Just about every couple will be tightening their belts this year when it comes to their wedding budget. So in today’s blog post I have my best wedding cost cutting tips to help you say ‘I do’ in a fiscally fabulous manner.
My cousin Randy’s wedding to the lovely Bita is the perfect example of an elegant, yet economical, wedding. It was such a joy to have Bita join our family and it was an honor to be asked to photograph their wedding in Florida.
Though these two tied the knot on a minimal budget, you would never know it by looking at the luxurious details of their big day. While Bita has excellent taste, her budget was more modest than her Instagram dreams. She is a smart woman, and the lessons from her wedding planning can teach brides everywhere how to have your wedding cake and eat it too. In short, she dreamed big on Pinterest, but then found a more economically priced option with local vendors. She spent time – not money – and got exactly what she wanted.
Don’t get me wrong – there were splurge items for her wedding day. But Bita spent her money wisely on the things she cared about the most. It took time to research and shop for the best priced options and that is the biggest lesson: if you don’t have the time, you will have to spend the money. Most couples end up not finding what they want, and they then have to splash out and spend. So with that in mind, here are my best wedding cost cutting tips.
Wedding Cost Cutting Tips – The Basics
If you want to keep your wedding budget under control, you have to first get organized. Keep a spreadsheet of every item so that you can see in dollars and cents how much it cost you to add a dessert, an accessory, etc. to your wedding. Costs add up, and a guest favor here or a new cocktail option there can end up bankrupting you.
Enlist your friends as your event planners and see what services they can provide. No bride is an island, and no one can create a wedding alone. You will need help. It is always useful to have a second pair of eyes to look at your event objectively and help you sort out the priorities, and costs. Furthermore, it’s always good to have friends who can help with DIY projects like creating centerpieces and gift bags for out-of-town guests. Drinking and crafting go hand-in-hand, so you can have a fun girls’ night in doing DIY projects.
For your venue, choose a customizable space. The big downside for empty venues is that you have to provide everything – including tables, chairs, and catering. But the upside is that you can completely control the costs. Bita and Randy chose The Barn at Azalea Oaks. The venue was an open barn, and had plenty of parking, a gorgeous outdoor chandelier for the ceremony, lakeside access for photos, and sheep (!). What more could you want? Other empty venue options include art galleries, theaters, and wineries. These venues are blank canvases upon which you can create your ultimate wedding within a budget you can afford.
Limit your guest count. It goes without saying that less people invited means less people to feed. If you keep your guest count down to a very small number as my past clients Carol and Chris did for their Bergdorf Goodman wedding, you can then blow it out with a much bigger party on a much smaller budget. For most people, however, a guest count under 30 simply isn’t realistic. As such, bear in mind as you are creating your invitation list that keeping your guest count under control will go far in keeping your budget under control. For the record, Bita and Randy had a guest count of 160.
Likewise, limit your bridal party. An over the top bridal party comes with it an expectation of gifts for each member of the party. No bridal party; no problem. For Bita and Randy, the only members of their bridal party were the best man – Randy’s brother, Chris – and best little man – Bita’s son, Mahan.
Wedding Cost Cutting Tips – Food & Drink
Serve dinner buffet style. Plated dinners are fancy, but they also come with a much more expensive price tag due to the amount of food and the labor costs. With buffets, you assume that each guest will eat a little of some items, but not a plate of everything, as in the case of a plated dinner. There is also less wait staff involved, and hence the labor costs are much less. In the case of Bita and Randy, this lucky couple employed the multiple talents of Bracken Smith. Bracken is not only a talented chef, but also a DJ and hair stylist (though he was only hired for cooking and DJ-ing).
Limit the bar selection and bring your own booze. One of the biggest expenses at a wedding is the bar. If you limit your selection of drinks to beer, wine, and perhaps a select cocktail or two, you will cut down on the overall costs. Buying the liquor yourself is always your cheapest option. Even better, buy your liquor from an establishment that will buy back unopened bottles.
Want a extravagant cake? Most cake decorators can create what you want. Aside from the elaborate icing on top, most cakes are the same underneath. As such, the wedding cost cutting trick is to do your research ahead of time. Find the cake you want on Pinterest, and then go to your local bakery to see if they can recreate the same cake at a fraction of the cost.
