One of the most challenging things to do on a budget is to plan a wedding. How do you give this special day the glamour it deserves without breaking the bank? We’ve asked our experts how to best approach this problem, and we have compiled a list of amazingly inexpensive wedding ideas.
- Get Creative with Your Venue Choices
Go for venues that aren’t specifically for weddings. Places like historical sites, zoos, aquariums, and museums will often rent, at a low cost, to individuals or private parties for weddings, but there’s a catch: they don’t provide as many services as dedicated venues. Often, they won’t have chairs or tables for your reception, and many outdoor venues won’t even have facilities like running water or toilets. Make sure you check what services are available to renters, and figure out what you’ll need to bring in yourself to make sure you’re still in the green once everything is booked.
- Make Comparison Charts
The best way to spot good deals is to make comparison charts for everything from vendors to venues. List down the prices and package details each company quotes you, and use this chart to help you visualize the offers presented to you.
- Book Out of Season
Season affects demand. Take advantage of this and book a venue outside peak season, usually April to November, to secure lower rates. One more thing to consider: if you’re planning an outdoor wedding, consider booking a tent to guard against the possibility of rain. It will add to your total expenses, but if it rains it will have been money well spent. If not, at the very least your guests will have a nice shady spot to sit in.
- Consider the Day of the Week
Like the season, the day of the week you choose to book also affects rates. Rates go up on Saturdays, are cheapest on Sundays, and somewhat in the middle on weekdays.
- Downsize Everything
Most venues charge per guest, so the smaller your guest list the more money you’ll save. Think about holding a small wedding with close family and friends, rather than a big one with everyone you know. Smaller guests lists will also allow you to pick smaller venues as well.
- Stay Local
Go for local beers/wine instead of expensive foreign brands. Many local brands taste just as good, if not better, than foreign ones. If you’re near a local vineyard or brewery, consider buying from them to save. If you really must serve the high-end stuff, serve your guests a small amount at the beginning and then slip them the cheaper stuff later on in the evening.
- Don’t Use Shots
…Or any drink that requires the use of multiple liquors. These aren’t really crucial to the enjoyment of the wedding, and ultimately just add to the bill.
- Don’t Pre-open Bottles or Clear Glasses From Tables
…And make sure your wait staff knows this too! Both are senseless wastes of money that can be easily avoided with a little careful planning.
- Try Coffee Instead
This is a bit more extreme, granted, but if you’re really tight on cash try skipping the alcohol altogether and offer up a coffee bar instead. Good coffee is delicious, energizing, and non-alcoholic so nobody is drunk at the end of the day.
- Live Band or DJ?
DJs are often cheaper than live bands, but if you MUST have a live band, however, consider hiring students from a local conservatory or high school instead. Finding the right ones can be a challenge, but if you put a little work into it you’ll find that they sound just as good as professionals and charge a lot less.
- Be Your Own DJ
You can go one step further and be your own DJ to save even more. Download songs to an iPod or other media device (your cell phone might work), and hook it up to some speakers and run your own playlists.
- Fondant or Buttercream?
Tradition dictates that wedding cakes should be made with fondant, but this is more expensive because it takes more work to prepare. Buttercream frosting looks just as good, is cheaper, and can be used in pretty much any situation, except for outdoor settings. Buttercream frosting tends to melt in the sun, so if you’re holding an outdoor reception, go with fondant instead.
One common trick is to use a smaller cake for the cake cutting ceremony and supplement it with something from the kitchen when it comes time to serve the guests.
- Watch out for Seasonal Ingredients
If you’re into fruit fillings, make sure that the fruits you’re after are in season before adding them to the cake. Out-of-season fruits are more expensive, so consider switching to a different fruit or even using artificial flavorings instead.
- Cheesecake, anyone?
Most people scoff at the idea of a cheesecake wedding cake, but they are cheaper and can be just as tasty if done right. Using pedestals, it’s easy to set up to replicate the three tiers of a wedding cake, and you can offer a wide variety of sauces and flavors to go with it.
- Don’t Let Your Guests Self-serve
One neat little money-saving trick you can use is to have your wait staff prepare and serve out the appetizers and dishes by hand, instead of letting your guests get them, buffet-style. Studies have shown that people who self-serve consume up to 40% more food than those that get served.
- Hold a Daytime Reception Instead of an Evening Reception
People tend to drink less during the day, so an afternoon or morning reception is a great way to save money on alcohol costs. If you insist on going for an evening reception, try going desserts-only or cocktails-only. These are a lot less lavish and of a full dinner so you stand to save thousands of dollars on food and decorations.
- Appearance Counts
One secret that caterers don’t often reveal to people is that presentation matters. Taking cheaper, simpler foods and arranging them nicely on good plates can make them look a lot richer than they actually are.
- Seasonal Foods are Better
Check with your caterer or vendor and determine what foods will be in season at the time of your wedding. Like with the cakes above, going out-of-season will cost you extra and might not be as good as something that’s in-season.
- Ask for Samples
Retailers often give out free samples of different kinds of wedding invitations to anyone that asks. Take advantage of this and get samples of the ones you like to ensure they’re exactly the quality you want, before making any purchases.
- Buy in Bulk
When it comes time to purchase your invitations, ask for a bulk discount. Most retailers offer big discounts on bulk purchases and some even throw the thank-you cards in with your order, if it’s large enough.
- DIY Invitations
If you’re into arts and crafts, consider making your own invitations by hand using a high-quality printer. There are plenty of free computer programs and fonts available on the web that can be used to make professional-grade invitations from the comfort of your own home.
- Ask Friends and Family for Suggestions
If you can’t find a good photographer, check out your married friends’ wedding photos and find the ones you like. Afterwards, get a reference to the photographer that did their wedding.
- Check References and Portfolios
Photos and videos are the one keepsake that people will remember your wedding by, so when choosing a photographer make sure to verify all of their references and check their portfolio to make sure they put out good quality work.
- The Cheapest Photography Solution
If you really, truly cannot afford to hire a professional photographer, you can still get good photos using disposable cameras. Get a bunch of these cameras on each of the guests tables, and encourage them to take pictures during the ceremony and/or reception. Once the event is over, collect the cameras, have the pictures developed, and you should have photos of your wedding from every angle.