Planning a wedding is a tricky task, and it’s easy to end up spending more than you originally planned. Figuring out your wedding budget can be confusing if you’ve never planned a significant event. It’s difficult to nail down a dollar amount if you’re unsure how much bang you can get for your buck. Sometimes the wedding a couple want doesn’t align with what they can afford, and that’s when the trouble begins.
Whether it’s a low-key ceremony and reception with family and friends or a big and lavish affair, it’s essential to know your financial limits and stick to them. But as I have found out, that is harder than it seems. Even though I’m usually pretty good at saving money, I’m finding myself overwhelmed by the budgeting aspect of my wedding day. Check out our extensive list of Wedding Photographers in Melbourne to help capture your special moments.
There are many elements to a wedding to consider, including reception venue, ceremony venue, celebrant, flowers, food and beverage, and the list goes on. The key is to figure out which is most important to you and how their spending will spread over the other elements.
Here are some things you may want to consider:
Choose a Venue Wisely
Consider venues that can host both the ceremony and reception in one place. Also, consider a destination wedding. The overall cost per person may be less than a wedding in Australia, especially in Fiji, Bali, and Thailand.
One thing to be wary of with destination weddings is that it may be challenging to alter options within the packages they offer without the cost blowing out, so check carefully if the package provides everything you want. As for decoration and decor, the venue may supply them, or you could be crafty and make some yourself. Ask someone strong to carry the flowers from the ceremony to the reception. There’s no need to buy completely new flowers for each.
Consider Ways to Cut Down on Food and Beverage Prices
If you both don’t particularly love alcohol, you may choose to stick to serving only beer and premium wine over top-shelf wines, spirits, and cocktails. Likewise, if you’re not a foodie and prefer to mingle with your guests, a cocktail reception is a much cheaper option than a traditional sit-down 3-course dinner.
Jump on the latest food truck trend, and save money by providing your guests with one type of food. Also, consider whether you need to offer wedding favours.
Are you, or someone you know, a great baker who could whip up a wedding cake instead? Wedding cake alternatives like cupcakes or doughnuts are a cheaper way of providing dessert, especially if you don’t mention to the supplier that it’s for a wedding.
Find the Perfect Dress on Sale
Think about buying a second-hand wedding dress, or look for sales. If you have many bridesmaids, you could get in touch with the store for a discount if you are buying the same type of dress. You can even rent wedding dresses and bridesmaid dresses, which would also save on dry-cleaning costs.
Think About Alternative Entertainment
A live band, string quartet, or DJ is an excellent option but can get expensive. Think about plugging in an iPod with a killer Spotify playlist. You can even ask guests to add their favorite songs to a specially-created wedding playlist ahead of time.
Get Your Guests to Post Photos on Social Media
Everyone with a smartphone can be an amateur photographer, so if you prefer to live in the moment, you might be able to create a hashtag and encourage guests to post to social media with it. You could also pass around a Polaroid camera to take candid happy snaps. A photo booth is also another money-saving option.
Go With E-Invites Instead of Paper Invitations
It’s easier and cheaper to invite guests via Facebook, email, or by asking them face-to-face, rather than printing out expensive save-the-date cards and wedding invitations. If there are guests who aren’t on social media, print invites for them only.
Consider the Cheaper Off-Season Time of Year
If the time of the year you get married isn’t that important to you, “consider having an off-season or mid-week wedding. Many venues put on winter specials.
Skip the Engagement Party and Kitchen Tea
Ask yourself if you need to throw an engagement party, kitchen tea event, and hen’s and buck’s parties. It could be enough to throw one party that covers all of these or forgo some that aren’t important to you. A modern option could be a combined hen’s and buck’s party.
Honeymoon Where You Have Your Wedding
A destination wedding could combine a honeymoon with a wedding. Make sure you tell the accommodation you are booking that it’s a honeymoon, as they usually provide an upgrade, or send some complimentary treats. Be upfront with suppliers. When gathering quotes for your expenses, don’t be afraid to be upfront with the supplier. For instance, if you are trialing bakers for your wedding cake, let them know exactly how much you’re willing to spend and what you’d like for the price. Be open to compromise, but don’t let vendors talk you into blowing your budget. You can do this with various vendors until you receive an offer you are happy with.
Get Help from the Family
If your parents can help fund your wedding, lucky you! Please find out how much they’re willing to contribute in the early days of planning, so you can figure out how much you need to save to make up the difference.
