Smart Hacks To Plan A Wedding On A Budget

One of the most exciting times in a couple's life is their wedding day. But something that can arguably make this special day that much better is a financially realistic approach to the planning process. According to The Knot, the average cost of a wedding in the United States is a whopping $28,000. It's no wonder that almost a third of engaged couples in the U.S. find themselves in debt while trying to pay for their ceremony and reception (via Business Insider). Wouldn't it be cool if there were some proven ways to save a few extra coins — or preferably dollar bills on your wedding? If your big day is coming up and you're already feeling anxious about how much it's going to cost, rest assured that there are some ways to save money.


Although this requires a little bit of research and thinking outside of the box, you can save money on your wedding by following these hacks.

Plan a destination wedding

While it may seem odd that a destination wedding could end up costing less than having one in your own hometown, it's possible, according to The Knot. When you choose the former over the latter, several cost-reducing factors are able to come into play. You can have a smaller guest list. oftentimes, you can get an all-exclusive package or hire vendors who are already on-site at your wedding venue. And you can have your honeymoon at the same location, if you so choose. And, as a bonus, you can avoid paying a lot for your personal airfare if you've earned reward points with an airline.


However, you should make your travel plans as soon as possible. And don't forget to confirm if you can legally get married in the destination of your choice (via Insider). Once these two things are out of the way, having this kind of wedding can actually be a lot of (affordable) fun!

Nix the save-the-date cards

Here's a sobering thought: Approximately one billion trees' worth of paper is wasted within the United States on an annual basis, according to Middle Georgia State University. That alone is enough of a reason to rethink how much paper you plan on for your wedding.


Take save-the-date cards, for example. While they're undoubtedly a cute way to let people know you've got a wedding coming up, the costs associated with them add up. They can set you back around $150 — only for you to turn around and spend another $380 for RSVP cards and invitations too (via The Knot). Not so cute now, hm?

Listen, talk to any married couple and they'll tell you that every penny counts. So, while physical save-the-dates can allow your guests enough advance notice, you can always save some cash by sending out digital cards. "They can be easily designed, quickly sent, and either free or a very low cost," Nora Sheils, co-founder of Rock Paper Coin and founder of Bridal Bliss, told Brides.


Limit those plus-ones

Plus-ones are a little on the tricky side because, when you're in the process of sending out wedding invites, how do you know who to extend them to? Thankfully, The Knot has some suggestions that actually make a whole lot of sense.


You should extend plus-one invitations to guests that are married or engaged, as well as those on your VIP list who won't know the other guests. Also, while it's more courteous than standard, extending plus-ones to your wedding party is a nice move as well. You can forgo the plus-ones for guests who are only casually dating, co-workers, and single people who you're not super close with and will know others at your wedding.

It's important to really put some thought into all of this because the clearer you are on your wedding headcount, the easier it will be for you to set a firm budget and cut some expenses down.

Get married on a weekday or offseason

It likely comes as no surprise to you that peak wedding season is between May and October, with Saturday being the most popular day of the week to say "I do" (via The Knot). That's actually why it can save you some serious dollars if you opt to get married during the "offseason" and definitely on a weekday.


"On average, a couple can save up to 25 percent between their venue and associated vendors by having a mid-week wedding," David Bowd, co-founder and CEO of Salt Hotels in Asbury Park, New Jersey and Provincetown, Massachusetts, told Brides. Although venue prices don't typically change in the offseason, you can save some money on wedding travel or on your destination wedding if you book outside of the popular months, according to Martha Stewart. Just keep in mind that fewer people may be able to RSVP to your big day due to work and other obligations. 

Get married in the morning or afternoon

There are a few reasons why getting married in the morning or afternoon can prove to be a real win as well. You can fly out to your honeymoon on the evening of your wedding instead of getting up at the crack of dawn (like a lot of couples with evening weddings end up doing the following day). You can get creative with your reception menu (brunch and mimosas, anyone?). Of course, this is another way that you can probably keep some money in your pocket.


If you opt to get married at, say, noon instead of 6 p.m., the venue is also able to book an evening slot. This means that they can make more money, which could result in your earning an impressive discount, according to The Knot.

Alternatively, you could opt to have your ceremony and reception at the same location. This can save you some money in venue costs as well as transportation fees.

Use a local florist and stick to flowers that are in season

There's nothing more romantic than being in a room of fresh fragrant flowers. And if there's one time when you can be almost certain it will happen, it's when you're attending someone's wedding. However, those blooms don't come cheap. In fact, according to The Knot, the current average cost is reportedly somewhere around $2,300.


