Skip To Content

    10 Wedding Expenses That Don't Have To Be ~That~ Expensive

    Wedding favors are cute and all, but...

    For many people, a wedding will be the biggest celebration they ever plan. But it can also wind up being the most expensive. In 2019 the average cost of a wedding ceremony in the US was $28,000, according to a study by the Knot.

    ITV Studios France / Via

    Fortunately, you can save a ton of money by just knowing how to cut costs in some areas. So with some help from Kia Marie, a Chicago-based wedding planner and founder of Kia Marie Events, we rounded up a few wedding expenses that don't have to be soooo expensive after all.

    NBC / Via

    This advice might not work for everybody, but it can be a good starting point if you're looking to reduce your costs. And remember, at the end of the day your wedding is for you; so budget accordingly and make sure you're spending your hard-earned money in ways that are meaningful to you.

    Here are some expenses that don't have to blow your wedding budget:

    1. A big, long guest list

    Wedding with guests
    Fg Trade / Getty Images / Via

    If you want to stick to your budget, start by evaluating how many people you're inviting. The more guests you have, the larger your venue will have to be (and a larger venue = more $$$ most of the time). Plus, you'll have to pay for more food and beverages, more tables, more chairs...more everything. So when you think about it, your number of guests can really dictate much of what you're able to afford.

    "The first place we want them to cut costs is their guest list," Marie said. "When you cut the guest list, you cut the budget down because most of that money goes to food and beverage. You have to think, Do I really need to invite my dad’s golf buddy who I met when I was 7? Or, I haven’t talked to this person since the seventh grade. No, we don’t really need to invite them.

    2. Save-the-date announcements and fancy wedding invitations

    Hallmark Channel / Via

    The wedding experience begins from the moment you mail out invitations. But when you're also mailing out save-the-date announcements, RSVP cards, and location directions, the whole invitation phase can really add to your costs.

    Consider printing invitations through affordable vendors like Vistaprint, Zazzle, and some Etsy shops. And in lieu of a save-the-date announcement, consider using social media to get the word out about your prospective wedding date (this can be especially effective if you plan to have a smaller number of guests). Or...skip the paper invites altogether and use an online service like Paperless Post, or create a wedding website with all the deets. You can populate your site with an RSVP form, info about the ceremony, a link to your registry, and more (and you can make the site password protected to keep it private).

    3. Wedding favors

    Wedding favors in tiny gift bags
    Eli77 / Getty Images / Via

    A while ago, we asked readers to tell what the biggest waste of money at their wedding was and a number of people named wedding favors as the winner (or, I guess loser).

    The candy-coated almonds and personalized mini champagne bottles may make for cute little giveaways, but they can be quite costly. You may have a few guests who love free stuff snatching up as many favors as they can carry. But just see what our readers had to say about favors for yourself:

    "Honestly, depending on how many guests you have, the favors can run you upward of $400. And what happens when they leave? They throw them in the trash. Don’t do it just because there is a certain pressure to have them for guests."


    "Wedding favors. We had them set out for guests to take home at the end of the night and hardly anyone took them. Such a waste of money!"


    If you're reeeally keen on setting out wedding favors, pick more affordable alternatives that won't eat into your budget as much. For example, one wedding I went to a few years ago had mini chocolates sprinkled across every table as a favor. It must've only cost them about four bulk bags of candy, and many people unwrapped and ate the chocolates throughout the event.

    4. Food

    Server carrying appetizers on a tray
    Wilpunt / Getty Images / Via

    "Food and beverage are typically the most expensive," Marie said. "That’s where most of your money will go because you’re gonna feed people."

    Remember, the more guests you have, the more food you'll need to pay for! But if you really can't find any way to cut down your guest list, consider doing a buffet instead of a sit-down service (a buffet is often more affordable since it takes fewer staff members to run it). Or if your venue allows outside caterers, you can also try getting a favorite local restaurant to cater your wedding. This can sometimes work out to be more affordable than paying for everything in-house. And another option could be to just buy out a restaurant for the night, so you don't have to worry about supplying the glassware, plates, sound system, and liquor license — or hiring servers.

    5. An open bar

    New Line Cinema / Via

    When it comes to the wedding bar, couples often choose to keep it open because it just makes for a better experience for guests. People are more likely to want to enjoy a drink if it's ~free~. But when guests aren't paying for their drinks, the couple foots the entire bill. If you're looking to cut costs here, think about limiting the bar's menu. Maybe you can allow guests to choose from just two specialty cocktails or maybe choose between beer, wine, and club soda only. You can also consider how long you want the bar to remain open. This way, you can pay for just a few hours instead of paying all night.

