You’ve both said yes to a lifetime together. But before the official “I do,” there’s a lot to do. The registry scanning. The cake tasting. The planning. The dreaming. The budgeting.
Hey, it might not seem romantic, but don’t forget that last one. The very best way to save money on your wedding is by creating a wedding budget based on the money and the priorities you both have for your big day.
But that’s not the only tip I’ve got. No, my friend. You’ve come here asking how to save money on a wedding, and I’ve got 27 more ways you can do just that.
How to Save Money on a Wedding: 27 Tips
Weddings can get out-of-control expensive. But yours doesn’t have to be. Just refuse to get caught up in the comparison madness, set a budget, and use these creative tips.
How to Save on the Engagement Ring and Wedding Bands
These days, the average engagement ring is $5,900.1 While that’s not the three years of salary Michael Scott from The Office thought it was, it’s still a lot of money, and a great place to cut back—on spending, not sentiment.
1. Outsmart the advertising.
By the way, Michael Scott (and anyone else who’s wondering and is also not a TV character), it turns out the whole "three months’ salary for a diamond engagement ring” thing got started in the 1930s as a brilliant marketing move by a company called De Beers that sells, you guessed it, diamonds!2
And it’s still working today. People feel pressure to go one route and overpay on engagement rings because of a marketing campaign that’s almost 100 years old.
Break the mold with an unconventional ring. Think titanium and stainless steel for the dudes, or moissanite, rubies and sapphires for the ladies. Because it’s your love that’s forever here—not the diamonds.
2. Look for an antique ring.
If diamonds are still your best friend, find a piece with some serious character. Antique jewelry is the perfect combination of classic and classy. Just don’t forget to negotiate here—especially if you’re buying the wedding bands from the same shop.
3. Explore wholesale options.
For brand-new rings, wholesale can’t be beat. Try Amazon, Costco, Sam’s Club or a local wholesale jeweler in your community. Less overhead means more savings.
And don’t come at me about buying your ring at Costco. Is where you shopped for the bling the tale you’ll tell your kids and their kids and their kids? No. It’s how you popped the question. Or how you met.
Stop getting so wrapped up in the parts of your love story that don’t matter and focus on the moments that do!
4. Pay cash.
Okay, listen: I’ve got at least twenty really good reasons to pay actual money for your engagement ring. But for the sake of time, I’ll share just two. For now.
First, you can ask for a discount if you hand over a stack of cash then and there. People love a good stack of cash.
Secondly, you do not (I repeat: You do not) want to start out your engagement forking over monthly payments (plus interest) on a piece of jewelry. Don’t slide a financial burden on her finger when you pop the question. Hand her a gift that’s paid in full. Debt-free rings are scientifically more romantic.
How to Save on Invitations and Stationery
It may be the digital age, but we still print invitations and all sorts of things for weddings, to the tune of an average $560.3 But we can do better than that. Here’s how:
5. Use flat invitations.
Why is it that folded invitations cost more? Is it all that extra labor to create each crease? Well, I’m not sure about why, but I’ve noticed flat invitations usually cost less. And I really don’t think anyone will talk smack about not being able to unfold your invite, so this is a perfect way to save on a wedding.
6. Skip all the extras inside the invitation.
We’ve gone too far, America. Why does every wedding invitation now come with 17 things inside? An RSVP card, a return envelope, a separate card to pick what kind of taco you want from the taco truck, and that random piece of tissue paper that screams “waste of a tree.”
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All your guests need are the details about the day. One flat invitation, with a link to your wedding website for more info, can do that job. Save a tree. Save some green.
7. Don’t print programs or menus.
Okay, one more way to save on a wedding via the paper arena: Don’t print a program. No one wants to know your processional’s song title (if they do, they can Shazam it) or the name of your five junior bridesmaids. If you want a sign at the entrance to cover the details, that’ll do the trick.
And while you’re making signs instead of printing things, put the menu or any reception info you want to share on a sign too. Communication wins. Saving money also wins. Game on.
How to Save on the Venue
If you really want to save on a wedding, start with the most expensive wedding budget item. What’s that, you wonder? (Or you don’t, since the heading on this section already gave it away . . .) It’s the venue, coming in at an average cost of $11,200.4
8. Pick an off-season wedding month.
May, June, September and October are peak wedding seasons (with that last one being the most popular, like the high school quarterback of wedding months).5 That means people are competing for venue dates at those times. Before you start a bidding war to (quite possibly) overpay on a location, what if you decided to change your wedding month? Did you just gasp?
