Weddings are anything but traditional these days! With so much personalization and customization to the couple, it’ll be hard to ever attend any wedding like another. This special day, however, does come at a price. Whether you have help from your friends and family, or you and your SO are fronting the costs yourselves, weddings overall are not cheap. The average cost of a 2019 wedding in California (LA area) is $36,890 according to Value Penguin and is $33,931 according to The Knot’s study on 14,000 couples who got married in 2018. To be honest, I still think these numbers are not fully representative of just how much weddings add up to be at the end of the day. There are so many factors and hidden costs that can really add up and that can take you (and your budget) by surprise.
When Jack and I started wedding planning 8 months ago, we were very, and I mean, verrrrrrry, realistic about how much our special day was going to cost. When I say this, I really mean that Jack had to keep me grounded on most of the crazy things I wanted, but I am so glad that he did. With our amount of guests, location, and overall vibe we are going for, we saw that things really added up quick. Thankfully, we do have the support of our families to help us, but that didn’t mean we wanted to be excessive with our big day for the sake of doing so. Jack and I were both very much on the same page about our budget and although we wanted our wedding to be special and unique to us, we also knew that it wasn’t worth spends tons of money on, well, one night.
So, do you still think you need tons of $$$ for your wedding day? Think again! I promise it’s possible to have the wedding of your dreams, the key is compromise, and being smart about booking your vendors. A few dollars here and there doesn’t seem like much when you’re going through the motions of booking vendors and making decisions, but it does add up. There’s really no need to take out a loan, dip into your house savings fund, or put yourself in debt over your wedding day. Jack’s famous words are as follows: at the end of the day, it’s about our marriage and not the wedding. It really is possible to have your cake and eat it too with these little tips + tricks!
Do Your Research: Before finding ways to cut costs, be sure you and your S.O. really do your research on what your ideal wedding and ideal budget will look like. I highly suggest you reach out to vendors you would generally be interested in working with for preliminary quotes. If you do this, just be sure to be transparent and clear that you are not at the booking stage yet and are just reaching out to see if they are a good fit for your overall vision and budget. This was honestly the most accurate way for us to get a real sense of our budget.
Venue Location: One thing that Jack and I always knew was that location matters. Not only is it nice for guests to have an easy venue to get to, it also can save you some money. When searching for venue, really do your research. How close is the closest hotel? How far is it from where most guests live? If your answer is “far enough” then you’ll definitely need to provide a room block, and one that you might be responsible for picking up some of the cost for. Some venues are even so far “out there” that you will need to provide transportation (AKA a bus) to shuttle your guests in and out of the venue? We fell in love with one venue out in Temecula, but it was not easy to get to. There was absolutely no cell service at the venue, and was about a 30-40min drive from the main road. We knew that if we wanted guests to get there without any issues, we would have to provide a few buses from one central location. This was a deal breaker for us as it would have ended up being thousands of extra dollars all on transportation that we could have used elsewhere. Clearly, we didn’t go with this venue, and we opted for a closer location where our guests could easily get themselves to and from the venue with valet & parking onsite.
Opt for Digital Invites: Not everything needs to be printed and mailed. Postage is not cheap, people! And neither is printing. For things like the engagement party, save the dates, and bridal shower, digital invites are completely acceptable. For your actual invites, they’re almost even better! Living in such a digital and tech savvy world, it’s much easier to RSVP online than to hassle with sending something back via snail mail…and potentially getting lost in the mail. Unless you insist on having handwritten invitations, most wedding invites are all digital in form before being printed. This is definitely an easy way to save hundreds of dollars.
Photography: One of the first things we did after getting engaged was book a photographer for our engagement photos! We chose to pay for only our engagement photos and not commit to a wedding package, as we didn’t have a venue or wedding date at the time of booking. One way to save some $$ is to book it all at once, if time allows. I know some couples like to “test it out” with their photographer during their engagement photos before committing, and this is totally valid and fine. If you already know you want to work with a photographer, it might end up being more cost effective to chose a package for your big day that includes an engagement session. I’ve also found that photographers are more than willing to work with their clients. So, if you’ve found someone you love and they are just a bit out of budget, shoot your shot and negotiate!
