Frugal but Fabulous Wedding Guide

Summer time is fast approaching and that means it's almost wedding season. A wedding should be a celebration of your love but the planning process is such a roller coaster that it can often burn a deep hole in your pocket. The average amount a couple spends for just one day is about $26,000! Here are a few tips and tricks I've picked up on while planning my own wedding and also from helping friends and family plan theirs.


As hard and cruel as it sounds, only invite family and close friends. I know how easily it can be to get so caught up in excitement about your special day that you may end up  inviting friends of family members, or friends of friends, co- workers sometimes you may be so head over heels in love that you'd be tempted to invite mail man Fred. Remember that you have to invite people from your side and his. Combined a couple's guest list can be killer. When it boils down to it, less people means less food, less liquor, less tables, less favors, less décor, and most importantly less money. 


I know how important it is to have the perfect dress. You want to look fabulous since these pictures will be your token for that special day years after. Let's not forget how sentimental this dress could be for a girl when it's all she ever dreamed of. The average dress costs around $2,000-$3,000. Keep in mind that you will only wear this dress for a few hours for one day. Go to a consignment in your city, Ebay or These dresses have been gently used and you can find one for as low as $300. Not a fan of pre -owned wedding dresses then feel free to use sites like David's Bridal for less expensive dresses. Okay so you're not a fan of a gently used dress or a dress from a wedding site that's not too expensive then how about getting an off the rack dress. You can find amazing dresses at reputable establishments like J. Crew and Nordstrom for a fraction of the cost. 


Stay away from the necklace and bracelets at bridal salons. Most of them are over-priced and something you'll probably never get to use ever again. Taking a while to go jewelry shopping in non bridal stores can be a great way to find something that you'll love that isn't horribly over priced. Can't find anything in the stores close to where you live then feel free to browse online on places like Etsy or even eBay. I assure you that you'll find tons of fun options at amazing prices. Be sure to purchase your pieces ahead off time just in case there's a problem or you're not totally satisfied.  


Another way to save money is by not hiring a professional videographer and photographer. This alone is about $3,000. Find a videographer who will sell you the raw footage he films at your event. That way, you won’t have to pay for editing. If you don’t like the way it looks, you can hire a local photography student to edit the tape for you for a lot less than a pro’s fee.  If your videographer does edit the tape, steer clear of special effects like slow motion or inserts of movie clips. Extras like these will boost your bill.  If getting a professional is not within your budget, buy a Panasonic AG DV20 Camcorder and a stand for it. Another interesting way to take pictures is to create a hashtag on Instagram and let your guests take pictures through their eyes. Everyone with an Instagram account will be able to see your wedding pictures. It's creative, hassle free, allows your guests to flex their photography skills, and it's actually free. =) 


Officiants can cost between $100-$270. I'll admit this isn't as romantic, but one of your friends or a family member can get a basic ordination online for only $60.  It's cheaper and   can have an amazing sentimental value.


A DJ can cost about a $1,000. A cheaper alternative would be to just buy some speakers and connect your Mac or laptop and just press play. Remember on the RSVP invites to ask each of your guests to request one song.


Forget dance lessons. Those can cost about $6,000 for just six months worth of classes.  A cheaper alternative is to watch videos on Youtube. There are always "How To's" on Youtube. It's convenient and can be done while wearing your pj's best of all it's absolutely free.


Decorations set's the mood and theme of your wedding. Browsing great websites that can cut your cost in about half. On, you can get 16 custom velvet rose center pieces for only $800. There are also lot's of great of DIY's on Pinterest. 


Catering is a good chunk of your budget. After all you've got to feed your guests. Catering can cost about $11,000 plus.  The worst thing about catering is that at the end of the night, some of us are guilty of saying, "The food wasn't even that great." A cheaper alternative is to have a good ole pot luck reception. Family and friends get to bring homemade food in a dish that they would like to give away to the bride and groom. It's great because it saves you a lot of money and everyone loves great tasting homemade meals.  


Food in most cases is 50% of your wedding budget. How the price points roll is buffet being most affordable, family-style being in the middle for cost and plated as the most expensive way to serve a meal. Take all these options into consideration and do what is best for you and your family. If a buffet isn't an issue with elders getting up to serve themselves, then I say have your dinner a little on the casual side and serve your guests a beautiful buffet. Everyone loves to go up for seconds, and this option allows them to.