Have a Safety Net
Finally, have a contingency plan if something goes wrong and you need to spend a little more than what you first planned. Having anywhere from $1,000-$5,000 in your contingency will allow you to cover last-minute or hidden costs without blowing out your budget.
Determine the Kind of Wedding You Want.
When you picture your wedding, what do you see? A swanky reception at a downtown loft? A backyard barbecue with all your friends and family? A classic hotel ballroom reception? If you need a little more inspiration, think about all the weddings you’ve been to, seen on TV, or scrolled through on Pinterest. What did you like—or not like—about them?
Don’t get hung up on the little details just yet. Instead, think about the overall feel you want your wedding to have when planning a wedding on a budget; knowing your priorities matters.
Have the Wedding Budget Talk.
Everyone paying for the event (bride, groom, and parents) needs to sit down and look at the total wedding budget. This might be your first experience budgeting with your future spouse as a team. What a priceless experience! Learning to talk openly and honestly about how much you can spend—and how much you’re willing to pay—on your wedding is going to lay the groundwork for wonderful budget date nights once you’re married!
As uncomfortable as this budget talk might be, remember—it’s a heck of a lot easier than still paying for your wedding day on your fifth anniversary! When I say budget here, I’m not just talking about how much money you can spend total—I’m talking about how much you should spend in each specific area.
I suggest breaking the total wedding budget into categories and figuring out what percentage to devote to each:
- Reception: 55%
- Ceremony: 12%
- Photography: 10%
- Wedding Planner: 10%
- Dress and Tux: 8%
- Miscellaneous/Cushion: 5%
If you care more about one area than another, change up the percentages.
Decide What Is Non-Negotiable.
Based on your percentages, take a moment with your fiancé to decide on your top three must-haves for your big day. They can be practical or frivolous: an outdoor reception, a plated surf and turf dinner, loads of flowers, a live jazz band—whatever is most important to you.
You can come up with your wish lists separately or together, but make sure you sit down and determine what you both want. Let that vision dictate your budget.
Limit Your Guest List.
Less is sometimes more! You might feel tempted to come up with a guest list as long as the royal wedding’s, but think of it this way: Every guest is an expense. It sounds harsh, but it’s true, you guys! With each addition to your guest list, you’re only driving up the overall cost of your wedding.
To save money on your wedding, you may want to host a smaller, more intimate affair. If the number of people at your wedding isn’t necessary to you and your fiancé, try cutting your guest list by 20%, then another 20% on top of that. Or invite more guests to the wedding ceremony and host a smaller reception with your family and closest friends.
Host the Ceremony or Reception at Home or Outside.
The venue eats up the most significant chunk—nearly half!—of the wedding budget. Why not cut back using your home, a parent’s home, or a public park as the backdrop? An outdoor ceremony and reception in a place with personal meaning eliminates the need for an elaborate, over-the-top venue.
If you do decide on an outdoor event, make sure you have a good backup plan. Rain or even extreme heat can put a damper on your day, so make sure you have plan B handy.
Ask Friends and Family to Exchange Skills for Presents.
If you have friends and family members with creative or organizational skill sets, ask them to use their talent at the wedding instead of a gift. Would you rather receive a stand mixer or live music, free of charge?
Tap into your network. Is your aunt an amateur florist? Does your friend have an eye for photography? Is your neighbour a restaurant owner who could lend you their space? Even if they can’t provide services for free, you could still score a significant discount.
Don’t overlook your skills, either. Use your talents to barter for wedding services. Exchange your graphic design skills for a free wedding cake, or trade your accounting abilities for free dress alterations. Get creative!
Do-It-Yourself Whenever Possible.
You and your fiancé can save big money by doing things yourselves, but a word to the wise: Only DIY when you know the outcome will be worth the effort. And give yourself plenty of time to complete any DIY projects. You don’t want to be up until 3 a.m. the day of your wedding frosting cupcakes or putting together table centrepieces.
Pretty wedding invitations are lovely, but do you want to spend $800 on something that’s ultimately going to wind up in the trash? Save money by making your wedding invitations. All you need is a good home printer and an invitation kit from a stationery shop or an office supply store.
Don’t forget the DIY online route! Sites like Moo.com offer relatively inexpensive wedding invitations you can create and order online. You can even use a free design website like Canva.com to cut back on the cost even more. It may not be as fancy as a gold leaf or an invitation printed on a keepsake tea towel, but it will be way less expensive.
