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10 Tips to Save Money on Your Wedding – Dresses, Invitations, Venues, Cakes & More

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man and woman holding arms together at wedding

Tying the knot?

According to The Knot, the average American wedding costs almost $34,000. 😱 While weddings are expensive, there are a lot of ways that you can cut down on wedding costs and still make your special day one to remember. Hosting a cheap wedding doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice your style.

1. Go paperless or make your own invitations.

blue wedding invites

Did you know that you can easily make your own professional-looking announcements or invitations – without breaking the bank? It’s true! There are a lot of free wedding templates available on the web that will allow you to save a bundle without having to compromise on style and quality.

Below are a few online sites that offer free wedding templates that you can customize, download, and print completely free! Some sites even offer the option to email the invites, which will save you the time, labor, and money for all those stamps!

three Shutterfly envelopes held in hand outside

Don’t have time to create your own invites? You can also purchase inexpensive invites from the following retailers and online stores.

2. Don’t get married on a Saturday.

planner on desk with flowers

Saturday is the most popular day to get married, which means venues will charge higher rates…but this may end up changing as even weeknights (especially Thursday nights) are becoming more common.

Many have been opting for Friday weddings as they save couples thousands on the venue and on a weekday rehearsal dinner. Even better, a Sunday or weekday wedding can be up to $4,000 less on location fees—plus food and beverage minimums will be lower.

3. Find a venue that is free (or accepts donations).

wedding couple sitting on bridge

Consider a non-traditional venue for your special day, such as a bed & breakfast, a public park, or a beach that is open to the public. There may not be a lot of privacy, but a park with a gorgeous lake or a bed & breakfast with beautiful landscape may be a nice compromise.

Also, be sure to call around to see if there is a venue or church where you are getting married that does not charge to use their location. They may ask for a donation in return for using their facility and they may book up to a year or more in advance, but you’ll definitely save a bundle.

couple getting married outdoors

As an idea, there is a beautiful outdoor chapel near me, called the Chapel Dulcinea, that offers free weddings. They do ask for donations, but they are completely voluntary. You can even rent a room to host your reception right there on site. It’s a perfect spot for a beautiful, affordable wedding!

Hip Tip: Request a free wedding catalog from Oriental Trading for frugal wedding favor ideas, reception decorations, and more!

4. Purchase a secondhand wedding dress… or rent it.

wedding dresses hanging up

While wedding dress prices vary greatly, the average U.S. wedding dress costs around $1,000….but it doesn’t have to!

Instead of paying a chunk of money on a dress you’ll likely wear once, consider purchasing your wedding dress from a cheaper bridal boutique or an online site that sells used gowns for a fraction of the price. If you’d rather not buy, you can even rent your dress from sites like Rent the Runway!

    • ASOS – buy dresses starting at $150
    • Borrowing Magnolia – buy dresses starting at $100
    • David’s Bridal – buy dresses starting at $99 or less
    • eBay – buy secondhand dresses starting at $100 or less
    • OnceWed – buy used wedding dresses starting at $120
    • Rent the Runway – rent dresses starting at $100 or less
    • Nearly Newlywed – buy secondhand dresses starting at $100
    • Nordstrom – buy gowns starting at $100 or less
    • Still White – buy secondhand designer gowns starting at $500 or less
    • Tradesy – buy secondhand gowns starting at $100 or less

If you don’t think you’ll wear your wedding dress again or will want to pass it down to your daughter, consider selling it after the wedding by listing it on the sites mentioned above. It’s always nice to put a little money back in your pocket and chances are that you won’t miss your wedding dress either.

what to buy in may thrift store finds hip2save

You can also head on over to your local thrift store and scout out what options are available. Also, if possible, consider asking your mom or grandmother if you can use her wedding dress for your big day. Just make sure she won’t mind if you decide to completely alter the dresses style.

Hip Tip: Before you head out to bargain shop, check out some of our other favorite thrift store finds!

wedding shoes and jewelry

Want to win free accessories for your wedding dress? Emmaline Bride offers some of the best wedding giveaways, with a new one launching almost every week on their wedding blog! They’ve given away beautiful and high-quality wedding veils, shoes, purses, jewelry, groomsmen gifts, flower girl dresses, aisle decor, wedding favors, invitations, bridesmaid robes, and much, much more.

