5 Wedding Expenses that Don’t Have to be Expensive

Written by Lauren Rodrigue
Photo: Arte De Vie

Admiring that wedding nest egg you've feathered over the past (what probably feels like) infinity months, you may feel like your options are limitless when it comes time to finally make choices and cut checks. If you're anything like me, your wedding is the first event you've seriously saved for in your life, and seeing that dollar amount climb to unprecedented new heights might make you feel financially invincible. Veuve for the toasts! I'm getting another dress! WE’VE GOT THE MONEY. And maybe you do! But more likely, you've got just enough to carry out your original plan, with some backup funds for any (inevitable) emergencies or accidental overspending.

It turns out, a little doesn't necessarily go a long way in terms of wedding budget, and you and your partner (and your families, if they're pitching in) will probably be surprised at how quickly those dollars disappear as your wedding date approaches.

One way to prevent yourself from blowing your budget is to avoid falling into traps of overspending where you simply don't need to. It's easy to get swept up into the mindset of "This is my wedding day, might as well spend extra for the best.” But so many of those premium expenditures will go overlooked on your big day, so they simply aren't worth the price tag. You know what won't go overlooked? A private plunge pool in your upgraded villa in Mexico. Trust. Here are a few spots where you have my full permission to cut corners and save cash—while still pulling off the most elegant day ever. Not even your persnickety sister-in-law will notice.

The fanciest table linens
Even in the most breathtaking styled shoots, table linens are often basic white. Sometimes the napkins get creative, but sometimes not. Either way, depending on your table count, you can save hundreds by opting for simple white tablecloths and saying no to other add-ons. A beautifully set table with elegant (but not necessarily expensive) dinnerware and thoughtful florals or greenery is eye-catching enough, and frankly, these items deserve a clean white backdrop to really stand out. If you’re still obsessed with those sequined tablecloths you’ve seen all over Pinterest, use them on your escort card table or sweetheart table, rather than for your whole reception.

Luxe dinnerware for anything but dinner
When your guests are excitedly chit-chatting and mingling about after the ceremony during cocktail hour, the last thing people will be looking at is that $5 gold-edged canape plate you rented for them to hold for 20 seconds. (The first thing people will be looking at is that epic raw bar station you expertly selected—go you!) During cocktail hour, the crowd is frenetic—people are riding emotional rollercoasters of seeing friends and family they haven’t seen in forever, seeing you and your partner having just put a ring on it, being able to finally have a cocktail, etc. Simple plates are just fine for cocktail hour. Go traditional dinnerware for actual dinner, of course, where people will actually notice things like pretty glasses and classy stacked plates—but don’t forget to relish in the funds you’ve saved from renting a little bit less.

Over-the-top stationery
You’ve read it a million times: Your wedding invitation sets the tone for the entire wedding experience, and therefore must cost an entire down payment on a home or more. Consider the second half of that myth officially busted, friends. Feel free to cut a few corners when it comes to your paper suite (including, of course, expensive die-cut corners). Consider picking just one luxe upgrade—like letterpressing, foil embossing, an envelope lining—to amp up your suite, or, if you’re dying to go all out, focus on the invitation itself, and opt for flat, digital printing for the rest of the components. (In case you haven’t noticed, you’d have to work extremely hard to find ugly wedding stationery these days, flat printed or otherwise.) Your invites are one of the first things you’ll buy—try to exercise restraint right out of the gate.

The Champagne toast
I owe this little tip to my wonderful wedding coordinator Kristina, who informed me, as I was scrambling to get the bar order to my wedding venue (last-minute, as usual) a few weeks before my wedding: Hardly anyone drinks the champagne in a Champagne toast. And yet, those 100+ Champagnes are all added to your bar tab (unless it’s included in your package). I’ve never been great at math, but I’m positive that tons of Champagne - drinking + paying = 100% nonsense. Kristina, a genius, told me I should just skip the ceremonial passing-out-of-the-never-drank-champs and have people toast with the drinks they’re already drinking, which we know they will drink, because they ordered them. You too can make this strategic decision, and save yourself triple-digits on your bar tab (not to mention, save the world some wasted Champagne—because there may be a shortage someday, and we’ll need backup). If people want Champagne to toast? They’ll scoot over to the bar to order some once the speeches begin, because they’re smart like that—you don’t hang out with dummies.

Programs
You don’t need ‘em, your guests don’t need ‘em, the environment doesn’t need ‘em. Let’s call the whole thing off. Unless you’re having an ultra-elaborate formal ceremony in a church, chances are, most attendees can probably map out the order of your ceremony in their heads. And they don’t really care (in a nice way) what’s next—because they’re yours for the day. You can skip the costs and labor of making programs but still give props to your bridal party and others involved with your ceremony by writing all this info on a sign (or vintage windowpane, rustic barn door, wine barrel—you get the picture) and posting it at the entrance to the aisle for guests to read before they take their seats. And don’t worry about guests not having a wedding keepsake—that’s what the favors and/or photo booth is for.

I could go on and on, but the bottom line is, for every wedding expense, you and your partner should always ask yourselves: Is this important to us, or are we just doing it because we feel like we have to? Let the answer to that question be your guide. Of course, never skimp when it comes to guests’ comfort—they’re there to celebrate you, and your wedding is, in part, a gift to thank them for their love and support to you and your partner—or your own. Put comfort and happiness first, trends and keeping-up-with-the-Joneses last, and you just might find that you can stretch your budget all the way down the aisle and beyond.