Tying the knot isn’t known for being low cost. According to current estimates, the average American wedding costs approximately $27,000, which is beyond most budgets. If you don’t want to or can’t spend a lot of scratch on a ceremony and reception, you don’t have to! It’s your wedding—you can do what you want, and this includes being a bit more frugal when it comes time to say “I do.” Thankfully, there are a lot of genius ways to save on your wedding while still having a snazzy soiree.
Save your pennies on primping.
1. Go mild on the makeup.
You certainly want to stand out on your special day, but you don’t want to be the center of attention because of your cosmetics. When it comes to make-up on your big day, it can be fab and frugal if:
- you do it yourself. You may want to get training from a pro at the cosmetics counter first, but by doing your makeup yourself the way you normally apply it, you will look like yourself—the person your future spouse fell in love with!
- you have it done at the cosmetics counter. When you make a purchase from a department store cosmetics counter or shop like Sephora, they will do your makeup for you…for free!
- don’t try anything new. Weddings may seem like a wonderful occasion to splurge, but if you normally don’t use high-end cosmetics or crazy colors, now isn’t the time to try. They may not look as good and as flattering as what you normally do, and you could end up with irritated skin or an allergic reaction from unfamiliar products.
2. Pick a lower-cost style for your locks.
A bold new look on your big day may seem like a bright idea, but this may not be the time to take risks. Expensive extensions, coloring, perms, and other treatments might look amazing, but they may also not turn out the way you want, leaving you looking less than your best and out quite a few bucks. A classic updo or a cascade of curls could be a better option.
MOM TIP: Not only are modern or extreme looks like extra long extensions or crazy colors expensive budget-busting styles, but they could ruin your photos too. These looks could make the pictures from this timeless celebration of your love look dated.
3. Spend less at the spa.
Facials and body treatments before the big day can help your skin to be more beautiful before your wedding, but they can really cost a lot. Spa services aren’t cheap, and they won’t necessarily help you to look better. Your face could break out from a facial, or the products used could cause an allergic reaction, making those services a really bad investment. If you want to go to the spa anyway, you should be savvy and:
- start any treatments months before you tie the knot. If you end up with a rash or with plenty of pimples, you have time to clear up before your ceremony.
- shop around. Find spas with bargains when bundling multiple treatments or consider spending less at a beauty school with estheticians in training.
4. Don’t buy your bridal party’s beauty treatments.
If you are keeping it simple and sticking to a budget, there is no harm in not paying to have the bridal party professionally styled, asking them to do their own hair and cosmetics.
BEST FRIEND TIP: If you want bridesmaids to beautify themselves, don’t even think of making demands like insisting on seeing an updo or some other style that may be hard to do, especially to your own hair. Let these ladies do what they do to make them look and feel their best.
Dress for less.
5. Make a bridal gown budget.
When making a budget for your big day, pick a maximum price for your dress and stick to it. Explore all dresses up to that price point, as you may fall in love with a gown that is considerably less costly.
MOM TIP: Don’t say “yes” to a dress that isn’t marked down. A sample or sale dress can let you get much more gown while still sticking to your budget.
6. Consider something old.
Your wedding dress doesn’t need to be new—just new to you. Look for used wedding gowns on eBay or in consignment shops. You might also want to consider wearing the dress your mother or grandmother got married in, as a hand-me-down heirloom can be a really sweet, lovely look.
7. Don’t go shoe crazy.
You are in love with your future spouse, not your kicks. Sporting Louboutins or other high-end footwear may make you feel like royalty, but you might find yourself eating like a peasant after the wedding because you bought shoes that set you back $700 or more. Get something that looks good and suits your style, but you probably want to put comfort and frugality before high fashion.
8. Skip sexy skivvies.
If the lingerie stores at my local mall are to be believed, under every wedding gown is sexy white lingerie like garters and corsets. Before you buy, consider if these things will be comfortable when worn for hours under your gown, if they even fit appropriately under your dress without being bumpy or lumpy looking.
BEST FRIEND TIP: It doesn’t matter how cute or hot those special underthings are! After the guests go, you both will probably either be too tired or turned on to bother changing into them if you aren’t wearing them already. Take the lingerie on the honeymoon so you get your money’s worth.
9. Debate renting versus buying.
When it comes to clothes for your big day, you can rent tuxes and dresses instead of buying. To know which option is genius for you, consider:
- how rowdy you are. If you and your lover really, really get down on the dance floor with drinks in hand, you may want to buy. Stains and tearing on the rented clothing could make it cost as much as something you bought.
- how sentimental you are. If you think your wedding clothes should be a treasured keepsake to pass down to kids and grandkids, you might not feel too good about giving your duds back the next day.
- how often you get dressed up. If there are more formal events in your future, a nice suit or tux will get used again and again, which could help you save in the long run.
10. Remember something borrowed.
When it comes to accessories like necklaces and cufflinks, you may want to borrow these from loved ones. Not only will this help to make these special people feel like a bigger part of your wedding, but it will help to give you more wiggle room in your budget for bigger expenses.
11. Consider a cocktail party.
There is no rule that says you must celebrate your nuptials with a reception with a sit down dinner, a giant cake, and dancing. A brief “happy hour” reception or a cocktail party with appetizers that starts at a later hour in the evening will cost a lot less than a sit down dinner.
