Photo by Leland Francisco
The following is a guest post from Maggie at Family Frugal Fun:
Fall is quickly gaining popularity as the season for weddings, and most people don’t know this, but more people get engaged in December than at any other time during the year.
If planning a wedding is in your future, here are a few things you can do to save money, but before you do anything you’ll have to keep your cool, take a deep breath, and take a good look at your budget. Even if the economy hasn’t hit your family hard, EVERY family has a budget, no matter how big or small!
Here are some tips to maximize your savings:
1) Look for a venue that will allow you to bring in your own alcohol. Venues that offer a full service bar also offer a full-service mark up. Alcohol is known to be a great money maker in the reception industry. In the hundreds of weddings I helped to plan, every wedding, with the exception of only 2, would have been better off running a tab instead of paying for the more costly “open bar” option.
With that being said, if you already have a deposit on a full-service venue, remember that you can bargain on your beverage service too… If your crowd is most likely to drink beer and wine and you really are dead set on the open bar option, then ask to run a tab on hard alcohol drinks, mixers, and on the rocks beverages that less people are likely to consume. If you want table wine service during a meal then purchase wine by the bottle in advance – not by the glass.
2) When shopping for a cake, don’t rule out your local grocery store. Several local chains in almost every town make wedding cakes for about half the price of exclusive “caking specialty” businesses. Many of the mom and pop grocery stores make them from scratch. Do your research in person and speak with the bakery manager. If you are set on a more pricy cake from a specialty shop think about a small 2 layer cake and have extra sheet cakes in the back (away from sight of your guests). The cake will instantly multiply enough to feed all of your guests after the cake cutting ceremony by the kitchen or catering staff with the help of your sheet cakes.
3) Bargain on the venue fee. If you are planning a wedding less than 8 months out and you have found a suitable venue with a Saturday night open then it’s time to bargain. Most wedding receptions book 1 year (or more) in advance so if the date is open on shorter notice, put thatmoney in your pocket. Another way to save on a venue fee is by opting for a Friday night, Saturday day, or Sunday event. The current trend is for a Saturday night wedding so it will be easier to find a better value at any other time.
4) A DJ is usually less expensive than a live band. You may not have the ambience of a bass guitar right in front of you but a lively DJ can add just as much fun to the party. If you are a lover of live music then consider hiring a few musicians just during dinner or the cocktail hour to keep expenses down. Look for musicians accepting side work at places like your local universities (Peabody Conservatory), orchestras or military bands like the Naval Academy or Army band.
5) Hire your own caterer. This will ensure greater control over your food options, thus meaning greater control over the bottom line budget. Ask for half price meals for any children in attendance and ask if your caterer would be willing to comp meals for hired help at the reception like your DJ and photographer. Most caterers are happy to feed them either for free or at cost because they are a great source of word of mouth advertising in the wedding industry.
6) Decorate with in-season flowers. If you’ve found the perfect florist and need to bring the total cost down you’ll want to follow these tips. The further your flowers need to travel to get to you, the higher the cost is going to be. Stick to 1 kind of flower. If your florist has to purchase several different kinds of flowers to make your bouquet, then the total cost in going to increase. Consider flowers petals sprinkled on the guest tables instead of expensive floral centerpieces.
Maggie Miller is a freelance writer and family blogger for www.familyfrugalfun.com. She calls herself the “discount diva” and specializes in all things FREE, fun and cheap in the Mid-Atlantic region. A former wedding planner turned stay-at-home mother after the birth of her 3rd son, she teaches seminars on “Extreme Couponing” and offers a “how to” video channel on You Tube to help other families with everyday expenses and wedding planning tips.
We saved a ton on the alcohol at our venue. We had to pay the bartender and a fee for the liquor license, which was like $300 for the night. We asked that the bartender have a tip jar, since we were providing all the drinks all night. We bought top shelf liquor and some well liquor along with 2 beer kegs and tons of wine for about $500. At my brother in laws wedding reception (of similar size) their bar tab was well over $2000.
Many of my friends have purchased Pizza’s for the Band/DJ/Photagh. That was such a cost effective way for them to go…keep that in mind!
