10 Easy Ways to Stay Within Your Wedding Budget

Your wedding is one of the biggest days of your life. Avoid stressing about money so that you can enjoy the event without worries. Tina Hoang-To, CEO and cofounder of the website Wedding Spot, shares her expert advice on how to tweak your wedding to make it more affordable.

Yes Dear Studio

Planning a wedding can be stressful, no matter your budget. When my now-husband and I set out to plan our wedding in 2012, I found myself overwhelmed at the thought of researching hundreds of wedding venues — not to mention the difficulty in getting a hold of wedding packets and tracking down pricing information. It felt like none of the venues ever had time to call or email me back. Feeling helpless and incredibly frustrated, I came up with the idea to build a company that could help me, and future brides, plan the perfect wedding, minus the stress.

Today, I am the CEO of Wedding Spot, an easy-to-use website that gives engaged couples the power to find, price out and book site tours at wedding venues — eliminating endless inquiry emails while also providing an instant, online price estimate based on your selected services and options (something that's surprisingly hard to get on any other site). Over the past year, we have helped more than 500,000 users on our site to find a venue, so we feel confident in our ability to offer sound advice!

Staying within budget can take some work, but there are tried-and-true ways to make the most of any wedding budget and plan a stress-free dream wedding. Below are our top 10 ways to maximize your wedding budget.

1. Ditch the idea of the perfect date.

Data from Wedding Spot show that choosing an off-season date can save you 14 to 20 percent on venue rental fees and related costs. A wedding can be just as beautiful on a Sunday in October as it can on a Saturday in June — but for a much smaller price tag. Not to mention, those traveling from other cities will save on weekend airfare by flying on weekdays.

2. The less the merrier.

In theory, it would be great to have your father's co-worker's niece there to help you celebrate, but when on a budget, it's important to focus on quality over quantity. The fewer people in attendance, the more you can offer your guests, so use scrutiny when creating your guest list. Pro tip: for our wedding, the rule of thumb that we used was to ask, "Have we spent time with this guest within the past three to six months?" This helped us to narrow down our close group of friends and then expand the guest list from there.

3. Buy your dress secondhand.

This might not be for everyone, but you'd be surprised at how many of my friends, and myself, are struggling to figure out what to do with our wedding dresses now. I splurged on a beautiful designer dress, but I wore it for a day and now it will be sitting in a box in our storage room for the next 40 years. There are many sites now where you can buy secondhand wedding dresses that are just as extraordinary as those from a store.

4. Go low-key for the rehearsal dinner.

Having a fancy sit-down three-course meal isn't the only way to show your bridesmaids and groomsmen that you appreciate them the night before the wedding. They are elated for you no matter what. I've seen a trend of renting from Airbnb for the rehearsal dinner and hiring a food truck or having a barbecue for the wedding party. It's casual, and it's perfect for getting ready for the big day.

5. Employ a pal.

An especially organized friend or relative is a great resource for day-of coordination, and she'll likely feel honored to be a part of the process. What's more — you'll be able to put your trust in someone who knows you best and wants the day to be as perfect as you do. Usually you just need help coordinating the vendors up until the ceremony. After that, the fun starts and there's really not much to worry about. Pro tip: host a wine and crafts night with a few of your girlfriends to help put together invitations or simple centerpieces. Feed them well, and it will not even feel like work!

6. Maximize the menu.

Having a cocktail reception with passed hors d'oeuvres or carving stations will lighten the tab while providing a great atmosphere for your guests to mingle and roam about. You'd be surprised how filling (and delicious) these light fares can be, if done right. You can keep things classy by pairing the finger foods with specialty cocktails chosen by you and your one and only!

7. Skip the party favors.

I've been to many weddings in my lifetime, and no one, I repeat, NO ONE remembers the party favors. I've seen so many brides go a bit crazy in this department and spend sleepless nights putting together crafty party favors for hundreds of people. What really happens is that half your guests will forget about their party favors at the end of the night, and your parents will end up boxing it up for you and dropping it off at your place the next day.

8. Try to DIY as much as you can.

Embrace the DIY trend by utilizing online tools like Pinterest for creative decorating ideas and Wedding Spot for comparative venue searching and booking. There are so many platforms that exist today that can help you plan your wedding from booking a venue to putting together cute, low-cost centerpieces for your table setting — and the best part of all, most of them are free!

9. Splurge strategically, be scrappy.

What's most important to you on your big day? For example, if you consider yourself a foodie, allocate more of the budget to the menu and cut costs somewhere else. There are so many ways to save — you just need to know the tricks of the trade. Buy bulk flowers from your local flower mart. Use instant Polaroid pictures instead of a photo booth. Serve guests a sheet cake but still have a presentable cake to take photos with. Hook up your iPod and playlist to a quality rented speaker system instead of hiring a DJ, just to name a few!

10. Give credit where credit is due.

Applying for a low-interest credit card with great rewards can save you some money when it's time to pay for rental fees and book vendors. By using your credit card to pay for some of the more costly wedding expenses (keeping budget in mind!), you'll likely accrue enough points to get some money back to splurge a little more on your honeymoon!