Think you can't pull off your dream wedding on a budget? Think again. Sure, not all of us can splurge on a custom-etched marble table and golden toilet tower (looking at you, Kimye), but it's easier than you think to stretch your budget without giving up the things you love. Want a farm-to-table menu and the venue of your dreams? Or a designer dress and a five-tiered cake? It's possible to make it happen—the key is compromise.
A few dollars here and there doesn't seem like a lot when you're shelling out thousands total. But a few hundred bucks—$500, to be exact—will make a major difference when it comes to your bottom line. Find a few places where you can trim half a grand from your budget, and suddenly that gorgeous destination wedding venue you've been obsessing over will seem a lot less out of reach.
We asked top planners, caterers, bakers, florists, and bloggers to share their best-kept secrets on how to get your vendors to come down big time on their prices. Plus, we got real Brides readers to weigh in on the most genius ways they saved money. Even if you've never haggled at a flea market in your life and supermarket coupons look like they're penned in a foreign language, you can nail these budget hacks without thinking twice.
Think Customizable, Not Custom
Instead of ordering completely custom invitations, order a DIY printable from a site like Wedding Chicks. You're able to customize certain aspects of the invite while still keeping costs low.
Have guests RSVP on your wedding website or app instead of on a reply card. You'll save tons on paper and postage, and you're more likely to get responses from the majority of your guests.
Be sure to include your phone number or home address for elderly guests who may not be as tech-savvy.
Don't Feel Required to Match Your Suites
Splurging on a custom invitation suite? Then skip the matching RSVP cards and order fun postcards that represent your wedding style from an affordable site like Zazzle.
Select Trifold Invites
Doing destination "I dos"? That means lots of paper. Instead of printing individual invites, itineraries, and maps, have your stationer create one trifold containing all of the important details. You'll save big by printing together. Plus, guests will be less likely to lose important information since it's all in one place.
Play a Little Hard to Get
By not fawning over your vendors, you put yourself in a better negotiating position. They'll be more likely to meet you halfway if they don't think they're your first choice. But be careful not to take it too far. Most vendors want to work with couples who want to work with them.
Watch Out for Hidden Costs
Make sure common surcharges like cake-cutting and permit fees are listed in your contract, in addition to anything you might be dinged for after the wedding (extending the evening, property damage, unexpected extra guests, et cetera).
Hire Another Type of Pro Musician
Have you always dreamed of a violinist or harpist playing as you walk down the aisle? A professional musician can be quite costly. Luckily, local music schools have teachers who can play quite well and will happily perform at weddings for a fraction of the cost. Sit in on a lesson to make sure they know their stuff.
Get Your Gown for Less
Wedding dresses are a huge expense, especially if you have your heart set on a designer gown. Look around for sample sales, where you'll be able to purchase your dream designer dress at a steep discount. Or consider an off-the-rack option, which can be tailored to look custom-made without spending a fortune.
Invest in a florist for the most-photographed flowers (like your bouquet and the head-table arrangements) and DIY the rest. Consider taking a class or lesson on floral arrangements and practice your centerpieces in advance. Make sure to pick a display that won't be too time-consuming and enlist family or friends to help.
Don't Be Afraid of Carnations
Carnations have gotten a bad rap as being cheap and overused. But mixed with other blooms, they create the same lush, fluffy texture as peonies, which are four to five times more expensive. Use them to bulk up your centerpieces and bouquets for that romantic look you love without breaking the bank.
Think Small for Cakes
Skip a big tiered cake, which can run in the thousands, and serve simple single-tiered cakes instead. You can have your caterer provide single layers for each table or create a cake buffet where your guests can sample different flavors. You'll still be able to have a cake-cutting moment without the huge cost.
Choose Beer and Wine
Give up the hard stuff after cocktail hour and serve only beer and wine through the rest of your reception. They pair better with dinner anyway and are half the price of a full bar. Worried your guests won't be happy with the selection? Offer one or two signature cocktails they can choose from for the rest of the evening.
Don't Leave Wine or Champagne Bottles on Tables
To save big, arrange for poured service at a sit-down meal instead of placing wine or Champagne bottles on each table. The average wedding guest drinks half a bottle of wine, which means a 150-person wedding will need about 75 bottles. But that number goes up by about 25 percent if guests pour their own, mostly due to waste.
Save Big With BYOB
Pick a venue that is BYOB. You can purchase your own wine, remove all of the existing labels, and put a fun label on each bottle. Not only is it cheaper, but it's way more personal.