Hip Tip: Want more inspiration for wedding apparel? Hop on over here to request a free digital subscription to Bridal Guide magazine (click on “free magazines” at the top). Plus, consider signing up for free wedding kits or catalogs from the companies below.

5. Be your own DJ (or ask a friend).

hand playing music

You’ll definitely save money by hiring a single DJ as opposed to a band. But if you’re on a super tight budget, see if your venue has a professional built-in sound system and create your own music playlist. Then just have a friend or family member be in charge of making sure things run smoothly.

You may also be able to hire a graduate student musician to play at your ceremony or cocktail hour as they can be booked for much less than the professional DJs.

6. Have a friend be the photographer.

man taking photos

Network, network, network! Know a family member who loves taking pictures at holiday gatherings? Or have a friend who is always posting amazing pictures on Instagram? Consider asking a friend or family member who has an eye for photography or knows how to use a professional camera to take your wedding photos. They will likely be happy to do so and you could always give them a nice gift in return for the favor…not to mention you’ll be saving a bundle!

Also, look on Craigslist for someone who does photography as a side job or may just be starting their photography business as they often will give price breaks. In fact, there are usually quite a few photographers who are looking to build their portfolio and will offer to photograph your wedding for free – just pay for the digital photos. This is a great way to save big bucks on your wedding!

If you do end up hiring a professional photographer, book him/her for half a day or just a few hours instead of a full day and you’ll dramatically reduce the cost of your photography contract. Then order the lower-end packages with smaller-sized, fewer finished photos to save even more.

person taking wedding photos on iPhone

Another idea is to ask several of your friends and family members to take lots of photos on their phones and share them with you after the wedding! Smartphones these days are capable of taking high-quality photos, and sometimes candid shots are the best at capturing those special moments!

Hip Tip: For all the best photo deals, be sure to bookmark this page!

7. Order your cake from a local bakery or grocery store.

wedding cake with cupcakes

If you’re not looking for an intricate cake design, seek out your local bakery to see if they can make a wedding cake for you. While they may not have the design skill that a professional wedding cake baker would have, the cake will still be tasty!

Better yet, consider ordering the cake from your local grocery store or warehouse club (i.e. Costco), or even consider having a cupcake tower instead.

wedding cake with flowers

If you do decide to order your cake from a bakery, here are a few ways to cut down on the costs:

    • Keep it simple – Whether it’s sticking to a smaller-scale buttercream frosted creation or going with a minimally frosted cake, there’s nothing wrong with keeping it simple!
    • Ditch the Groom’s cake – While they’re certainly a fun way to honor the man of the hour, feel free to skip this cake tradition if you’re tight on funds and simply focus on one cake instead.
    • Use real flowers instead of sugar flowers – Those sugar flowers take a long time to make, so opt for real flowers instead. They look beautiful too!
    • Serve smaller slices – Serving smaller cake slices will definitely allow your dollar to stretch further! Your guests will likely not even know the difference.
    • Opt for sheet cake – You can also choose to order a small display cake and then serve a large sheet cake to your guests.

If you’re looking to order from a bakery shop, be sure to call around first as many locations offer free cake tastings or will deduct the price of the cake tasting from your cake purchase.

Know someone who is great at baking? Another way to save is to ask a friend to make your wedding cake. They could create a simple, elegant cake just by stacking a couple of round cakes decorated in white frosting, topping each with flowers, and then placing them on different height cake platters.

8. Don’t serve a sit-down meal.

wedding food on table

If your reception does not take place during the peak dinner hour, why not skip the formal meal entirely? Instead of paying for a seated meal service, consider serving heavy appetizers during the cocktail hour and keep them flowing until toast time. Your guests will enjoy the non-stop munchies and get their fill without even thinking about dinner.

buffet table with food

However, if you do choose to serve a meal, consider offering a buffet or setting up a “build your own bar” with options like tacos, burgers, baked potatoes or salads or have your caterer set up a buffet instead of a sit-down meal.

