63 Ways Real Brides and Grooms Save Money

Many brides and grooms contributed their money-saving tips to my book, Cheap Ways to Tie the Knot. I’ve compiled some of my favorites to give you ideas on how to plan your wedding the cheapest and most creative way possible.


DRESS & ACCESSORIES

  • Buy your shoes online, or at a store in the mall which tend to be cheaper than bridal salons. – Maisie, Deland, Florida
  • If you live near L.A. or New York (or can take a trip to either one), visit their garment districts. These are the places where all the bridal boutiques order their wares, so if you can bypass retail and go wholesale, you will make a killing. (I bought my tiara for $16, the same one that was $150 at the boutique.) – Aly, Ventura, California
  • There are places that will rent a designer gown for the day and do alterations to fit exactly. Just like you plopped down the $5k for the Vera Wang but at only a 10th of that price. – Joanna, Southern California
  • I skipped on the on having my hair and make-up done. One of my girl friends is a great at hair and she did mine on my wedding day. This saved money and time because we had no appointments to rush to. Instead of paying someone to do my make-up I took that money and just bought new make-up and did it myself. Then I had all new stuff for the honeymoon. – Jaime, Cleveland, Tennessee
  • Find a wedding thrift store to find odds and ends. I got my crinoline at a wedding thrift store and saved a ton of money. Wear fake jewelry. My earrings, necklace and bracelet cost me about $50. It was gorgeous and I was bling blinging. – Maya, Orlando, Florida
  • I found a brand new knockoff designer gown for $229 on eBay. (Really, it's not as scary as it sounds). I also found many of my accessories (tiara, veil, necklace) as well as a flower girl dress, basket and even artificial rose petals on the auction website. – Alison, Ozark, Missouri
  • Lots of people I know blow $700 (average) to $1,000+ on their wedding dresses – a dress that looks surprisingly like everyone else's who had a wedding that particular year. I'm having my dress made. The material cost $100, and my dressmaker said she'd make it for $100, so for $200 I'm having a non-traditional, black velvet (I'm getting married in November) and white chiffon, 1940's Hollywood glamour inspired dress that will fit me perfectly and will look like nobody else's. – Bridget, Rochester, New York
  • If you are looking for a way to save your wedding party money, you can always pick a color and then have each girl pick a dress in that color. Some people might be concerned about picking the wrong shade of a color, but as long as you have three or four different shades of a color it is really difficult to clash – everything blends. Also, guys can wear suits. If they are too young to have a need for one yet and don't own one, then it is a great time to buy one. Every guy should have a suit in his closet. – Carey, Easley, South Carolina
  • We bought our wedding bands during Valentine's weekend because every jewelry store was having a big sale. Most jewelry stores have big sales around holidays. – Jen, Lake Mary, Florida

FLOWERS

  • If you love stephanotis, you're in for some sticker shock – they're extremely popular, and extremely expensive. Ask your florist to get a white hyacinth plant instead. The individual flowers look almost exactly like stephanotis, but the whole hyacinth plant is less than four individual stephanotis. – Rachel, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio
  • You can get roses at Sam’s Club or Costco for pretty cheap, much cheaper than from an actual florist. – Amanda, Nashville, Tennessee
  • When doing your flowers yourself, less is more. Not less flowers, just less types. Pick a great flower, like Gerbera daisies and that’s it. – Joanna, Southern California
  • Using the florist at a local grocery store can get your wedding flowers that look just as good the local florist shop. If you're a little squirmy about that, you can check a reference or two from weddings they've done. – Janine, Washington D.C.
  • Don’t be picky. Because my wedding was on January 1 in Southern California (Rose Parade kinda corners the market.) There was a premium on flowers and I couldn’t really be choosy. But I was so happy with what I got. Instead of specifying a certain type of flower, be specific about color and style (e.g. tropical, white.) – Joanna, Southern California

PHOTOGRAPHY & VIDEOGRAPHY

  • Look for photography students who have some experience, and are working on building up their portfolio. As long as they have some good shots under their belt, and you can schedule in a bit more time for photos, this should work. (My husband is a photographer and he did our photos: He set up the pose, set the camera settings and had my mom snap the shot with the remote.) – Alexsis, Denver, Colorado
  • I knew I'd probably never watch a video, so I had a friend videotape our wedding for nothing. And I was right ... in seven years, I've watched it once. – Hannah, Lebanon, Indiana

