ordained is simple and doesn’t take much time, but be sure your officiant is complying with local laws and regulations.

Make sure your selected officiant is comfortable with public speaking! And treat them to a kind gift for their services.

15. Don’t Guesstimate Your Guest Count

“You’ll have to give a guaranteed number of guests — especially if it’s a seated meal,” said Teddy Lenderman, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Perfect Wedding. If you have fewer wedding guests than the guaranteed number, you’ll be paying for empty seats.

“’I think’ and ‘I guess’ are the two phrases you don’t want to use when it comes to guaranteeing your guest total for the caterer,”  Lenderman said. “This number equates to money — at times, lots of money.”

16. Consider Your Guest List Carefully

Speaking of guest lists, you’ll save a bundle by inviting a smaller crowd.

The pandemic further popularized micro weddings — so you’ll be in good company if you decide to downsize to a more intimate affair.

“If you have a guest count of 200 people, that’s 20 tables of 10. But by bringing it down to 150, you just eliminated five tables,” said wedding and event planner Danielle Rothweiler. “That means five fewer centerpieces that you need to have, and 50 fewer meals and bar tabs.”

Even cutting your guest list by 10 or 20 people can save you $1,000 on food, alcohol and rentals.

How do you decide who makes the cut? “We tell our clients that if the person hasn’t shared a drink, a laugh or a cry with you in the past year, there’s no reason they need to share all three at your wedding,” Rothweiler said.

17. Don’t Forget to Tip

When you plan your budget, don’t forget to factor in gratuities. Some of these will be spelled out in your contracts, like that of your wedding venue or caterer.

But don’t forget those smaller gratuities. Getting your hair done at the salon? You’ll be tipping. Getting chauffeured for the day? There’s another tip.

18. Select Off-Times and Days

Trim wedding costs by choosing an unusual time and date for your big day.

You may get a better deal booking a weekday wedding instead of a Saturday or Sunday. More venues are offering this option as a way to meet demand and earn extra revenue.

With so many backlogged weddings, there really isn’t an “off season” anymore. It might be tricky to find a cheaper time of year to host your wedding.
For the sixth year in a row, October is expected to be the most popular month to get married, according to The Knot. If you can find a venue with availability, you’ll likely pay top dollar in October.

Instead, you may score a better deal by choosing a less popular month, such as January or February.

Invitations

Wedding invitations are surprisingly expensive. Couples spent an average of $530 total on wedding invitations and stationery in 2021, according to The Knot.

Here’s how to trim costs.

19. Don’t Save the Date

Many couples who sent out “save the date” invitations since the pandemic began were forced to reschedule due to COVID-19.

Cutting these early notices could save you $100 or more — and that’s before the cost of postage.

To save money on your wedding, email your save-the-date reminders to friends and family instead.

A person write's on their calendar: Our Wedding Day.
Aileen Perilla/The Penny Hoarder

20. Test Your Handwriting

Calligraphy is trendy, but hand-lettered envelopes can cost $3 each.

Instead, solicit your wedding party or family members to help you address invitations. Remember, the envelope will end up in the trash, but your invitation will likely get prime real estate on someone’s fridge. It makes sense to save money on the piece that people discard right away.

21. Design on a Dime

Got design chops and want to craft your own wedding invitations? You can check out websites like dafont.com and abstractfonts.com for free or donation-based typeface styles.

22. Turn Up the Heat

Thermography can be an affordable alternative to engraving. While the methods differ, that look of raised ink is almost identical. It’s also cheaper.

23. Get the PDF

Enlisting a graphic designer can help save costs, too. “Find a graphic designer to design your stationery and send you high-res PDFs that you can print and assemble yourself for invitations, table numbers and favor tags,” suggested McNall.

Not sure how to find a designer? Check Etsy or even Fiverr: Most printable suites cost under $100 if you request minimal edits.

