The average wedding in America costs between $30,000 and $35,000 — a staggering price for couples who may have other ambitious goals like buying a new home, completing a postgraduate degree, starting a business, or having children in the near future.
Couples who dare to dream, do not despair! It’s totally possible to celebrate your nuptials at less than half the average American wedding cost, even in popular wedding destination cities.
Next up, we’re looking at the nine priciest wedding expenditures and sharing our personal hacks, as well as tips from our users, on how to save thousands of dollars on your unforgettable ceremony and reception.
An easy way to cut costs on invitations, thank-you cards, RSVP cards, and place settings (yes, there are many more wedding-related paper products where those came from…) is to hire a freelance writer or hand-write them yourself.
If you have a friend who was recently married, ask if they have coupons from sites like Minted, Zola, or The Knot. Many of these sites offer discounts of up to 50% on services at certain times of the year, or after you’ve made initial purchases.
If you choose to pen your own invites, be forewarned — some people find that they end up spending just as much money on nicer paper, cutting tools, and calligraphy sets. Compare prices across wedding sites and, based on the number of invitations you anticipate sending, make the decision that’s best for your budget.
Potential $ saved: $100-$500
Ceremony and Reception Location
For wedding destination cities, know your “peak seasons”. In general, peak season runs from March to June and September through November, when the weather is more temperate. In the off season — December through February and July through August — the weather conditions may be more extreme, but many hotels may offer special deals for wedding and reception packages.
Additionally, when looking at venues, pay attention to the price difference between “peak” times (like Friday or Saturday night) and less popular times (Saturday or Sunday mornings or Monday through Thursday weeknights). Obviously, in choosing less expensive time slots, fewer people may be able to attend your festivities (but then again, if the goal is to spend less money, fewer people isn’t your worst problem!)
In a wedding destination city where a venue reservation alone can cost more than $8,000, one HelloPrenup user scored a morning ceremony and brunch reception package at one of the best resorts in the country — for a mere $1000! Having a celebration at a hotel or other venue space often comes with amenities and set-ups that you might have to rent or pay for a la carte.
For couples who need to be a bit thriftier in their spending, consider friends or family members who own a restaurant or an Airbnb property. They may be able to offer you a discount depending on the season. If you opt to get married in the warmer months, look up the parks department for your city — typically the cost to rent park space is considerably more affordable than venue space, even in wedding destination cities.
Above all, we suggest having your ceremony and reception at the same location, and staying local to where you live. Your venue is usually the area where you stand to save the most money. Having your ceremony and reception at the same location will eliminate extra transportation costs for members of the wedding party and your vendors.
Potential $ saved: $1000+
Nowadays, choosing an officiant is similar to choosing an usher. More and more couples are opting to get married by someone they know. There are many websites where people can take a class to become an ordained minister. Asking a friend or family member to officiate your wedding is a special way to include someone who has been particularly supportive of your relationship.
If you can’t find someone you know to officiate your wedding, or would rather them have the opportunity to partake in the festivities, paying a professional officiant isn’t too expensive.
Potential $ saved: $0-$100
You’d be surprised how much you can save by arranging your own flowers. Even for weddings under 50 people, you might pay as much as $1500 in a wedding destination city.
We have two words for thrifty flower seekers: Trader Joe’s.
Compared to its grocery store competitors, Trader Joe’s has a wider selection of vibrant flowers. Browse neighborhood social media markets to scoop up some makeshift vases or mason jars, tie a ribbon around them, and arrange centerpieces the night before. They’re easy to transport in a paper box and if you mix in the contents of the flower food packet with their water, they should keep their color and structure for a few days.
For a bridal shower or bachelorette activity, consider having a flower-arranging contest to see what combinations people design! That way, you can browse Trader Joe’s collection for flowers you like and practice arrangements up until you find a style that appeals to you.
Potential $ saved: $1000+
For the next four hacks, we recommend that you seek out entrepreneurs in your circle — friends, family members, and mutual contacts with side hustles. Think of teachers, real estate agents, and people who work in the entertainment or hospitality industry.
By tapping into the skill set and affordability of their side hustles, you can give their small businesses exposure while saving money for your honeymoon, down payment on a home, or other expense that you value more than a luxe wedding.
(Hair, Dress, and Make-Up)
Consider getting in touch with the cosmetology department of a local community college or high school. Some cosmetology schools may offer discounted hair and makeup services for brides and bridal parties. If you live in a location with a higher socioeconomic status, go browsing through the local Goodwill or Habitat for Humanity stores. One HelloPrenup user found her wedding dress and reception furniture at a Habitat for Humanity near one of the top golf resorts in the country.
