It’s no secret: Wedding cost a ton of money. From the venue to the catering and the dress, weddings are an estimated $50 billion industry in the US alone. Your new life as a married couple doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg, and it doesn’t have to suck either. When I look back on the weddings I’ve attended, the ones I most enjoyed were the lowest maintenance. They focused on the people, the marriage, and often the dancefloor. Here are some of my favorite ways to save money on your wedding and still have a good time.
Go lean on the invitations
I initially fell in love with wedding invitations and save-the-dates on websites like Minted and Invitations by Dawn. I was hung up on gold foil and thought I’d simply wait for a sale. One evening, after reaching the checkout several times to a $500+ bill and was feeling completely discouraged. While that was a great price by wedding standards, I wasn’t comfortable with spending that much on paper that will be recycled right away. After all, all your guests need is the URL for your wedding website. I shortly gave up on my gold foil dreams and went with VistaPrint, the website where I’ve ordered my Christmas cards from for a few years now. I was able to cut my paper costs by more than half (less than $1 per card!) and still found a set with matching thank-you cards. I’ve found they’re even cheaper than Walmart, another low cost option.
If you want to go even cheaper, you still have the option of skipping the paper altogether. You can get beautiful, free wedding invitations from Paperless Post or mix and match with free digital save the dates and paper invitations.
Shop second hand
As much as you might be frustrated by the markup of the wedding industry, just remember: there are thousands of brides that have recently gone through the same realization. They bought the charger plates, got hitched, and are ready to pass them onto the next bride. Just search “wedding decor” or “wedding dresses” in your local Craigslist, and you’ll find enough gear to outfit your big day. And remember, it was probably only used one. Another trick I’ve discovered is the local Wedding ‘Shop and Swap’ groups on Facebook. You can subscribe to get updates when new items go up for sale, and it’ll give you a good impression of what you’ll be able to sell after your own wedding.
Buy an off-the-rack wedding dress
If you’ve started your wedding budget, I bet your dress stands out as one of the biggest line items. In fact, The Knot reported in 2016 that brides spend an average of over $1500 (USD) on their gown. What I didn’t account for when I was budgeting for my gown was the cost of alterations, which can add another $500 to the cost of your wedding. As I started scaling back on our overall wedding budget, I became increasingly uncomfortable with the $2,500 I had set aside for my dress. This led me to browsing some of my go-to shops like H&M and ASOS, who both offer wedding gowns for a few hundreds dollars or less. I now have my eyes on a few dresses at Canadian store Le Chateau, who have a full wedding shop with options under $700. Even with alterations I’ll be shaving over $1,000 on our wedding budget.
Scale back the flowers
If you want to save money on your wedding but still want it to be gorgeous, consider scaling back on your flower budget. One option is to focus on the key pieces, like the bride’s bouquet and a bunch to adorn the head table. If you envisioned floral centrepieces for your big day, consider the cheaper alternative of greenery. You can mix wholesale bunches with candles (like the image below) or get your florist to deliver a high-impact table runner. One of my favorite wedding hacks is to find a venue with round tables instead of a long table. That way, you can get away with only having one centrepiece per 10 guests and no one’s the wiser.
Host your reception at a restaurant
If you take one look at my Pinterest account, you’ll know that my dream wedding reception has long been a backyard long table dinner. Little did I know, those “backyard” venues cost about as much as a traditional, indoor venue, but they come with a a lot more work. Add in the cost of furniture rentals, linens, glassware, cutlery… well, you get the picture. We found that for all the extra hassle, the cost of catering was on par with what we’d be paying for a traditional venue. Needless to say, our guests will not be dining under the stars.
Instead, my fiancé and I settled on a hosting both our ceremony and reception in a downtown restaurant. The ceremony will take place in the restaurant’s courtyard, and after a round of champagne we’ll head right into the main area for dinner and dancing. After having priced out all the tiny details of a “simple” backyard wedding, it was a breath of fresh air to find a venue that would take care of all of it, including the cleanup. No venue fee for either the ceremony or reception space means more money for the open bar. Compared to high-priced venues in the area, I also noticed the lack of fine print like cake plating fees or charges for extra staff. The icing on the cake? It comes with a day-of coordinator and printed menus — for no extra charge.
Stop comparing your wedding to others
I was recently sharing my wedding woes with a coworker, who replied with something along the lines of, “Pinterest ruined weddings.” This was a pivotal moment in the planning process for me, because you know what? It’s true. Every wedding you are lusting after on Pinterest, in bridal magazines, on The Knot, and on Instagram probably cost tens (and tens) of thousands of dollars. That simple, rustic, long table wedding with the floral table runner? That bride paid a wedding planner to haul every last Chiavari chair and vintage blush wine glass into a forest. So quit looking at your brother’s college roommate’s ex-girlfriend’s sister’s wedding on Instagram and start planning your wedding with and make it perfectly within your budget.