Ever since I got engaged, planning my wedding has been a financial challenge—especially since I’m both a sentimental and thrifty person. On
the one hand, I think: It’s a special day—the one moment in my life
when I’ll be surrounded by all of my dearest family members and friends.
So why not splurge? But I also think: I don’t have a huge income.
and I are saving for a house, so extravagance isn’t necessary. I guess
that I don’t really need to tie the knot in wine country and pay $10,000
to $15,000 just for the “location fee,” which doesn’t even include the
cost of tables, chairs and linens. Over the last year, I’ve learned the
art of striking a balance between splurging on my priorities (a live
band, a pretty dress) and resisting the urge to blow the bank on things
that are less important to me, like fancy programs and escort cards.
matter what I spent money on, I always found a way to get it for less
than full price—whether that meant negotiating with a vendor, waiting
for a sale or using “rewards” points—and I managed to save $21,485 in
the process! For all those brides- and grooms-to-be who want in on my
secrets, check out these 10 tricks that allowed me to cut corners… and
still have a dream wedding.
1. Don’t Be Overly Accommodating
was originally supposed to be on a Friday evening. I signed a contract
with my venue coordinator, and started to spread the exciting news. The
next day, when she called to tell me that she had accidentally
double-booked my date, I didn’t say, “Oh, that’s OK. Mistakes happen. I
totally understand.” Instead, I told her politely (but firmly) that I
was disappointed—and that I might take my business elsewhere.
that I was serious, and recognizing that she was in the wrong, she
offered me a Saturday evening wedding… at a Friday evening price! And
that meant a savings of $50 for each of the 229 guests I was inviting.
In other words, she was offering me the most desirable day and time of
the week for $11,450 less than it usually costs. Although I was nervous
about making the deal, since the coordinator had already broken my
trust, I decided that it was too good of an offer to pass up.
vendors juggle as many as four brides per weekend—especially between
April and October—and errors aren’t all that uncommon. So if your vendor
makes a mistake, remember that you have leverage. There’s no need to
throw a tantrum, but don’t be a pushover either. Hesitate before moving
forward with the vendor, and gently express the fact that you’re
dissatisfied. Then see if that person makes you a better offer. After
all, you have nothing to lose.
2. Borrow Instead of Buy
purchase something, think about weddings that you’ve been to recently.
Is there an item that a past bride wore or used that you might be able
to borrow? For example, I always admired my sister-in-law’s veil—it was
simple, elegant and just the right length. And since a veil is
one-size-fits-all, it can be easily re-worn. That saved me about $50.
And when I
started ring shopping, I wanted a basic band. My mom said, “If that’s
what you’re after, I should show you my original ring. I have a newer
one, so I don’t use it anymore.” As it turned out, her band was perfect.
I spent $40 getting it resized and polished, still saving roughly $60.
3. Negotiate, Negotiate, Negotiate
booked the venue, my next biggest priority was hiring musicians. My
fiancé and I love live music, so we were willing to pay for a band
instead of a less expensive DJ. I already had a band in mind that I was
obsessed with—I’d seen them perform four times—but the bandleader
charged a ton for a Saturday night.
I said to
the bandleader, “We love you guys, but the price is steep. Is there any
way you could cut it down a little?” She immediately slashed her price
by $2,500. I told her that I’d think about it because it was still above
our maximum. A few days later, I called back and asked, “Is that the
very best price that you can give us?” She said that she could drop her
price another $2,500, if we paid in cash—and she offered to throw in a
cocktail hour duo for free, saving us another $800. My reply: “Deal!”
Negotiating was scary because I didn’t want to annoy the vendor and make her not
want to work with me. But it was worth it, since I saved a total of
$5,800. Bottom line: Never accept a vendor’s first price without trying
to negotiate. More often than not, there is wiggle room.
