feature image photo by toncd32 via Getty Images
I have to be honest — when I started writing this article, I did some research online to see what major bridal publications are suggesting when it comes to saving money on a wedding, and I ended up feeling shocked about all the things people actually spend money on to begin with! Which reminded me, of course, how “weddingwp_postsis one of those words that seems to have just one definition, but actually has a million — a wedding is truly what you make it, and it can truly cost whatever you decide to spend on it!
That said, this list is quite specific to the wedding I’m planning, which is a budget affair. I was never going to pay someone to print our invitations on fancy cardstock or to address them with fancy calligraphy (thank you Zola print shop!), I was never going to serve sushi at our reception (we’re going buffet style, baybeeee), and I was never going to buy boutonnieres for our groomsmen because, to be blunt, we don’t have any! (To be fair, we don’t have a bridal party at all, so we won’t be spending money on florals for anyone besides the brides to hold or wear.)
I think the general vibe of this article can be used regardless of your actual budget for your wedding, but as always, I’d love to hear in the comments how you saved money or are planning to save money on your event. Here are some tips and tricks I’m using to save money on my lesbian wedding!
Buy your own alcohol
When I started planning my wedding, I was adamant that the main thing I cared about was the food and the beverages. Everything else I was comfortable being low key about, but I wanted an abundance of delicious food and drinks and I wanted everyone to feel very taken care of in that regard. The cool thing is, you do NOT need to hire a bartender or do a fancy bar scenario in order to provide a truly top notch drinks experience for your guests.
I am having a backyard-style wedding, so buying our own booze and non-alcoholic options is an obvious choice, but even if you’re working with a caterer, many of them will give you the option to purchase your own beverages. A friend of mine who works as a professional caterer even suggests this to her clients, because she knows how much money it will save them and is a good person, lol. You don’t have to do anything fancy — buying wine and kegs and sparkling water and juices is just fine — but if you want to do some batch mix cocktails, that’s doable on your own, too. My partner and I went out to a bar and tried a bunch of drinks to see what tastes and vibes we wanted to emulate at our wedding, purchased some gallon batch drink dispensers, and will be mixing up our own cocktails on-site.
Have a smaller wedding
Depending on who you are as a bride/groom/person getting married, this one is either a no brainer or incredibly challenging.
If you’ve always dreamt of a small intimate wedding, you’re nodding your head vigorously right now. But if you have a large community, are anticipating having to invite a lot of family, or simply love a giant party, this is a really hard suggestion to take on. The truth is though, literally everything will go down in cost if there are fewer people at your event. Think of everything you are going to provide: food, drinks, chairs, table spots, potentially transportation, rentals… even the amount of space you need (and thus, the cost of the venue you rent) is affected by how many guests you invite.
My partner and I wanted to invite all our friends, and to be honest the act of paring down the guest list was really challenging and in some cases emotionally painful. But our financial reality was such that we could only afford a very small wedding. If you can keep your guest list tight, you will save money across the board. It’s just math.
Spend less on your dress
Okay, I used the word “dress” because it rhymes with “less,” but obviously you can wear whatever the heck you want to your wedding! The sentiment still stands though: How cheap can you go while buying these garments?
Wedding dresses and formal suits and all sorts of fancy dress wear comes in a huge range of prices — you can literally drop $20,000 on a dress in a blink of an eye. Can you imagine?! But even more “reasonable” wedding clothes can be really expensive for the average consumer. That said, there are many ways to go with a cheaper plan. You can thrift, you can keep an eye out for trunk shows and sample sales, you can buy a lightly used dress either online or at specific stores that cater to this, you can buy a dress you like that isn’t “a wedding dress” and thus will be dramatically cheaper, you can rent an outfit… these are just a few options when thinking about how to get the cost down on your dress/wedding outfit.
Plan ahead as much as possible
Depending on the length of your engagement, you may have a lot of time or you may have very little time to plan your wedding. The further you can plan ahead, though, the better when it comes to saving money.
As is often the case in life, everything feels more relaxed when you have ample time, so you can shop sales, look for free stuff, and get multiple quotes for services to make sure you’re getting the best deals.
