Your wedding is one of the most important and memorable days of your life. Most women spend years planning their ideal weddings and dreaming of that special day. Many of them find that the wedding of their dreams costs an exorbitant amount of money — enough to pay for a car or even the down-payment on a house!
You might not get to ride a unicorn down the aisle (seven-year-old me was imaginative), but you can still have the wedding of your dreams while being frugal. Let’s take a look at how you can have a beautiful wedding reception without breaking the bank — some of these tips can even apply to the wedding itself, so take notes!
Reception Venue and Date
When and where: these are the first and most important questions that you need to answer while planning your wedding. The wedding venue sets the tone for the whole affair and affects the wedding reception as well. If you have your wedding at a church, you will most likely need to hold your reception elsewhere. This means you are paying for two different venues. Follow these tips from Money Crashers (@MoneyCrashers) to save money on your wedding venue:
- Don’t get married on a Saturday. This is the most common day and thus the most expensive. Many venues will cut the cost by nearly half if you marry on another day, such as Friday or Sunday.
- Consider non-traditional venues such as a bed and breakfast, a public park, or even an art gallery. Places that don’t normally host receptions like this may not charge as much as your typical wedding venue.
- Have a morning wedding. serving breakfast or brunch is much cheaper than dinner.
- Summer is the “wedding season,” so getting married in the fall or winter will cut costs as well. Venues are more likely to negotiate or offer a lower price to make money for their business during their off-season.
Food is my favorite part of just about any celebration and it is probably one of the most expensive parts of a wedding. According to RealSimple (@RealSimple), however, you can easily cut the cost of food at a reception with these cheap ideas:
- Instead of a traditional sit-down dinner, serve cake and drinks rather than a whole meal.
- Skip the caterer and bring on the potluck. Ask family members or even the bridal party to bring a dish to the reception.
- Set on a caterer? Skip the entree and use a combination plate to bring down the cost.
The guest list for your reception will naturally affect the cost of your reception. The more people you plan to invite, the more seating and food you will need. Keep the guest list small, or have two separate lists. Invite some people to the ceremony only, or the reception only. As The Knot (@theknot) points out, if you invite 100 people rather than 150 people, at roughly $100 a plate for the reception, you’ll save $5,000 on food costs with a caterer.
You deserve a beautiful wedding and reception, but the decorations can eat up a good portion of your funds. A few solid ideas to cut the cost of these decorations from our friends at Money Crashers (@MoneyCrashers) include such tips as:
- Use white Christmas lights. Most of us have these stored in the back of a closet for most of the year.
- Add candles. There is a multitude of options for using candles as decoration. Aside from being affordable, they give off a warm light that looks great in photos. Use dainty tea lights or larger candles on ornate candlesticks.
- Decorate with food. Fill apothecary jars with candy and set them at strategic intervals along the buffet table, for example.
My best friend got married two months ago. When she sent her invitations out, she was smart about it. To keep her costs within her budget, she made her own invites. Bridal Guide (@bridalguidemag) also recommends this popular cost-cutting measure. Check out this link for some DIY invite ideas.
Pro Tip: You can use an online service liked Minted.com here to design and customize your own invites, rather than paying a designer.
Music and dancing is a fairly traditional part of a wedding reception, so if it’s your wish to go with tradition, The Free Wedding (@thefreewedding) offers these little pearls of wisdom for the frugal bride:
- Hire a DJ instead of a band. This will save you money and likely be easier to find.
- Always ask for a demo no matter what kind of musician you decide to hire.
- Big fan of the music and dancing, but your checkbook isn’t? Create a playlist on YouTube, Pandora, or another music site and provide your own music.
Almost every wedding I’ve been to has had a bar of some kind, an open bar being the most popular. Personally, it’s not my thing. But if you want to offer your guests the option at your reception, here are some cheap ideas from Borrowed and Blue (@borrowednblue) on how to do just that:
- Serve only beer and wine instead of cocktails or liquor.
- Use the half full trick. Fill glasses halfway to stretch the alcohol.
- Rather than a bar, provide each table with a bottle of wine.
- Pay per head rather than per drink. This can save you a ton of money, as each drink costs $7 or more while the rate per head is usually around $20.
Most likely, at least one other person in your family has been married. It stands to reason, then, that they probably know a little something about planning a wedding. You might even have a talented musician, chef, or artist in your family willing to chip in their skills to save you money, as CashMoneyLife (@CashMoneyLife) points out in this article. Don’t be shy about asking for help from your loved ones, as it takes a community to throw an awesome reception.
Who doesn’t love cake? The wedding cake is the highlight of the whole reception, with couples spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars on the perfect cake. You don’t really need a big wedding cake, you can settle for something that is still beautiful and doesn’t cost more than your house!
- Have your baker make a smaller “cutting cake” for the bride and groom, with a sheet cake in the back for the caterer to divide up for the guests.
- Look at your local supermarket or bakery for a premade cake. If a traditional tiered, custom cake isn’t that important to you, this can save you a bundle.
- Make your own cake topper. You can even use Lego figures for a playful touch.
Seating is important at any event. You need enough seating for all your guests, plus it needs to look nice. How much you spend on seating for your reception is directly tied to where you have your reception and whether the cost is tied into the venue rental. As CostHelper (@costhelper) details, seating can cost as low as $15 a table.
Guest Seating Plan
Your venue is decided, your guest list chosen, invitations sent out, food and drinks ordered, music on its way, and tables and chairs have been taken care of. Now you just need to make sure everyone knows where to sit, right? Let’s not forget what happened the last time Uncle Bill sat next to Aunt Muriel; we’re still trying to mend fences. This won’t necessarily be a big cost for you at all, but to save you time, A Practical Wedding (@PracticalWed) offers this how-to guide on how to optimize your seating plans.
Photographer and Videographer
A couple deserves to have their special day captured on film, to show their children and grandchildren, or even just to look at for sentimental reasons. This service, however, can really eat through your wedding money. Our friends over at RealSimple (@RealSimple) offer great advice on how to save money on this memento of your day.
Your wedding will be a day you never forget, and your reception will give your friends and family an opportunity to congratulate and wish you well in your life together. If you follow these tips, this momentous life event doesn’t need to drain your bank account. You can also use this free budget calculator to keep track of your reception expenses. Even better, check out our Ultimate Guide For Getting Married on a Budget for even more ways to save on your special day. Do you have any we left out? Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to share.