24. Go Digital

Dreading buying stamps for your invitations, response cards and thank yous? Go digital by checking out a wedding website like Joy, Paperless Post or Greenvelope.

You’ll get access to a wide range of tools, including RSVP and plus-one tracking, registry announcements and photo sharing. You can even send out survey questions to collect meal preferences, allergies and song requests from your guests.

25. Don’t Be Square

The U.S. Postal Service hates square envelopes.

OK, we don’t know that for sure, but we do know that square envelopes require more postage than the standard rectangle. Those cents add up quickly!

26. Skip the Tissue

Tissue in invitations is a thing of the past. “Sheets of tissue between layers of invitation packages were used in the past to prevent ink smudging,” explained Carolyn Garin and Kathleen Hughes of The Anti-Bride Etiquette Guide.

Tissue paper is likely unnecessary for your modern invites, and you can even skip the interior envelopes for most invitation suites.

27. Sign, Don’t Seal, Deliver

Use a postcard for each guest’s response instead of a card with an envelope.

“The cost to print these is about the same as an enclosure and envelope, but the big savings is in the postage,” author Lenderman said.

28. Send Guests Online for Details

Services like The Knot and eWedding are free wedding platforms where you can list accommodation options, directions and a link to your registry.

List your free wedding website on your invitation or an accompanying note, and you’ll be able to skip a few of those extra cards people usually lose from invitation packets.

A bride lays down as a photographer takes their portrait.
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Photography

Here are a few ways to save money on snaps and videos.

29. Choose a Promising Newbie

Working with an up-and-coming wedding photographer instead of a pro can save you big money. Find one through friends, social media or even Craigslist. Make sure to check out their online portfolio of prior work.

30. Hire a Photojournalist

Photographer Dorie Hagler advised against hiring a studio that seems too inexpensive to be true.

“It’s better to hire a local newspaper photographer,” she said. “They show up early, stay late and they know how to cover an event. Many high-end wedding photographers were newspaper photographers first.”

31. Don’t Double Up

Many photographers offer an assistant “second shooter” in their standard contracts, but others offer it as an option and charge extra.

If you’re expecting fewer than 100 guests, one photographer should suffice.

32. Watch the Clock

Many photographers offer hourly blocks to fit all sorts of occasions. If you can only afford your top-pick photographer for a few hours, Hagler said to organize your event so you cut the cake (and arrange other special moments) in that time frame.

33. Choose Digital Wedding Photos

Don’t pay for a pricey album if you can avoid it. “If you get the digital photos, you can make prints of your favorites,” said Lou Lomibao of SnapKnot.

If you decide later that you’d like a physical album, you can create one that fits your budget at that time.

34. Crowdsource Your Video

Want to capture big moments, but don’t want to pay big bucks for a videographer?

Invite your guests to contribute videos through a wedding website like WeddingMix. You’ll be able to piece together your big day (or have a pro do it for you) with a bit of home-movie style.

35. Create a DIY Photo Booth

You can capture fun, informal photos of friends and family without renting a photo booth. Set up a simple backdrop and provide some fun props. Guests can use their phones or personal cameras and snap away.

If you’re using a wedding hashtag, you can pick and choose Instagram snaps to have compiled into photo books by companies like Blurb.

Flowers, Decor and Favors

Weddings and flowers pretty much go hand in hand.

However, supply chain issues and high demand are raising prices across the floral industry.

Here are a few ways to get the blooms and decorations at a fraction of the price.

36. Go Minimal

Let your setting shine on its own. “If you are getting married outdoors, let the scenery do the work for you,” said Courtney Lutkus of Southern California’s Simply Radiant Events.. “You probably picked your venue partly on looks, so don’t cover up what you love about your location.”

37. Alternate Your Table Arrangements

You don’t need a beautiful centerpiece on every single table. Your guests won’t mind, we promise.

“Have some tables with ‘wow’ pieces and some with something smaller that costs much less,” recommended Anthony Navarro, founder of Liven It Up Events in Chicago.

