How to Have an Affordable Wedding

Prioritize to Save Money

Young couple and their guests with champagne flutes during wedding reception in garden
Caiaimage/Tom Merton / Getty Images

According to a recent survey, the average cost of an American wedding is just over $27,000. This can be a significant burden on those who need to foot the bill, but it doesn’t have to be so painful. There are many steps you can take to make sure that you’re getting the most bang for your buck when planning that special day.

Communicate Priorities with Your Partner

Everyone has a different idea of the perfect wedding, so before you even begin to get into the details, you need to sit down with your partner and determine what is important to both of you.

As you begin to find out what aspects of the wedding are most important, you’ll then have a list of priorities that will be used to determine how much money to spend.

Some things you’ll want to talk about:

  • Size of the wedding
  • Location (indoors or outdoors)
  • Time of year
  • Photos and video
  • Music

Thinking About Guests

When it comes down to it, the number of people that attend your wedding will have the greatest impact on the total cost. More guests mean more food and drink, a larger church or reception hall, larger wedding cake, and even more invitations.

Since most places charge on a per-person basis, the difference between 100 and 200 guests can be substantial. Make sure that you invite the people that are important to you, but don’t go overboard. Remember, you have to spend time visiting with all of your guests at the reception. This can take hours of your time, and it doesn’t even include all of the other events taking place during the evening.

Invitations and Decorations

If you are a do-it-yourselfer, this is an area where you can really save money. If you have the skills to design on a computer, developing your own invitations can be a great way to save money. This doesn’t mean you should just print off a template you find on the computer and call it an invitation, but you can create all or at least part of your invitations at home with a little creativity and time.

The same goes for decorating the church and/or reception hall. If you or someone you know enjoys doing crafts, you can find most of the raw decoration materials at hobby or craft stores. If you take care of the decorations yourself, not only will you save money, but you will have full control over how it looks.

Finally, think about what kind of flowers you want to use. Real flowers are beautiful and smell great, but do you really need to spend all that money to have fresh flowers decorating the whole banquet hall? You can save a great deal of money by simply using fresh flowers for the table centerpieces and use silk flowers for accent decorations elsewhere. If you insist on using fresh flowers, you may also consider buying the flowers in bulk and creating the arrangements yourself.

Food and Drink

Without a doubt, the food and drink you select will be one of the largest expenses for your wedding. Think about whether you want a formal sit-down meal, or if it will be a buffet style meal. Obviously, having a formal dinner will be considerably more expensive because of the additional staff required to plate and serve the meals.

In addition, you’ll want to consider any before or after dinner food you may provide.

Will you have bacon-wrapped scallops as appetizers, or a plentiful cheese and cracker spread? Will you have a special dessert reception or something like a chocolate fountain after dinner? These can be a nice touch, but be prepared to spend an additional five to twenty dollars per person for specialty items such as those.

Another significant cost comes in the form of the bar service. If you choose to have alcoholic beverages, keep in mind that alcohol is not cheap. Most places have the option to choose a house or premium alcohol package. Consider whether or not you really need top-shelf options, as the cheaper house option may be considerably cheaper.

You’ll also want to think about the length of the bar service. Remember, not only are you paying for the drinks, but you have to pay for the servers and bartenders as well.

Instead of leaving the bar open all night, you might be able to save money by closing the bar for an hour or two during dinner service.

Music and Photography

Music is obviously an important part of the wedding. You have the songs being played during the ceremony, but you also have all of the entertainment at the reception. You have many options when it comes to music. You can choose live entertainment, which comes at a premium, or you can hire a DJ. There are a lot of options when it comes to music, so be sure to check references so you get exactly what you want.

Finally, you have to consider photography. The photos that are taken at your wedding are some of the best reminders you’ll have to that wonderful day. The range in prices for photographers can range anywhere from a few hundred dollars to $10,000 or more.

Begin planning to interview photographers well before the wedding. You’ll have an opportunity to sit down with photographers and view samples of their work, discuss package options, photo albums, and so on.

Things to Remember

As with most things in life, it is usually a good idea to practice moderation, and a wedding is no different. For most people, this is a once in a lifetime event that they have been anticipating for years, so it is incredibly easy to go overboard.

While you want to make your wedding an event that you and your guests will remember forever, you want to keep the future in mind. By saving a few hundred or thousand dollars here and there, you can use that savings to prepare for your future together. Maybe it is buying your first home, putting a child through college, or getting rid of that credit card debt. Whatever your goals are, some careful planning can ensure that you are spending money on what is most important to you and your partner.