Personal Finance, Weddings

These are the 5 key ways you can save thousands on your dream wedding

Here's exactly what you need to know.

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Weddings can be overwhelmingly expensive. After my fiancé proposed, I immediately panicked about how we would pay for the wedding of my dreams.  I’m not the kind of woman who’d been planning her wedding for years. I didn’t even think I had an idea of a “dream wedding”, until I started looking on Pinterest. As soon as that ring was slipped on my finger, I started pinning like a madwoman and came to realize that I really did want to have a specific kind of wedding: a rustic one.

I started looking at venues online and was shocked at how much they cost. The venues that fit the aesthetic I wanted advertised facility fees in the $1500-$3000 range. I was even more distressed when I began researching caterers. My fiance and I wanted a buffet style barbecue, which I figured wouldn’t be too expensive. I was very wrong. Caterers in our area were charging anywhere from $45-$65 per plate for food, which would add up to thousands of dollars even though our guest list was small.

When all was said and done, we ended up spending about $9,000. Click To Tweet

I realized I was completely unprepared for how much our wedding could cost. I was really worried we wouldn’t be able to afford it all on our $10,000 budget.

My fiance and I sat down and had a long conversation about what mattered most to us for our wedding day. We decided that the most important thing for us would be the vibe of the wedding. We wanted it to be laid back, but not totally casual. It was important to us to be surrounded by our family and friends for a whole weekend, not just a single day of fun and laughter.

We wanted the wedding to feel like it was being held at someone’s house – all the while without burdening anyone by asking them to host. In order to accomplish this vibe, we would need a superb venue. So, we decided that the bulk of our budget should be spent on securing the perfect venue.

I realized I was completely unprepared for how much our wedding could cost. Click To Tweet

Deciding what was most important to creating the wedding of our dreams really helped us to decide how we would spend our wedding budget. Since the venue was the most important, we knew we’d have to spend less on decorations, flowers, the dress, and the suits. These financial compromises didn’t bother us because we knew we were spending our money on what were the most important things to us.

When all was said and done, we ended up spending about $9,000. And it all came down to a few important choices we made during planning.

1. Choose an all-inclusive venue

The Vermont Inn in Mendon Vermont Photo Credit: Vanessa Root
The Vermont Inn in Mendon Vermont
Photo Credit: Vanessa Root

Since we had already decided that the venue was the most important expense, we began to search for venues that would fit our needs. We knew we wanted the ceremony and the reception to be in the same place. We also thought it would be cool if at least some of our guests could stay onsite for the weekend. These initial requirements led us to look at inns.

The bridal or honeymoon suite is usually complimentary. Click To Tweet

As we researched inns, we discovered that many waive their facility fee if you book all the rooms for the weekend. The bridal or honeymoon suite is usually complimentary as well. The Vermont Inn, the one we finally chose, also allowed guests to pay for their own rooms when they book. So, if you book the inn for the whole weekend and all of your guests pay for their own rooms, your venue is essentially free. My fiancé and I ended up paying for a few rooms, but this cost much less than a facility fee would have.

Many inns will also have restaurants. If the facility fee is waived and there is a restaurant onsite, the inn will often require you to use their restaurant for the wedding food. This usually ends up being a money saver. Many caterers add fees for travel and transporting their equipment, so working with an onsite food staff will eliminate this cost.

Working directly with the onsite chef also meant we got to create our own menu. Click To Tweet

We were able to work directly with the head chef of the restaurant. The chef even asked us for our per-plate budget before we started planning, so the menu was completely tailored to our price point. Working directly with the onsite chef also meant we got to create our own menu. Friends of mine who have worked with onsite restaurant staff at other inns have had similar experiences. Often caterers only offer a specific menu for a specific price point, limiting your ability to tailor your menu to your budget and tastes.

The Vermont Inn ended up providing us a ceremony site, reception site, guest lodging for the majority of our guests, a free bridal suite, and catering for under $6000. If we had to pay for all of those things individually, it easily could have eaten up our whole budget.

2. Get crafty

 Wonderful DIY
Wonderful DIY

I am not a crafty person. You know those “Pinterest vs. Real Life” memes you see on Facebook? I’m definitely the person who made the travesty of a craft that is in the “Real Life” category. But, I figured I could save a lot of money on decorations if I made something myself instead of buying something on Etsy.

The aesthetic of the wedding was pretty simple, so simple centerpieces were a perfect fit. Click To Tweet

I went to Pinterest for inspiration and found these cute mason jars that were covered in fake fall leaves. My wedding was in mid-September, so the fall theme was perfect. I Googled how to make them and discovered that all I had to do was paint Modge Podge on the mason jar, attach the leaves to the jar, and seal them in with another layer of Modge Podge. I bought a package of fake fall leaves and a tub of Modge Podge and called my girlfriends. We had a crafting party, and the jars were done in no time. I decided I would put flowers in them – and thus, my centerpieces came to life. The aesthetic of the wedding was pretty simple, so simple centerpieces were a perfect fit.

