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Budget Savvy Bride: Stress-Free Savings



{Wedding Photos by Emily Main Photography }

When my husband and I were planning our wedding, our philosophy was to be as budget-conscious as possible without sacrificing unnecessary time, energy, or sanity. We wanted to have an affordable wedding that expressed our personalities and entertained our guests but didn't break the bank.

My hubbie and I splurged on the things that were important to us and saved whenever possible. We had fun making DIY projects, hunting for discounts, and creating spreadsheets in order to track our spendings very, very carefully. Small savings here and there added up quickly, allowing us to come in under budget.


Here are a few of the ways we saved money:

The Early Bird Gets The Worm

We started planning our wedding eighteen months before the Big Day. Starting early gave us more choices when it came to venues and vendors. It may not sound like much, but popular locations and good vendors with great prices get snatched up quickly, so this helped us save a lot of money in the long run.

Make a Budget and Stick to It

First things first: decide on a guest list. The number of people attending your wedding will have the biggest impact on the price tag.

Next, ignore all the books that say you should spend this percentage of your budget on flowers and this percentage on food, etc. Look at each category and decide how much you're willing to spend on it.  

Also, budget for EVERYTHING. Decide in detail what you can afford and don't deviate. If you go over budget in one area, make up for it another.  

Some items that are easy to overlook:

- The cost of alterations. You may have snagged a steal of a gown, but alteration costs don't go down just because you bought the dress for less!

- Tips for vendors. Given the hefty price tag associated with each vendor, tips can add up to hundreds of dollars. Remember to factor them into your overall budget.

- Little things, like postage stamps, extra glue for invitations, or ribbon. Factor in a "miscellaneous" category and stash a bit of cash away for small, unexpected expenses.


Consider Hidden Costs When Choosing Your Venue and Vendors

A wedding at your local park or community center may sound like a steal, but consider all of the overhead associated with the reception before you make a decision: the more bare a site is, the more you have to spend, from furniture rentals to lighting. Oftentimes, a high venue rental fee is offset by everything included in the package (tables, chairs, linens, flatware, servers, etc.)

When comparing venues, break down the costs in detail in order to get a true apples-to-apples comparison. What rentals will you need to make? Is the dance floor included in the price? How much is overtime?

After our evaluation, the reception venue we chose was the best value for our money relative to other sites in the area.

Cost Savings ~$5,000 to 10,000

For the reception, I really wanted to have chiavari chairs. At rental prices of $7-$8 a chair, this was not cheap. We were lucky enough to find a venue that included chiavari chairs as part of the standard set-up, and factored that in as an additional savings when comparing venues.

Cost Savings ~$1,260 + tax and delivery

Sample Sales are a Bride's Best Friend

If you're looking for a wedding dress for less, a sample sale is a great way to find one! Sign up on the mailing lists for your local salons to keep on top of upcoming sales.

I bought two dresses, one for the ceremony and one for the reception, and it cost under $500 total for both of them.

Pronovias Nambia, originally $1500, bought at sample sale for $259.

Vineyard Collection, originally $1365, bought at a sample sale for $199.

Cost Savings ~$2400

Make Your Own Veil

At the end of the day, a veil is just a whole lot of tulle with a wire comb at the end. My mom and I bought $10 worth of tulle at the local fabric store. We folded it in half, sewed a wire comb to the end, trimmed the bottom, and voila! Chapel-length veil.



Cost Savings ~$80-$100

Bright Colors Have Big Impact

We chose low centerpieces of peach, yellow, and orange flowers in simple, inexpensive 4x4 cube vases. The arrangements were small, but the bright colors made them pop.

We designed and printed the menus on our home computer using colored paper using thin, text weight paper (which is a lot cheaper than cardstock). The menus still made a a pretty addition to the table thanks to their bright aqua color.

The stickers on the favor boxes were also designed and printed from home. We used full-size label sheets and cut each label out with a circle punch cutter.

Cost Savings ~$800-$1500


Utilize Stuff You Already Own

Sometimes, the biggest savings are in the smallest details. It all adds up! Look around your house for items you can re-purpose as wedding decor, and buy things you can use again after the wedding.

Photo Display

To decorate our welcome table, I used a couple of old memo boards I've owned since college. My husband built easels for them out of inexpensive balsa wood sticks. We propped them up and filled them with some of our favorite old family photos.

Guest Book

If you're like me, you have a ton of old postcards lying around from vacations past and other events. I gathered as many as I could find to use as our guestbook.


