Wedding planning can be frustrating—especially as you see unexpected expenses start to accumulate. Why are wedding flowers so darn expensive? Do you really need a second shooter to capture those shots? Does there have to be a vegetarian dining option?
We spoke to some of the top vendors in Washington DC’s wedding community to ask them about creative ways to save money on your wedding… without feeling like you are sacrificing on your dream day or missing out on important traditions. Take the ideas you like, reimagine the ones that could work for you, and skip the ones that don’t apply to you.
Here are thirteen expert tips, wedding budgeting ideas, and insider hacks straight from the vendors who know wedding planning best.
1. “Sit down early in your planning process and determine your highest priorities. For some people it’s food, for others it’s the design of the wedding or the photography. Make sure to budget generously for these personal preferences—you’ll be glad you spent more money on the things you value most.”—Sara Bauleke, Bella Notte
2. “Think twice about an at-home celebration. Entertaining at home can require things that add up fast. Portable restrooms (the average home toilet can’t withstand multiple flushes in a short amount of time), power (hello, generators!), and landscaping (even a slight back-yard slope can be problematic for a dance floor or tent) are just a few. The unsexy costs of structural items are necessities. Washington’s unpredictable weather also means discussing AC units and rain plans!”—Emily Butler, Karson Butler Events
3. “Keep it intimate—the most beautiful and meaningful weddings are always the ones with the closest of friends and family in attendance.”—Veronica Rogers, Type A Society
4. “Serve the same entrée to all guests (except those with dietary restrictions) rather than doing a choice of meal. Better yet, host a brunch wedding! Your menu will be less expensive, your bar bill will be a fraction of an evening event’s, and a brunch wedding is usually an hour shorter than an evening one, so the cost for most of your vendors (deejay, photographer) will be a little less as well. And you probably won’t need to invest in lighting.”—Janice Carnevale, Bellwether Events
5. “Don’t have a lot of attendants! The average bride spends hundreds of dollars for each bridesmaid on bouquets and gifts.”—Katie Martin, Elegance & Simplicity
6. “Stay organized so deadlines don’t end up costing you money. Caterers, stationery designers, florists, and bridal-shop owners will provide you with deadlines to place orders and to make changes or reductions before you are charged. Missing those deadlines could mean expensive rush fees.”—Kay Wooten, Howerton Wooten Events
7. “You may not need your primary photographer to stay too late at your reception. Instead, ask if you can extend only the second photographer to get coverage at the end of the night. Their hourly rates are typically less than a main photographer’s.”—Jennifer Domenick, Love Life Images
8. “One big benefit of a Friday wedding (besides cost savings), is it allows the couple a whole weekend to see friends and family in a more laid back setting. After the wedding, you can plan fun daytime activities on Saturday, such as going to one of the many free museums on the Mall. There are so many fun and low-cost options to make the wedding a fun weekend event.”—Margo Fisher, Bright Occasions
9. “While wedding planning, couples often put money aside for the event; after the wedding, do not let go of that habit. Keep your wedding account, and continue putting money aside—it will be helpful for your future as a couple.”—Shile Bello, RAE affairs
10. “Opt for digitally printed save-the-dates, and reserve the pretty letterpress, foil, or die cuts for the invitation suite. Always invest in great paper stock—it’s worth it!”—Lauren Niles, Lauren Niles Events
11. “Consider a Friday or Sunday wedding, or an off-season date, when you can see significant savings particularly on the cost of venues, and get more negotiating power with other vendors as well.”—Courtney Swierczek, A Sweet Soiree Events
12. “If you’re planning to purchase a wedding album, add it on when you book your wedding photographer. Album companies typically increase their prices yearly, so to get the best price, reserve a book well in advance.”—Susie Hadeed, Susie and Becky Photography
13. “If your budget doesn’t allow for a seated dinner but you have your hopes set on one, consider a seated first course followed by a buffet dinner. Simple substitutions —hanger steak instead of tenderloin for example—can go a long way in cutting costs. Also, skip the full bar for beer, wine, and a signature cocktail—your favorite or something seasonal. Vodka and bourbon are most popular.”—Vicky Theodorou, Heirloom Catering and Event Design