Friday, March 14, 2014

Money Saving Wedding Tips: From a REAL bride

With wedding season here I'm seeing countless articles with wedding money saving tips.  Every article sounds pretty much the same just worded a little different or the tips are just flat out ridiculous to me (skip the DJ, use an Ipod...have a potluck reception...WTF??). I also noticed that there don't seem to be too many articles out there for the "tweener" bride  and by tweener I don't mean a 13 year old Justin Bieber fan (shudders in disgust)  I mean that there don't seem to be enough realistic tips for those regular people who don't want to have a crazy extravagant wedding that they go into debt for.....but at the same time aren't exactly aiming to have "A 5k Wedding" as so many articles want somewhere in the  middle. This prompted me to write what I learned planning my own wedding.  My little disclaimer here is that I'm no expert....just a money saving gal who learned a few things along the way.  So here's to you tweener brides!


 Your venue is the single most important aspects of the entire planning process.  It truly sets the tone for everything else. Not only the theme or overall feel of your wedding but also how much you will ultimately end up spending on everything else.  I strongly advise against getting an all inclusive package if you are looking to save money.  If you are getting an all inclusive wedding venue package I highly doubt you are reading this article anyway.  Some brides prefer the all inclusive factor because of the ease that comes with it.  There is no arguing that it is WAAAAAY easier on your part than researching and booking each and every vendor yourself.  If you have the money to do all means go right on ahead and good for you! But if you're looking to save money I would stay away from a package deal.

I know a few brides who got them and quickly realized they weren't quite as all inclusive as they thought.  They ended up having to pay more money to get the flowers they really wanted or for specifics with their photography etc.  This left them wondering how much of their total was budgeted out to each vendor and whether or not they could have gotten it cheaper elsewhere....which in the end defeats the purpose of them going into this in the first place.

Now when I say that your venue sets the tone for the budget of your entire wedding that  doesn't mean you run out and find the cheapest venue possible to keep your wedding costs down.  There are a TON more factors to think about first.

Sure you can find a super cheap venue....but what does it come with?  If you got the venue cheap but have to spend an arm and a leg to rent chairs, tables, lines and all sorts of other things you may end up spending more than if you found a slightly more expensive place that provided those things.  It's all about finding a balance.

And don't rent a venue that's cheap but so ugly it will cost you a ton of money and time to cover up what you don't look.  Choosing a venue that already has its own ambiance will save you tons of time, money, and labor.

Let me give you a perfect example of an all inclusive venue package vs. a basic package with shopping around for your own vendors. I got the basic package at my venue. This included the ceremony area (chairs, decor, runner) the cocktail area (tables, linens, decor) and the reception room.  This included all the linens, plates, silverware, glasses, toasting glasses,and centerpieces (I just added a few of my own touches) a bartender, and soft drinks and mixers all up to 200 guests.  I also got a "day of" coordinator included in this package as well.  I feel like I got a real bang for my buck.  They had so many things already provided and I just added things to it.  And by the venue providing all the plate ware and glasses it saved me a ton of money with the catering company (more to come on that later)

  The all inclusive package at the same venue cost more than 4x what I paid and included all the same things but also the food, DJ, photographer, officiant, cake, and flowers.

By getting the basic package and then shopping around for my own food, DJ, cake, photographer, and officiant I ended up paying under 4k less than the all inclusive package for my ENTIRE wedding start to finish (my dress, rehearsal dinner etc)
The person buying that all inclusive package automatically paid 4k more than me and then still had to buy their dress and pay for the rehearsal dinner and all those other little things.

So in my experience getting the basic package and shopping for your own vendors may be more work but it will save you a TON of money when it is all said and done.

My venue: Aldea at Tlaquepaque, Phx AZ

In a Nutshell
*Don't go all inclusive
*Go cheap but not too cheap
*Find a place that includes as many things as possible in the basic package

Weekday Weddings

Before you start scrolling to the next point seriously stop and consider this.  2 1/2 years ago when I got married on a Thursday I got all kinds of crazy looks from people but over the years it's becoming more and more common. In fact, the way I found my venue was by attending a wedding there on a Monday night...and it was super cool! Look at the caption on the photo booth can't beat that!   

The price difference is drastic.  The cost of my wedding would have been literally double the price for a Saturday for all the same exact things included.  When we saw that we decided Thursday it is!

