Here comes the Bride, and the debt!
Weddings are a time of joyous celebration, but unfortunately, that can come at a price. We asked the Hip2Save community for some clever money-saving wedding tips that will make your heart, your mind, and your wallet happy. 😍
Consider getting hitched on a day other than Saturday.
Midsummer Saturdays are probably the hottest (literally) dates for weddings. This means you’ll be paying a premium price to book them. Try an alternative day like Friday (or even Sunday). While a Friday afternoon ceremony might be tricky for guests due to work schedules, you’ll find most will at least make the reception.
That said, your guests may really appreciate an off-season date, since summers are typically packed with vacation plans and – you guessed it – other weddings.
“Have your wedding on a Friday. Venues are typically lower in price. I got married on a Friday and saved $700.00.” – Gabby
“Get married on a Sunday — many venues are 1/2 price!” – Kyle
Say ‘I do’ to wallet-friendly dresses.
I’m not trying to steal your thunder. I understand your wedding day is undoubtedly one of the most important events in your life. Still, is it worth spending hundreds (maybe thousands) of dollars for something you’ll wear for maybe 12 hours max?
If you’re looking to save some serious cash, check out these wallet-friendly (and just as gorgeous) wedding dress options:
- TJ Maxx – Seriously, is there any product category TJMaxx doesn’t thrive in? Their bridal gown selection maxes out at $300 and even includes designer brands like Vera Wang, Badgley Mischka, and Zac Posen!
- Azazie – Starting at $199, all dresses are custom-made. Just choose from a standard size or send your measurements for a custom-sized piece (just know these gowns are not returnable). Great for bridesmaid dresses, too!
- JJ’s House – Enjoy a HUGE assortment of reasonably priced dresses, with most under $300!
- Marketplace sellers like eBay, Mercari, or Poshmark – There are lots of women who either want to sell their gently-used dress to recoup some of the cost, or they end up buying multiple before the big day and selling the ones that didn’t make the cut. Either way, you’ll be saving tons of cash by purchasing secondhand.
- Borrow one! If holding onto the dress after the wedding doesn’t have significant value to you, ask around to your family and friends to see if you could borrow theirs.
“I bought my wedding dress from eBay — it was the exact dress I wanted, just used.” – Aly
“White bridesmaid and prom dresses make budget-friendly wedding dresses.” – Diane
“I found the dress I wanted in store but searched the internet and found the exact thing on eBay for half the cost (before buying I read all the seller reviews!)” – Jessica
“Borrow a dress. Ask around. All your friends probably still own theirs and would be happy to see it get used. Just cover the cost of cleaning before you return it.” – Sheena
Locate frugal finds for the wedding party.
You’re not the only one who has a hefty price tag on your wedding garment. The average bridesmaid dress costs around $200, and groomsmen typically pay around $250 for tuxedo rentals! While this isn’t exactly your cost, it doesn’t hurt to take into consideration the amount your wedding party will be spending over the course of your engagement between the bridal shower, bachelor/bachelorette parties, potential travel, time off of work, and obviously your wedding gift.
Keep costs low for the ladies by:
- Finding a low-cost dress retailer: Lulu’s has gorgeous dresses perfect for your bridal party, with most ringing up under $100!
- Let them choose their dress: Have your bridal party shop for their own dress that meets your specs (skirt length, sleeve style, etc.) either in a specific color range or in white. If you go with white, you can dye all of the dresses the same color for a uniform look!
For the men, check out Menguin, which offers at-home try-ons for suits starting at only $85! If the group rents 5 or more suits for the wedding party, the groom gets his tux for free!
“Buy flower girl dresses after Easter. Colors are pastel and the price is 75% off. Also if it’s a destination wedding, send post cards of the place instead of cards for savings.” – Martha
Forego a traditional wedding cake.
Wedding cakes can be an art piece, so they typically come at fine art prices. Try out another dessert option, like donuts (so trendy right now!), pies, cupcakes, or a festive candy spread that all come with a more affordable price tag.
