55 Ways to Save Money on Your Wedding in 2021

From overall wedding saving tips big and small to the very creative wedding budget ideas you may never have heard

Anja Winikka
July 16, 2021
Couples

Whether you have $10,000 to spend on your wedding or you’re spending well above the $100,000 mark, most couples (no matter the budget) end up looking for ways to save on their wedding. The best way to cut costs? Start with what matters most to you. Sit down together and make a list of your top three wedding priorities. Maybe it’s the food and music and guest experience. Or, perhaps the flowers, venue and fashion moments are tops. (Your priorities are entirely yours.) Once you’ve made your list of must-haves, then you’ll know where to allocate more of your wedding budget. As you’re planning, if at any point you feel a little stretched, go back to your original list and decide where you want to save. From overall wedding saving tips big and small, to the very creative wedding budget ideas you may never have heard of, here are 55 great ways to save and stick to your original wedding budget.

Wedding planning decisions that will save you money

1. Long engagement = Big savings

Time is a major wedding planning savings factor. Simply put, if you can manage to stay engaged for a longer period of time, then you’ll have more time to save and set aside money for the wedding. (Read: and not have to turn to a credit card or go into debt!)

2. See ya, Saturday

The most coveted day of the week for a wedding is Saturday. Enter your basic supply and demand concept. Instead of a sought-after Saturday wedding, consider booking a venue for a Friday, Sunday or even Thursday! Venues, photographers, and other service providers may be willing to discount their pricing or throw in an extra perk for that very reason. Another tidbit: If you schedule your wedding day for a non-Saturday, you’ll cut down on the number of people who may be able to attend, which in turn will lower your overall wedding cost.

3. Give less-popular wedding dates some love

Similar to the above wedding budget saving tip, get married in a less popular time of the year. Almost three-quarters of weddings take place between May and October. A winter or early spring wedding will shave some money off of your venue costs. Of course, the city you’re marrying in may have its own seasonality. For example, the off-season for weddings in Florida is actually summertime. So be cognizant of that and ask around!

4. Minimalist wedding parties

The more people you have in your wedding party, the more likely you are to spend on items like wedding party gifts, accessories, hair and makeup and bouquets. For that reason, you might want to stick with one or two of your closest friends and skip the big wedding party idea.

5. VIPs ONLY

This may be an obvious one but it has to be said: Only invite people who you know want to share and celebrate with you on your wedding day. There is truly no reason to invite every member of your extended family—especially if said members are not folks you have a close relationship with. Add to that, taking just 10 people off your list could save you thousands of dollars.

6. Minus Ones

Similar to the above cost-saving tip, you don’t have to give wedding guests a plus one if they’re not in a long-term relationship or married. If you decide to go this route and invite guests solo, the best way to communicate is to address the invite only to them. If there are questions, let them know that while you don’t have space for plus-ones, you are planning to seat friends without partners all together at the same table.

Wedding invites, printing & paper: ways to save

Depending on the number of guests and the style, you might spend anywhere between $300 and $3,000+ on your wedding invitations. There are so many factors that play into the price––the paper you choose, the type of printing, the design, materials and of course the quantity. Here are a few simple ways to save on wedding invites and paper.

7. Simplify the paper

Similar to the way that fabric impacts the cost of a wedding dress, paper type will have a major bearing on the overall wedding invitation price. Cardstock, linen, pearlescent, cotton, lucite and beyond––the material is entirely up to you. The more expensive options can drive up the price to more than $50 per invite (and that’s before we even get to the envelopes and postage). So if you’re looking to save on paper, stick to more of a basic paper option.

8. RSVP Postcards

Postcard postage obviously costs less than for regular envelopes. So rather than send every guest a postmarked envelope with your reply card, do postcard wedding RSVPs instead.

9. Re-consider the envelope liner

Foil liners, watercolor liners, and envelope liners printed to coordinate with the wedding invites are all beautiful options. On the other hand, those extras add up. If you’re looking for ways to save on the invitations, stick to something more basic and it’ll save you on your wedding invites.

10. Wedding websites in lieu of inserts

You really don’t have to mail out every single detail about the wedding. Keep the invitations simple and put all of those nitty-gritty details on your wedding website instead. It’ll cut down on the number of inserts you have to print (and mail!).

Wedding websites are free and there are so many sites that make it easy to create a custom wedding site. Simply add the URL to your wedding website onto the bottom of your invites or create a custom QR code for all your guests to use.

11. Mail some, email others

You probably know people on your guest list who check their email every 5 minutes. Take advantage! Create digital versions of your invitations so you don’t mail to guests you know would prefer to RSVP online.

12. Say yes to DIY addresses

Calligraphy is beautiful (and a total must if your invites are on the priority list!). But on the other hand, you may be able to have a printer address your invites at little to no cost. If not that, then consider grabbing a few quality pens and a friend or two with great handwriting to get the addressing done yourselves.

