It’s no secret that wedding costs are rising each year. No matter how prepared a couple is to spend on their wedding day, there are always unexpected fees that will come around to shock you. The average cost of a wedding in the United States currently falls at around $30,000. That’s a lot. How can you cut your wedding costs? Whether you’re funding your wedding yourself, or have people helping, there are ways to spend smarter. It’s possible to have an unforgettable wedding without splurging on every item.
We consulted with our expert wedding planners to hear their tricks-of-the-trade that can help cut costs without you—or your guests—batting an eye. Keep these in mind while planning your dream wedding.
Hire a wedding planner
Sounds counterintuitive, right? Often, when couples are budgeting for their wedding, a wedding planner is the first to go. However, a wedding planner will end up saving you money. They come with a wealth of industry knowledge and can often get you discounts from vendors. A wedding planner is also there to save you time — and time is money. Some venues include a planner or coordinator in their fee. If not, you can also find wedding planners certified by the American Academy of Wedding Professionals or Association of Bridal Consultants to find someone who fits your needs.
Book during the off-season
Wedding season begins in May and ends in October, and you can plan for every wedding venue to have peak pricing during those months. Booking an off-season date can sometimes save you 20-30% on your wedding venue. Another option is to see if your venue has availability other than Saturday. While Saturdays are a convenient day to get married, they’re also the most desired. Consider a Friday, Sunday, or Monday if you’re getting married during peak wedding season.
Rethink the bar
It will not surprise you that a full bar will cost you. But we also don’t blame you for wanting more than wine and beer at your wedding. What you may not know is that a custom cocktail menu could save you money. Whether you want to craft one specialty cocktail or a few, being able to narrow down bar ingredients will save you money. Your guests will love that unique element — and think of how creative you can get with naming your drink! Mint to be mojito. Main squeeze, comes with orange. Just Rosemarried, comes with rosemary. The possibilities are endless.
Swap the cake for a dessert table
Despite what you may have heard, you don’t have to get a wedding cake. A traditional wedding cake can cost upwards of $500, with the price increasing the more elaborate you want your cake to be and how many slices will be served. Consider an alternative sugar rush — a cupcake station or donut bar are two budget-friendly wedding dessert options.
Another dessert trend we love is having family or friends make their specialty dessert for a dessert table at the wedding. Your guests get plenty of options and you can even gather the recipes together as a gift.
Pinterest is a blessing when it comes to wedding inspiration. It can also be stress-inducing for those who have never successfully DIY’d anything. ( I’m with you, team.) Consider spray paint instead of searching for gold and silver decor. Enlist your more crafty friends to help with projects. Order bottles and jars in bulk online rather than in a store. Create your own photo booth. Swap florals for greenery or buy the flowers, but arrange them yourself. Can you reuse certain floral arrangements from your ceremony for your reception? If you have decor after the wedding that you don’t want, you can also sell it on Tradesy.
Think outside the culinary classics
Forgo a sit-down dinner and save big. This is actually a pretty fun money-saver because the alternatives to a traditional dinner can be more interesting and your guests will likely appreciate being able to move about instead of sticking to one assigned seat. So, think: a classy buffet, heavy hors-d’oeuvres rotation or a food truck.
Rethink your invitations
If we’re being blunt, very few guests care about, or keep, wedding invitations. Yes, they are beautiful. Yes, the talent that goes into crafting them is incredible. But, they are also a piece of (thick stock) paper. Don’t even get us started on the postage. We’ve had couples send out postcards instead and direct all guests to an online RSVP system. It’s easy to manage and you can even save a few trees.
Think about the music
Music can make or break a wedding reception. Most couples want their reception to be a dance party, but deciding between a DJ and live band can be hard. If live music isn’t a necessity, a DJ often charges less than a band and you can work together to create your dream playlist. However, we recommend working with a DJ beforehand to make sure they play songs you love — and maybe leave off the Hokey Pokey. If you’re set on a live band, consider booking a smaller band since there will be fewer people to pay. You don’t need a 12 piece band for a memorable night.
Check the (guest) list twice
The first rule of guest lists is that there are no rules (and don’t let anyone tell you different!). If your list is looking heavier than expected, it’s okay to cut it down. Remove plus ones (save for serious significant others), consider making it a no kids wedding, and don’t feel compelled to invite office pals. You aren’t required to extend an invite just because someone’s family and if you haven’t spoken to someone in over a year, put a guilt-free strikethrough across their name. A good rule is, who would you be genuinely happy to talk to and who would you feel obligated to talk to?
Consider a full service venue
Linens. Chairs. Tables. Silverware. These things add up — and most couples don’t factor these costs into their initial budget. A full service wedding venue eliminates the stress of finding vendors and the stress of having to budget to rent items. A full service wedding venue will provide everything from tables to chairs to catering and a full bar. The staff members at these venues are wedding experts so you can trust them with every detail. Often, these venue packages also come with a wedding coordinator, who will help everything run as smooth as possible. Leave all the standard details to your venue, and focus on the fun elements instead.
Bonus tip: apply for a credit card with a desirable point system and use that card for all of your wedding expenses, then use the points to splurge on your honeymoon!
After the “I do” what matters most is the love shared between you, your partner, and those who came to celebrate you two. No matter where you have your wedding, what day it is, what food you serve, or what napkins you settle on, it will be an unforgettable day. Your dream wedding isn’t restricted by any budget. Use our tips on how to cut wedding costs and dance the night away.
A Hornblower wedding is truly a departure from the ordinary. Our full service venue means we’ll take care of everything. We would love to chat with you about your unique wedding, browse our wedding packages at any of our ports: San Francisco, Berkeley, San Diego,New York, Marina del Rey, Long Beach, or Newport Beach. Alternatively, fill out the form below and a Hornblower wedding coordinator will help you get started.