Prefer an actual cake? Order a small-tiered cake that you can cut at the reception, and pick up sheet cake for serving (Hello Costco! 🙌) . To save even more, buy a plain white iced cake and decorate with pretty edible flowers or basic piped icing.
“When it comes to your wedding cake, purchase a SMALL cake to cut (2-3 layers). Then order a sheet cake for your guests. The sheet cakes do not have all the fancy decorations the “presentation” cake has and saves a fortune! Then, the catering staff can cut, plate, and serve it immediately as soon as the cake ceremony is complete.” – Laura
“Sams Club has a 3-tier cake for $60. Get it and either decorate it yourself with flowers or leave it plain.” – Maura
“Ask students in cake decorating or photography event planning to help in exchange for some money and exposure.” – Kathy
“Find what you like and find LOCAL folks that can do it cheaper! The wedding cake I wanted was going to be $1300, but we found an amazing baker that did it for under $300.” – Michelle
Trade services if possible.
Do you have mad freelance skills? A job where you can offer a discount? If you’re a whiz at social media, have serious photography skills, or can code a website in your sleep, leverage your strengths to your potential vendor to see if you can strike up a mutually beneficial deal.
With my background in graphic design, I was able to help my brother and his wife cut some wedding costs by negotiating with a local chocolatier to make their chocolate wedding favors at no cost in exchange for ad design services!
It’s important to note that this really only applies to local businesses, as franchised stores might not have the same ability to create those kinds of deals.
Print your own invitations.
Given all the resources now available for custom stationary, it’s crazy to NOT make your own wedding invites! Check out Etsy, Creative Market, and even Pinterest to find an invitation you like and purchase the design file directly from the creator. Most designs are under $20, though it may cost more for them to customize your personal wedding information if you’re not comfortable using file editing software.
For printing, call a local print shop for a quote for your order, or look into online printers like VistaPrint, Office Depot, Zazzle, or Shutterfly. Also, consider sending postcard-sized Save the Date cards and RSVP cards to save on postage.
“Get wedding invitation kits from Staples or an office store and print your own invites. How many of your guests actually keep the invites?” – Jamie
“We ordered ours from Invitations by Dawn. They were about $1 each. The RSVP was a tear-off postcard (we stamped those as well since postcard stamps were cheaper), and it was standard postage to send. I found it to be a very reasonable way to reduce costs without adding more work. And it really wasn’t much more expensive than buying the print-your-own sets and paying for printer ink.” – Angela
“Print your invitations on your own. I used Vistaprint.com, as it’s so much cheaper and people throw those things away anyway.” – Rebecca
Create your own wedding decor.
I mean, have ya looked at Pinterest lately? I think DIY wedding decor is the hottest thing in weddings since the engagement ring! There are so many:
An important thing to remember about DIYs: Take into consideration the material cost, project time, and labor effort. Sometimes the DIY ends up costing more than if you’d just bought the finished product! Don’t forget that your time holds value, too. Sure, you could make your own impressive centerpieces to save some money, but if it requires a ton of time, is it really worth it when you’re burned out by the time the wedding comes?
Be your own DJ and save hundreds!
This is coming from someone who dates a DJ! Wedding DJs can cost hundreds, even thousands, depending on their experience. Instead, purchase a Spotify Premium membership (if you don’t already have one) for a month for only $9.99 and make your own wedding playlists — one for cocktail hour, one for dinner, and one for dancing. Then enlist the help of a bridesmaid or groomsmen to press play when prompted. Be sure to adjust the playback settings to have a little bit of a crossfade so songs seamlessly play into one another.
For the dance playlist, you could also check out the RockMyRun app ($2.99 a month) for playlists mixed by actual DJs. As you can expect from the name, the app is intended for working out, but a 30-45 minute mix of music is great for peak dance floor time. Then you can switch back to your own playlist for must-play hits near the end of the reception (Sweet Caroline, anyone?).
