Save Money on Your Dream Wedding With These Planner-Approved Budgeting Tips
Whether your dream wedding is an intimate beach ceremony or a glitzy black-tie dinner, you can expect it to come with a hefty price tag. Wedding planning has always been expensive — but prices for everything from the cake to the flowers to the DJ have gone up this year, according to Jove Meyer, wedding planner and founder of Jove Meyer Events.
More than 2.6 million weddings are expected to take place in 2022, and thanks to the combination of rising inflation and over-the-top demand for products and services, happy couples can expect to spend more on their celebration than ever before. "2022 is by far one of the more expensive wedding years that we've ever had, simply because the price of everything is up," Meyer explains. "Ultimately, if you're planning now for next year, we can only really give you the pricing that we're getting now."
Interestingly, Meyer says that increased prices don't seem to be deterring couples from planning the big wedding of their dreams. "After people have been at home alone on their couch, in their bed, in their living room for so long, they are ready to celebrate. They are ready to party. And I think that they're going big," he says. Still, there are ways to make budget-conscious decisions and save money on your dream celebration — keep reading for Meyer's expert advice.
Get a Handle on Your Budget and Guest Count
The first and most important step you can take is understanding the budget you have to work with, Meyer explains. Have an open discussion with your future spouse about what the overall budget is, as well as who is pitching in. "It's really important to have an honest conversation about resources and who is contributing those resources and what that means," he says. Maybe your parents are willing to fund the entire event, but only if you invite 75 of their closest friends that you've never met or design the wedding decor to suit their tastes.
Your guest count is another incredibly important part of planning a wedding. The number of people you want to invite is a crucial piece of information you'll need to book a venue — and the more guests you have, the more budget you'll need. "The number one way to save money at your wedding is your guest count," Meyer says. "I really always encourage people to take a look and make sure that everyone you're inviting you're a hundred percent sure is so special that they should be coming to the wedding."
Typically, food and beverage costs make up the majority of a wedding budget, Meyer says. If you're able to cut even a few people from the guest list, you can put the money you would otherwise have to spend on their meals toward extra-special details like decor. "When you have a limited budget and big dreams for the wedding, something has to be flexible," Meyer says. "If the budget's not flexible, then we have to be flexible in our vendors and in our guest count. If our guest count's not flexible, then we have to be flexible in our budget or the way we do it."
Prioritize What Matters Most to You
Once you have a solid understanding of your overall budget and guest count, Meyer recommends sitting down with your partner and wedding planner, if you have one, to discuss your priorities. Meyer usually spends one meeting walking his clients through every single vendor — including big-ticket items like catering and smaller details like photo booths — to find out which services his clients absolutely want. "I talk to some couples and it's all about the decor. I talk to other couples and they want a five-star Michelin meal," he says. "I talk to other couples and they say, 'Wedding food is always bad, so I want the best band in the world.'"
Every couple has a different vision for their wedding day, so understanding which details you really care about — and which you can live without — will help you decide how much of your budget to spend with each vendor. Meyer also recommends spending some time researching the average costs of different services where you're getting married. "Pricing in New York City is very different than Oklahoma and is very different than Napa, California," he says.
Now that you know which parts of your wedding matter the most, you can start getting quotes from different vendors and locking in those details. Meyer also notes that custom orders — like a bespoke flower arch or a multiflavor, multitier cake — tend to cost more than standard options. "The more custom, the more people on the ladder that are needed to build it or make it, the more human involvement, the higher the price," he says. "There are options at every price point and at every budget, but it comes down to prioritizing."
Consider Budget-Friendly Alternatives
The flip side of the parts of your wedding you want to prioritize are the parts of your wedding where you can look for ways to save money. Meyer doesn't recommend trying to skimp on the areas you care most about: if you're dying to get a designer wedding gown, you probably won't be satisfied with something off the rack.
Instead, look for options that cost a bit less but fit with your overall vision for your wedding. For couples who aren't tied to a particular location, Meyer recommends looking into full-service event spaces that handle everything from the catering to the decor. "A full-service venue is always going to offer you the best bang for your buck, because they make money on the food, the bar, the space, and they own all the rentals," he explains. "That price point is just going to be more affordable than if you were to go to an empty space and bring everything in yourself." You can usually customize these venues a bit by choosing a different color of table linens or adding some of your own decorations, but they won't be as unique as a space you totally design to fit your taste.
Meyer also says choosing a different day of the week can help you save some money. Many event spaces offer weekday weddings or daytime weekend weddings for a more affordable price. In some cases, you can also save money by choosing a date outside of peak wedding season, which spans from summer to early fall.
In general, labor is the biggest driver of cost, so you can often find ways to reduce the price of different elements by choosing options that require fewer people, Meyer says. For example, you don't need as many people to serve a buffet dinner as a plated dinner — which is why buffet-style meals often cost less. Or consider having a few food trucks pull up for a more casual dinner: since that option doesn't require any on-site staff to serve food or even set tables for a formal meal, you can save a bit of money.
Meyer also says that DJs are typically more affordable than a live band, since you're paying for one person's time rather than several musicians. He even suggests checking with your florist to see if they're able to drop off all the flowers rather than sticking around to set them up. If you have a day-of coordinator or someone else who is able to place the arrangements around the venue, that can help you cut costs a bit further.
Don't Forget About the Value of Your Time
Though many budget-conscious couples turn to DIY projects to save money, Meyer recommends proceeding with caution. Anything you plan to make yourself will take time — something that's in short supply in the days leading up to your wedding. "The reality is, you can do it yourself in advance of the wedding, but you really have to think through the whole process of this item. Who is going to transport it to the venue? Who's going to set it up? Who's going to break it down at the end of the night and bring it home or dispose of it?" he explains.
If you absolutely want to DIY, Meyer recommends sticking to small projects you can complete ahead of time, like handwritten place cards or decorative accents. The key is making sure that someone else — whether that's a venue employee or your wedding coordinator — will be able to handle the setup and breakdown for you.
Most importantly, Meyer says he likes to remind couples that they don't have to pull out all the stops for their wedding. You don't need a state-of-the-art photo booth and a fortune teller and a caricaturist — instead, create a handful of "wow" moments throughout the event. "You don't need to blow your guests' minds from the moment they enter to the moment they leave. Your love is celebration enough," he says. "The more authentic you make your wedding, the more enjoyable it's going to be for you and for all of your guests."