16 Ways To Save Money When Planning a Wedding

16 Ways To Save Money on a Wedding

So, you’ve popped the question – or they have – and someone’s said yes!

Congratulations on your new engagement! Now, it’s time to start planning the wedding without breaking the bank.

But how can you make sure that you don’t spend too much on a wedding?

The average cost of a wedding in the United States in 2022 was $30,000. While that number may seem daunting at first glance (and it is a big one), there are several easy ways to reduce that cost by thousands of dollars.

To name only a few of the things you can consider for cost-cutting, photography, dress costs, and postage fees can all be effectively reduced in cost without compromising quality.

In this article, we’ll be covering 16 different ways you can save money on your wedding without compromising fun and lasting memories, including:

  • Saving money on possessions (wedding dresses, accessories, etc.)
  • Saving money on services (photographers, venues, transport costs, etc.)
  • Saving money on food and entertainment (music, cake, etc.)

Let’s get into it!

  1. Set A Budget

The first step to saving money on a wedding is to ensure you have constructed a proper budget and that you are held accountable for it.

Setting a concrete budget gives you restrictions on your wedding spending, which will naturally limit your overall costs!

Of course, a budget by itself is useless without ensuring that it is a reasonable one for your finances and desires.

You should think carefully about how much you want to spend on your wedding; both how much you are actually able to spend, as well as how much you and your partner want to spend.

Having a frank discussion with your partner and any other interested parties might feel awkward, but it’s very important to ensure everyone is on the same page when it comes to such a big occasion!

Plus, setting a budget will save you time; no last-minute changes to the wedding, no sudden extra requests, and no overbooking problems. How? Otherwise, you’d go over budget!

  1. Get Married At Low Traffic Time

Weddings, like any major event, have a seasonal component.

Just like people are unlikely to go on a beach holiday in the middle of winter, there are certain times of the year when weddings are more popular than others.

Naturally, by the laws of supply and demand, this means that venues, photographers, and other necessities for your wedding will be more expensive at these peak times.

Wedding season typically falls around the middle of the year near summer and early fall.

As a result, it can be a lot cheaper to book venues out of the wedding season. Some venues, suppliers, photographers, and so on may offer specially discounted rates due to the lack of business they experience around these times.

The other thing to consider is which day. Weekend weddings or those on public holidays are obviously more popular than those on weekdays, which means you’ll likely be looking at more expensive prices for weekend events.

So, if it works for you, getting married on a Tuesday in December will be much cheaper than a Saturday in June!

  1. Offer Limited Drink Options

Alcohol is one of the most expensive costs of a wedding, with the average US wedding racking up an eye-watering $7,350 bill for an unrestricted tipple.

While drinks are a staple at many weddings, it’s important to consider your own limitations around how much you can reasonably provide while remaining financially stable.

This doesn’t necessarily mean limiting the amount of drinks guests have or completely removing alcohol from your event (although these too will save a considerable amount of money), but instead limiting the drink options available.

Hard liquor (such as whiskey, vodka, or other spirits) and champagne are both bigger-ticket items than the more commonplace beer and medium-quality wine – especially when you are aiming to provide for a large gathering.

As a result, cutting these from your drinks list is a great way to save money on your alcohol supplies – and hence on your wedding as a whole!

  1. Buy Your Dress From a Sample Sale

A sample sale is a retail event where a wedding dress store will sell the wedding dresses they use in their showroom.

Dress prices are often significantly discounted (up to 50% or more!) in these events, due to the fact that showroom dresses have been exposed to more environmental factors and have likely been handled several times in the course of the store’s normal operations.

While buying a dress at one of these sales is a great way to get your wedding day outfit at a fraction of the typical price, you’ll need to come prepared.

Sample sale dresses are, by nature, in limited supply. As a result, you’ll need to know exactly what you’re looking for for two reasons:

  1. To ensure that you can quickly identify whether any of the dresses available are worth your time to consider

  2. To ensure that you can buy the dress immediately if it fits your criteria, rather than needing to go away and think about it. Leaving a dress there means it is almost certain that somebody else will buy it!

  3. Keep the Ceremony & Reception Nearby

Keeping things close together is obviously beneficial in terms of ensuring a smooth transition between the wedding and the reception.

However, it can also have a significant impact on the amount of money you need to spend on your big day!

If your ceremony and reception locations are outside of walking distance from one another, you’ll likely need to organize transport between the venues for your guests as well as potentially any wedding staff who you want to bring along.

This can cost a significant amount of money; minibusses run up costs of $1000 and up per day.

While it is possible to have all your guests make their own way between venues, this requires that everyone has access to their own car and that there is enough parking at both sites to accommodate your guest list.

This is something that will increase the cost of your wedding due to the likelihood of needing to hire a larger venue.

Instead, you can hold both the ceremony and the reception in the same location, or you can separate them by a short, walkable distance.

Don’t forget that both you and your guests are unlikely to be dressed for exercise, so it’s important to adjust your definition of “walking distance” to accommodate less exercise-friendly clothing – and to account for all your different guests!

