As they say, your wedding should be among the happiest days of your life. But it can also be the most expensive day of your life — by a lot. According to The Knot, the average cost of a wedding was $28,000 last year. And Insider says 28% of American couples even go into debt to finance the big day.
Fortunately, thinking outside of the box can save you significantly. Here are 10 unconventional ways to save money on your wedding without compromising quality.
Look Into Creative Venues
The venue is one of the biggest expenses you’ll cover. In fact, The Knot says the average cost of a venue was nearly $11,000 last year. However, you can chip away at that price by expanding your concept of a wedding venue. Instead of limiting yourself to ballrooms at ritzy hotels or mansions on vineyards, get creative.
Alternative venues like museums, libraries, and city parks often cost considerably less to book — and they tend to make more memorable surroundings. And if you’re planning a small wedding, then look into restaurants. You may be able to book a room for an intimate ceremony and dinner.
Tie the Knot in the Off-Season
When picking your wedding date, you might naturally gravitate toward peak wedding season — somewhere between May and October, in other words. The Knot says 80% of weddings took place in that window last year. Since there’s greater demand for venues and vendors, prices are typically higher during peak wedding season.
However, savvy couples can save significantly simply by getting married in the off-season. While December can be pricey because of holiday parties, the deep winter months of January, February, and March tend to have fewer events. That can be a real win-win: it’s cheaper and there are fewer couples to compete with for vendors and venues.
See If You Can BYOB
You might not realize this, but some venues allow you to bring your own liquor to serve at the bar. According to Insider, venues typically mark up their own supply of alcohol by several hundred percent. So, supplying the alcohol yourself is an effective way to slash the price of your wedding.
Head to a warehouse store like Costco or a big-box store like Target to pick up your choice of liquor for less. Then after the wedding, return any unopened bottles you end up not using. While this isn’t an option at every venue, don’t forget to ask before agreeing to use their supply of liquor.
Host a Brunch Wedding Reception
You might feel obligated to provide dinner at your reception because that’s tradition, but opting for a brunch reception can be cost-effective and popular. After all, who doesn’t love brunch? Since breakfast staples like omelets and waffles are affordable crowd-pleasers, brunch is a way to satisfy your guests while saving bucks.
Swapping a pricey steak or salmon dinner for a more affordable brunch buffet can save you money in another way, too. Mornings and afternoons are less common times for weddings, so your venue will likely cost less money. And again, you’ll compete with fewer couples and be more likely to land your first choice of venue.
Look to the Suburbs
If you’re getting married in a big city, then don’t overlook nearby suburbs when planning your wedding. You’ll have more options for venues, caters, and photographers — plus, you’ll sidestep the big-city surcharge that can come with weddings in a major city.
Even if you decide to get married in the city, be sure to consider caters, photographers, and other vendors in the surrounding suburbs. They’re often open to traveling within commuting distance and tend to be less expensive than their big-city counterparts.
Skip the Traditional Wedding Cake
Much like a spendy dinner, you might feel obligated to buy a traditional wedding cake. But couples who don’t have their hearts set on a wedding cake can save money by nixing the standard dessert. According to WeddingWire, the average wedding cake costs about $500.
That’s a significant amount of money to spend if it’s mostly out of obligation. A dessert bar with a mix of home-baked favorites, gourmet chocolates, and store-bought baked goods from somewhere like Trader Joe’s can feel more personal, give guests greater variety, and cost less.
Buy Secondhand Treasures When Possible
Considering wedding dresses can cost thousands of dollars — Brides says the average cost of a dress is $2,439 — they can quickly become budget busters. Unless you have unlimited funds, you might not want to spend thousands on a dress you’ll only wear once. Instead, check places like Poshmark and local consignment shops to find great deals.
You might be able to score a luxury wedding gown for a fraction of the original price. And beyond the dress, check out thrift stores for decor and other essentials. They’re an amazing resource for vases, drinkware, and china. While an eclectic table setting takes more planning than a matchy-matchy one, it can look fantastic and cost a lot less.
Save on Hair and Makeup
In the age of beauty bloggers, there’s a decent chance that someone in your social circle has learned how to do hair and makeup like a pro. If they’re willing to lend their expertise and handle your beauty needs, then you could save hundreds. According to WeddingWire, the cost of a professional hair and makeup artist ranges from $150 to $600.
A friend or family member may be willing to do it for free or in lieu of a gift. If you don’t know anyone who fits the bill, then consider teaching yourself. Pick a beauty counter in a department store to get some guidance and buy the necessary products. Even Kate Middleton did her own wedding makeup, so there’s no shame in doing it yourself.
Rethink the Floral Arrangements
The cost of wedding flowers can seriously add up. For instance, The Knot says the average cost was $2,300 last year. That’s a lot of money to budget for blooms. However, a few tips and tricks can help bring that price down.
For one thing, stick to seasonal, locally-grown flowers to avoid paying for transportation costs. Additionally, consider alternatives to expensive orchids and roses like greenery garlands and colorful mums. They look great and cost less!
Take “Something Borrowed” to the Next Level
Don’t overlook your social circle while planning the big day. Friends and family can be wonderful resources to tap and are often happy to help. For instance, your cousin who got married last year might have leftover supplies. Perhaps your family’s church has tables and chairs you can borrow. Or maybe your grandma can lend you jewelry.
Borrowing instead of renting or buying can save you significant money and gives your loved ones an opportunity to contribute to the happy occasion. It also gives your wedding a more personal touch.