How to save money and cut your wedding budget

A strict budget doesn’t have to translate into instant ramen dinners until the big day, or having to hand-print your wedding invitations. A beautiful wedding day is within your reach, even on a tight budget; it just requires a little creativity. If you’re looking for ways to lower the cost of your wedding, take a look at some of the tips listed below.

The Venue and Date

If you are open to marrying outside of a house of worship or a traditional wedding venue, you open yourself to all kinds of cost-effective and creative locations for your ceremony and reception. Outdoorsy types can look at city and county parks that offer rental opportunities, or perhaps a local nature center. Farm and ranch weddings are all the rage right now, and many come with a smaller price tag than, say, a formal reception hall or hotel ballroom.

More of an artsy, refined sort of couple? Make some calls to local art museums or even independent art galleries to inquire about rental options. In this tough economy, you may encounter all kinds of business owners and non-profits that are willing to consider venue rental as a new and creative means of revenue.

Want to stick with a more traditional venue but can’t stomach the rates? Look at off-peak dates. A fall, or even  winter wedding can be just as lovely, and it may mean that you’ll have less competition in terms of guest obligations!

The Food

A plated dinner at the reception is one of the biggest ticket items in a budget. When the filet surf and turf is a bit beyond your means, consider a morning wedding and brunch, or an afternoon reception with just cocktails and light hors d’oeuvres. When dinner is a must-have for your wedding, contact restaurants to see if they offer more affordable alternatives than private caterers.

When in doubt, keep it simple, light, and delicious. Your guests will be better able to take a spin on the dance floor without being weighed down by a huge steak, anyhow.

The Cake

A wedding cake can cost hundreds of dollars depending on its size and how ornate your selected decorations – like fondant and sugar-paste appliqués. Finding a good deal in this arena means you’ll stand to save big. Maybe it’s as simple as switching from a four-tier to a single-tier and supplementing with cute cupcakes to serve to your guests. Another option is to talk to your cake designer about more cost-effective décor. For instance, using paper cutouts versus ornate floral appliqué or hand painting can trim the cost.

Another fun option? If you have a favorite dessert, say ice cream sundaes, consider a non-traditional sundae bar with a variety of offerings like berries, dipping sauces, and crumbles.

The Photographer

Depending on where you live and the skill level of your photographer, wedding photography packages can typically run around $2,000 to $3,000. But what do you do when that accounts for a huge portion of your budget?

Instead of hiring a photographer from a professional studio, consider engaging the services of a freelancer, or ask friends and family if they know someone who practices photography on the side. Not turning up any leads? Call your local newspaper to see if they have any freelance photographers they’ve worked with and whether you could contact him or her for a weekend project. Many professional freelance photographers are eager and willing to pick up some wedding work and their rates should be competitive compared to those of the major studios.

The Dress

Instead of racing to the closest high-end boutique, it may benefit you to shop around for a gently used wedding dress.  A once-worn dress will often sell at a fraction of the cost it was when new. You can go into a store and try on dresses to get an idea for what you want, then look for it elsewhere – online or even at a consignment shop. High-end resale boutiques may also carry designer wedding gowns at prices that suit a ready-to-wear budget, leaving you more room to pay for the alterations needed to get the gown to fit you like a glove.

Another option is sample sales, where you can get designer dresses for significantly lower prices. Even major retailers have started offering bridal lines for less than what you pay at a bridal shop. Roll up your sleeves and prepare for a treasure hunt, though, because this can prove to be a bit of a challenge. But imagine the beautiful savings when you find the dress of your dreams for a fraction of the cost!


Just like produce in the grocery store, flower prices for specific varieties fluctuate with the season and it pays to stay as local as possible. Research what flowers are in bloom during the month of your wedding and whether there are any regional blossoms that might fit into your theme.

If you’re a real hands-on type, you can buy the flowers yourself and make the arrangements. Sure, you’ll pay for the vases or any decorative flair you’ll need, but assembling them yourself could save you a third or more of the cost to have a florist do this for you.

Also consider where your budget can make the greatest impact. Your bouquet will be photographed quite a bit, so you’ll want that to stand out.  However, the rest of the flowers at the ceremony are only in view for a limited time, while the reception’s décor will be on display for hours on end. Even there, you can get creative – using decorative potted plants; glass bowls with floating blooms; or other chic, simple centerpieces.

With a bit of planning, finesse, and flexibility, your guests would never guess that you put your big day together on a less-than-ideal budget. Knowing you were able to start off your life together without breaking the bank is one of the greatest wedding gifts you can give to one another.