Saving Money

50 Innovative Ways to Save Money on a Wedding

wedding
Written by Madison Mazer

Weddings are about starting a life together. When you begin your lives as a couple, you also start a joint financial journey. Start it on the right foot with these 50 ways to save money on a wedding:

1. Have a long engagement

Enjoy your engagement for as long as you can. A long engagement gives you more time to plan and more time to save. Waiting just a year or two might drastically increase the amount you can set aside for your budget, which can help you achieve the wedding of your dreams.

Planning:

2. Hire a wedding planner

Although you may think hiring a wedding planner is an expense you don’t need, it can save you money in the long run. Professional party planners have the knowledge and experience to help you save money on your wedding. You can even possibly use their vendor and catering connections at discounted rates. Essentially, their job is to help you spend less and stay within your budget, while still giving you the wedding of your dreams. 

3. Recruit friends

Even if you decide not to hire a wedding planner, you still don’t have to do it alone. If your friends and family are willing, delegate some planning tasks to them. Try to keep it light and avoid getting caught up on the little things. They aren’t professionals, but they love you!

Invitations:

4. DIY invites

Printing paper invitations is expensive. Give your invites some homemade flair by creating them yourself! Take a trip to the craft store for some nice cardstock, use a home printer to print out the details, then add some embellishments. There are tons of free preset wedding invitations online, or you can use Canva—a simple graphic design website—to design your own. Making your own invites might take some time, but it’s much cheaper and much more personal. 

5. Go paperless

Wedding websites that offer digital invitations are no passing trend. They are efficient, eco-friendly, and you won’t have to worry about the RSVP cards’ postage fees. In fact, you won’t have to worry about any fees. Many wedding websites are completely free. That’s right—$0. Check out sites like Zola, WeddingWire, and The Knot and browse their no-cost planning features.  

6. Be smart about printed invites

If you’re not ready to go entirely paperless, try using the stationary sparingly. Instead of sending out letterpress save the dates, invitations, and RSVPs, only use it for the main invitation. Also, look into sending out cheaper one-ply insert cards as opposed to luxury invites etched on acrylic boxes or decorated with wax seals. 

Dresses and clothing:

7. Buy a dress second hand or on sale 

Keep in mind, you’re only going to wear your wedding dress for the big day. You may only have it on for a few hours. Why sink your money into buying a brand new dress when that cash could be better spent on things like catering and decorations? Instead, browse websites like Nearly Newlywed, which sells used wedding dresses at lower prices. You can also try local thrift stores or go to sale events at bridal shops. When it comes to second-hand clothing, small issues like length or hem seams shouldn’t stop you from buying if you like the dress. Remember, you can always have it altered and still beat the price of buying a new dress. 

8. Wear a non-wedding dress

You also have the choice to not wear a “wedding dress” at all. Formal gowns, prom dresses, quinceañera dresses, and even more casual outfits could substitute for a wedding dress. Something white that isn’t specifically marketed for brides will almost always be cheaper. Check out LuLu’s, a great store that offers affordable dresses for almost any occasion. 

9. Rent or borrow clothes and jewelry 

Accessorize without breaking the bank. Many pieces of wedding jewelry are available to rent just for the occasion. Often, this means you can have even more high-end jewelry for a lower price than if you bought it outright. This list of jewelry rental sites can help you find beautiful and affordable accessories for your big day.

RentTheRunway is one of the many sites on the list that is made specifically for renting designer clothing and jewelry. You can choose individual pieces or buy a membership and get a set amount of items for a predetermined price. Best part? No return date obligations! You can keep the clothes or jewelry you get for however long you want, or until you want to return them for new picks—or buy them. This is perfect if you need the accessories for a few months between the wedding pictures and the actual ceremony. 

Tuxedos are also prime for renting. It’s convenient and often cheaper to rent a tux or a suit for your big day, and many places will also rent you accessories like shoes and cufflinks. Like other clothes, you can always borrow a tux from a friend or family member.

10. Save on Bridesmaid Dresses

There are plenty of ways to help your bridal party save money on their dresses and avoid maxing out their credit cards. One thing you can do is pick a color scheme and let your bridesmaids choose whichever style of dress they like in that hue. If you’re afraid of mismatching, go for shorter dresses as they are often cheaper than floor-length gowns. You can also use rental sites like RentTheRunway to get dresses for less.

Ceremony:

11. Keep it short

No one wants to sit or stand through an hour and a half of convoluted vows. It’s simple, the shorter the ceremony the less you have to pay the officiant, and the less you have to pay for the venue.

12. Recruit music students

If you want to walk down the aisle to some music, but can’t find affordable professionals, hire graduate-student musicians. There is an abundance of talent looking to be hired for a gig at your local college. Just be sure to “audition” them first. 

