Wedding Math: Cutting Costs

Wedding Math: Cutting Costs

There are a million different ways to cut costs for a wedding.

Make sure you know what your priorities for your big day are, decide on a wedding budget that works for you, choose who makes the cut on your guest list, and then let the planning commence!


We got upgraded to a $40k venue thanks to Tropical Storm Alberto… making the best of the storm!

Always start with a venue.  This is what will set the date, the price, the maximum number of guests, and the tone for everything else.  What if you find a giant ball gown and farmhouse centerpieces, but end up choosing a sleek modern hotel where they might look out of place?  Or you put down a deposit with a vendor and they aren’t available for your date?  It’s not the end of the world by any means, and it’s important to do whatever makes you happy, but choosing your venue first is the best way to ensure you won’t regret other choices later.  Also, check the final date with your VIP list to make sure they are able to attend before you put down the deposit.  It could save serious heartache later.

Consider unexpected places.  Do you have a restaurant or bar you love?  See if you can rent it out.  Do you frequent a park?  See if you can put up a tent, rent some tables, and have a caterer or a food truck come in.  A museum or gallery you love?  They love hosting events!  Often, unexpected places are happy to work with you, especially on price.

Ask when the off-season or the off-time is.  Venues always have slower months, and will often provide you with a substantial discount to book.  (In Florida, it’s during hurricane season…)  Some venues give discounts for a breakfast, lunch, or cocktail hour instead of dinner.  Other venues give discounts for booking an event three months out, since they know it’s harder to fill the space at that point.  This might be a great option if everyone lives locally.

It’s not just about the expenses for you.  Consider expenses your guests are incurring to attend the event.  If you have a lot of traveling guests who need a place to stay, consider hotels or areas that will eliminate the need for guests to drive far.

Consider all-inclusive places.  Often, there is a simple flat-fee structure in place that makes planning a breeze.  We originally wanted to do the Sandals all-inclusive wedding, but some of my family members would have been unable to attend due to the cost to travel out of the country.

Food and Beverages

Our resort included the cake!  We enjoyed a tasting with a local baker, picked out the style, and the resort did the rest.

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution.  Most venues charge less for breakfast or lunch.  Some venues price a buffet cheaper, and some cut the cost for a plated meal, so it’s important to look through the whole menu and compare.  Flexibility is key.  Also, make sure you are comparing the total cost – including taxes and gratuity.

You might want to find a venue that allows you to bring your own caterer, so that way you have complete control over what you are paying for food.  Also, some places allow you to bring your own alcohol and other beverages, which can be a huge cost savings.  It depends on their insurance and liability.

For cakes, some venues charge a cake cutting fee, or waive the fee if you purchase the cake from them.  Just keep track of the cost, and include this in your comparisons.  Plenty of people have a small wedding cake and then purchase a giant white sheet cake that is kept hidden in the back (this is often the most cost effective).  A dessert bar is a fun option, too.


If you are getting married in a church, usually the officiant is included.  Otherwise, consider a friend or family member who could do it as a gift, although you’d better choose someone reliable.  It will be far more meaningful, and it has become easier for anyone to get certified as an officiant.  If they are good, they could even turn it into a side hustle.  You’d want to make sure your person of choice takes the necessary steps so that your ceremony is legal.  If you’d rather your friends and family watch, ask your venue for a list of officiants or go online, and call around.  Usually an officiant is an “independent contractor” so their prices vary.


Two arrangements surrounding the “altar.”

Less is more.  Choose impactful pieces to make a bigger statement where it matters.  We chose to do a bouquet for me, a corsage for my mom, and two flower arrangements, one for either side of the ceremony. They will move to the reception area with us.  Since I didn’t have a bridal party, we didn’t have to worry about other arrangements.

Sam’s club and Costco have great blooms for a fraction of the price, as long as you are willing to put in a bit of DIY.  You can save hundreds of dollars going this route.  However, there are many aspects to be mindful of: making sure they have water, making sure they get to the venue, and realizing there’s no one who can fix it if the flowers don’t turn out the way you’d planned since it’s literally a day-of or day-before exercise.  Make sure you have vases, floral tape, gardening gloves, and anything else you need.


First, ask your venue if they have centerpieces already.  Often they have centerpieces purchased for anyone’s use or left behind by a prior event.  Second, make sure you know what your tables and arrangement will look like.  White linens support almost any centerpiece, but you’ll want to look at the colors and style of the room.  A sand-filled vase might not fit a farm-house or modern city loft.

When you set out to buy centerpieces, the first place to check is Craigslist or a wedding swap. Often, brides have amazing centerpieces they are trying to get rid of for a fraction of the price they paid.  My Tampa Bay Facebook wedding swap has new posts daily, and some of the centerpieces I’ve seen are stunning.

If neither of the above work out, then this is really a chance to get creative.  You can find all sorts of great ideas online, and can put them together at a fraction of the cost.  We spray painted empty wine bottles white to add a personal touch to our tables.


The cheapest route is an iPod, and that’s perfectly acceptable if you have a small lunch or dinner crowd.  It’s all about priorities.  If you have a larger group, a DJ will usually have a better grasp on the vibe of the room and can play a broad variety.  Musicians and bands are more expensive, but you are in a better place to negotiate a discount if you book them during their slower time.


A newer photographer who is looking to build their portfolio will usually be the cheapest, but it comes with the risk that your moments may not be captured.  A seasoned veteran has experience to handle the surprises (like Tropical Storm Alberto), which is why the best photographers are able to charge a premium.  If this area is less of a priority, try your local wedding board or a local art school.  Often, the photography students are chomping at the bit for an opportunity to capture weddings for their portfolio, and you can negotiate a discount in exchange for the photos.

Something often overlooked is the cost to order prints after the wedding.  Many photographers offer discounts up front, but force you to order photos through them at an increased price.  Ask a photographer to give you all the digital copies for your photos, and to give you the full printing rights.  Printing yourself will likely save the most money in the long run, even if you pay a premium for the photographer.  Videographers can now deliver digitally as well.


More wedding math…

3 Replies to “Wedding Math: Cutting Costs”

  1. A lot of good advice here and some things I didn’t even think about! I’m getting married next September, so this is definitely relevant to me. I’m going to send a link to my fiance so she can check this out too. Cheers!

Leave a Reply to Iain Geddes Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Follow me on Twitter

Liked what you read?

Get new posts delivered directly to your inbox every Monday!

Join 247 other subscribers

%d bloggers like this: