When MPR & I first started planning our wedding, we suffered from severe sticker shock. So we took a step back, and using my account management and media planning skills as a PR girl, I built a beautiful spreadsheet that we held near & dear to our hearts (and our wallets!) over our 2-year engagement. Using this system, we were able to come in $10k under budget for our wedding. Here’s how we did it.
Where we saved:
1. Reception: Came in $2,156.80 under budget
How we did it: MPR & I knew that the reception was going to be the biggest piece of the wedding budget pie, so we tackled it first. We wanted a grand ballroom wedding, but knew that meant a higher sticker price. We also were set on having our wedding in a downtown/city setting, which limited our venue choices. Here’s how we drove the price down:
- Found a venue that let us build a custom package
- Booked our wedding on the off-season (February in New York)
- Cut our guest list from 250 to 150
2. Rehearsal dinner: Came in $156.40 under budget
How we did it: Many times, rehearsal dinners become a mini reception the night before the wedding. MPR & I wanted the opposite of this. Here was our solution:
- Host it at one of our favorite bars, Bombers
- Limit it to parents and wedding party members only
3. Music: Came in $2,050 under budget
How we did it: If you don’t know it by now, MPR & I are music snobs. For this reason, we opted for a DJ over a band because we didn’t want to listen to covers all night.
4. Flowers: Came in $2,212.08 under budget
How we did it: Flowers were the one thing that kept me up at night. I knew what those gorgeous, tall centerpieces cost, and I knew that flower costs inflated around Valentine’s Day (our wedding date). However, out of everything on our list, I will admit flowers weren’t important to either of us. I mean, at the end of the day, they die. So we decided to take a minimalist approach to flowers, teamed up with an awesome florist, and the bottom line didn’t hurt one bit. Here are the details:
- Skipped the ceremony arrangements
- Did not order boutonnieres for the groomsmen – personal preference (they remind me of prom). Instead, we gave them hockey letters.
- Went with simple, pink rose bouquets for the bridesmaids and repurposed them for reception arrangements
- Designed minimal, white tulip centerpieces still attached to the bulbs so guests could take them home and plant them in their own gardens
- Purchased all of our vases and fillers from Dollar Tree (not all florists will allow this – make sure you ask)
5. Attire, hair & makeup: Came in $2,016.48 under budget
How we did it: After reading bridal magazines and watching Say Yes to the Dress, I honestly thought I would have a very hard time finding a dress under $2,000 (my personal limit). Turns out, it was pretty easy. My best advice is to visit bridal shops with an open mind. Don’t walk in with one dress you have to have. (But do have a silhouette/style in mind.) Here’s how we tackled the rest of this category:
- Instead of buying a pair of super expensive wedding shoes I’d only wear once, I wore TOMS. Cute, affordable, and comfortable.
- MPR’s tux rental was free at Men’s Wearhouse because he had so many groomsmen
- I decided to wear my mother’s veil instead of buying a new one (Doubled as my something borrowed)
- A special going on the weekend I bought my dress gave me a $250 credit towards accessories (Hello fur stole and sparkly earrings!)
- Other than the earrings, I wore jewelry I already owned/borrowed from my mom
- My parents offered to pay for my dress alterations
6. Ceremony: Came in $450 under budget
How we did it: There’s no trick here. Our church didn’t charge a fee for ceremonies, other than to pay for the organist and cantor.
7. Stationery: Came in $37.85 under budget
How we did it: I have mixed feelings about stationery. One the one hand, I really feel it can set the tone for your wedding. But on the other, no matter how much time and money you spend on it, it all ends up in the same place: the trash. We decided to focus our stationery budget on the actual invitations and save on the accompanying pieces. Here’s the breakdown:
- Postcard Save the Dates: Purchased digital file on Etsy, printed through Vistaprint. Postcard postage saved us a little.
- Made sure our invitation suite was not heavy or bulky so we wouldn’t go over the standard Forever postage weight
- Also used postcard RSVPs to save on extra envelopes and postage
- Bought cute thank you cards from Target for my shower and the wedding instead of paying for custom designs
- Made DIY escort cards made from old school Valentines
- Skipped the ceremony programs
8. Wedding bands: Came in $618 under budget
How we did it: MPR wasn’t picky, and I got lucky.
- MPR purchased his tungsten wedding band off Groupon. Yes, Groupon.
- My mother gave me one of her bands to use. All we had to do was size it and dip it in rhodium to better match my platinum engagement ring.
9. Honeymoon: Came in $1,632.36 under budget
How we did it: The honeymoon was another wedding aspect that was causing me severe anxiety. We booked our wedding for Valentine’s Day so we could go on our honeymoon right away (MPR is a teacher, that week is February break). But that also means that travel costs are very expensive that week. I was having a hard time justifying the dollar amounts we were looking at, so I handed the reigns to MPR, and he delivered:
- Opted for a cruise instead of an all-inclusive resort
- Racked up points on our AAA credit card by charging the remaining balances of our wedding vendors and then paying the card off in full at the end of each month, which earned us a $700 voucher for travel expenses
Where we splurged:
1. Photographer: Went $6.76 over budget
I hardly count this as going over, but to be fair, I included it. Even though we went over, my extreme research (I have an entire spreadsheet dedicated to photographers, packages, and costs) landed us a great deal, and they did a fantastic job.
2. Transportation: Went $352 over budget
This kind of is what it is. When you have a large wedding party (16 bridesmaids/groomsmen + 3 ushers + me & MPR), you don’t have many options. However, we ended up with a really fun, offbeat choice: a purple school bus called The Giddy Up.
3. Gifts & favors: Went $535.90 over budget
What can I say? We love our friends.
- +$11,329.97 saved
- -$894.66 splurged
- Drum roll: $10,435.31 under budget
Our choices and priorities obviously will not match everyone else’s, and because of this, no one couple’s wedding budget should mimic another’s. I really think the most important step of budgeting is to first sit down and discuss what your top 3, most important elements are, and book those things first.
With that being said, just because photography is important to you doesn’t mean you should hire your dream vendor that will eat up 1/3 of your budget. Looking for ‘deals’ can be scary, but do your best to find the best value in every choice you make.
Just because you have money set aside for something doesn’t mean that you need to spend it all, and having money left over isn’t a bad thing – you can use it to buy your wedding party an extra gift, upgrade your room on your honeymoon, or start that dream home fund. (Don’t forget about tax + gratuities, either.)
I swear by backing into your budget. If you’re not sure how to get started, download a free copy of my wedding budget template and read my steps for getting started.
How did you save money on your wedding?