If you're planning a wedding and your savings is slowly dwindling as a result, you're not alone.
According to The Knot, these days, couples spend an average of $35,329 on their wedding. But making your day special doesn’t have to break the bank, or leave you starting your marriage in debt. Plus, a penny saved on the one-day event can be a penny earned for a down payment on a house, or a more adventurous honeymoon.
And when you cut costs with some DIY-solutions — or avoid some of the traditional but expensive ideas a wedding planner may suggest — you just might give your wedding a more unique, personal touch.
So while the cost of the average wedding is rising each year, here’s a few ways you can beat the trend.
#1. Say 'I do' to off-season prices
It’s no secret that weddings are cheaper in the off-season. Wedding season doesn't just mean the summer, though. Tying the knot during long weekends or around holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve can be just as expensive as getting married from June to October. Travel and lodging are at peak prices, and the venue probably won’t be cheap, either.
Consider months at the end of off-season. April usually has off-season pricing, but you still might have a good chance of getting favorable weather.
#2. Don’t get married on a Saturday
Most venues charge the highest prices for Saturday rentals, but slice the rental price by thousands of dollars for Friday or Sunday. While it may not be ideal for some guests, it might be a more fiscally feasible option all around: Guests from afar may even save money by buying flights on off-peak days as a result.
#3. Rethink the time of day
Dinner is the most expensive meal of the day. If you really want to think outside the box, try a late-morning wedding and serve brunch at the reception. Instead of steak, fish or chicken, guests can dine on their favorite breakfast foods like waffles, pancakes, and over-decorated donuts. Plus, you can save on alcohol with limited options like Mimosas and Bloody Mary’s. A brunch reception also implies a tea-party dress code, which guests might enjoy for a change.
However, having an early wedding will require an early morning for the bridal party, so be sure to get time estimates for hair and makeup to allow for plenty of time in the morning.
#4. Ditch the cake
Cakes can be beautiful. They’re traditional and make for a classic photo op. But if you’re trying to save money, smearing a slice of a $400 cake on your spouse’s face might not be the smartest way to spend. Years later, it’s probably true the cake will be the last thing guests remember when recalling your special day.
End the day on a sweet note with a dessert bar. Consider ice cream with toppings, or a candy bar where guests can make their own goodie bags (this can even double as a wedding favor, especially with monogrammed cellophane bags).
#5. Flowers … do you need them?
Doing away with the bridal bouquet might be a stretch for most. But boutonnieres? Corsages for the whole family? Flowers are expensive, and as with most wedding costs, there can be a surcharge if they’re wedding flowers. Cut costs, not stems, and focus on reserved seating with extra DIY decorations for your family instead of giving them all flowers.
Another place couples can save is on centerpieces. DIY flower ideas, like simple mason jar or glass bottle arrangements, or even flowerless centerpieces, will be way cheaper than a florist. If you're making floral centerpieces, prepare the majority of the setting in the weeks leading up to the wedding, and find a person you trust to add flowers the morning of.
#6. Get creative with the photographer
You probably only plan on getting married once, so you don’t want to skimp on a subpar photographer to memorialize your once-in-a-lifetime moment. But there are ways to cut costs without compromising the quality of the photos.
Some opt to save on engagement photos by recruiting a friend, but some couples want close friends and family to relax and enjoy the day. So if you know of a (talented) amateur — who would otherwise not be on the guest list — ask if they'd like the job. Or, hire a professional for the ceremony and post-wedding photos, and cut costs by hiring a student to photograph the reception.
#7. Split rental costs
How? According to one bride on Brides.com, a wedding planner helped coordinate her big day — and an event happening the very next day — at the very same venue, allowing them to split the cost of the dance floor, lighting and chairs. Ask your planner if this option might be feasible for you.
#8. Put a guest book on your registry
Pick out a guest book you love and stick it on your registry. You just might receive it at your shower, making it one less thing to purchase before the big day. We know, a guestbook might seem like a relatively inexpensive item, but not paying for an overpriced, leather-bound book could mean a fancy dinner on your honeymoon instead.
#9. Cut the guest list
The Knot suggests making an A-list and a B-list, with must-haves on the A-list receiving the first round of invitations. If space opens up, you can go to the B-list. Limiting plus-ones is also helpful. If a couple is engaged, living together, or has been together for more than a year, your guest will appreciate the plus one. Otherwise, leave the plus-one out. You’ll also avoid having people you’ve never seen before suddenly dropping in on your special day. And if your parents aren’t helping with the costs of the wedding, there’s no need to invite their friends you barely know.
#10. The dress: thrift, rent or sell
Thrifting your wedding dress doesn’t just save money, but also gives you a chance at finding a more unique or vintage dress. Don’t be afraid to try on different sizes and spend a little on alterations if you find a deal that doesn’t fit quite right.
Unless you’re really brave at a future black-tie affair, you’ll probably never wear your dress again. So opting to rent your dress can also save money. For a designer look, try Rent the Runway. For the bridal party, Union Station offers classic options with price tags that will have your bridesmaids thanking you. And if you decide to buy your dress, you may be able to make a lot of the money back by selling it off after the big day.
#11. Find a venue without contracted vendors
If your expensive wedding venue has contracted vendors, they sometimes come with set prices — and high ones, at that. Finding a venue where you can decide your own caterer allows you to get the best deal and even supply some items on your own. It also gives you more freedom to stock the bar however you want and save enormously in the drinks department.
#12. Go buffet or family-style
Instead of offering chicken, steak or fish, try a buffet with just-as-elegant but cheaper dishes. A pasta bar, for instance, is a delicious and budget-conscious choice. Family-style is also a cheaper way to go, and it brings your guests together — just put a couple of huge platters on the table and have guests pass around plates of sliced meats, pasta and salad. Regardless of how you serve the food, serve less and save big. Most guests won't finish a three-course meal anyway — especially if you offer a cocktail hour.
#13. Get creative with the open bar
Nothing skyrockets food and drink prices faster than an open bar, according to Brides.com. A full-service bar can also get a little out of hand. Luckily, there are other options that cost just a fraction of a traditional open bar.
Offer a signature cocktail, plus wine and beer. The signature cocktail adds a personal touch and a twist to the wine-and-beer-only bar. Another option is to serve large-batch drinks like sangria or punch, which are perfect for a summer wedding. Or, if the venue allows you to bring your own liquor, build your own bar and stock it with a keg or local beers, and wines for guests to try.
Of course, limited open bars are a common cost-saving option at weddings, too. A couple hours of an open bar is sufficiently generous and welcoming. And remember, guests are there to celebrate you above all.
#14. Don’t hesitate to negotiate
Love a venue or caterer that’s a little over-budget? If you’re trying to save money, always ask if prices are negotiable. On WeddingWire.com, brides discussed negotiating their venue down by between $1,000 and $1,500. If you’re planning for a day that’s not busy for the venue or caterer, you might even be able to get a better bargain. It doesn’t hurt to ask.
#15. Make a budget and stick to it
Itemize a budget and focus on your priorities. If you can't budge on your guest list, then spend less on the cost of food per head. If you really want live music, then don’t overspend on flowers. Choosing categories you absolutely want to splurge on will help you realize what isn’t important and might alleviate you from considering certain wedding décor or other superfluous options. Your guests are there to celebrate you, so making a budget catered to your unique tastes will help you plan a wedding that shows off your personality.