DECORATIONS

  • We borrowed many of our decorations for the ceremony from already-married friends. – Alison, Ozark, Missouri
  • Use decorations that your church has. My church had a lot of extra plants and decorations that were perfect for my wedding, which I just borrowed. The total for decorating the location for the ceremony cost me a total of $30! – Maisie, Deland, Florida
  • A great idea for an inexpensive guest book is to buy a journal and felt-tip markers, so that rather than everyone just signing their name on the line, they can write you wedding wishes as well. Barnes and Noble and has a huge selection of journals with blank pages as do craft stores. – Russanna, Lynchburg, Virginia

PRINTED MATERIALS

  • If there is a university close by, call their print shop and ask if they print initiations. We are getting 200 invitations, response cards, and vellum papers printed for $25.00 by the print shop of a university in our town. – Russanna, Lynchburg, Virginia
  • We're making our own invitations from those prepackaged kits you can buy at any office supply store. We're doing all the invitations for $80 and they're actually kind of pretty. – Amanda, Nashville, Tennessee
  • You can send your guests an invitation on a CD. Instead of having to print invitations, just make a video inviting guests to your big day. It saves on money, it’s creative, and guests get to see your face. You can include reply cards inside, along with directions, and the other things. – Liz, Lansdowne, Virginia
  • For our invitations, we asked friends who were recently married if they had any old invitations. We gathered about 200 and took out the tissue paper. I went to a local paper store and purchased invitations for about $25. I made my own invitations, maps, RSVP cards, and then put the tissue paper as an insert. They looked really good and cost me less than $25, saving me about $200 to get them printed. – Bo Lane, Keokuk, Iowa
  • For thank-you cards, order printed ones that match your invitations that just have your names on them. I still use our extras for quick notes. – Kelli, Ona, West Virginia
  • Instead of typical wedding announcements, we did postcards. We used a picture and designed a postcard as an invitation. The cost to have post cards professionally printed was a fraction of the cost to invitations. Also, postcard stamps are cheaper too! To RSVP, we had a web address people emailed their responses. Everyone thought it was cool! – James, Phoenix, Arizona
  • You can save money by making and printing your wedding bulletins yourself. You can use Word or Publisher (or anything else). Then go to Kinko’s or somewhere and print it on cardstock (can be purchased there or at an office supply store). – John, Tampa, Florida
  • I made my own program, where I got creative and included the meanings behind some of the traditions and other things in the wedding (i.e. english ivy). I knew my friends and family were going to be seated for a while before the wedding started, so I wanted them to be entertained! – Hannah, Lebanon, Indiana

CEREMONY

  • Use recorded music instead of live musicians. We burned all of our ceremony music onto a disc and played it over the church's sound system. We got to incorporate all of the songs that meant so much to us and it only cost us the price of the blank CDs. – Mindy, Seymour, Indiana
  • We had a video at our ceremony that started out like a regular wedding video with side-by-side pictures of me and Ryan growing up, but then it abruptly stopped and said something like, “Everyone’s seen a sappy wedding video, but how did it really happen?” and it then cut to a clip of us in fifth grade when one of Ryan’s friends tells my Mom on camera at school, “Ryan is in love with your daughter” and totally embarrasses Ryan. There was Napoleon Dynamite music playing in the background … People thought it was hilarious. – Jennifer, Des Moines, Iowa
  • To add a special personal touch, my friends wrote and performed a song (written specifically for Luke and me) during the ceremony. My brother played the violin...which took care of the music...and it was all relatively cheap because everyone wanted to do something at my wedding. – Maisie, Deland, Florida
  • Plan your wedding in December when all the decorations are out for Christmas. It saves on cost of flowers and decorations. – Kristen, St. Charles, Illinois

