This might be controversial, but I’m sharing my entire book 100 Ways to Save Hundreds on Your Wedding for free below. If you would rather have the Kindle eBook version of it though, you can grab it right here. It’s less than the cost of a latte! Thanks for your support!
According to CNBC, “The average cost of a wedding is as high as $28,400 by one estimate, and close to $26,000 by another.” I don’t know about you, but when I got married, I had to pay for my wedding myself. The idea of spending nearly $30,000 on one day simply didn’t make sense to me. So, I set out to find ways to make my wedding significantly cheaper. In the end I had approximately 75 guests and spent a grand total of $5,000.
Now, before you assume that means I skimped on a lot of the things that make a wedding a fabulous and wonderful party I want to say two things. First, people still to this day tell me how much they loved my wedding and second, I don’t feel like anything was left out. I had a dress, a cake, a photographer, a live band, a sit down catered meal, gorgeous invitations – the whole nine yards.
What was our secret to a gorgeous wedding that didn’t cost an arm and a leg? Well, many of the tips you will find in this book answer that question. I’m so thrilled to share what I have learned with you. To this day I’m still picking up tips and tricks at every wedding I attend or photograph (I am a photographer), and I hope to continue sharing a bunch of these tips forever. My mission in life is to help people save money in a variety of ways, so this eBook will certainly not be my last. In other words, stay tuned for more releases, but in the mean time- I hope you enjoy this one!
Alright, you just got engaged. Congratulations! You’ll likely put it on Facebook and announce it to the world. Then, after everyone and their brother has congratulated you, there might be a party. If so, hopefully you will be lucky to have it thrown for you. If not, below are some tips to help you keep the budget low. I personally didn’t have an engagement party because it didn’t make sense financially to me and it felt like an outdated tradition, but if you want to party by all means do so. Just don’t kill your wedding fund to make it happen!
1. My top tip to save money on an engagement party is to remember that this doesn’t have to be nearly as splashy as a wedding so don’t get a DJ, don’t hire a caterer, forget the photographer and don’t over think it! Keep it simple. Simple can still be sexy and the savings are huge!
2. Make it a potluck party – Who says you have to cook everything yourself or hire someone to do it for your party? You could host a backyard barbecue and handle the main course of hot dogs and hamburgers and ask everyone who’s coming to bring something specific.
3. Don’t want to ask your guests to bring something? No problem! Host it at lunch time because it’s a smaller meal and significantly cheaper. Or, for even bigger savings have it between lunch and dinner so that you can get away with light passed appetizers.
4. Only serve beer, wine and ONE signature cocktail. Save more money by scratching the liquor, and save the most by not having any alcohol at all.
5. Host the event at a private residence. If your backyard is big enough, throw it there for only close friends and family. If not, see if any of your friends or family have a clubhouse at their apartment complex or in their subdivision. You may get lucky and score a clubhouse super cheap or for free
6. Use an MP3 player fully loaded with your favorite jams in lieu of a paid DJ.
7. Have a friend take the pictures of the night, and/or put disposable cameras all over the room to have friends and family snap candids.
8. Book the same person to shoot your engagement photo shoot that is doing your wedding and ask for a discount for hiring them for two occasions. In fact, many photographers are willing to do the engagement photos for free if you’ll hired them for the wedding. You simply need to ask when negotiating.
9. Consider asking a friend that is a photographer to do them. Personally, as a photographer I’ll do engagement shoots for friends and family for free a deep discount. Sometimes I’ll even do it free as my bridal shower gift to the bride. There is a chance you can get the same courtesy.
10. Be careful with this one, but you could hire someone on a website such as Craigslist. The good news is that since it’s just the engagement shoot it’s not as dangerous to go with a newbie photographer because you can always rehire someone new to do a reshoot. Many new photographers trying to build their portfolio will shoot sessions like this incredibly cheap or even for free. Just be prepared that they will expect you to allow them to use the images from your shoot in their portfolio.