Think about it, though! Your dream venue doesn’t want to sit empty in December and January (the least busy months for weddings), so they might offer a lower price.6
Or you can ask for one! It never hurts to try haggling your way to a better rate. Nothing says true love like fighting for a good deal.
9. Get married on a less popular day of the week.
While you’re breaking the norms, skip the traditional Saturday wedding. Pick a less popular day of the week and save big.
My wife and I got married on a Friday in November, which is one of the least popular choices for a date. But hey, most of my teens were spent being the least popular choice for a date, so I’m used to it. (Boom, self-roasted.)
10. Consider an all-inclusive venue.
Don’t assume an all-inclusive option is out of the budget. If the venue has their own caterers, decor, tables and linen—well, once you add up all those separate costs, you might end up with a good ol’ bundle-and-save situation! Plus, it’ll mean fewer headaches and fewer vendors for you to juggle. Double win.
11. Read (and question) the fine print.
If you know me, you know I’m all about reading the fine print. I don’t want to be duped or double-crossed. And I don’t want that for you, either.
So, while you’re reading everything the venue can include, make sure you’re carefully checking all the fees they will include. Does it cost extra if you bring in your own vendors? Do they require an additional cleaning charge, on top of the standard cost of the venue? Those extra fees can really add up in the end.
Also, if any part of the quote or contract is confusing, ask questions until you’re totally clear about the details.
12. Go nontraditional with your venue.
Guess what? You don’t have to do the typical church wedding and ballroom reception. There are plenty of nontraditional places to get married—and lots of them don’t come with the traditional wedding venue price tag!
Think of outdoor locations. Call in a favor with your relatives who have a fantastic barn or picturesque backyard. Find a lodge that lets you rent the rooms for guests, use the outdoor area for the ceremony, and enjoy the common space to party.
You get the idea. Open yourself up to the possibilities of all kinds of venues and you can save serious money.
How to Save on Catering
Want to know how to save on a wedding big-ticket item that lasts only the day of? I’m talking about food.
The average catering cost is $75 a guest, and the average guest list is 117 people.7 Do some quick math, and you get $8,775 total for catering costs.
Thankfully, you don’t have to spend even half of that to share some good eats and good times together. Here’s how.
13. Keep it casual.
What if you skipped the five-course dinner and went with BBQ and all the fixings? Or get your favorite casual restaurant to cater a big buffet and keep the beverage choices simple—I mean like water-and-tea simple, people. When it comes to food and drinks, easier to serve nearly always means bigger savings.
14. Skip the main dish.
If you choose an early afternoon wedding, go with a brunch buffet instead of lunch. Because eggs are cheaper than steak! Even with inflation.
And if you’d rather say your vows in the evening, you can’t go wrong with an assortment of crowd-pleasing appetizers, like a nacho bar with fresh queso and, if you’re feeling extra, some guac too.
15. Have a dessert bar.
Got a sweet tooth? Forget handing out a full meal and offer up a dessert bar. Serve all your favorites: cookies, tarts, cupcakes, even all your favorite candy options. Give Willy Wonka a run for his money, and keep more of your money in your wallet.
16. Remember the 10% rule.
If you use a caterer, here’s a quick tip: Catering companies don’t like to run out of food. That’s why they typically plan for 10% more than you ask for.
Save money by underestimating your head count. Just a smidge. Even if everyone happens to show up, you can bet on a handful of dieters, picky eaters or reception bailers to even it all out.
17. Let them eat . . . something else.
Cupcakes, donuts and pies are more affordable than a traditional tiered wedding cake. But if that cake is a must for you, go for a just-for-us sized fancy cake for the bride and groom. Then have several large sheet cakes hidden in the kitchen to cut and serve to the crowd after. You’ll get the photo op you want and sweeten up your guests without busting the bank.
18. Two words: food trucks!
Reserve a savory food truck (tacos are always a hit) and a sweet food truck (rolled ice cream or shaved ice, anyone?) for your guests. Keep lines down by pre-selecting two or three options so your guests aren’t staring down a menu with tons of choices.
I looked online, and local food trucks in the Nashville area (where I live and write) offer options that are in the range of $12–25 per guest. Heck, you can get a lobster truck for $35–45 a guest. Wait. You can have lobster for less than the typical $75-a-plate catering company? Done and done.