Keep in mind that while it’s your day, choosing a variety of genres that cater to multiple music tastes will make your guests feel included, too. You can even include an “I promise to dance if you play ____” note in your RSVP to get an idea of songs to choose. When selecting, definitely consider what level of profanity is appropriate given the audience — your 80-year-old grandmother and 8-year-old niece don’t need to hear the f-bomb multiple times over the speakers.
Lastly, if you do go this route, spend a night in and run through your intended music scenario in real time to get a feel for how these transitions will sound (then adjust your playlists accordingly).
Don’t overpay for flowers and arrangements.
Floral arrangements can make a huge dent in your wedding budget. Instead of ordering by the bouquet or centerpiece, ask if you can cut the flowers yourself or take them away in buckets to create your arrangements. It will require some extra effort and a bit of craftiness, but you can save hundreds this way.
Be sure and check out Trader Joe’s for flowers if you have one nearby. They offer trendy and totally affordable fresh flowers, and we heard from many readers that it is a go-to resource for wedding flowers!
You can also opt to simplify your greenery by using eucalyptus, pine bows, or other branch-like foliage and simply arrange them as a natural runner on tables. Succulents are also a great option given their price point, the range of style, availability (you can order them on Amazon!), and they can double as favors for your guests to take home after the reception.
“Ask which flowers are in season. It saved us a ton of money by selecting flowers that were readily available and didn’t require us to have them shipped in. We also used potted plants/flowers instead of ‘church flowers.’ Saved a ridiculous amount of money and my mom’s porch looked amazing that year.” – Julie
“I used Sam’s club for flowers (bouquets for 6, boutonnieres for 20, flowers for 36 tables, flowers for flower girl lanterns) that cost under $400.” – Aly
“I made my own centerpieces versus getting them from the florist… I wanted orchids submerged under water in tall vases, and the florist wanted something astronomical. I used half-off Michaels coupons and bought my orchids, and the florist actually let me borrow the tall vases! Once the fake orchids were under water and surrounded by candlelight, you would never know they weren’t the real thing!” – Nicole
Don’t book expensive professional photographers.
Let’s be real. You aren’t going to peruse your wedding photo album or watch your reception video on the regular, so why spend so much on it!? The average wedding photographer costs around $2,000. That price increases once you add on extras like album printing or a pre-wedding engagement shoot.
I am NOT hating on photographers and what they charge, because perfecting photos is a serious skill. But if you’re looking to save some cash and don’t need your photos to look like the cover of Vogue, call up a local high school or college and see if there are any photography students who would want to make a couple hundred bucks to shoot and edit the photos for your wedding. Ask for some examples of their work to get an idea of their style and skill. Be sure to get an agreement that all photos will be released to you in a digital format so you can order the ones you like for framing and create your own photo album on Shutterfly.
What’s more, most of your friends will be snapping their own photos on their smartphones throughout the night, so ask for them to use a wedding hashtag to find them on social media or email them to you after the reception.
“We skipped on the videographer and had the ceremony recorded with our family’s go Pro and iPad” – Kim
“Find a photographer who is just starting out who needs to build their portfolio. Wayyyy cheaper. Got a photographer and her assistant with edited photos for 4 hours for $400.00.” – Kristen
B.Y.O.B (Bring Your Own Bar).
If your venue allows it, ask if you can supply your own alcohol for the reception. My brother was able to do this and made a limited (but commonly ordered) drink menu — 2 types of red wine, 2 types of white wine, 2 types of beer, champagne, and mixed drinks with vodka, gin, whiskey, or rum.
They also made signs for signature cocktails by the bride and groom to help make the ordering decision easy. It also didn’t hurt that he was able to purchase the liquor at a discount through a liquor store where his friend worked.
