In 2018, the average American wedding cost $33,391. In the New York metropolitan area, where I live, the average wedding cost is $65,824.
When we got engaged, my fiancé and I hadn’t thought about the cost of a wedding, or researched those jarring numbers. Once we realized the price, we wondered if we should elope, but it didn’t feel right. I’d never pictured a specific dream wedding, but I’ve always known I wanted to be surrounded by friends and family. Our very generous parents volunteered to help us with some of the wedding costs, but we still needed to figure out ways to cut corners while keeping the event classy and fun. Now our wedding is just two months away, and (thankfully) the planning is done. And we hit our goal of staying under the average New York wedding.
If you’re planning a wedding soon, here are some ways we were able to get creative and save some cash.
My fiancé and I found our perfect venue and were so excited. Only problem? It exceeded our budget. But the manager told us there was a “drop-out” date in July—meaning a couple had booked the date but either broke up or decided to have the wedding elsewhere—and if we were willing to plan the wedding in just seven months, we could have the venue and reception dinner at 33 percent off. We took it. If you’re flexible with your date and willing to plan quickly, asking about drop out dates is an option.
As a result of accepting a drop out date, we’re getting married at a beautiful, private camp in New York’s Catskills surrounded by 160 friends and family. The venue has all the classic, rustic beauty of upstate New York with some fun and unfussy quirks that fit our lifestyle, like an on-premises dive bar for a karaoke after-party!
Invitations and Save the Dates can be made cheaply!
With all due respect to talented, hard-working artists and designers, in 2019 you don’t need to pay them to make your wedding invitation. So many free templates already exist. Plus, services like Canva and BeFunky make it easy for anyone with a keen eye to design an invitation. I designed my Save the Dates in Photoshop and had 200 printed beautifully for $113. If I had more time to research, I probably could have gotten them even cheaper.
Forget Expensive Thank You Cards
Even if you go big on invitations, do not go big on Thank You cards! Every invitation service will try to pressure you to buy matching Thank Yous. But guess what? Nobody cares about that. We bought 300 lovely Thank You cards for $41 on Amazon.
There are so many things that married couples need to get rid of after their wedding. White umbrellas. Chalkboards. Decorations. Card boxes. Craigslist has been a great resource for picking up these little things secondhand. In all, I spent $50 on Craigslist purchases, and saved at least $400.
Follow Vendors on Social Media and Look for Deals
Most wedding vendors—the florists, photographers, and caterers that help make the event—will offer some kind of deal at some point during the year, so keep an eye out! I’m not great at haggling, but by following vendors on social media, I was able to take advantage of deals they offered, like $500 off our photographer. I also tracked “Trunk Shows” at local bridal boutiques, and snagged my dream dress for 10 percent off. It’s a traditional, white, A-line gown, but with rainbows.
Buy Practical Gifts for Your Bridal Party
The tradition of a cash-strapped couple buying gifts for their bridal party strikes me as a little odd, but we’re going with it anyway. But instead of wasting money on silly or unnecessary gifts, we’re buying matching ties for the groomsmen and paying for the bridesmaids to have their hair done. This saves some money for our bridal party ($40 on ties for each guy, and $70 on hair for the ladies) and ensures everyone will match and look their best.
Use Your Friends and Family
One wonderful thing about planning a wedding is how many people volunteer to help. So put them to work! One of my bridesmaids is in a screenprinting class, and printed a custom design on canvas gift bags for guests. My aunt with a Cricut is making a sign to place in front of the venue. My mother has beautiful handwriting and addressed the invitations, so no fancy printing or calligrapher was necessary. My sister’s boyfriend is a musician and volunteered to play the ceremony.
Take advantage of your friends with special talents, Costco memberships, or simply extra time on their hands to do tedious work. In the end, we saved at least $1,500 on items our friends and family made for us!