The average wedding today costs $31,213. Talk about getting ripped off! Yes, I know it’s one of the most important days of your life and we all want our wedding to be more beautiful and memorable than any others’, but $30,000?? Really? Think of what else $30,000 can buy these days:
- 10 dependable used Honda Civics (my most favorite car ever)
- 4 years of college education ($30,000 is the average student loan debt today)
- a 40% down-payment on a house in West Michigan
- a 42 foot vintage Chris Craft yacht
- could feed, clothe, and shelter a developing country family for 30,000 days (or 82 years!)
I’m not writing this post to guilt anyone out of having the best time of their life at their wedding, but we could easily be more frugal than the average $30,000 mark and still have a heck of a good time, right?? I’m actually living proof. My new bride and I just got married and did it all for less than $10,000, and that’s including the honeymoon.
Here’s a brief description of our what we got for $8,000:
- The venue property which included a vintage house, classy grounds, and a massive barn for the reception
- Appetizers, a catered meal for 70 guests, and dessert
- An elegant wedding gown
- Decorations including fake flowers, live ferns and flowers, and games
- Sound equipment and music we loved all evening
- Plenty of drinks for all of the guests
- Two professional photographers for 8 hours (and an engagement session)
- A four-night honeymoon at a pristine bed and breakfast right on the lake
We saved tons of money on our wedding. How did we do it? And how can you save thousands of dollars on your wedding? Here are the 14 things we did to save money, and you could easily save money with these tips as well.
When we started planning for our wedding, I decided early on that I wasn’t going to wear a tuxedo. There was no reason for me to spend $100 on my tux and then make my groomsmen do the same. Instead, I kept it simple. I asked each one of my guys to wear black pants, a white shirt, and then I bought matching ties for all of us. The total cost of the ties was $80 and then I bought a gray vest for $70 (to differentiate myself as the groom). Instead of us spending a collective $500, the total was $150 – a solid savings to get things started (and I know my friends enjoyed themselves a little more because of the savings).
2) Get Outside the City
Liz and I were both living in the same city during the wedding planning, so naturally we started looking at local venues for the ceremony and reception. The only problem was that there weren’t that many and they were pricey – often $2,000 or more just for the reception venue. Instead of settling for an ‘okay’ venue in the area, we decided to expand our search. By looking 30-60 minutes outside of the city, the cost of the venue was cut in half. And actually, the venue we found was far more attractive and functional than anything we saw in the city, and at a much lower price.
3) Simplify the Food
Guests don’t expect to eat lobster and oysters at weddings. The typical menu includes chicken or roast beef, some noodles, veggies, and bread. Honestly, it gets pretty boring after a while, and the price tag is often $25 a head or more. At our wedding, we decided to have a more laid back, fun event, and this was the case with the food as well. Instead of chicken and roast beef, we had sliders and pulled pork (and corn on the cob). Everyone thought it was fantastic and it only cost us $10.50 a head. Now that was money well-spent, and a savings of over a thousand dollars for sure! Want to save thousands of dollars on your wedding? Simplify the food.
4) Be Sure the Price Includes Extras
Some venues flash a cheap price up front, but then everything additional comes with an up-charge. Drinks, servers, sound equipment, tables, chairs, linens, clean-up: these will all cost you extra if you’re not careful. At our venue, the tables, chairs, serving tables, outdoor benches, signage, trellises, changing room, restrooms – these were all included in the price of the venue and were exactly what we needed.
I’ve been to weddings where the disk jockey was inappropriate, rude, and just plain obnoxious. They can look great on paper, but you really never know what you’re going to get – not to mention the fact that they cost hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. Liz and I quickly decided that we could have a great wedding without a DJ. Instead of depending on a DJ’s music selection, we downloaded Spotify and rented a speaker system from a local rental company. The cost of Spotify was $0.99 and the speakers were $230. We chose all the music we wanted, had my nephew hit stop and play a few times, and our wedding was a smashing success!
Flowers are outrageously expensive. If you plan to hang flowers from every bench, have a bouquet on each table, and fill every empty space up front during the ceremony, you could easily rack up a $1,000-$2,000 bill when it’s all said and done. Buying decorations is most definitely not the cheap way to go. Instead, learn to make your own.
To save thousands of dollars on your wedding, craft candle holders out of tin cans – that’s what my wife did. She collected tin cans, peeled off the labels, spray painted each one, drills patterns in them, and then lined the edges with fabric. While Liz was working on these, her mom discovered that it wasn’t that difficult to craft flowers our of fabric, so she made each flower centerpiece out of regular burlap material! Not only did the final bill come to less than $200, they actually received an offer from another bride to buy them for $600. If this deal goes through, we’ll actually make money on the decorations!
Alcohol can get expensive, especially when someone else is buying it and serving it for you. According to Weddings.CostHelper, the average open bar cost is $2,800. Instead of going this route, Liz and I decided to invite only adults, and then provided the alcohol as a self-serve option. The large big-box stores typically provide great deals on cases of beer and wine. As for the lack of a server, if people like wine, they know how to open it. If they like beer, then they certainly know how to get the cap off and serve themselves too. It’s not a big deal. Want to save thousands of dollars on your wedding? Buying your own alcohol can definitely save you thousands, all by itself.
