6 Secrets From Couples Who Saved Big on Their Weddings

Unless you plan on eloping, you're likely going to shell out a significant amount of money for your wedding -- or your daughter's or son's wedding, since parents are frequently the ones writing the checks and swiping the credit cards. According to this year's survey by TheKnot.com, the average cost of a wedding is now $29,858.But a wedding doesn't have to cost as much as a new car. With a little ingenuity and a lot of planning, you can shave thousands of dollars off your wedding bill. Plenty of people have done so by remembering that just because things are usually done a certain way, you don't have to do it that way, too. Here are six creative ways to save on your wedding.Bake your own wedding cake. Sounds a little crazy at first, right? Who bakes a wedding cake besides a professional baker?Marcia Young, that's who. Young, a retired federal employee who lives in Millsboro, Delaware, says being retired meant she was able to put a lot of thought into planning her daughter's wedding. Somewhere along the way, it occurred to her that she could bake the cake.[Read: 5 Things Your Wedding Probably Doesn't Need .]"Since I knew I could easily bake something that tasted better than the store-bought cakes, the challenge became could I make it look decent," Young says. She might have not pulled it off if the bride and groom had wanted an elaborate cake, but Young says they wanted "a simple design with small dots." "The cake was a 12-inch tier, a nine-inch tier and a six-inch tier," Young says.She estimates she spent about $45 on the ingredients. "The cakes we considered from local bakeries started at $2.50 per serving and skyrocketed from there, so we saved at least $2 per person," says Young, whose daughter's wedding had approximately 100 guests.It's a risk if the baker is inexperienced, but there's a lot of money to be saved in the cake category. According to The Knot, the cost of the average wedding cake is $546. "I chose a recipe that freezes well, so I didn't have cake anxiety the day before the wedding," Young adds.Forget the stamps and go digital with RSVPs. You could, of course, skip the formal invitations, too, but that's part of the glamour, so forgive yourself -- or your daughter -- if those don't go on the chopping block. But does it matter how people RSVP, as long as they do?Lori Hill, who writes an eco-friendly blog, SisterEden.com, says she saved a lot of money on her invitations by setting up a wedding website, "which was free and contained all the specifics."Hill sent out a simple panel card with all the basic information that asked people to RSVP through the website. "We saved money because we didn't use a lot of paper, we didn't need extra postage for a thick wedding invitation and we didn't need postage for response cards," Hill says.Rethink wedding favors. "How many times have you attended a wedding and received a 'favor' that was no favor at all? In other words, it was something you might throw in the trash as soon as you got home," Hill says. "We didn't want that."So she says they had flower arrangements at each table as the centerpieces -- peonies, bachelor buttons and bells of Ireland -- and the guests were instructed to take one per family, couple or individual. "The guests loved that they got to take home fresh, local flowers in a pretty vase that they could reuse," Hill says.Choose a cheaper venue. In 2013, couples spent an average of $13,385 to rent a place for the wedding reception, according to The Knot. Everyone will have their own ideas for saving money on the venue, but one place to consider is your local community center.Young was fortunate enough that hers is adjacent to a lake, offering a scenic atmosphere. She says she and her husband paid $500 instead of going with a local vineyard ($2,500) they had been considering. They also looked at a senior center that charged $600 for four hours and $100 each hour afterward.[Read: How to Save Money on Your Wedding Venue .]"It didn't have the ambience we were looking for," Young says. But for some couples, as improbable as it might sound, there may be a senior citizen center with your wedding's name on it.Trim your photo budget. No one would argue that you should skimp on your photos. If they turn out badly, there's no redoing the big day.But Talia Beckett, a public relations executive in Vancouver who is getting married this July, has found that non-wedding photographers charge less than wedding photographers. "I received six to 10 quotes from different photographers," she says. "The cheapest was for $2,000. The highest was $5,000. And for me personally, looking at their portfolios, I didn't see why they could charge that much."Beckett sought out a local travel photographer she found online. She and her finance paid $250 for their engagement photos and will be paying $500 for the photos from their wedding. She says she had the same experience looking for a videographer. "Don't book someone that specializes in weddings," she advises.Why is it cheaper to go with a professional photographer who doesn't specialize in weddings? Probably a variety of factors, but it's likely that a travel or other professional photographer sees a wedding as a way to make some extra income, whereas weddings are the bread and butter for a wedding photographer.Or maybe Beckett's right. "I think people charge that amount of money because the wedding industry has become such a moneymaker, and they just charge as much as they want because brides will pay for it," she says.Sell some of what you buy. Young purchased tablecloths, napkins, chair covers and chair sashes from a company she found online. She was planning to resell them on Craigslist (after washing them, of course) when some board members at the community center mentioned how much they liked them."When I told them I planned to sell the linens on Craigslist after the wedding, they asked me to give them first dibs at buying them," Young says. "I had paid $430, and I sold them for $280, making a net cost to me of $150 for the use of 110 fabric chair covers, 110 satin sashes, 110 fabric napkins and 16 floor-length fabric table cloths."Young adds that cost-conscious brides and grooms might want to consider buying gently used linens for the wedding on Craigslist.So just how much can you save by weeding your wedding costs? There's no right answer because the starting point on a budget will be different for everyone, and there are other variables such as taste and geography. Some people will feel fine about cutting back in certain areas where others won't. When Buckett began budgeting, her dream wedding cost around $45,000. But since she started looking for bargains, she says she's managed to get it down to around $20,000.[See: 8 Painless Ways to Save Money .]"I don't feel I've made any sacrifices," she adds.Young feels the same way. She says her daughter and son-in-law paid for some of the costs, like the dress and tuxedo rental, a photo booth, invitations and bridal party gifts, while Young and her husband handled the venue, caterer, alcohol, DJ, flowers, officiant, favors and photographer.She guesses she spent around $10,000 but would have spent $15,000 if she hadn't been careful. And care is the key word. Sure, the day you exchange vows is a big, special, hopefully once-in-a-lifetime deal, but it can be easy to forget that after the wedding, you're going to have a lot of other days to pay for.

6 Secrets From Couples Who Saved Big on Their Weddings 1

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