Five Real Money Saving Tips

Among the spam I get every day, I occasionally get lists from vendors hoping to get their content posted to the blog. I usually ignore these, but now and again one of these lists catches my eye. The most recent was ’20 Ways to Save Money on Your Wedding,’ and I opened it up hoping I might see something new. Alas, it was just the same old non-specific advice: Cut your already tiny guest list! Ask your busy friends and family to be your wedding vendors! Using potato stencils and sponges, design, print and fold 200 invitations on paper you made yourself!

Ohhhhkay…that’s great for brides-to-be who live in fairy land, but those of us living in the real world need real money saving tips. The following five are by no means the only practical and specific tips out there, but they’re a start and a heck of a lot better than the usual ‘opt for the buffet’ and ‘make your own favors’ drivel.

Ditch the wedding dress
This is a painful option, but a very good one for those who aren’t (ahem) married to the idea of walking down the aisle in a frock they bought at a bridal salon. A mere $300 — and sometimes a lot less than that — will buy you a gorgeous gown that you’ll be more likely to wear again. Now that’s economizing!

Vera Wang silver satin lace-up back mermaid gown

Here, for example, is a Vera Wang dress with a lace-up back in silver — still one of the current popular bridal colors — that can be yours for a mere $176.

Amsale camel sateen strapless gown

Not bride-y enough for you? How about this golden Amsale gown for $210?

Skip the champagne
A toast is a toast is a toast, no matter what is in your glass. At my wedding, all the wine was sparkling and we had a buffet of specially selected beers…but I happen to adore champagne and The Beard is a beer drinker. Ask yourself how many of your loved ones actually like champagne. Heck, ask them! Have you ever noticed how many half-full glasses of champagne linger unloved on reception tables after the traditional champagne toast? You may be surprised to find out that most of the people in your life would rather drink something else…and if they’d rather drink something else, let them toast with that.

Avoid mall jewelry stores
As tempting as it is to go big on wedding bands, consider that you have the rest of your lives to upgrade. It wasn’t until my dad and stepmom had been married for ten years that he bought her what he called an engagement ring. Until then, they wore gold bands they bought at Wal*Mart’s jewelry counter. That’s one option, but if you have a couple hundred bucks to spend and want to avoid the inevitable upsell, look online.

3mm Comfort Fit Wedding Band By Benchmark(r)

This gold comfort fit band costs a reasonable $170. If you can wear silvertone jewelry, silver, titanium and steel rings are even less expensive.

Enlist amateur photojournalists
By amateur photojournalists I of course mean friends and family who are taking photos anyway. I do have a professional album full of artsy posed shots, but I honestly love the one I put together myself using photos taken by about ten people so much more. A few weeks after the wedding, ask everyone you know who took photos to send you a copy on a CD, post them to a photo sharing site, or give you copies of their prints. Then buy an inexpensive photo album that holds 100 to 300 pictures and start arranging. Here’s a hint: The best albums tell a story.

For some of us — myself included — the thought of bargaining is enough to bring on the hives. Honestly, haggling is hard, especially if you have a bit of a shy streak. But remember that the worst thing the person on the other side of the bargaining table can say is “no,” and if they do deny you when you ask for a discount, you haven’t lost a thing! If you’re afraid that vendors will be offended or angry at your gall, remember that they’ve heard it all before and probably have a response at the ready. It’s worth a try!

13 Responses to “Five Real Money Saving Tips”

  1. Twistie says:

    Another real world tip that can save you money while getting you extras: if you know anyone who has been married in the last couple of years, see if they have anything you can borrow. After all, how many of us use aisle runners, chuppahs, ring bearer pillows or cake knives decorated with ribbons and faux lily of the valley on a day to day basis? But these are things couples spend money on and are sometimes loathe to simply toss.

    Also, while looking for a non-traditional source for the gown is probably the biggest single money saver in this regard, remember that anything that says ‘wedding’ is going to be more expensive than an alternative. Don’t be afraid to look for other items from non-traditional sources, either. The reason bridal salons push so hard for you to buy all your accessories from them is that that’s where the biggest mark ups are, so that’s where they make most of their money. But you can wear any shoes, gloves, or jewelry you like. You can find a flower girl’s basket in the aisles of your local import or thrift store. If you don’t like the color, a coat or two of spray paint or an inexpensive fabric cover can take care of that. Shop carefully, and don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Really think about whether you want each accessory or prop before you spend money on it. Most of them are actually optional. Oh, and don’t be above sources like garage sales, Craig’s List, or Freecycle. You might not find anything you can use, but you also might find something you desperately wanted for free or next door to it.

    Most of all, set your budget and stick to it. Know your priorities, and don’t let yourself get sucked into the idea that considering price tags means you don’t care about having a lovely day. Most vendors are willing to work with brides who have budgets. You just have to make sure they understand what the budget is…and that you aren’t budging from it. Do some research first to get an idea of ballpark pricing. After all, you won’t get the moon on a silver platter surrounded by watercress for nothing. But as long as you go in with a reasonable attitude, the majority of vendors will do their best to meet you halfway. And as NtB said, the worst thing they can do is tell you is no.

  2. LeeLee says:

    I bought my dress at a bridal salon, but it was not labeled as a wedding dress, and consequently, was far less than wedding dresses that were quite similar. My dress was white, had a teensy train, and lovely, unusual beading. Sounds quite like a wedding dress. My veil was more than my dress.

  3. Great tips, Twistie! For my own wedding, I tried to stay as far away from wedding stuff as possible and always leaned toward things I could use again. For example, our cake knife and serving thingy were just the cake server and a knife from our silverware pattern. It was a great excuse to round out my collection!

  4. Melissa B. says:

    I cannot believe the sheer amount of stuff labeled as “wedding stuff.” Wedding candles, wedding champagne glasses, wedding cake servers, etc. All, of course, sold at an inflated price. I find myself constantly rewording that quote from Roast Beef: “Any candle is a wedding candle if you call it that!”

  5. Nony Mouse says:

    Wedding candles: Target, $10 for all, marked as “Christmas”
    Wedding champagne classes: Pier 1, $3 for both on clearance
    silver Ring Box in lieu of pillow: Mom’s, Free
    Flower Girl’s Basket: Yard sale, $1 plus $1. in ribbon and material decoration
    Having my husband laugh at jokes that “Wedding” added 300% to the price of something instead of cringing and staying on budget: Priceless

  6. Suz says:

    Thanks for this article, it was a great reality check to keep finding real ways to save money on planning a wedding! Though to be honest I haven’t seen any invitations made with potato prints and newspaper, yet! ;o)

    Another way to save money is with the catering, if you have an afternoon wedding and reception you could serve an afternoon tea with cakes and finger sandwiches, and lots of tea. This way your first evening as a married couple could be spent enjoying an intimate candle-lit dinner for two rather than a dodgey disco!

    You could also have a canapes and cocktail reception for an early evening reception, again you are not needing to serve a full sit down meal at the reception which saves you money. You could use it for some excellent entertainment instead.

    Use your wedding budget on things that you and your guests would enjoy, not on what is expected or what is labeled ‘wedding.’

  7. 7nina says:

    Another way to save is to be creative with your venue-many cities have smaller museums or facilities tthey rent very cheaply and restaurants can be really cost-effective particularly on a weekday evening. if you live in a larger city, consider places in the smaller less popular suburbs-they can sometimes be just as nice but 1/2 the price of things downtown or in larger areas.

  8. Melissa B.: So true!

    Nony Mouse: Way to save — it’s funny how much The Beard now knows about weddings. When we see wedding stuff out and about, he almost always has something insightful to say.

    Suz: Those are definitely great tips, though I find that a lot of brides-to-be don’t want to serve lunch instead of dinner or skip the sit-down meal. It’s an easy way to save money…not always a realistic one. I’ll never hesitate to suggest it, but I’m always surprised when people go for that option!

    7nina: I was delighted to learn how many of the museums in MA allow weddings — it’s a fun option that provides guests with plenty to look at.

  9. Toni says:

    There’s also the option of providing the food yourselves, but hiring servers for the day of. We used family recipes, Sam’s Club, and Cracker Barrel for the food itself, but hired a lady to show up on the day of to heat the food up, place it in the chafing dishes, arrange the buffet table nicely, and keep the table stocked throughout the reception. She also provided all of the serving platters, and tablecloths for the buffet tables. For all of this I think she charged around $500. In this way, we were able to have my grandmother’s (ok, Cracker Barrel’s) chicken and dumplings, and at a bargain price.

  10. Chelle says:

    We saved a ton of money on an awesome cake from a gourmet bakery.

    We bought one of their regular sheets cakes, told them it was for a Halloween party. ( Wedding is on Halloween this year)

    Sure it’s only one tier, but we have custom art work for a cake topper and their regular cakes are really pretty.

    Cost difference? $141 for our cake, $500 – $1000 for a “wedding cake” in the same flavor but with nasty fondant and 3 or more tiers.

  11. I see so many brides spending a fortune on flowers. Doesn’t anyone have a garden? I have to tell you about my own wedding here. I trimmed the ivy off my eaves (a whole can full) and cut flowers out of my own and family;’s gardens not only for my own bouquet but the church and table decorations as well. Everyone has a styling eye and their own sense of design. Now’s the time to really use it.

  12. Toni: I really wanted to do that and started out with the best of intentions. The Beard and I were even really excited about making our own cakes ahead of time. Alas, I let my family convince me not to do any of it, robbing myself of the best excuse not to have to spend the three days leading up to the wedding visiting with people!

    Chelle: Way to go! That has to be one of my absolute favorite money-saving strategies!

    Amy-Jo: That’s fabulous — I think more people I know would have gone that route if they weren’t all apartment dwellers. Many people in my clique have their own houses (and their own gardens) now, but back then, we all lived in apartments without the space to grow much more than tomatoes and some flowers in pots.

  13. PS: Chelle, your engagement photos are freakin’ fantastic!!