I helped plan both my brothers’ weddings in the past year. I am already pretty good at finding deals, but I became even better out of necessity to stay within their budgets. Here are my tips for saving big money when planning a wedding. I am sharing mostly from my most recent wedding planning experience that resulted in a lovely, fun, elegant, and personalized event for my brother Mitchell and his Bride Karen.
1. Ask help from immediate family in lieu of gift.
Its even better if you have a family member (like me) to ask said family members, so the bride and groom don’t have to ask (or frankly don’t even know about the asking). I recruited two of my sisters and my parents to chip in for the wedding in certain ways. For example, one sister gifted the bride and groom their cake cutting utinsels and champagne flutes at their bridal shower. One less thing for the bride and groom to buy and even more meaningful that they came from a family member. My parents helped majorly by providing their clubhouse for the wedding and reception. Which brings me to my next tip.
2. Rent a clubhouse or church rather than a restaurant or wedding venue.
Wedding venues are not cheap and restaurants usually have a minimum to spend to reserve their place. These places typically intend for people to spend over $10 grand per wedding event (at least that’s the going rate around here for nice venues). Renting a clubhouse or church (provided they have a space for a reception on the property) is much more economical. You obviously need a close friend or family member to have a clubhouse that they can rent (if you personally don’t have access to one). My parent’s clubhouse was available for the date we needed for only $400 which included use of a kitchen, folding tables, and folding chairs for 120 people. It was perfect for what we needed!
3. Buy linens in bulk for a price cheaper than renting.
I price shopped for linens, looking at both renting and buying options. I found banquet table cloth table clothes for under $5 each. They were very nice quality. Oh, and I sold them after the wedding for the same price I paid (minus shipping)! The buyer was thrilled with her price too. Probably because she had looked in renting them too and saw how much it costs. This is the website I purchased from and I highly recommend them-https://www.linentablecloth.com
Here are some of the current sales from this website:
If you do plan to purchase and resell after the wedding, take good photos of the venue on your phone after the wedding reception area is set up, so you can show potential buyers how great they look. After the wedding, wash them with oxyclean on a hot cycle to get out any food stains.
We also purchased the table runners from this same website. They were only 68 cents each! Amazing deal you would be hard pressed to find elsewhere, let alone buy the fabric to make it yourself for that price! https://www.linentablecloth.com/14-x-108-in-Satin-Table-Runner.html
4. Have a family member do the food- or do it yourself.
My sister Rachel and I were originally going to provide the food for the wedding, as our gift to the bride and groom. We were planning to get pre-made appetizers from Costco. Heavy appetizers was our plan.
The Bride’s Mom offered to do a traditional Hispanic meal. We were thrilled!! She had family all help out with the meal and it was traditional, made from scratch deliciousness!!! I was very impressed. It was far better (both tasting and in making the event special) by having it made by her family. It really made the event unique and fabulous.
For my other brother’s wedding that was held in my backyard we bought some premade side dishes and appetizer from Costco and made some more food in advance (also purchased from Costco to save money). We then hired a server to heat everything and serve. It was much cheaper than having the event catered. It was a matter of buying food in advance and doing the prep work the day before the wedding. The key is to have someone reliable for heating and serving the meal. There are companies that specialize in these services. They can also help with clean up. We used Party Angels in the Dallas/Fort Worth area: http://www.partyangelsus.com/Contact_Us.html
5. Buy faux China instead of renting.
Renting China for a wedding is expensive. After checking out all of our options we opted to buy plastic plates (disposable) that look like China. I had seen a friend use these for a dinner party and I was impressed with how nice they looked and the great quality. You can buy these type of plates (in various sizes- dinner, salad, dessert) at Costco and Sam’s Club. I found a great deal on Amazon that worked for us. They were anticipating up to 120 people attending their wedding. I found 120 dinner plates on Amazon.com for under $75. https://amzn.to/2sOvE8Q
We also purchased quality plastic silverware from Amazon that looked great. $19.99 for 300 pieces (service for 100): https://www.amazon.com/Silverware-Heavyweight-Disposable-Flatware-Weddings/dp/B07B4VM9LW/ref=sr_1_51_s_it?s=hpc&ie=UTF8&qid=1528751866&sr=1-51&keywords=plastic+silverware
