Sticking to your budget can be tough when planning a wedding. Here are 10 tips to manage wedding finances and help keep your wedding under budget.
The average wedding now costs nearly $34,000, according to The Knot—that’s enough to buy a new Honda Civic or to make a healthy down payment on a house. But your wedding doesn’t have to cost as much as a small car. There are lots of ways to stick to a budget that works for you, and avoid costs from getting out of control.
Here are some strategies for keeping your wedding bells affordable:
Be Thoughtful About Your Guest List
One of the biggest factors in your wedding costs is how many people you’re inviting. It affects the food, the size of your wedding venue, and the cost of your invitations, among other things. The easy decision is to invite everyone you know, but that will cost you. The more selective you can be about who attends your nuptials, the smaller your costs will be overall.
Rethink the Traditional Venue
A reception hall can be pricey. Consider some more unusual places to say “I do,” such as a local park, a small museum, a restaurant or even your backyard. Poll your close friends for ideas—one of them may know the perfect spot for you to exchange vows for less.
Go for Unconventional Timing
Wedding venues are more expensive in peak wedding months and on Saturday afternoons and evenings. To save, consider a Friday or Sunday ceremony in a less popular month such as January, February or March. Or have a brunch celebration. Bonus: If you have a morning wedding, you’ll be able to serve pancakes and bacon instead of chicken and filet.
Have a Sheet Cake—Or Something Else
The average couple spends $540 on their wedding cake. You may be able to shrink that cost by cutting a small “fancy” wedding cake and hiding sheet cakes in the back for your wedding guests. Some couples get their wedding cake from their local grocery store rather than a special wedding cake baker. You could also opt for a non-cake dessert option, such as a doughnut tower, cookies or a make-your-own ice cream sundae table.
You may decide that your guests don’t need a full open bar with top-shelf liquor. Consider offering beer and wine only, and if you have a crowd of cocktail lovers, a signature drink during the cocktail hour or a cash bar for liquor. You can also skip the champagne toast, which adds up more quickly than you may think. One more tip: A morning or daytime wedding might lead to less imbibing overall.
Stick to In-Season Flowers
Let your florist know you’re on a tight budget and that you want to stick to the prettiest in-season blooms you can find—and the more local, the better. You can build stunning bouquets and centerpieces from basics like daisies, sunflowers, chrysanthemums and even carnations. Or skip flowers and opt for lush green plants, fruit or floating candles on your tables.
Have a DJ—Or Be the DJ
By all accounts, a live band is much more expensive than a DJ. And today, you don’t even necessarily need to hire someone. If you’re on a super tight budget, you can accomplish what you want with a smartphone or laptop and a speaker system. Design your own playlist and put a friend in charge of spinning tunes, or consider asking a musical friend to handle everything in lieu of a wedding gift.
Ask a Friend to Marry You
Some couples decide there’s no need to have an official officiant these days, now that anyone can get ordained online. Have a special friend do the honors and save on officiant fees. Plus, your relationship to them will make the whole ceremony more meaningful.
Skip the Wedding Favors
Couples usually spend about $2 per head on wedding favors. If you have 150 people at your wedding, that’s a $300 expense—for something most people toss or never use again. Consider nixing it altogether (many guests won’t care) or choosing something less expensive, such as personalized matchbooks, custom tea bags, bubbles (they can be used for your big exit!) or a personalized bottle opener. No need to get fancy.
Create your Own Invites—Or Go Digital
Gone are the days when everything you send out must be on expensive paper. There are oodles of online templates available for wedding invitations, or you could hire someone to design something for you on a site like Fiverr.com. All you need is paper and a printer and you’re off to the races. Consider sending out extras like save-the-dates via email or Evite, and allow people to RSVP electronically to save on return postage.
Overall, there are a variety of ways to lower the costs on your big day. Mix in a little DIY, don't be afraid to be non-traditional, and save the cash for the honeymoon—or the rest of your long and happy lives together.