- I’ve been a professional bridesmaid for about five years, and I’ve helped over 100 couples navigate the confusing — and expensive — world of weddings.
- In my years in the wedding business, I’ve watched couples make the same money mistakes over and over again, like overspending on small details guests won’t notice and paying for unnecessary services from vendors.
- My best advice? Set a budget before you make any decisions, then plan your wedding around that number.
- Read more personal finance coverage.
About five years ago, I jumped headfirst into the wedding industry and started a first-of-its-kind business called Bridesmaid for Hire. Since then, I’ve worked over 100 weddings.
People hire me to be their friend for the day, walk down the aisle, pretend to know them from middle school, give a speech, or help them plan a bridal shower or visit 15 different dress shops. But they also hire me to give them honesty in an industry that can be tricky — and expensive — to navigate.
In my time as a professional bridesmaid, I’ve not only learned that weddings are often one big ball of chaos (from family drama to wedding vendors messing things up) but also that they sometimes cost more than a couple can afford, leaving them in debt after the party ends — which means I have a pretty good idea how to save money on your wedding without sacrificing your vision for the big day.
Here are five pro tips I’ve picked up on my journey.
1. Set a budget before making any decisions
Seconds after getting engaged, the big questions start to roll in. “Where’s the wedding?” “Are you going to have a buffet or a sit-down dinner?” “Will you have food trucks?” Before you know it, in the first few weeks of being engaged, you’ve planned a big celebration with an even bigger price tag.
Before splurging on every single thing you ever imagined you’d have at your wedding, settle on an amount you’re OK with spending.
Once you have that number, put together a shortlist of your must-haves. For example, maybe catering and photography are at the top of your list, or perhaps it’s crucial to have your favor DJ spinning all night long. Dip into the budget to spend on those items first.
Then, see what’s left of your budget and divide it up amongst the other things that you want to include but aren’t your top priorities.
2. Don’t sweat the (literal) small stuff
At many weddings I’ve been hired to work, I’ve been tasked with helping set up DIY decorations. Brides or grooms spend countless hours and thousands of dollars on tiny details (personalized napkins or items for the centerpieces, for example) and their guests hardly notice.
After going to over 100 weddings, I can confidently tell you that guests care about three major things: the food, the bar, and the music. All of the small details get overlooked while your guests are moving around and having fun during the wedding. If you’re looking to cut costs, cut the small details you think you need to have, like personalized favors or pricey seating cards.
3. Plan for the future, too
At least once a month, I work with a bride or groom who tells me a secret no one else knows: After their wedding ends, they’ll practically have pennies left in their savings account.
I usually ask what their game plan is now that they won’t have an emergency fund stashed away or even cash available for their next Big Thing (a house, a car, a trip, etc.). Their answer is, 100% of the time, that they don’t have a plan and they are scared they’ll go into debt or feel held back in life after the wedding ends.
Instead of pouring all the money you have saved up for years into an eight-hour party, plan for the future, too, and see what’s on the horizon.
Think about things you can’t control (such as a possible future recession, emergency health issues, or a job lay-off). Make sure you have money set aside for pop-up problems and then see what you’re comfortable spending on your wedding.
4. Don’t bank on making money back
One of the biggest myths that newly engaged couples grasp onto is that they’ll make back all the cash they’re spending on their big day in gifts from their guests. But counting on that happening is a huge financial risk, especially if you’re paying for the wedding on borrowed money (credit cards, personal loans, or loans from family members).
According to Wedding Wire, the average wedding guest gives a gift of $75 to $150, and the average wedding spend is close to $30,000. You’d have to invite at least 200 guests, each bringing $150, just to break even. That’ll never happen. And if it does, you might still have to pay interest on money you borrowed to make the big day happen.
Which is to say, how much money are you willing to lose? That number should be your wedding budget. When gifts pour in, you can use a chunk of that to fluff up your savings account and save the rest for the next big purchase in your life.
5. Negotiate with vendors
A lot of couples will find vendors fast and pick the ones they see getting great reviews or that have been referred to them. But in order to save money when planning your wedding, price-check other local vendors first, compare packages, and see if there are things the vendor is offering in a package that you don’t need. For example, your DJ might lump in uplighting as part of your package, but you might already have lighting covered by your florist.
It’s also a good idea to examine packages and contracts to make sure you aren’t getting things from vendors you don’t need or getting overcharged for items that your venue already provides.
Ask a vendor if you can customize a package based on your needs, and see if there are any available specials or discounts offered. Educating yourself on how much vendors should cost can help you save thousands when you’re planning your wedding.