  1. Paperless Invitations

While it might not be the top of your list when thinking about the cost of your wedding, paper invitations can lead to ballooning expenses quickly.

If you are only inviting a few guests and don’t mind too much about the quality of invitations that people receive, your paper invite expenses are likely to be very reasonable.

However, costs can quickly add up; between initial invitations, updates, and adding in that one guest you swore you meant to invite but somehow didn’t get around to sending something to, you could be looking at hundreds of dollars in printing expenses.

And that’s not even counting design costs, if you don’t want to do this part yourself!

As an alternative, you can use paperless invitations; email or text might work if you are having an informal occasion, but if you want something more fitting for the special occasion you could try a specialized wedding website service.

While these can still cost a significant amount, a full package on some sites runs you around 150 USD, which can be much less than the amount you’d spend on paper invitations – especially if you have a large guest list!

Plus, with the reduction in environmental damage from the paper and ink, you’ll feel a bit better about the event.

  1. Borrow Accessories

The next step returns to your outfit.

Now that you’ve purchased a cheaper wedding dress (or if you want to save money on other outfit items so that you can splurge out on your dream gown), it’s time to consider how best to save money on the accessories and shoes that you are wearing.

Renting jewelry for a wedding, while often practiced, comes with a cost. Depending on which service you go with, you may end up forking out up to $50 for the event – and don’t forget about canceling any subscriptions after the event!

Rather than spend the excess cash, you can often find accessories from past weddings in your family or social circle, or treasured items from relatives’ keepsake boxes.

Plus, wearing a special family heirloom is a great way to make the wedding feel more special and unique to you.

  1. Use In-Season Flowers

Flowers are a key component to many weddings, and many people have particular favorites whether this be particular flowers or just specific colors.

However, floral arrangements come with a cost, and this can be exacerbated when you are looking for uncommon flowers or ones that are not grown locally at the time of your purchase.

Import fees for flowers, even from other parts of the country, can be significant in increasing the cost of your bouquets.

Instead, choose in-season flowers that are grown locally that still match your expectations of how the arrangements will look!

Not only will this save you money (potentially hundreds of dollars in total), but it will also help you support a local business – which can be particularly nice if you are having your wedding in a place that you live close to!

  1. Only Use One Photographer / Videographer

Photographers and videographers are key to preserving the memories of a wedding for years to come.

These trained professionals produce expertly taken and edited visual media - but they charge high rates for their specialized services.

On average, couples in the US spend around $2000 on a wedding photographer, with the cheapest end hitting $300 and the most expensive at $4500 and up. It’s clear that you’ll want to avoid hiring an additional staff member if you can!

Luckily, one photographer or videographer is almost always sufficient for the average wedding.

While multiple photographers may sound like a good idea in a large venue, you’ll only really want photos of a few key moments (for example the wedding vows, first dance, and so on) while the remainder of the photos will be for atmosphere and general memories.

As a result, it’s unlikely you’ll need to specifically focus on multiple parts of the event at the same time. As such, one photographer should be plenty. If you want more photos, you can always give guests the opportunity to take some candid pics!

  1. Do Not Get Upsold by the Photographer

There are several stories in the news about newlyweds being charged additional fees by the photographer to acquire the full package of photos that they wanted.

Clearly, this is not something you want to happen to you – so ensuring you have a clear, written, and signed contract is a great step to take!

You should ensure that the contract states that you have rights to all the raw image files. This way if anything goes sideways, you have legal recourse to recover your memories!

However, you may also be asked by a photographer to buy additional items on top of the package you purchased. For example, they might say that they have an additional package (for, let’s say, editing) that could make your photos look better.

In such a situation, it’s important to stay strong on the budget that you set up at step one.

If you have money left over and genuinely believe that the service will benefit you, go for it. Otherwise, leave it be!

  1. Keep The Bridal Party Small

Keeping the bridal party (and the invite list in general) small is another great way to save money.

While it can be gutting to cut people from the list, do you really need to invite Stacy from primary school whom you haven’t spoken to in fifteen years?

Not only will more people at the wedding in general increase catering and venue costs, but extra members in the bridal party will lead to a rapid increase in cost.

Matching dresses (if that’s your thing), bachelorette parties, rehearsal dinners, and so on are all events you’ll need to bring the bridal party to (but might be able to leave the rest of the guest list out of).

As a result, keeping the size of the bridal party to a minimum will save you a lot of money over the course of the whole wedding process – not just during the ceremony and reception!

Plus, keeping a bridal party small ensures that you can relax more. You will be able to choose only your closest friends and family to ensure that you are surrounded by familiar faces during the whole process!

  1. Send Updates on a Wedding Website

What many people don’t take into consideration when planning a wedding is the cost of updating guests on the various bits and pieces that crop up over the duration between the first save-the-date notice and the actual ceremony.

Formal invitations to the ceremony, rehearsal dinner, and reception, as well as further information about the reception are very quick ways to increase the cost of a wedding due to distribution charges (couriers, domestic and international post, and so on).

Instead, you can send updates on a wedding website. This will naturally decrease spending, especially if you know you will be sending a significant number of different pieces of mail.

