15 Realistic Ways to Save Money on a Wedding

There are a number of ways to throw a celebration that you can actually afford. Here’s how to save money on a wedding without compromising on the magic.

January 25, 2024

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For many couples, getting married is one of the most joyous occasions of their lives — that is, until they look at the price tag. Once you add up the cost of engagement rings, flowers, photography, catering, and venues, total costs can quickly balloon into the six figures. 

Looking at that kind of an invoice can suck the joy out of the room pretty quickly. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to throw a beautiful and memorable celebration that you can actually afford. Here are some smart ways to save money on a wedding without compromising on the magic. 

15 ways to save money on a wedding

Celebrating your love is important, but you may not want to blow your savings on a one-day party, especially if you have other financial goals — such as paying off credit card debt, buying a home, or contributing to retirement. Here are some ways to save on your big day.

1. Get married close to home 

According to wedding resource The Knot, the average cost of a wedding in 2022 was $30,000, and about 20% of couples opted for destination weddings. A ceremony in Cabo might sound dreamy, but getting married far from home isn’t always practical. Getting married close to home can save you a significant amount in transportation costs. 

2. Choose an off-peak wedding season or day of the week

Getting married outside of peak wedding season (May to October) can significantly trim expenses. During these off-peak seasons, many vendors offer reduced prices on venues, services, and accommodations. 

You can also save money by choosing a less-popular day. Weekends tend to be the most popular wedding days. If possible, consider a weekday wedding or a brunch wedding, as venues often offer lower rates outside evenings and weekends. 

Also consider buying items like decorations or attire off-season, that is, outside the May to October window. You’ll be able to get more discounts during the winter months, for example, when wedding planning isn’t in full force. 

3. Borrow or rent instead of buying

It can be tempting to buy a brand-new wedding dress or decor for your special day, but many big-ticket items — including wedding gowns and bridesmaids’ dresses — can be rented at a fraction of the cost. 

Centerpieces, linens, and even specialty items such as arches or lighting are available for short-term rentals. You can also rent sound systems and photo booths for a reasonable price. Renting can allow you to enjoy your dream wedding without purchasing items you may never use again. And if you want to save even more money, consider borrowing instead

4. Choose a non-traditional cake

A traditional wedding cake can cost hundreds of dollars. Before you say yes to that triple-tiered confection, ask yourself whether you could do something different. Many couples these days opt for a sheet cake or a small ceremonial cake, and then provide cupcakes, donuts, or other pastries for their guests. 

5. Negotiate prices

When it comes to managing wedding expenses, don’t shy away from negotiating prices or asking vendors if they offer discounts for early bookings or package deals. Many vendors, such as venues, caterers, videographers, and wedding photographers, allow you to bundle services for a discounted rate. 

Some of the more comprehensive packages could include venue rental, catering, decor, and more, all rolled into one cost-effective deal. By opting for these bundled offerings, you not only streamline the planning process, but also benefit from potential savings compared to booking each service individually.

Also remember: the earlier you book your venue, caterer, and photographer, the cheaper their services are likely to be. Typically, early bookings start around 12 to 18 months before the wedding date. 

6. Create a wedding website

Crafting a wedding website isn’t just a modern touch—it’s also a savvy way to cut costs on invitation inserts. Instead of including multiple cards or extra details in your invitations, direct wedding guests to your website for additional information. 

On the site, share details like venue directions, accommodation suggestions, and the schedule of events. Include an RSVP section where guests can confirm attendance. Personalize the site to reflect your wedding theme and style, and you’ll not only save on paper and printing expenses but also offer guests a convenient source for all essential wedding details. 

7. Repurpose elements of your wedding

With a little clever wedding planning, many accessories can do double duty. Consider using your wedding ceremony chairs at the rehearsal and reception to avoid renting separate seating. Likewise, you can repurpose ceremony flowers as table centerpieces later. You can also rework decorations or signage from the ceremony for the reception area. 

By repurposing these elements creatively, you not only cut down on rental and floral arrangement expenses but also add cohesion and continuity to the aesthetic of your wedding.

8. Subscribe to email lists early and wait for discounts

Many wedding vendors send out email newsletters announcing sales and special offers. To improve your odds of getting one, subscribe to vendors’ email lists months (if not years) ahead of your wedding day. Then, wait for exclusive deals, promotions, or early-bird discounts before making any purchases. Many vendors also offer their subscribers introductory discounts or seasonal sales on various wedding essentials. 

9. Host your wedding and reception in the same venue

By hosting both the ceremony and reception at one venue, you eliminate the need for additional transportation to move your guests or wedding party between locations. This cuts down on costs associated with renting multiple venues, hiring transportation services, or arranging guest shuttles. Furthermore, when your venue plays double duty, it simplifies logistics, reduces travel time, and ensures a seamless transition from ceremony to celebration. 