RECEPTION

  • We decorated the reception hall ourselves, and had a blast! We borrowed wicker furniture and silk trees from grandmas and friends to make a large empty room seem cozy. – Hannah, Lebanon, Indiana
  • Choose a caterer that includes linens. They are very expensive to rent from a linen company. – Krista, Atlanta, Georgia
  • The 99-cent store all the way! My best friend who got married bought these really cool curved glass frames and put pictures they printed at home in each one as a part of the centerpiece. Each table had different pictures. They were a beautiful (and cheap!) addition to their tables’ centerpieces. It only cost them about $25 for the frames and the pictures. – Erik, Visalia, California
  • Make a playlist on an iPod with all the music you want, rent some speakers and a PA system, plug in the iPod, and hit play. Let the music play in the order of the playlist, or hit shuffle. – Peter, Tarzana, California
  • A friend knew there would be several little kids at her reception, so she handed out coloring sheets of Miss Piggy and Kermit's wedding and crayons (three tied in a bundle with curly ribbon.) The kids had a blast! – Hannah, Lebanon, Indiana
  • We got married on New Years' Eve and had the reception begin later on in the evening, and then it lasted until midnight. We served desserts and beverages (some people suggest dessert and champagne, although that might negate the savings). It was great. We splurged on the band instead, but it saved us TONS of money on the reception. – Grace, Cincinnati, Ohio

FOOD

  • I’ve been to a couple of weddings where the reception was potluck. It was very creative and a neat way to have the community, friends, and family chip in and make your wedding day even more special! – Laura, Cincinnati, Ohio
  • We are opting for a candlelight dessert reception. We are saving several hundred dollars by not having a formal dinner and the different choices for desserts give guests a laid back feel, however the candlelight gives a somewhat formal atmosphere. – Russanna, Lynchburg, Virginia
  • We arranged the catering and bought all the drinks ourselves from a wine wholesaler. – Anne, Reading, UK
  • Nix the liquor and go with a buffet. Cutting the open bar saved me a ton of cash and it kept my in-laws from thinking I was a heathen. While a buffet was not as nice as having a meal served to my guest it saved me about $10 per head and it provided more food options. – Jaime, Cleveland, Tennessee
  • Know what's important to you. To me, it was food. Forget making party favors for my 600 guests. I knew they really wanted bacon wrapped scallops, chicken fingers, turkey pinwheels and the like. I didn't want to pay for a full meal ($24/head), so we had a 2 p.m. wedding with 3 p.m. hors d'oeuvres ($12/head). – Kim, Omaha, Nebraska
  • My wife and I did a ticket system where we only allowed guest to have two drinks each. This was classier than the “cash bar” concept, cheaper than “open bar” and promoted responsible drinking. – Amos, Indianapolis, Indiana
  • Skip the dance, booze, etc. that inflates the expenses of the reception and after. – Grant, Alberta, Canada

CAKE

  • Using a grocery story bakery is much cheap than a caterer. – Jaime, Cleveland, Tennessee
  • I know of a couple that had a bakery fiasco and ended up serving donuts and chocolate milk, because it suited them better. – Joanna, Southern California
  • Serve a doughnut cake: A doughnut cake is where you pretty much stack doughnuts up as high as you like to make a big “triangle” of sorts, or just use a tiered tray. Then you decorate as you please. – Liz, Lansdowne, Virginia
  • Instead of having a traditional wedding cake, we had an ice-cream cake. Much cheaper and more importantly, much more enjoyable! – Angela, Alberta, Canada
  • Cupcakes are a hot new wedding trend and can be better on the budget. – Joanna, Southern California

FAVORS

  • My wife and I gave CDs as a gift for our guests. We took some of our favorite songs from our relationship together and created two different CDs each with a different cover. If you use iTunes to create the CD, you can even have it print out a CD cover with track listings. We made 300 for about $275, less than a dollar a gift! – Tim, Norwalk, California
  • Skip the favors – people only notice if they’re cheap or silly; they don’t notice if there aren’t any at all. – Steve, Brick, New Jersey
  • For our send off, we are purchasing about 300 sparklers around the 4th of July for about $20. This is much more cost effective than bubbles or rice and will really add light and color to our goodbyes. – Russanna, Lynchburg, Virginia

