I got a phone call from my newly engaged friend recently, “Help me! I don’t want to fall into all the common money traps while planning my wedding!” I quickly scheduled in coffee and came prepared with all the things I see couples spend money on that they probably didn’t need to. After sharing all my industry insider information, I decided to pass these tips on to you as well, because we all know (at least if you’re engaged you soon will!) that weddings are expensive.
1. Knowing Your “Must Haves”
First and foremost the best thing you will ever do when planning a wedding is to sit down and figure out your priorities and preferences as a couple. For me personally, I’m not interested in cars so we borrowed some friend’s rides to get around on the day. However, my brother-in-law is a mechanic and cars were super important to him. For some brides, they’ve dreamt of a certain kind of ceremony venue since they were little, and some couples search out a venue they both love together. Every couple is different, and every couple will value different things. (Keep that in mind when considering the list below!) Once you’ve established your “must haves” you can compromise on the other things, especially if the budget starts to blow out.
2. Cheap = Time
The best way to save money is to DIY, but I find most people aren’t aware of just how much time and effort DIY takes. If you have a long engagement then DIY is more feasible, but with time consuming activities on a deadline often comes unnecessary stress. If you love doing something (like arranging flowers or making invitations) then enjoy the process and save some money. Otherwise it’s a good idea to weigh up the time cost with the dollar cost and consider the stress or pressure involved before taking on every pinterest idea you’ve ever pinned.
3. How Many Bridesmaids or Groomsmen Do You Really Need?
One thing that couples don’t often realise is the bigger the bridal party, the more expenses involved. Even if everyone in the bridal party pays for their own dresses and suits, you have to consider a venue big enough for everyone to get ready at, enough cars (or big enough cars) to transport everyone, time and cost of make up and hair, time liaising with everyone involved, accessories, flowers and button holes for everyone, food and drink for everyone getting ready on the day, and any gifts you want to give them.
4. Some Dates Come Cheap
If you’re happy to compromise on the date, you can save a fortune. In the wedding industry we have peak days and months, so if you choose an off-peak date you will save money and also usually have a better pick of vendors. There are only 52 Saturdays in a year, and they are the most in-demand. Next are Fridays, then Sundays. The most popular months are in autumn and spring, and the fringe months are next (August and February). Most vendors (myself included) offer a discount for Monday - Thursday and June - July.
5. Offers From Family and Friends
Sometimes you will have a friend or family member who offer to make your cake, do your flowers, lend you their car etc which of course will save you money. However, there is a warning with this one…it can mean that you get what you get…and it might not be what you wanted or thought you were getting. So make sure you are ok with that before saying yes. Another very important factor to consider here is - are the important people on the day going to be taken out doing wedding tasks? I often see the mother’s organising food or setting up venues when it would have been more enjoyable for everyone if that had been delegated to someone else.
There are a lot of ways to save on decor costs. Go for more greenery than flowers. If you’re going vintage then op shops and garage sales are your best friend. Double up on practical and decorative things, some good examples of this I’ve seen are making the table decorations succulents that people then take home later as their gift. Or putting names on the lolly bag at each seat that guests then fill up at the lolly buffet to take home. Fairy lights/string lights are cheap and always a winner. The possibilities are endless if you are flexible with your look. You can still have the theme that you want if you’re happy to substitute things or get preloved over new.
7. Going Green is Good
Paper invitations are lovely, and some couples love them. But I spent days making my invitations to now barely remember what they even looked like. I was recently invited to a wedding via email and it was genius. I could RSVP by clicking the link provided (or replying to the email). The couple had a dedicated email address for all things wedding (highly recommend this!) so they could keep track of invites and responses. You can have an attachment that is a designed invitation that still has the same look but saves hundreds on print costs and postage. It was also really handy because I didn’t lose it like I do with every other bit of paper I get given.
8. The Invisible Costs
As the photographer, I try and make sure I capture all the little details because otherwise there are so many things people neither see or notice that the couple put a lot of time or money into. One of these is shoes. If you have a floor length dress, the main time anyone will see your shoes is when you put them on at home. Unless you’re a shoe person, some comfy heels you already own might be the best option. Same goes for pedicures and full body spray tans. Seating plans are looked at once on arrival, so grab a chalk board and find a friend with the best handwriting. Same goes for menus, grab another chalk board and have it on display instead of printing out individual ones. Custom napkins always go unappreciated, as do anything that has your names on it (favours, glasses, cupcake toppers etc).
Again, unless any of these things are particularly important to you, you can avoid spending money that you’d rather have for something else. There are plenty of money saving tips for weddings, depending on what kind of wedding you’d like to have. My biggest advice for any couple comes back to finding what’s important to you, then being flexible with the rest.