The wedding blogosphere is rich and ripe with ideas that are not only awe-inspiring, but oftentimes expensive and complicated to replicate; however, there are ways to save money on your wedding without giving up all things that you really want. The key to using sites like Pintrest and TheKnot.com is to inspire you with thoughts to incorporate into your celebration, not to give you a blueprint to replicate identically. To do so may be very costly and that's how you end up with a wedding that costs the amount of a down-payment on a house. Use wedding sites to figure out what direction you want to go with for your celebration, but don't feel obligated to use traditional means to get there. You have to be creative and put away your preconceived notions of how a wedding "has to be done". Here are some tips that might be helpful to save money just by contemplating alternative ways to tackle some of your biggest costs.
1. Find a venue that offers more than just an empty room. Make a pros/cons sheet for every venue you visit. This will help you accurately evaluate the true value of the rental, versus just considering the base cost. Find one that offers other amenities than just the room itself such as a sound system, lighting, a built-in bar area, or a discount on catering or rentals through their preferred vendors, included in the price of the venue rental. You may find a cheap rental hall but then realize you have to do a lot of decorating, which is expensive. A venue that is more ornate may cost more, but may also not need any decorations, except for simple centerpieces.
2. Consider alternative materials for your rings. There are many unconventional materials used to make wedding rings these days. Some of the most popular alternatives to gold and platinum include: Silver, Titanium, Palladium, Cobalt, Tungsten, and Stainless Steel. Rings made in these materials can be quite impressive and start at around $100 a ring--sometimes less. They all have their pros and cons, so review the attributes of each type of metal and choose one that is good for your budget and lifestyle. Don't forget to look into other materials like ceramics, carved stone, or wood.
Precious gems or stones such as Ruby, Sapphire, Topaz, Pyrite, Opal, Onyx, and Pearl all make wonderful and unique jewelry that might be cheaper than buying expensive diamonds. If your heart is set on having diamonds, look for laboratory diamonds to save money. Lab diamonds have the exact same chemical and physical make up as mined diamonds, but cost 30% less. They are also conflict-free and origin-guaranteed for people concerned about the ethical costs of buying diamonds.
3. Skip some of the preliminary parties. Your wedding day is expensive enough. Not just for you, but anyone who is involved or attends it. If it's not a big deal to you, skip some or all of the preliminary parties. I did not have an engagement party, bachelorette party, or bridal shower. This not only saved me money and time, but it saved my bridesmaids money too. If you aren't that interested in having these parties, don't feel obligated to have them for the sake of tradition.
You can also save money by turning the rehearsal dinner into a family-style meal cooked by your wedding party or family and friends that want to help.
For our rehearsal dinner, we invited everyone involved with the wedding and our out-of-own guests, and my bridesmaids cooked spaghetti and garlic bread for everyone. We spent about $40 to feed over 20 people. My bridesmaids' children even decided to go around and ask everyone what they wanted and served our guests. It was really cute and it gave the older kids something to do, so they felt involved. With the average cost of a rehearsal dinner being about $1,300, this is a good place to make budget cuts.
4. Look for a venue that allows you to bring your own food and cater through a large chain restaurant or upscale grocery store deli. Instead of going through a caterer that is geared specifically for weddings (which can cost $40-75 per guest), get catering through a large-chain restaurant or grocery store deli that you enjoy (if your venue allows you to bring in your own food), and serve it buffet style. Cheesecake Factory's catering is very reasonable at approximately $16 per person, which includes their famous bread and serving utensils. Noodles and Company can cater for $12 per person, and includes salad and desserts--which you can use for your sweets table. Whole Foods catering was surprisingly reasonable, at about $3-10 per person for entrees and starting at a $1 per person, per appetizer.
5. Buy blank cakes and decorate them with toppers from Etsy.com. Instead of buying a stacked, decorated cake, ask your baker to sell you single blank cakes for each tier you would have bought, then decorate them with edible wedding cake toppers from Etsy.com. Handmade gumpaste flowers can be purchased from as low as $8 a piece to $35 for a whole set, and can be bought months in advance. Put the single cakes on a separate tiered cake stands for a very dramatic effect. I saved about $400 buying blank cakes and having some friends from work put the toppers on for me. My favorite Etsy shops for cake toppers are SugarRobot and ModestlySweet.
The truth is, your guests will just be happy to be there with you. Whether you have a certain type of cake or not, a spectacular wedding venue, or just a cake and punch reception in a local park after a courthouse wedding, most of your guests won't care. And you shouldn't either. It's great to take pride and put a lot of effort into planning your wedding, but it shouldn't come at the cost of you going into extra debt or stressing out about a budget that could be easily cut by changing the way you approach wedding planning.