Here's 'the top expense of weddings,' according to experts, and 4 smart ways to save on your big day

"Don't feel obligated to invite everyone, not even family. Invite only those you want."


If you have an invite to more than one wedding this year, you're not alone. With Covid restrictions being lifted in many parts of the county, a long overdue wedding season is upon us.

More than half of couples planning to get married in 2020 delayed or canceled their wedding receptions, according to The Knot's annual survey of engaged couples. Many of those couples are finally able to celebrate.

Pre-Covid, the average cost of a ceremony and reception was holding steady at around $28,000. However, during the pandemic, the national average cost of a wedding dropped to $19,000 in 2020, according to a report by WeddingWire. That makes sense, given that "the top expense of weddings is the guest list," tweeted John and David Auten-Schneider of the Debt Free Guys during a recent Grow Twitter chat. For those planning a wedding now with fewer limitations, they remind brides and grooms: "Don't feel obligated to invite everyone, not even family. Invite only those you want."

Given that 60% of couples are planning to pay for most (if not all) of their weddings themselves, according to a recent survey by WeddingWire and Grow, it can be smart to figure out ways to save money without sacrificing.

During the Twitter chat, experts offered four tips for enjoying your big day without breaking the bank.

Discuss your priorities with your partner

The first step to keeping costs down is figuring out what elements of the wedding are most important to you and your partner.

"Before planning, have a convo with your future spouse and write down your two or three areas where you want to give yourself more wiggle room in terms of budget. Definitely figure out what the absolute most you can spend in these areas will be!" tweeted the team at WeddingWire.

Shopping expert Trae Bodge also suggested prioritizing together. "The guest list? The destination? Designer duds? Once you determine those [crucial] elements, you can cut back on the less important elements," she wrote.

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Buy your own alcohol

Rounds of booze don't come cheap at any party — and a wedding is no exception. "Alcohol will be [one of] your biggest expenses," wrote the Auten-Schneiders. "Manage accordingly."  

Ask if your venue will let you supply your own alcohol, a move that lets you shop around for deals. That's one way Winnie Sun, a co-founder of Sun Group Wealth Partners, saved on her big day: "My husband and I headed to Costco with a borrowed minivan and loaded up on Champagne. That really helped keep alcohol costs down."

Shopping expert Trae Bodge said she and her husband bought their own drinks for their wedding. "It was a huge money-saver," she wrote.

My husband and I headed to Costco with a borrowed minivan and loaded up on Champagne. That really helped keep alcohol costs down.
Winnie Sun
CFP, founder of Sun Group Wealth Partners

Focus DIY efforts on 'legit skills'

Do-it-yourself projects can help you save money. But experts cautioned they can be time consuming and stressful.

"Party favors, table decor, signage, even floral arrangements can be easy DIY projects that help you save thousands. Pick projects you are passionate about doing so you don't get too stressed," wrote Bridesmaid for Hire founder Jen Glantz.

It's important to pick projects that make the most of skills you already have, says Lauren Anastasio, a recently married certified financial planner with online personal finance company SoFi. "Tasks that are time-sensitive/require you to learn a new skill should be avoided as they might create additional/unnecessary stress," she tweeted.

The top expense of weddings is the guest list. Don't feel obligated to invite everyone, not even family. Invite only those you want.
John and David Auten-Schneider
The Debt Free Guys

Bodge agreed, responding, "Legit skills are important. You don't want to take a calligraphy class, only to make a mess of your invites."

And finally, limit your DIY efforts to just a few projects. "Don't go overboard with the DIY projects — take on one or two projects and make sure you give yourself enough time to do them well. Save the rest for the professionals," suggests the WeddingWire team.

Work with vendors to find savings

Glantz recommends figuring out what you can afford and creating your budget first. "Set your price before you search for vendors so you can find people in your price range and not the other way around," she wrote.

Then, the WeddingWire team recommends, "be upfront and honest with wedding pros about the amount of money you're working with."

Experts say there are often creative solutions vendors can offer to reduce costs. "Don't be afraid to negotiate," wrote Anastasio. "You can still support vendors and cut your own costs. Rather than accepting a 'wedding package' from a videographer for 8 hrs of service, ask if you can piece together the individual services you really want at a lower rate."

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Hiring a wedding planner can also help you get great deals, says Bodge. They can "ensure better pricing because they have access to industry discounts," she wrote.  "While there is a cost associated with a planner's services, they can often save you enough to make it worth it. And they'll take so much off your plate!"

Be kind in your cost-cutting efforts, Sun recommends. "While you interview, build relationships. Treat people/vendors as you would your own team — a little kindness and flexibility go a long way," she tweeted. "Plus, good vibes at your wedding can only bring you more luck!"

Ultimately, "all that matters is that you're happy and those around you are happy for you," says Sun. "The rest is just pixie dust, and the less you spend, the more you can save for other things like honeymoon, vacay, new home, etc."

This story has been updated to clarify Winnie Sun's title.

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