10. Opt for buffet or food stations

Buffets give guests more menu options and more choices in portion size, often at a lower per-person cost. They can also feel less stuffy and provide guests with a more relaxed dining experience. With food stations, guests can choose their preferred dishes and don’t require wait staff to take orders and serve plated meals. That translates to serious savings on staffing coats. 

11. Bring your own alcohol 

Many venues charge hefty markups on drinks sold on-site. While many venues require guests to purchase alcohol through them, some let couples bring in their own alcohol. That provision can give you greater control over your guests’ beverage choices and help you reduce costs. 

Just be sure to check the venue’s policies, corkage fees, and any licensing requirements beforehand to ensure compliance and a smooth setup. If bringing your own alcohol isn’t possible, consider limiting the open bar to a certain time period. 

12. Opt for a less traditional venue

Rather than booking a popular wedding venue, consider alternative options like a public park, beach, backyard, or barn. One Reddit user mentioned getting married in a lighthouse. These non-traditional venues are often surprisingly affordable and can still offer a beautiful and unique setting for a traditional wedding. 

If you go this route, just make sure you know what’s included in each venue. A park may be cheaper, but one of the reasons is because all the decorations, tables, chairs, etc. are your responsibility. 

12. Prioritize essential vendors

Which vendors are most important to you? Can you forgo a band for a DJ? A DJ for a curated playlist so you can afford a better photographer (or multiple)? Determine your priorities and allocate a larger portion of your budget to the things that matter most on your big day. 

13. Dial down the decor

Instead of hiring a professional florist or decorator, consider doing the décor yourself. You can save a lot of money by buying wedding flowers and décor materials in bulk and creating your own centerpieces, bridesmaids’ bouquets, boutonnieres, or other decorations. There are plenty of DIY wedding decoration tutorials that can guide you on how to create stunning décor on a budget. Plus, the DIY option eliminates the need for a wedding planner. 

Opt for in-season flowers or choose greenery and foliage as a more budget-friendly alternative to expensive blooms. Consider DIY flower arrangements or use non-floral elements like candles or lanterns to cut costs. 

Or, as one couple did, consider dialing down the decorations altogether: They shared: “I see all these posts about DIYing tons of flowers, backdrops, centerpieces, organizing uplighting, favors, cake table decor, gift table decor, what to put down the aisle, what to put on the chairs, etc etc. We're just not doing any of it. We're happy with the basic linens and plain chairs because when was the last time you went to a wedding and thought ‘This is nice but this chair really needed an organza sash?” Well said.

14. Make the wedding intimate

If it’s possible, consider limiting your number of guests to close loved ones. Of all these saving tips, this is probably the most effective way to save money. And that’s because nearly everything hinges on the guest list. By inviting only close family members and friends and having a small bridal party and groomsmen, you can reduce catering costs, venue size requirements, and even save on wedding invitations and favors.

15. Skip the extras

Look at your bottom-line wedding expenses and try to identify any non-essentials that may inflate your budget, like wedding favors, wait staff, passed apps, elaborate transportation, or extravagant decor. 

Do you really need personalized napkins? A party bus to take you from the church to the reception? Envelope liner and thick card stock for the invitations? 

Make a list of your wedding costs from highest to lowest. Are there some high up on the list that really won’t make much of an impact on your special day? These are the extras that should be cut first. 

Shop wedding loans on Navient Marketplace 

There are a number of ways to throw a memorable celebration without blowing your wedding budget. That said, while these strategies and hacks can help you save money, it’s still important to make sure your special day feels, well, special. 

If you need a little more financial support to make that happen, consider exploring wedding loans on Navient Marketplace. A personal loan1 with flexible terms and a low interest rate could help you enhance your celebrations without compromising your vision—or your financial goals. 

Disclaimer: This blog post provides personal finance educational information, and it is not intended to provide legal, financial, or tax advice.

1 Navient customers are invited to consider personal loan offers through our partner Fiona. Navient has not shared your information with Fiona and is not involved in the personal loan application process in any manner.  All information is submitted directly to Fiona and any personal loan offers are made directly by participants in Fiona’s lending platform, powered by Even Financial.  Even Financial, Inc. is the industry-leading embedded financial marketplace and independent subsidiary of MoneyLion Inc. (“MoneyLion”) (NYSE:ML). Checking your rate will not affect your credit score. Eligibility is not guaranteed and requires that a sufficient number of investors commit funds to your account and that you meet credit and other conditions.

Loan proceeds may not be used for postsecondary educational expenses, including refinancing federal or private student loans.

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