In 2018, the average cost of a wedding was nearly $34,000. And in the spirit of full transparency, I will freely admit that for my December 2018 wedding, we both had some help from our families, but the largest portion of the wedding was funded by me and my husband.
The total amount we spent came in under the “average”, but not by much.
Which is to say that, I get it. Pressure to put on the picture-perfect wedding is real. But if the average millennial only has a net worth of $8,000, taking on wedding debt for outdated traditions isn't just a cute “YOLO” moment, it's financially crippling.
I feel the wedding industry gets a bad rap sometimes. It's expensive to feed and water and entertain 100+ guests even if you don't call the shindig a wedding.
But there are some specific wedding-centric “traditions” that can cost more (and I'm not just talking about the upcharge from vendors once they find out you're having a “wedding”). There are certain items for a wedding people feel like they “need.”
And maybe you do “need” them. After all, I'm not here to tell you what you should and shouldn't value on your big day. But for us, below is what we cut and these judicious edits helped us save thousands of dollars.
What we cut: “Traditional” Invitations
This incredibly out of touch Brides.com article on invitation costs puts the average invitation cost at 4-6% of the total wedding budget (and it was published in 2019! Late 2019 no less!)
Even if you forgo the froofy custom stuff like engraving and envelope liners, the article estimates between $7-$1600 for a set of 100 invites with the traditional four pieces: invite, envelope RSVP card, RSVP envelope.
No. no. no.
I love stationery more than the average bear, but even I couldn't justify that much money on something that would end up in the trash. So, here's what we did:
- Instead of traditional invites, we got our invitation suite and save the date from a vendor on Etsy.
- We saved money on both envelopes and postage by having guests RSVP on our wedding website, (thanks Zola!)
- We did our Save the Dates as a postcard (again, no envelope, less postage.)
Total for all of our wedding paper: invites, ceremony programs, welcome bag inserts, save the dates and special printables for the ceremony (like signs for the bar, etc.) came in at less than $450 TOTAL for design, printing, and postage.
Our savings: ~$900
What We Cut: The Photo Booth
I love a good photo booth. But I wouldn't say I'm necessarily a “photo booth person.” Sure, I enjoy utilizing them at events. But I couldn't tell you where I put the photo strips all these years later. To me, personally, giving guests a special photo keepsake of our day fell to the bottom of the list after really good food and lots of free-flowing booze.
So, we cut it. And we saved $600-$700 in the process.
Our savings: ~$700
What we cut: Transportation (and a “big exit”)
I don't know if anyone looks back on their wedding and says, “Gee…I wished I'd spent even MORE money.” But I have mixed feelings about this line item.
We intentionally chose an in-town wedding venue in our current neighborhood. For us, we wanted guests to get a small taste of what our lives in Atlanta are like, and that includes walking around Midtown (one of the few truly “walkable” parts of the city.)
One hotel was a block and a half from the venue and the other hotel was four blocks away.
So, we encouraged guests to either Uber the short distance or walk and we didn't pay for a shuttle for either before or after the ceremony. After all, it was just a few blocks, right? And thankfully, the weather cooperated and there wasn't any rain.
I will say 90% of our guests had no trouble. But when planning an event – a seamless event, I should say – sometimes you have to accommodate for the lowest common denominator. Like those who can't walk, or operate an Uber, or navigate city blocks easily.
I don't regret not booking transportation, but if we'd had an unlimited budget, this is where I would go back and spend.
We also didn't stage an “exit” – which meant we didn't pay for a limo (we were staying at the hotel one block from venue), the extra hours for our photographer to stay and capture it on film, or for bubbles, streamers, or sparklers for guests to send us off.
And other than our wedding coordinator, who seemed horrified we were just going to leave the venue and walk across the street to the hotel like peasants (we put gifts in my Mom's car to take to our house), I don't think anyone noticed or cared and we certainly didn't.
Again, not for everyone. Not feasible for everyone, but we made strategic choices in our venue and hotels so we could eliminate these costs.
Our savings: Close to $2,000.
What we cut: Wedding Favors
According to The Knot, in 2018 the average couple spent ~$245 dollars on wedding favors (around $2 per guest.)
And in terms of wedding favors, I have seen it ALL: koozies, coasters, edible items like nuts and candy, and even a (very classy) donation to a charity in lieu of a token.
Personally, I hope 2020 is the year wedding favors die. I don't need a koozie with your wedding date on it. Please save your money.
While we didn't provide guests with a traditional “favor” on their way out (remember, we didn't really do an exit!) we did do a nice donut display during the middle of the dancing from our favorite local donut shop, Sublime Donuts. There was only a handful left at the end of the evening, so I know they were popular, and we lumped these in with our food costs.
Our savings: ~$300
What We Cut: “Plated” Dinner
I will say that our wedding, which was the night before New Year's Eve, was very festive and in a pretty “formal” ballroom of a historic home in Midtown, Atlanta. So, a plated dinner with courses and waiters bringing food by wouldn't have been out of place.
But it just wasn't the “vibe” I wanted, you know? And then when we found out there was a $30 price difference per person (not including the cost of extra staff and tipping them) it was a no-brainer.
Our savings: ~$3,000
We have zero regrets about our winter wedding: we only spent what we felt comfortable with, only put in money we had, and didn't take on debt. And still, even though the event was pricey – we had to make large cuts in order to come in at our desired amount.
But looking back on the day I remember it fondly, and I'm glad I didn't overspend and wake up with buyer's remorse or the guilt I often feel when I spend more than I should. The liquor hangover I had the next day was quite enough, thank you.