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Avoid Breaking the Bank: How to Save Money on Your Wedding Day

Emma Goddard Published by Emma Goddard
Published on June 10, 2015

Every year, couples shell out thousands of dollars on weddings. Some pay what might equate to the cost of a sleek car, while others burn a whole in their pockets by dropping down enough dough to buy a new house with. Hey, whatever makes their day. If I had the money for an elaborate wedding, I'm sure I'd do the same. Yet for those of us who can't afford the luxuries of Swarovski crystal gowns and castles as our venues, being crafty and staying on budget is crucial.

After all, just because you're not sitting on six figures doesn't mean you can't have your cake and eat it, too. So to help you achieve your dream wedding while also saving some cash, Wewomen spoke with Meghan Ely, the owner of wedding marketing and PR firm, OFD Consulting, to talk cutting costs while planning one of the biggest nights of your life.

What are couples spending the most money on?

Ely: As a whole, couples should expect to spend quite a bit on the reception component in particular. Food and beverage will always be one of the most influential factors of your budget. Photography is [also] one that we say, statistically, couples will get the most sticker shock with.

And the least?

Ely: I think when it comes to smaller budget allocations, if you’re doing hair and makeup that’s going to be less of an expense. I would also say entertainment. Even if you pay $2,000 that’s still less in comparison to the food and beverage. [Additionally] bridal gowns can cost so much, but it ranges and doesn’t have to be as large of an investment.

As you've probably seen through your own experience, some couples tend to go overboard. Are there any aspects of a wedding that you feel are unnecessary and simply result in excess costs?

Ely: There are a few things couples think they have to do, which end up costing them more money. One is having huge wedding parties. Everyone has different circumstances but that, to me, is unnecessary when you think, “Well what would that cost me?” [Bridesmaids] are buying their dresses but there's actually a lot of time and money spent on things like gifts for them and all of that. Any sort of larger party is going to cost you more money.

​Couples are also going to feel like they have to get married at night for some reason. As a bride myself six years ago, I got married during the day and saved a considerable amount doing that. The rental fees were less so we saved a ton of money.

Wedding © Twig & Olive Photography/iStock/Getty Images Likewise, massive rehearsal dinners I don’t think are necessary. Rehearsal dinners back in the day would strictly include the couple, the immediate family, the wedding party and maybe their dates. Now people think it’s more socially acceptable to welcome out-of-town guests who are maybe traveling and are looking for something to do. The problem is it’s gone overboard. It’s unnecessary to have a wedding for 250 but have a rehearsal dinner for 175. People can find their own plans. It’s exhausting for the couple and the families, and I think there are times when the families are kind of competing with each other.

There are of course small fees (e.g. any sort of delivery) that tend to add up. What should couples be aware of?

Ely: You always want to make sure that you understand any taxes that are going to be an addition. Especially the food and beverage, and also gratuity. The gratuity off of catering is something that people — you need to make sure that’s in the actual proposal. On average you’re looking at 20 percent of the total food sale which people don’t always realize. That’s why it’s important to see a consultant or professional who will know to anticipate that. There might also be gratuity that isn't always worked into the contract. If someone does a great job, above and beyond what you expected, then you may want to consider spending a cash tip on someone who particularly stood out.

Also, postage: the envelope size and the weight of them as well. For example, a lot of people like going through Etsy for the wedding [invitations] and they have to know the shipping rates. What are the guidelines? [Couples] think they can plan so close to the wedding because they don’t have a count yet, but you may have to pay for expedited shipping if you’re not aware of what the turnaround time usually is.

Have you seen anything at weddings that you feel most guests wouldn't miss or even notice if they were excluded?

Ely: I think it’s going to vary from couple to couple because some things are significant. The big qestion you have to ask yourself when someone has a list of whether they should have an additional photobooth, favors, or stationary — they need to look at them individually and ask themselves, "Are these components part of our wedding because we want them there or because we feel like we have to have them there?" I think that’s the bigger question.
If the items selected are a reflection of the couple then it will be appreciated.

There's an idea out there that DIY weddings will help them save money. Though I'm sure it does for certain couples, have you ever witnessed any DIY weddings that actually ended up equating to that of hiring a professional in terms of cost?

Ely: At the end of the day it does not save the way people think it does. When people say DIY what happens is this: They buy all this material and they waste so much of their own time. I worked with couples who tried to DIY parts of their wedding and were giving up, and then they had to hire somebody to do it.

How can prolonging an engagement be an advantage?

Ely: We’re finding statistically speaking that couples are more and more contributing to their weddings, and so that’s when a longer engagement will help. What they can do — if this goes back to just finances — is they can save up for longer and they can spread out their payments potentially. I will say that in no way shape or form will a wedding professional give them a discount, but some [couples] may get in on earlier rates. You might be able to lock in early at current rates versus what the rates are in a year.

How can the bride and groom save on the ceremony?

Ely: With the ceremony, keeping in mind that decor is lovely, you’re only going to be in the ceremony for a short amount of time. You don’t necessarily need to go overboard with the flowers and decorations; save that for the reception where people will be in the space for significantly longer.

What about the cocktail hour?

Ely: I would start with the biggest money sucker and that would be the bar. I know regionally it does vary but let’s assume open bar tends to be status quo. Some catering companies, and it depends on state rules too, will allow you to bring in your own beer and wine. That’s a tremendous saving. [In certain states] you can return liquor if it’s unopened and there’s just a small fee taken off.

​With cocktail hour don't go overboard with the food. People go overboard and it’s like remember, you’re heading into a reception where there’s going to be tons of food. Where I work in particular, I often suggest a handful of different passed hors d'oeuvres. Passed hors d'oeuvres help you control your quantities.

Some people will do liquors for just cocktail hour but for the rest of the night it’ll be open bar beer and wine. Also be careful about the length of your cocktail hour because if you don’t have a ton of food the people are going to be drinking more.

With all the wedding videos out there and shows like "Four Weddings" on TLC, there seems to be a lot of competition between couples to have the ultimate wedding. Why do we do this to ourselves?

Ely: Couples tend to get engaged and married around the same time as their friends. So they’re going to spend a few years of their lives attending a million weddings. A lot of them have the desire because they go to so many and they want to stand out. They don’t want it to be just another wedding. It is better than it was five years ago, though. I've seen a shift towards couples really wanting to make their wedding their own, which is a better mentality.

How did you save on your wedding? Tweet us @wewomenUSA!

This article was written by Emma Goddard. Follow her on Twitter @egoddardhokie.​

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