Planning a wedding can be an intimidating—if not, an all-consuming—process, with an overwhelming amount of choices that need to be made amidst limited time and resources.
However, the good news is that you’re not alone, with millions of brides who’ve paved the way (and learned all the valuable lessons) before you. From what to eat to how to save, read on as real former brides reveal some of their favorite tips for preserving money, stress, and the planet, all while making the most of the big day.
Don’t skimp on a photographer.
“The time and money we invested into researching and hiring a photographer and videographer were well spent. The night flew by and having a bunch of photos and a beautiful video to look back on was huge for us!” - Mayra H., Bensalem, PA
Schedule family photos.
“We started our formal family photos a little bit before guests arrived, and opted to shoot them against one of the pretty walls inside our cocktail hour area. It meant that nobody went far when we needed them for various setups, and I could see and spend more time with our guests as they were arriving, instead of being off somewhere doing photos. We finished with plenty of time to enjoy the cocktail hour and transitioned right into fun candids with our guests!” - Kate W., New York, NY
Create a photography list.
“I wish I’d created a list in advance for our photographer to capture the family and bridal party group photos we wanted. It’s hard to keep a lot of people in one spot, especially young children, but a list would have helped things run more smoothly.”- Lauren N., Hamilton, NJ
Digitize your RSVPs.
“We saved on mailing costs by having all of our guests RSVP online. Recently, we attended a wedding that provided a QR code to RSVP, which was wonderful and convenient. As a wedding guest, it was so quick and efficient for me to simply RSVP on my cell. I highly recommend that as your guests will love it and it's trendy.” - Gabrielle G., White Plains, NY
Reduce, reuse, recycle.
“We worked with our vendors to make sure all the vessels and containers were reused or reusable. Our florist spray-painted secondhand compotes, our caterer used glass jars and china instead of disposable cocktail hour dishes, and a friend hand-wrote our seating chart on a vintage mirror I found." - Kate W.
Don’t sweat the small stuff.
“I know it’s hard, but try not to worry about anyone or anything the day of. It goes by so fast, so wasting any of your energy or moments on being upset is not worth it.” - Mayra H.
Put important dances first.
“Our emcee hated this, but we did our parent dances before our first dance as a couple. We didn't want to keep interrupting the night with formal, planned moments, so we entered straight into the traditional hora. Everyone caught their breath as we did (mother/son and father/daughter), and then as my husband and I were finishing our first dance, we were able to invite everyone up to join us on the dance floor. It definitely helped set the party vibe we wanted and let the energy keep building throughout the night.” - Kate W.
Rethink the formal bridal party.
“This is a hot take, but I was so happy we opted not to have a bridal party. We have so many wonderful people in our lives who mean so much to us, and it just makes things so easy to say we love you, please be there with us, and just enjoy yourself. There were no bruised egos or hurt feelings, we didn't have to worry about accommodations, rehearsals, attire, gifts, or glam, and we found different ways to honor the people very close to us on the day. I had a dear friend come get ready with me, we had other friends and family read blessings and hold the chuppah during our ceremony, and we sat at a table with other guests during the reception.” - Kate W.
Incorporate personal touches.
“Remember the day is about you, your partner, and the things you both love. I walked down the aisle to an instrumental of "Runaway" by Kanye West. A friend who is a graphic designer made our table number cards with a picture of our dog so he could be present at all tables! My husband and I grew up in Philly so we had a cocktail station that highlighted Philly foods, and as fans of "The Office," one of our main decor pieces was a framed Michael Scott quote about weddings.” - Victoria H., Philadelphia, PA
Engage guests in play.
“Activities at weddings are a lot of fun, especially if there’s downtime between the ceremony and reception. Use Etsy for customized corn hole boards or hire a local caricaturist to create a keepsake for your friends and family.“ - Lauren N.
Keep it simple.
“Having a small wedding eliminated nearly all stress leading up to and during my wedding [day]. I will admit that it was very difficult to narrow the guest list to 40 people but, on the day of, we were surrounded by our closest friends and family and it felt totally worth it!" - Nia R., Palm Springs, CA
Skip the cake.
“Opt for a dessert bar instead of spending all of your money on a cake most people won’t eat anyway. Sweets that are related to family culture or just a favorite of the bride and groom make it personal and hit home for guests!” - Tammy W., Rahway, NJ
Set up a candy bar.
“For wedding favors, we monogrammed bags to fill with all different types of candy from different sized candy dishes. Everyone could fill a bag with their favorites (or for their kids at home). Almost all of the candy went and I didn't feel like I wasted my money on something that would never be used!” - Lauren S., Philadelphia, PA
Make guests comfortable.
“I had a basket of flip-flops for women to wear when their heels started to hurt their feet! I purchased them during Old Navy's $1 flip-flop sale so I didn’t spend much, and I donated any leftover sandals after the ceremony!” - Lauren S.
Spend time with your partner.
“A wedding day has so much preparation and it’s a whirlwind. Whether you do a first look or not, make sure you prioritize a private moment together after your ceremony to celebrate and really take it all in.” - Mindy B., Absecon, NJ
Pack an extra dress.
“I regret not having had a second dress to change into for the ceremony. I had a [ballgown] and ended up switching to the white onesie I got ready in as the night went on, as I wanted to dance more and had no other clothes (plus, it’s good to have a backup in case of any spills or rips!).” - Mindy B.
Try wholesale flowers.
“You can order flowers in bulk from a wholesaler (like the florists do) to get beautiful results. We hired a florist who works at a local grocery store versus at a florist shop to help arrange them and did a test run to confirm the bouquets would turn out the way we wanted. It saved thousands and the flowers looked beautiful.” - Bianca G., Springfield, VA
Stock your own liquor.
