7 tips for planning a wedding on a budget.
You said “I will.” Now before you say “I do,” you need to ask yourself what you can afford to pay for the wedding you want.
There are 2.5 million weddings annually in the U.S., and according to the Association of Bridal Consultants, the average cost of a wedding tops $28,000!
But before you make plans to elope, TheKnot says that the cost of a wedding really depends on where you live — and CostofWedding.com says most couples actually spend less than $10,000. You can see examples of what that can buy you at BridalGuide.com.
There are many ways to cut costs and still make your wedding an affair to remember. Here are 7 tips to help you plan a wedding you can afford:
- Stay married to your budget: Talk to your fiancé (or fiancée) and family members to first determine your spending range — from what’s comfortable to an absolute maximum — and where the funds are coming from. Then use a wedding cost estimator to prepare an itemized budget, based on your personal selections. Don’t forget to include hidden costs and a cushion to avoid surprises later on. And be sure to take a virtual or paper copy of your budget with you as you make decisions, so you can stay on track.
- Give DIY a try: Depending on your skills (and those of your guests), you can save big on centerpieces, favors, photography, videography, invitations and even the band or DJ. Then use the savings to splurge in other areas that are important to you (or simply save the money). Find tons of DIY ideas and tips at TheKnot, on bridal wedding blogs and on Pinterest.
- Reduce your guest list: Of course you’ll want all of your friends and family there to help you celebrate your big day, but don’t feel like you have to include everyone you have ever known. Weddingwire.com suggests using its free wedding guest list tool for convenience and assigning a tier level for each name. For example, tier A is for essential family members; tier B is for close friends, colleagues and friends of the family; and tier C is for distant relatives and other “nice to haves.” When you need to cut based on your venue’s cost per person, start from the last tier up until you get to the right number. This may also resolve some other sticky issues, such as inviting “plus ones” and children. Approximately 20 to 30 percent of your list will be regrets, depending on how far they have to travel. (Tip: Share this system with your parents and future in-laws to keep the peace when you give them guest numbers!)
- Cut the cake (or at least the cost): Sometimes you can have your cake and eat it too. While wedding cakes can set you back anywhere from $1.50 to $12/person according to TheKnot, noted wedding and event planner Colin Cowie recommends going for a fancy small cake for display and photography — then ordering the rest of the servings as a sheet cake. Brides offers suggestions for creative alternatives to showcase your personality (and humor), too, ranging from doughnut or Oreo pyramids to pancake cakes. Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart offers delicious recipes for a DIY cake (plus tips to add decorative touches to a bakery confection).
- Get the dress for less: For a bride, what you wear on your big day is probably the most personal and biggest of all bridal decisions, as you’ll be looking at the images of your big day for a long time. Fortunately, there are many ways to say yes to the dress for less: rentals, shopping online at overstock and consignment sites, visiting vintage shops, or borrowing from a relative’s or friend’s closet. In all these scenarios, you’ll have to figure in the cost of alterations, but you can still get a designer look without paying designer prices.
If you’re a groom, consider wearing a nice suit you already own, or purchasing a suit or tux on sale. You’ll be able to use your purchase for future occasions and often spend less than you will for a rental.
- Separate venue facts from myths: Your venue and menu (including food and beverage) represents your largest expense. At the high end, you’ll probably pay the most to hold your wedding on a Saturday during the summer at an upscale hotel. But even if that’s your heart’s desire, you can still save money by asking for a discount for paying upfront and by bringing your own alcohol, if it is allowed. You may think the low end is having your big day in a backyard, but TheKnot cautions that this can be more expensive than you think because everything from Porta-Potties to the silverware must be leased. Their advice? Go for an all-inclusive venue in your area. Wherever you choose, be sure that you get everything in writing and know what to look for in wedding vendor contracts.
- Make your own kind of music: Music makes a wedding a party! A DJ will cost you about a third of the cost of a live band (around $1,100 vs. $3,500), but your decision doesn’t have to be either one or the other. TheKnot suggests a range of hybrid options to save money, including hiring a band with fewer members and employing a DJ’s associate to do some of the setup and grunt work.