13. Do it at the courthouse

Long elaborate ceremonies aren’t for everyone. Some couples might simply want to go to a courthouse and get a marriage certificate. Doing this can save you big on venue costs and decorations, so you’ll have more room in the reception budget. Bring just a few close friends and family with you to the courthouse and afterward, you can all go celebrate together. 

14. Have a friend or mentor do it

Chances are, you may know someone who is ordained to officiate weddings—a friend, teacher, instructor, colleague, family member, or a member of your community. If they are willing, you can probably get them to do it for free! 

15. Lose the limo

Your 20-minute drive to the venue shouldn’t take up that much of your budget. Skip the limo and have family or friends drive you there. Just make sure there is enough parking for you and your guests beforehand. 

Reception Venue:

16. Host the ceremony and reception in the same place

Obviously, it costs more to rent two venues than to just rent one. It also means no transportation costs between the ceremony location and reception location. Pick a venue that will work for both the ceremony and the reception to save on the venue.

17. Schedule on non-peak days

Book hotel ballrooms and more traditional party locations during non-peak months. Like most Saturdays and the summer season, certain dates are more popular than others—and priced accordingly. Set your wedding celebration for a time that’s not in high demand to get the best price.

18. Consider spaces that aren’t specifically for weddings

Barns, parks, restaurants, and breweries all make fun and unique venues. You’ll get beautiful photos and have more fun than you would in a conventional wedding venue. Another great part is that a majority of these places are already decorated—or their minimalist designs already fit your aesthetic. If you’re trying to save on a venue, you should probably choose one that requires as little extra decor as possible.

19. Use someone’s home

Especially for smaller, more intimate weddings, hosting your wedding at a family member’s or friend’s home is a cozy option that can save you thousands. Then, you’ll even have a bigger budget for food, entertainment, and your honeymoon! 

Flowers and decor:

20. Thrift dishes and glassware

Get eclectic with some mismatched tableware. Go to a few different thrift stores in your area to stock up on china dishes and glasses, and don’t worry about if they “go” with your wedding colors. 

21. Borrow chairs and tables

If you can avoid renting tables and chairs, you will save a lot on your reception costs. Call local schools and houses of worship to see they have some you can borrow or rent. Also, ask your venue what they offer, as some might come with furniture, linens, or tableware. 

22. Use fake flowers

Large bouquet centerpieces on every table are aesthetically pleasing but expensive. Fake flowers are a cheaper and long-lasting alternative to regular flowers, and they are just as pretty too. Most people at your wedding will be looking at these flowers from a distance, anyways. 

23. Try dollar store/craft store DIYs

Time to get on Pinterest! There are so many ways to DIY decorations like custom flower walls and seating cards. Make it fun and give your wedding some handmade flair. 

24. Double flowers or plants as favors

A cute way to use your decorations as favors is to use plants as placeholders that your guests can take home. Little succulents or small flowers are perfect for holding place cards and will look great in your guests’ homes.

25. Find recycled materials

Your decorations don’t need to be brand new to give your ceremony and reception the feel that you want. Check sites like Wedding Recycle to find decorations that fit your needs or use leftovers from other friends’ weddings.

Alcohol:

26. Get bubbles beside real champagne

Real champagne is only made in the Champagne region of France. Go with another type of bubbly to avoid overspending on your toast. Prosecco, sparkling rose, and cava wines are all great choices that taste similar to real champagne.

27. Find a store that lets you return unopened alcohol

Look for a liquor provider that lets you return unopened beer kegs or bottles of wine and drinks for some money back. This is much better than overestimating when ordering and spending too much on alcohol, or worse, not spending enough and running out mid-reception. 

28. Try a limited open bar

Having a full open bar at dinner is unnecessary and costs way more than it’s worth. Instead, only offer beer and wine during the reception. It will give your guests something to sip on and won’t get anyone too tipsy too fast. 

29. Create one or more signature cocktails

Personalize your cocktail hour, and cut down on costs, by creating a menu of 2-3 signature cocktails. You can name them after you and your new spouse, your pets, hometowns—whatever you like. Then, make a little sign to explain each drink and talk to your bartender about what you want. By doing this, you’ll add a cute touch to your reception and keep liquor purchases at a minimum.

30. Don’t use top-shelf liquor

Speaking of liquor purchases, stay away from the top shelf for this event. Especially since most of it will be mixed into cocktails, you don’t need to splurge on big-name brands. Stick to quality but cheap liquor brands and your budget will be fine.

Food and vendors:

31. Try family style or buffet

Having a buffet at your reception is far less expensive than a plated steak or chicken dinner. Guests usually like this more because they get to eat a wider variety of foods and can portion for themselves. While you cut down on staff and rental costs from a buffet, you’ll need to order more food. With that in mind, try to not stock the buffet with costly foods, like shrimp or crab.  