38. Get Low

Photographer Hagler prefers smaller centerpieces, as she says towering features tend to cost more and can get in the way of photos.

“Other than the one wide-angle room shot, large, tall centerpieces make it difficult to photograph people at the table,” she said.

A reception venue at a wedding.
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39. Look Up

In lieu of large centerpieces, you can fill overhead space. One bride told us she spent just $300 on flowers and decor, partly by using paper lanterns accented by mobiles made out of bunches of origami paper cranes.

40. Make It Work — Twice

To save some money on your floral budget, move pew or aisle markers from your ceremony to double as centerpieces at the reception.

You can also make your bridesmaids’ bouquets perform double duty. After the ceremony, have the bridesmaids set their flowers into vases on each table.

41. Focus on the Head Table

“If you love specialty linens but can’t afford them for all of your tables, just use them for your head table and cake table,” recommended Tampa-based wedding planner Tracie Domino. These tables will be highly visible during your celebration — and will likely be photographed the most.

42. Buy From Other Brides

“Check out listings and post your own request on Kijiji or Craigslist,” McNall recommended.

Once-used linens and decor can often be found for prices that beat the cost of renting.

43. But Don’t Expect to Profit From Other Brides

If you’re planning on making back some money by reselling your newly purchased decor, don’t hold your breath. Instead, skip buying new and rent decorations, said wedding planner Jennifer Taylor.

She warns that many decor items don’t sell, “and if they do, it will be at much less than what you purchased it for.”

44. Choose Your Favorite Flower

Picking one kind of flower for bridal bouquets and other flower arrangements can get you more blooms for your buck. .

That’s because the expense of flower arranging is in the labor, and mixed bouquets take much longer to make.

45. Follow the Flowers

Wedding publications can drive an interest in a trendy flower, like a peony.

Local blooms that are in season by your wedding date are usually the least expensive.

“If you’re getting married any time from late summer to early spring, [peonies] will cost a fortune,” wedding planner Domino warned. “Work with your florist and select flowers that are in season. They will look better and will save you money.”

46. Look Outside the Wedding Industry

McNall recommended exploring vendors who work in events but aren’t always swamped with weddings.

“I often use a talented florist in town whose bread and butter is corporate work, so she doesn’t upcharge her wedding work like some florists do,” McNail said.

47. Rent Your Greenery

Yes, renting wedding flowers for your big day is an option. After the event, you can return them to the florist for resale.

48. Put Your Green Thumb to Work

Got a flair for gardening? Enjoy your blooms longer than just the wedding day. “I planted… huge pots of annuals that would last the entire summer and fall season,” said bride Kelly Fallis from Ontario. “I still spent $1,000, but was able to enjoy the florals from June until November rather than spending it on one day.”

49. Try Paper Petals

Paper flowers are an inexpensive alternative to real ones.With a little practice, you can DIY these.

If you’d rather save some time, you can find inexpensive paper blooms on crafting sites like Etsy.

Plus, you get to keep your bouquet forever.

50. Use Coupons

McNall of Unmistakably You keeps her advice simple: “Never buy anything at Hobby Lobby or Michael’s without a coupon!”

You may even want to save expired coupons — some stores will still honor them.

51. Share a Free Map With Guests

If you’ve ever traveled to an out-of-town wedding, you’ve probably been greeted with a bag at the hotel that contains snacks and local guides.

You can tell your out-of-town guests about your favorite places without spending money on supplies. Drop markers on a Google map that you can share with guests, or create a local scavenger hunt through the Stray Boots app.

52. Don’t Favor Favors

“Skip the wedding favors,” Lutkus said. “They are cute, but what do guests really do with them after the wedding?”

If you really want to provide favors, make sure they serve a dual purpose, like bubbles to blow at the ceremony or something personalized to eat at the reception or save for later.

