Aug 28, 2017

Our Wedding: How we saved money

Our wedding was not a "budget wedding," but we were able to stay within our budget and within our means, and the total was well below the national average price of a wedding in the US.

How did we save money?
  • Getting married in my hometown vs. DC.
  • Getting married on a Sunday.  We got married over Labor Day Weekend so we had the wedding on Sunday instead of Saturday.  It just happened to be the last day still available at our venue, but it ended up working really well and saved us money at many of our vendors because it was an off day.
  • The guest list. Everyone says this is the most efficient way to save money.  In fact, everyone says it's the easiest way.  In a way this is true, but cutting people you want to invite is NOT easy.  However, we were able to pair our initial invite list down by about 100 people by really scrutinizing the list.  The "easiest" way we were able to do this was to cut out all children who weren't our first cousins or their kids. We cut out about 45 people this way.  It felt a little harsh, but was worth it.
  • Save-the-dates.  I made these myself using Canva and an Etsy template and we sent them postcard-style, so that postage was cheaper.  Sure, evites would have been even cheaper, but we had so many older and non-tech-savvy guests that it wasn't just a good option.  Save-the-dates also aren't necessary at all, but because we were getting married on Labor Day weekend, we wanted to give people an early heads-up
  • Front

  • Invitations.  This was probably our biggest savings! I scoured the internet looking for invitations and was dismayed with the pricing (think $400-$800).  I also didn't find anything I liked!  My mom showed me her wedding invitations which were simple and beautiful with raised ink and embossed roses.  When I tried to add in those features online, the price skyrocketed to over $1000.  Well, one day I checked out David's Bridal invitations on a whim, and found the perfect invitation for an unbelievably perfect price.  I found a promo code online as well.  We got invitations with inner and outer envelopes and response cards for 250 invitees for the low price of $160!  

  • Invitation add-ons.  I printed "info cards" with the hotel information on shimmery paper myself and cut them out to insert.  I also hand-addressed the envelopes myself rather than hiring a calligrapher or paying to have them pre-addressed.  This was a serious pain, and in retrospect, I still would have hand addressed them, but I would have taken less care to make the handwriting fancy.
  • Programs: I typed up and printed our our own! I 100% think programs are an area of wedding expenses that you could just cut out completely, but I really wanted a way to let people know that my mom made my dress, so I made programs and devoted the back to this.
  • Back and front of wedding program.  I printed them on pale pink paper.

  • Seating cards: I love the look of individual place cards, but was blown away by the price!  I also couldn't figure out how to do a seating chart.  In the end, I ended up making these beautiful place setting cards, lining them up on a table, and putting people's table numbers on the back, so they just picked up their place card and brought it to the table themselves.  This saved money because we eliminated the seating chart and DIY'd the cards.