Also, make sure you only buy the amount of cake you need. No one needs a 10- layer cake unless you are serving hundreds of guests. Either cut down on the number of edible layers, or have the necessary amount of layers to eat and the rest be decorated Styrofoam.
Finally, never underestimate the appeal of tiny desserts. People like variety, and a popular trend is to serve a tray of mini desserts at each table along with sliced wedding cake. See if your caterer will allow you to bring in a selection of goodies from another vendor to cut down on the costs.
Wedding Cost Cutting Tips – Vendors
For photography, it’s all about time. Most photographers sell their services in either packages or by the hour. If you don’t feel you need an entire ten hours of photography (the minimum amount of time with my smallest package), then an hourly package is the way to go. To make sure you get the most photographic bang for your buck, be sure to front load your wedding day events – cake cutting, toasts, etc. – so that all of these events are photographed. The rest of the wedding will be eating and dancing, and you only need a few photos of each to tell the story.
For videography, cut back on editing to save money. If you want a fancy video with music and seamless editing, then expect to pay top dollar. Editing takes time, and that is what you are paying for with a professional videographer. If, on the other hand, you simply want your ceremony recorded for posterity, then consider having a friend use their iPhone or simply ask your videographer if they will sell you only the footage with no editing.
Try your hand at DJing with your own speaker system. The benefit of being your own DJ is that you get to play the exact music you want. What you are missing is a professional who knows how to crank up the heat on the dance floor and an emcee. But if you have a friend who wouldn’t mind the public speaking role of master of ceremonies, then now is the time to delegate.
Wedding Cost Cutting Tips – The Details
Go vintage for your wedding dress. Not every bride dreams of having a big, meringue of a dress. If your idea of a wedding dress is something a bit more demure, try looking for just a white dress and then jazzing up your outfit with accessories.
Likewise, the cost of having a vintage dress altered or even handmade is often much less than a extravaganza dress from Kleinfeld’s. Choosing a vintage or gently worn dress is the more ecological choice, and isn’t that what’s really fashionable right now? Bita’s beautiful dress was handmade by a designer friend of hers, Gabriela Peralta.
Flowers are really expensive. Aside from your venue, catering, and the bar, flowers are the most expensive line item in your wedding budget. Cut out the costs with alternative centerpieces that either do not use flowers or use flowers sparingly. (Check out my article on Non-Floral Centerpiece Ideas.) Also consider other table fillers that are easy to create at a fraction of the cost such as these mason jars created with fairy lights and jute string for Bita and Randy’s wedding.
Making your own bouquet is a fun DIY project that anyone can do. You can order your flowers in bulk online, but just make sure you have a cool, dark space to store the blooms. Here are some helpful links for fashioning your own bouquet and boutonniere:
Also, make sure you have enough hands on deck to create the bouquet and any centerpieces. Flowers look easy enough to put together, but it takes time and you do not want to be kept up all night worrying about your arrangements when you should be getting some sleep.
Glasses, napkins, and silverware. If you booked a venue that provides everything, you won’t need to worry. But for anyone like Bita and Randy who booked an empty venue space, you will need to provide all your own tables, chairs, napkins, and the like. Shop around rental providers to get the best deal. Make sure you check with the venue first, as they most likely will have items on hand that you can rent directly from the venue. It may cost more, but the time you save in getting everything on-site may be worth the cost.
Never underestimate what you can find at Dollar Tree. For Bita and Randy’s wedding, Dollar Tree was the source of many of their wedding items, including all their glassware and vases. It took awhile to amass the amount of glasses needed for the wedding, and they also had to go to several stores before they found enough of what they needed. If you have the time, then you can save some serious money.
You can find just about anything on Amazon and in Party City-like stores. Bita and Randy got all of the items for their photo booth and for the kids’ table on Amazon and Party City.
This is also where they got the hats and fun items for the ‘carnival’ at the end of the wedding. Bita grew up in Costa Rica, and Costa Ricans know how to party. It is a tradition in Costa Rican weddings to have a ‘carnival’ during the reception (like a mini Mardi Gras) where guests dress up in fun outfits and strut their stuff on the dance floor.
