Wedding Bells Without the Money Blues

When planning your dream wedding it is easy to ring up an event costing more than $30,000 — that’s more than the price of a decent new car! As each little thing adds up, it is important to save money in areas where it won’t really affect the overall day. Try one or all of these ideas to save some coin without sacrificing the ultimate intent: exchanging vows with your beloved!

Minimize the Menu If you’re hosting a large reception (over 150 guests), the cost of food can exceed $10,000 if you choose a premium main course. In my opinion, you don’t need to serve a gourmet meal — chicken and veggies are just fine.

Most wedding guests aren’t coming to your reception for the food anyway. In general they will expect a decent meal, but won’t be disappointed if they are not served a filet or lobster. And if you hire a fun deejay, (one area where you can get a lot of bang for your buck) most people won’t even pay attention to what they’re eating because they’ll be so anxious to get out on the dance floor.

Save money on the food and spend it on great meals on the honeymoon that you will savor and remember.

Lower the Bar Bill Don’t let your party animal friends talk you into hosting a top shelf open bar. While some wedding guests may prefer a mixed drink before dinner, most will be fine with choosing beer or wine as their drink of choice for the night. Trim a dollar or two off the cost of EACH GUEST by choosing to serve only beer and wine at your bar and you’ll save hundreds of dollars on the reception. If you’d still like to make mixed drinks available, guests will understand if you choose to have a cash bar for those options.

You may also choose to offer an open bar for the first three hours of the event, turning it into a cash bar later in the night to discourage guests from overindulging. This is safe for your budget and your guests’ health.

Have Your Cake It is worth the money to have a professional bake your wedding cake. Ask any caterer and he or she will have a story of an amateur wedding cake gone awry. To have a beautiful cake without breaking the budget, ask your baker to make your decorated cake smaller, then bring a couple extra sheet cakes or “kitchen cakes” to keep in the back to give you enough to serve all your guests.


Event center staff are used to this arrangement, and your guests will still enjoy a tasty cake while never knowing that the piece they savor didn’t come from the actual cake you cut.

Above all, don’t lose sight of why you are planning such a celebration. A wedding is one of life’s great milestones for many and loads of fun to plan and execute. Just remember that at the end of the day, the only purpose is to unite your life and your heart with that of your soul mate’s. As long as you make that happen, none of the other details will really matter in the long run.

These tips are just a sampling of the many I have collected over the years. My newsletter, Weekly Wedding Wisdom, offers several other money-friendly ideas related to getting married. If you’d like more, please Email me to be added to the list. Your email address will not be used for any other purpose.

A version of this post was published in the Cincy Chic column “Cents & Sensibility” on March 1, 2010.

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