13. Re-think the letterpress

Letterpress—an age-old printing technique that firmly presses letters to indent the paper —can give your invites a bold, elevated look. It’s certainly one of the more expensive printing styles for that reason. If your heart is set on it, remember you don’t have to use it for every single word on the invite.

14. Wedding day ceremony programs

Not everyone will need a minute-by-minute rundown of the schedule. One program per couple is plenty. If it’s a short ceremony, skip them altogether!

15. Create an escort card display in lieu of cards

Escort cards, which are meant to direct guests to their table, are a must-have for larger weddings. (Asking guests to find their own seat at a wedding larger than 100 guests is just going to create confusion.) But just because you need a way of assigning tables doesn’t mean that you need individual cards for each guest. Consider an escort card display with a list of alphabetized names and table assignments all written out on one large mirror, a printed poster or even a chalkboard.

16. Cut back on menus

Similar to the ceremony program, you don’t have to provide a menu for each guest. Put the menu on display at the center of each table rather than at each place setting.

Ways to save on the wedding dress

Fabric, embellishments, construction, customizations, and design are all factors that have a direct impact on the cost of your wedding dress. And while you might find wedding dresses for under $1,000 (and you’ll definitely find wedding dresses in the $5000 range), the average spent on a wedding dress in America is somewhere around $1,600. Looking to save? Here are some of the smartest ways to cut down on wedding dress costs.

17. Start shopping early

Give yourself enough time to figure out what it is that you want in a dress, the options available, and the price range. For starters, follow a few designers and salons you like online to get a sense as to what you like. And take your time researching and uncovering exactly the dress you want (at a price that makes sense for your budget). That way, you won’t find yourself feeling pressured to buy a wedding dress that is entirely out of your price range!

18. Try a trunk sale

If you’ve never heard of one, a trunk show is basically a way for designers to take their latest and most popular designs to local dress salons across the country. It’s the perfect option for you if you’ve fallen in love with a particular designer or dress design. Oftentimes, trunk shows provide a wider selection of gowns and the chance to buy the dresses at a deep discount. (Potential drawback: Sample dresses are usually (but not always) only offered in sizes 6 to 10).

19. Shop local wedding boutique sample sales

Seek out local bridal salons near you and sign up for their newsletter lists so that you can find out about any upcoming events and sample sales. Sample sales are exactly what they sound like: the dresses that were originally used as a try-on sample are heavily discounted. If you decide to go this route, here’s a must-do: Show up wearing your wedding dress undergarments so that you have a good idea as to how that dress is going to look on the day-of.

20. Go the custom route

There are a myriad of talented local seamstresses. You’ll find them on places like Etsy too. The downside of going custom is that you won’t really know how the dress is going to look until it’s made (and at that point, it may not be possible to return). On the other hand, you can often find custom dresses for cheaper than what you would find in bridal salons.

21. Rent your wedding dress or buy it used

It’s not for everyone but if you really are looking to cut costs and the wedding dress isn’t top of mind for you, you might consider renting it from a place like Rent the Runway. (After all, guys do it all the time with their tuxes!) There are also online consignment shops just for brides, like Nearly Newlywed where women will sell their once-worn wedding dresses at a fraction of the cost.

22. Make your accessories your “something borrowed”

Do you love your grandma’s art deco brooch, or your mom’s pearl earrings? Instead of splashing out on jewelry, ask to borrow an heirloom. Total win-win.

Ways to save on catering (and wedding cake!)

The cost of your wedding food and cake is going to go up or down depending on the guest list, number of courses, and customization. That said, most couples end up spending somewhere between $1,800 and $15,000 on catering. Again, it has everything to do with what it is you’re going for (and how much you can afford). Here are a few cost considerations.

23. Change the dinner format

Rather than do a big sit-down dinner, consider changing up the format entirely with heavy appetizers and a cocktail bar. It’ll signal to your guests that this is more of a get-up-and-dance type of evening. If you’ve always wanted that big dinner, then be sure to do your research and ask a lot of questions. Some venues require you to use their in-house or on-the-list caterer whereas others will not.

24. Don’t overdo the late night snacks

Not everyone will feel the need for a late-night snack (some guests will leave as soon as they get their cake), so scale back your after-dinner offerings. Consider the Pittsburgh tradition of offering a cookie table with to-go treats.

25. Downsize your cake, upsize other treats

You don’t have to have a fancy multi-tiered wedding cake if it’s not your style. One way to save money is to order a small, decorated “slicing” cake for the cake cutting. Then, serve a selection of more budget-friendly desserts, like cupcakes, cookies, doughnuts (or all three!).

