10 Ways to Save $15,000 (or More!) On Your Wedding

save money on your wedding

(Alternate Headlines: “Why I’m Really Sorry I Couldn’t Invite You” or “Why Small Weddings Suck.”)

So hubby and I just celebrated our one-year anniversary. We had a nice time, although it had to be cut short due to hubby’s scheduling changes and the lame-o shutdown.

Of course, I’ve been staring at my wedding photos all year long, but especially these last few weeks. Most of me thinks, “Aww, look at how much fun we had.” or “Wow, we’ve never looked better.”

However, when I look on Facebook and see all of the wonderful comments and likes on my photos, I’m also thinking, “Dang. I wish I could have invited her” and “Crap. He is such an awesome friend/party guest/cool dude. I wish he could have come.”

Ah, the predicament of a “Girl Who Knows Everyone.” When you’ve been living in the same city your entire life, you amass a huge amount of friends and acquaintances from many different circles of life.

Some of them you’ve lost touch with, sure. But a wedding is that one occasion you can bring everyone together and have a big party.

This also means you get invited to many, many weddings. (I’ve lost count, but it’s double digits now. )

Unfortunately, there were so many reasons why I couldn’t do it up big, and I wanted to explain why. In part, as an apologetic post.

But I also wanted to let you know how I managed to pare down a destination wedding that could have easily cost more than $20,000 into a $10,000 event. While this may make you unpopular with some people, it will make your wallet (and in my case, my parents’ wallet) think you’re the awesome.

Trimming the Guest List

trim your wedding guest list
Yep, that’s how small my wedding was.

1) Quit having so many friends. Okay, this is a little facetious, but since my husband has referred to himself as an “Air Force brat,” he hadn’t developed a lot of friendships over the years.

Like, I can literally count on one hand the number of friends he has. He was able to invite a lot of co-workers, but outside of his immediate family, he didn’t have a lot of guests coming all the way from ‘Bama.  (The wedding was in coastal S.C.) So I wasn’t about to have a wedding of 200 people where 195 of them were my friends.  I couldn’t do that to him or his guests.

Other than the obvious financial savings, this was the primary reason why we chose a small wedding.

2) Leave out the kiddies. This was kind of a no-brainer for me, but I felt horrible about this. No joke, I had at least a half dozen couples (that’s 12 people!) I couldn’t invite or couldn’t come because they had a) *Just* had a baby within the last year or b) Were about to pop one out.

It was even harder when I had to explain to people why their son or daughter wasn’t invited. It meant more mouths to feed and (potentially) a little less fun for my guests. One of my besties actually told me, “Seriously, I’m not bringing my kids, because I want to have fun.”

So while I had to forgo the really, really super adorable child-dancing-awesomely videos and pictures, this also meant no one leaving to get a diaper, no discomfort if someone wanted to tip a few back…etc. etc. etc.

3) Scratch off the out-of-towners. This one also sucked, because I had several friends I had envisioned being a part of my wedding that I couldn’t invite. The only out-of-towners were folks on my husband’s guest list, since he was from Alabama, and one couple from Florida. She had been my daily wedding cheerleader and helped me plan the wedding via Facebook and Pinterest.

Despite this, I also didn’t want to burden anyone with a crap ton of expenses from going to Hilton Head and possibly staying overnight.

4) Forgo who is footing the bill. Now, I’m not suggesting you un-invite your parents, but mine were sweet (and smart) enough to understand the implications if I decided to invite every single family member and “friend of the family.” *cha-ching!*

So, yeah. My Dad? He has 11 brothers and sisters.


There was no way on God’s green earth I could invite all of them and their spouses, my cousins, etc. I still feel awful about that. I only invited one cousin, and that was it.

Demand your guest list only entail people you want to be there, not whoever is writing the check. I know that goes against etiquette, but sometimes etiquette is freaking stupid.

5) The awkward invites have to stay home. There are (sadly) a lot of people who I had been friends with in the past and whose wedding I had been a part of that I’m no longer close to.

And there are the guys who I had giant, super-huge crushes on I am still buddies with. They weren’t invited.

It sucks. A lot. But it happens.

But instead of feeling “obligated” to invite them, I left them out. If they asked me, I explained it to them, usually in a lighthearted manner.

“I’m sorry, but for the sake of my fiance, I’m not inviting any guys I’ve kissed.”

