It’s not breaking news—we’ve said it here a hundred times—that (most) weddings cost a lot of money. But any wedding planner worth his or her salt will also tell you that, with a few smart moves and some ground-laying decisions, you can still throw an incredible, memorable wedding that guests will rave about for years while sticking to a reasonable budget. Perhaps the most important step you can take in planning your beautiful, budget wedding is to decide which 2 or 3 part of the wedding experience are most important to you and your partner. Whether it’s a gourmet meal, a killer live band, or a really incredible venue with a view, determine your top handful of priorities and put the majority of your budget towards those areas. Then, let go of the other stuff—we promise neither you nor your guests will miss it. For other smart moves you can take to stick to your wedding budget, we’ve compiled a list of the five ways to cut wedding costs that you might not have thought about. Read up, and get ready to spend smart!
Shrink Your Guest List
This is basic math, friends. The higher the number of guests you have to invite, seat, feed, serve drinks, transport, or provide with little extras like favors or welcome bags, the higher your wedding costs will climb. If you want to include all of those amenities I just mentioned in your wedding weekend (i.e. printed invitations, food, alcohol, transportation, ceremony seating, reception tables and chairs, décor for all those tables, wedding favors, and welcome bags), then do your best to keep your guest list as streamlined as possible. Here’s a good tip: if you wouldn’t normally treat this person to a very expensive dinner (the average cost of a wedding per head is currently around $200), then consider leaving them off. Although these decisions can be tough, remember that you can throw a nicer party for a smaller number of really important people, or host a more forgettable evening for a large group of people that you won’t even get to really spend time with. Don’t forget to use Zola’s Guest List tool to help you manage your guest list, whatever its size—it’ll be one of the easiest parts of your planning, we promise.
Book a Full-Service Venue
The average cost of renting a venue for your ceremony and/or reception is over $3,000—and that’s just the rental fee alone. Imagine adding in additional costs for catering, alcohol and bar services, equipment rentals (think tables, chairs, linens, glassware, etc.), and a day-of coordinator…as you can imagine, the total figure can be really overwhelming. Thats’s why full-service venues that offer a package deal for all of the above services can actually be cost-saving in the end. While the combined sum may still leave you with sticker shock, a full-service venue that comes equipped with all the equipment, staffing, food and drink, and planning expertise you need can save you in the long run—we’re talking savings for your sanity as well as your wallet. Cutting the number of vendors you need to hire in half? That’s (almost) priceless.
Pro tip: to get started with your hunt for the perfect venue, be sure visit Zola’s vendor directory to search for venues (as well as all those other vendors you still need to check off your list) by location, type, or price range that fit your wedding budget.
Choose a Less Popular Date
Peak wedding season throughout most of the country runs from April through October, with June, September, October being the most popular months to get married (hello, summer breezes and crisp foliage). To save some beaucoup bucks, book a date that falls during non-peak season for discounted rates at venues. Winter weddings can be truly spectacular, and open up a whole new avenue for unique attire, décor, and weekend guest activities. For even greater savings, explore the weekly calendar outside of Saturday evening: venue rentals on Fridays, Sundays, or other weekdays go for a lot less money, as they’re less in-demand. Or consider a daytime celebration, such as a brunch wedding, which will help offset costs by allowing you to serve a smaller meal (and less alcohol) and more low-key entertainment than what’s typically expected at an evening affair.
Rethink the Plated Entrée
Speaking of smaller meals, there are other ways to approach your wedding meal beyond plated dinner entrées, which tends to be the most expensive catering option. Sit down with your caterer and discuss some alternative ways to feed your guests that might cut down your catering bill: opt for a cocktail-style reception with plenty of heavy hors d’oeuvres (which can help lower table and chair rental costs), or go for interactive and/or DIY food stations that will keep guests both entertained and well-fed. Trust us, no one ever left a wedding with a mashed potato bar or made-to-order crêpe station unhappy. Or consider skipping the traditional wedding caterer altogether by hiring a food truck or two to serve guests throughout the reception.
Still really wed (word play!) to the idea of a seated dinner? Consider serving your wedding meal buffet-style, which cuts waitstaff (and your final invoice) in half.
Buy Local, In-Season Flowers
Similar to rethinking your wedding menu, saving money on your wedding flowers is all about thinking outside the traditional box. Sure, mountains of roses and armfuls of peonies are as romantic as they come, but there are so many other, less pricey stems that will make just as beautiful a statement (without blowing your wedding budget). If you love the look of petal-rich blooms, consider garden-grown dahlias or peony-lookalike ranunculus. Most importantly, stick to flowers that are in season when and where you’re getting married—you’ll pay considerably more for flowers that have to be flown in from other regions or countries. For a gorgeous, fresh-picked-from-the-fields look, consider using locally grown wildflowers and foliage; inquire with your florist about local farms that sell flowers at farmers’ markets or for wholesale in your area.
Pro tip: for a wedding budget-friendly way to incorporate lots of greenery, texture, and fragrance into your bouquets and arrangements, ask your florist about incorporating fresh herbs. Everything from basil to rosemary to mint is fair game, not to mention more floral herbs like lavender. They’ll add a note of organic elegance, not to mention uniqueness, to your wedding décor that will make roses seem ho-hum.
Is that your wallet we hear sighing a note of relief? We hope so. If you follow some of these tips for how to cut costs, you can still throw the stylish, cohesive wedding of your dreams while sticking to your wedding budget. Now that’s a cause for celebration (but your enduring love and wdevotion is also totally worthwhile).