Understand What Exactly You’re Getting at your Venue: Trust me when I say the wedding industry is b-o-o-m-i-n-g. Venues especially. They are freakin’ money making machines. That being said, definitely know and understand what each venue you inquire about offers. Some are more of well-oiled-machines where they provide rentals, catering, and even wedding planners in house. It may seem like a lot of money upfront, but you ultimately might save this way and it make the process pretty seamless. If you opt to go more “a la carte” and choose a venue that is well, just a venue, understand that there may be tons of rules and restrictions and extra hidden costs. By choosing the latter, keep in mind that you have to bring probably everything in – catering, florists, rentals, a wedding planner, etc. Depending on what vendors you choose, they also may charge you travel fees which could be a few hundred (or thousand) that you weren’t prepared to pay for. And just like that, the florist you found in San Diego that is everything you ever wanted just might be an extra $1500 for your Malibu wedding due to the distance they must travel, and maybe even the hotel room you might have to provide!
Florals: This should be pretty self explanatory. Florists can easily cost $5,000 to start. Typically, the more custom, the more expensive. And if you’re that girl thinking that you’ll opt for “more greens” to save on florist costs, think again! Definitely think twice about being set on peonies in Fall, and try to stick to flowers and greens that are in season and are easily accessible. Also, talk to your florist about ways to re-purpose your florals. The cocktail hour bar florals + decor can easily be repurposed for the bar at the reception! Incorporating candles on tabletops are also a great swap for overflowing floral centerpieces.
Family Style or Buffet Catering: If you’re the person who thinks buffet meals are tacky, then I absolutely cannot with you. Buffet meals are a GREAT way to save on catering, and also get your guests mingling! One of the best parts of a wedding, aside from celebrating the couple, is mingling with other guests and meeting people. Why not make this even easier for guests who are choosing what type of taco they want to make at the taco bar? Family style (passed around the table) is also a great way to save on overall catering. Guests can still mingle this way, and you will end up needing more space on the tables to hold all the food, which means less $$$ spent on tabletop decor!
Late Night Snacks: Unless you’re a foodie, do you really need late-night food? Catering will be where you spend most of your money, anyways. Many people will beg to differ on this, but for us, we knew our guests will be served plenty of food during cocktail hour and the reception, so we chose to skip offering a late-night snack.
The Bar: One thing we found out at our engagement party is that despite having an open bar, if you offer any specialty drinks (i.e. Alexa’s Aperol Spritz and Jack’s Jack Daniels) people will drink them. I don’t care if someone is only a tequila drinker; I almost guarantee that they will chose to drink your vodka drink if that’s the “special”. This is a great way to save a few thousand. Another option is to provide an open bar for only part of the night…like cocktail hour. This solves two issues: high alcohol costs and people blacking out too early. Or, if you’re the couple who isn’t big on drinking, serving just beer + wine is a great money saver.
Use Your Resources! If you’ve hired a wedding planner (or any vendor for that matter) don’t be afraid to lean on them for recommendations. Think about all of the networking connections you have in the industry that you work in…wedding vendors are exactly the same, if not better. We have found that all of our vendors are more than willing to offer suggestions to other vendors. What we’ve also found is that those recommendations and introductions also come with discounts. It’s a win-win situation; you save some dollars, and also get referred to people that your vendors trust and have delivered excellence in the past.
Wait for Sales: Black Friday is coming up, as well as Cyber Monday, and let me tell you…I have FULL carts of things ready to check out. I plan to get almost all of my bridesmaid, MOH, and family gifts during this time. You can also use sales to buy thank you cards, tabletop decor, or any other specialty items. Other great sales to look forward to are Memorial Day Weekend and July 4th.
I could really go on and on with this list forever, but I’ve got to cut it off at some point lol. If you know me, then you know I’m a lover of doing my research and committing to things when the price is right. That doesn’t mean I’m cheap, just mindful and cost effective. I want my cake and want to eat it too, and then still have money to do the things I want after. With a little bit of compromise and negotiation, your dream wedding can definitely be a reality. If there are certain things you want to know about wedding planning and saving, drop me a line below!