FRIENDS

  • Always feel free to ask family and friends to help. They want to and it makes them feel much more involved. – Amanda, Nashville, Tennessee
  • Make friends with the older ladies in your church. They WANT to help with everything, so for heaven's sake, let them ... especially when it comes to making favors, sewing bridesmaids dresses, anything crafty. These women know crafty. – Aly, Ventura, California

HONEYMOON

  • Instead of renting a limo for the day, we rented a nice luxury car (a Jaguar) for the week and took it on our honeymoon. Not only did we save money compared to renting a limo, we kept the car for the entire week! – Peter, Tarzana, California
  • We took a cruise. We booked it in advance and got a great deal. The best part, all of you meals and most of your actives are included in the ticket price. – Jaime, Cleveland, Tennessee
  • Instead of an expensive honeymoon, we stayed at a beautiful bed and breakfast on a vineyard within the same state. – Peter, Tarzana, California

MISC. ADVICE

  • Don't invite your cousins twice removed, no matter what your mother says – you want to have fun and be comfortable and not feel obligated to speak to everyone at your reception, and you won't be spending money on people you don't know or care about. – Jessica, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • I have some friends who had a small intimate wedding (with just a few family and very close friends) and had a BIG reception with a lot more friends and family and they cut cost and had the best time. – Jeremy, Pensacola, Florida
  • Wedding Guidebooks: You find them everywhere and they're free. A dermatologist office advertises free facials in the Orlando one. I got a free facial a couple weeks before the wedding, no strings attached. – Jen, Lake Mary, Florida
  • We actually got married on Memorial Day, when most people are out camping, making our guests happy by the deep discount hotel rooms and my father happy by not paying ANYTHING to rent the hotel ballroom for the day. – Kim, Omaha, Nebraska
  • Don’t feel pressured to have anything at your wedding that you don’t want. You don’t have to throw the bouquet, or have a receiving line, or smash cake in each other’s faces. Have the wedding YOU want, not the wedding you feel like you are supposed to have. – Brandi, Nashville, Tennessee

