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12 tips for keeping your wedding on budget

budget wedding
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Tracie Fobes |
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You are getting married. Congratulations! You may know what you want to have for your special day, but your caviar dreams probably can’t be met on your beer budget. While your wedding should be your dream come true, it should also not send you into mountains of debt either.

Read more: Father spends $1.67 at Goodwill on suit for daughter's wedding

How to avoid spending too much for your wedding

Here are some things you can consider doing to help keep your wedding spending in check while still getting the things you want.

1. Set a budget

First up, before you start making arrangements, it’s a good idea to set a budget. Don’t forget to include the costs of your venue, flowers, cake, invitations, decor and gown when coming up with your amount.

There is not a “right” amount to budget. It is only what you can afford. The most important thing to keep in mind is to avoid going into debt. Yes, this is a magical day, but you don’t want to spend so much getting caught up in the day and focus more on the life-changing event — you are getting married.

Make a list of everything you want and determine the cost. Then, prioritize the things that matter the most and those which you may be willing to give up.

What is important to each person will vary, so don’t compare yourself to others and follow your heart.

2. Narrow the guest list

Trying to invite everyone to your wedding can be one of the easiest ways to overspend. While you do not want to hurt anyone’s feelings, your budget really is something that matters. If you can only afford for 50 people to attend, then you’ll need to narrow down the list.

If you want, you can have a get together after your wedding and invite the friends who were not able to attend the ceremony itself. You can celebrate the wedding, share the photos and even watch the video of your day with them.

3. Change the date

The typical “wedding season” is during the spring and summer months. If you change your date to be off-season, you might find that venues charge less.

Something to keep in mind if you are doing a destination wedding — summer may be off-season in some areas. You may want to consult with a travel agent to find the time of the year when the costs might be lower at your particular destination.

You can also use the time of the year to your advantage. For instance, if you get married in December or January, many venues are beautifully decorated with seasonal flowers, trees and lights — bringing in free decor.

4. Try a different location

Rather than a hotel ballroom, why not try a different location? Perhaps an aquarium or historic site has a great option for your event. You might even know a friend with a beautiful backyard. Think outside the box for your venue location, and you might find something that costs much less (or is even free).

5. Print your own invitations

You can use online discount sites to order your Save the Date cards and invitations, rather than using local printers. These sites sometimes offer discount codes that can help knock down the cost even further.

You can also find beautiful fonts online and create your own invitations. (Pinterest is full of ideas.) Then, purchase heavy card stock and print them yourself. If you do not find the paper in the size you want, you can pay a professional to cut them for you or use a paper cutter at your office or local library.

6. Go with simple décor

If large elaborate floral centerpieces are out of your budget, you can still have beautiful tables for a lot less. You can also send the centerpieces home with guests as a thank you after the reception. Here are a few simple ideas.

  • If you want floral arrangements, consider mostly greenery with some floral accents (which are much less expensive).
  • Use small plants or florals.
  • Tie a ribbon around Mason jars and place a candle inside.
  • Mirrors with tealight candles (these reflect the light and give a great illusion).

7. Use in-season flowers

When flowers are not in season, you’ll likely pay a premium rate for them to be sent to your florist for your wedding. Instead, ask your florist which ones are available at a lower cost.

If you really want those special flowers, use them sparingly. Instead of full bouquets filled with your favorite blooms, consider using other flowers and then add the expensive ones sparingly. That way, the flowers will be included, but you’ll knock down the cost.

Another way to save money on your bouquets is to use a bit more greenery than flowers. They will still look gorgeous, but because greenery costs less, you’ll likely save in the long run.

You might also visit the floral shop in your grocery store rather than a floral shop. You can often purchase your flowers at a much lower cost (I did this, and saved one-third on the cost of my flowers).

8. Stay within your gown budget

This is one place where a lot of money can be spent. When shopping for the dress, it’s a good idea to tell the sales person exactly what you can afford and ask them not to show you anything outside your budget (as you wouldn’t like to fall in love with something you can’t afford).

When looking at your gown budget, don’t forget to include the cost of a veil or headpiece, jewelry, shoes and alterations. These other items often get overlooked and can make that dress budget shoot higher in a minute.

There are several other options for your dress. If your mother or grandmother has a gown you want to wear, that would probably mean the world to them. For the cost of alterations and a good cleaning, you can not only get a free gown but also wear something of sentimental value. You may also consider shopping the sale racks or visiting a mass retailer for deals. Buying a pre-owned dress or renting your gown are options to think about as well.

You may want to borrow jewelry and accessories. This will not only save you money but can also be your “something old and something borrowed.”

9. Negotiate with your photographer

This is an area where you don’t want to just hire anyone. These photos are your memories of the day, so it’s important to hire a good photographer (and videographer, if you want one) who you can trust.

It’s a good idea to meet with several photographers and get their estimates, which you should get outlined in writing. Some questions to ask are about additional fees, like travel expenses. Does the cost include any prints? Do you get the prints on CD to own yourself? Does the fee include a set number of hours?

Once you find a photographer you like, don’t be afraid to negotiate. See if you can pay for rights to the images and can print them yourself and/or order a wedding album once your budget allows. You may pay a bit more for the rights to the photos, but it can be worth it to purchase add-on items and prints as you can afford them.

10. Consider music options

There is nothing like a live band playing at your reception. However, that can be very expensive. If you opt for a DJ, you can often cut the costs. Either way, make sure you know when you want the band or DJ to perform or play. If you want them for a longer period of time than they’re used to, they may charge higher fees.

Some musicians/DJs may offer a discount if you pay in advance and/or pay in cash. It is always worth asking to see if they are willing to negotiate the price if you go this route. You may want to consider getting any negotiations in writing as well to help ensure everyone is on the same page with expectations.

11. Be selective with food

There is often a misconception that serving appetizers will cost less than having a sit-down meal, but that may not be the case. It is a good idea to compare the cost of appetizers only, sit-down meal or buffet to find out which is the lower-priced option.

You may want to check with your venue to see if you can use your own caterer (if this is a less expensive option than using the venue’s caterer). You may also consider having a family member or friend cook the meal. If you have someone who loves to cook, or perhaps even does some catering on the side, ask them to help. Even if they do not cover the entire meal, you might be able to save on some appetizers or desserts.

12. Get creative with the cake

Instead of a large tiered cake, consider having a smaller one to have on display. Then, use sheet cakes to serve your guests. You might even think outside the box and serve cupcakes instead. If you do want everyone to have a slice of your cake, have the person serving cut the pieces a bit smaller. This way, the cake can serve more people.

What other tips do you have to help save on a wedding? We’d love to hear from you.

(Editor’s Note: Remember, carrying a lot of debt — whether from your wedding or something else — could hurt your credit scores. You can see how your spending habits are affecting your credit by viewing two of your free credit scores, updated every 14 days, on

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