Save the Dates
11. Use an engagement photo as your save the date. Edit the image with a free program or online via a website like PicMonkey or Canva to include the words “Save the Date” and the date of your wedding and voila! You’ve got a customized announcement. After that, go to a website like Shutterfly and they will usually give you your first 50 prints for free. Then, just put those bad boys in an envelope and mail them off to your pals and gals.
12. Announce it on Facebook or other social media in lieu of sending a save the date. Some consider this tacky, but it gets the job done.
13. Another option for your save the dates is an email with a link to your wedding website that you create and send to all of your friends and family. More and more couples are opting to create a wedding website complete with the stores they have registered with, pictures of themselves including updates with engagement pics, links to their honeymoon info and more.
14. For my wedding I went to Jo-Ann’s armed with some 40% off coupons and bought a bunch of wedding invitation making kits. For 100 invites I think we spent $20 plus the cost of the ink. The instructions were super simple, and in one afternoon I was able to print out and put together all of the invites. They looked just as nice as many invitation companies could have offered but at a fraction of the cost.
15. If you are one of those gals that thinks you don’t have a creative bone in your body then you could do what some people I know have done- they went to an art school! No, not to learn how to make invitations, but to ask art students to design their invites for them. They paid half or less what an invitation company would have charged them. In fact, one of the gals got her invites done just for the cost of the materials as long as she agreed to let the student keep one for their portfolio and use her as a reference.
16. Another option for invitations is to print out another engagement picture and mail it off to friends and family. Now, this is not necessarily the way to go if you are looking for something formal, but if your wedding it less than traditional you could customize it however you want.
17. I personally would REALLY not recommend this one- but if you wanted to save lots of money you could just send invitations via email. I’ve only received one wedding invitation this way and it worked for this particular bride, but if I had done this I think my family and friends would have made fun of me for years to come. You do what’s right for you though!
Accessories for the Wedding Day
18. Every bride seems to enjoy decking themselves out in beautiful jewelry on the day of their wedding but accessories can get really expensive really fast. One way to save money on accessories for your big day is to wear pieces you already have and/or borrow pieces from friends and family.
19. If you must buy jewelry for your wedding day you could always go the costume jewelry route. Only you would really know it’s fake. If you are worried about it turning your skin a different color do a test run before the wedding- wear it all day and see what happens. Some brides have bypassed this problem by taking clear nail polish and painting all the parts of the jewelry that would touch their skin. I wouldn’t recommend this for earrings though because I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want nail polish in a hole in my skin.
20. You could also make your wedding day jewelry. I know- I’m talking creative speak again! You could take a beading class at your local craft store or watch a bunch of Youtube videos though. Who knows? It could be fun!!!
21. What about thrift stores, estates sales and garage sales? You might find the perfect pieces at one of these options and it’ll be much cheaper than new pieces at department stores.
22. If after all of these options you simply must buy brand new non costume jewelry I have one more idea that I think will help- go for Sterling Silver and Cubic Zarconia! WAAAAAY cheaper than white gold or platinum jewelry and diamonds with just as much bling. Want the look of gold instead? Lots of sterling silver is available with gold plating- there! Problem solved.
Bridal Party Gifts
Giving gifts to your bridal party is a time honored tradition, but you don’t have to break the bank to give the people in your wedding something nice. Here are some inexpensive bridal party gift ideas:
23. Guys: Mini bottles of liquor and a personalized shot/cocktail glass. You’ll save even more on this if you can make the personalized shot glass yourself.
24. A 6 pack of beer for each of the guys with a koozie- make sure you get the brand he likes!
25. Personalized beer openers, coffee mugs or beer mugs
26. If your groomsmen like cigars get them a couple of inexpensive ones with a cigar cutter.
27. Girls: They seem to have a lot more options! Why is it so hard to shop for men? I suppose that’s for another book. First up for girls is a bottle of wine. What you could do to save some serious coin on this is get a cheap bottle of wine like Two Buck Chuck from Trader Joes, print out a fancy shmancy label from a printable site with a sweet saying, adhere said label to the bottle, and voila! Cheap gift. If your gals are wine connoisseurs they might notice, but that’s a risk your wallet might just be willing to take!
