Budget-Slashing Wedding Planning Tips

Martha Stewart Weddings presents 65 Ways to Trim Your Budget… and who’s budget couldn’t use a little trimming, right? Here are some of their best wedding planning tips. If you have any other great budget-slashing ideas, please add them in the comment section!

Save on Alcohol

  • Instead of providing a full bar, serve a signature drink, such as punch or a favorite cocktail, instead of providing a full bar.  Another option is to limit alcoholic beverages to wine and beer, choices that will satisfy most of your guests.
  • Rather than pouring Champagne all night long, serve just a single glass to each guest at the appropriate time to toast the bride and groom.
  • Technically, Champagne is sparkling wine that’s from the Champagne region of France. But you can find plenty of substitutions that don’t come with the high price tag.  For example, Cava, the Spanish take on Champagne, or Prosecco, from Italy, which is smoother, sweeter, and a better fit for a small budget. Even French sparkling wine is cheaper; it’s made the same way but isn’t actually from Champagne.
  • Buy your own wine wholesale. You may pay your caterer a corkage fee to pour it, but wine purchased through him can cost twice as much.
  • Most merchants offer a 10 percent discount for buying wine by the case, and they’ll often increase that if you purchase several cases at once.

Save on your Wedding Cake

  • Hire an outside baker to provide the wedding cake, if your caterer’s contract permits. You may have to pay a cake-cutting charge, but you will likely pay less overall.
  • Want a tall cake but don’t want to pay full price? Have your baker make just enough to serve each guest one slice.  Additional tiers can be made of Styrofoam and iced to match the others.  No one will know!
  • Alternatively, you can order two cakes for the reception: a small fancy one to be used for display, and a large sheet cake, which does not need to be elaborately decorated.   The bigger cake gets sliced and dished up in the kitchen.
  • Or, order a very plain (and moderately priced) cake, and make the focal point the cake topper. Vintage toppers and classic symbols can make a cake memorable.
  • You don’t need a whole separate dessert course. Just present the wedding cake as dessert, with coffee and tea, to end the meal.

Save on Ingredients

  • Have your caterer use local fruits and vegetables that are in season. They’re tastier, fresher, and more economical!
  • Use expensive ingredients, such as lobster, in hors d’oeuvres rather than in a main course.
  • How you serve dinner affects the price. Regular plate service and French service, in which guests are served by waiters from a platter at the table, are the most expensive. Family style, where diners help themselves from serving dishes brought to the table, is more economical.

Save on Flowers

  • Many popular bridal flowers are available year-round, but some traditional ones — peonies and lilies of the valley, for example — can be expensive out of season. Consult with your florist about what flowers are in season and easy to obtain.
  • Mix berries, pine cones (for winter), and other economical non-floral embellishments  to fill out bouquets and displays.
  • You don’t need to deck every pew with flowers. Get the most bloom for your buck by asking your florist to design two lush altarpieces, which will direct everyone’s eyes exactly where you want them to be: on you and your groom.
  • Make floral arrangements do double duty: If designed properly, your ceremony flowers can serve as centerpieces at the reception, or decorate the guest-book, seating-card, and favor tables. Place bridesmaids’ bouquets on the cake table.

Saving on Centerpieces

  • Floating flowers: Instead of decorating tables with large arrangements, float a few flowers in shallow bowls or glass cylinders filled halfway with water.
  • Economical flowers: Floral standbys like daisies and carnations are available year-round, are quite affordable, and when arranged en masse make delightful centerpieces and bouquets.
  • Flowering bulbs: Flowers like amaryllis, narcissus, and hyacinth often cost less than regular flowers and are dramatic rising from a layer of stones set in clear containers.
  • Fruits: Bowls or compotes filled with seasonal fruits from a farmer’s market can take the place of expensive floral presentations.
  • Candles: A single pillar candle in a hurricane lantern is a wonderful centerpiece, as is a casual display of votive candles in the middle of a table.
  • Vases: You’ll save money if your florist doesn’t have to supply vases for your centerpieces. if you have a collection of containers, such as jelly jars or milk jugs. Filled with flowers, just about any type of vessel will make pretty displays.

Save on Favors

  • Use favors as place cards to save a bit on stationery costs. For seating cards, write guests’ names and table numbers on strips of paper, affix them to the favors, and set in order on a table near the entrance. For place cards, put favors with names attached at guests’ places.
  • Handmade favors (especially edible ones like cookies or candies) and decorations are appealing and usually cost less than store-bought.

Save on the Season

  • A winter date may come with lower fees, rather than scheduling in the summer, when rates are at their highest.
  • Weddings scheduled during holidays or vacation times are more popular and therefor more expensive. To cut costs, plan your wedding during an uneventful season.
  • Fridays and Sundays are generally less expensive than Saturdays for renting a venue.
  • For a destination wedding, book a date that is not as popular for travel in the region.


  • Wedding Party: Try to keep the number of attendants as small as possible.  The larger the bridal party, the more you’ll spend on gifts and flowers.
  • Transportation:  Use a personal car rather than a limousine to get to and from the reception.
  • Wedding Highlights:  Hire a videographer to work just from the ceremony through the first dance rather than for the entire wedding.
  • Photographer: There are many talented photographers who haven’t made a name for themselves yet, and their lack of fame can save you a fortune. If you fall hard for a photographer who’s in high demand, ask if she’ll refer you to a lower-priced colleague (just make sure you like his work before you commit).
  • Location: If you are considering two locations, small towns are more economical than big cities! One bride moved her wedding from Brooklyn, New York to a beach town in Michigan, and watched catering quotes drop from $140 per head to $40 — a savings of $15,000!
  • Guest List: To minimize the guest list, refrain from inviting children and coworkers. Include your friends’ significant others but not casual dates.
  • Extras: A venue that comes with extras built in, like a wedding coordinator or an on-site ceremony location, means significant savings.
  • Negotiate: Before signing a contract with your caterer, photographer, or florist, try to negotiate a lower yet still reasonable price.
  • Celebrate in Public: The nicest wedding sites — parks, museums, public gardens — may be the most affordable.
  • Music: For your reception, remember that a deejay can be less costly than a live band.  To avoid hiring two bands and paying two separate fees, ask if just a few pieces of the band can play during the ceremony and cocktail hour, as well as at the reception.

Save on Your Wedding Dress

  • Look for a dress at sample sales, trunk shows, and outlets; you can sign up for some designers’ sample-sale listings online. Most wedding-dress designers allow you to sign up for news and updates.  Even if you dislike this type of spam, getting on their e-mail lists will keep you informed on time-sensitive info such as sample sales and trunk shows.
  • Consider wearing your mother’s gown. The costs of cleaning and alterations will likely be far less than the cost of buying a new wedding dress.

Use your Friends

  • Borrow accessories from family and friends instead of buying them.
  • Ask talented friends or relatives to help with your wedding. An artistic friend, for instance, might design your stationery, or a baking enthusiast could make cupcakes or cookie favors.

Hope these tips are helpful! For the complete list, visit Martha Stewart Weddings: 65 Ways to Trim Your Budget.