Weddings keep getting more expensive. The average cost of one is $33,931, according to The Knot's 2018 Real Weddings Study.
As a professional bridesmaid, working hundreds of weddings in the past five years, I've seen many couples go way over their budget and make big money mistakes that put them into debt for years to come. That doesn't have to happen.
Here are the top five tips any couple can use to save more than $20,000 when they plan their wedding.
Every time I go into wedding dress stores, my eyes bulge at the price tags. The average price of a wedding dress is around $1,650, according to Wedding Wire. If you walk into a store and find the dress that you've always dreamed of wearing to your wedding, don't buy it. Instead, take a picture of the label and the tag.
Then do an extensive search to find other dress retailers around the country who sell the same dress, sometimes at a discounted price, or who might be running a sale on that designer.
You can also search secondhand wedding dress online stores, like Nearly Newlywed, where you can find once worn dresses at a steep discount.
Average purchase: $1,650
Average savings from not buying the first dream dress you see: $500-$1,000
While the average couple spends over $1,500 on flowers, according to Wedding Wire, that price can vary based on how elaborate your centerpieces, bouquets, and wedding arch are, as well as the kind of flowers you decide to use and whether or not they are in season.
If having a lot of flowers is a nonnegotiable, then you should look into companies like Bloomerent, a flower sharing marketplace where, for a 40%-60% discount, you can share flowers with someone else in your area who is getting married the day before or after you. You might also ask your venue to connect you with other couples.
Average purchase: $1,500
Average savings from sharing your flowers: $500-$1,000
Video by David Fang
Remember that weddings shouldn't be one size fits all occasions. If you find a vendor you like, don't settle for one of their offered packages, because you could find yourself paying more for things you really don't want or need.
Photographers, for example, will charge a hefty price for a "standard" package that includes eight hours of shooting, a photo album, engagement shoot, a second shooter, photo booth, and more. If all you want is one videographer or photographer, no photo album, and a package that fits your needs, you can ask for customized pricing or a la carte options.
Bands and DJs may offer an entertainment package that includes elaborate lighting, which might already be included with the venue you picked or fancy stage settings. If you know what you want, share that with the vendors you meet with to see what is possible.
Average savings from avoiding the custom package:
One of the biggest spending mistakes couples make is agreeing to a pre-set package that locks them into several hours, when they really only need that vendor there for a fraction of that time.
If you see a photographer advertising an eight-hour photo package for $5,000, you can reach out and see if they'd be willing to do a four-hour package for $2,000 or $2,500.
The same principle applies to day-of coordinators who usually charge based on time. If you're comfortable having someone there only for the ceremony and the first hour of the reception, you could save an additional $1,000.
If you're not sure how long you need a vendor for, or even how long the reception should be, speak to other couples who have gotten married. Usually they'll tell you they overspent on extra hours they didn't need vendors there for and will give you the range they believe would have made more sense.
Average savings from cutting hours:
Fun additions like party favors, customized and personalized items (napkins, cups, signs, etc.), or elaborate additions to centerpieces often cost hundreds of dollars more than you expect.
While it might seem nice to do party favors or a lot of detailed decorations, many guests don't even notice them and they could go to waste. You can save money by purchasing these items secondhand, on places like Facebook Marketplace or Tradsey. It's also OK to cross them off your list entirely if they end up eating into your time and your budget.
Average purchase: $1,500
What you can save on customized favors: $300-$600
Jen Glantz is the founder of the viral business Bridesmaid for Hire, the creator of the project Finally the Bride, the voice of the podcast "You're Not Getting Any Younger," and the author of the Amazon-bestselling books, "All My Friends Are Engaged" and "Always a Bridesmaid for Hire."
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