Limit the number of courses you serve. Rather than offering five courses, present your guests with either a salad or an appetizer (not both), an entrée and only wedding cake for dessert. Most guests won’t eat more than that, anyway.


Not literally of course, that would get you in a heap of trouble. Try hosting your wedding in the afternoon vs in the evening. This will substantially cut costs on your wedding budget in many areas: less food, less liquor, and more affordable venue rental rates, just to name a few. Besides, then it leaves the rest of the evening to you and your newly married lover to…. do what newly weds do. 


Save money on the cake ingredients. Ask your baker to use butter cream frosting instead of fondant, because the ingredients required for butter cream are less costly, and this type of frosting is less time-consuming to make. Also, it’s cheaper to decorate your cake with fresh flowers than ones made of frosting. Just make sure you pick inexpensive blooms like daisies or orange blossoms instead of pricier ones like roses and orchids.


Stationary is something that can easily put a huge dent in your budget. In most cases it runs from $1,500 all the way up to $3,000. Never fear ladies because you can easily design your own. With a little online browsing for inspiration and script you'll be well on your way to designer looking invitations at a fraction of the cost. Paper can really make or break the overall look so choose wisely. But when done right this is a great way to cut costs.


When it comes to your wedding favors; why give your guests something that they don’t need and will probably throw out? Think outside the box, make it yourself and have it be one of kind. You’ll leave that much more of an impression on your guests when it’s made from scratch. 


Have you ever considered having an evening wedding? A romantic ceremony at dusk, serving a few signature cocktails and dessert? This is an amazing way to cut costs for a wedding since it’s only a few hours long. Short, sweet, and to the point. It's a little different but you'll be able to enjoy a few hours of love and laughs with your loved ones while indulging in a budget friendly drinks and dessert heaven. 


Flowers can be incredibly expensive. I'm not talking about paying hundreds of dollars. Oh no my friend I'm talking about thousands. If you know someone in the floral business don't be afraid to ask if you can go with them to the flower auction. Buy wholesale and create simple and beautiful arrangements on your own. This may be a daunting task to take on since you'll  have to put them all together the night before or the morning of, but delegated properly, you can do it just fine.


Going flowerless isn't as bad as you may think. Bridesmaids don't have to hold flowers. They can hold a beautiful glass lantern with a candle. A lot of people choose not to use flowers when it comes to fall and winter weddings. Get creative and stay in line with whatever theme you’re going with. Go flower-less and save yourself some headache and some money.


Extremely traditional, the wedding cake has been around since… well… since the beginning of love and marriage. But you don’t have to follow suit if you don’t want to. A wedding cake can set you back $1,000 or more, depending on its design and size. Go with cupcakes or cookies or just a buffet of small dessert. See if the grand moms, moms, and aunts on both sides will make some family favorites which is a lovely way to add a personal touch all while saving money on your wedding.


Most weddings start at one venue and end up at another, separating the ceremony from the wedding reception. Don’t follow suit, have your ceremony and reception in the same location and save your bottom line from the additional rental space. Your guests will be happy they don’t have to drive all day and it will save them the cost of paying for parking twice. This is win/win for all involved.


Hiring a professional make-up artist is no doubt a luxury. However, all fancy service comes with a high price tag. Consider doing your make-up yourself. Learning different methods on Youtube or from your favorite beauty blogger is something I know you can all do and it will no doubt be a huge savings on your wedding budget.


An intricate up-do can cost you not only a headache but a massive chunk of change. Try doing something more natural and like you, with a little added touch of chic. Why not a romantic loose curl that you can wear down for the ceremony and easily put up for the reception? Go with something you can do easily and a look that’s more true to yourself.


Liquor or no liquor: that is the question. Having no liquor is a sure fire way to cut your final wedding budget at large. Depending on your crowd, it could be up to half. If you decide to go this route, may I suggest offering neat signature drinks that are playful and a fun alternative to no liquor. Instead of an ultra expensive open bar of top-shelf liquor, offer just beer, wine, and a signature cocktail. I've been to weddings where alcohol was obviously a big deal and at others where no alcohol was served at all. At one wedding the father of the bride chose to pay for an unlimited open bar for the guests. Sweet right? You decide if it's something that you and your spouse-to-be really wants and how much of your budget you'd like to allot to this. 


