You’ve both said yes to a lifetime together. But before the official “I do,” there’s a lot to do. Planning. Dreaming. Budgeting.
Don’t forget that last one! Creating a wedding budget for everything you’ll spend on the big day is our biggest tip for how to save on a wedding overall.
Speaking of overall, did you know the average wedding (including honeymoon and rings) costs around $38,900.1
That might sound perfectly reasonable to you. Or you might have just gasped out loud. Either way, here are five of the top wedding costs and creative ways you can save on each one:
- Average Venue: $10,500
- Average Catering: $9,170
- Average Engagement Ring and Wedding Bands: $8,100
- Average Honeymoon: $5,000
- Average Photography and Videography: $4,2002
1. Average Venue: $10,500
If you really want to learn how to save on a wedding, you should start with the most expensive wedding budget item: the venue.
Pick an off-season wedding date.
May, June, September and October are the peak wedding months (with that last one being the most popular of all).3 That means people are competing for venue dates. Before you start a bidding war to (quite possibly) overpay on location, what if you decided to change your wedding month?
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That venue still wants your money in December and January (the least busy months for weddings), so ask for a discount for bringing your business their way then.4
While you’re at it, skip the traditional Saturday wedding. Pick a less popular day of the week and you’ve opened up another way to save on a wedding venue!
Read (and question) the fine print.
Think about what’s included with your venue. Sometimes it pays to go with an all-inclusive option. If the venue has their own caterers, decor, tables and linen—well, that could mean less headache and fewer vendors for you to juggle. But at what cost? Is it worth it? It might be!
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. If any part of the quote or contract is confusing, ask questions until you’re totally clear about the details.
Get nontraditional with your venue.
Guess what? You don’t have to do the typical church and ballroom wedding. 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 aunt who has a fantastic barn. 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.
2. Average Catering: $9,170
Want to know how to save on a wedding big-ticket item that just lasts the day of? We’re talking about food.
The average catering cost is $70 a guest, and the average guest list is 131 people.5 Math that out, and you get $9,170 total for catering costs. The good news is, you can still enjoy eating together without spending even half of that. Here’s how.
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—like water-and-tea simple. The food (and to be honest, the company) should be the star of your reception.
Skip the main dish.
If you choose an early afternoon wedding, go with a brunch buffet instead of lunch. Because eggs are cheap!
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 guac.
Got a sweet tooth? Try a dessert bar with lots of cookies, tarts and cupcakes.
Your guests can easily munch and mingle, and you can choose plenty of fun options.
Remember the 10% rule.
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 a smidge. Even if everyone happens to show up, you can bet on a handful of dieters, picky eaters or reception bailers.
Let them eat . . . something else.
Cupcakes and pies are more affordable than a traditional tiered wedding cake. But if that cake is a must for you, opt for a just-for-us sized cake for the bride and groom. Then have several large sheet cakes hidden in the kitchen to cut and serve to the crowd after.
Two words: food trucks!
Reserve a savory food truck (cheese-stuffed burgers, mmm . . .) and a sweet food truck (gourmet ice cream or donuts) for your guests. Keep lines down by pre-selecting two or three ready-to-go options so your guests aren’t staring down a menu with tons of choices.
3. Average Engagement Ring and Wedding Bands: $8,100.
These days, the average engagement ring is $5,900.6 While that’s not the three years of salary Michael Scott from The Office thinks it should be, it’s still a lot of money, and a great place to cut back—on spending, not sentiment.
Outsmart the advertising.
Turns out the whole "three months’ salary for a diamond ring" thing got started in the 1930s as a brilliant marketing move by De Beers.7 And it’s still working today.
Break the mold with a ring that’s unconventional by today’s standards. Think wooden, stainless steel, or rubies and sapphires. Because it’s your love that’s forever here—not the diamonds.
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—especially if you’re buying the wedding bands from the same shop.
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.
Okay, listen: We’ve got at least twenty really good reasons to pay actual money for your engagement ring. But we’re going to share just two for now. First, you can ask for a discount if you hand over a stash of cash then and there.
Secondly, you do not (we 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.
4. Average Honeymoon: $5,000
It’s your first vacation together as a married couple. Time to relax after the hubbub of the wedding. Unless you just have to, we don’t suggest skipping the honeymoon completely. But feel free to completely change up your whole honeymoon experience.
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 places nearby that you’ve never been (but always wanted to visit), pick one, and hit the road!
Go during an off-season.
If you need to feel the sand between your toes in say, the Caribbean, head out during the off-season for way less. The weather may be touch-and-go, but you’ll still have a five-star resort, restaurant and spa at your disposal for the week.
Have a "honeyversary."
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 for your one-year anniversary instead.
5. Average Photography and Videography: $4,200
Another top wedding cost is capturing all the moments on film with photography and videography. Of course you want your lasting memories, but there are ways to get quality memories without spending top dollar.
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!
Ask them to leave early.
Tell your photographer you won’t need them after the first dance. Who needs permanent visuals of their cousins doing the “Cha-Cha Slide” anyway?
Save even more by skipping the pre-wedding bridal/engagement shoots too. The wedding pics are what count.
How to Save on a Wedding Overall
We started by saying this, and we’ll end by repeating it. If you want to save on these top wedding costs, you need to budget for your wedding.
In fact, if you want to be good with money in all areas of your life, you need to budget. Period. Go ahead and start talking now about how you’ll budget together when two lives and two incomes become one.
Where do you start?
Download EveryDollar, our free budgeting tool. Then make it a date night to remember as you talk about not just planning for how to spend and save for the big day, but for your whole lives together.