Planning a wedding can be incredibly expensive, but there are definitely some big ways to save a lot of money.  T and I just celebrated our 8th anniversary this week, and while I was looking through our wedding album, happy memories of the wedding and yes, wedding planning came flooding back to me.


cobberson wedding first dance
First dance! | Photographer: Marilynn Spindler


Call me crazy, but I really enjoyed the planning process.  We wanted to keep the cost of the wedding within a fairly low budget, but because I was in school at the time, I didn’t have time to DIY everything.  I had to find other ways to cut costs.  Here are ten things I learned firsthand while planning my wedding.


1.  Alterations can cost as much or more than the dress itself.

When I chose my wedding dress, I was looking for something similar to this Monique Lhuillier (remember, this was back in 2005), while spending as little as possible.  I ended up getting a strapless lace dress from David’s Bridal on sale for $299.  While the dress was lovely, the
alterations were $250 due to the dress being allover lace and beading.

The tailor had to remove the beads one by one in the areas she took in, making the process very labor intensive.  Altering a plain fabric would have been much less expensive.  If you’re thinking about buying a dress with lots of embellishments, take a photo of the dress to your tailor before you order it and get an estimate so you aren’t shocked later on.


cobberson budget wedding dress
The infamous beading. | Photographer: Marilynn Spindler

Brides have so many more options now for buying dresses on a budget.  Ruche,  J. Crew, and BHLDN all have stunning dresses at a variety of price points, and you can get amazing deals on sale items.  These sites are also great for bridesmaid’s dresses that don’t scream bridesmaid, and can be easily worn again.  Our bridesmaid dresses were from J. Crew, and all three girls loved them and wore them to other events.

2.  You can make a cathedral length veil for under $10.

Veils are outrageously expensive.  All you need is several yards of bridal illusion tulle, a clear hair comb, white thread and a needle. I wore my veil for less than an hour, so I was really happy I didn’t spend any money on it.  Actually, I thought a crazy long veil would be this incredibly glamorous touch to my outfit, but it ended up getting caught on someone’s chair when I walked down the aisle and flew off my head.  Really glamorous, huh?  It was ridiculous and hilarious and makes for a good story now.  Here’s me saying, “oh well!” after we couldn’t get it to stick back on my head afterwards:

cobberson wedding mishaps
The veil SEEMED like a good idea… | Photographer: Marilynn Spindler


3.  Your choice of venue has a big impact on the price of catering. 

Our wedding was held in the Baltimore Museum of Industry, which was a unique venue with a relatively low cost to rent out.  Unlike some museums, the BMI did not have any kind of on-site restaurant.  This meant that the caterers we hired had to basically bring an entire mobile kitchen and set it up outside the reception area.  The price of catering would have been much lower if we had used a venue that already had their own kitchen or on-site caterer.  Our caterers were incredible, btw.  We used Innovative Gourmet in Owings Mills.  Food was excellent, staff was top notch.

4.  While you’re at it, choose a venue where you can hold the ceremony and the reception. 

You can save the cost of transportation (do you really need a limo?) between two locations plus you won’t have to rent as many chairs or buy as many floral arrangements.  Our caterer set up our chairs for the outdoor ceremony and then moved them all inside afterwards for the reception.

5.  Skip the open bar

This doesn’t mean you have to have a dry reception.  Instead of an open bar, which is pricey, go for the wine, beer, and a signature drink option.  If you opt to buy directly from a liquor store, you can usually return the unopened bottles afterwards, HOWEVER, your caterer may charge you a corkage fee if you BYO, so be sure to ask.


6.  Your wedding cake doesn’t need to be made by a celebrity baker.

When were getting married, it was right before Baltimore’s Ace of Cakes baker Duff Goldman got really famous. Our friends had used him for their cake and it was stunning.  When I called to price out a cake with him,  he was really nice and had some amazing ideas, but it was more than I was willing to spend.  I’m sure it would’ve been super cool to have a crazy robot themed cake, but our actual cake (still robot themed, thanks to our DIY topper) was included with the cost of our catering.  When you’re trying to keep your wedding under budget, nothing is as cool as free.  Our cake was simple, but it tasted really good, and isn’t that really what matters?


cobberson budget wedding cake
Robots! | Photographer: Marilynn Spindler


If your cake isn’t included with your catering, you can still save some money by ordering a small decorated cake from a bakery, and then serve slices from a sheet cake.  No one will know the difference.


7.  Skip the upgrades

There’s an upgrade for EVERYTHING when it comes to the catering.  Instead of white plates, you can get plates with fancy decorations, bows or slipcovers for the chairs, and premium fabric tablecloths.  Skip it. The standard choices are nice and simple and classic.  No one will ever remember that your plates didn’t have that gold fleur de lis. *NOTE* The one upgrade we didn’t skip was the sit down dinner over buffet.  A buffet is always sort of seen as a cheaper option, but in reality, it’s not necessarily.  Our caterer’s buffet was virtually the same price because they use more way food to keep the pans full at all times, and this was the case with the other 3 or 4 caterers we looked into.  So be sure to ask when you’re pricing out your vendors.


8.  Use a DJ rather than a band.

If your DJ can do the music for the ceremony AND the reception, even better.


9.  Avoid square invitations.

For whatever reason, square envelopesrequire extra postage.


10. Scale down your floral arrangements

Flowers are crazy expensive- I had no idea until I went to meet the florist.  I told them upfront that I really wanted the least expensive option, but I didn’t want arrangements that looked cheesy or were full of baby’s breath.  Our florist at Radebaugh’s in Towson was awesome, and had a very creative option for something interesting at a low price. Instead of a big arrangement on each table, we had a single stem (flowers are priced per stem) placed in tall cylindrical vases I bought at AC Moore using coupons.  We also reused the bridesmaids’ bouquets as the flowers for the cake table.

cobberson budget wedding centerpieces
Simple centerpieces | Photographer: Marilynn Spindler


cobberson budget wedding flowers
Bouquet doubles as cake table arrangement
Photographer: Marilynn Spindler


The bridesmaids’ bouquets used carnations and daisies that were dyed pink and looked more expensive than they actually were.  My bouquet used the same flowers and they added in a few roses to make it look more special, but keep the cost down.


cobberson budget wedding bouquets
Inexpensive flowers look fancier when dyed
Photographer: Marilynn Spindler


Make sure you choose flowers that are in season for a better value.  If you are crafty, you can make your own bouquets and arrangements with flowers purchased from a wholesale florist or warehouse club.


Finally, if you do decide to get crafty and DIY a lot of things for your wedding (printing your own invites, sewing your dress, etc), make sure you give yourself enough time to finish it all.  Those last few days before your wedding are stressful enough – you don’t want to be staying up all night finishing major projects at the last minute. If you’ve already gone through the process, what other cost cutting ideas did you learn when planning your wedding?


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