This way, you can send a first save-the-date message as well as a link to the website for further updates. You can use a wedding website provider to do this, or do it yourself if you are tech-savvy!

  1. Offer a Cupcake Bar

Cupcake bars are a great alternative to wedding cakes if you are looking to save some money on your wedding ceremony.

Traditional wedding cakes from bakeries can cost between $400 and $700; clearly not something that will save you any money!

Instead, you can set up a cupcake bar: a place that your guests can go to to pick up the equivalent of a slice of cake, but without the hassle and expense of picking up a full-size, three-tier, wedding cake.

Using a cupcake bar can reduce costs by up to 80% due to the much lower price tag of a batch of cupcakes compared to a full wedding cake.

Plus, cupcake bars allow you to cater to particular dietary requirements much more easily than buying just one wedding cake!

  1. Use a Store Bought Cake

If having a cake is a non-negotiable for you, consider buying a premade one from a store rather than ordering a custom one from a baker.

These tend to be significantly cheaper as they are not tailored to each individual buyer, which means that you can still avoid the hefty price tag of a traditional cake option.

However, because you’re buying it from a store, it means it likely won’t quite fit what you want. Luckily, decorating a wedding cake is something you can do yourself!

Whether it’s as simple as adding some figurines on the top, or as complex as re-icing the layers with a particular pattern or words, it’s often easy enough (and almost always cheaper) to add these finishing customized touches yourself.

Plus, this way you’ll have 100% of the say in what goes on your cake – something that you might be worried about when handing over your ideas and designs to a professional baker who might not share your vision!

  1. Pass on Live Music

Live music is often something touted as necessary for a wedding. However, this isn’t necessarily the case!

This is an area where you can easily save a significant amount of money from your wedding budget if you eschew live music.

Bands can put you out of pocket anywhere between $8000 and $20000, while a DJ can be slightly cheaper (between $1000 and $6000).

However, in either case, it’s clearly going to be one of the largest (if not the largest) expenses at your wedding.

Luckily, setting up music in the day and age of widespread digital technology is fairly easy.

If you have a phone or a laptop, you can hook up to any speakers in the venue and put on a playlist curated for what you want to hear.

Alternatively, if there aren't any speakers provided, you can hire them (or borrow them from friends) for what will likely be much less than the cost of a live band or DJ!

  1. Have a Friend or Family Member Officiate

Depending on what kind of wedding you are having, the costs of an officiant can vary wildly.

A civil ceremony is typically the cheapest but will still you back around $200. Meanwhile, professional celebrants or religious figures can charge much higher prices for their services.

As a result, it can be much easier to have a friend or family member officiate your wedding as a favor to you.

This typically requires them to meet the standards for a celebrant’s license (or similar qualification) in your local jurisdiction.

While this process can cost, if you have someone willing to do it for you (perhaps as a wedding gift?), it can be a great way to ensure that you get a better deal on the ceremony itself.

Plus, if you know anyone wanting to become a celebrant, it’s a great way to bring them into the big day as well!

What Are The Best Places To Shop For Your Wedding?

Shopping for your wedding is one of the most difficult and involved parts; dresses, suits, shoes, jewelry, catering, venue – the list goes on!

There are coupons, discounts, and deals for a variety of wedding stores, and it’s good to keep an eye out for specific saving opportunities. Checking coupon websites such as Groupon is a great way to keep up to date.

That said, here are a few common websites where you might be able to find the relevant items:

  • The Knot: this website offers a variety of services and products, from wedding websites to wedding dresses!

While it doesn’t include catering options, it covers just about everything else – making it a great choice if you don’t want to have to try shopping around a wide variety of stores or websites.

It even includes registry gifts, meaning that you can make the process much easier for your guests!

  • Joseph A Bank: This website focuses on men’s fashion in general, but does have a wedding section as well!

You can hire suits, buy them off the shelf, or get them custom-tailored if you so desire.

The website does offer discounts, and there are a variety of coupon codes available too!

while this website is primarily focused on general-purpose clothing and accessories, it has an extensive collection of jewelry that some other stores lack.

This makes it a great place to go if you have decided to spend the extra money on accessories. Plus, discounts on this site can go as high as 80% – meaning that you’ll be able to get some great deals!

  • Kendra Scott: Another great place to find some jewels, Kendra Scott comes with the added bonus of being a well-known name in the fashion industry!

Sale items here can be up to 30% off and are often reasonably priced or able to be purchased as cheaper bundles or packages even when not on sale.

  • Saks 5th Avenue: This website is on the more expensive end of the ones we have listed here.

However, it still provides a good selection of wedding clothing and accessories to ensure that you are outfitted appropriately for the big event! You can also save big by using a coupon!

about the author

Tiara Rea-Palmer
Director of Partnerships
As an expert in online savings and an avid deal enthusiast, Tiara heads up retail relations at CouponFollow, where she stays up-to-date on all the best deals, discounts, and freebies, as well as negotiates exclusive coupons and offers for CouponFollow users. In her free time, you can find Tiara writing, DIY crafting on a budget, and traveling with free rewards card miles.