26. Reimagine the rehearsal dinner

The rehearsal dinner is one of those sneaky costs that really adds onto the overall wedding budget. If you find that to be the case, go super casual with it (and let your wedding reception really take centerstage). Have friends or family that live in town contribute their favorite dishes, host a pizza party with your favorite local brews, or skip the dinner portion and simply meet up at your favorite bar or restaurant.

27. Go for a stunt cake

Some wedding cake bakers will have you buy an elaborate cake that wows with all of the decorations but inside most the layers will be fake, with the exception of the bottom tier. After you cut into that cake for your cake cutting, your caterer can disappear into the kitchen, only to reappear with delicious slices of (budget-friendly) sheet cake. There’s a good chance your guests won’t know the difference.

28. Mind your frosting choices

The two most common ways to cover a cake is to use buttercream or fondant. Buttercream is usually much less expensive than fondant. (It also tastes better!) That said, if you’re getting married outside when the weather is expected to heat up, you risk a melting cake situation. On the other hand, fondant, with its beautiful smooth texture, looks great in photos and will hold up in the heat. Fondant is more expensive and oftentimes doesn’t stack up in taste.

29. Pare it down

Generally speaking, the fewer add-ons and decorations, the less expensive the wedding cake. One idea: Opt for a “naked” cake. You’ve probably seen these bare beauties on Instagram, made with spare icing and typically dotted with a few fresh flowers. Or, keep the full-on frosting look and then top it off with fresh flowers or one or two sugar flowers.

30. Account for kiddie meals

Having lots of kids at your wedding? Offer a kids meal. Chicken nuggets and mac n’ cheese will go a long way toward boosting your popularity among the younger attendees. Plus, then you’ll save the shrimp and the steak for the people who actually want it.

Ways to save on the wedding bar

Just like all of the wedding planning categories, the cost of the wedding bar really depends on the number of guests and your must-haves. Depending on what you serve, providing a bar can cost anywhere from $400 for a few kegs to $10,000+ for an open bar with top-shelf liquor.

31. Stick to wine and beer!

You’ll undoubtedly save money on the wedding bar if you skip the hard liquors and specialty drinks. Have a small selection of wine and beer for a pared down and affordable option. If it’s more of a daytime event, you might even skip the bar altogether and go for a simple toast of bubbly.

32. Shake things up with a signature cocktail

Another way to save but still get the drinks you like is to limit the options. So maybe you want to do a limited bar of mid shelf choices or a beer and wine bar alongside one or two signature cocktails. And don’t think of it as a way of skimping. Instead, think of it as a way to get creative. For example, a build-your-own bloody mary bar or mimosa bar would be a really fun touch for an afternoon wedding.

WAYS TO SAVE ON THE WEDDING VENUE

Hands-down the wedding venue is almost always the priciest part of the wedding day. Most couples spend between $3,000 to $12,000 on wedding venue rentals. Pricing vary depending on what part of the country you’re marrying in and what’s included.

33. Account for what’s included and choose accordingly

There are venues that include items like seating, tables, linens and a clean-up and set-up crew. And while at face value, the cost might be higher than another venue, you’ll oftentimes save more by opting for a venue that includes those items (rather than having to rent them separately).

34. Research the venue’s preferred vendor list (and policy) before you sign

Some wedding venues actually will require you to use vendors on their preferred vendor lists. That may be totally fine for you and your budget but it’s a great idea to research all of your options before agreeing. You may find that by using, say, their preferred caterer or florist, you’ll be sent over-budget.

35. Keep guests all in one place

The tip here is simple and straightforward: You’ll save money (and save your guests a commute) by having the ceremony and the reception at the same location.

36. Explore non-traditional venue options

Breweries, restaurants and even photography studios could all be fun spots for wedding receptions. And sometimes (though not always), those types of venues will end up charging you considerably less than a traditional venue.

37. Don’t assume that at-home weddings are affordable

While backyard weddings have skyrocketed in popularity, they’re not necessarily more affordable than weddings at venues. You’ll have to factor in the cost of the tent, tables, chairs, linens––not to mention the bathrooms and folks to help set up and tear down. By the time you have the structure all taken care of, there’s still the rest of the details to manage. All that said, do the math for yourself. It might make sense for a micro wedding but likely is going to be more pricey than a traditional venue for guests lists over 25.

Ways to save on your wedding flowers

The average spent on flowers is somewhere around $1500 and the majority of couples spend between $700 and $2,500. That said, if you’re looking for a flower wall, a hanging flower installation or any other wedding flower design that requires a large volume of flowers and labor, you’ll likely be looking at a lot more. So keep that mind! Looking to save a little on flowers? Here are a few suggestions.

38. Think local

Using local flowers can help save money and will minimize your wedding’s carbon footprint and potentially save you money on your flowers. Talk to your florist about what’s in bloom on your wedding date.

