Money Saving Tips for Your Wedding

With wedding season just around the corner, we can smell the love in the air and also hear the cries of grooms and brides as they evaluate their current wedding budget. Who wouldn’t shed a few tears when the average wedding is $31,200 — more than half the median annual household income ($55,000) — and results in 36 percent of couples going into debt according to a recent report by MarketWatch.

These high wedding costs are due to an industry that sells services at a premium and also several outdated, expensive wedding traditions. While you should ultimately do what you want for your big day, here are 11 expensive wedding conventions that you may want to say ‘bye-bye’ to:

1. Buying a ‘wedding’ dress

There are so many dress options for brides and it doesn’t mean buying the traditional, pricey white wedding dress. Many brides nowadays are looking elsewhere, including online retail sites that sale ‘bridal-esque’ white cocktail gowns for $100-$200, renting wedding dresses from sites like Rent The Runway or buying once-used designer wedding gowns. All of these can be great options and result in a fraction of the cost of traditional wedding dresses. 

2. Inviting people out of a sense of obligation

It costs today’s couple an average of $204 for each person to attend their wedding. Before you invite your second cousin, ask yourself, would you take this person out to a really expensive dinner? If the answer is no, guiltlessly take them off your list. Less people = less money towards food, drinks, invites, tables, chairs, linens and so on. Your wedding should be celebrated with your most loved family and friends — and not used as an excuse to reconnect with long lost friends and distant relatives. 

3. Evening dinner receptions

Evening sit-down and plated dinner receptions — during the height of wedding season –- are also losing popularity due to their big price tags. Many brides and grooms are hosting wedding brunches in the morning or doing just heavy appetizer and drink receptions to save costs. Couples who also have their big event off season (October through March) or steer clear of Saturday evenings, which are the most popular day and time for weddings, can usually recoup thousands of dollars.

4. Hiring florists to do your wedding décor and centerpieces

Most couples can spend anywhere from $1,500-$5,000 or more using a florist to do their bouquets, boutonnieres and centerpieces. Couples nowadays are buying flowers in bulk, ‘DIYing’ their centerpieces and mixing up standard bouquets with more “greenery,” which can cut flower costs by 60-70 percent according to experts on The Knot. Another option is to do away with flower centerpieces altogether and incorporate decorations that leverage less expensive, yet visually appealing items, such as lanterns, candles and fruit.

5. Physical gift registries

The average age to get married is at an historic high (age 27 for women and 29 for men), meaning couples are more established and less in need of those traditional gift registries featuring quintessential kitchen items. But they still need one thing: money. Sites like HoneyFund and Our Wishing Well allow couples to tactfully register for experiences or receive money directly, so they can save for a home or their honeymoon as opposed to making a really nice edamame hummus with that new food processor.

6. Cake and the cake cutting ceremony

More couples are ditching expensive, multi-tiered cakes and the cliché cake cutting ceremony, opting instead for bite sized desserts like macaroons, tarts, donuts or cupcakes. That’s not a bad idea since most caterers also charge a cake cutting fee.

7. Traditional champagne toast

Many venues and caterers charge up to $500 extra to ceremoniously pass flutes of champagne around. If you’ve been to a wedding, you know that great moments or speeches don’t revolve around what’s in your glass. As an alternative, consider a glass-in-hand toast to avoid the wasted champagne, extra expense and distracting coordination.

8. Hiring an officiant

Couples are saying ‘sayonara’ to the $300-$500 it costs to hire an officiant and choosing to have a close friend or family member officiate their ceremony instead, making their day even more sentimental. Luckily if you live in the state of Colorado, you don’t need a licensed celebrant and couples can self-solemnize, legalizing their own marriage by signing their wedding certificate.

8. Wedding stationery

Great rule of thumb here: don’t blow your budget on things that will inevitably be thrown away (e.g. printed wedding programs, postcard Save-the-Dates, RSVP cards). Unless your big day is happening during a major holiday or peak travel season, experts suggest going sans Save-the-Dates. But if they are necessary, consider emailing them with services like Paperless Post to avoid paying print and postage fees.

Also, instead of sending invitations with return address RSVP cards, which can cost a few hundred extra in postage, more couples are setting up a free wedding website where guests can RSVP online. The Knot and offer several easy-to-use websites with RSVP capabilities.

10. Guest party favors

Today’s soon-to-be-newlyweds are skipping tired party favors, recognizing guests may not cherish that tiny mason jar of homemade jam as much. The sad reality for many party favors? Guests toss ’em or leave them behind.

11. The bouquet and garter toss

While this isn’t necessarily expensive, the idea of marching your single friends on stage—blaring Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” or a bad-boy equivalent song, as they fight over a bouquet or garter—irks many brides today. And who can blame them? The tradition is outdated and impersonal. Brides are instead presenting their bouquet to their parents, the couple who’s been married the longest or honoring a loved one’s memory, by placing it in a vase, during the ceremony.

11 comments on “11 Costly Wedding Traditions to Ditch

  • Chandra,

    You have excellent knowledge on a wide range of topics. It is clear, however, that you don’t know or don’t care about small business owners that make their living selling flowers, bridal gowns, stationery etc. for the wedding industry. There are shifts in our culture no doubt but there is a reason for “tradition” – it is a societal construct that is maintained for the good of that society. Articles like yours are detrimental to these business owners and their families.

    Curious, why did you choose this topic??

    I notice that your article has links to “alternatives” for sale – are you receiving income from those vendors?? Are you preparing for your own wedding in a rented dress with no flowers and macaroons??