  • My dress and veil.  I realize that not everyone has the luxury of having a seamstress for a mom, but this saved us a lot.  I didn't have her make it for savings, but it was an added benefit! I bought expensive fabric for the dress, so this wasn't as cheap as it could have been, but it was still over $800 cheaper than the cheapest dress that I tried on.  My veil cost about $15 for fabric and thread.
  • Videographer.  Obviously not having a videographer at all would be cheaper than having one, but we decided that it was a must (and it was!), but I found ours for a great price using  On this website, you can post exactly what you're looking for and people will "bid' for your job.  I posted that we wanted a videographer for 8 hours to cover the whole wedding, for the amount of money we were willing to pay.  We got a lot of great offers and in the end picked the one that worked the best for us.  His offer was in the middle price range of ones that we received.
  • Alcohol.  After looking at all of the pricing options and thinking long and hard on it, we decided to just offer wine and beer.  We made liquor available for purchase via cash bar.  This saved us a lot of money.  We didn't have a lot of options here because our venue required that we use a specific vendor, so we were at the mercy of their pricing, but cutting out liquor really helped.  A cheaper way to do alcohol would be to use a venue that lets you bring in your own alcohol, but of course then you have to hire bartenders.
  • Appetizers. I originally wanted to offer sooooo many appetizers including hand passed hors d'oeuvres and a shrimp tower.  In the end, we cut out everything except an array of cheese and crackers including some cheese dips, and some mixed olives.  We even cut down on the olives by only paying for enough for 50 people, rather than the full 120 in attendance, because we knew that not everyone likes olives.  As far as I've heard, we actually never ran out of olives.
  • The cake.  We saved money by having a smaller wedding cake, and serving guests from a sheet cake made of the exact same cake recipe that the wedding cake was made of.
  • The decor.  Our venue is pretty beautiful even if you didn't add a single thing, so this is definitely something to consider!  We also cut out ideas such as string lights and tulle everywhere, glittery tablecloths, chair covers, monogrammed lighting for the floor, floral runners across the table, "husband and wife" signs for the back of our chairs, etc.  A family friend offered to make some pretty decorations to frame the "altar" area and we took him up on his offer.
  • Another big savings was our rings.  I'm not sure if I've mentioned it before, but my engagement ring is a moissanite rather than a diamond. We didn't choose this for ethical reasons, though it's an added benefit.  I simply never have desired a diamond, and the sparkle of moissanite is more appealing to me, plus while they are manmade, they are naturally very rare and occur only within meteorites which is awesome. They aren't cheap, but they are certainly less expensive than diamonds. I don't think of it as a "fake diamond," but simply as a moissanite and I didn't get it with the intention of fooling anyone into thinking we could afford a 1.25 carat flawless diamond.  It's just what I wanted! After checking out wedding bands, I decided to also get a meteorite wedding band.  I splurged a bit, as in my wedding band was the most expensive thing I've ever bought, but for a band with stones fully around the ring, it was thousands of dollars cheaper than the same band with diamonds.  We got both of my rings from and I highly recommend them.  Bill's ring was very cheap.  He originally bought a tungsten ring from Zales for a couple hundred dollars, and the store "lost it" for months.  When it finally arrived, it was too large and they acted like it was his fault and told him it wouldn't arrive in time for the wedding.  Well, he demanded a refund and then found the exact same ring for $30 on Amazon which arrived in 2 days.  Amazing.  
  • My ring was featured on Wedding Bee!
  • Our officiant.  We didn't intend this, but because she was a family friend, she offered to do the wedding for free.
  • Transportation:  We didn't hire a limo. We chose locations for bridal party photos that were within walking distance.   We did hire a shuttle to take guests to/from the hotels, but picked a remodeled school bus rather than a shuttle.
  • DJ: our DJs were awesome and we would have paid triple the amount they charged for their services, but we did get a great deal.  We checked out other DJs in the area and ours were some of the best-priced, but that's not why we chose them.
  • Flowers: My bouquet excluded, we choose low-cost, simple flowers.  We went with pure baby's breath for the bridesmaids bouquets and roses and babies breath for centerpieces and boutonnieres. We almost saved even more money by using carnations, but decided roses were a bit more our style. We were able to afford Bill's dream of submerged lilies by using these only on the head table. We also saved money by cutting out common arrangements like flowers for the gift table.
  • Bridal party gifts:  We had a huge bridal party and our gifts for them could easily have blown out budget, but we researched long and hard to come up with high-quality gifts that were affordable.  Bill got his groomsmen and our dads engraved mugs.  We looked many places but found a great deal on David's Bridal (again!).  He was also able to apply a promo code.  I just happened to stumble upon my bridesmaids gifts at Marshall's of all places!  Adorable jewelry boxes that were $25 less than they were selling for online.  I also wanted them to have matching jewelry and I was able to get them pretty affordably by buying them from Charming Charlie.  Because I didn't exactly want them all to know they came from there, I put them on little cut out pieces of lace. Of course, the ones who read this blog now know, but there's nothing wrong with Charming Charlie! I really wanted the girls to wear silk/satin robes for pictures, but kept running into the craziest prices online.  I eventually ordered them straight from China on Ebay for $3 each.  Definitely a good way to go if you want robes, but just know you have to order them at least 30 days in advance.
  • Our unity candle:  I knew that we were going to light a unity candle, and I fell in love with gorgeous ones on Etsy for $50-60, but I just couldn't bring myself to pay that kind of money.  Luckily, my mom is very crafty and we spent about $10 or less at Walmart and made this one:

  • Votive candles:  These were pretty pricey from our florist, but we provided our own by buying them from Yummi Candles and saved a good amount. 

Where did we splurge?
  • Food. While I mentioned that appetizers were one area where we saved money, the food was also an area where we splurged!  We went with a slightly higher-cost caterer because the food was that good.  While it was the most expensive portion of our budget, we still saved money for the reasons mentioned above.
  • Photographer.  Now, I will say, while we spent a lot here, we got quotes from photographers that were $7,000-10,000.  Ours cost $3500.  We went with the highest package they offered, which was 12 hours of coverage, 2 photographers, engagement session (that they flew out to DC for free of charge!) 2 canvas prints, an album, and more.  I also met with people who quoted us $1200 but the quality just wasn't there.  I love our pictures and don't regret the price or choice for a minute!
  • My wedding shoes.  I never intended to spent over $100 on shoes that I would wear one day only, but they were so worth it!
  • My bouquet: While we saved on the other flowers, I went a little overboard with my bouquet, but I don't regret it for a minute.  I wanted a huge, wild bouquet and that's what I got!  It still wasn't that expensive ($125).


  1. OK, this is really helpful but also I feel like it's worth mentioning that what stands out the most is that I LOLed at the term "shrimp tower."

  2. I loved this post! I'm currently planning my wedding, and even did a similar type of post about wedding dresses. There are so many ways to save on a wedding. The amount we spend isn't equal to the love we have :)

    Bernice | IG @bunnybernice

  3. Veils are the most overpriced things in the world. I just can't even figure that one out. Lots of good tips here. I'm still in disbelief at the amazing job your mom did on your dress! She's so talented!

    1. I will have to tell her all of the compliments she's getting online!


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