Instead of going to the florist, I went to the grocery store and bought in season, loose cut flowers. This meant that I wasn’t able to choose exactly what flowers I wanted, but I saved a ton by just picking what was already cut. I have an aunt who has a talent for floral arrangements, so I gave her the cut flowers and asked her to assemble them in the mason jars. The centerpieces were simple, but gorgeous. Best of all? All together, they cost less than $50.

3. Recycled weddings

banner
Photo Credit: Vanessa Root

Instead of buying a lot of my decorations, I asked friends what they had lying around. For instance, since I knew I was going to be using the mason jars, I made a post on Facebook asking if anyone had some lying around. My friends who’d gotten married the year before had a few cases left over from their wedding. They sold them to me for less than half what I would have paid if I went to Walmart.

My friends who’d gotten married had a few cases left over from their wedding. Click To Tweet

Other friends shared decorations that they had used at their wedding, and I put my own twist on them. One of my favorites was a banner made by hanging paper and pictures on twine with clothespins. The pieces of paper had “advice” on them and the photos were pulled off Facebook and printed at Walmart for under $10. This banner has now been at three friends’ weddings, with different pictures each time, of course.

Instead of buying a lot of my decorations, I asked friends what they had lying around. Click To Tweet

People will also use Facebook groups or Craigslist to sell things they’ve used at their weddings for a deep discounts. Search terms like “Recycle your wedding” in the Facebook search bar or on your local Craigslist listings page to find people looking to sell things used in their own weddings. Check these sites before purchasing through a vendor or Amazon. You’re likely to find much better deals!

4. Don’t pay for your guests to get drunk

Photo Credit: Vanessa Root
Photo Credit: Vanessa Root

Alcohol often ends up being one of the largest wedding costs. An open bar averages $2800 and can be more. Even if you don’t have an open bar, buying enough alcohol for an entire wedding can cost upwards of $300.

I don’t drink, and my husband doesn’t drink much, so we decided not to pay for alcohol at our wedding. This doesn’t mean that the guests weren’t able to knock back a few. The Vermont Inn had their own liquor license and fully stocked bar. They even worked with us to stock some local microbrews with no cost to us because they’d be selling the beer.

Our guests could have as many drinks as they wanted, but it didn't cost us a penny. Click To Tweet

Guests could go to the bar and pay for their own drinks throughout the night. We got the best of both worlds. Our guests could have as many drinks as they wanted, but it didn’t cost us a penny. For the toast, the inn provided sparkling cider free of charge.

I don’t drink, and my husband doesn’t drink, so we decided not to pay for alcohol at our wedding. Click To Tweet

Another option that some people go for is to have a signature cocktail or signature beer for their wedding. The signature drink is free, but all other drinks are paid for by the guests. This is a great way to offset some of the cost for your guests without paying for a fully stocked bar.

5. Remember, every decision counts

Impression Bridal

When planning a wedding, every decision you make costs money, and those decisions add up very quickly. Before you start freaking out, sit down with your partner and decide what details will make your day the best for both of you. Tailor your budget around those details.

When planning a wedding, every decision you make costs money. Click To Tweet

If the dress is the most important, but you don’t want to break the bank, try checking out sites that sell secondhand dresses or hit your favorite indie thrift shop. I see gorgeous, vintage wedding dresses on the shelves of secondhand stores all the time. If you want to make sure your friends have an awesome time on the dance floor but can’t part with $1,500 for a DJ, consider curating a Spotify Premium playlist and investing in some decent sound equipment (our best man actually DJ’d our wedding from his Nexus7 tablet with sound equipment provided by the venue).

I see gorgeous vintage wedding dresses on the shelves of secondhand stores a lot. Click To Tweet

If you both decide the most important thing is to have perfect pictures to remember the day, try finding a photographer who is just starting out their career – as long as they have a portfolio for you to review and you like their photos, getting a newbie photographer could be a big money saver.

Robin Zabiegalski

Robin Zabiegalski

Robin Zabiegalski is the Editor of the Love section of The Tempest. She is a full time writer and editor. Her work has been published on The Tempest, xoJane, The Talko, The Bolde, and Kinkly. She also writes fiction and her work has been published in an anthology called "Fermenting Feminism" and in "Adelaide Magazine." Robin has a BA in Professional Studies from Johnson State College and she is passionate about feminism, body image, writing, snowboarding, and backpacking.

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