32. Plan brunch or tea

Go non-traditional and don’t serve dinner at all! If you have an early afternoon wedding, serve brunch or have tea time instead. If you want to cater your own wedding, you can make menu items like finger sandwiches, scones, and tartlets at home. There won’t be as much food to buy but it will still be fun and filling.

33. Serve small plates/tapas rather than a big meal

They may not be as filling as a big buffet, but small plates and tapas mean lots of fun and variety. You could even consider hosting your reception at a restaurant specifically because they might cater small plates for free or at a discount. If you have an afternoon wedding, this is especially fitting.

34. Host a potluck or BBQ

Get help from your guests and have a potluck or BBQ instead of a traditional dinner. Every family member can bring a dish they love, ensuring that everyone will have something to eat. It can also allow both sides of your new family to get to know each other through the foods you love to eat. 

Just make sure to create a spreadsheet or email chain to record what everyone is bringing beforehand, so you don’t have 10 people bringing sides of mashed potatoes. 

Cake:

35. Get a fake decoration cake

Instead of having one huge decorated wedding cake, ask your baker to make a fake one just for decoration. Then they can bake less decorative (but just as tasty) sheet cakes for the guests to actually eat. Or you can have them make a single tier of the cake real, then make the rest fake.

36. Buy a traditional real cake—but small, just for you

If you don’t want to have a fake decorated cake, get a small real decorated cake. That way, you and your spouse will have something for the cameras, and guests can have some yummy sheet cakes instead.

37. Dress up store cakes

Store-bought cakes are often better than people give them credit for. Buy a variety of cakes and build your own wedding cake. You can make multiple tiers, add your own decorations, fresh fruit, extra icing, or other edible decorations for a traditional cake feel without the big bill.

38. Get naked.

Less icing = less money. The “naked cake” (a cake with icing between the layers but barely any on the outside) is usually decorated with fruit and flowers. It’s trendy and affordable. Who can be fashionable and save money?

39. Go with non-traditional desserts

Why stick with cake? Try something different and have a variety of smaller, non-traditional wedding desserts. Brownies, lemon bars, cannolis, cupcakes, cake pops, and other small bites are perfect for a cost-effective and adorable dessert bar. If your wedding is outdoors, stock up on s’mores supplies and have a dessert bonfire!

DJ and entertainment:

40. Make your own playlist

Rather than hiring a DJ, create your own playlist and hook up your phone or computer to large speakers. This way you can guarantee that the music is exactly what you want, and you don’t have to pay anyone to do it for you. 

41. Ask your friends about speakers/mics

Being your own DJ is even better if you can borrow speakers and amplifiers from friends instead of renting them. Ask your friends who play instruments or are in bands if you can borrow their equipment for the big night.

42. Set up a DIY photo booth

Set up your own (or a friend’s) camera and create a DIY photo booth. All you need is a few nice backdrops and some fun props and you’re ready to record your guests’ amazing memories.

43. Hire a DJ over live music

If hiring entertainment is a must for you, be smart about it. Hiring a DJ for a few hours costs much less than a live band. Many DJs even offer all-inclusive packages or add-on services such as an MC, lighting, and photo booths—so when comparing rates make sure you’re getting the best bang for your buck. And don’t forget to ask your friends if you know someone who DJs on the side.

Guests and the rest:

44. Keep it small

Make your guest list as short as possible and only invite close friends and family for a lower-cost and more intimate affair. 

45. Limit your plus-ones

To those who want a smaller wedding, don’t throw out a plus-one on every invite you send. Keep it limited to people who you know have a significant other to save on space, food, favors, and more.

46. Limit kids

Especially if you want your wedding to have a calmer, more adult-oriented atmosphere, ask your guests to leave the kids with a babysitter for a night. The fewer people there, the less you have to spend. You also won’t need to worry about having kids-friendly food options at the reception.

47. Limit photographer hours

It’s unnecessary to have a photographer there for the whole ceremony and the whole reception. Set a limited number of hours for your photographer to keep expenses at a minimum. 

48. Use handmade favors or charitable donations

Instead of dropping big bucks on new party favors for everyone, make them yourself! If you’re not very crafty, you can also give a charitable donation in honor of each of your guests. 

49. Ask for honeymoon money instead of registry gifts

Creating a registry can be a hassle for both you and your guests. Make it easier on everyone by simply asking for some cash toward your honeymoon.

If you do want a traditional registry try making one through Amazon. It’s easy, convenient, and has become one of the most popular registry sites in the United States, according to Business Insider

50. Relax! You don’t need to be a perfectionist to have an amazing budget-friendly wedding.

About the author

Madison Mazer