Even though your big day may mean a lot to you, it can cost you a lot of money. The average cost of a wedding ceremony and reception in 2023, according to The Knot, was $28,0001, and almost 30% of couples planned to take out loans to pay for it. 2
But wedding bells and big wedding bills don’t have to go together. With these 14 tips, you can save money without giving up memories.
1. Create a wedding budget
Setting a budget isn’t the most exciting part of planning a wedding, but it’s important to do so early on and stick to it. Make sure to include any family members or friends who are giving money in the form of services (like photography) when figuring out how much you can spend on your wedding and where the money will come from.
From there, you can decide how much you want to spend on each major wedding cost.
In an interview with Brides.com, wedding planning expert Alicia Fritz said that the venue and food should take up about 40% of your budget, followed by photography at 15%, music, flowers, and decorations at 10% each, clothing at 5%, transportation at 3%, stationery at 3%, party favors at 2%, and cake at 2%.
3. Don’t forget to include your honeymoon in your budget.
Though you can put some of these costs, like flights or hotel stays, on your wedding registry. Guests can give you money for your trip by putting it in a honeymoon fund.
2. Plan for what might go wrong
Don’t forget to add a cushion to your budget so you’re ready for any last-minute costs, like extra alterations to your wedding dress, a problem with the food, or having to replace wilted flowers.
You might also want to think about wedding insurance. Benefits vary by policy, but they can protect you financially if someone gets hurt or your venue gets damaged during your ceremony or reception. They can also pay you back if your wedding is canceled or moved without warning. Wedding insurance usually costs between $155 and $550, depending on the coverage you choose.
3. Choose the right time and date
In 2021, the average couple got married at a location that cost more than $10,000.
5 If you choose a less popular date, you might be able to cut down on that number.
The “off season” for wedding venues is usually between December and February, but this varies from place to place. Most weddings take place between June and September, which is when prices tend to be the highest.
In the same way, if you don’t get married on a Saturday, you might save even more money. A weekday wedding may help your guests save money on travel costs, even if they have to give up some vacation time. This is in addition to the cheaper venue rates. Keep in mind, though, that if you choose to have your wedding during the week, you should be ready for more people to say no. But if that doesn’t bother you, a smaller guest list will save you even more money.
4. Look into nontraditional venues
You don’t have to have your wedding at city hall or a church to save money on venue fees. Think about places like public parks and beaches, vacation rentals (if the owner allows it), museums, breweries, and distilleries that are out of the ordinary and charge less.
5. Think about who you want to invite.
Outside of the venue, the number of guests can have the biggest effect on how much your wedding will cost as a whole. After you and your partner have decided who to invite, think about your rules for kids and plus-ones. You might decide that only adults can come to your wedding and that only people in long-term relationships can bring a guest.
6. Send your invitations by email.
In 2021, couples spent an average of $530 on wedding stationery. This included save-the-dates, invitations, RSVP cards, and day-of stationery like menus and place cards.
6 To save money on paper, you could mail only one invitation per guest and tell them to respond online. You’ll save even more if you use digital invitations and only send paper invitations to people you know will look forward to and treasure them.
This change will not only save you a lot of money on stationery and postage, but it will also cut down on paper waste and make it easier to RSVP. For example, instead of adding up each answer, you can put them all in a spreadsheet.
7. Think about your wedding clothes
You already know that wedding dresses cost a lot of money. In 2021, the average one cost $1,800. 7 When you rent, you can save money—up to 85% off the retail price8. If you do a quick search online, you can find a lot of places that rent wedding dresses.
If you’d rather own your dress, you could buy one that’s used or old. And remember that you don’t have to wear a “wedding” dress to get married. Choose the one you like best, even if it’s not made for brides. Dresses that aren’t for weddings will probably also cost less.
You can spend anywhere from $700 to more than $1,000 on a tuxedo, and between $300 and $800 on a suit.
9 If you don’t think you’ll wear your wedding clothes after the wedding, you might be able to save money by renting these as well. Compare the costs of buying vs. renting to be sure.
8. Make a plan for your changes.
When you pay rush fees, tailoring and alterations cost more. Try on your wedding clothes early so you don’t have to rush to the tailor or seamstress at the last minute. It’s a good idea to have a fitting two to four months before your wedding to make any big changes and a final fitting two weeks before to make any small, easy changes.
9. Make your flowers green
In 2021, the average flower arrangements for a wedding cost $2,300.
10 Going green can save you money. Branches and ornamental grasses are less expensive and more popular.
You can also save money by using your flowers for more than one thing during the day. Flowers from the ceremony can be brought to the reception and put on the welcome table. The bouquets of the bridesmaids can also be used as table centerpieces.
10. Choose meals that won’t break the bank.
With an average cost of $75 per person for catering, food can eat into your wedding budget.
11 You can help keep costs down by skipping more expensive foods like filet mignon or fresh seafood in favor of cheaper cuts of meat or chicken. You may also be able to save money by serving food buffet-style or family-style instead of on individual plates.
If you do choose individual plates, you can save money by having guests choose their meals ahead of time. This way, your caterer won’t have to make enough of each option for everyone. You can also plan to serve everyone the same dish, making sure to have a few vegetarian options on hand.
In 2023, alcohol for weddings cost the average couple $2,300.
12 If your venue lets you bring your own drinks, you can save money by buying beer, wine, and liquor at warehouse clubs. You might also be able to save money on drinks by limiting them to beer, wine, and a signature cocktail, or by having a cash bar.
12. Get creative with the desserts you choose for your wedding.
If you like big wedding cakes, you’ll have to pay a lot. The average cost in 2021 was $500. 13 One way to save money is to buy a smaller cake for the bride and groom to cut and then serve guests a sheet cake, cupcakes, or cake pops.
13. Think about using paper place settings
Did you know that a big part of what you spend on eating out might not even be food or drinks? Your place settings could be taking up a big chunk of your wedding budget. On average, it costs $8–$30 per person to rent plates, glasses, and flatware for a wedding. 14 You can save money by using high-end disposable tableware instead of fine china, which can cost as little as a couple of dollars per person but looks much more expensive.
14. Do something different with your photos.
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but it will cost you about $2,500 to hire a wedding photographer.
15. Look into student photographers in your area.
You can ask guests to take pictures with their phones, or even use disposable cameras to save money and keep memories of your wedding and reception. And if you want a photo booth, don’t hire a company to run it. Bring your own props or buy or download cutouts online, and set up a camera or other device that can take pictures.