53. Give Guests a Gift

Wedding favors are often more stressful than they are useful.

Instead, invite guests to take home centerpieces or decorations.

They’ll get a great home decor item — and save you the hassle of figuring out what to do with 15 mason jars filled with flowers.

Wedding Attire

Many brides fork over big money to score that perfect dress.

The national average cost of a wedding dress plus alterations is around $1,600, but you can find great gowns at a much lower cost.

Here are a few smart ways to save money on bride and groom attire.

A woman wears a vintage dress for her wedding.
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54. Choose Something Old Over Something New

You’re only going to wear this dress once. If you’re trying to save money on your wedding, consider buying a dress second-hand.

Some bridal shops even feature a section of pre-worn gowns.

You can also check out websites like Stillwhite, Nearly Newlywed or Wore It Once, which all have a huge selection of once-worn and never-worn wedding dresses.

You might need to spend money on tailoring, but the upfront savings will almost certainly offset those costs.

If you do need to get a dress altered, don’t feel obligated to go back to the store you bought it. You can likely find a less expensive seamstress elsewhere.

55. Think Like a Bridesmaid

Want a super-simple dress? Check out bridesmaids dresses in white or ivory shades instead of traditional wedding gowns.

They are much less expensive than wedding dresses, but can be made simple and elegant with bridal accessories.

56. Rent Your Dress

If you don’t want to buy your wedding gown second-hand, you can rent a gown through a website like Rent the Runway.

Don’t forget: Check out formalwear options at department stores for white dresses that are chic and on-trend but not necessarily bridal gowns.

57. Borrow Something

It is sort of a wedding rule, after all.

Before you purchase a gown, think about weddings that you’ve been to recently. If you and your friend are a similar size, she might be more than happy to let you borrow her wedding dress.

Even if the dress doesn’t work, you can ask to borrow other pieces of the outfit, such as the veil, shoes, jewelry or shawl — and you’ll cut those costs completely.

58. Give It the Think Test

On “Say Yes to the Dress,” they call it “jacking up” to help a bride see what she’ll look like in a dress, veil, sash — the whole deal.

This can result in a big bill.

“I recommend trying on different styles, then going home and searching the internet for the best price on the style you like best,” said Grace Caiazzo, former owner of Bella Bridal and Heirlooms.

59. Avoid a Veil Fail

“There is no way to tell the difference between a mid-priced veil and a high-end designer veil,” wedding planner Domino said.

Since you’ll likely only wear your veil during the ceremony, save a bundle by choosing an inexpensive style. Or ditch the veil altogether.

60. Rock Your Favorite Shoes

Just because it’s your big day doesn’t mean you have to wear everything fresh out of the box.

Check your closet for a pair of shoes that would pair well with your dress, or wear your favorite bold heels. If you’re sporting a long dress, your feet won’t have a starring role anyway.

61. Practice Patience

If you must have new shoes, wait for a sale. If you can, hold out for big discounts around Memorial Day, July 4th and Labor Day.

Another tip: Follow your favorite local bridal salons and shops on social media to learn about sample sales and promotions.

62. Consider a Suit You’ll Wear Again

A custom suit you can wear again will not only help grooms look sharp on the wedding day, they’re also good investments. You’ll be able to wear those suits for as long as they fit.

63. Borrow a Penguin Suit

Want the formality of a tuxedo without the price tag? Borrow one from a friend or family member (just make sure the fit is right).

Two wedding bands sit on a green leaf.
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Jewelry

It’s more than just the engagement ring. Wedding bands and other accessories also play a role on your big day.

Here are the best ways to save and sparkle at the same time.

64. Consider Alternative Wedding Bands

White gold may be popular and traditional, but it isn’t essential. Alternative-metal rings can be much less expensive than traditional white gold, and may even be more durable.

65. Melt It Down

Contributing your own metal for your wedding bands could help save on costs.