I truly feel like the important people who REALLY want to be there for more than the free food and booze will make the effort to be there.  Don't let other peoples comments discourage you.  Do what you can afford and do what makes you happy.  In fact, you may end up being able to afford a nicer venue than you originally thought you could just by booking with them on a weekday versus a weekend.  Look around and keep your options open.

In a Nutshell
*Weekdays will save you tons of dough
*Guests that complain about it can suck it


Obviously if you are already choosing to not serve alcohol you can skip right over this section.  But if you're anything like me you think part of the fun is getting to mix and mingle with everyone with a cocktail in hand.  Remember how I said the venue was a VERY important choice? Well that definitely stands true when it comes to your bar.  If your venue makes you get the liquor through them than you can automatically assume you will be spending a few thousand dollars.  For real. That's how they get you.  You might as well just turn around bend over and....I'll stop right there.

Another HUGE perk of my venue was that they allowed us to bring in  our own alcohol.  Pretty cool right? And just to make things even better I was provided a bartender and all the sodas, mixers, cups, napkins etc (although I brought in my own cute napkins)  That way the only thing we had to bring was the liquor itself.

To save myself tons of money I hit up Fry's (Kroger and King Soopers in other areas) for their buy one get one for a penny sale on select alcohol brands.  You read that right...a penny!

We stocked up on tequila, vodka, rum...basically all the hard stuff we could.  Including flavored vodkas for my signature drink.  Then all we had to do was buy wine and beer at Costco.  We had plenty of alcohol for our 150 guests that showed up plus we brought a bunch home.  The only thing we ran out of was Michelob Ultra in the last hour...but I didn't feel bad because we still had 2 other beer options plus 2 signature drinks, and all the regular well stuff.  I would consider that pretty darn good.

Want to know our grand total for alcohol???

Drum roll please.........


Yup.  We rocked that shit yo!

Mind you that was from cocktail hour at 6pm until midnight....6 full hours of open bar.  Not too 

In a Nutshell
*Drinking at weddings is fun
*Find a venue that lets you bring in your own hooch
*Liquor sales, liquor sales, liquor sales!


This section is small because saving money on your DJ really only comes down to one factor.....the day of your wedding.  I saved a minimum of $500 on my DJ by having a Thursday wedding.  Most DJs for a Saturday wedding STARTED at $1,200....and who knows how high from there. Three words:

Weekday. Weddings. Rock!
In a Nutshell
* a weekday wedding


The photography was something very important to me and wasn't something I was willing to save money on by doing it DIY or getting somebody sub par who charged less.

The crappy part is that wedding photography is REALLY expensive.
When I first emailed my photographer for a quote the cheapest package started at 3k...waaaay over my budget.  I emailed back basically with my tail between my legs thanking her for the information prepared to go on my not so merry little way when she ended up emailing me back asking me what my budget was and what exactly it was I was looking for.

That's when she proceeded to tell me what she could do for me in my price range and basically costume built me a package. I ended up getting 2 shooters, 6 hours of coverage, and a CD of all my photos for $1,250
The area where I saved the gobs of money was by opting to forgo any kind of prints or books and just getting a full CD of the pictures to print on my own.

It also helped that I had a photographer who was open and honest with me and told me what she truly felt was anymore than 6 hours she said was overkill.  She could have let me add on more time but she told me not to.  And when for a moment I considered paying $200 more to upgrade to the high resolution CD from the medium one she flat out told me that unless I planned on printing out blow up posters of ourselves I really didn't need to.  I am very grateful that they never tried to take me for a ride and get more money out of me and never once made me feel silly for having such a small budget.

Another added perk was that they were a husband and wife team...which meant built in double shooters.  Having two shooters REALLY maximizes your time.  While one is shooting the guys getting ready the other is with the girls...allowing for more time with each.  I also noticed that while one was taking the posed shots the other stood off to the side and snapped candids throughout the whole process.  And during big moments like the ceremony or first dance one was getting up close photos and the other took larger frame shots that caught peoples reactions to that same photo.  It was really a perfect set up....better than I could have imagined!