Some particular things to keep in mind here: rush shipping will always cost more, so if you’re able to order things (like invitations, party favors, any ceremonial ritual items you want, etc) far out, that’s ideal. Some days of the week are more expensive than others when it comes to weddings — a venue may charge less for a Sunday wedding, a photographer may charge less for a weekday night, etc. When you start prepping for a wedding, you will find yourself looking to buy the weirdest, most random things, and not all will scream “wedding,” so being able to shop sales at any time is useful (for example, those batch gallon drinks dispensers I referenced above just went on sale at my local grocery store because it’s finally grilling season in the PNW, and I took the opportunity to snatch up several of them… way cheaper than purchasing them full price).
I also really utilized OfferUp (a Facebook Marketplace adjacent app) for decorations, and being able to keep an eye out for the past year to see when folks are getting rid of like, three huge floor rugs or five giant rolls of pink tulle has been invaluable. I’ve spent almost zero dollars on decorations, simply from having the time to find deals and drive to the suburbs to pick them up.
Mix up fake and real floral
You may not be doing floral centerpieces or decorations at all, in which case disregard this tip, but I know a lot of people do drop a ton of money on fancy florals for a wedding and I’m here to say… you don’t have to! I was initially very skeptical of fake floral, but I have been so impressed with the quality of fake flowers these days (available at Goodwill or craft shops) and I find they look just as good (if not better!) than real flowers when mixed with greenery or other decorations. If you really don’t want to use any fake floral but still want to save money, you can go with only greenery, and it will be much cheaper. And if you’re looking for cheap real flowers and are okay doing a bit of work yourself, skip the florist and go directly to a supermarket like Trader Joe’s or Fred Meyer (or whichever store sells food and flowers near you) first thing in the morning the day before the wedding and go wild there.
Something that has been really surprising to me over the course of this process is how much my friends and family want to help with the wedding. I initially felt like I was being annoying or asking too much when I requested assistance with wedding-related tasks, but the more I’ve leaned in to accepting help, the more it’s become apparent to me that people in my life are genuinely excited about this and genuinely want to pitch in.
Accepting help for your wedding looks different for different people. You may be hiring a wedding planner and day of coordinator and not really need (or want) your mother in law to weigh in on every detail. You may be throwing a backyard wedding and absolutely do want all hands on deck in prepping your garden for the ceremony and your house for the reception. You may fall somewhere in between those two points. But whatever kind of wedding you’re having, think about the ways in which receiving help would actually feel helpful, and practice asking for and then accepting that help.
I was planning to pay for bridal bouquets, but a close friend who grows a gorgeous garden asked if she could make them for us as a gift. I accepted. One of my best friends is a bedazzling queen, and she offered to bedazzle my Tevas and my partner’s Crocs (yes we’re wearing Tevas and Crocs), and I was thrilled. My mom wants to help me bake the cupcakes we need for dessert, and I’m delighted to let her. All of this help is being offered freely — it’s stuff these people genuinely want to contribute — and it’s both saving me money and creating a very special atmosphere around my wedding. If there are ways, big or small, that your community can show up for you — let them! You’d do the same for them.
Don’t include things you don’t care about
This step is arguably the most important one when it comes to wedding planning, period.
Weddings are steeped in cultural norms and expectations, and once you start planning it’s hard not to get swept up in that. But if you don’t care about something — don’t do it. And even more importantly: don’t spend money on doing it.
My partner and I didn’t send out save the dates because we didn’t want to; we just sent our invitations out super early instead. We initially weren’t going to print programs, which I actually still think is an excellent money saving tip, but then we realized we have a lot of Pagan and Jewish rituals happening at the ceremony and many of our guests will be unfamiliar with them, so we did print programs after all because we wanted to include explanations about the ceremony rituals so our guests could follow along. This is a key example of only including things you care about: it turns out it is important to me to have programs, so we’ll spend money on them. But if you truly don’t care about it, that’s a great way to save!
Here’s a short list of things you may not care to spend money on for your wedding: a fancy venue, an elaborate outfit, a huge guest list, party favors, floral arrangements, a guestbook, something blue… or maybe you do care about all those things! There is no right or wrong way to host a wedding — but when you’re thinking about how to save money at your gay wedding, it’s a good idea to get really clear on what is and isn’t important to you, so you can spend and save accordingly.
Blush and Bashful is a biweekly queer wedding planning column.