Make “last call” an hour before the reception ends. At that time, switch to those gourmet coffee drinks you enjoy at your favorite café—they won’t put a damper on the fun, but they will lower your bar bill.


Holidays are more expensive, plain and simple. You might think that's it's easier for people to get time off from work, but they'll be spending more money all around on travel and accommodations, not to mention the challenges with availability during high season times.  Choose a date between November and April, avoiding the more expensive peak season.

Additionally, don’t hold your wedding on a Saturday, which is the most popular day of the week for weddings—and, therefore, also the most expensive. Consider having it on a Friday or Sunday instead.


Never  feel like you need to spend money on things that you don't really need or like simply because you feel pressured by what others expect or request. Skip wedding traditions that seem necessary, like programs and favors. Think about it, how many people do you know that actually keep wedding favors or programs. A lot of things that we tend to focus on simply because it's expected are unnecessary expenses. Make sure you're planning the wedding and reception that you want and something that you can afford. Don't include things just because everyone else includes them. At the end of the day you're the one's paying for it and it's your special day. If the moms and dads would like to add things or extra people then let them pay for it.


There's no rule that you must have a pricey dinner or cocktail hour for all of your guests. Most of the time as long as you give your guests something to eat, drink, and a comfortable place to sit and enjoy the festivities they'll be content.  Hire a food truck or consider holding a brunch on a Sunday afternoon. If you know you have a fun crowd that’s going to dance and enjoy themselves once there's good music and something to eat then there’s no reason to stress yourself out.


Instead of registering for kitchen supplies you probably don't need; you can actually register for wedding items such as a videographer or upgraded room on your honeymoon. Many vendors will make cards you can put in your invitations explaining your request to your guests. You'd be surprised how giving some of your guests will be.


Book an all-inclusive resort. This way, you won't be caught by surprise if food, transportation, and sightseeing prices are higher than you expected—or by those "hidden" fees, like tips and taxes, that can really add up.

Buck travel trends and plan your trip around a destination's off-season. For instance, prices drop in the during summer and in during the winter months.

Plan your meals to maximize your money. Some hotels include a large breakfast buffet as part of the rate—if you take advantage of it, you probably won't be hungry until dinner. Or, if an a.m. meal's not included in the cost of your stay, make lunch your main meal of the day (it's almost always cheaper than dinner) and have a light snack for supper.

Don't even open the hotel mini bar to see what's inside—you can purchase the same beverages and snacks just about anywhere else for a lot less. And to call home, use your cell phone rather than pay the hefty hotel surcharges for international (and local) calls.

If you're having your wedding reception at a hotel that's part of a large chain with a property in your honeymoon destination, inquire whether you can get a night or more there for free. Some companies offer rewards to customers who bring them a lot of business.

Hit the local markets for food instead of paying inflated restaurant prices. A bottle of wine, a loaf of bread and some cheese make a tasty and inexpensive meal.

Get the "early-bird special": You can often gain great deals on both hotels and airfare by booking your room and airline tickets far in advance.

Hit the open road. Driving to a resort or inn is much more affordable than flying—and it can be a lot more fun (no unplanned delays).

Embrace a new trend and register for your honeymoon in order to defray some of the costs. Websites such as and, and allow guests to contribute money toward your airfare, hotel, meals, and activities. Who knew!

Play the honeymoon card—shamelessly. =) Tell everyone you encounter—from the airline gate attendant to the front-desk clerk at your hotel—that you're on your honeymoon. You just might be able to get an upgrade or other free stuff, like a bottle of champagne. Hehe

There you have it folks. Some of the best ways to cut down those wedding expenses. I don't know about you but I've never been a fan of debt especially monstrous debt due to a wedding. I've seen many couples being stressed during and after the wedding due to finances. If you can afford it then go crazy after all what's greater than celebrating your love with your loved ones. But in today's economy be mindful not to over extend and be faced with an overwhelming wedding debt added to your mortgage debt, plus credit card debt, school loans, and car payments. Saving money on your wedding means that there's more for you to start off your lives together with.  Have any of you guys planned a wedding with a strict budget? How did you or do you plan to save on your big day?

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