That's the bad news. The good news is there are a few money-saving hacks that can help to lighten the load when it comes to your florals. For starters, flowers tend to be cheaper if you get ones that are actually in season at the time of your wedding, and if you go with a local florist (via The Knot). You can also opt for bigger blooms — you'll need fewer flowers that way — and stick to no more than a couple of different kinds, The Knot recommends.

Oh, and don't forget to "repurpose" your flowers. Using your bridesmaids' bouquets as a part of your reception centerpieces can make your flowers go further.

Rent your dress or check out sample sales

With the average price of a wedding gown being $1,800, it's understandable if you're looking for a cheaper alternative. Cue: renting. There's nothing wrong with renting a dress for your big day — especially if you know that you're only going to use it for one day. In many ways, renting can be an awesome option because if you want to go with something super extravagant, you can totally do so without breaking the bank.


However, if you think you might want to keep your wedding dress, there is another option to slash the price: sample sales. As Fashionista explained, sample sales entail "heavily discounted sample designs" made by brands and given to the press, used on the runway, or sent to factories as a model for production. Sometimes, sample sales also include deeply discounted overstock looks. Either way, you'll be able to save quite a bit.

Hire a restaurant to cater your reception or book a food truck

Here's a real doozy. Guess how much it costs to cater a wedding reception? The Knot shared that it's somewhere around $75 per individual. This means that if 150 guests arrive at your reception, you need to be prepared to pay over $10,000 just to feed them.


Skipping buffets, avoiding full-course meals, and cutting down your guest list — even if it's just when it comes to your reception — are a few ways RealSimple recommends to lower the cost. Perhaps the publication's most cost-effective suggestion is to hire a restaurant to prepare the food for your reception instead of hiring a catering company. This can work if you plan on having a smaller wedding because it will usually prove to be much cheaper to order entrees right off of the restaurant's standard menu instead of paying a bulk cost and catering fees.

Alternatively, a food truck can be a fun and affordable option. You can sometimes book one for around $15 per person (via Brides).

Go for a plain wedding cake topped with fresh flowers or fruit

According to Brides, the cost of a wedding cake can range anywhere from $150 on the low end to over $1,000 on the high end, with the average being somewhere around $350. While that might seem pretty reasonable, what may surprise you is that many cake designers opt to not set a price by the cake but per slice. So, how can you get around that?


The Food Network recommends going with a cake that's as plain as possible (naked or with something like buttercream frosting only). You can then request the designer add some fresh flowers or fruit. The logic here is that since it doesn't take a ton of preplanning for cake decorators to make a plain cake, they won't charge you as much as they would for cakes requiring intricate embellishments.

If you want to save even more, you can always add the flowers or fruits yourself. If you do decide to go the DIY route, you can likely use some leftover stems from your florist or you can repurpose a bouquet that you used during your ceremony.

Pass on the champagne toast and create a signature cocktail

Alcohol can cost an arm and a leg at a wedding. The average price of an open bar in the United States is around $7,350, according to The Knot (via CNBC). As one ingenious couple told CNBC, they saved $6,000 at their wedding by skipping the open bar and purchasing some wine at Trader Joe's instead. They took off the labels and had some custom labels made for their big day.


Another awesome idea is to nix the champagne toast and instead serve one or two signature drinks (via The Knot). Combining these two ideas can easily save you not few dollars, but a few thousand dollars. Guests tend to enjoy reading about how couples came up with drinks that express how they feel about each other and/or their special day. Plus, going the signature drink route makes serving alcohol a whole lot easier on the bartender, if you have one, which could lead to a steep discount as well.

Hire a student or recent graduate to photograph and film your wedding

It's kind of baffling how you can spend months and months planning for a day that seems to go by in the blink of an eye. That's why, no matter what else you want to do for your day, it's really important that you set aside some cash to pay for a wedding photographer and/or videographer to capture as many memories as possible. But what if you don't have an extra $5,000 to 10,000 to spare? Well, you might want to try what a couple featured in PureWow did. Instead of going with a popular high-end photography or videography company, they hit up Craigslist and found a recent film graduate student who charged them only $1,500.


The moral to the story: Many students are very knowledgeable and are looking for some additional experience and to get their names out there. If you're willing to take the risk, it could prove to be well worth your while — and then some.

Crowdsource your photography for casual photos

Back when disposable cameras were all the rage, many couples would place them at various reception tables. Why? It would encourage the guests to take pictures throughout the event so that the ones who said "I do" would also have some casual shots for their wedding photo collection.


These days, thanks to advances in technology, guests are able to use photo-sharing apps instead. According to Bridal Guide, most of the apps are free. What makes them an outstanding idea is you can share them online, download them to email accounts, and print them.

It's an enjoyable and creative way for your guests to play an even bigger part on your wedding day and to get some amazing photos that probably wouldn't be captured any other way — all without spending a ton of extra money. The perfect money-saving hack to end a truly beautiful day.