    • Hi Thomas,
      Thanks for your response. I’m very sorry you feel as if this blog post is damaging to businesses in the industry. That’s never our intention. In fact, we feature a lot of small businesses on our blog to help promote them, in every industry. And no, we are not receiving “kickbacks” or income from mentioning the vendors in this post or companies we’ve featured in the past.

      The topic was selected because it’s wedding season, the article is timely and we like to provide regular cost saving suggestions to our readers.

      If you read the article in its entirety, you’ll see we are only providing lower cost alternatives and not advising folks to do away with flowers, wedding dresses, etc. As we say in the beginning, every bride and groom should ultimately do what they want on their wedding day.

      • As a person that was recently married, I couldn’t agree more with FirstBank. So many weddings items have become tradition and people do them out of obligation. Flowers are a huge part of that – people are going into debt because they feel it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. If florist are losing money because people are finally being smart with their money and not going into debt to get married, then maybe florists need to change their marketing and look for other successful ways to make money – not rely on people making poor life choices of going into debt before they start the rest of their lives – just my humble opinion.
        We paid money for our venue (Hudson Gardens) and our caterer, but bought our own table cloths, our own decorations, a friend bought local flowers and arranged them, hair was done by my wife’s sister, borrowed a sound system from church, a friend DJ’d, brought some of our own extra tables instead of renting, a friend gave us a deal on photography (still paid $1k) bought our own alcohol from Davidson’s (which allowed us to return unopened cases), father-in-law built an awesome bar. Was there some things we wished were done differently? Heck yes, but that’s going to happen weather you spend a bunch or a little. We overspent by a couple thousand or so dollars: about $13k in the end but we could have easily spent $20 – 30k.
        People getting married almost need to come up with a mission statement or vision. What’s really important to them? For us, it was to have our friends and family celebrate an important day with us and to do that without going into debt.
        Unfortunately unexpected items will come up just before the date, and some of that went on our credit card, but we made a point to have a zero balance so in the end that has since been paid off.
        Getting married is full of sacrifices and the sooner both the bride and groom realize that, the better. Do you want to spend $20k well then maybe you’ll keep driving that old beater for another 2 years or you’ll buy less home for your first house or continue renting, eat out less often OR end up saddled with tons of debt going into your first year of marriage.
        Just hoping people can learn from out mistakes and wise decisions.

  • Chandra,
    I appreciate your suggestions. Being in the throes of planning a big wedding, (big immediate families on both sides), any cost saving suggestions are helpful. Neither my daughter nor I have set foot in any ‘wedding’ venue; we both believe they price gouge. Rather we have scoured thrift shops, auctions, yard sales, and repurpose shops for decor items, wedding clothes, tableware. Besides the cost savings, it is something we both find fun to do. The goal is to have a fun, all day, party event on the home place that doesn’t put us into debt for years, and is talked about as a great time for years. My mom did that for me and I hope to do it for my daughter.

  • I feel this article was very well written with very useful tips on saving money while planning such a memorable event between two people and those close to them. I DO believe spending $30,000 on a wedding is outrageous and there are ways to save money and still have a classy, special day! Great job on the article and tips! 🙂

  • Chandra – At first it seemed odd to read of a bank giving advice re: a wedding ceremony and all of its components. An obvious connection is your urge to help people and potential customers save money. Fair enough.

    However, one glaring omission is any consideration to religious traditions. Paying for a celebrant, for instance, is dispensed with in your antiseptic checklist as a factor or cost on the same level as the “cliché” of cake cutting. Cutting cake, along with other (ick!) traditional trappings actually make for great fun with some of us. But it’s to your credit that you barely/ just imply how, these days, many young couples add customized twists to their marriage celebration with an eye towards reducing the costs.

    The main problem with your post is the stress-casual-at-all costs inference which causes you to miss the big picture: ‘pricey’ touches such as paying for a celebrant are probably a sign that a couple is closely aligned with a church or denomination which seeks to involve parts of the community or parish in blessing a marriage. D-I-Ying it is fine but it has its limits. Traditions that involve trusted clerics or Officiants, in other words, often rest on the giving to, donating to and honoring of a fellowship, one of those nasty things that modern living and practicality can’t erase from the ledger. Weddings based on casual receptions and easily jettisoned traditions might just discount more than you bargain for.

    • Hi Ron,
      Thanks for your response and for reading. We appreciate your feedback and you bring up a valid point that a couple may hire a celebrant for religious purposes. Religion is a very central and important part to many ceremonies and we would never want to discredit that. We appreciate you bringing this to our attention.

      Please keep in mind that the article is only intended to uncover cost-saving trends for couples to consider (about one-third of couples surveyed were married by a friend/family member according to a recent Knot survey). Not to strong arm them into a non-traditional wedding.

      If the couple has strong religious affiliations, then hiring an officiant/celebrant or getting married in a church is something they may feel strongly about and therefore, should do.

      Our stance is that the couple should ultimately do what they want on their wedding day, but it doesn’t hurt to know options.

      Thank you again for your comment.

  • My nephews had a great money saving idea, and also helps the environment stay a little greener. They have quite a few friends that were also planning weddings. Several couples went to garage sales and purchased as many glasses as needed for less than $1 each. Mismatched, of course, but that made it more fun (the best ones were souvenir glasses). Then these glasses would travel to each wedding so that the married couple wouldn’t need to rent glasses, or buy, then throw away disposable champagne flutes. The guests enjoyed the relaxed feel that this gave the wedding reception. Break a few glasses, no problem, go to another garage sale and buy a few more…

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