6. Use an up and coming photographer.
Photography for your wedding can be quite expensive. Expect to pay thousands if you are using a well known local photographer. A good option to save money and still get professional level photos is to hire an up and coming photographer. This could be someone who is doing photography as a side job in addition to their regular job or they are just beginning to dabble in this profession. If they are serious they will have good equipment and at least a Facebook page (which is a good place to begin searching for an up and coming photographer). Someone starting out can’t expect to charge thousands when they don’t have dozens of previous weddings under their belt to show how great their work is. You can help them build their professional resume and portfolio of great photos which they can then use for future advertising to get more customers. You should expect to pay half or less for an up and coming photographer.
Their time is of value. The less time you book the photographer, the less you will pay. The most important photos are the ceremony and the posed photos of the wedding party, bride and groom, and families following the wedding. You can do all of this in 2-3 hours. Many people want their photographer there very early so they can get shots of the bride getting ready and then they want them to stay until the end of the reception. You are paying for this time. Expect to pay a minimum of $100 per hour, even for a new photographer. The more experienced photographers will charge even more. It is built into the package price. Negotiate the price and time they will spend at the wedding. Less time equals less money. Save money by booking the photographer for those essential 2-3 hours only and you will have money to spend elsewhere.
TIP: This same advice above is true of videographers as well.
Try to get the rights to your digital files rather than buying your prints from the photographer. You are paying them to use a website like Nations Photo Lab, which you can order from yourself! Try to secure a photographer that won’t force you to buy their prints. When you have your digital files you can print them any size, on canvas, and make your own photo books. My professional photographer friends have recommended Nations Photo Lab to me and I have been very pleased with their quality and price. Once you buy from Nations Photo Lab you won’t go anywhere else for your memories! http://www.nationsphotolab.com
7. Order wedding supplies from China and pay a fraction of the price you see in the store.
There are several websites I have utilized to purchase items for weddings and parties. You can pay a fraction of the US prices for the same exact quality. The only catch is that you must order with plenty of lead time. Items typically take 30-45 days to arrive after ordering. Check the details for each item on lead time. I have always received the items in the allotted time that they have stated. Just be sure to check before ordering, so that you know the items will arrive before the wedding. Here is my favorite overseas website: https://www.aliexpress.com
Here are some of the deals we found and ordered:
Also keep this website in mind when you are looking for favors for your guests and jewelry for the bride/bridal party. Don’t forget about the veil. This can be one of the most overpriced items in a wedding shop. Save your money and buy from AliExpress. Below are some examples with prices from their website to give you some ideas. Tip: read the reviews so you know what other customers say about the quality of each item you want to order.
8. Use Amazon for Bridesmaid dresses.
Bridesmaid dresses have gotten ridiculously expensive. These one use dresses shouldn’t cost hundreds, but they do at bridal shops. Save your bridal party big money by choosing from Amazon a style you like that is a price they will like as well. If you are wondering if you will like the quality and if the sizing is correct, then read the reviews. People are honest in their reviews of items. When you can find a dress that has at least 4 out of 5 stars from at least 100 buyers, you have a winner.
TIP: Look for a dress that has free shipping and free returns. That way your bridamaids can return and get another size and it won’t cost them anything extra.
Below is the dress that was purchased by the bridal party for my brother’s wedding. It is priced from $31.99-$49.99 depending on color and size. It comes in many different colors. It looked beautiful on the ladies at the wedding and they looked exactly the same as any $200-$300 bridesmaid dress from a bridal shop.
Be sure to have the ladies measure themselves and use the sizing chart from the website to find the size that fits them best (which is exactly what they do at a bridal shop and you can do on your own and save money).
9. Use Pinterest and the dollar tree for favors.
The Dollar tree is a great place to buy all those extras that add up. Things to buy here: cake plates that match the wedding colors (packs of 24 for $1-everything is $1), serving platters, serving utinsels, colored napkins that match the wedding, plastic forks for serving cake, and party favors.