39. Have your flowers work overtime

Instead of leaving the flowers at the ceremony or left to wilt on the table next to your bridesmaids, have those flowers work overtime. Your florist may be able to design your ceremony flower arrangements in a way that works well at your reception. And those bouquets? They can be popped into vases on the head table or even side tables.

40. Consider dried or even silk flowers

Fresh flowers are often more expensive than dried or silk. For that reason, you might want to ask your florist about the possibility of using the alternative to fresh. Boho chic bouquets of dried flowers might be the way to go for a fall wedding. Silk flowers may be the perfect choice for a large installation (for say, the ceremony arch or flower wall).

41. Go for green

Instead of pricey peonies or cabbage roses, consider an all-green look. Filler flowers, like baby blue-green eucalyptus, myrtle and dusty miller can take center stage and save you money too!

42. Lose the extra personal arrangements

Personal flower arrangements for extended family (like corsages and such) are nice but they’re an added expense. So decide whether that makes sense for you and feel free to skip.

43. Get creative with decor

Flowers aren’t the only way to decorate a wedding. Dozens of candles make pretty centerpieces for an evening reception, or mason jars with coiled string lights.

Wedding planners

45. Consider hiring a wedding planner

It might sound counterintuitive to hire someone in order to save money but hear us out: not only will having a person by your side to keep the show running smoothly be a very worthwhile investment, planners are there to help you stay on track with the budget. A wedding planner is a third party expert who can weigh in on your wedding pros and steer you in the direction of someone within your budget. Most notably, they’ll help keep you from making planning decisions that could derail your entire wedding budget (like booking a venue that is going to require you to spend more).

Wedding photography

While the average cost for wedding photography is somewhere around $2,500, the majority of couples spend $4,000 to $7,000. Number of hours of coverage, your photographer’s portfolio and past work samples, their experience, reviews and reputation are all factors to consider. Here are a couple ways to save.

46. Go for off-season

We mentioned this one above but it bears to be mentioned here as well. If you choose a date in an off-season or an off-day (like, say a Thursday or Friday wedding in a less popular month), you may be able to get some sort of a discount on your wedding photography. This certainly isn’t always the case (some photographers are simply booked up!) but it’s worth asking the question.

47. Skip the extra add-ons

A lot of what you’re paying for with a photographer is their time editing your work. It’s also the time it takes to prepare and actually photograph your wedding. So while you can’t opt out of either, you could look into waiting on the photo album and skipping any other photography extras.

48. Ask for referrals or hire the second shooter

If you have your heart set on a particular photographer but they are completely out of your price range, you might ask them to refer you to someone who is. Most photographers know of others who fall into lower price points. They might also be able to recommend an associate or second shooter for you to work with at a much lower price.

Wedding music.

49. Look for local talent

If it’s a ceremony musician you’re after, start by looking at local college music programs. Ask professors or find out about the campus chamber orchestra. Many student musicians can easily pull together a string quartet (or similar) at a price point that’s easy on the budget.

50. Opt for a DJ or do the hybrid model

The majority of the time, a DJ is going to cost less than a live band. There are a number of reasons for this but namely it’s about the number of people. If you still want that live band atmosphere, you might consider going hybrid. Hire a DJ to play your wedding and a smaller trio to play 1 or 2 smaller sets throughout the night.

Hotels & transportation.

51. Try for a room block

If you’re expecting a lot of out-of-towners, find a nearby hotel willing to offer you a room block. Not only will that room block guarantee that your guests have a place to stay, it typically comes with a discounted room rate (Some will even throw in an upgraded room for you two).

52. Factor in transportation costs

Venues that sit outside of city limits or that are situated in hard-to-access areas are oftentimes beautiful but come with hidden costs. Transporting your guests between the ceremony and reception or the hotel and the venue is an added cost that you may have to incur if you go this route. Instead, consider that while the venue closer to town (or even close to public transportation) may be slightly pricier upfront, you may end up having to spend just as much or more if you go with something more remote.

Wedding flavors

53. Keep it simple

Guests don’t necessarily expect a wedding favor. But if you really want to send them off with a little reminder from the day, simple gifts like local honey or handmade soap won’t break the bank. Another nice idea: donate a lump sum amount to your favorite charity and then let guests know that you’ve donated on their behalf.

54. Keep it small

Welcome bags filled with all the local goodies are fun. But remember, your guests might fly to your wedding, so travel-sized items are better for everyone.

55. Go for an experiential moment instead

Instead of small objects for everyone, think about investing in an experience. Photo booths are always a hit — they cost $650 on average, and provide entertainment and party favors all in one.

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Anja Winikka has spent more than 15 years marketing to and engaging with both engaged couples and the small businesses that power the weddi