“If possible, look into stocking your own bar with a classic assortment of spirits and mixers. We bought our liquor from Costco and were still able to create a top-shelf experience at a fraction of the top-shelf price.” - Bianca G.
Serve themed cocktails.
“We had a full open bar but used a themed cocktail menu to entice guests to drink those drinks. They helped us cut costs and were a big hit with guests!” - Gabrielle G.
Display your mementos.
“Instead of a traditional wedding book (which we’d probably never review), we asked guests to sign used wood panels—one shaped like the state of New York and the other California—to align with our "NY 2 LA" theme. They're now hanging in our home.” - Gabrielle G.
Invest in a wedding planner.
“Working with a wedding planner saved us time and headaches, as I was married in Los Angeles but lived in New York, and wasn’t able to meet with any vendors in person. I completely trusted my wedding planner and she relieved me of much stress.” - Gabrielle G.
Spring for the photo booth.
“We opted for a photo memory book over a thank you book. You get pictures of just about everyone celebrating your wedding and can relive all the excitement whenever you want.” - Bianca G.
Give out disposable cameras.
“I did this and have spoken to other brides who were glad they did. You end up with so many candid shots and get a glimpse into the moments you might have missed.” - Tammy W.
Test your undergarments.
“As a former bride and someone who used to do fittings at a bridal boutique, my advice is to make sure all your undergarments fit properly. Get measured at a reputable retailer (for larger sizes, underwires will give the ultimate support, while having cups sewn into a dress may be sufficient for brides with smaller sizes). Avoid stick-on styles and test-drive your undergarments to ensure they’re still secure and comfortable after a long day.” - Tammy W.
Consider guest accommodations.
“My husband (who’s originally from Denmark) and I ended up having an intimate wedding of only 22 people during the pandemic—basically my family and our dearest friends in the United States. While it wasn't what I’d imagined, it ended up being incredibly special. We rented a house on top of a mountain in my hometown of Asheville, NC that could sleep everyone, so no one would have to worry about driving or lodging.” - Lindsay T., Asheville, NC
Merge different traditions.
“In Danish tradition, everyone is encouraged to give a speech at the dinner, and with only 22 people, we asked everyone to say something. A few weeks later when the borders did open, we had another celebration in Denmark with my husband's friends and family and it was equally as thoughtful and sentimental. I look back on both days with great love." - Lindsay T.
Weave in natural elements.
“We love oysters, so we saved oyster shells and painted them to be used in place of name cards. They were beautiful and felt special to us.” - Lindsay T.
Consider an off the rack dress.
“My dress was a formal Sachin and Babi gown purchased off the rack. I ordered a couple of styles and sizes from Saks and returned what didn’t work. It fit like a glove and all I had to do was alter the hem. I highly recommend more brides take the same approach. There are plenty of beautiful gowns readily available, especially if you are planning a wedding in less than a year like I was. Save yourself the time and money and consider something already made.” - Elyse P., Harrison, NY
Save on designer shoes.
“I spent less than $200 on a pair of white satin shoes by Schutz and received a ton of compliments. Their Pearl Nappa Leather Pumps have a calfskin lining similar to designer brands like Manolo Blahnik and are incredibly comfortable. I didn’t like the idea of spending a lot on something I was only going to wear once and I am so glad that I didn’t!” - Elyse P.
Buy when it counts.
“Instead of paying a rental company’s $3 rental fee per charger (that adds up when you have a 150+ person wedding!), we purchased the same ones in bulk from Dollar Tree and have used them for a range of family weddings and functions since. We also saved money purchasing wholesale votives and chiffon to be used in place of linens.” - Kendra C., Las Vegas, NV
DIY your menus.
“We had food stations with our favorite foods and decided it would be easier for each guest to have a menu at their seat, so they could see the options as they were able to eat, dance, and repeat at their leisure. I created my own menu in photoshop (using Pinterest as inspiration, obviously!) and printed them on card stock I purchased from a craft store. I set the paper size I needed for the menu on my printer and, voila, had my own menu cards sans cutting or shipping in minutes!” - Kendra C.
Hire a ‘day-of’ coordinator.
“Hiring a day-of coordinator saved us a lot of hassle. We had a few meetings throughout the wedding planning process, providing her with our vision and all of the vendor information. One month prior to the wedding, she took on all of the correspondence and coordinated all the vendors, fine-tuning the details. The day of the wedding, she was there to handle all of the last-minute questions, issues that arose, spills on my dress, hiccups with timing, and anything else that came up.” - Kendra C.
Do a photo dash.
“A photo dash is when the DJ plays an upbeat song that lasts approximately 3-4 minutes so the bride and groom can dash to each table for a quick photo op. I recommend it after your first dance as a fun way to engage guests and get photos with everyone so you don’t have to worry about making rounds later on!” - Christina F, Philadelphia, PA
Curate your ceremony.
“I’m Jewish and my husband is Catholic. We basically created our own wedding ceremony to blend the two. We found a priest, who partnered with my uncle who works for a synagogue, and they developed the best ceremony we could ask for. It was unique to us and our guests enjoyed it because it was different from what they were used to.” - Lindsay R., Brooklyn, NY
Seal it with a dance.
“We had the first dance, but I wanted to end the night in a special way, as well. Our DJ kicked all of our guests out at the end of the night so we could have the last dance in our venue with just the two of us. It was so nice to be able to take in the entire day and night together before it officially ended. Our guests were waiting with sparklers and we ran through them waving our goodbyes. It was a great exit and ending to the night.” - Lindsay R.