Although the average U.S. wedding now costs more than $31,000, according to The Knot’s 2014 Real Weddings Study, what’s the fun in being “average”? With some planning and a little creativity, there are plenty of ways to tie the knot without breaking the bank.
Always get several bids for every wedding-related service or product (from catering and flowers to the reception venue) so you know what’s reasonable, advises money-saving expert Andrea Woroch. Once you’ve identified your top vendor, don’t let them know that right away. Simply ask if they can offer a better rate or add value with free extras to help make their offer more competitive. “My live band gave me $100 off the dinner music hour simply because I asked,” notes Woroch.
Along with your venue, your guest list may be the most expensive element of your wedding, says Kelli B. Grant, consumer reporter for CNBC.com. “There are a lot of per-person charges throughout wedding planning that can stack up fast, from the reception dinner to invitations, programs and favors,” she says. Firmly deciding up front that you’ll invite only 150 people instead of 200 can help you avoid tough budget trade-offs later. Be sure to give each set of parents or family members a clear maximum on the number of guests they can invite, Grant advises. (And maybe leave yourself a little buffer in case you need to make last-minute guest changes.)
Why should the groom be the only one who can rent his wedding attire? As a bride, you’re probably not going to wear the dress again anyway, says Cat Feliciano, certified wedding planner and CEO of Events by Cat. Solution: Rent a designer gown and look like a million bucks while only spending a couple of hundred (or less).
Most things wedding-related tend to be less expensive from November to April and again in August, because those aren’t prime months for nuptials, says Alexandria Proko, owner of Alexandria Catherine Events, based in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Also, Fridays and Saturdays tend to command higher rates for everything from catering to hotel space, says Proko. Break with tradition and consider an “off-season” Thursday or Sunday wedding to help save yourself big bucks.
Have a cousin who offered to design your invitations? Take her up on it, says Philadelphia-based wedding and event consultant Natalie Diener. If your friend is a photographer, ask if he’ll give you a “friends and family discount” for shooting your wedding. The neighbor who works at a salon may also be willing to barter some babysitting or lawn work in exchange for doing your wedding hair and makeup. “Just remember that favors are almost never completely ‘free,’ so make sure you understand the terms of even the friendliest agreement before moving forward,” Diener says.
Breakfast and brunch reception catering tends to be less expensive than a dinner reception, says Feliciano. If you and your spouse-to-be are morning people, consider an early-in-the-day wedding. “You can have a fun, interactive pancake station, a variety of miniature quiches and a tropical fruit mimosa bar,” suggests Feliciano.
You may have planned your budget around the big-ticket items like the dress, venue, catering, music and photographer. However, smaller expenses may shatter your budget if you don’t prepare for them, says Woroch.
Easy-to-forget expenses could include:
1) Food and beverages for the wedding party while getting ready.
2) Gratuities, taxes and credit-card fees.
3) Postage for save-the-date cards, invitations, RSVP cards and thank you notes.
4) Bridal accessories such as a veil, shoes and necklace.
Have guests RSVP to your wedding website or via email. You’ll save on stamps and stationary costs. “Also, being that we’re in a digital age, you’ll probably get a lot more responses on time than you would using the traditional method,” notes Feliciano.