As a florist of 15 years and a former budget bride who DIY-ed her entire wedding, I've learned a thing or two about the big day. Primarily, I've learned that doing your own flowers the morning of your wedding is a very bad idea and that making your own hand-stamped invitations is a great way to add hostility to your relationship (not to mention surprisingly expensive).
In the interest of helping others plan a successful wedding on a budget, I asked two experts for their best tips for cutting costs. Rachel Bruzek is the senior creative event specialist at D'Amico Catering in Minneapolis, and Sarah White is a virtual wedding planner and founder of The I Do List. The three of us have got you covered.
1. Choose an untraditional wedding venue.
Your favorite restaurant, the museum you went to on your first date, or the park where you strolled hand-in-hand can also be the perfect setting to say, "I do." "City- or state-owned properties like parks and pavilions are very affordable, with most being less than $500," White says. You can also have your reception at your alma mater, as most universities have an event space you can rent out for the day.
Choosing an unlikely venue for your ceremony and reception can also mean saving on décor, as many of theses spaces already have personality and unique features and don't need much else.
2. Have your wedding in the off-season.
If you fell in love with a space that's a bit out of your budget, you can still have your dream wedding—if you're willing to be flexible. Having your wedding between November and April could save you hundreds in rental fees, not to mention food and beverage minimums. For even more savings, say "I do!" on a Friday night or Sunday afternoon.
3. Find out what freebies your venue can provide.
To avoid huge rental fees, Bruzek recommends choosing a venue that includes tables and chairs, with full table settings included in the price. Not only will you save on the actual items, but you'll also bypass setup and delivery costs. You can also ask about vases, candles, votive holders and any other decorative accents left over from past events that you could borrow for the big day.
4. Go digital with your wedding invitations.
Once considered a wedding no-no, evites are becoming more popular with brides tackling a massive guest list. Companies like Paperless Post and Joy have hundreds of free designs to choose from and will help you keep track of RSVPs. Joy will also provide you with your own site where you can add directions to the venue, hotel details, and any other information about the big day you'd like to share. Your great-aunt may turn up her nose at the lack of engraved paper, but most people who use the internet are going to be thrilled that they can get all the info they need in one spot.
If you're hesitant about going completely virtual, send out traditional paper invitations, but include your wedding website address so guests can RSVP online. You'll still save a chunk of change on RSVP cards, envelopes, and postage.
5. Hire a DJ for the reception only.
A DJ will always cost less than a live band, but you can save even more on your music. "Consider booking a DJ for the reception only, and use an iPod and speaker for your ceremony music and cocktail hour," White says. Doing this means you'd only need a DJ for about three hours, which should get your rate down significantly.
6. Keep your wedding party small.
The less people walking down the aisle, the more you'll save. Boutonnieres and bouquets can be pretty pricey, as can the requisite gifts, transportation costs… you get it. And you can still have your squad with you, getting ready, drinking champagne, and having fun—just not in matching dresses. If you're afraid of hurt feelings, ask your friends if they'd prefer to buy a dress they'll never wear again or have an extra hour of partying thanks to the money you've saved.
7. Stay away from elaborate flower arrangements.
The easiest way to save money without sacrificing the wow factor with flowers is to choose big, seasonal blooms. A room full of sunflowers is perfect for a country summer wedding. Soft layers of dahlia petals can be both rustic and chic. Two or three stems of hydrangea cut short is all you need for a modern, minimalist wedding any time of year. You can buy most of these in bulk from local growers or online from wholesale vendors like Costco.
If your heart is set on pricey peonies or gardenias, use these beauties in your bouquet only. You'll get to enjoy them the most in your own hands, and they'll be striking in all of those wedding pictures.
8. Make your wedding rings out of recycled gold.
If you have some old gold chains or pendants you're not going to wear again, you can put them to better use. Some jewelers, like this one specializing in Celtic designs, will happily take your gold and recast it into rings. Don't have any gold lying around? Ask your family if they have any pieces they'd like to give you so you can include them in what will be a truly special family heirloom.
9. Skip the open bar.
A cash bar at a wedding is just plain tacky, but offering a smaller selection of booze is not. If you're on a budget, stick with beer, wine, and one signature cocktail rather than offering a full bar. Ask venue staff about the most popular wedding cocktails to get some ideas. Alternatively, find out if you can BYOB—you'll save a ton of cash by buying your wedding spirits at a wholesale supplier.
10. Go for delectable favors.
Two of the biggest wedding wastes are favors and cake: They're expensive, and most people don't care for them. What people do get really excited about is a dessert bar. Forego the cake and make a beautiful candy bar full of your favorite sweets instead. Then you can have your guests fill up personalized goodie bags in lieu of wedding favors.Masha Vapnitchnaia is a travel and lifestyle writer and researcher. She has been traveling her whole life, taking her first flight at the age of four and taking 100 more since. Follow her pilgrimages at unlikelypilgrim.com