8) Be Smart With the Dress Purchase
The average cost of a wedding dress is $1,281, which is simply outrageous. Liz’s wedding dress was gorgeous, she bought it from a retailer, and the total cost was still only $650. There’s absolutely no reason anyone needs to spend over a thousand dollars on a dress they’ll only wear once. With hardly any effort at all, you can find a discounted dress – either at a retailer that’s having a sale or at a discount dress shop. You just need to start looking early so you don’t get pressured into buying something that’s over budget. If you really need to save thousands of dollars on your wedding, you could even find a dress from the basement stock of the retailer and alter it yourself. My friend did this – her total cost…$75 and she looked beautiful. Keep your eyes open and your options plentiful when it comes to the wedding dress hunt.
Cake is over rated. Most of the time the actual wedding cake is just for show and most of the guests get some kind of crappy sheet cake anyway. Since our venue was outside and more laid back, we opted to go with pies for dessert. My bride’s mom volunteered to make them and did an amazing job. This do-it-yourself option saved us nearly a thousand dollars I’m sure, and everyone raved about it. We are still so happy that we did without the cake.
10) Make The Rehearsal Informal
Quite a few people turn the wedding rehearsal into a big to-do. They meet on-site, have way too many people there, and then they all go out for a classy dinner at a local restaurant. With 30 people or more, this can easily turn into a $1,000 ordeal. You know what we did instead? Since our ceremony was going to be outdoors, we figured the rehearsal could really be done anywhere – like our own backyard! This saved our guests from driving an hour each way to the venue, and it saved us a ton of money because we just decided to order in some pizza and hang out once rehearsal was done. Our total cost, about $100.
11) Ask Around for Free Games
If you want to have a fun wedding, then you really need some games. Instead of paying a DJ to coordinate games, and instead of buying a bunch of games yourself, ask your guests to take their favorites. Not only will this reduce your wedding bill, but it will naturally get them (and others) involved in games that they love and are excited about playing. Again, our venue was outside and we love to play corn hole. A few of our guests were able to take their boards and bags and it turned into a huge hit! There was no cost to us and we all had a blast.
12) Limit the Guest List
You know your Great Aunt Suzie from your mom’s side? Yeah, I didn’t know mine either, so you know what? She wasn’t invited. If people don’t impact your life enough for you to know who they are, then do you really think they want to get invited to your wedding? Probably not. Save them the trouble and save yourself the money – keep them off the guest list.
Liz and I have fairly large families, but we wanted the guest list to stay personal. We of course invited our immediately family, but then we only invited a few cousins that we knew well, and then our close friends. In total, our guest list made it to about 100, but of course not the entire hundred are willing or able to drive an hour to the venue, so of the hundred we invited, roughly 70 said yes. Quite honestly, it was the perfect size and if I could do it all over again, I’d keep the list exactly the same.
Originally, we started looking at far-off dreamy places when considering the honeymoon spot – Aruba, Jamaica, Bora Bora – ….and then we realized that it was July and all of these places would be 100 degrees and miserable. So, we were forced into being a little more realistic. After talking it over a few times, we realized that we didn’t really want the hassle of air travel and started looking for honeymoon spots in our local state. Based on a family recommendation, we went with a bed and breakfast that was just 30 minutes away from the wedding venue.
We left our wedding at 11:15pm and were officially honeymooning before midnight. The B&B served fantastic food, was on a lake, and was super chill – just the way we wanted it. Instead of the final bill being $5,000, it was $491. And, one of the best parts of going somewhere fairly local and inexpensive is that you can relive the memories year after year to keep the love alive. We’ll definitely visit our honeymoon location many more times in the future.
14) Select Your Photographer Wisely
I would never recommend that someone choose a photographer purely based on the cost. Sure, your cousin might own a nice camera and would do the job for next to nothing, but will she get all the shots that you want during your wedding? Probably not. It could honestly be a train-wreck and you’ll be left with very few photographed memories from your one-time event.
Liz and I didn’t really know anyone that had any experience with photography, so we were left hunting the Internet. The top-ranked sites on Google are probably pretty expensive for photographers to list with, and their prices to the end customer reflected it. Many of the packages we saw were over $4,000 (and sometimes closer to $10,000!). It was pretty insane. There was no way we were going to pay that much just for a few photos. So, we had to broaden our search a bit and look for local photography sites that landed on page 6 or 7 in the Google search. The rates became much more reasonable, but the portfolios were still quite good.
In the end, we interviewed a few different photographers and found one that we really enjoyed – both for her personality and her artistic ability. Her cost – $1,600, which included a free engagement session, an 8 hour span during the wedding, and a second shooter. All in all, not a bad price, and our photos were fantastic.
Will You Save Thousands of Dollars on Your Wedding?
Unless you decide to get hitched at the local courthouse, weddings can get expensive in a hurry. But, with the steps above, I’m confident that you can have a memorable event that everyone will love without breaking the bank. If you want to save thousands of dollars on your wedding, you must be intentional about every single purchase. What’s important to you and what’s not? If you can’t imagine having a wedding without cake, then don’t be afraid to spend your money there, but be willing to take away something that’s less important to you, like the DJ or the location of the venue.
Will you save thousands of dollars on your wedding?
AUTHOR Derek Sall
Derek has a Bachelor's degree in Finance and a Master's in Business. As a finance manager in the corporate world, he regularly identified and solved problems at the C-suite level. Today, Derek isn't interested in helping big companies. Instead, he's helping individuals win financially--one email, one article, one person at a time.