In a Nutshell
*Photography is expensive....prepare yourself
*Find someone who will custom build a package for you
*Consider what is important and not so important to you and make cuts based off that
*Do you really need a book of pictures NOW when you are spending so much money....think Shutterfly down the road
*Having 2 shooters is a MAJOR plus and maximizes your money and time


Yet again....the whole venue thing comes in to play.  Don't get a venue that requires you to use their food....because 90% of the time it means it's super expensive.  There are the rare exceptions....but for the most part this is their opportunity to rape you. Some places as high as $100 per person....which to me is completely outrageous.  If I was a rich socialite I would be all for it....but I'm a poor chick in her 20s....ain't happening.

Once again my venue allowed outside vendors for food.  We decided on a type of food that we genuinely loved (Greek) but would also be good on budget as well.  

For $30.16 per person we got 7 appetizers, greek salad, hummus and pita, and a buffet of steak kabobs, lemon oregano chicken legs, turmeric rice, and vegetables.

Don't get too stuck on thinking you have to have "wedding food"  the steak or chicken with mashed potatoes and 3 spears of asparagus is over done and usually overpriced.

Get food you REALLY want that won't cost an arm and a leg and appeal to a wide range of people.

And for the last time I swear....having a venue that provides you with serving ware will save you money with your caterer.  Caterers charge a mint for you to use their linens, plates, toasting glasses etc. 

In a Nusthell
*Being able to bring in your own caterer will save you tons of money
* Don't get stuck on serving "wedding food"
*Have food you actual like and is affordable
*Make sure to ask your venue if they have serving ware for you to use


Ironically for somebody who used to make cakes as a side business I cared very little about my cake. It just wasn't a priority for me and I didn't want to spend a lot of money on it at all.

Wedding cakes can be crazy expensive these days as well...up to $5 a serving or even more!

Save yourself the money by skipping fondant.  It doesn't taste very good, has a weird texture, and it drives the cost of your cake way up.  
My disclaimer here though is that there are some designs where it would HAVE to be fondant to achieve the look and buttercream wouldn't even be an option.  Please, PLEASE don't be one of those crazy brides that tells their cake decorator they want swags and draping and hand painted details....and then demand that it all needs to be done in buttercream....because it isn't going to happen and they WILL talk shit about you as soon as you leave.  Make sure your design is realistically in line with your budget.  So if you want to keep the cost of your cake down I highly suggest a buttercream frosted cake which in turn will usually end up being a simpler and more classic design which then in turn means less time and labor which equals cheaper.

In a Nutshell
*Keep it simple! Classic simple designs are cheaper
*Say no to fondant
*Be realistic with your design according to your budget
*Just make sure it tastes good

Rehearsal Dinner 

Right out of the gate I knew I wanted a really laid back rehearsal dinner.  I opted for a picnic themed dinner at my inlaws house.  We had checkered tablecloths and napkins, cute mini baskets to hold the silverware (actually plastic ware) and tin cans with babies breath in them as decor.

In our case some of the bridal party had never even met before.  A laid back BBQ setting was the perfect time for everyone to relax and mingle before the big day where you are suddenly corralled together taking pictures and walking arm in arm down the aisle. 
I find this much more appealing than being in a restaurant (fancy or not) at a long table where it's loud and you can hardly hear each other and you can't even interact with the people at the other bueno!  And not to mention the outrageous cost of taking that many people out to eat at a restaurant the night before the single most expensive day of your life (maybe)....makes me sweat just thinking about it

We served hot dogs, and sliders with all the fixings, all sorts of salads, chips, and pie for dessert.  It was easy, laid back, and everything that I wanted.

I made most the food myself but gladly took the help when I received offers.  Our Nina brought the pies, my mother inlaw made potato salad, and an uncle brought hot dog buns. 

I highly suggest going this route

In a Nutshell
*Skip the restaurant
*Go easy and laid back
*Accept offers to help out


A huge pet peeve of mine is that a lot of these wedding money saving articles will tell you to skip favors all together....but I think that you would be giving up a perfect opportunity to insert personality into your wedding

Too often people think of wedding favors as something lame like Jordan almond wrapped in tulle circles.  Now if you're going to do that....then yes....go ahead and skip it.  But if you want to do something that truly represents you or something you like please don't pass over it!  Details are what make memories and make people smile.

And you can totally do it without spending a ton of money.  My wedding favor was a cupcake in a windowed box at each place setting.

