I am a “more is more” kind of a girl, so when it came time to plan my wedding, I wanted it all. Big cake, big dress, big band – there was nothing I was willing to sacrifice. Those costs add up startlingly fast, but you can have it all (or at least most of it) if you get creative about how you spend your money.
If you’re on a budget, most wedding magazines will tell you to slash your guest list, scale back on the bar or opt for a Friday or Sunday wedding. Those are all fine ways to save cash, but if, like me, you want to have your cake and eat it too, try some of these clever tips to get more bang for your bridal buck. Some of these are things I tried. Others are tips I wish I had thought of sooner. All of them will allow you to do more with your wedding budget.
With iPhones glued to our hands, everyone is an amateur photographer these days. Literally, every single person at your wedding will come armed with a camera. Before you finish reciting your vows, someone undoubtedly will have posted a picture of you on Facebook. The upside to all of this is that you’ll have access to all kinds of great snapshots from your wedding. I would never advise not hiring a professional photographer for your big day. You will want some high-quality artful photos, to be sure. My wedding photographer was amazing and worth every penny, but some of my favorite pictures came from the iPhones of friends. If you want to save some money on photos, let your photographer leave after the ceremony and posed photos are done. You’ll probably spend the last two hours sweating on the dance floor anyway. By 10:00 p.m. on my wedding day, I had full glass of champagne spilled in my face and nearly 15 people had stepped on my gown, ripping the tulle to shreds. None of that bothered me because I was having the time of my life on the dance floor, but I probably didn’t need a professional photographer to capture those last moments.
Hire a planner
Hands down, the best money I spent on my wedding was hiring a day-of coordinator. I resisted for months because I didn’t want to spend the money and because I thought I could handle it all myself. What a delusion! Hiring a planner to manage every detail of your wedding from start to finish can cost $3,000 and much more. But many planners offer day-of packages for a fraction of the cost. In most cases, you will get a lot more than just day-of coordination. Some planners will help you wrap up loose ends and finalize vendor contracts for the entire month before your wedding if you buy a day-of package. For me, having a competent day-of coordinator on board meant the difference between me actually enjoying my wedding day and the whole affair being stressful and chaotic. And, she actually saved me money by using her industry expertise to get me better pricing with a few vendors. I wish I had hired her the day after I got engaged. I am not exaggerating one bit when I say she is the second most important woman in my life. If you’re planning a wedding in the Chicago area, do yourself a huge favor and call Megan Estrada of North Shore Weddings & Events.
Repurpose flowers the right way
A favorite trick of florists to save money for themselves is to take bridesmaids bouquets after the ceremony and use them to decorate the head table, buffet or cake stand. Reusing flowers that would otherwise go to waste is a good idea. The problem is that too many florists take the easy route and just stick the bouquet in a vase. The result, in my opinion, looks haphazard and unfinished. Ask your florist to untie bouquets and then rearrange flowers in a way that makes sense. You could stick single blooms in bud vases or combine two or three bouquets to make a grand centerpiece.
Strike a sexy pose
I really wanted to get boudoir shots of myself as a gift for my wife. (Mom, if you’re reading, please stop now). I figure my looks are only headed in one direction from here, and I wanted her to have some sexy photos from this special time in our lives to look back on when I am old(er), gray and saggy. But, I had neither the time nor the money to invest in a boudoir photo shoot before my wedding. What I did have on my wedding day was a professional photographer hanging out with me while I was getting ready, the most expensive lingerie I’ve ever purchased, a beautiful hotel suite and unlimited access to mimosas. Before my bridesmaids helped me into my dress, I was strutting around in my lingerie and wedding heels. I’d had two mimosas at that point, and it seemed like an excellent idea to have my photographer take some sexy photos. I felt a little silly at the time, but I’m glad I have those photos – and I got them for free! Just make sure you have your photographer put those shots in a separate gallery, so you don’t accidentally share them with your boss and your grandma.
Let them eat cake
Traditionally, a couple saves the top tier of their wedding cake and then freezes it to eat on their first anniversary. Nice sentiment, but who the hell wants to eat year-old, freezer-burned cake. I say serve that sucker and save yourself some money on extra cake. If you really want a nostalgic bite of your wedding cake for your anniversary, have your baker make you a tiny fresh one for the occasion. My wife really wanted to save our top tier, so I obliged. But instead of saving it for my anniversary, I systematically ate the whole damn thing (one tiny slice after another) before I even left for my honeymoon. With unregulated access to cake, I developed a red velvet addiction that remains uncured. So, take my advice and serve the entire cake at the wedding. Your wallet and your waistline will thank you.
Buy shoes you love
If you buy demure white or ivory bridal shoes, chances are you will probably wear them exactly one time. Plus, boring old wedding pumps are o-v-e-r. A colorful pair with some personality will look so much better in your obligatory shoe photo. So, opt for a fun pair that matches your everyday style, so you can wear them over and over once you’re a married woman. That way your wedding shoes aren’t technically a wedding expense at all. You can deduct the cost from your wardrobe fund instead. Funny math, I know, but that’s how I justified buying these glittery rainbow Kate Spade pumps to wear under my gown. I got to have designer shoes that I loved for my wedding day, and I’ll use them so frequently that the cost will break down to mere pennies per wear. Winning!
I am a foodie, so I really wanted to serve unique and delicious food at my wedding – and lots of it. I had to have passed appetizers at cocktail hour. I insisted on serving both a soup and a salad course at dinner and even set up a boozy hot cocoa bar for my guests to enjoy at dessert. All of those courses didn’t leave a lot of money left for the late-night snacks that were a non-negotiable for me. So, I came up with the bright idea to ask my caterer to hold two of the passed appetizer selections they would have served at cocktail hour and bring them out instead at the end of the evening as a late-night snack. They agreed, and it didn’t cost me an extra penny. Plus, people can only eat so much in one sitting. If I had bombarded them with too many hors d’oeuvres, they may not have been hungry for dinner. But, I am fairly certain that after several cocktails and lots of dancing, they were really happy to see waiters carrying trays of truffle fries and mini Chicago-style hot dogs at the end of the night.
Give the gift of adventure
It’s certainly not to required to give your wife-to-be a gift on your wedding day, but it is a sweet and romantic touch. I’m a traditional lady, so my wife and I didn’t see each other before our ceremony, and we each arranged to have a member of our wedding party deliver a gift to the other while we were getting dressed in separate hotel suites. It was exciting to get a beautiful bracelet from my wife on my wedding day and the very sweet love note she sent with it helped calm my pre-wedding jitters. If you want to honor this sentimental tradition without breaking the bank, I’d recommend giving one another a gift to be redeemed on your honeymoon. Book a romantic couples massage or make a reservation at the best restaurant in the town you’ll be visiting. That way you each get a wedding day surprise, but you’ll have prepaid some of your honeymoon entertainment expenses (which add up just as quickly as wedding costs).
Ante up. What’s your best tip for stretching your wedding budget?