12. Don’t let them eat cake.
Wedding cake is traditional, but you don’t have to stick to this sugary, starchy, spendy tradition. If you don’t have a reception with a standard dinner, you could skip dessert altogether, but if you had a dinner, you can opt for a more decently priced, less decadent dessert like cupcakes or fruit.
13. Go casual with catering.
Creative, outside the box weddings are all the rage. Not only are they fun and quirky, but bucking tradition can save you a few dollars. An awesome alternative to help you save is to go more casual with cuisine by:
- bringing in food trucks. If your reception is outdoors or if your space opens up to a large outdoor area, arrange for two or three food trucks to come by. Foot the bill for street tacos, dim sum, or barbecue for you and your guests.
- having a cookout. There are catering companies that will come in and grill out for you and your guests. Not as cheap as it would be if you and your family would do the cooking yourselves, but it’s a pretty cost-effective choice.
- planning a potluck. Ask your guests to bring their favorite dishes to share, and coordinate who brings what either on your wedding website or on a Facebook page. This not only is inexpensive, but this bohemian approach makes everyone feel more involved on your special day. Be ready to buy things like bread and condiments to round out your spread.
14. Don’t buy booze.
You can save a lot of money with a cash bar. Of course, you should provide some beverage options on the house, so shell out for sure for soda, juice, coffee, and other non-alcoholic options. Providing beer and wine for your guests would be a nice touch, but don’t have hard liquor offered on the house.
15. Create a signature cocktail.
If you do buy the booze, design a signature cocktail. Signature cocktails are cool for weddings, and this trend is growing in popularity. If you pick the right concoction, you can save some cash. As you and your bartender design the drink, make it with bargain brand “well liquors” and lower cost ingredients.
BEST FRIEND TIP: Don’t do a signature cocktail that’s too sweet or “girly,” but don’t go with something too strong, either. You want something that everyone will want to drink so you can cut down on your bar bill with fewer Johnny Walkers and cosmos.
16. Cut choices to cut costs.
If you are going to have an open bar, limit what’s available. Pick a red and a white wine, a couple of beers, and a few affordable liquors for your guests to choose from. There may even be a bar package that incorporates this strategy at the reception hall or restaurant.
MOM TIP: Don’t have Patron, Belvedere, and other higher end call liquors behind the bar if it’s not an option that is free for your guests. If one of your guests orders a premium drink thinking it will be on the house, that will put you, your guest, and the bartender in an uncomfortable position.
Make memories for less money.
17. Find frugal photography.
When selecting a photographer and videographer, you want value. This means you should shop around, check out portfolios, and gather recommendations to balance quality of work with a fair, affordable price.
18. Go for part-time pictures.
Photographers and videographers often charge by the hour. You may be able to save money by not having these professionals stay to the end of the reception. If you still want videos and photos all night, consider asking one or two trusted friends or family members to bring their cameras and capture the fun after hours. You should also ask your guests to email all of the videos and photos they take with their phones to you.
19. Make your own fab favors.
Wedding favors can be expensive, and all too often, they are a waste of money. Guests often toss these out as soon as they get home…if they even take them home in the first place. Consider making your own wedding favors, and select stuff that your guests will actually want or need after your special day.
When and where can make or break your budget.
20. Find the deal of the day.
Reception halls, restaurants, and even chapels will charge you less on some days. On certain holidays, like Memorial Day, a restaurant or reception hall may be otherwise empty if you weren’t there, and they will give you a great deal because any profit is better than nothing! The same goes for certain days of the week where people are less likely to hold weddings and other events, such as Sundays.
21. Be an early bird.
Remember the “happy hour” cocktail reception mentioned earlier? There is a chance this can save you even more. Your venue may give you better value because you will be out early which lets them make more money because they can host a larger, more lavish, and more expensive event after you leave.
22. Take it outside.
Especially swell if you like the great outdoors, a reception in a public park’s picnic area or in a friend or family member’s big backyard can be a big bargain.
BEST FRIEND TIP: A small private ceremony in a forest would be incredibly romantic, and permits are very inexpensive. You can say “I do” in Yellowstone for only 50 bucks!
23. Try something new.
A new bar, restaurant, or reception hall may be itching to build their business.Not only will these places probably be easier to book because no one knows about them yet, but you may be able to bargain with them because they really want you there. By hosting your big bash there, you are helping to expose their space to a lot of potential customers all at once. They are helping themselves by giving you a deal.
24. Don’t use a wedding venue.
Wedding venues host a lot of weddings, so you pay for their expertise and usually are charged a fee for being in the space, regardless of how much food and booze you buy. Bars and restaurants that don’t normally have weddings are more likely to only charge you for actual consumption as long as it meets a minimum amount so that they don’t lose money.
Your special day is about you and your lover. While you can make your wedding about your family and friends, you reserve the right to save a lot of money and make it a very private affair. Sneaking off to a courthouse or chapel together and sending out announcements after the fact can be as romantic as it is inexpensive. Even a quick trip to Las Vegas or an island getaway can cost tens of thousands less than a lot of folks shell out for a traditional ceremony.
Thanks to friends, family, and colleagues for sharing their savvy savings tips from their experiences as brides and grooms, as well as from their backgrounds as bartenders, servers, and event planners.
Share your genius ways in which you saved on your wedding in the comments!