newlywed-couple-celebrating

It’s not just a fancy honeymoon trip to Bali that tips the cost of getting married from affordable to “Eek, that’s a massive bill!”

With the wedding alone costing close to $34,000 on average (not including the honeymoon expenses), it’s no wonder couples feel stressed about money before and after their nuptials. In fact, according to a recent Ally Bank survey, 36 percent of couples who are married or in serious relationships found money to be the most stress-inducing factor in their relationship.

Fortunately, whether you’re just starting wedding planning or tying up loose ends, there are plenty of ways to save money on your big day. Read on for even more clever wedding ideas on a budget — from thrifty centerpieces to gorgeous gowns that won’t cost as much as a monthly mortgage payment.

The clothes

No doubt about it, wedding dress shopping redefines fun. But don’t feel pressured to buy a gown from a fancy bridal salon. Not only do they average $1,600, you’ll likely need another $500 to $700 worth of alterations. Not to mention other extras like veils, trains, and shoes.

Plenty of retailers, from BHLDN to Nordstrom offer gorgeous and much more affordable off-the-rack options that suit any style of wedding.

For the groom, steer away from costly tux rentals and statement suits, (think: a velvet blazer or a baby-blue ensemble). Invest in a classic tuxedo or suit, and he’ll be able to wear it again (and again, and again).

The venue

A reception hall and/or ceremony venue can eat up a huge chunk of your budget, so you might want to think outside tradition. While June is an extremely popular time to get married, consider an October wedding instead. Venues fill up quickly during peak wedding season — June through September — so you’ll have little wiggle room to bargain.

You could also land a more affordable price if you say your vows on an unconventional day (Thursday or Friday).

The food

The best way to save on food costs is to cut down the guest list. (Do you really need to invite your 4th grade teacher you haven’t seen since your tween years?) With reception catering costs averaging $70 per person, the difference between partying with 150 wedding guests or 100 is $3,500.

Skip the sit-down dinner and think about throwing a cocktail reception or a buffet instead since the per-person price typically dips. A food truck can also be a low-cost way to feed your guests, and it certainly ups the fun factor.

The cake

Save a few hundred dollars by rethinking the wedding cake, which can cost between $300 and $700, thanks to all those extra details (sugar flowers, fondant, intricate frosting design). Your best bet is to stick with buttercream, or even forgo frosting and opt for a “naked” cake that can be decorated with real flowers.

Alternative desserts like cupcakes, macarons, and pie add a creative flair and save money on a tight budget.

The decor

Bouquets and wedding centerpieces can be extremely expensive — especially if you lust after exotic blooms. Talk to your florist about alternatives that fit your color palette and your budget. Keep the season in mind, too — flowers that are in bloom can cost less than those that are out-of-season.

A bride and groom blessed with a DIY touch can order flowers in bulk from FiftyFlowers.com or work with a local farm to create unique centerpieces and ceremony decor. Potted plants, like hydrangeas, often come in decorative ceramic containers worthy of your big day and will cost at least half the price of a professionally arranged table centerpiece.

The tunes

Swap out the band for a DJ and you could save upward of $3,000. Or you can take it a step further and be your own DJ (sorta). You probably already have a decent party playlist, so adjusting it for your wedding day shouldn’t take much time at all. Then appoint a music-loving friend as the MC to run the show. The only real expense will be to rent a sound system (assuming your venue doesn’t have one already).

The photos

The right wedding photographer and videographer is probably one of the most important expenditures you’ll make for your wedding day. Instead of racking up a giant bill booking the photographer for the entire day, negotiate to have them get photos of the ceremony and at the start of the reception. You can count on friends and family to document the rest of your wedding day. (Thank you iPhone portrait mode!)

Ask guests to add your unique hashtag (#LoveMarkandMary, for instance) to any pics they share on social media. Then create your own party album on Artifact Uprising, a premium photo book and album site.

The invites

Custom invitations look impressive. But let’s be honest, they just go up on your guests’ fridge (or in the trash). Sites like Snapfish and Minted offer imaginative invitations and even let you create your own. Plus, they almost always offer a promo code for a discount off your order.

Your first activity as a newlywed doesn’t have to be going into debt on your wedding day. It is possible to throw the event of your dreams at a cost you can afford. All you need to do is say “I do” to these tips.

Discussion questions:

  • What is your favorite money-saving wedding hack?
  • What wedding item do you wish you spent less on?
  • Were you frugal or frivolous with your wedding?