Weddings are tricky enough. How will your families get along? What if it rains all day? Do you really need to invite your second cousin with the weird laugh?
Add money worries to the mix, and tricky becomes trickier. Try these 14 hacks to cut your wedding bill without cutting its quality.
1. Create a budget before you book anything
First thing’s first. Decide how much you can afford to spend before you start looking at wedding options – not the other way around. You don’t want to spend an hour looking at $2,000 dresses online if you can only afford a $200 one.
As you build your budget, review wedding calculators and checklists to make sure you don’t miss anything big. And remember to expect the unexpected by setting aside around 5% of your budget for the inevitable last-minute costs.
2. Use credit card rewards to subsidize your honeymoon (if you can afford it)
Some credit cards offer air miles and hotel stays as rewards for spending a certain amount of money. If you plan ahead and charge your wedding expenses to the card that gets you the most reward points, you might be able to pay for your honeymoon travel or hotel room with points.
Of course, only do this for expenses you can afford (i.e., for charges that you’ll pay back right away). Otherwise, you’ll lose all of the benefit and more by paying the high interest rates on your credit card debt.
3. Choose a less popular time to get married
Most people want to get married on a Saturday in summer. So if you want to save a chunk of change, plan the ceremony for a Friday afternoon in November. By choosing a less popular time of the year or week, you should get a discount with the venue and vendors. Also, with less competition, you’ll have a better chance of landing the venue and vendors you want.
4. Automate the process of setting money aside
Trick yourself into saving for the big day by scheduling automatic monthly transfers into a separate savings account meant only for your wedding. By setting your savings on autopilot, you’ll simplify the process and get into a habit of spending less. Plus, with your money in a separate account, you’ll be less tempted to dip into it without a good reason.
5. Get creative about venues
The most popular venues cost five figures to rent and need to be booked years in advance. But there are plenty of overlooked spots that make for great wedding venues. It could be that museum you love or the park where you walk your dog. Get creative and explore your options. Keep your eyes peeled for government-owned buildings near you, since they tend to be cheaper.
6. Choose your words carefully
When you get quotes from vendors, you don’t always need to tell them you’re planning a wedding. Many caterers and venues crank up the costs as soon as they hear the W word. Unless they need to know, just tell them you’re planning a party.
7. Buy in bulk
With bulk purchases and a little DIY, you can save a ton. For example, you might be able to buy drinks by the case and avoid a caterer’s fee (just check to make sure that the venue allows this). Or maybe purchase flowers in bulk and make your own bouquets or table arrangement. The same goes for wedding favors.
8. Rent a dress or buy one secondhand
Until recently, brides generally purchased their wedding dresses. But these days, many women have rented their wedding gowns and had great experiences. Secondhand dresses are another great option. They are often way cheaper than new ones, and with a trip to the tailor for alterations, you’ll be set.
9. Hire a wedding planner
It may sound counterintuitive, but sometimes you’ll save money by hiring a wedding planner. For instance, if you’re planning a destination wedding or don’t have the time to plan, a good wedding planner should be able to leverage her contacts to get you better deals with vendors and use her experience to help uncover places to save.
10. Check out wedding packages
Hotels and conference centers often offer wedding packages that include the venue (duh), food, drinks, and music for a fixed price. Websites are also popping up that offer all-in-one deals, like Run Away With Me, which lets you plan a wedding in wine country in three steps (or so they say).
By buying everything in one place, you can potentially save money. Just make sure to read the fine print and do some digging on the venue or service by reading reviews, speaking with people who have used them in the past, etc.
11. Give yourself time
Some people get engaged and want to tie the knot in a few months. That’s just fine, but if you’re trying to save money, give yourself more time to plan and dig around for bargains.
12. Ask for wedding-day contributions, rather than gifts, from close friends
To save some cash, consider asking your closest pals for wedding-day contributions instead of gifts. That could mean anything from helping you assemble the flower arrangements to coordinating the shuttles or creating a playlist for the reception.
Just make sure that your request isn’t over the top. If, for example, your friend is a professional photographer, don’t ask her to photograph your wedding for free. You’re basically asking her to miss the wedding and give you a $500+ gift (depending on her rate). #NotCool
13. Focus your saving efforts on the reception
Your reception will very likely be the most expensive part of your wedding. So, to avoid being penny wise and pound foolish, focus your saving efforts there. Besides just inviting fewer guests, you could:
- Choose a buffet over personal entrees.
- Offer wine and beer only (i.e., no liquor drinks).
- Use your own playlist instead of hiring a DJ.
- Toast with wine instead of champagne.
- Ask the photographer to work for part of the reception, not the whole thing.
- Only pay for drinks for the first two hours and then shift into a cash bar.
- Buy your table linens and glassware from Ikea, rather than renting them expensive vendors.
Any other ideas? Don’t be shy. We’d love to hear them.