Getting married soon? You can have a beautiful wedding on a budget

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Wedding planners weigh in on ways to keep that special day from breaking the bank

Besides being a month loaded with holidays, December is the start of marriage proposal season, with many questions being popped between now and Valentine's Day. After that, the wedding planning begins.

But many newly engaged couples may receive a shock when they start looking at price tags. According to Knot’s 2021 Real Weddings Study, a wedding last year cost an average of $28,000 – $34,000 if you count the cost of rings.

But do you have to spend that much in order to have a beautiful, memorable wedding? The event planning experts we consulted say there are many ways to save money.

All of the planners we consulted advised engaged couples to take these money-saving steps:

Pick a date for the wedding that is not during prime “wedding season,” May to October

“Simple economic law of supply and demand will ensure these dates are most expensive – high demand, low supply,” Colleen Carswell, former wedding planner and creator of DIY Wedding Planning Made Easy, told us. “Contrastingly, winter weddings are less popular as are Sundays, and even more so, weekdays. So if you were to get married on a weekday in early February when demand is at its lowest in most parts of the country, you'll likely see much lower venue prices as well.”

Choose a location that can host both the ceremony and reception

“This eliminates the need to rent two separate spaces and can help to reduce other costs such as transportation,” said Jordan Cullen, founder of Cullen Jewellery, who has worked with many couples planning a wedding.

Jean Neuhart, a retired wedding planner and author at Weddings From The Heart, says the venue is one of a wedding’s biggest expenses.

“Compare an all-inclusive venue to one where you have to bring in everything yourself,” Neuhart told ConsumerAffairs. “Saves time from having to secure other vendors and/or decor items, and can save money on do-it-yourself projects.”

Carswell says you can save money by weighing every aspect of reception costs individually and collectively when selecting a venue. For example, one venue might have a rental fee of only $500 but you must provide all the tables, chairs, linens, catering, service staff, and more. But another venue with a $5,000 food and beverage minimum could turn out to be a better deal.

“If they include the staffing, catering, rentals, setup, teardown, venue coordinator, ceremony and reception space, ceremony chairs, backup rain plan, etc., it's very likely you'll come out ahead with the venue that appears at first glance to cost significantly more,” she said.

Minimize spending on flowers

“Be your own florist,” said Forrest McCall, a financial adviser who recently got married. “Other than the bridal bouquet, my wife decided to do all of the flowers herself. This saved us well over $1,000 on the cost of a traditional florist. While it's a time-consuming process, it can be a great method to save money on your wedding.”

Another way to reduce spending on flowers is to use larger tables for your guest’ seating. You’ll end up needing fewer tables and chairs, and in turn fewer centerpieces and linens.

“My number one recommendation when decorating a wedding is to first look at upgrading the linens,” Carswell said. “As opposed to a large floral centerpiece arrangement that can cost hundreds per table, a simple upgraded linen may only cost $10-$20 per table. Even with just some simple greenery or candles the aesthetics and ambiance can really pop with the right linen selection.”

Personal touches

“There are plenty of ways to add personal touches without breaking the bank,” Cullen told us. “If you're looking for something truly unique, you could even get married in a place that has special meaning to you, like the place you first met or the site of a significant event in your relationship. You can also ask family and friends to contribute their own talents, whether it's baking a special cake or playing music during the ceremony.”

“With the cost of weddings paired with the constant inflation we’re seeing these days, saving money has never been so important,” Neuhart said. “And the couple doesn’t have to sacrifice style in order to save. Prioritizing all the different elements that go into a wedding then focusing on the top three and going minimal, or eliminating altogether the elements that aren’t important is helpful too.”

Because weddings are so expensive, things associated with a wedding may have a higher price. For that reason, Neuhart says couples should forgo a traditional wedding cake and purchase (or bake) a small two-layered cake for the ceremonial cutting. Purchase small individual cake slices to serve to guests.

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