Depending on the caterer, you could save anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000 per 100 guests, and you often get more food for the amount you pay, compared with a plated dinner. And in some cases, you can take home leftover trays if there’s a surplus!

9. Use greenery or even artificial, silk flowers.

woman holding bouquet

When thinking about your bridal bouquet, be sure to buy local, in-season flowers with larger blooms or use more greenery to fill in space. If you’re working with a short time-frame, you can also purchase silk flowers at a fraction of the cost that will look just as pretty and will last for many years. In fact, I spotted various silk wedding bouquets on Amazon for just $25-$35 each! Wow!

And, some brides choose to carry a religious symbol instead of a bouquet, like a prayer book with a flower stem placed between the pages (so just a single bloom is showing).

lighted lantern

Large floral arrangements can cost a pretty penny. To help cut costs at the reception, consider mixing floral centerpieces with non-floral décor, like lanterns or lights. You can also re-purpose ceremony décor and bouquets on the reception, buffet, or cake tables! Be sure to talk to your florist about how you can reuse your ceremony flowers to get the most bang for your buck.

Hip Tip: Don’t discount Dollar Tree’s floral section! Check out these frugal wedding ideas!

10. Pay with a credit card that offers rewards.

Wedding Honeymoon Target

If you’re the type who pays off their card every month, using a credit card to pay for your wedding expenses can help you build up points to use on special offers or rewards like free flights and discounted hotel stays that you can use towards your honeymoon travel expenses.

Additionally, a lot of credit cards offer additional protection in case something happens, so it’s a great idea to pay for large contracts by credit card, even if you pay it off immediately.

Hip Tip: Did you know that Target, Macy’s, Bed, Bath, & Beyond and even Amazon offer fantastic perks and rewards just for creating a registry – including 10-20% off coupons, complimentary gifts, and much more!?

Tying the knot soon? Congratulations!

Here are 10 Reasons Why We Love the Target Wedding Registry!

Join The Discussion

Comments 32

  1. Casey

    My brother had a beach ceremony free. A friend played his guitar during the ceremony free. Small wedding cake and the letter M as the cake topper cheap. Rock music that all ages could enjoy playing continuously during the reception cheap. Buffet style food cheap. Pictures were taken by family and friends then sent to them free. Very few invitations, most didn’t need them cheap.

  2. mom of 4

    Could y’all post cheap or free vacation ideas thanks

  3. Dee

    Start with a priortized list of what you want and budget for each item. Save for the most important things at the top and cross off the optional stuff at the bottom as you get closer to the wedding and don’t have enough. Favors, for instance, aren’t that important, end up in the landfill and the money could go towards the food or honeymoon. Also, be careful about going with a friend for photography, as that job is more than taking a few good snaps. You’re managing people, getting a list of shots, adapting to changing conditions and sometimes stressed out brides or moms. The photos are the one thing you’ll probably still have 59 years on, so plan accordingly.

    • Lisa

      Agree on the photos, Dee!

  4. Amanda Wierzbinski

    I just used Krogers for my Wedding flowers for the bridal party. They were extremely affordable and she did a great job.

    • candace

      Hyvee has a 10% discount if you do the food, flowers, and cake through them. The cake is moist and delicious and food was great. They worked with local farmers markets in the spring for the flowers. I did an inexpensive spring mix for my centerpieces to keep costs low.

  5. carissa

    Our reception catering included desserts- they didn’t mention this but I found it in the fine print. So we served the random desserts we were already paying for and got a single 8″ cake from the grocery store for us to cut. Flowers were grocery store too. My Mary Kay consultant did makeup for free (just bought the bridesmaids presents from her as a thank you)
    We paid for a fantastic photographer and a fantastic DJ- both worth it.

  6. MrsBK

    I agree to definitely not skimp on good photography. My hubby and I had a beach wedding and our photographer was just amazing. $800 for 100 prints and dvd of video and pics. The one expense I’ll never regret.

    • Chelsey (Hip Sidekick)

      I absolutely agree with you! I had a beach wedding as well and skimped on the photographer — now all my pictures sit in a tote in my basement because they were not good. Lesson learned.

  7. Jen

    Great ideas! Pinning this post for future reference. TY!

