As wedding season rolls around, we can’t help but continue to be flabbergasted by how much the average nuptials cost (something around a whopping $32,641, if the latest survey by The Knot is to be believed).
If you’re a bride- or groom-to-be, it’s probably nice in theory to think you’ll spare no expense on your most special day to date — but in actuality, that just might not be possible. Of course no one wants you to have to serve your guests on paper plates or wear a dress you hate just because it’s cheaper, but there are some ways that engaged couples can cut their costs and still have the classy day of their dreams.
Here are a couple common ones.
1. Seriously consider cutting back on the guest list.
If you haven’t finalized your numbers, this is a good place to start when it comes to cutting costs. Whether or not you’ve always dreamed of having a huge wedding with everyone you’ve ever known or met, the truth is cutting your guest list back to a select group of your closest friends and family is one of the easiest ways to save some money. Keeping your guest list small will also ensure that you get ample time to chat and spend time with each guest, along with saving on food and drink as well.
2. Have your wedding on a Friday or Sunday.
Your typical wedding is usually held on a Saturday, generally since this is the easiest day for guests to arrive and/or already have off of work to attend. You could save some money by deciding to have your shindig on a Friday night or Sunday instead. It might take a little extra thought on the part of your guests, but if you can swing it, you can really cut back on costs.
3. Give yourself enough time to hunt for bargains.
If you can, give yourself enough time once you get engaged to do your research, shop around and look for bargains on all the things that you’ll be buying for the wedding. If you give yourself at least a year, you may also be able to take advantage of seasonal sales.
4. Get to know sample sales, and always ask for a discount.
Most big-name stores have annual sales, and you can ask around about sample sales for a designer you’re interested in to help save some cash on your wedding dress, shoes, headpieces and more. Of course, once you find the one, always ask for a discount (you’re more likely to get one if you happen to be buying your dress off the rack).
5. Find a way to make food memorable without spending a fortune.
Let’s face it — the food (and booze!) is usually where couples get into trouble when it comes to costs. There are some creative ways to cut back on the costs of food and liquor without taking away from the overall atmosphere of your day, though. For example, consider sticking with just wine and beer (which are cheaper than liquor), or else pick out a signature cocktail for the bartenders to serve and then stock a couple other options based on what you know your guests really love. For food, have your wedding during the day so you can serve your guests lunch instead of dinner, or stick with cheaper entrees like chicken or pasta because let’s be honest — when’s the last time you walked away from a wedding really talking about how delicious the food was, rather than the amazing time that you had?
To make the food memorable while still saving on costs, food trucks are pretty popular (and budget-friendly) option now, too.
6. Highlight with flowers, but stick with more greenery.
Flowers are another area where a person could really go bananas, so try sticking with one or two main options (and remember flowers that are in season are always cheaper), and focus more on greenery and other non-floral highlights, like lanterns and candles. Also try to reuse flowers wherever possible. The bride’s bouquet could easily adorn the couple’s head table at the reception, for example, while the bridesmaids’ bouquets or flowers from ceremony can make centerpieces for your cocktail area.
7. Keep the cake simple.
Here’s an insider trick that you may or may not have heard before: It often makes sense for couples to order a small cake for show for the ceremony and then supplement with a larger (and cheaper) sheet cake kept hidden in the kitchen.
8. Capitalize on the talents of your guests.
When my husband and I got married, a friend who was with us the day we met took our photos (she also happens to be a great photographer). Another particularly talented friend did my hair and makeup. And when my sister got married a family friend of her husband’s played music during their cocktail hour. Don't feel shy about asking your amazingly talented friends and family to participate actively during your special day in lieu of other gifts — you might be surprised by how honored they will be, and how much they would really love to help out.
Of course, if you haven’t popped the question yet and are still in the process of searching for the perfect ring, check out this piece for 23 ways to get an engagement ring without going into debt.
Cheryl Lock is a personal finance writer with MagnifyMoney, where she covers lifestyle, parenting and travel, among other topics. Read More from MagnifyMoney: