Cost-cutting Tips for your Wedding

Photo: Spear's Photography

Photo: Spear's Photography

The average wedding in the United States costs over $25,000. Yours may cost more or less than the average wedding, but either way, you need to know your budget. Befriend it, even. Your budget will guide you in your decisions and, at times, break your heart. If you do not stick with it, though, you will be taking an immediate detour from the road of happily ever after.

It is incredibly stressful to begin a new life weighed down by credit card debt. Vow not to charge any wedding-related expenses unless you can pay off the balance in full as soon as you get each statement. A typical wedding includes the following expenses:

Wedding AttireStationaryReception & Rehearsal Dinner
_Bridal Gown_Invitations_Hall/Site Rental
_Headpiece/Veil_Announcements_Food
_Undergarments _Reply Cards_Beverages
_Groom’s Outfit _Thank You Notes_Wedding Cake
_Mother’s Attire _Mailing Costs_Music (Band/DJ)

FlowersPhotographyMiscellaneous
_Ceremony_PortraitsMarriage License
_Bridal Bouquet_Engagement / Wedding Rings
_Attendants_Wedding / Clergy Fee
_Parents_Wedding Albums / Transportation
_Reception_Extra Prints / Attendants’ Gifts
Accommodations
Wedding Planner
Taxes / Gratuities

Once you have determined an acceptable wedding budget, envision your special day. What is your top priority? In general, couples tend to spend approximately 40-50% of their budget on the reception (including venue, catering, and rentals), 10% on flowers, 10% on photography, 5-10% on attire, 5-10% on music, 10% on miscellaneous expenses (clergy fee, favors, marriage license, etc.), and up to 15% on unexpected expenses (see below). Your expenses will vary, depending on your priorities.

One way to see what's worth it and what's not, plus come up with cost-cutting wedding ideas is to come to a wedding show and where you can price shop all in one place.

Whether you want to minimize your overall expenses, or just minimize some expenses so you can maximize others, we have 50 money-saving ideas for you.

1. Have your ceremony and reception in the same place so you can reduce the travel time and resulting charges of vendors who bill by the hour.

2. Decorate with greenery and save the flowers for your bouquet.

3. Check with florists or garden centers to see if you can rent plants.

4. Choose standard-sized, standard-weight invitations to eliminate extra postage costs, and include RSVP postcards.

5. Avoid a Saturday evening or holiday wedding.

6. Plan to get married on a Friday, on a Sunday, or during the off-season (January, February, March, or November). Even during the winter - weddings in Albuquerque can be beautiful and the weather mild.

7. Search for no-cost locations for your ceremony and reception, such as outdoor public venues (this may save you money on plants and flowers, too).

8. Offer a signature drink/favorite cocktail at your reception, instead of providing a full bar.

9. Limit alcohol to beer and wine.

10. Buy wines bulk and wholesale for about a 10% discount per case (your caterer will charge a corkage fee to pour the wine, but you will save by not buying your wine through your caterer).

11. Buy wine in magnums; these cost less per ounce and your corkage fee will go twice as far, further saving you money.

12. Host a wedding breakfast or brunch: these tend to be shorter than evening receptions, the food is lighter and less expensive, and you may not need to buy alcohol.

13. Host a Punch & Cake Reception in the late morning or afternoon, instead of a standard reception.

14. Skip the main course and just offer appetizers and drinks.

15. For casual weddings, consider hosting a barbeque or serving inexpensive comfort foods. Talk to several of the Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Taos reception sites to see what they can do within your budget.

16. Skip full dinner service and opt for a family style meal, where guests help themselves from serving dishes brought to the table.

17. Offer a buffet—it is affordable and gives guests a chance to mix and mingle.

18. Offer Champagne for toasts only, rather than having it available during the entire reception.

19. Buy Champagne from regions other than the Champagne region of France and save over $20 per bottle.

20. Float flowers in shallow bowls or glass cylinders partially filled with water to create simple, yet elegant, centerpieces.

21. Decorate tables with candles or lanterns, rather than with large floral centerpieces.

22. Fill bud vases with flower stems and spread them out across the reception tables.

23. Cut the guest list and bridal party to decrease overall cost and create a more intimate wedding.

24. Have large tables at your reception so you need fewer centerpieces and tablecloths.

25. Choose less expensive flowers (you can get dozens of carnations or daisies for the price of a handful of peonies).

26. Buy flowers that are in season, and stick to one or two kinds.

27. Have a small, elegant cake for the cake cutting ceremony and a larger sheet cake for serving and sharing.

28. Reuse flowers from the ceremony at the reception.

29. Choose in-season flowers grown locally. There are several Albuquerque florists that can help, some have nurseries so they can customize it for locally grown flowers.

30. Shop around for your wedding dress and try to avoid paying retail.

31. Ask a favorite (but out-of-budget) photographer or videographer for the name of an associate who may cover your wedding for less.

32. Hire a band or a DJ who can play at both the ceremony and the reception.

33. Choose a small, simple band.

34. Serve your wedding cake as the dessert course.

35. Use labeled favors as seating or place markers to save on stationary costs.

36. Borrow jewelry and accessories from friends and family rather than buying (this also doubles for having “something borrowed”).

37. Request that your videographer only capture the most important moments of your big day, such as the ceremony through the first dance.

38. Hire the best make-up artist you can afford and request that she leave a touch-up kit with you, so you can avoid the cost of hiring her to stay until your photo session.

39. Pin one beautiful flower to each of your bridesmaids, rather than having them carry bouquets.

40. Email your save-the-date notices.

41. Have your baker make the exact amount of cake you need (additional eye-pleasing tiers can be made of Styrofoam and iced to match the real cake).

42. Refuse upgrades such as colored table linens or fancy chair covers, unless they cost no extra.

43. Dress up a simple wedding cake with a fancy cake topper.

44. Rent a wedding cake if you will have a dessert table.

45. Hire a caterer that supplies everything (plates, glassware, etc.) and charges only for the services that you need.

46. Choose to serve local, in-season foods.

47. Hire a photographer that will provide you with your digital high-resolution files so you can make your own copies of your wedding day photos. Be sure to meet with your photographer before so there are no surprises.

48. Consider a photographer’s costs for enlargements and albums, not just the cost of photo packages or of the wedding day shoot.

49. Consider renting a designer wedding dress that you otherwise could not afford to wear.

50. Plan for more guests than you expect, rather than for fewer.
Above all, stick to your original budget. As your big day draws nearer and you are increasingly likely to crumble under stress, remember that you established your budget when you were of sound mind.

Accept that you may have to compromise. By compromising in some areas, you may be able to splurge in others.

No matter what your budget, surprises will occur. Plan to leave up to a 15% cushion for unexpected expenses. Some top culprits include:

• Wedding Bands. Musicians will charge for their time and the minimum amount of equipment needed. If you have a large reception space, it may require the use of extra speakers and microphones to produce good sound quality.

This could cost significantly more than you expected, so be sure to talk with your band about the layout of your venue. Have the band provide a written list of expenses before signing a contract.

• Photographers/Videographers. They will charge an additional amount (starting at about $250 per hour) if your wedding or reception lasts longer than expected.

• Transportation of Rental Equipment. Often the cost of moving rental equipment to your venue is not included in the cost of the rental. Plan to work with a company that includes delivery costs at no extra charge.

• Cake-Cutting Fee. If you choose a wedding cake provided by your reception venue, the charge of cutting the cake is included in the venue’s rental fee. If you bring in a cake from an outside baker, your venue may charge you up to $5 per guest for serving the cake and cleaning up afterwards.

• Tips. Add 15-20% of the total food and beverage fee to your allotted reception budget and you will avoid the shock of overlooked gratuities.

• Delivery of Welcome Bags. Most hotels neglect to mention that they charge up to $7 per bag for the delivery of welcome bags. Some even charge you to hold the bags if you drop them off before the guest arrive. Be sure to ask—it may be cheaper to hand the bags out at the counter as guests check in, or to distribute them at the rehearsal dinner.

• Alterations. A simple hem alteration can cost up to $100, and the charges only go up for complex adjustments. Determine if a dress is truly in your budget by considering the full cost before making a final decision.

• Extra Postage. Multi-layered, over-sized, or oddly shaped invitations can cost you about $2 more per card to mail than standard-sized cards. Depending on the size of you guest list, this can create a significant expense.

Remember these expenses, and you will avoid common spending pitfalls. Know that others will arise, though; it is impossible to foresee them all. With a cushion for unexpected expenses built into your budget and strict adherence other aspects of your financial plan, you will start your new life off right.

A great way to find cost-cutting wedding ideas is to come to a wedding show and where you can price shop all in one place.