    Another idea: You can pass out one or two free drink tickets to each person. Guests would just pay for any drinks they order beyond those. Some restaurants and other venues might also offer an event package where guests could get certain drinks on the host's tab but pay cash for any drinks beyond those.

    6. Decor

    People decorating a venue with flowers
    Miodrag Ignjatovic / Getty Images / Via

    Weddings are not just a spotlight on the bride and groom; they're also an experience for the guests. And beautifully decorated entryways and tables are part of that experience! Besides, who doesn't want their guests to think their event space is stunning? "Couples overspend on decor because some of them really want their wedding to be the IT wedding, or they really love flowers and flowers are costly," Marie said.

    When it comes to decor, keep in mind that less can be more and taking a minimalist approach could help you save big. You might not need huge centerpieces and flowers hanging from the ceiling! And maybe monogrammed cocktail napkins sound cute, but people may not actually pay too much attention to them. And those beautiful balloon garlands you've been seeing all over Pinterest? The cost of renting a helium tank will just weigh down your budget. Fewer decorative elements can still make the event feel refined. Consider areas where you can skip the decor: Do you really need a floral arrangement right by the DJ, or in every corner? Probably not.

    7. The wedding dress

    NBC / Via

    Some readers reported that their wedding dress was a huge waste of money. Here's what they had to say:

    "I got a typical strapless dress that was in fashion at the time. But looking at pictures now, I kind of cringe. It's in my closet now dirty AF because it was too expensive to get cleaned and now I'm kind of like, what was the point? I wish I had just worn a cute, simple sundress that never goes out of style."


    "I loved [my dress] and I couldn't wait to wear it. Then I ended up wearing it for two hours. I wish I had looked through Torrid which, unbeknownst to me, has an ENTIRE line of plus-size gowns that won't break the bank! Now it sits in the closet, waiting for someone else to be ready to love it."


    "I ended up spending a lot less [on my dress] than I know others have. It was about $800 but it’s not worth that much. I wore it ONE day, it was uncomfortable and it made it hard to dance. At the end of the night, I said fuck it and danced hard, causing it to rip at the bottom, and the back hook to come off."


    Okay, you get the point! If you're not set on buying a gown, consider renting a dress or an outfit instead, especially if you'll likely never wear it again or if it would be too expensive to have cleaned. Also, keep an eye out for sample sales from brands and boutiques. You might end up scoring a great dress or wedding outfit at a deep discount! Lastly, look out for off-season price drops on certain styles; strapless or spaghetti strap dresses tend to be discounted in the wintertime when the weather is colder.

    8. Entertainment

    HBO / Via

    Couples tend to splurge when it comes to reception entertainment since the music adds so much to the fun, celebratory, party-like atmosphere. And while it can be totally worth it to spring for a live band to add to the ~sophisticated~ atmosphere or a DJ to keep the jams going all night, some budgets just may not allow for it. Instead, you can create your own Spotify playlist and keep it on throughout your reception. You'd just pay for a stereo setup!

    9. Trying to do it all yourself

    VH1 / Via

    Depending on what kind of celebration you're organizing, paying for a wedding planner could actually help save you some serious cash in the long run. Sure, they can tell you how much each element will cost, but decor and venue planning aside, a wedding planner can negotiate and plan contracts on your behalf so you can get what you need at a reasonable price. They will also be the advocate who questions every charge and makes sure there are no hidden fees. You might not have the time or energy to be able to negotiate these contracts on your own. Plus, wedding planners might be able to get you better deals since they've often developed solid relationships with venues and vendors over the years.

    "Now more than ever, I think wedding planners are a necessity," Marie said. "We aren’t just there to make things look pretty. You need someone who will advocate for you and say, 'No, that’s not what we planned for. What are these changes? How can we move forward without our client having to pay extra money?' We are the communicators and the advocates for our couples."

    10. Cancellation fees

    BBC / Via

    Cancellation fees for things like venues and entertainment are always an expense that can run you more money than you initially thought. But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, these fees might have taken a bigger bite out of people's wallets than expected.

    "Couples might be surprised by cancellation fees due to the pandemic," Marie said. "I had a couple who went to cancel their venue, but there was a $10K cancellation fee."

    If your wedding plans are disrupted due to the pandemic, or other causes, try to avoid canceling your event altogether and opt to postpone it instead (if possible). Postponing your wedding can help you avoid cancellation fees and potentially give you more time to save up for elements you might not have been able to afford otherwise (hello, live band you actually wanted). If you have a wedding planner, they can help you renegotiate these contracts.

    What's your best tip for cutting wedding costs? Let us know in the comments below!

    And if this sounds like music to your ears (and bank account), check out more of our personal finance posts.