My husband and I got married at Cypress Gardens in the gazebo. The more guests we had the more money it was going to cost. So we decided to have just a family wedding with one of our couple friends and have the reception at my sister in laws house since she lived on a lake. That saved us having to pay to rent one of their rooms for the reception and didn’t have to pay for parking at Cypress Gardens. At the time I worked at a county office and several of my co-workers were notaries so I asked one of them to marry us. I also had a friend make the cake which was cheaper than any of the local bakeries and just as nice. I ordered fake flower bouquets on ebay that were custom made to match our colors. And I bought the bridesmaid dresses on sale after prom time. They were beautiful 2 piece dresses that were still formal but didn’t look like prom dresses. In fact one of my sisters that wore it in the wedding wore it later on to homecoming or prom, can’t remember. Money was really tight so I did as much as I could to save it. We bought platters from Sams since they are huge and cheap and had them as food for the reception. The photographer was paid to take the pictures before the wedding and follow us around the grounds at Cypress Gardens after the wedding for the pictures. And we relied on family to take the pics at the reception. I purchased my dress at a bridal chain store that has sales that start at like $199. Of course I didn’t find a gown that cheap that I liked but my gown was only about $600. It is possible to marry on the cheap it just takes a little more time and effort to shop for the deals. As for our honeymoon my parents own a timeshare week each year and they gave us that ahead of time so we could pick a place to go and book it. Then we just had to cover gas and food. My parents as a surprise covered the decorations at the reception and they paid for the food also. We did not have a dj, we used the internet to burn songs on cd’s and played those as background music.
I got married 3 years ago in Cincinnati. Very few venues allowed us to bring our own alcohol or food. Those that did charged huge rental fees. Even the VFW & K of C halls charged over $1K. Sometimes it’s more affordable to go with a full service reception facility. As far as other savings, there are some great DIY invitation resources out there. My sister is using an etsy vendor to create custom programs, etc and we’ll print them on high end paper at home.
My husband and I are wedding photographers, and just got married this year. I agree with so many of the things on this list! We saved soooo much money bringing in alcohol rather than purchasing theirs, plus we made our own food in advance too, froze it, and paid them to defrost, bake and serve. Cost less than $1000 for more than 300 people, including dessert.
With the cake thing … actually buying sheet cakes doesn’t save as much as you think. The decorating is what costs, not the size. However, cupcakes are becoming big. And those you can TOTALLY do yourself. Make sure your venue does not have a cake-cutting fee as well.
As far as flowers, don’t rule out Costco!! They do amazing stuff at seriously discount prices.
As far as the photography, I know I’m definitely biased because that’s what we do, but seriously, don’t cheap out and have Cousin Fred who has a fancy camera do it. There really is a big difference! Shave a few hours off the reception or something, but GET A PRO! Even if they do family photography or wildlife or whatever, a wedding is so different. The lighting (especially inside churches, that are generally NOT lit for photos, and fast dancing in low light, and even knowing how to pose people), you’ll be glad you did.
And the number one thing I can think of to save money?
Don’t get married on a Saturday night in June! Basically get married on an off-day (like Friday or Sunday) and/or off-season, like winter-time.
Everything from the venue to the photographer to the caterer likely won’t be able to book that date otherwise, so you’ll be able to bargain them WAYY down. We got married January 2. Nobody else wanted it so we got our venue 70% off!
We saved a bunch by having just a small family wedding aboard a cruise ship. The price was much less than the cost of receptions elsewhere. Everybody paid for their own room, and got a mini vacation out of it. For the small wedding fee, we received the captain to marry us, the service, flowers, a cake (more than the 12 of us could eat in a week), dress and tux steaming, music, apple cider (or champagne), a beautiful location. And then we paid a little extra to have the ships photographer for the rest of the night. All of our announcements, invites, and magnets (for the doors on the ship), etc. came from Vista Print online so we were able to get some of the stuff for free that way. Plus all the extras the wedding planner on the ship, and the rest of the crew, did for us the rest of the time!