I also spruced up an old desk organizer to set out the pens, address labels, and stamps.To make the pens, my mom took some fake flowers I'd bought for mocking up centerpieces, cut them up, and attached them to cheap ballpoint pens with floral tape. Guests filled out the postcards, and my sister/MOH mailed them to us right after the wedding.


Card Box/Birdcage

This birdcage was used as decor for my sister's wedding two years ago. I decorated the inside with paper rosettes, added a banner to the front, and used it as a card box.

Ask your recently married friends for anything you might be able to borrow or re-purpose, and check out the PW "Something Borrowed" group as well!

Cost Savings Who knows?! We owned it all, so the price was "free"!


Think Outside the "Wedding" Box

Websites and stores geared specifically towards weddings often mark up prices. Consider buying wedding decor at non-wedding stores: IKEA has a wealth of nifty, inexpensive items that can be re-purposed or used for wedding decor, as do places like Target, Good Will, or Home Goods.

Table Signs

The IKEA Tolsby frames we bought for our table signs were only $0.99 apiece at IKEA.


Candy Buffet Mason Jars

Instead of using apothecary jars for your candy buffet, try mason jars instead! Mason jars are as inexpensive as glass gets. Plus, when the wedding is over, you can use them around your home for storage. I use mine in kitchen for things like flours, pasta, rice, etc.

Even with high shipping costs, mason jars will still be less expensive and more useful in the long run. If you can find them locally and avoid shipping altogether - even better!


Cost Savings ~$75-$100

Download Free Resources Over the Internet

I'm a big fan of freeware, especially considering the cost of graphic software like Adobe Creative Suite.  Admittedly, there's a learning curve associated with graphics programs if you've never used them before. However, if you do have some experience, or you've got the time and energy to learn, freeware can be a huge help for your DIY projects.

A few of my favorites:

Gimp is a freeware image manipulation program similar to Adobe Photoshop, used to edit photographs.

Inkscape is a freeware drawing program similar to Adobe Illustrator. It's great for making your own artwork.

Scribus is a freeware desktop publishing program similar to Adobe InDesign. It's the program you would use to combine photographs, artwork, and text into finished documents.

So what would a bride-to-be do with these fab programs? Say you want to make a Save-the-Date. You could use Gimp to add a cool filter to the photo, Inkscape to create some interesting artwork, then bring both the photo and the graphics into Scribus to combine them with text and publish the finished Save-the-Date.

I used Inkscape to create all of the artwork used on our programs, table signs and other decor, and Scribus to arrange the graphics and text. Free wedding websites abound, but for the bride who wants a truly custom website, is a great option with a user-friendly web-based editor.

Also, make the most of free fonts and templates. Some of my favorites include the templates at and

Take a Chance on New Talent

Vendors who are just starting out usually charge less than well-established ones, especially for photography and videography. I received quotes from more established vendors that were at least twice as much, if not more, than those just starting out.

This can be risky, but if you like their work, and they have at least a few weddings under their belt, it could be worth it. Plus, if you book early enough, by the time your wedding comes around, they'll have had plenty more experience.


Cost Savings ~$2000 to 4000 or more


Ask and Ye Shall Receive

You never know unless you ask. We really wanted to have a photo booth at the wedding but it wasn't in the budget. Instead, we decided to ask our photographer if she'd be willing to set up a portrait station during the reception, and she said yes! Emily posted her second photographer at the booth, and even brought a bevy of props to make things more fun.


Cost Savings ~$500

Incorporate Ethnic Foods Into Your Menu

Caterers for Mexican, Italian, Asian, or other ethnic cuisine can be more reasonably-priced than traditional wedding caterers, so consider adding a little cultural flair to your event!

Even venues that don't allow outside catering often let you to bring in specialty cultural foods. We included Filipino fare in our menu: lumpia during cocktail hour and lechon (roast pig) during the buffet. This saved us money on appetizers and also allowed us to serve fewer entrees in the buffet.


Cost Savings ~$500

Cake Switcheroo

A tried-and-true budget trick: have a small display cake and serve the rest of the guests using sheet cakes hidden in the kitchen.

Also, simplify on decoration. Due to the extensive labor, sugar flowers can be hefty in cost. Consider fresh flowers or even silk flowers.

For our wedding, we ordered a single clay flower from etsy seller dkdesignshawaii and used grosgrain chocolate brown ribbon to wrap each tier. Instead of pricey fondant, we opted for fresh cream frosting, which has a beautiful, smooth finish as well as a light, fresh taste.


Cost Savings ~$350 to $500




These are just a few of the ways we saved money on our wedding! I hope they help inspire you to find creative ways to save on your own Big Day.

{Wedding Photos by Emily Main Photography }


Last Updated: August 4, 2013 at 12:51 am
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