The reason for the cupcake was because I am a cupcake fanatic.  I collect cupcake items and even made a giant cupcake (complete with chocolate wrapper) as the topper of my wedding cake.  I made the cupcakes to look similar to the one on my cake.  That way it was like they were taking home a part of my wedding cake with them.

I made all the cupcakes myself and it was fairly easy and cheap.  It cost under $1 per person.  Cheap but cool favors are totally doable!

And yes it's about you....but really try to do something people will ACTUALLY use or like.  I've seen people give away seeds to plant and things of that sort....cute idea....but how many people will actually follow through on that? I suggest sticking to things more universal because it is  more likely to be used and not be a waste of your time and money.  Food is usually a good way to go or small useful everyday items like cups

In a Nutshell
*Don't miss the opportunity to add personality to your wedding
*DIY your favors to keep costs low
*Give away things that appeal to as many people as possible so you don't waste your time and money

Don't Be Afraid to DIY!

There are some cases where DIYing isn't cost effective.  Sometimes it really is just easier and better to buy it.  But in other cases it can be the only way to get exactly what you want and in a lot of cases ends up being cheaper.  It really just depends on the item

For example....I tried to just buy the shoes I wanted for my wedding....but I couldn't find them ANYWHERE.  Making them myself was the only option at that point and I love how they turned out

(full tutorial HERE )

DIYing is a great way to personalize your wedding and it's totally doable on the cheap

Like these cocktail napkins

Bathroom baskets 

Or you can be insane like me and make all your flowers out of coffee filters 

(I have a ton more Wedding DIY projects under the "wedding" label on the left side of the main page)

Keep your eyes peeled all the time for potential wedding items.  Half the time I wouldn't even have the idea for something until I laid eyes on it and then it all came together.

And don't be afraid to buy things for a good deal that don't exactly match your color scheme. Spray paint became my best friend during my wedding planning.  I sprayed painted everything from picture frames, baskets, name it! I spray painted so often I even got a little hooked on the's good stuff.

Another reason people tend to think that DIYing is expensive is because they do it wrong.  Yes, there is a right and wrong way to do it.  A wrong way would be to get too specific of an idea in your head (I am guilty of this too)  You need to be open minded and flexible to get the best deals on your projects.

 Walking into a craft store it is SUPER easy to get caught up and overwhelmed and walk out spending a fortune.  Make some trips that are more for "research" to see what materials are available and for what prices first instead of walking in without a plan and dropping serious dough because you just went for it.  If you gather ideas first while price checking you will most likely find a cheaper way to do it than you first planned.  It's all about the research! (online too!)

And ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS use a coupon!  For reals....they come so in handy at craft stores.  I would even plan my trips around what coupons I had.  I would keep big ticket items I needed in mind and wait to buy those when I got a 50% off coupon.  I would even drag The Boy along with me and make him stand in line behind me so we could use multiple do what you gotta do!

Most stores have phone Apps now that you just pull up the coupon right there in the store.  No worrying about clipping or forgetting them at's the best!

In a Nutshell
*DIYing can get you exactly what you want
*Be flexible and open minded to get better deals
*Always keep an eye out
*Spray paint is your friend!
*Research, research, research!
* For the love of god ALWAYS use a coupon

Well there ya have it brides! (and grooms) I felt like I did a good job at keeping costs low(er) for my wedding without being so die hard that I went crazy.  Everything was doable


  1. A weddings is a once in a lifetime event and most people splurge absurd amounts of cash only to find themselves in a financial turmoil later in their marriage. Having a perfect wedding on a budget is just as effective as spending huge amounts of savings right? Thanks for sharing those helpful tips! :)

    Carlene Schnitzer

  2. Hey! Do not you think; it is some unusual thing? I mean; how can a “Bride” talk about ‘money saving programs’ especially when there is a matter of her own wedding at the best of San Francisco wedding venues? Really so surprising!

  3. OMG it's like you are completely in my head! I agree with pretty much every SINGLE thing you are talking about and see myself having a very similar budget and style wedding (except not pink and cupcakes, but still!)
    I'm so thankful for this post.
    I would love to talk more about your wedding with you if you have the time, I am especially interested in your photographer (I am looking at the same venue you had).

    Thanks again!!!