In 2017, the average cost of a wedding in America was just over $25,000. This is just for the wedding – add the honeymoon to the mix and you’re talking some serious cash. Fortunately, there are less expensive options available than a sit down dinner that can save you a good bit of money and still allow for a festive celebration.
It’s been quite a long time since I’ve had to plan for a wedding so I consulted an expert to help with some money saving wedding planning suggestions. Sherry Hale is a freelance wedding planner who worked at the Mooreland Mansion in Kirtland, Ohio planning weddings for close to 10 years. In the spirit of full disclosure, she’s also my sister! Here are some of her money saving wedding planning suggestions.
Don’t Skimp on the DJ
Before we start with the items where you can save quite a bit of money, Sherry recommends that you NOT skimp on the DJ if you plan on hiring one. The DJ will make or break your party, so do your research and find one that will enhance your party, not BE the party. If you decide the $1000-$2000 a good DJ will cost is too much you can use a simple iPod and record some of your favorite dance music. Ask an outgoing friend to do the occasional speaking and introducing and your entertainment budget will be reduced to little or nothing. Renting a microphone and speaker won’t cost much and the music will be enhanced by amplifying it when the mic isn’t being used by the announcer.
Don’t Skimp on the Photographer
The photographer is one of the largest expenses of a wedding and one you don’t want to cut corners on if you can avoid it. Sherry says, “This is a tough one, because it’s only one day and if the photos are bad, there are no do-overs.” If you plan on hiring a pro do your homework, including checking with your local Better Business Bureau. Check references and review the portfolio of any photographer you plan on hiring.
If you have a friend or family member who is a budding photographer this may be a good option, but Sherry also says, “Beware of those who promote themselves as better than they are, or who will be guests at the reception. The last thing you want is for the photos to get progressively worse due to their imbibing at the bar.” Which leads us to…
Saving on Alcohol
Choosing whether or not to serve alcohol at your wedding is very personal. It’s not totally necessary, but you need to consider your guests as well as your personal beliefs when making this choice. Moderation is the key – plan for 4 hour cocktail service and you should be fine both money and guest safety-wise. Keep in mind that, in addition to the alcohol and the bartender costs, most venues require you to hire security if you are serving alcohol. If your venue allows it, you can save considerable money by buying the alcohol yourself at a membership club.
Say “Yes” to Saving on the Dress
Sherry has several tips for saving money on a wedding dress but the biggest tip of all is to SET A BUDGET. Keep your budget within your means and DON’T GO OVER under any circumstances. You’ll be tempted, but there is absolutely no good reason to go into debt for a dress you’ll only wear once. She says to, “let your happiness be your best look and your dress an accessory.”
Some other money saving wedding dress tips include:
- If you are lucky enough to plan your wedding more than a year ahead of time, shop off season. When your date is a year from June, the fall/winter line is coming out in July to August and the bridal shops need to make room. Great sales can be found on the dress of your dreams if you can shop when they are trying to thin their inventory.
- If you don’t have a lot of money, shop the upscale department stores such as Nordstrom’s or Macy’s. You can find lovely regular dresses that double as a wedding dress, and with a matching veil, no one will ever know it came off the rack.
- If you are lucky enough to know a good seamstress, ask them to help design and sew a one-of-a-kind dress for you. It will cost you the amount for the fabric and the hourly rate for the time to make it. This will still be cheaper than the bridal shops and you have the opportunity to get exactly what you want.
- If you are having a vintage wedding, why not shop the vintage stores for you dress? You’ll get it at a significant discount compared to bridal shops and if this is your style, you will be able to find something beautiful and comfortable for you!
- Finally, why not start a tradition and borrow your mother’s dress, or that of a close relative or friend? The older generation had their dresses preserved, and more often than not, they have been sitting in the back of a closet for 30, 40 or 50 years. They will be honored that you love their dress so much to consider wearing it. The best thing about it – unless alterations are necessary, you can get your dress for free!
(Our youngest sister wore our mother’s wedding dress when she got married and she looked absolutely stunning! She bought a new veil that went with the dress perfectly…OWMM)
Saving on Food
According to Sherry: “When the budget is calling and you need to rein in the funds, there are 2 options that fall under do it yourself. The first is to hire an outside caterer. This can be a great cost savings depending on your area, their prices and what kind of food you choose. It works for places where the venue chosen has a kitchen but doesn’t offer a chef or food service, or for a home wedding. I like outside caterers because their prices are a bit cheaper than venue food due to the competition and less overhead. The food is often as good and sometimes better than venue food and they are more apt to work with you on special requests because they are more flexible. The downside of hiring outside contractors are few, but I have seen weddings where the promised food doesn’t travel well, or they show up late, pushing the entire day back. Always check references when going this route. There are great caterers out there, but there are unscrupulous vendors, as well.
“Second and finally is an option I was fortunate to have at my own wedding. My grandmother and her friends turned my parents’ basement into an entree making machine for a week before the wedding, and then her friends took over on the day of the wedding for a small fee to cook and serve. This saved an enormous amount of money and the food was homemade, which made it special. They were career food service workers so they were up on all the food safety techniques and guests raved about the food for years. If you know someone in the business who can do this for you, pay them as much as is fair and promote them. They are a treasure and a true money saver.”
(Ohmigosh do I EVER remember this! Grandma clamped a meat grinder to the ping pong table and we took turns cranking the handle to make homemade kielbasa. Money can’t buy memories like this…OWMM.)
Saving on the Reception Venue
One of the best cost saving ideas for renting a venue is to hold your wedding in the morning instead of at night. Sherry says, “An amazing venue can do a 4 hour brunch reception at half the cost of an evening reception, be finished by 1pm and turn the house for another reception at night, maximizing their earning potential. If it’s not offered, don’t be afraid to ask if they will do it for you. The bill for a large group of people could be cut by half by completing the large reception in the afternoon, leaving plenty of time after for pictures at an out of the way destination, or to get ready for an early morning flight to an amazing honeymoon getaway with the money saved!”
Weddings can be expensive but with a little planning and ingenuity, you can have an amazing wedding that you won’t still be paying for when your first child is born! What are some of your money saving wedding planning ideas? Please share in the comments!
Be well and God Bless – until we meet again…