We had two years of engagement to plan our wedding, and I spent most of that time working on ways to get the cost down! Throwing a wedding can get pricey, and while we knew that going in, it didn’t cushion the blow of receiving quotes from some of the vendors we looked at, or the prices that popped up in Google searches. Here’s all the ways we saved on our wedding day to make it ours, but keep it from breaking the bank!
Note: My biggest tip is to pick what aspects of your wedding are most important before you even look at vendors. We felt really strongly about having a great photographer, so that portion of the budget was expanded – but we didn’t really care a ton about little details like programs so I designed those and printed them at our church.
The first thing we did was choose a reception venue, since we knew we wanted to be married in my church. When we signed a contract with Windows on Washington, we did it at a specific time in order to snag a signing deal of a free late night snack (nachos!) and a decor savings. Also, Windows offers discounts on “off-season” weddings, which helped us settle on an August 26 date – the last weekend of the off-season August but late enough that if I had an internship that rolled into August I’d probably be done by then! And yes, we did pick a date before I got matched – and the anxiety was unreal leading up to match day for that reason + many more!
The next thing we did was pick a photographer, since it was most important to us (okay, me). We went with Amanda of Manda Renee Photography – she captured Drew’s sister’s wedding so we’d seen her work and she offers amazing quality at a great price point. I met with her shortly after we got engaged and we took engagement photos the following March before Drew moved away after undergrad.
Amanda was also a great resource for budgeting, because having gone to so many weddings I texted her a few times asking what things were worth spending on and what things wouldn’t get noticed. She helped me figure out how to spend time and money most efficiently by explaining which aspects are more heavily photographed!
One of the most surprising ways we saved on wedding expenses was actually by renting our bridesmaid dresses with Union Station! I ordered three sample swatches in blush, light gray, and slate gray and some of my bridesmaids helped me pick. We immediately nixed the blush because it was too pastel, and they chose slate out of the grays that were left! So easy.
Union Station essentially has two kinds of dresses: short and long. There are five total top “designs”/necklines, so 10 total dresses (each neckline comes in short and long). Since I had five bridesmaids and knew I wanted to mix and match cuts, it was super-easy to “assign” them a dress behind the scenes on my account, then they just had to click through and pay! Two weeks before the wedding, they each received two sizes of their dress and could change them out if needed for an extra $25 (the dresses themselves were only $75!).
I can’t brag enough about the customer service with Union Station either – they actually send a third size to one of my bridesmaids for FREE because her dress options were too long but she’d measured using their size chart!
From left to right, they’re wearing the: Olivia, Jane, Leigh, Ann, and Madison dress styles – all in slate gray.
From left to right, though, their names are Miriam, Erin, Lauren, Shayla, and Audrey. Confused yet? 😉
My dress was bought at Gracie’s Bridal in Springfield, MO at a sample sale, which saved a ton of money. Lauren, Erin, and Audrey took me on a casual dress-browsing trip since we heard about the sale, but I was hooked on this dress after about 0.01 seconds. It was maybe the 4th dress I tried on ever and a far cry from the fluffy ballgown I thought I wanted, but it was the perfect one!
Just an observation – I didn’t actually put on this dress and say “I just know this is the one!” I put this dress on and felt like a bride, instead of a girl playing dress-up – that’s how you know. 😉
Gracie’s actually offered me an extra discount since this dress was a little over my budget, plus offered to order me a new one at the sale price instead of me purchasing the actual sample dress. I opted to have the dress altered at Gracie’s instead of anywhere else, which meant 2 trips to Springfield after I graduated undergrad – once for fittings and once to pick it up! So, so worth it!
To save on florals, I sat down with Stefani of SS Wedding Designs and was super-open about our budget. I brought some printed photos from Pinterest and told her I didn’t care about specific flower types – just the vibe and the budget. She wrote me up a quote for a higher-end set of bouquets, and one that was more budget-friendly, including links to photos of the flowers she referenced (I know nothing about flowers). My biggest “want item” was the long silk ribbons that were on each of our bouquets – I loved the little Southern nod they gave!
Side-by-side of my bouquet against a bridesmaid one! Mine was much fuller, but you can’t really beat the price Stefani got me on the girls’ bouquets.
Possibly one of my sneakiest money-savers: having the groomsmen’s boutonnieres be greenery-only.
I did DIY my own floral hair comb, because A) I wanted to ensure it would stay together and B) honestly, it looked like fun on Pinterest. I chose some projects to do for stress relief, then outsourced the really difficult ones for sanity’s sake.
We actually didn’t have plans for florals around the reception venue, but my mother-in-law used our florist to get loose flowers in our wedding colors for the rehearsal dinner, then was kind enough to drive them to the reception and spread them around on Saturday morning! It brightened the room without adding to our expense list.
FOOD + DRINK
I already mentioned that we signed onto our venue with a deal on a free late-night snack, but our dessert was also a great money-saver! We had this little two-tiered cake (amaretto + vanilla buttercream) to cut, then it was plated alongside slices of that helped reduce the cost of serving tiered cake to all 150 guests.
photo via Genius Kitchen
We didn’t actually get photos of the gooey butter cake, but the latest in food science photography recreation tells me it would look something like this. Because let’s be real, all gooey butter cake looks the same.
I mentioned in our details post that we used the vases and candles from Windows on Washington to save money – but we also supplied our own gold chargers! To save on those, I actually scouted a Michael’s sale and split them with our best man’s wife, who used them in their wedding in January!
For our sweetheart table, I popped the panes out of a lantern and added extra flowers from my hair comb!
I bought some signage from craft stores with the intention of using it in our wedding then spreading it around our apartment – killing two birds with one stone saved money, plus I have happy memories hanging all over our place!
We also used cheap frames to spread the word about our wedding hashtag without breaking the bank!
And that’s pretty much it for our wedding saving strategy! One thing I did want to mention is that the bus we hired to drive us to Forest Park for photos didn’t show up on time – they had the times written down wrong. Honestly, in the moment I was too busy fixing it to be too frustrated, but after the wedding I placed several phone calls to the company and we ended up being refunded a deep percentage of the money we’d paid. I’m not usually one to speak up about those things, but wedding planning taught me how to be more assertive and voice my opinions, plus how to be frank about awkward conversations like money.
Stay tuned to see our wedding food post tomorrow!