28. Get each girl a nice necklace to wear at the wedding. You could go as cheap as you like here. I’ve seen some stunning sterling silver necklaces for under $10 at after Christmas sales!
29. You could also get a nifty reusable tumbler for each girl.
30. A cute idea that has been all over Pinterest lately is to get a mason jar and fill it with emery boards, nail polish and whatever other cheap dollar store finds will fit. Bonus points if everything in the jar matches!
31. Custom wine glasses might be a good idea too. You can get some dollar store wine glass and hand paint them. Not very good with painting? No problem! I’ve made several with polka dots that match the person’s décor at home and they’ve been a huge success. Heck, you could even pair it with the Two Buck Chuck for a truly sweet gift!
Wedding rings shouldn’t be skimped on since you will be wearing them forever, but that doesn’t mean you have to over pay! Here are some quick ideas to save money on your rings:
32. Buy the bride’s ring where you got the engagement ring. Sometimes the store will give you a loyalty discount for being a return customer.
33. Look for sales! Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Memorial Day, Black Friday- it seems like jewelry stores have sales for every occasion. If you’re lucky you will find a sale that is something like a percentage off everything in the store!
34. When I got married we scored super cheap wedding rings because we found a store that was going out of business. On the one hand this can be a little scary because you can’t exactly go back if anything happens to the ring, but for my husband and I the deal was too good to beat! If you have time to look for a store going out of business go for it.
35. One way to save some serious coin is to not get matching rings or to go with simple bands rather than extravagant ones. This is obviously a personal choice, but for my husband and I we just wanted them to both be gold and look similar which helped us save even more!
36. Forgo engraving. Is the added expense of engraving something inside the band really worth it?
The wedding dress seems to be almost as big of a deal as the engagement itself. It seems like every time someone I know gets engaged I suddenly see a post on their social media pages about “Saying yes to the dress.” Now, I’m all for having a beautiful gown to say “I do” in, but those suckers can get pretty pricey. How can you save on the most important dress you will ever wear?
37. Don’t buy it at full price! Bridal stores frequently have sales so its okay to shop around. You don’t have to take the highest marked item because it’s NOT the only one out there.
38. Don’t work with a pushy up-seller. If you are dress shopping and start feeling as though everyone is just trying to push you to buy the most expensive dress- LEAVE! Have a budget in mind and try to meet or beat it. One of my girlfriends made a rule that she wouldn’t try on a single dress out of her price range. The sales clerk kept bringing her dresses over that number and she politely explained that no matter what she would not try it on. Why? She knew that she would be risking falling in love with the dress and being tempted to overspend. You can’t fall in love with something you never try on!
39. Have you considered a consignment or thrift store gown? Now, before you close this eBook in haste hear me out- you could save hundreds on your dress simply by choosing this option. Is it really so terrible to wear something previously worn if you look amazing in it and nobody but you knows it was a second time down the aisle for this dress?!? You could have it professionally cleaned and then have a seamstress form fit it to your body if necessary and even after those costs still have saved way more than a brand new gown!
40. Avoid couture. Now, if you have an aunt or cousin or a really good friend that makes dresses and wants to make a custom gown as a wedding gift, by all means couture it up baby. But if you don’t I beg you to please avoid couture!! A custom made dress could easily set you back $1,000 or more and it’s not worth it just to have a gown that is unique.
41. One bride I heard about didn’t wear a wedding dress at all. She wore a prom dress. It just so happened that a department store she was in had a large selection of white prom dresses and she found one that would be perfect for her wedding day for less than $100! With the addition of her veil I highly doubt any of her guests even realized this was not a wedding dress. Speaking of veils – craft stores typically have these for less than $20 and they’re just as pretty as the ones in the bridal shops at a fraction of the cost!
