Though television shows would have us believe that everyone spends $10,000 on a wedding dress, the average cost is much less than that. Couples typically spend between $15,000 and $20,000 on their entire weddings in large cities, though you can dramatically cut that amount by prioritizing a few must-have items and then cutting back on the rest. Since most brides go over their budget by about 15 percent, you’ll be glad to have that extra money in your pocket. Besides hiring a friend or photography student to photograph your wedding, here are other ways to trim thousands off your budget while still having a beautiful wedding – and an amazing time.
Most weddings happen between May and October, so if you get married in March, April or November, the costs for photographers, caterers, hotels and reception halls are much cheaper. Marry late in the morning on a Sunday and have brunch after or on a Friday night to avoid Saturday evening costs. Either consider shortening your engagement so you’ll keep the whole event simple, or stay engaged for over a year so you can take advantage of after-holiday or seasonal sales on items you want, such as silver decorations around Christmas or floral décor in the spring.
Consider a nontraditional venue, such as a city park, zoo, garden or a relative’s great-looking backyard. The gorgeous natural backdrop of public or city-run gardens lessens your need for flowers. Calculate in the cost of tents, tables, toilets and chairs if the venue doesn’t include them.
The Wedding Dress
Purchase your wedding dress second-hand from eBay or Craigslist; it’s likely only been worn once. Or, find a friend who had a destination wedding and ask to borrow her dress – probably only her family saw her in it. You could also rent a designer white dress from Rent the Runway, purchase a white bridesmaid’s dress from a high-quality store such as J. Crew or buy a slightly out-of-season dress from a local bridal store, which will likely give you a discount if you pay for your dress all at once instead of making payments on it.
Choose seasonal and/or local flowers or go faux for your own bouquet – no one will know they’re fake but you. Keep bridesmaids’ bouquets neat and tight, since larger bouquets increase the cost. Alternately, use lots of greenery and few flowers in your arrangements, since greenery is cheaper than flowers and still shows a pop of color. Reuse bridesmaids’ bouquets for additional décor at the reception.
Ask a graphic designer friend at work if he or she would be willing to design your invitation at the cost of a lunch or case of beer, and then print them yourself at a local office supply store or in bulk online. Skip the invitation liner, print the address labels yourself and try to keep all of the information – for the reception too – on one sheet instead of including enclosure cards. Have guests RSVP using a family member’s phone number or email address, or create an online RSVP system from a wedding webpage.
Opt for chic heavy hors d’oeuvres instead of a sit-down meal, or serve pasta with an inexpensive protein, such as chicken. If you’re having your reception in the park, ask family members to bring one dish each for a potluck reception (you can always assign their dish to control the theme of the meal), and rent silver serving dishes so everything will match. Even better, borrow serving dishes from a married friend.
Sheet cakes cost less than tiered wedding cakes, so have a small traditional wedding cake made for pictures and the essential top layer for freezing, but feed wedding guests from a sheet cake in the kitchen. Select a baker who isn’t a wedding cake specialist, as the cake will taste amazing but cost much less than large cakes covered in gum paste flowers and fondant. Or, ask local culinary schools if they have pastry chefs-in-training who would be interested in making a wedding cake for your event. Top your cake with a metal script initial from your new last name, surround each layer in satin ribbon in one of your wedding colors and add fresh flowers or flower petals to each layer, since they cost much less than handcrafted sugar flowers.
Choose one signature cocktail in a color that matches your wedding or match the cocktail to the season. Either way, The Knot’s Ultimate Signature Cocktail Finder will help you figure out the perfect drink to serve. Pour them into inexpensive high ball glasses, either purchased in bulk from discount glass stores or from another bride secondhand. You can always sell them again later. If you have the budget, supplement your cocktail with one more featuring a different liquor or beer from a keg (hidden behind a table, with a family member serving it) and enough champagne for a toast.
Photo Credit: iStockphoto/cnicbc