Another user swears by PoshMark, a digital market for buying and selling used clothing and furnishings. “I was so disappointed when I saw my dream dress was over $2000, but when I looked it up on PoshMark, the price was down to $600 and the dress was luckily in my size!” While all brides-to-be may not be so lucky, second hand clothing stores and apps are accessible ways to find more affordable wedding gowns.
In a wedding destination city, bridal hair and makeup alone can run between $300 and $500. While no one should feel obligated to purchase similar services for members of the bridal party, the mothers of the bride and groom, and other loved ones, it is often a nice gesture to do so.
Potential $ saved: $100 to $500
You could once again consult local community colleges; alternatively, many high schools have advanced culinary classes and would be thrilled to give students the opportunity to prepare a large meal for a real-life event.
If you prefer a bit more experience in the kitchen, you can also research up-and-coming catering businesses in your area that are hoping to gain some exposure.
Don’t forget to ask your family, friends, and neighborhood Facebook group members if they know anyone with a catering business — we guarantee you that at least one out of every five will know someone. Even if you can’t find someone to cater the entire reception, you may find someone to design the wedding cake.
In wedding destination cities, the food and beverage expenses are just as, if not more expensive than the venue rental cost. If you’re hoping to spend less than $50 per plate, an up-and-coming catering company or school culinary team may be your best bet.
Potential $ saved: $1000+
Ahh, one of the most popular side hustles of them all. A HelloPrenup user recently attended a wedding between two teachers — they had a team of five students from a photography class taking pictures at what we learned was a highly discounted price.
If you have younger siblings, ask them if they have any friends who shoot wedding photography on the side. While it may be tempting to ask a family member or good friend to shoot the pictures for you, you would probably much rather them be able to participate in and enjoy the wedding festivities. Being thrifty can be oh-so-thrilling, we don’t advise going so far as to “get lost in the game” and unintentionally put loved ones in an awkward position.
In wedding destination cities, quality wedding photographers know that they can charge more for their services. One HelloPrenup user ponied up $3500 for eight hours of photography. Consider booking a skilled photographer from a neighboring city who might enjoy the opportunity to travel and shoot in another location — they will likely edit pictures that are just as beautiful, but at less than half of the cost.
Potential $ saved: $1000+
DJ? Band? Bluetooth speaker with a curated Spotify playlist? With so much technology, it’s completely possible to cultivate a busy dance floor without paying thousands of dollars for live entertainment.
Once again, consider getting in touch with a local music teacher — orchestra and band instructors typically offer music services as a side gig. One survey respondent who is a violinist has performed at all the ceremonies for her co-workers at school.
If you live in a more populated area, consider searching for local a cappella groups or singing troupes that can perform popular songs — collegiate a cappella groups are typically eager to gain exposure through singing at events off-campus.
Potential $ saved: $500 to $1000
Surely we have all seen our fair share of parting gifts at weddings. To be clear, gifts are not obligatory, but they are a nice sign of gratitude.
One HelloPrenup user — a scientist who does wood-working on the side — easily built 50 miniature wooden succulent planters and planted a succulent in each one. They arranged them on a table near the wedding cake for guests to select on their way out of the venue.
Other options for gifts include home-baked goods, hand-written itineraries for fun activities to do in the wedding location, or a natural artifact from the wedding location (like oyster shells, petoskey stones, or stationary embossed with pressed flowers).
Potential $ saved: $500-$1000
You know we had to go there. If you are considering getting a prenuptial agreement, it can feel like another crazy expense to add to the list. Don’t let cost deter you- HelloPrenup is coming to the rescue. Our platform allows you and your soon-to-be to negotiate and create a prenuptial agreement without the expense associated with attorney retainers and fees. The best part? You can still bring your prenup to an attorney for review and revisions, and save significantly on cost by doing so. HelloPrenup starts at $599. A typical attorney costs about $2,500 on average. You do the math.
(ok we will do the math for you)
Potential Savings: $1,900
In these crazy covid times, it’s still totally possible to plan with thrift and create a unique, memorable wedding experience. If, as a couple, you find that the process of striving to decrease expenditures is too stressful, you can pause and take a step back from the planning. Above all other things, your wedding and the events surrounding it should be fun, unifying, and relaxed. You should be able to be present and really soak up the emotions of this special time. Taking a break from the hustle and bustle of wedding planning might give you space to think of an opportunity or a connection you hadn’t previously considered.
Julia Rodgers is HelloPrenup’s CEO and Co-Founder. She is a Massachusetts family law attorney and true believer in the value of prenuptial agreements. HelloPrenup was created with the goal of automating the prenup process, making it more collaborative, time efficient and cost effective. Julia believes that a healthy marriage is one in which couples can openly communicate about finances and life goals. You can read more about us here Questions? Reach out to Julia directly at [email protected].