42. Could you wear the same dress a family member wore? If your nostalgic and the dress fits your wedding theme this may be the perfect option for you. Boom- free dress!
43. Don’t make them match. Yes, they should all be the same color, but let each girl pick out a dress style that fits their body best.
44. Don’t get them at a bridal shop! Instead, look for after prom sales in department stores such as Macy’s or Dillard’s.
45. You’ll save the most if your girls follow suit with tradition and pay for their own dress. P.S. Bridesmaids are also expected to pay for their own hair and makeup the day of the wedding.
Groom’s & Groomsmen Attire
46. Rent, don’t buy the tuxes. Odds are the attire won’t be worn again anyway, so why shell out the cash?
47. Go less formal and have the men wear a black suit coat and black dress pants with a white button up shirt. Add a tie and you’re all set. Who said it had to be tuxedos in the first place?
48. Again, if you go with tradition, the men can pay for their own attire to save you a boat load of cash.
49. Buy a super small cake for the cutting and then serve sheet cake. This can save you a small fortune!
50. Get yours from a grocery store instead of a cake shop. They are often pretty enough and will be as much as half the cost or even cheaper in comparison.
51. Do cupcakes. I’ve seen this done at several weddings. The bride and groom had a tiered cupcake stand and the cupcakes were stacked to look like a wedding cake. Not as pretty as a wedding cake, but certainly less expensive.
52. Forgo the cake completely. I’ve only seen this at one wedding, but it certainly can be done. In lieu of the cake, the bride and groom served a variety of pastries and petit fours.
Catering & Beverages for the Reception
53. Like the engagement party, you can choose to serve only beer and wine to save money.
54. Instead of paying for the alcohol yourself, you could do a cash bar.
55. Also like the engagement party, you could save on your reception by having it around lunch time or between meals so you can serve lighter options that don’t cost as much. I’ve even seen weddings that were done as brunches because eggs are cheaper than most meats.
56. Go for the buffet meal instead of a seated dinner. They’re often significantly cheaper.
57. Only use wedding venues that allow outside caterers because in house ones often charge the most for the convenience factor.
58. Have your family cook.
59. Order chicken instead of beef or fish.
60. One way to save on entertainment is to hire a student to be your DJ. Of course, make sure you get references and that it’s not their first event.
61. Some venues include live bands with their packages as was the case with my wedding. For no additional fee we got a great group to sing all the party favorites.
62. Fake it, with flowers anyway – Fresh flowers can cost a lot of money whereas silk bouquets can be significantly less expensive. Visit a website like Pinterest to get DIY bouquet ideas and then head to your local craft store with the instructions in hand. Some stores will even help you with what you’re looking for and give you pointers on how to accomplish your task.
63. Get smaller bouquets for the bridesmaids. There is no rule that says you have to have large bouquets for everyone.
64. Don’t put a flower arrangement at every table. I’ve seen weddings where the bride and groom purchased candles at the dollar store and put them on the table with framed pictures of the couple. It was still elegant and it gave guests something to look at.
Flower Girl and Ring Bearer
65. Don’t get an expensive pillow for the ring bearer to hold. You can get them cheap at craft stores with coupons. Be sure to sign up for 40% and 50% off coupons at Hobby Lobby, Michaels and Jo-Ann’s craft stores.
66. Don’t have the flower girl throw real petals. Instead get a bag of them at a craft store or discount store. They are generally much cheaper.
67. For their attire – Typically, the parents of the child are expected to pay for the clothes if they agree to have their child participate in your wedding. However, if you are buying the clothes, don’t go to a bridal store or tux shop. Hit the after Easter and Christmas sales to get cheaper clothes.
68. In many states a notary can officiate and they generally charge a lot less than a minister, rabbi or some other religious leader.
69. If you’re getting married on a boat like I did, the captain can probably marry you. That’s exactly what we did – we had the captain marry us.