Say no to guest favors and swag. You are providing your guests with a fantastic event and lots of tasty food and drink, so don’t feel guilty about saying no to a gift bag at the end of the evening. If you do want to provide a little something for guests as a way of saying thank you for attending, then try an edible gift such as cookies or a candy buffet. Bita found all of the candies for her candy buffet at Party City.
Make your own seating chart. Creating your own seating chart is a simple DIY project. All you need is a mirror or window, and then the appropriate marker. Be smart, and use a marker that you can easily erase in case of misspelling, or worse, a cancelled RSVP.
Invitations and notes for the couple. Hideously expensive invitations with three envelopes inside are becoming a thing of the past. Instead, most couples are opting for do-it-yourself invitations using an online printer like Minted or even sending out email invitations. Bita and Randy opted to cut the costs of their invitations by reserving elaborately printed invitations only for close, older family members or out-of-town guests. Anyone local simply got an email with all of the details of their wedding day.
DIY Photo Booths. There are lots of DIY options for photo booths out there. From setting up an IPad on a tripod, to renting your own retro booth – all you have to do is reach out on the WWW to find a way to rig your own photo booth.
My recommendation is that you have someone as your designated photo booth supervisor. This could be a family member, friend, or acquaintance that you pay for their time. Having someone on hand to deal with any glitches will save you being the point person in case of technical difficulties.
Randy & Bita
Randy and Bita met in Costa Rica in 2015. Though he lives in Winter Haven, Florida, Randy was in the country handling family property. Friends set them up, and what started with a simple dinner at a restaurant in San Jose grew into much more.
Randy eventually had to go back to the states, but he kept in touch by calling Bita every day. He decided to prove his love to Bita by coming back to Costa Rica and traveling three hours to see her son perform at a gymnastic competition. Bita saw that Randy was serious in his intentions, and a long distance love story was born.
But the long distance got to be too much and after two years Randy decided to ask Bita to marry him. He planned a romantic proposal on the Costa Rican beach. His plans, however, fell through when he realized that he left the ring back home in San Jose. After a weekend at the beach with no proposal, the couple returned home. Bita was dressed in her comfy clothes after unpacking and it was then that Randy decided to ask her to marry him.
The engagement ring was created using the diamond from his mother’s engagement ring. His mother’s ring was a yellow gold ring, and Randy had a new, white gold ring fashioned with the vintage diamond.
Enjoy the photos, and I will have lots more happy distractions to share with you next week. By the way, some very good news: I just received my PPP loan. Thank you, CARES Act!
- Ceremony and reception venue – The Barn at Azalea Oaks, Winter Haven, Florida
- Catering – Kickin’ Yo Butt BBQ & Catering by Bracken Smith
- Liquor – ABC Liquor
- DJ – Bracken Smith
- Wedding cake and cake pops – Sugar and Slice Bakery
- Candy buffet – Party City
- Flowers – Bought online
- Table and silverware rental – Party Rentals Unlimited, Winter Haven
- Glassware and vases – Dollar Tree
- Wedding dress – Custom made by designer Gabriela Peralta
- Bride’s shoes – Dyeables
- Jewelry – From the bride’s grandmother
- Bride’s hair and makeup – U Salon, Winter Haven; makeup by Jose Berti
- Groom and groomsmen’s tuxedos – Angelique Bridal Boutique, Winter Haven
- Wedding rings – Blue Nile
- Carnivale items – Amazon, Party City
- Photo booth items – Katey Collany, Amazon, Party City
- Children’s table items – Amazon, Party City
- Seating chart – DIY project
- Notes for the bride and groom – DIY project
- Invitations – Stationery Loft, Lakeland
- Event planning and photo booth – Katey Collany, family member
- Videography – Mitchell Collier, friend of the bride and groom
Interested in chatting about your upcoming wedding? Drop me a line and let’s have a virtual cup of tea to talk about your photography needs.
If you would like to see more images from my portfolio, then please visit my website – KellyWilliamsPhotographer.com