You can get really creative on favors by going to Pinterest. For my brother Mitchell’s wedding his bride is Hispanic and we wanted to add her heritage to the wedding, so we searched Pintrest for ideas. The bride selected bottles of hot sauce for the men and fabric fans for the women. Go to Pinterest for ideas and then head to the Dollar Tree website for the good deals!
10. Print your own invites, programs, and tags for favors.
Printing can get expensive when you have it done professionally. You can save money doing it yourself. For ideas on how a program or invite should or can look, simply google it. You will find hundreds, if not thousands, of options and ideas. I printed the programs and favor tags for Mitchell and Karen’s wedding. You can also buy blank wedding invitations at Walmart and Amazon for printing at home. Again, another great way to save money on your wedding.
11. Go Faux for Flowers and Centerpieces.
Real flowers are expensive. To save money you can use faux flowers for your wedding. Hobby Lobby and Michael’s both have premade bouquet options for brides and the bridal party. You will save a lot if you go this route. The bride also gets to save the bridal bouquet for her hope chest or memory box after the wedding.
If you have a friend who is good with floral arrangements, you can recruit them to help. You can buy real flowers from your local Costco or Sam’s Club and have your friend help make the bouquets, corsages, and floral centerpieces.
I blogged about an inexpensive, yet lovely centerpiece idea that is only $9 for each table. Here is that project: How to Make These Beautiful Centerpieces for less than $9
I made Karen’s bouquet for her wedding. Yes, I made it at the beach when we arrived into town the weekend of the wedding. My kids played at the beach while I was arranging bouquets on a lounge chair.
12. Use this website for chair covers…
We used chair covers for Mitchell and Karen’s Wedding. They truly transformed the clubhouse appearance. Let’s face it, folding chairs are not pretty. Renting chair covers can be expensive. I found it was cheaper to buy these than to rent! Once again, you can buy these and then resell on your local Facebook buy, sell, trade pages. You may not be able to recoup all your cost, but you should be able to recoup 25-50%.
These chair covers stretch over most folding chairs. They even fit over my dining room chairs (I was just trying to see how they looked and didn’t have any folding chairs handy). No need for ironing, since they stretch out and over the chair. They also have little pockets at the bottom, so the feet of the chair go inside the pockets and secure the cover in place.
Tip: They make chair covers for banquet chairs and folding chairs; there is a difference (one chair style folds and one chair style stacks). Be sure to order the correct cover for the chairs at your venue.
Below are the chair covers, which can be ordered in a variety of colors for $1.99 each: https://tableclothsfactory.com/products/white-spandex-chair-cover?variant=46998565775&gclid=Cj0KCQjwu_jYBRD8ARIsAC3EGCLV9-mMACfjNc6pBEfxpnI2fl2AhSfTR1P4ADfHkFqSbWDVFbPW9msaAh_dEALw_wcB
13. Look on Buy, Sell, Trade Facebook pages for wedding deals.
Many people sell their wedding decor and other items on Facebook buy, sell, trade pages after their wedding. Keep an eye out on these pages, and maybe ask a close friend or two to keep an eye out as well. You never know what you will find. I found our chair covers this way. The bride Karen found bunches of purple faux flowers we were able to make into bouquets for tables around the room.
14. Skip the DJ, rent speakers cheap, and use your own playlists.
I learned this money saver from a friend. She recently threw a surprise 40th Birthday Party for her husband. She had a friend pick up the speaker system, which was a large (and quite heavy) professional standing speaker. It had a wire where we plugged in a phone and used the playlist she provided. We had great music, that she knew her husband would love, and there was no need for a DJ. It also came with a mic, so speeches and announcements could be made.
I found a place to rent such a speaker and mic system for the wedding in FL and it was only $99! Taylor Rental in Naples was where I found the deal. Karen’s brother was in charge of the playlist and ended up borrowing this exact style of speaker system from a family friend. This made the music for the wedding free! The bride and groom had looked into hiring a DJ and the best price they found was $800. Free was much better. Everyone at the wedding danced too! It was awesome!!