Photography and Videography
70. It’s dangerous to have a newbie photographer shooting your wedding because they might miss the shots a veteran would grab. However, it will save you a boat load of cash.
71. Only hire the photographer for the main shots. In my photography business I’ve had couples hire me for just the ceremony, the posed shots and the first hour of the reception to save money. During that hour we do the main shots like the cake cutting, the bouquet toss, the garter toss, etc… Any shot we can’t get organically we stage so the couple can get the images without paying the cost of keeping me there for the entire event.
72. If you dare, you could hire photography students. Again though, try to make sure it’s not their first event
73. Several couples opt to not use a videographer to save money. But, if you choose to you can use the same ideas in tips 70, 71 and 72 to save some cash and still have the services.
74. Only invite the main wedding party for this event to save money.
75. Opt for tapas or appetizers instead of full meals.
76. You could have everyone pay for their own drinks, and only serve tea and water.
77. Have your ceremony in the same location as the reception to save the money and hassle of decorating two venues.
78. Use a CD instead of a live harpist, pianist or other musician for the wedding music.
79. Don’t feel obligated to decorate every pew.
80. Try and get a reception hall that looks nice without decorations so that you won’t have to pay a lot of money fixing the eye sores.
81. Don’t go overboard with decorating. Remember, the more simple the wedding, the smaller the bill. Also, balloons are cheaper than most decorations, but can still create a very nice effect. Think outside the box and who knows what kinds of amazing ideas you can come up with!
82. Instead of buying linens, rent them. Or, even better, see if the reception hall has linens that you can use as many come with white table cloths already. This can save you not only money, but the hassle of getting the linens delivered.
Makeup and Hair
83. Instead of an up-do, opt for a more simplistic hair style. You could wear it down and use a gorgeous hair clip instead like in the image
84. Go to a cosmetology school instead of a traditional salon.
85. Do your own makeup and hair or have a friend/ family member do it for you.
86. Save on party favors by making your own. You could make cookies and package them for guests or you could make bags of candy. I’ve seen candy “bars” at several weddings lately that allow the guests to make their own party favors as well. Each guest is given a box or bag to fill with treats. You can go as big or as small as you like, and the candies don’t have to be incredibly expensive.
87. Look for discount and closeout options online. Avoid ones that charge for shipping. Also, skip the personalization on novelty items. Most people don’t want to keep a koozie or bottle opener with your wedding date on it anyway.
88. Limos are awesome but man do they cost a lot of money. If you insist on having a limo save money by only having one drop you off OR pick you up from the reception. If you hire one for the day be prepared to drop several Benjamins!
89. Rent a really nice car instead of a limo. It will be cheaper and it will still feel extra special.
90. Get a travel agent that price matches and doesn’t charge you a planning fee!
91. Book well in advance to optimize savings and get the rooms, flights and destinations you want.
92. Plan the time of your honeymoon wisely. For example, if you go to a destination in their peak season you could easily end up paying three or four times the amount you would pay in the low season for everything from your room to your flight to local attractions and events.
93. Beware discount trip sites. You may think that you are getting a great deal by using something like Groupon, Living Social or another similar site to book your honeymoon, but beware the savings and the fine print! There could be some serious catches involved. The last thing you want is to buy a seven day trip to Tahiti for a lower than normal rate only to learn that it is only valid in the rainiest month of the travel year and requires you use an airline you don’t want to fly with.
94. Don’t go into debt for the trip. If your credit card charges 10% APR that $3,000 honeymoon could easily be an additional $300 in interest fees. Many people feel its best to charge their trip and if you want to, that’s all fine and good as long as you are paying your balance in full before interest can accrue!
95. See if your local newspaper has a day that it offers free announcements. Believe it or not some towns do have days where you can announce your wedding for free. Of course you most likely will not get to include a picture and will be limited on text, but if you are dying to see the news in print, it may be an option.