“We really saved by finding a venue that allowed us to supply their bartenders with our own booze” – Angela
“Find a venue that lets you bring your own vendors, as well as one that will allow you to provide the bartenders alcohol. Stick to a beer, wine, and 1 or 2 signature cocktails instead of a full-blown bar.” – Brittany
Get creative with the food.
I’m not here to tell you to do a potluck style reception where the food is made by family members (not a bad idea), but you also don’t have to stick to a traditional sit-down style meal.
Think of what you and your future spouse like to eat and turn that into a theme. Big into burgers? Create a make-your-own-burger bar and see if a local BBQ company could grill burger patties on site. Love street food? Ask a couple food of trucks to set up shop at your venue, and take care of the bill before they go.
I know this won’t work for every couple and/or venue, but it’s worth thinking outside the box to offer a memorable meal that won’t break the bank. Just keep dietary restrictions in mind so that ALL guests have something to eat during the reception.
“Look into food trucks/taco trucks instead of catering!” – Sarah
“My husband and I LOVE BBQ, so we did a two meat BBQ dinner with salad and two sides from a favorite local restaurant. We were able to get it for $9 a person and we had so many people tell us that it was the best food at a wedding they’ve ever had.” – Brittany
Give favorable favors… or don’t give them at all.
I don’t mean to sound all Bah Humbug about this, but I’m sure you’ve been to a wedding or two where the favor was more tchotchke than useful. And if I’m being honest, I’m not even sure favors are necessary anymore. Most people already have a bottle opener or wine stopper, and other similar favors often get left behind on tables or tossed into a miscellaneous drawer once they’re home.
That said, edible favors like cookies, candies, or other treats do pretty well since most are consumed on site. Other more gourmet options like homemade vanilla, infused salts, or artisan coffee beans (all of which can be DIY’d for cheap) have a better chance of being used, given their perceived value.
One of the more unique favors I’ve seen lately was an acrylic standing frame for a photobooth strip, which, not by coincidence, was at a wedding reception featuring a photobooth. I don’t know how expensive the favor was, but it shows the couples planned thoughtfully.
Avoid the word “wedding” in anything you purchase.
This is simple yet sound advice! Whether it’s your cake, flowers, or decor, the word “wedding” has a tendency to make these products magically jump in price. When sourcing and ordering, leave out the fact that it’s for a wedding and use the generic term “event” instead.
“Stay away from referring to things as specialty items.” – Brittany
“Comparison shop and don’t get sucked in by wedding show vendors that try to make you think if you don’t buy/sign now that you will miss out. Bring a few friends who aren’t as emotionally invested in your big day as you are to be your rational guides.” – Debra
Elope or go to the courthouse!
Skip all the wedding planning and have a quick and easy ceremony, as suggested by Sarah S., Sarah R., Susan, Keneke, Lacey, Laura, Jennifer, Pamela, Julie, Ashley, Jessica, Sharon, Lauren, Bethany, Rosie, Marcie, Sabrina, Abby, Autumn, Christina, Kristin, Terry, Nicole, Crystal, Kelly, Heather, Cobb, Yvonne, Angela, Karen, Angie, Cynthia, and Jamie — that’s 32 Hip2Savers and one sidekick!
This allows you to focus your wedding plans to simply figure out a time, date, and place, along with which family members and friends you’d like there (if any!). You then have the option to plan the reception for a later date, or you can skip the party altogether and allocate your budget toward a lovely honeymoon or a down payment on a house!
And I just want to leave you with this…
Whether you go extravagant or intimate with your ceremony and reception, remember that the only opinions that matter regarding your marriage belong to you and your spouse. As long as you’re both happy when the wedding is over, consider the celebration done to perfection.
“It’s about the marriage. Don’t go into debt for a show.” – Aly
Written by Emily for Hip2Save. Emily lives in Buffalo, NY where she spends her time drinking lots of coffee, scouring the internet for deals, and tackling DIY projects. She’s a big believer in self-care and living the fullest life possible, all while saving money of course.