I did a total DIY wedding. My husband and I were headed overseas right after getting married, and neither of us wanted to spend a ton of money right before a trip when we were buying a one-way ticket. So here are a few ways I really cut costs and if I’d recommend it or not.
1. DIY Invitations are a good way to save.
If you’re a design-minded person or even if you’re not, there are affordable alternatives to $1,000 going towards paper and invitations. Buy a template you can customize off of Etsy (and support a small business), then print it at a local print shop. There are thousands of really cute ones. You may not get gold lettering or embossed paper, but the vast majority of invitations go in the trash anyway. You have to do a lot of the research and work yourself (like figuring out what type of paper you want), but I’ve done suites of 150 invitations + RSVP cards + envelopes for about $150, significantly cheaper than buying them custom made.
If you’re really on a budget, consider paper-less invitations. Slant it like hotels do (you save a lot of trees by doing paperless invitations). If you invest a little in a cute website where you can collect your RSVPs, most people won’t care.
2. Save Money on a Wedding by Booking a Non-Traditional Venue
Venue rental ends up being a MASSIVE wedding expense. If you can think outside the box and find a venue that is not JUST a wedding venue (i.e. a brewery/winery, an AirBnB, airplane hangar, a restaurant, back yard, or a church). Make a list of non-wedding venues that would hold your target amount of people, and then think about which ones could reasonably be a space for you. I got married in my parents’ yard. They have a massive landscape and throughout my childhood I worked hard on it, too, so it was a perfect fit.
3. Be Nice, but Ask for Help!
Most of us have friends that could help us out with wedding preparations. Traditionally, weddings are a really fun opportunity for the community to show a couple their support. When I had my wedding, I was overwhelmed by people who were willing to help if I just told them what I needed them to do. Don’t take people for granted, and don’t use them selfishly, but also don’t be afraid to ask for help. I saved thousands by doing home-made pizza as the main course for our reception. A dozen of my childhood and college friends came over a few hours before the wedding and prepped the pizzas, and then a few people put them in the ovens at the right time. My grandma bought ingredients, and everything ran so smoothly. To this day, I’m so grateful to the girls who came to help. It was fun to have them there, they were all so ready to lend a hand, and we got to laugh and do a project together.
4. Have the Wedding on a Non-Traditional Day
Even as an affordable LA wedding photographer, the vast majority of my Saturdays book up six months in advance. I charge full price for them and there’s not a lot of room for budget packages. Friday and Sunday weddings are different, though. I can give them shorter (i.e. cheaper) packages, and I’m more willing to give them a deal. I know most vendors and even venues have the same mindset, even offering a set discount for non-traditional days.
5. Consider a Non-Traditional Time
I had an adorable couple (left) who had a brunch wedding last summer. I hauled myself out of bed to be there at 8am and the ceremony started at 10. At first I was really confused. But when it finished, I realized something really significant: the venue was still able to rent out the reception space for a wedding that night (the couple probably got a GOOD discount). AND NOBODY DRANK. Let me repeat that. The alcohol tab was probably $50 at the most, because the father-of-the-groom got a beer with the groomsmen. Going along with that…
6. Ditch or Limit the Alcohol
If your dad wants an open bar, he can pay for it. Dry weddings can be just as fun, and significantly cheaper. You can also limit people to two drinks, or have limited choices (i.e. your favorite brand in a trough of ice, or only two choices on tap). I just didn’t offer alcohol at my wedding. My husband and I aren’t drinkers and people were free to bring their own.
7. Borrow or Find a Used Dress
My sister borrowed my aunt’s wedding dress for her own wedding. It fit perfectly and it was free. My aunt was thrilled to see it used again. Used wedding dresses are typically 1/4 to 1/2 the original cost. Especially if you live in a major city, there are usually at least a few good local Facebook wedding groups filled with brides looking to sell their dresses or even sell their back-up dresses that have never actually been worn.
