According to a 2012 report in Brides magazine, the average American couple spends just under $27,000 on their wedding, while their northern neighbors in Canada spend slightly more than $23,000 on average for their big day. Clearly, couples, regardless of which side of the border they call home, can expect to invest a substantial amount of money for their weddings.
While many couples find the cost of a wedding is well worth it, others would like to find ways to save so their big day isn’t a budget-buster. Such savings aren’t always easy to come by, especially for couples with a very distinctive picture in mind of what their wedding should be. However, even couples strongly committed to a certain wedding style might change their minds once they realize how much such a dream wedding will cost. For those couples as well as couples who simply want to save some money, the following are a few ideas to avoid busting your budget without venturing too far from your dream wedding.
* Trim the guest list. The guest list is perhaps the easiest place to begin saving money. Many reception halls will charge by the head, so consider if you really need to invite 150 guests or if 100 will do. Such trimming can save you a substantial amount of money. For example, a banquet hall that charges $200 per guest will cost couples with a guest list of 150 $30,000 for the reception alone. Cutting that guest list to 100 reduces that cost by $10,000. When putting together the guest list, remove those candidates who would best be described as acquaintances. This can include coworkers with whom you don’t socialize, as well as old college friends to whom you rarely speak. Distant cousins you haven’t spoken to in years can also be cut from the list.
* Don’t go overboard with the gown. Styles are ever-changing, so there’s a strong chance brides won’t be passing down theirwedding gowns to their own daughters someday. What’s popular now will likely seem outdated by the time your daughter walks down the aisle. Keep this in mind when shopping for a weddingdress, which can be made in the same design as the one you try on but with cheaper fabrics that are a fraction of the cost.
The disparity between gown costs in the United States and Canada should paint a good picture of how easily brides can save money on their gowns. According to a survey of wedding trends conducted by Weddingbells, an online resource for Canadian brides, the average Canadian bride in 2011 spent just under $1,800 on her wedding gown, while the average American bride spends roughly $1,100 on her gown. Though the reasons for that disparity are unclear, it’s safe to say there are savings to be had for brides who don’t want to break the bank paying for their wedding gowns.
* Get hitched in the off-season. Many couples prefer to get married sometime between the months of May through October. During these months, venues and vendors, including limousine services, caterers, photographers, musicians, and deejays, are more expensive. If you are willing to switch your wedding date to the off-season you can save a substantial amount of money. In addition, you likely won’t face as much competition for the best venues and vendors as you will during the peak wedding season.
* Trim your beverage budget. The bar tab at the end of the reception can be considerable, but there are ways to save money while ensuring your guests can still toast you and yours with a few libations. Rather than offering a full bar, limit the choices to beer and wine, which will be perfectly acceptable to most guests anyway. In addition, rather than paying the caterer for the wine, buy your own and you’ll save a considerable amount of money. You may have to pay the caterer a fee to pour the wine, but that fee is negligible compared to what you’d pay the company to provide the wine.
* Choose a buffet-style dinner over waiter service. Many guests will no doubt prefer a buffet-style dinner instead of waiter service, so take advantage of that and choose a more affordable buffet-style dinner that allows diners to choose their own entrees and side dishes.
When it comes to trimming wedding costs, couples will have to make compromises. But those compromises don’t have to come at the cost of a beautiful and memorable event.
Crystal Vandegrift is a wedding photographer covering Virginia, D.C. and Maryland.