96. Two words- Status Update! More and more people are forgoing traditional wedding announcements and simply updating their relationship status on Facebook as their way of announcing the fact that they are officially off the market.
97. Instead of a newspaper announcement you could send a wedding picture to friends and family via email or snail mail. The email option will obviously save you a lot of money, but printing pics that you mail out could still be cheaper than a wedding announcement in the paper.
98. If your wedding was super cool you could consider pitching it to a local wedding magazine in your area. Who knows? They might like it so much that they feature you in their publication. Talk about an announcement!!!
99. Forgo traditional invitations and announcements – Considering the fact that you likely won’t have many guests anyway you will already be saving money on your invitations. To save even more instead of sending a formal announcement after the wedding just send a photograph. Head to a free website like Pic Monkey or Canva to add the text you wanted to share and then have prints made via a photo lab online. Remember, some sites like Shutterfly will even give you your first 50 4×6 prints free!
Another Way to Save on Your Wedding Day
100. Skip the wedding and elope in Vegas!
Have a destination wedding where you wanted to honeymoon. Some resorts will even do the wedding ceremony and reception for free if you have a honeymoon that is at least five to seven days at their property.
Go to the court house to get married and then have a big party instead of a traditional reception.
My Wedding Gift to you – 10 BONUS TIPS!!!
101. Get a wedding planner and tell them your budget and make sure they will stick to it. Wedding planners are amazing at finding vendors that will work within your budget and this will save you countless hours of haggling and worrying about the numbers because they will be doing it all for you.
102. Never commit to the first place or vendor you find. Shop around and then negotiate between vendors. Be willing to walk away if you are not getting the price you want.
103. Change the date of the wedding. If your town has a particular time of year designated as “wedding season,” don’t get married during that time! Everything will be the most expensive from your photographer to your venue. When you get married in the busy season, you most likely won’t have top picks for any of the wedding vendors either. Going for the down time opens up more options, and you’re more likely to score better prices for vendors trying to fill their empty slots.
104. Don’t be afraid of negotiating and don’t show too much excitement. When you show your emotions it’s easier for you to be manipulated into paying more than you want to.
105. Don’t visit any place you can’t afford. Like the wedding dress scenario I mentioned earlier – if you try it on it’s harder to say no. So, why tempt yourself by visiting a place completely outside of your budget?
106. Look out for hidden fees, and always read the fine print on every contract.
107. Consider wedding insurance. It probably seems odd mentioning a fee like this when I’m talking about saving money, but wedding insurance could save you a lot of money in the event of a natural disaster or some other event outside of your control. For example, I know of a couple who had been planning a wedding at a hotel for a year and it burned down the week before. Thanks to their wedding insurance plan they were able to recover some of the fees that otherwise would have been lost from changing the date and venue.
108. Choose a casual wedding at a park or beach. From the food to the attire, you could save a lot of money simply by not going the formal route.
109. Look for packages that include everything, or close to it. This is what I did and it saved us a ton. We got a package that included the officiant, the catering, the band, the reception hall, the ceremony location and more for one low cost. Then, we negotiated to get the price we were looking for.
110. Finally, consider asking for help. My parents chose to give me my wedding dress and cake instead of a wedding gift. My husband’s parents gave us our honeymoon. Others gave us money towards the wedding instead of a gift.
Your wedding should be special, but it doesn’t have to be over the top and crazy expensive. At the end of the day, the most important thing is that you and your spouse to be say “I do!” No matter what happens on your special day, even if everything else turns out awful, you will have each other. That is what makes this day special after all. Don’t get hung up in the details focusing so much on your wedding that you forget about the marriage.
I hope you and your spouse to be have the most beautiful wedding as cheap as you want it to be. I also hope that this eBook gave you some ideas to help you save some money on this big day. Congratulations! I wish the two of you a long and happy marriage with more love and abundance than you can even imagine is possible. May your fights be minimal, your bank accounts booming and your hearts be full of love the rest of your days.