8. Beg, Barter, Trade, Buy Used
A huge contribution to pollution is the waste caused by events (concerts, parties, and, of course, weddings). I’m a huge fan of lending, trading, and buying used. Especially wedding decor, utensils, centerpieces, etc. Facebook groups are a great way to connect with recent brides and find awesome second-hand wedding items.
For my centerpieces, my family went around to thrift stores and found mis-matching candlesticks, then we got matching candles for them. It looked great!
9. Cutting the Guest List
The simplest (and sometimes hardest) thing you can do to save money is frequently to cut the guest list. If you really need to cater and have it in a specific venue, a fundamental talk to have is how many people you will invite. Frequently the cost per person really adds up, especially if you’re having it catered. So if you can cut the guest list, you can cut the cost.
Things I WOULDN’T Recommend Trying to DIY
1. I Tried (and failed) to Make My Own Cake
I had dabbled in cake decor, so I thought making my own cake wouldn’t be a big deal. It was. Especially on the wedding day. I finally got frustrated and quit even though it wasn’t perfect. Instead of trying to make your own, consider getting a small cake to cut, then serving guests from a sheet cake in the back. A LOT of wedding cakes go uneaten, so this isn’t something I’d pay full-price for, but also not something most people could do on their own.
If you want to DIY it but aren’t a professional baker, I’d really recommend finding something super simple and PRACTICING BEFOREHAND. I once had a bride do a really simple “naked” cake for cutting, and then served home-made cupcakes and cookies to supplement. It was super cute, delicious, and cost her close to nothing.
2. DON’T Do Cheap Fake Flowers
Flowers are expensive. It might be tempting to get some really cheap fake ones. I’m not a big fan of this. It’s almost better to do without. I had a friend who gathered a beautiful bouquet for me from my parents’ gardens. I was going to go without, but the real flowers in my hand were amazing.
If you do choose to go fake, I’d recommend looking into paper or wooden flowers, or splurge on some really NICE fake flowers. Limit the spots where you put them and you can really save.
If you want real ones, figure out what flowers are in season and don’t be too picky with your bouquet. You can get a really nice, big bunch of in-season flowers for significantly cheaper than a bouquet of ones that have to be coddled or grown in a greenhouse. Consider buying them from Costco and practice arranging them. If you live in a big city, find out if it has a flower market. Again, think outside the box and be open to something outside of your expectations.
3. DON’T Get a Cheap Photographer or a Friend-tographer
My sister is an amazing artist who was doing photography at the time. But she is NOT a wedding photographer and didn’t want to do it. I didn’t realize what I was asking and insisted we wouldn’t have photos if she didn’t do it. Wrong choice! Not only did I stress her out, but she really isn’t a wedding photographer and didn’t get those super amazing shots you see from real professionals. At the time I couldn’t justify the money, but now, seven years down the road, I really wish we had some beautiful wedding photos to hang in our house.
Instead, find someone whose work you really like, and see if they have any packages for only a few hours, to get the ceremony and portraits done. Especially if you aren’t having it on a Saturday and the photographer is available, they will probably give you a deal.
Personally, if I could go back and change it, photography is the biggest thing I would spend money on. It’s pretty much the only thing you see regularly after the wedding.
What if I Can’t Afford a Wedding?
Get married, even if you can’t afford a traditional wedding. I’m a fan of marriage. I love weddings, but the point of a wedding is to be married to an amazing person who compliments you. Someone you’re ready to spend your life with. Starting that with huge debt isn’t usually a smart decision.
So elope. Eloping has become more socially acceptable among millennials. And honestly, I’m a huge fan. Find a national park. Get one of your friends or family members ordained. Splurge on a photographer and outfits for you both. The cost is usually closer to $2,000 instead of $20,000 and you keep more of the things you buy.
That’s it! I’ll add/update this blog as I get more ideas! Hope it helped you with ways to save!