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11 Comments

Thanks for sharing...58eveningdress.
Posted by 58eveningdress
While the idea of saving money on your bar services is appealing, don't forget to apply for a one-time special event license from your local ABC board. The bridal couple will absorb more liability going this route; whereas, caterers are licensed for such services and have trained bartenders on staff.
Posted by Shirl Everhart
Because most of our guests had to travel alot of miles for our wedding, we spent most of our money on feeding our guests with a dinner reception. We had a Christmas time wedding, so used the church's decor instead of buying alot. Instead of buying a dress, I borrowed it. I just had to pay to have it professionally dry cleaned and resealed. (now I don't have to store it, or tote it with me at each move). Instead of buying gifts for the bridal party, we bought the fabric for the dresses and they made them, and we paid for the tuxs. It was a win/win for each side...no extra unnecessary gift for us to buy, and it helped the defray some of the cost for our bridal party. We used a friend to take the pictures, that can have an up and a down side. I think the most important part is to remember that in the end it's not the dress, the pictures, the decorations, etc, that is important... it's the marriage, and you don't have to have any of those to have a fantastic marriage!
Posted by Catherine
brides maid dresses: My brides maid dresses were dresses that were tea length that had some of my wedding colors on them. I had my maid of honor pick the best one out of a sales catalog from JC Penny. They looked great and my friends wore it more than once! It was a blessing they thanked me for. Shoes: I wore my own. I had pair of white high heels that I wore that my father place a quarter in it for blessings for the bride. Jewelry: wore my husband's grandmother's amber necklace. My mom-in-law purchased my earrings with small diamonds. (very small {small pinky size fingernail} but extremely lovely) Car: we used my husband truck to drive to our honeymoon from Texas to Florida having fun the whole way the ring: My husband purchased my ring with cash. It was 600.00 ( this was 1989 folks) and he brought for 400. It was a sales purchase on the spot. I say look into the 60% off sections or ask mom or grandmaw for something they might want to pass down. I will be giving one of my rings that has my daughter's birth stone (garent) to her future hubby as something to pass on and suggesting a different ring setting to make it her own and using her great grandmother wedding band as the second band. Unique AND different. NO ONE will have a ring like hers and it will have a unique story with it. June is huge for weddings and Sept/October is as well. We married in August. cake: we found someone in the classified adds that did wedding cakes. We paid 100.00 in 1989 and she decorated with my colors at a local hotel with a banquet room. Also, I had read somewhere that they couple had a fake cake at their wedding but it was taken into the kitchen to cut they had another cake that had been purchased from their favorite small bakery and served! Brilliant!! church: the church we married in had lovely stain glass windows. The organist about had a fit when I told her to play whatever she felt like playing...I had no favorites. Just play the wedding march. She was tripping!!! cake topper: purchase what you like. It just may become some heirloom that you pass down or goes with your style. Ours was about 40.00, made of glass that had two swans touching beaks of gold that we had for years. I had another cake made for our anniversary years later that I used then after our party my sweet hubby accidentally broke it after we made it home going through the front door... oh well.. smile.
Posted by lisa
Awesome tips! I'll definitely inform my sister about your post. She is planning to get married next year and I'm sure she will get a lot knowledge on to plan a wedding.
Posted by Marc Azada
My husband and I got married almost a year ago. In total, our wedding (including honeymoon) came to no more than $2,000. Our families are big on "get-togethers" or picnics, so that's what we did. We had a GIANT picnic. We got married at a local lake that had an indoor pavilion (for the food) and picnic tables outside. Our wedding was outside by the lake and the reception was the same place. We had chairs and blankets for people to sit on, to add to the tables already there. A family member did the photographs (and ROCKED). We only paid to print the pictures because it was his gift to us. My mother-in-law makes cakes, so she made ours at the price of the supplies ($300). It was huge and delicious and had fresh strawberries. I made my wedding dress. A friend of the family does alterations and a whole bunch of left over white satin material. I took my mom's wedding dress apart and used pieces from hers as well. It was knee-length and really pretty. Total cost of that: $7.00. My husband wanted to be comfy so he bought linen khaki pants and a pink and white button up shirt. So for our attire, we spent like $40. My bridesmaids wore Fuchsia/yellow sun-dresses that they picked out. Many of them already had them before. Our party favors were bubbles and mini Frisbees. That came to like $25 from the dollar store. Our lunch (reception was at 11) was potluck because that's how our families roll. We paid nothing for food. We only paid for the plates and utensils. For our honeymoon, we went camping at the same place we got married. It was super fun and we had a great time. Our campsite was right next to the water and couldn't have been better.
Posted by Nikki
We're getting married on a Sunday, which is not only traditional for my very Greek in-laws, but muuuuuuch cheaper. We're getting all kinds of discounts on photography, videography, reception (we're saving $15/pp, compared to a Saturday deal). We're also doing family style, which is more formal than a buffet and people still get all the food they want. My biggest piece of advice (pre-wedding) is to be reasonable. I started out wanting to do everything on this list - iPod for a DJ, etc. You realize how unreasonable and tacky your wedding will be if you do EVERYTHING on the cheap. Pick what's important, spend your money there, and be cheap on the other stuff. :)
Posted by Elizabeth

I say just jump on a plane and rush off to some far away beach. Who ever wants to come pays their own way. That way you take the pressure off yourself for everything to be perfect. Life isn't perfect!


Posted by Buffy
That is great that you have a site that can save a young couple a lot of money for their future as we all know it takes a lot, your tips are of great value.
Posted by J.A. Assoc
Seriously, I couldn't think of so many ways to save money myself. In theory, these are great ways. But in reality, it becomes really hard to implement these ideas. If I could have it my save money way, i would have a meal with my closest family and friends of no more than 10 people. Exchange vows and that's it. But expectations is the problem. This comes from the bride (wants to be a princess) The in-laws (who has relatives to answer to) and friends (who somewhat expect a "decent wedding". That's why most of us end up spending a bomb still
Posted by James - The Singapore Wedding Photographer
Look for a jeweler who has a package deal with the engagement ring that includes, reception discount, specials on wedding flowers, cheaper honeymoon accommodation etc. More and more are putting packages together with other wedding suppliers that can save you significant amounts
Posted by Leanne