We had a wedding last fall that cost $3200. Our biggest money saver (and stress reducer) was choosing locations that required no decorating or set-up. We were married in a beautiful park that is known for it’s exquisite flower gardens. So, we said our vows in front of a huge water fountain surrounded by gorgeous flowers. We only paid a park fee, the ceremony was super short, so we didn’t have chairs, only the stone benches at the park. We chose to have a morning wedding, so we had a brunch reception. This is great because very few people drink alcohol that early…bloody mary’s, red beer, and some mimosas. We held our reception at a beautiful french restaurant. It has all french country decorations in a neutral pallet. And the food was top-notch, at $8/person. It was buffet-style with otherwise full service from the restaurant staff. I made my own three-tiered cake and decorated it with farmer’s market flowers. I had two counters full of flowers that only cost $56. I did my own bouquets the night before with my friends and family. We made the simple and elegant. My tip for anyone getting married is to be creative about your wedding, you will save money and have a unique event. People still comment on how my cake was the best tasting wedding cake they had ever had and how my wedding looked like it cost $30,000. Not bad on our piddley budget that left us with a sizable down-payment on our house.
3 years ago I did our wedding for $2000. Our DJ was a friend (who does emcee-ing/djay-ing) who did it for $50.
Our photographer was a father of one our my bridesmaids. He is not a pro but does very nice work. Did all the pics for his daughter’s wedding too. He didn’t charge me at all. Considered it his gift.
Potluck reception. It was a rather informal wedding and all the caterers I could find wanted $2000 just for the cheapest option. So potluck worked and everyone loved it.
My dress was technically and ivory and navy prom dress (looked like a wedding dress) that I bought online for $79.
Fake flowers that my mom and I arranged ourselves. Wedding was in January anyway so fake was easier.
Used a lot of branches and twinkle lights (that were bought on-sale after Christmas).
Made our own invitations.
We did everything cheaply so I can’t even remember it all.
I have lots of tips for saving money on a wedding. We were very smart in how we spent money, but we had a very beautiful wedding and did splurge in some areas. We saved money in the following areas:
* Our venue was a beautiful newly renovated 1820’s country bed and breakfast. Paying $800 for the entire place for the whole weekend we were able to do whatever we wanted and it came with three bedrooms for out of town guests to stay in.
* Like the article said we chose our own caterer who worked closely with us to provide what we wanted within our budget. We also had an early evening reception so it was more of a light dinner instead of a full three course meal.
* Our cake was done by a friend of a family member and was honestly more beautiful than I could have imagines. It was $100 for 75 people and the top tier!
* I had my heart set on a string quartet for the ceremony since I was really little. This was one thing that I was not willing to give up. For $600 we were able to get a quartet for the entire ceremony and 2 hours after. We contacted our local symphony and asked for anyone they knew who did private events. Many times there are lots of people who would love to play for a lot less.
* A friend of ours had their own PA system. Their wedding gift to us was the use and set up of the system. We just plugged in our iPod and had a play list ready and it was just as good as a DJ and it was free!
* I had one bridesmaid and was then able to get a beautiful expensive dress for her for $5 at a thrift store in my wedding colors. Since we only needed the one this worked perfectly.
* We did all the planning ourselves. We went to a wedding open house and one of the places that rents tents and all other wedding necessities. Ordering everything that day we saved 20% with free delivery. We set up everything ourselves two days before the event and literally saved thousands by doing this.
* For about 70 guests we spent about $8,000 for the entire wedding including the dress, rings (my wedding ring set is a family heirloom), rehersal dinner, ceremony, reception and week long honeymoon. We could have spent a lot less but we got everything we wanted out of the wedding and wouldn’t change a thi
Im in Detroit, there were no venues that would allow us to bring in our own Alcohol or food, I do know some states and countys have regulations on that type of thing. My number one money saver for me, networking, often times when planning something like a wedding one forgets maybe the neighbor down the street is a florist, mine was for one of the biggest most popular places around. I got all my red roses (a special blood colored rose) and other things, the flowers for my wedding cost like $500 total and that included everything. Without having that connection it would have cost upwards of $3000 I got everything at cost. Also if your venue offers a look at night, where they feature things such as food, flowers, limos, we got a great deal on a Lincoln Limo for the entire day it cost us $400. The guy was so excited to rent out the Lincoln the owner even drove us. Meanwhile an escalade limo they had wouldve been $1900 for the same amount of time and it fit 4 fewer people. Remember living in a big city and a small town means huge differences in prices.
Greetings! Very useful advice in this particular post!
It is the little changes that will make the most significant changes.
Thanks for sharing!