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The moment you get engaged, everyone wants to know: When is the wedding? Engagements can be simple when compared to weddings—unless you are eloping or having a courthouse ceremony. If you are wedding planning on a budget and your plans don’t include hiring a wedding planner, here are some money-saving tips for your wedding:
2016 national average: $1,5641
Not wearing your grandmother’s gown? Buying used or renting can be a cost-effective way to save money on your wedding. Because wedding dresses tend to be worn once and then preserved, they are usually in “like new” condition when sold secondhand. Sites like PreOwned Wedding Dresses, OnceWed, Tradesy and Nearly Newlywed offer dresses from designers like Vera Wang, Ines Di Santo and BHLDN for when you are wedding planning on a budget.
“We find it very rare that a bride finds sentimental value in her veil or headpiece unless it is an heirloom,” says Brittany Haas, CEO of Happily Ever Borrowed, an accessory rental store. “Accessories are generally an expensive afterthought,” she adds. “For example, the veil is something that you generally only wear for 15 minutes for your wedding day. Brides have so many more romantic things to spend on than an object only worn for 15 minutes.”
Local consignment stores also frequently carry wedding dresses, and sometimes a formal evening gown can double for your big day, which can help you save money on your wedding.
2016 national average: $2,5341
Flowers are one of the easiest ways to decorate a wedding venue, but can also be among the priciest. Nicole Harris, CEO and event planner at One Last Frog, suggests brides, “Shop at wholesale stores for a high quantity of decor and flowers. Typically, wholesale stores are more open to negotiation and will give you a better price for the quantity of items or flowers a bride will order.”
And once you have your flowers, if you have bridesmaids willing to help out, you can easily put together bouquets to help cut back on wedding costs.
2016 national average: $16,1071
Most wedding guides will tell you reception venues charge less if you get married “off-season” in January, February or March, or during the week instead of on the weekend. The main way to really save on your venue and cut back on wedding costs is to keep your guest list low (100 or less). A smaller guest list can help you save money on your wedding by lowering the cost for food, tables, chairs and drinks.
When comparing the prices of different venues, consider that going with an all-inclusive venue can be a good money-saving tip for your wedding, says Joyce Scardina Becker, Designer-in-Chief of Events of Distinction. “The reception site and the vendors may have prearranged financial agreements, making it easy and more cost-effective,” she says.
2016 national average: $71 per person1
Sit-down or buffet? “Many couples think that buffets are less expensive than a sit-down plated meal, but this is often not the case,” Becker says. “Many times buffets are more expensive because you have to offer more choices and you cannot control the quantity of food a guest takes. So you should check with your caterer before deciding on a buffet versus a sit-down dinner.”
If you’re wedding planning on a budget, food trucks can be an alternative to cut back on wedding costs, while providing a memorable guest experience.
When it comes to alcohol, Becker suggests:
Additionally, if your venue allows you to bring your own alcohol, wholesalers tend to offer lower prices and typically allow you to return any unopened bottles for credit. Bringing your own alcohol could help you save quite a bit of money on your wedding.
2016 national average: $2,7831
One of the easiest ways to cut back on wedding costs is to limit how long your photographer stays. If you’re getting married in the off-season, you’ll likely find better deals than those getting hitched in the summer and fall.
An often overlooked money-saving tip for your wedding: Contact local college students studying photography who are interested in expanding their portfolio. Some experienced photographers may also have assistants who charge less, while still providing good service.
While looking for ways to save money on your wedding may not sound romantic, it may be the best gift couples can give themselves in the long run. Utilizing these money-saving tips to cut back on wedding costs can mean more savings to put toward other financial goals as a couple—goals like buying a home, starting a family, saving for a child’s education or building an emergency fund.
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1 Study by T. Rowe Price Retirement Plan Services.