I’ve always been one of those girls that grew up dreaming about her wedding, which is a little weird considering the fact that I was a tomboy who still hates dresses to this day. But the idea of planning a wedding was a great creative outlet for me – all the different varieties and options made it so much fun to think about….
Until I actually had to plan one, that is.
I kid, I kid. But I do have to admit that planning my wedding was A LOT more stressful than I ever imagined. You know how people say something’s going to be hard, but you really don’t grasp the truth until you go through it yourself? That’s wedding planning. I had ideas of a simple, urban event – like a backyard wedding in the middle of the big city. But when my ideas clashed with just about everyone else’s, things got complicated. So much so that this is the first time I’ve even written about the subject since then.
Almost one year later I’ve lived to tell about it and would say I came out pretty lucky in the end. I have an awesome husband, we didn’t go into debt to plan our wedding, and our families are still talking to each other. When it comes to the crazy world of weddings, that’s what I call a victory.
But why do we allow weddings to cause so much stress and anxiety? Between the money, the expectations, and the combining of two totally unique families, it makes sense that things can require a bit more collaboration and compromise than expected. However, there are ways to work together to make the money part smoother. If you’re planning a wedding this summer, taking part in one, or just attending one (or a few), then sit back and relax while I take you through all the ways to save this wedding season.
How to Save Money on Weddings if You’re A Guest
In the food chain of a wedding, the guests get out with the cheapest deal. Yes, they have to buy gifts and outfits. Yes, they sometimes have to travel to attend weddings. But that’s it. The costs end there.
You know when it gets really expensive to be a wedding guest? When you have multiple weddings in a year. Suddenly those costs multiply faster than you can RSVP. And wouldn’t you know, everyone in a peer group tends to get married around the same time. In other words, the ages of 25-30 can get really expensive – so much so that you may have very little savings left by the time you get married. After the 3rd or 4th wedding in a year, it’s pretty easy to throw your hands in the air and say, Why do we do this? Sure, you’ll get the favors returned when you have your own wedding – but then you have a wedding to pay for!
Resist the urge to give in to this frustration – especially when you get that fifth invite of the year. Rather, think strategically about how you can support your friends and loved ones without going bankrupt:
Buy one good dress or suit that you can wear to every wedding. No, this isn’t as much fun as buying a new outfit for every wedding. But it will save you a bundle. To make sure you don’t look exactly the same in every picture, accessorize. Men: change up the tie/button down combination. Ladies: change up the hair and jewelry.
Don’t go crazy on the gift. Now that I’ve had a wedding, I can officially say this: don’t go overboard on the gift. Yes, some people do itemize how extravagant each gift was and rank their friends as such – but do you really care about impressing someone like that? You can buy a gift under $50 that meets the couple’s needs and makes a statement that you care. I can tell you, after hours of going through cards, I couldn’t tell you who gave me what any more. I was just happy that people cared enough to do it.
If you have kids and can’t bring them, it’s okay to say no. Young parents have a particular challenge with attending weddings: what to do with their children for an entire day. If the invite says no kids and you can’t afford a babysitter for that long, it’s okay to say no. Just like it’s the couples prerogative to say no children allowed, it’s your prerogative to send a card and gift and stay home.
If you have to travel, consider turning it into a work trip or a vacation. Here’s where you can get creative. If you have to travel for a wedding, think about the location and see if you can make it work for you. Does your company have an office that you can work out of for a week? If so, make it a week and either ask your company to pay or confirm that the plane tickets can be written off for taxes for work. If that doesn’t work, is it an interesting enough location for you to want to stay longer? Or perhaps it’s a trip to your hometown? Again, extend it for a few days and make those flights worth the money.
While some costs are unavoidable for wedding guests, they can be plotted out in a way that keeps them from growing out of control. Just be strategic and remember to have fun!
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How to Save Money on Weddings if You’re in the Wedding Party
Next up on the totem pole are wedding parties. Being a part of a wedding party is a great honor – and a great expense. These costs are much harder to get around. Doing so will require a few of the steps above and some forthright communication.
Set price limits as a unit with the rest of the wedding party. I’ll be the first to admit that this is a hard talk to have. One way to bite the bullet is to recognize the fact that the subject will be broached one way or another – you might as well have it out in the open. Be considerate of the other members’ careers and earnings and set a price on all plans that everyone can feel comfortable with. And remember to agree and even put in writing (preferably in a spreadsheet everyone has access to) what you all agreed to plan and how the costs will be divied up.