One idea is asking friends and family to donate their old gold to an environmentally friendly jeweler.

After melting down the old metal, you can get a credit to have new rings created from the molten metal. You can usually get two wedding bands this way for less than $150.

66. Test Costume Jewelry

Instead of real diamonds or pearls, costume pieces can add a dash of glamour to your wedding look at a modest cost. 

Check with your mom or grandma to find some vintage costume jewelry that fits your style.

67. Choose Classic Jewelry

Choose versatile bride and bridesmaid jewelry. You’ll get more use out of pieces that you can wear with other outfits or in a variety of venues.

Bridal Party

Having a large bridal party can make your wedding budget skyrocket.

From transportation costs to bridesmaids bouquets, it’s important to limit your expenses as much as possible.

68. Keep It Small

Don’t feel pressured to have a huge wedding party. Keeping it small or skipping attendants altogether can offer major cost savings, said event planners Arreguin and Burton.

“You’ll save hundreds on your flower budget — no extra bouquets and boutonnieres — plus you won’t have to buy bridal party gifts.”

69. Move Everyone in Style

Need to transport your bridal party or family? Ask limousine, trolley or bus companies if they offer rates by the hour or by the day. By comparing different kinds of estimates, you can determine the best option for you.

Looking for a more subdued method of transport? Contact sedan companies that specialize in corporate transportation. They may be willing to contract out a few Lincoln Town Cars for your big day.

70. Borrow a Vehicle

Only need to go a short distance with your group?

Consider borrowing a friend’s SUV to shuttle the bridal party and family.

71. Color Coordinate

Instead of dictating your bridesmaids all wear the same $300 dress, choose a color and let them pick their own. Black is universally flattering and you won’t end up with differing shades.

72. Take on Touch-Ups as a Team

A bride’s makeup can cost over $100.

To save money, try this smart tip: Hire the best makeup person you can afford, but ask them to leave a touch-up kit for you. Since most artists charge by the hour, you don’t want to pay for someone to wait around to do a five-minute touch-up before your portraits.

Food and Drink

You can’t have a wedding without food and drinks. But catering costs are expensive. The Knot estimates that food and alcohol takes up about 25% of your wedding budget.

Seated, plated dinners are the most expensive option for catering. Consider other dining options like buffets, family-style stations or heavy appetizers.

73. Skip the Cocktail Hour

The cocktail hour typically gives the wedding party and family time to take portraits. If you’re having all your wedding activities in one location, and/or will have your photos done before the ceremony, consider skipping that extra hour of service altogether.

74. Ask for Small Plates

Thinking of having a buffet? Ask to use seven-inch plates rather than the standard 10-inch dinner plates.

“Guests tend to put less food on smaller plates and will likely consume what’s only on their plate,” said Greg Jenkins of Bravo Productions in Long Beach, California.

A wedding buffet.
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75. Eat Family Style

Ask your caterer or venue if meals can be served family style.

Family-style serving makes the food a focal point as well as a way to start conversation. It also lets you serve a few less-expensive dishes, like pasta, that you might not expect at a traditional plated dinner.

Remember: Labor-intensive specialty foods — like sushi rolls and anything that requires a live cooking station — will always be more expensive.

76. Ask to Pay Based on Consumption

Jenkins said that most venues won’t propose this to a bride, but it’s worth asking if you can purchase food on consumption.

With this model, you pay for what’s eaten, rather than how many guests attend. It’s a great way to minimize your wedding spending.

77. Simplify the Appetizers

Instead of spending money on expensive appetizers, simple cheese and fruit platters might very well suffice.

78. Do Dining DIY

Bringing your own food can help you save big — if your venue allows it.

“Whether you want an exquisite formal dinner or you’re just looking for a more homestyle meal, you are able to scout around and find the best prices to fit your needs,” event planner Farrell said.

79. Skip a Full Meal

Your reception doesn’t need to include a full meal for all your guests.

