Saying ‘I Do?’ Ways to Stick to a Budget on Your Wedding Day

Carolyn Hoy

He got down on his knee and presented her with a ring that blinds if it hits the light just right. She can’t help but wonder how much he spent or if she is wearing his new car on her left ring finger. As she plunges ahead with wedding planning, however, she soon realizes that the expensive diamond on her hand is the least of their financial worries.

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According to Google, the average cost of a wedding in the United States is $25,200. That’s enough for a new car or a down payment on a house. It’s enough for not just one but multiple European vacations, several New York shopping sprees, or front-row seats at concerts for big names like Taylor Swift. It’s also close to a year’s salary for many entry-level employees, who are the ones at the life stage where marriage often comes. How can a couple justify spending so much money on one day—but how can they not live their dreams for this one-in-a-lifetime experience? Luckily, cutting costs is possible.


A major wedding cost is the venue. Venues range from a few hundred dollars in a church banquet hall to tens of thousands of dollars at some museums and convention centers, but you do not always get what you pay for. For example, one wedding venue in the Dallas area costs $17,000 just for use of the space, and the bride’s family has to rent linens, set up, clean up, and bring in catering on top of that. Another venue across Dallas costs around $7,000, and this includes beautiful linens, set up, clean up, and catering of the bride and groom’s choice—anything from chicken to steak. Therefore, it is smart to do online research and compare costs.

Another venue option is the couple’s or their parents’ church. Churches are often free or nearly free for members, and often cheaper than actual wedding venues even for non-members. Plus, they offer a traditional wedding scene. Just remember, some churches have policies regarding music, dress, dancing, and other wedding activities.

Remember when selecting the venue, however, that size matters. Many places can fit 150 guests or less, but fewer can support crowds of 2, 3, or 400. This means competition goes down for these bigger venues, and prices often go up. The number of guests is a major issue in price; after all, more people means a bigger venue, bigger cake, and the more food needed. This causes a rise in every cost, not just the venue.

Guest Lists

If inviting fewer guests is a way you choose to cut costs, think to yourself, “Who would I be upset not sharing this day with?” If you can imagine your wedding day without the person and without feeling sad, perhaps they should be cut from the guest list. Feelings may be hurt, and there may be people who cannot be cut because of family or work reasons, but this strategy should help shorten the guest list substantially.

The Gown

Besides the venue, another huge wedding cost is the gown. For brides who have watched “Say Yes to the Dress” and shows like it for years, even before they met their grooms, the world of bridal gowns can seem like a scary and impossible place. Brides on television often spend $5,000 to $10,000, which is sometimes the whole wedding budget for real-life brides. However, this kind of money is not necessary.

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Credit: Sharron Goodyear

First of all, some bridal salons offer expensive dresses for far below retail value; I got my $4,000 gown for $1,200, and a friend got her $5,000 dress for $700. Research and ask for recommendations for places like this in your area. Negotiation is an option, especially at bridal salons that are not national brands. Although, national brands like David’s Bridal can have some great selections, and at the very least, their consultants are trained to help you figure out exactly which style you like, which can help save time and frustration at the less-organized boutiques with rows and rows of dresses.

Another option that is becoming popular is renting. The groom does it; why shouldn’t the bride? For brides who do not care about keeping the gown as a memory, renting can be a much more affordable option; sometimes a gown that costs over $1,000 can be rented for a few hundred, and alterations are usually allowed.

Even if the bride wants to keep her dress, bridesmaids are often concerned about the cheapest option. After all, many bridesmaid dresses are thrown in the closet and never worn again; who would want to wear a dress chosen by someone else to flatter herself rather than you? Renting bridesmaid dresses can be a great way to help keep costs low for your wedding party.

Smaller Costs can still Impact your Budget

Once the venue and gown are selected, the smaller costs can still eat away at the budget subtly. However, The Knot can save the day. The Knot is a wedding website that also has books and an app. A bride need only make an account and enter her city and date. Then, The Knot can find vendors in everything from flowers, cake, makeup, and limos to calligraphy, dance lessons, and registries. Once the bride selects her category, she can sort by price and see reviews. This is an excellent way to find affordable, yet excellent, vendors in the area of the wedding. Guests can also RSVP through the site when the time comes.

Keep in mind, however, that even if the cost does not seem too much in the grand scheme of your budget, make sure it is proportionate. Figure out beforehand what percentage you want to spend on each item in the budget, and stay within that, because even if it seems like $10,000 or $15,000 is an endless amount of money at the beginning, the costs add up. Don’t be afraid to negotiate. Most vendors expect that, and every dollar counts.

A wedding is one day that creates a lifetime of memories, but it is possible to have a once-in-a-lifetime experience with a realistic sum of money.

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