    • Collin (Mrs. Hip)

      You’re so welcome! Glad this will be helpful!

  8. Amy

    We got married a couple years ago after a short engagement and spent $4200 including rings and my dress. A local waterfront county park with a building for $500/3 days, a dessert bar that was made entirely by 3-4 family members each contributing a couple Of our fave items, annual flowers/herbs we put in handmade wooden boxes on the tables instead of cut flowers, no bridal party, a Spotify playlist and a cheap rented speaker, and having family help the day before making food and then serving it for us (we had some amazing food too!) All this made a paid for/cash wedding possible in 6 months!! We got so many compliments on the simple but elegant things we decided to do and we don’t regret it because we didn’t go into debt and did it our way!

  9. Diane

    A close family friend offered to take our daughter’s wedding pictures. Although he is an great photographer and he would have saved us about $2,000.00 I refused. The photographer works the entire day and then spends days going through the pics and correcting them. I wanted our friends there as guests. One thing we did was limit the guest count to 100 and limited the bar to beer and wine during the cocktail hour only with a champagne toast during the the reception.
    Begin your planning by looking at 5 or 6 venues to get a feel for prices and contact your church if you plan to be wed there. (The church my daughter got married in over 10 years ago now charges $2000.00 for a wedding.) Ask what items are included at the venue. Tablecloths, chair covers and sashes, and centerpieces are sometimes included in the rental price. Once you have ballpark figures you can look at how much you want to spend and set your budget prioritizing what is most important to you as a couple.

    Reducing the guest count is a great way to cut cost. Both Sam’s club and Costco carry wedding and reception flowers. You can get inexpensive wedding dresses from Amazon and Lulus . Limit alcohol. If you are doing your own bar hire a licensed bartender. They have been trained to know when to stop serving. CV linens has great prices on purchased tablecloths, chair covers and sashes. Just practice your bow trying skills before the wedding. Limit you diy during the wedding week. It is surprising how many little things come up and how long each one takes.

    • Lisa

      Diane, my DIL got her flowers from Sam’s Club and we were totally impressed. She had a wonderful (and talented) aunt as well who helped arrange them, but we were just totally impressed with the quality of Sam’s Club. Who thinks of a club warehouse for flowers!?

  10. Mama Bear

    I make professional wedding cakes so i can only say you get what you pay for. That being said a sweets tabe is the most expencive way to go. A Cupcake table is the cheapest way to go if you dont have sugar flowers or fondant covered cuocakes (just butter cream). Remember the cake is the last things guests will taste so make it special. Also dont skimp on photography. Your pictures you will have in your memories! Fortunately I’ve seen some pretty bad wedding pictures compared to when somebody pays average price for a photographer in their area. Go on Facebook to local sites garage sale sites excetera and say you are searching for tographer then check out their Pages pictures and make sure that they actually took the pictures and are not doing them off the internet unfortunately I’ve seen people do 🙁 same as cakers. Make sure they are the ones who making their cakes and have a good reputation in town not just posting stock photos. I have had oeiple steal my photo as if they made the cake!
    More tips;
    •Flowers from Costco is a great option if you have somone to pick them up and put them out before the reception.
    • Make your own center pieces! There are tons of DYI online now.
    • Serve donuts instead of cake from a bakery. Cake is always better though lol.
    •Seek an American leagion for your reception or someones backyard.
    • Get married in the winter!
    • Order items online!

  11. Melissa

    I definitely recommend Zazzle for wedding invites and save the dates! They’re almost always have a 50% off sale. I loved them so much I’ll probably use them for any other cards I need in the future (Christmas cards, etc.)

  12. kimhanson

    Wow, I actually did a lot of these myself, our wedding was super affordable and one of the easiest days. I love it still!! It’s is what you make it 😊

  13. Cherryluva

    Thank you so very much for this as I am getting married this year.