Since my mother will read this, I will not divulge how much larger the guest list would have been otherwise. (Sorry, Mom.)

Saving on the Essentials (Read: Alcohol)

Gorgeous, right?

By shortening the guest list, I saved $5,000 just on food. Not to mention invites, etc. (The menu is where you are dropping most of your dough. Pun totally intended.)

And I’m really sorry. But I had to make it a $25 a plate gathering, because I wanted Belgian waffles.

Waffles, people.

You cannot skimp on the deliciousness.

Speaking of which:

6) Have it on a wacko day: My vendor offered me a $1,000 discount on the venue if I chose to have my wedding on Sunday. YES, PLEASE. (This was particularly awesome for people like me who like college football way too much.)

7) Serve an unconventional feast: I chose to do a brunch. Hooray! That means I don’t have to serve beer. Bellinis and champagne for everyone!

This also meant a no-frills coffee cake, no formal wear for my honored guests and more time in the afternoon for my hubby and I to…spend…more time with my parents. (This totally happened. It was very nice. We had dinner.)

8) Do not scar your friends and family for life: Speaking of honored guests…you know what happens when you’ve been a bridesmaid more times than you can count? You realize the job kind of sucks, and you are 30+ years old and having friends wear colored dresses made of satin, taffeta and itchy-tulle is ridiculous.

It also meant no unrealistic expectations for my friends to throw me a shower or a bachelorette party (although one of my friends took on the triple duty of doing flowers, being an honored guest and taking me out to eat beforehand).

Though my brother-in-law was sad he didn’t get the official “best man” title, that’s who he was. And my friends wore whatever the heck they wanted, and oh-my-God they looked so colorful and amazing, it looks like I planned it. But I totally didn’t.

If you choose to credit me for this, so be it. It was a pretty flippin’ fabulous idea.

That means I made only a few trips to stores for fittings (for myself and my Mom and mom-in-law), no ridiculously expensive and tacky dresses that (for the love of God, people) my friends will toss or donate or burn.

Obviously, given my guy only had a couple guy friends, I couldn’t have a zillion bridesmaids. Although it made my brother-in-law very happy to be “The Man.”

best man shmest man
He doesn’t look unhappy, now does he?

Speaking of my guy, I actually gave him a budget for my engagement ring. This is one of those other rare times I didn’t let “conventional etiquette” spoil everything.

I told him $1,500. Tops. Anything above that was too much.

9) Have a crap ton of friends: Yes, I realize I am going against my #1 tip, but hear me out. It just so happens I had really amazing friends who helped me plan the wedding, do photography, flowers and my (FREAKING AWESOME) groom’s cake and wedding cake.

Didn't I TELL you it was awesome?!
Didn’t I TELL you it was awesome?!

I am not saying just let anybody do this. These were people who were professionals in this area. Please do not let your 12-year-old cousin who has a way with technology do your photos.

It was really awesome to know my friends could lend their expertise and services at a hugely discounted rate. I can’t even adequately quantify how much I saved, because it was priceless. I guess I can safely say it was at least $2,000-$5,000.

This is why you should always be nice to people. Because they do things for you.

10) Let go of everything you have ever perceived about this special day. What made this day special? Being scheduled without being too scheduled.

I cut out the “Father-Daughter Dance,” and the “Bouquet and Garter Toss,”  because I know the best part for wedding guests is eating, drinking and socializing.

The rest is kinda just filler.

I didn’t want to take up precious time on the dance floor with things other than actual dancing. I created my own mix of songs on my 5-year-old iPod and asked a friend to let it rip. (And I was able to give him a little cash to do it, because I hadn’t spent a zillion dollars on everything else.)

Brides can glisten and be shoeless, right?

My entire outfit, from head to toe, cost around $1,000. I was not about to blow cash on a dress I’d wear once or on a fancy makeup artist or hair stylist or fancy shoes. I just wanted to feel pretty and have fun.

I got hair and makeup assistance from my sister, which was an intensely awesome bonding moment.

The whole day looks like I spent much more than I did. What I didn’t spend in actual dollars, I spent planning furiously. And even though these 10 tips are kind of insane, the greatest savings was my own sanity.

Photos:  Most are from my awesome friend and former co-worker, Andrew Haworth. So don’t go stealin’ em!


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