Forget that traditional experience and price tag. Go for memories and savings.
How to Save on Photography and Videography
Okay you can’t completely skip this wedding cost. Photography and videography are how you preserve the memories to show off to family, friends and strangers who will watch for years and years to come. But you can make sure you get great shots from your big day without spending the average cost of $4,200.8
19. Find an up-and-coming vendor.
Willing to go with a less-established photographer or videographer? If so, it’s a win-win: They get a bigger portfolio, and you get more money to spend somewhere else in your wedding budget! Notice I didn’t say some rando with an iPhone that has “portrait mode.” I’m talking about a legit artist who’s ready to make a deal to grow their business.
20. Ask them to leave early.
Tell your photographer they can head home after the first dance. Do you really want permanent visuals of your cousins doing the “Cha Cha Slide” anyway? (Okay, if you do, this is that moment for your iPhone to shine.)
Save even more by skipping the pre-wedding bridal or engagement shoots too. The wedding pictures are what count.
How to Save on Your Honeymoon
It’s your first vacation together as a married couple. Time to relax as hubby and wifey after the hubbub of the wedding. (Side note: Please don’t use those nicknames in public—you make us all uncomfortable.) Unless you just have to for whatever reason, I don’t suggest skipping the honeymoon completely to save money. But that doesn’t mean you have to (or should) spend the average $5,100 on this trip.9 Here are ways to save on this wedding cost.
21. Drive somewhere (relatively) close.
Get far enough away that you feel away, but not so far that you have a huge travel budget. Put together a list of towns nearby where you’ve never been (but always wanted to visit), pick one, and hit the road!
22. Learn (and use) all the travel hacks.
I love a good travel hack. Like knowing the cheapest days to fly, price checking lodging options before you book, or skipping the silly things we waste money on during vacation. (I’m talking about you, keychains with the town name and my name engraved in them. You sounded like a fun souvenir at the time.) Brush up on your travel hacks—and then put them into practice.
23. Go during an off-season.
Just like your venue offers lower rates when it’s not peak wedding time, some destinations offer discounts when they’re off-season. You can probably save on flights, lodging and even attractions. Also, the spots are less crowded, which means less time waiting in line to ride that roller coaster and fewer people cramping your style at those intimate evening dinners. Now that’s romantic.
24. Have a "honeyversary."
Despite what you might first think, a “honeyversary” has nothing to do with beekeeping. It’s a portmanteau—you know, when you put two words together, like how brunch is breakfast and lunch combined, or hangry is when you didn’t get to brunch soon enough.
A “honeyversary” is when you take the honeymoon on your first anniversary. Because weddings are expensive and exhausting. If your budget and energy are tapped out, don’t force it. Take the week off and just chill. Save up and go on a dream vacation later.
25. Enjoy a staycation.
If you want a vacation without the hassle (and expenses) of travel, go the staycation route. Visit local sites and knock some restaurants off your “want to dine here someday” list. If you’re missing those getaway vibes, you could always buy some tiny shampoo bottles at the dollar store and put a chocolate mint on your pillow.
How to Save on a Wedding Overall
Okay, I’ve got two more tips for you. Ready?
26. Enter a contest.
This is not a drill, and this is not a joke. It’s my life story. My wife (then fiancée) and I entered a local contest for a free wedding giveaway, and we won. We got a dream wedding valued at $28,000—for free!
Obviously, this tip is a long shot for most of you. But search the web for contests in your area, and enter if you find one! Worst case, you lose the contest and then have to save up on your own. Which brings me to my last tip . . .
27. Budget for the big day.
I started by saying this, and I’ll end by repeating it. If you want to save on your wedding, you need to budget for your wedding. Every vendor. Every paper. Every morsel from the food trucks.
Plan for how much you’ll spend. Don’t overspend. And for the love of each other and your financial future, don’t take on debt to cover your wedding. You can have a dream wedding at a reasonable price. That you pay for, in full. The best way to kick off your newlywed life together is with zero payments from the nuptials.
While we’re on the subject, if you want to be good with money in all areas of your life, you need to budget. Period. Go ahead and talk now about how you’ll budget together when two lives and two incomes become one.
Where do you start?
Download EveryDollar for free. This is the budgeting tool my wife and I use every single month to reach our spending, saving and giving goals. Once you’ve got the app, make a date night to remember as you talk about saving for the big day, and start planning your whole big life together.