  14. sara

    I’m getting married later this year and found an all-inclusive venue. They perform over 700 weddings a year so they can keep the costs down. The base price for the venue, food, open bar, service, basic decor, officiant, day of coordinator, etc. is less than $50/person. Their in-house dj, photo, video, and photo booth are $500 each. Cake is $4/person with no limits on the flavors/design. I get a credit to use their preferred MUA and florist toward those services, there’s even tux rental and seamstress options! My dress I got from Alfred Angelo when they announced bankruptcy. It was originally $1,500 but only cost me $299 with the closing. I’m contemplating getting a custom sized reception dress from Azaize. They have a try on option and the dresses are affordable.

    • sara

      I got my save the dates from shutterfly during the holidays when they kept offering 10-20 free cards. I got our invites from Minted on cyber Monday. I customized the minibook to include a tear off rsvp card so they are basically all in ones for $2 each. We scored our wedding domain during a 99c sale on black Friday.

  15. Dee

    Check prices before assuming heavy apps are cheaper. I’ve put on events where a plate dinner or buffet was cheaper. Apps can use lots of prep time/work and people to pass = $. Also, set your reception time accordingly. People will make “dinner” of apps at dinner time. If people serve themselves, you’ll need more food. I have seen the food run out with relatives still standing in line.

  16. Kristyn

    I’m doing this right now. My step dad is a DJ, my maid of honor does cakes so shes going to make a cute display cake with topper while we order a basic from the bakery. I’ve ordered so many items from so if I dont like it I’m only out a couple of dollars. I ordered a bridesmaid dress for $250. Our family is making an Italian buffet. The place we are holding it, I get free for being a member and we can bring our own alcohol. Aldis Winking Owl wine and I’m going to stock up on beverages when they are on sale. I have until July and everything is coming together quite well. Both of us have had our big wedding the first time around. The second time we just want an open house style without all of the formalities.

  17. Christine

    My wedding gown and my flower girl’s dress came from a Quinceañera shop. Mine was $150 and the flower girl’s was $50. No one could have guessed they cost so little!

  18. katherinetomasekloiselle

    Skimping on photos is like playing roulette, as they are what you have left after spending so much time and money planning such a perfect celebration. I made my own invitations, centerpieces, went light on flowers, served chicken and vegetarian only, kept the guest list smaller, bought my dress at a consignment store, served only beer and wine (no cocktails), but spent $4000 on a killer photographer. Worth every penny!

    • Lisa

      Agree, katherinetomasekloieselle. Too many people are “wanna be” photographers. I’m not even a photographer and know that there is more training and expertise that goes into it. Photos are forever.

  19. Emily

    Costco does great pricing on bulk wedding flowers

  20. Sarah

    I bought my cake from a local bakery because I loved their flavors. A three tier cake was literally half the cost of a “wedding” cake because I told them I needed it for a “party” instead of a “wedding”. Don’t mention the word wedding around vendors. Costco does have delicious cake – you can always get a small fancy cake for cutting and a costco sheet cake for serving.

    I bought my invitations on Shutterfly. They weren’t fancy, but I also don’t personally get why anyone cares.

    The one thing we splurged on was the photographer. The photos we can share with future generations are worth every penny.

  21. Emily

    I ordered bulk flowers from costco (have a great picture of them in the bathtub at my parent’s house), and we assembled all our own centerpieces, boutonnieres, bouquets, etc. Flowers ended up costing us ~300 vs in the thousands from a florist.

    Another thing that saved a ton of money was having a very very small bridal party. I only had my best friend as my maid of honor, and my husband did the same with his best man. We didn’t even have a flower girl/ring bearer. It saved a lot on buying the dresses/renting the tuxes/buying thank you gifts/flowers/etc.

    We also only offered beer and wine to our guests rather than a full open bar. No one seemed to care that we weren’t paying for the mixed drinks. Food was limited to one option to keep costs down, because the catering company charged extra just to offer more choices even though it wouldn’t have been more food.

  22. Margaret

    I might be alone in my opinion, but I *strongly* feel like Saturday weddings are a must. Of course it’s cheaper, but this is a convenience cost you are passing along to your guests. Especially out-of-town guests, if you are doing a rehearsal dinner/wedding, they will have to take more time off of work. And for those who are in town, it will likely be a late night for them to go in on a Sunday, or leaving work earlier if a Friday. I forewent a fancier wedding to get married on a Saturday night, so the cost wouldn’t be passed down to my guests.

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