4. Work With Your Venue
business is filled with partnerships. Venues refer brides to certain
clients, and clients refer brides to certain venues in return. So you
should always ask if a venue has a list of “preferred vendors,” and if
you like them, use them, because there’s a good chance you’ll get a
deal. By using my venue’s preferred hair and makeup team, the total cost
of the package for my bridesmaids and myself was $200 cheaper than
5. Call on Talented Friends
and I were hoping for a personal ceremony, and it occurred to us that
one of our closest and wittiest friends is an ordained minister who had
already officiated a few weddings. He agreed to marry us at no charge.
We are giving him a gift worth $250, but we likely saved $250, since
officiants charge around $500.
We have two
other friends who are talented singer-songwriters, and they agreed to
play music for free during the ceremony, which will make it much more
meaningful. We’re also giving them gifts, but we likely saved about $750
by not hiring pros.
6. Shop Around
When you’re choosing a vendor, it helps to have context. The more websites that you
visit, calls you make and meetings that you set up, the better sense
you’ll have of what prices are “low,” “average,” and “high.”
two florists before making a decision. I liked Florist A a lot more than
Florist B. The only problem: Florist A gave me an estimate that was
$1,100 higher! I decided to email Florist A and say, “I’d really love to
work with your company, but I got an estimate from another florist
that’s $1,100 less.” Guess what? Florist A matched that exact price, so I
got the quality that I wanted at a much more reasonable cost. A
7. Wait for Sales
The earlier you start to plan, the more deals
you’re likely to snag—because you’ll have more time to wait for sales.
My fiancé and I knew which gifts we wanted to buy for our bridal party
members on TheKnot.com within a month of getting engaged. We knew that
we had about a year to buy the items, so we held off on purchasing
them—and signed up for The Knot’s online newsletter. When December
rolled around, we got an email that read: “Year-end clearance sale!”
That savings: $120.
I was also patient when searching for a pair of bridal shoes. I eventually found a
gorgeous, sparkly Badgley Mischka pair on sale at Bloomingdale’s—marked
down to $150 from $215. If you can, hold out for big holiday sales
around Memorial Day, July 4th, and Labor Day. And ask wedding gown
salons for a list of their upcoming trunk shows or sample sales.
8. Pay Attention to the Fine Print
planning a wedding, you have to read and keep track of dozens of
contracts—many of which are long and detailed. So it’s all too easy to
skim them quickly without fully focusing on what you’re signing. Resist
that urge and carefully analyze what you’re agreeing to—and make sure to
bring home a photocopy of the agreement, in case you need to refer to
tweaking invitation proofs, my vendor told me that it would cost an
additional $180 to use two colors. I thought that sounded different from
what the vendor had told me originally, and sure enough, the contract
clearly stated that since my invitations were digital, I could use as
many colors as I wanted at no additional charge. I pointed that out to
the salesperson, who corrected the error. But if I hadn’t spoken up,
odds are that I would have been charged extra.
9. Use Rewards Points
My fiancé is a Hilton Honors member, thanks to business travel. So we were able to use 160,000 of his rewards points
to get a free hotel room for two nights during our Hawaiian honeymoon.
That saved us a total of $800. You should also think about using
frequent flyer miles and credit card rewards points—you can also rack up
a lot of the latter if you pay for all of your wedding-related stuff
with your credit card.
10. D.I.Y. It
Instead of asking a professional company to print out my ceremony programs
and reception place cards, I saved money by printing them myself. The
place cards would have cost about $175, and the programs would have been
about $400. You can use other D.I.Y. skills to save money, like making
your own bouquet out of antique jewelry or artificial flowers. Or design
your own party favors by baking your famous chocolate chip cookies or
growing your own mini potted plants.
It’s easy to get sucked into a wedding spending vortex, especially when vendors
prey on your emotions by saying things like, “We want to help you create
memories that you’ll carry with you for a lifetime.” I had to keep
reminding myself that how much I spent wasn’t a reflection of how in
love I was nor how strong my marriage would be. These were business
transactions, and at the end of the day, all the vendors really wanted
was my cash.
reflect on every wedding purchase I made over the past year, I can’t
believe that all of the small cuts add up to over $21,000. Crazy! And
I’m thrilled that I can put that chunk of change toward something a lot
less romantic but a lot more practical—a future mortgage.
Find more details of wedding planning at LadyMarry.