Instead of hiring a caterer, take care of the food preparation yourselves! Join forces with your families to draft a menu and buy food and supplies at a wholesale store. Make bouquets and table centrepieces using supplies purchased from a dollar store or a wholesale florist. You can even clip flowers from your backyard.
Try using seasonal décor, too! Winston and I got married in December, and we used a lot of seasonal items like berries and holly in place of flowers. Décor was one thing I had to cut back on while staying on budget with my wedding. Looking for a wedding photographer in Melbourne? Look no further. Brighton Savoy has compiled an ultimate list of Melbourne wedding photographers to help you choose.
Use a Dummy Wedding Cake.
Wedding cakes are expensive, you guys! Save money by decorating a dummy wedding cake. A pastry chef—or someone you know who has icing skills worthy of a spot on a reality TV baking competition—can decorate a stack of Styrofoam just as elaborately as an actual wedding cake. Serve guests slices from a sheet cake you bought at the grocery store. They’ll never know the difference!
If you’re set on the cake-cutting tradition, have a smaller cake made for you and your new spouse. You could even use it as the dummy cake’s topper, so it looks like the real deal!
Time Your Wedding Wisely.
The average price per person for a plated meal averages around $71.(3) Avoid the expense of a sit-down meal by scheduling your wedding in the afternoon and planning a reception that’s more like an extended cocktail hour with passed hors d’oeuvres.
Consider the day of the week, too. You could pay up to half the price for your venue if you hold your wedding on a Friday or Sunday. Plus, you’ll have more options for vendors—like bakeries, photographers, and DJs—which tend to get booked up pretty quickly on Saturdays.
And keep in mind the time of year. September and October are the most popular months to get married. (4) So you’re likely to pay more in the fall when wedding resources are limited.
Scout Out Vendors.
Take time to shop around for different wedding vendors. If you’re looking for a pastry chef, don’t immediately pick the first person you see. Schedule time to meet with more than one vendor to ensure you’re getting quality service for the best price.
There’s nothing like a good recommendation from someone you trust! Don’t forget to ask your friends and family for vendors they’d suggest. Once you’ve found one who seems like a keeper, scour the internet for online reviews to be sure you’ve picked a winner.
Tips to Plan Your Wedding on a Budget
Avoid Guest List Bloat.
Although you might be tempted to throw everyone you know on your guest list, that isn’t always a great idea. With each addition you make, you’re adding additional costs while also making your wedding less intimate.
To a degree, this was a trap we fell into with our wedding – our guest list grew and grew to the point where we invited people that we didn’t know well simply because we felt obligated.
To save as much as you can:
- Try inviting fewer people and making the event more intimate.
- Start by whittling your list down by 20%, then another 20%.
- See if you’re happy with it.
Ask for Wedding Help Instead of Wedding Gifts.
We were lucky that several of our friends and family had the musical talent to provide musical accompaniment for our ceremony. We also have a close friend who’s a highly skilled amateur photographer, and he was willing to photograph our ceremony as our wedding gift. Then, after the ceremony, he provided high-quality digital images of everything.
Asking family and friends to offer help or services that align with their talents instead of a gift is a great way to keep your wedding on a budget.
Hold the Ceremony at Home or Outdoors.
Renting a building or function hall for your ceremony and reception can be very expensive. Instead, consider using your own home (or the home of a parent) for your ceremony, or perhaps a public park with a beautiful view.
In each case, you can also have your reception outdoors, creating a picturesque, memorable ceremony while eliminating the cost of renting a venue.
However, if you go the outdoor route, it’s best to have a backup plan in case of bad weather; you don’t want to get married in a downpour that leaves all your friends and family soaked. That might mean renting a sturdy tent if rain is forecast, or a few industrial fans if it’s a scorching day — or simply stuffing everyone inside the house to wait out a storm.
Do the Catering Yourself, or Hire a Family-Owned Restaurant.
We handled our food preparation and catering with a lot of help from my wife’s family for our wedding. This drastically reduced the food costs for the ceremony.
If this isn’t your forte, look around your community for a family-owned restaurant and ask the owners directly to cater your wedding. Family-owned restaurants are always the first place to check – they will almost always go the extra mile to make your wedding memorable and generally understand your particular budget needs.
Go Minimal With the Flowers.
Instead of spending boatloads of money on flowers that will die shortly after the reception, keep it simple but elegant — for instance, a single rose for each bridesmaid and a tiny bouquet for the bride. If you know someone with a rose bush, you can make your bouquets the day before the ceremony by cutting the roses yourself and trimming away the thorns.
