10 Ways I Trimmed $21,000 Off My Wedding Budget

Jane Bianchi

weddingEver 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 and have my wedding at a spectacular vineyard on the north fork of Long Island, New York?

But I also think: I don’t have a huge income. And my fiancé 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.

But no 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.

RELATED: How I Did It: Held a 100-Person Wedding for Under $4,000

1. Don’t Be Overly Accommodating

My wedding 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.

Sensing 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.

RELATED: The Wedding Cost Creep … For Guests

Wedding 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.

  • ed

    Lots of good points here and well worth reading. One thing that is often overlooked and not calculated when planning a wedding and looking for budget cuts is how much is your time worth to you? Don’t forget that. For example, and I’m not a printer for invitations or anything like that, I know some folks who decided to print their own. They save a few hundred dollars — but when they looked at the amount of time they spent on the project it was about six or seven hours. Doesn’t seem like much. However, he earned nearly $30 per hour at his usual job. So if he had done it as he was working, it would have “cost” him roughly $200. And so went the savings as it wasn’t really a savings. When planning for a wedding don’t forget that time still costs money. Many brides may spend hours on table decorations and have to work into the middle of the night the day before their wedding to get them done. The money saved created lots of yawns, bags under the eyes and grumpiness on wedding day. So make sure you look at it all — after all the savings may not actually add when all is said and done.

    • rattipillo

      Completely agree- my best friend hand made her invitations because she wanted to spend money; this included layering several pieces of paper, lots of glue, perfect formatting…etc – she ended up saving $300. I got mine printed up and did one little tweak (tied them up with bakers twine) and mine ended up being at least $100 cheaper than hers. She also nearly went out of her mind layering the paper and it took her several months to finish. So she was the first to suggest just getting them printed out!

  • Hks00

    Use your resources and contacts! My husband is a fine dining waiter and we paid two of the chefs at his work $800 to do our food. They usually make $12 an hour so they jumped at the chance. It was really only 1 day of prep and then 1 day for the wedding so they was happy with the money. Plus we gave them lots of beer and paid for their hotel rooms. The restaurant was kind enough to let us order through their distributors too. We had the wedding in my parents’ yard so there was no contract violation with caterers or anything. We basically had a gourmet BBQ (5 kinds of meat, 3 salads and a veggie side) for 150 people no more than $2500 including labor.
    I work at a law firm and one of our clients is a pastry chef. With my boss’s approval we did a work trade and I basically got $1000 wedding cake for free! It really pays to think about who you know. These folks were more than happy to work with us and t made having them involved made everything more personal. Oh yeah, my dad got ordained and married us. Talk about memorable! Once I stopped crying!

  • Frugalista

    These are good tips; however, the largest amount she saved (on the wedding venue) was due to the vendor’s error. You can’t count on that happening.

    • Angel

      Exactly. $11,000 savings is not really savings when you weren’t planning to spend it anyway.

  • Angel

    Like is often the case with many lists about saving money, so many of these tips are applicable to only a few. Use points? This means you would have to be in a position of having points already accrued. And in a position where you’re spending less on the travel than you would on using the points to cover any travel fees. It’s great that the fiancée travels for business. But that’s not applicable to all.
    Ditto on the venue savings. If the vendor hadn’t goofed and made the Saturday offer, that’d be irrelevant.
    As I go through this process, my advice is to dream all you want, but know what’s important and know what you can scale back on.

  • Ezzy

    Why is most of this written as “I, I, I saved”? How much was the end budget if you “saved” $21k? Utterly mind boggling to spend that much on a wedding.

  • http://www.enwealthen.com/ Jack

    Great tips on keeping your wedding affordable (and a great headline, btw). I had a similar experience for my wedding, albeit from the groom’s side.

    +2460 on the reading the fine print (that’s how much it cost us).

    Broadening the scope from saving money on the wedding to ensuring financial success from your wedding, I’d include two things from my list: have the money talk, and get a prenup.


  • pasmith9

    We got married on a Saturday Morning at 11:00 a.m. which was less expensive. The banquet hall didn’t have any other weddings until that evening so they were much more attentive.
    We only invited very close friends and family members that we were close to. Trimming the guest list saved money.
    I purchased an ivory bridesmaid’s dress instead of a wedding dress.
    Also, hired a high school string quartet to play which saved money.
    Flower arrangements were from Costco. Beautiful colors and they lasted 2 weeks.
    I did a lot of DYI table runners for the sweetheart table and favor tables. Also, rented table runners for the guest tables. They were sent via Fed. Ex. and you just send them back the next day.

  • Katie

    Saving $21k on a $100k wedding isn’t all that impressive to me. How much did she save as a percentage of the total cost? Sounds like she spent a whole heck of a lot more than I did – and I didn’t have a vendor double book me which allowed them to cut down on the price of the location. I started with a (gorgeous) location that wasn’t anywhere near $5800.

  • Kira Hug

    Hi Jane,
    Valuable article for brides. I’d love to interview you for my Bridal Rebellion Podcast. Reach out if you’re interested —> http://www.bridalrebellion.com

  • Desiree

    Wow, thanks for this great article. Very informative and gave points I hadn’t thought of before!

  • http://www.westendinschools.org.uk/ Biba@West End In Schools

    This is a great post, I appreciate the effort:)

  • Amber-Dawn Schiff

    She could have also mentioned buy samples. I got my dress, a Carolina Herrera for a little over 500 dollars. The dress was worth close to 5 grand. I did some research too. I went to the store tried on dresses and checked the dress sizes on them and learned I was a 10 in Carolina Herrera. I then ordered the dress from a site that sells used or sample dresses. I also read very carefully the return policy in the event the dress didn’t work out.