Planning Your Wedding? Here Are 4 Ways to Cut Costs Without Compromising

A bride holds a bouquet made of money.
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Getting engaged is amazing, but the thrill of the engagement can last just a few hours before conversations turn toward the next step: wedding planning.

You might be overjoyed while still feeling a rising gnawing in your stomach. You’re going to plan a wedding, and weddings are expensive: In 2018, the average wedding cost more than $33,900.

I can think of a handful of other worthy investments for such an amount. A down payment on a house. A brand-new car. A hearty portion of a college degree (or student loan). All of those options seem more worthy of this kind of cash than a one-day celebration.

After celebrating the nuptials of many friends and family members, I know there is no “perfect” wedding, and the celebration can be enjoyed on any budget. But managing your wedding budget can be stressful. Do-it-yourself projects offer savings, but require time, some level of skill and patience.

But there are ways to lighten your financial load without having to exert a huge effort on the Pinterest front. You want your wedding celebration to be simple and fun — not complicated and stressful. So here are my tips for cutting wedding costs without compromising.

How to Save Money on a Wedding With 4 Simple Tricks

1. Seek Alternative Venues

When it comes to setting a date and picking a place, some tips are well-known: Some months are priced at a premium; Saturday weddings are usually the most expensive; dinner will cost more than brunch or lunch. One easy tip: Think outside the hotel ballroom.

Consider art galleries, performance spaces, church halls and grounds, parks and other “nontraditional” venues for your ceremony and reception. Locations that don’t host weddings around the clock are likely to have more amenable price tags.

But many of the beautiful venues you’ll see online are merely shells when you write the deposit check. It takes decorations, a caterer, linens, china and sometimes even table and chair rental to turn a beautiful spot into a reception site. Those costs add up.  

So consider a venue that already has what you need for your big day: a restaurant. It may seem prohibitive to rent out an entire eatery, but check out spaces that have separate sections for private or semi-private events. Rental fees for these areas (before food, drinks, fees and gratuity) is often the same as you would pay to host a bridal or baby shower luncheon.

And restaurants usually come with place settings, tablecloths and other items you’ll need. If you’re happy with the restaurant’s decor, your job is so much easier.

2. Arrange Your Own Flowers

Speaking of decor, let’s discuss floral arrangements. The average cost of wedding flowers in 2017 was nearly $2,400, according to a study by The Knot.

Only a few lucky couples will have a neighbor with beautiful flower gardens who offers to contribute bouquets. Instead, turn to a more practical option: a flower wholesaler. Simply search “flower wholesale + [your city or region]” to find one in your area.

Pro Tip

If you’re not set on having identical centerpieces, search for vases at your local thrift store. You’ll pay a lot less for vases you’ll likely only use once, and the variety may be satisfying.

Wholesale warehouses are often open to the public, and staff can advise you on what’s in season or what you could mix and match. By doing a bit of arranging yourself (or with help from friends and family), you can have beautiful bouquets for a fraction of the price.   

3. Cut the Cake

If you enjoy baking reality shows as much as I do, you know that wedding cakes can be extremely expensive. But when’s the last time you thought about a cake you ate at a wedding?

Consider skipping a tiered cake with globs of icing in favor of treats like cookies, doughnuts or maybe even pie. Think about your favorite dessert options, and decide what’s most meaningful for you.

Pro Tip

Crafty types who aren’t afraid to DIY can skip a custom cake altogether and doctor up a grocery store cake. A Practical Wedding shared a few tasty-looking tutorials.

If you’re set on having a cake but want to stick to a reasonable budget, Bridal Guide curated a dessert directory with tricks and tips from professional bakers. Some of my favorite ways to cut costs before you cut the cake: Choose buttercream frosting over fondant; display a small cake while offering unstacked slices from the same recipe to your guests; and choose in-season fruits for garnishes or fillings.

4. Say Yes to a Different Dress

I know, brides, I know — your dress is a big deal. It’s hard to compromise on this item. But wedding gowns can run the price gamut, and if you fall in love with a dress with an unexpectedly high price tag, it could singlehandedly wreck your budget.

Instead, consider doing a bit of research and embracing the idea of wearing “something old.” Beyond eBay, sites like Once Wed, Tradesy, Nearly Newlywed, Wore it Once and Pre-Owned Wedding Dresses have page after page filled with beautiful dresses that have typically already been cleaned after their first big day. If you have a favorite designer in mind, spending a bit of time searching these sites can help you get a great deal. Just remember to also research tailors near you who can make any alterations you may need.

Willing to wear something even older? Many vintage shops sell wedding dresses from yesteryear that could use a little bit of love — a bit of stain removal or seam repair — for as low as $100. If you love the thrill of the hunt, you may find the dress of your dreams.

Pro Tip

Don’t forget to check the formalwear racks as well. Just because a dress wasn’t designed for a wedding doesn’t mean it can’t make you shine on your big day.

But consider that you can skip buying a dress altogether. In that case, try renting your wedding dress instead. If you can’t find a local shop in your area, check out Rent the Runway, an online platform that caters to brides across the country. Other platforms, like Happily Ever Borrowed and Adorn have you covered when it comes to accessories.

Want more tips on saving on your big day? Check out this list of 90 (yes 90!) ways to do just that.

Lisa Rowan is a former senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.