Another cheap wedding idea – go with fake flowers instead. Likely, no one will even notice, and you could save a bundle by making the arrangements yourself well ahead of time.
Skip the Groomsmen and Bridesmaid Gifts.
While it’s considered customary to give gifts to your groomsmen and bridesmaids in some circles, it isn’t always necessary. Instead of buying gifts they may not even want or enjoy, consider writing them a special note to say “thanks” rather. If your friends know that you’re trying to have a frugal wedding, they will understand.
Borrow Stereo Equipment or Use Yours from Home.
Rather than hiring a DJ, use your home stereo equipment or equipment you borrow from a friend. Put speakers around the dance floor area – there’s no need to spread them around the entire reception room. Create a playlist on your iPod that features a few hours’ worths of your favourite songs – or see if you have a friend who might want to make a playlist for you. Choosing your songs is a great way to personalize your entire experience.
Stock the Bar Yourself.
Alcohol is a significant expense when it comes to many weddings, and it’s also a big variable you can play around with to cut costs. Instead of opting for a full open bar, for instance, you can save money offering just beer and wine or a free cocktail hour followed by a cash bar.
If you rent a function hall, ask if they’ll let you supply your alcohol instead of using the venue’s, which can be a big money-saver. Look for a discount liquor store in your area, and stock up on the basics: red and white wine and a few types of beer at the very least. If you want to offer a full bar, pick up the standard liquors like vodka, gin, rum, and whiskey, plus a few mixers and soft drinks like sodas and juice.
Keep in mind that while it’s more cost-efficient to buy a keg of beer instead of cases, any leftover beer will go to waste, whereas you can store excess bottles for months. And that’s helpful since it’s a good idea to overestimate — you don’t want to run out of drinks halfway through the reception.
Display’ vendor Cards’ in Exchange for Reduced Rates.
If you’re hiring people to provide services for your reception (musicians, a DJ, florists, caterers, photographers, etc.), offer to advertise for them in exchange for reduced rates.
At the reception, put a small card by each person’s place setting that lists the businesses responsible for each service at the wedding, along with their contact information. Since this tends to be very effective advertising, many companies will happily provide services at reduced rates in exchange for this opportunity.
Contact the Local University.
If you’d like live musical accompaniment for the ceremony (and perhaps for the reception), one place to look for lower-cost musicians is your local university’s music department.
Contact them and ask if any students study a particular instrument or vocal work and see if they’re available to provide music for a wedding. It can help them develop their resume and save you on this typically pricey part of your wedding.
This goes for photographers as well — if there’s an art school or photography program at your local college, see if there are any talented students or recent grads who would be willing to photograph your wedding at a discount for the portfolio-building experience and exposure they’d receive.
Price Shop for Decorations – and Consider Buying Used.
My Wedding Favors, Paper Warehouse, and Hobby Lobby all have sales throughout the year. If you know what you’re looking for ahead of time, you can wait until it goes on sale and “pounce” when the time is right.
Meanwhile, you can also consider buying used centrepieces and decorations. Recent brides often sell their decorations on sites like craigslist.org, and you can save a bundle of money — and effort — going that route.
Plan, Plan, Plan.
When you’re trying to have a wedding on a budget, it’s essential to plan. List everything you can think of and walk through these items step by step.
The earlier you get started – and the more things you think about early on – the less “last-minute stress” you’ll have, and the more time you’ll have to find sales and discounts and research other good ideas.
Something will probably go wrong at the last minute – a little detail of some sort won’t work out. For example, our pastor almost missed our rehearsal dinner, so we barely rehearsed.
A Beautiful Wedding on a Budget Is Possible!
Remember: Your wedding is about the two of you and your marriage. And that will last much longer than one day of celebration. Through all of the wedding planning hoopla, remember not to lose sight of what truly matters. Spending a ton of money on your wedding day won’t prove your love for one another, but it can leave you with an empty bank account. It’s entirely possible to throw a budget-friendly wedding that’s beautiful, stylish, and affordable! Looking for a Wedding Photo Location? Look no further. Brighton Savoy has compiled an ultimate list of wedding photo locations to help you choose.
Don’t worry about it. Just assume something little will go wrong and avoid the urge to throw money at the problem. Most likely, no one will even notice the minor issue, and quite often, someone in your wedding party (or someone helping out) will come up with a pretty good solution to fix things.