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.
Create a Video Save-the-Date
Instead of mailing paper save-the-dates, email guests a fun video you and your future partner made yourselves. You'll save on printing and postage, plus it's a great opportunity to show your personalities!
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.
Opt for Digital Invites
Love the look of hand-painted invites but not the steep price point? Have a graphic artist create a digital design that you can either print at home or share virtually. The final result will look just as pretty but cost half as much.
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.
Stick to Your Budget
Be clear about your budget—and stick to it. If vendors know upfront what you can spend, they're less likely to pad costs or overcharge you. Plus, they'll present options you can afford, so you don't have to worry about falling in love with ideas out of your price range.
Sign Up for Deals
Scoop up deals by subscribing to vendor newsletters and following them on social media. Keep a lookout for savings, and book when the price is in your budget.
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).
It Pays to Give Feedback
Some vendors will slash their fees for feedback. Ask yours if they are willing to offer a discount in exchange for an honest online testimonial.
Pick a Less Popular Wedding Date or Time
You can score a great deal by marrying on an unconventional date or day of the week—think Friday evenings, holidays, or Friday the 13th—since these are days that are traditionally hard for venues to book. Be open to alternate times, too!
Up Your Guest List
The more guests you have, the more likely your venue is to come down on the per-person costs. Most venues will even give a discount for exceeding the minimum required guest count, which can result in big savings. The more the merrier!
Not Every Vendor Has to Be Local
If vendors in your hometown are too pricey, find a professional you love in a nearby city. Many photographers and videographers are willing to travel, so don't feel pressured to pay extra for someone local.
Hire a Student Makeup Artist
Ask a reputable cosmetology school to recommend a student to do your bridal party's makeup. The student will likely go the extra mile to help build a client base for a fraction of what a pro would charge. (Just do a trial to make sure you like the artist's work.)
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.
Get Creative With Your Wedding Dress
If your wedding dress isn't your biggest priority, consider ordering a white bridesmaid dress or purchasing a white gown off the rack. You can have it tailored for a perfect fit (and even include a train!) for a fraction of the cost of a designer gown.
Switch Your Officiant
Skip the standard officiant and ask a friend if he or she will get ordained to marry you. This will equal big savings and also make for a more personalized ceremony. Win-win!
Standing Ceremonies Will Save You Big
If you're marrying outdoors, consider a standing ceremony to save on seating rentals. But remember to bring a few chairs for elderly guests or those who might be unable to remain on their feet. And keep the ceremony brief!
Schedule Your Day Wisely
For surprising savings, avoid a long gap between the ceremony and reception. Photographers and musicians will charge for the extra wait time. Plus, your guests will appreciate the quick transition!
Rethink Welcome Bags
Don't feel compelled to create over-the-top welcome bags for your guests. A handwritten note and a bottle of wine (which you can buy in bulk for major savings) are more appreciated than a bag stuffed with knickknacks your friends and family will likely never use.
Think Big for Programs
Posting one large program at the entrance of your ceremony site is way less pricey than printing one for each person. Trendy options like calligraphed chalkboards or mirrors are budget-friendly and totally chic!
DIY Your Photo Booth
Forget the photo booth and buy a Fuji Instax or digital Polaroid instead. Set up a photo station with a cute backdrop and ask your guests to leave you a snap with a note. This can double as your guestbook or a party favor for friends and family to take home.
Repurpose Bridesmaid Bouquets
After the vows, combine bridesmaid bouquets to make one large centerpiece. They're great for the bar or escort table. It's also a way better use of the blooms since your 'maids will likely ditch their bouquets once it comes time to dance.
Select Double-Duty Flowers
Have your florist create arrangements that work for both the ceremony and the reception. Enlist a trustworthy friend or family member to make sure the blooms get safely from place to place.
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.
Go for Mismatched Arrangements
Have your florist provide a mix of short and tall table arrangements. Smaller centerpieces are more cost-effective, but a few towering displays will help fill in any gaps. Bonus: The pretty mixes are super trendy since they'll lend your party an eclectic vibe.
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.
Less Is More
Go sparse on centerpieces! Think single stems in clusters of bud vases surrounded by tons of glowing candles. The display looks dramatic and formal without costing you a ton.
Pick Candles Over Flowers
Skip floral centerpieces in favor of tall rented candelabras. They'll light up the room beautifully at a significantly lower cost.
Keep Tables Simple
You don't need chargers to dress up your reception tables. An elegant napkin and menu are enough to make any place setting pretty, and we promise your guests won't notice they're gone.
Keep Stemware Simple
Don't worry about putting every glass known to man on the reception table. A wine glass and water goblet are all you really need and will keep your tables from looking too busy.
Wait for Sales
Most rental companies have big linen sales a couple of times a year since they like to replenish their stock. Buy what you need when the price is right then resell your tablecloths and napkins after the wedding.
Make Stationery Count
Put a guest's name on their menu instead of ponying up for escort cards. The result will look just as personalized, but it won't be as expensive as printing an additional piece of stationery.
Make Your Menu Work for You
Who says you need a lengthy dinner menu? Serve just one delicious meat entrée and fill the rest of your menu with less pricey options. Pasta dishes and vegetable sides are crowd-pleasing and wallet-friendly!
Skip the Bread Basket
Say no to bread baskets on your dinner table. Not only will you trim hundreds from the bill, but your guests will actually eat the plated meal you're paying for rather than filling up on carbs.
Select a Family-Style Meal
Consider a tasty family-style dinner, like a gourmet pasta bar, in place of a three-course plated meal. Select several choices guests will love, including meat and vegetarian options, for a substantial and crowd-pleasing dinner.
Negotiate Meal Prices
The cost of children's meals is often negotiable. If you ask, many caterers will knock kids' plates down by half. Or opt for more budget-friendly children's meals—mac and cheese, mini sliders, and chicken fingers are generally affordable and kid-friendly!
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.
Go for a Dessert Buffet
Dessert buffets are quickly becoming a wedding staple and can easily be created on a budget. Challenge competitive relatives to a bake-off and serve the delicious results. Think cupcakes, cookies, and other mini treats that guests can sample.
Offer Other Desserts
Not a big cake fan? Then don't pay for a pricey dessert you don't even want. Swap a wedding cake for pies, which can cost half as much.
Swap Your Sweets
Replace your dessert table with a sweet candy buffet. You can buy treats in bulk at a wholesale warehouse store like Costco and provide pretty bags or containers for guests to fill. Plus, these goodie bags can double as a favor.
Don't Waste Desserts
Leftover wedding desserts often go to waste. Plan to pack extra sweets in cute boxes and give them to guests. Instafavors! Or ask your caterer to send any remaining treats back to your wedding suite for a late-night snack.
Host a Morning Wedding
If you're open to an unconventional reception, consider getting married in the morning. You can save tons on catering by having a breakfast buffet with morning favorites, like an omelet station, waffle bar, mimosas, and yes, a pancake wedding cake!
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.
Don't Pay a Flat Rate for Alcohol
If your guests aren't big drinkers, ask your caterer if you can pay for alcohol à la carte. That way, you're only charged for what guests drink instead of their flat rate, which covers enough alcohol for the entire reception.
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.
Don't Overdo Favors
Instead of shelling out big for a favor for each guest, give just one favor to those who are coupled up. Just make sure it's something sharable, like Champagne or another treat! Guests will appreciate the late-night booze or snack.