A word of warning: If you have visions of 24K gilded letterpress invitations, and a twelve-piece band, hit the road. This no-fail how-to is for brides who want to cut corners, pinch pennies, beg, borrow, and bargain their way to an uber-affordable dream wedding. Are you in? Whether you’re looking to save a little, save a lot or get it for free (gasp!) we’ll show you the way.
Save a little: If you’ve got to have a designer gown, you have two options. You can troll online sample sales, like our favorite, The Aisle, or you can buy your wedding dress pre-owned. PreOwnedWeddingDresses is a safe bet In both instances, you’ll be getting gently worn dresses for about 50-80% off of the retail price of the gown, and no one will even notice.
Save a lot: You’d be surprised how much the price drops on ANYTHING when words like “wedding” and “bridal” are omitted. If the gown is just a formality to you, you might want to consider skipping the bridal boutiques and just heading for the department stores for formal gowns…that happen to be white. Nordstrom and Saks are affordable (with many gowns under $500), and have a great selection.
Get it for free: The world is full of once-worn gowns – is it possible that SOMEONE in your family has a gown that matches your size and style? (If you want to throw a little money down on alterations, any vintage gown can be modified to suit your figure and look faboosh!)
Save a little: Taste test your way around town! Get quotes from all of your local bakeries and cakeries, and then see if your fave wedding cake creater can match the lowest quote.
Save a lot: How much do you actually like cake? If you’re one of those weirdos who doesn’t like cake – this is an easy one – don’t have a wedding cake. Do a dessert table instead. (Or a s’mores bar, perhaps?) If you feel the need to have SOMETHING to cut, for ceremony’s sake, just grab a small, store-bought white cake and you’re set.
Get it for free: Is there a champion baker in your family? Does your BFF write a food blog? Butter ‘em up nice, and then see if they’d like to gift you a wedding cake (in lieu of something from your registry).
Save a little: A place that markets itself as a wedding venue exclusively will set you back several thousand dollars. Unless that price includes a wedding planner, or a seated dinner for all your wedding guests, step away. Don’t shell out this kind of cash for a few hours of ambience alone.
Save a lot: Wedding venues can be a racket. Check out local community centers, historical sites, public parks, gardens, even low-key restaurants. These venues will only cost you a few to several hundred bucks.
Get it for free: If someone you know owns a farm, or a particularly gorgeous backyard, it’s time to call in a sizable favor.
Save a little: If you’re using a florist, opt for small, modest table arrangements that use seasonal, easy-to-source blooms. Stay away from exotics, and oversized, sculptural arrangements. Even better – go for a monochromatic color scheme by sticking to one type of flower–not only will it look chic, but it will cost your florist a lot less to order just one type of flower than a whole assortment.
Save a lot: Get your flowers wholesale – order them from a local florist, flower farm, farmer’s market, or online. Create your own arrangements the night before with your bridal party. It helps if they’re creative. (Tip: Be sure to put ice in the water in keep your blooms from wilting.) Bloomsbythebox.com sells flowers wholesale, and you can browse their “DIY Flowers Gallery” for ideas! Don’t know an azalea from an anemone? Check out our guide to Pinterest-worthy blooms!
Get it for free: Uh, is there a gardener in your family or circle of friends? If not, try making friends with your local gardener’s club, or create centerpieces using candles, design objects, or whatever pretty little things you have at your disposal.
Save a little: When it comes to catering, steer clear of pricier entrees. Save the lobster for another special occasion – like your honeymoon. The price difference between filet mignon and chicken breast will add up quickly, so be sure to inquire about price differences and consider going vegetarian with your menu. Also, buffets or family style options are usually cheaper than seated dinners, and they can be more fun because your guests will interact with each other.
Save a lot: Go for more trendy, yet casual fare – Korean taco bar? Or why not have your favorite ethnic food restaurant cater, or your local culinary school, filled with untapped talent? You could also save big by having a chic brunch or lunch reception, or a pre-dinner hor d’oeuvres and desserts-only reception.
Get it for free: Wedding potluck, anyone? This works best if you’re having a small reception, but hey, if you’ve got a bunch of foodies in your inner circle, this could work out better than a caterer!
Save a little: If your heart is absolutely set on letterpress, one color letterpress invites are your cheapest option. You’ll be able to get a wedding suite of 100 one color invitations for around $500-$600. If you’ll opt out of letterpress, you’ll spend about half. (Consult our list of the best places to buy wedding invitations.)
Save a lot: There’s a broad selection of printable wedding invitation kits available from big box stores like Target and Michael’s. Looking for something more unique? There are thousands of print-it-yourself invite designs for sale on Etsy, starting at around $30.
Get it for free: Do it all online! Send e-vites, and manage your RSVPs via the interwebs. No waiting for those RSVPs to roll in. Easy, peasy.
Do you have any money saving tips for fellow brides? Feel free to share in the comments!