The average wedding in the US costs around $25K – and that figure easily doubles in major metropolitan areas like NYC and LA. In the event that that’s news to you, newbie brides, allow me to apologize on behalf of the wedding industry. The good news: implementing any of these ten tips could save you thousands, and quite possibly, tens of thousands. If you’re worried that slicing your budget also means quashing all the wedding fun, don’t fret! By keeping your reception simple, fun, and chock full of the things you truly love, you’re sure to create an event that people won’t stop talking about.
1. Avoid traditional wedding venues all together, and look for an ideal public space instead. Any place that bills itself exclusively as a wedding venue will cost you thousands of dollars just in space rental (if you’re lucky, that figure will include items like tables, chairs, and linens). City and state parks, museums, botanical gardens, historical buildings, and art galleries, however, are full of event spaces that can be rented out for an evening on the (comparative) cheap. If you’re a city bride, find a gorgeous roof garden, or look into renting out a party room or event space in your favorite restaurant or cocktail bar.
2. Don’t serve a full meal. Need to slash those numbers fast? The biggest item on any wedding budget is always the food. Always. If you need your wedding tally to come in well, well under that daunting $25K figure, axe the buffet or sit-down dinner immediately. Schedule your wedding at a pre or post-dinner hour, and be sure to indicate what will be provided on your wedding invitations, i.e. “Hors d’oeuvres and cocktails to follow” or “Join us after the ceremony for cupcakes and champagne!” Booze, sweets, and tasty noms beat a bland chicken entree and a garden salad every time.
3. Or serve more informal fare. If fancy, formal affairs aren’t your thing, you can save big (and sate the masses) by serving more casual cuisine after your ceremony – think brunch, BBQ, or delicious dishes from your favorite Thai joint. (If you haven’t caught on to this yet, you’ll save a lot when you work with vendors for your wedding that aren’t explicitly “wedding vendors”.)
4. Nix the open bar. I know, I know – people love open bars, but don’t fret – I’m not suggesting you should do a cash bar instead, by any means. Simply limit your free libations to champagne and signature cocktails, or just a few choice beers and wines. Getting married in the early afternoon? Stick to mimosas and Bloody Marys.
5. Find flexible reception vendors. It’s important to note that working with caterers and wedding venues that allow you to buy your own booze will save you a lot of cash, so be sure to keep this in mind in the earliest stages of wedding planning.
6. Send your photographer home earlier. I rarely suggest people skimp when it comes to their wedding photographer – these pictures are forever, after all. But if you find you can’t quite get the quality photog you need for the price you want, inquire about hiring your photographer for a couple hours, instead of for the full duration of your event. Yes, your brother-in-law’s breakdancing may go un-immortalized by a photography professional, but you can usually depend on guests to get a few decent candids of your reception.
7. Go with minimalistic flower arrangements. And if you want to save even more money, stick with small scale arrangements that you can arrange yourself. Try tiny bunches of big-headed blooms, rose blossoms floating in water-filled cylindrical vases, or big bouquets of flower shop cheapies like Baby’s Breath.
8. Just say no to the reception dress. We so rarely insist you skip an opportunity to shop, but just pick a wedding gown that will do double duty. If this totally kills your dreams of looking like Disney’s Cinderella at your ceremony and 1990’s J-Lo at your reception, my condolences.
9. Be your own DJ. Lots of modern couples are opting to rent some sound equipment and make thier own iPod music playlists, rather than hiring a DJ or a band. If you are providing your own tunes, be sure to create a playlist that will take your guests from cocktail hour till the end of the night. Timing and flow is key – people will keep dancing if you’re still blasting the crowd faves at 10pm, but they will also go home if the music ends abruptly at 7:30 pm.
10. Do something fun like cupcakes or donuts instead of cake. A wedding cake-shaped tier of your favorite treats will cost you a lot less than an actual wedding cake (which can set you back hundreds, even thousands of dollars, FYI). There’s ALWAYS leftover cake, and it’s usually hauled home by the bride’s mom. However, if you opt for tasty, single-serving treats and provide to-go boxes for your guests, you’ll have less leftovers and instant wedding favors. Bonus!
Want even more wedding planning tips? Check out “10 Wedding Centerpieces You Haven’t Thought Of Yet“, and “10 Ways To Make Your Wedding More You“!