“Time your wedding away from a full meal if you want to save on catering costs,” recommended relationship and etiquette expert April Masini. Her top pick: a 2 p.m. champagne toast and cake reception. A brunch wedding is another option.

80. Consider Mobile Meal Options

Alexis Evans of Roaming Hunger noted that food trucks are flexible and can offer a variety of services: full meals, late-night snacks or even just desserts.

“Especially for weddings with long guest lists or picky eaters, hiring a variety of trucks allows guests to sample a variety of cuisines without breaking the bank,” Evans said.

81. Choose a Signature Drink

Liquor can really eat up your wedding budget.

But you may not want to nix alcohol altogether.

Instead of an open bar, try opting for a signature cocktail or two. It can save you thousands of dollars while adding a nice personal touch.

82. Be Wise With Alcohol

To save money on booze, consider sticking to beer and wine only. Kegs of beer at a wedding can keep costs low.

Determined to have an open bar? There are still ways you can keep alcohol costs down.

“Use only house brands of liquor,” said Lenderman. “Most of your guests will not notice, and the cost difference between house brands and premiums is tremendous.”

You can also ask the bartender to ban shots, which can add up quickly.

And then there’s champagne. Consider switching out the fancy stuff with cheap bottles of Andre. You’ll save at least $20 per bottle and your guests won’t care.

Finally, when it comes time to toast the new couple, guests will raise a glass of whatever they’re drinking. It doesn’t have to be bubbly.

A person holds a wedding cake.
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Dessert

Like all things wedding-related, cake costs will vary.

Here’s how to get creative so you can have your wedding cake — and eat it too.

83. Have a Dummy Cake

To help you save money on a wedding cake, your baker could make a four-tier cake with two fake tiers of polystyrene that cost just a few dollars each. Once frosted, they look the same as the rest of the wedding cake.

84. Order Two Cakes

It might sound counterintuitive, but this is a smart savings strategy.

“Order a small decorative cake for the cake-cutting ceremony,” advised Stacey León of Butterfly Bakeshop in New York. “And have a sheet cake in the back that can be cut for serving guests.”

85. Bake Up a Buffet

Don’t let those slices go to waste!

Instead of serving each person a slice of cake, have your caterer set up a buffet-style table where plated slices can be placed.

By letting guests serve themselves, only those who truly want to enjoy dessert will take a slice. And in doing so, you’ll be able to order less cake.

86. Use Natural Embellishments

“Order a plain base cake with colorful trim and then have your florist add fresh flowers on site,” recommended León. Most florists have extra flowers on hand after decorating, so discuss this option with your floral provider.

87. Choose a Cake Alternative

Instead of a fancy traditional wedding cake, consider an assortment of cupcakes, or perhaps a series of pies. Cookies and ice cream is another great choice.

These options will be cheaper than a traditional cake.

Music

After the ceremony, it’s time to cut loose. Do you want a live band or a DJ at your reception? Or do you want both?

We’ve got ways to keep costs down.

88. Be Your Own DJ

Load up your smartphone or laptop with playlists for each part of your wedding. Then designate a friend or family member to grab the mic during special announcements and monitor the music.

You’ll get to hear all of your favorite songs on your wedding day without risking a DJ making tacky jokes or forcing your guests to do the chicken dance. Be sure to ask your venue about hookup equipment, speakers and the like.

89. Ask Guests to Perform

Talented guests can help provide entertainment.

Have a friend with an amazing voice? Or maybe a brother who’s a great musician?

Ask them to provide some live entertainment for free or at a deep discount.

90. Look for Student Performers

You can also contact your local college’s music department to ask about students who play at events.

They cost less than professional musicians and are often eager for the experience.

Don’t live near a college or university? Look up local music teachers and see if they have any top students to recommend.

Rachel Christian is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance and a senior writer for The Penny Hoarder. Lisa Rowan is a former staff writer.




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