Use group discounts for everything. From the showers to the bachelor/bachelorette parties to the suit rentals/dress purchases, to grooming for the big day, just about everything you do for the wedding will be done as a group. Shop around and find places and vendors that will both meet your needs and offer deep group discounts. It may not always be easy to find, but dedicate someone who’s money savvy to do the research. Every group of friends have one and those people know how to save in seemingly impossible ways!
It bears repeating: don’t go crazy on the gift. You’ve already given the bride or groom a generous gift by taking part in their big day in such an involved way. Keep the actual gift for showers/engagement/wedding simple and thoughtful. You’ve done enough.
No bride or groom wants their wedding party to be stressed out about their wedding. The whole idea is to celebrate together! If you’re still feeling unsure about things, talk to him or her about it. Just make sure not to do it a week before the wedding.
How to Save Money on Weddings if You’re Getting Married
Here comes the doozy: paying for your own wedding. If you’re paying out of your own pocket, this can cause some visceral pain. If your parents or family members are paying, you’d do them well to cut as many costs as possible. That shows true gratitude for their help and can lift a weight off their shoulders – even if they haven’t expressed concern to you.
On location? Stay at an AirBnB. This is my favorite tip: if you’re going on a destination wedding, consider staying at an AirBnB instead of a hotel. This can help you save a ton of money and, believe it or not, staying in a homey place before the wedding can help relieve some of those jitters.
Prefer a hotel? Score a deal. If you love the escape and opulence that some hotels can bring, then ask the hotels of your choice about discounts for you and your wedding party. Most hotels offer special deals to accommodate weddings and they may even give you a break on price if you also use their space for the reception. Shop around and see what extras you can save on by choosing that hotel.
Get married in a free space. Like the idea of getting married outdoors? Find a local park that will host your wedding for free or for a small donation. If you prefer to be inside, some museums (depending on the city you live in and how popular the museums are) may do the same. Get creative with this because saving money on the venue will go a long way.
Have your dinner/reception in a restaurant. If you’re planning a small, intimate wedding, this is a great way to save money. And there are even some restaurants who can accommodate hundreds. By choosing a restaurant, you can save on the price of renting and decorating a hall, flowers, music, cake and catering. Just call any restaurant you’re considering and ask them how much they’d charge per plate for dinner and dessert (and the price of alcohol) to make sure it is actually cheaper than the combination of the aforementioned costs. Bonus: pick a place you love and you’ll have all the ambiance built in! (I used this tip for my wedding and the owners even ended up hanging out with us for most of the night! To this day the owners remember my parents especially, making the memories all the sweeter.)
Go for the package deal. There are quite a few coffee shops, wine bars, and restaurants these days that rent their space out for a wedding and reception. Believe it or not, I found a few such places in Brooklyn that were cheaper than what it would cost to do everything separately. Even better? Your guests can relax without having to run around the city from wedding to drinks to reception and you can have everything you need in one place as you get ready for each part of the day.
Rally the troops for help. Do you have talented family members or friends? Ask if they’re willing to help! Someone crafty can pitch in on invitations, decorations, and more. Someone with photography skills may be good enough to do your photos. And someone skilled in the kitchen may be able to help with the food for showers, parties, and maybe even parts of the wedding itself. Just make sure you do some serious kindness in return.
Work for what you need. Do you work any side jobs? Do any of them offer services that you need for a wedding? When I got engaged, I happened to be moonlighting as a content and social media freelancer for a design firm that made my invitations and thank you cards for only the cost of printing. My husband and I saved hundreds of dollars and had extremely personalized cards made. A win/win!
Repurpose anything and everything you can. From wedding dresses to decorations, people are taking advantage of the opportunity to repurpose vintage family heirlooms on their wedding day. That allows them to save money and create something extra special.
Shop on Etsy. Another favorite of mine. Etsy is a great place to buy wedding favors. I was able to purchase a handmade hair piece and earrings for the big day on Etsy for less than $100 total. Plus, I received a beautiful handwritten note from the woman who made my hairpiece. Saving money with a personalized touch? Yes, please!
Weddings don’t have to be the stressful events that they so often are. By taking the time to do extensive research, gather your resources, and think outside of the box, you can save big money on a wedding no matter what stage of the process you’re involved in. If I survived without a huge dent in my finances, anyone can!
Image Credit: Jordan Smith