Weddings can be expensive – that's nothing new. With all the details involved in planning this one magical day, it can seem impossible to find ways to save money. Oh, but you can – and in at least 14 different ways! We asked Canadian wedding planners Julianne Cragg from A Modern Proposal in Edmonton, Roxy Zapala from Art of Celebrations in Toronto, Melissa Samborski from One Fine Day in Toronto and Barb Walker from French Kiss Events in Victoria to dish on their best cost-saving tips and tricks.
With these clever wedding hacks, we guarantee you'll stretch your budget further without compromising the look and feel of your ceremony and reception. You can still look forward to having the best day ever!
"Have a fun Friday night event or a lovely Sunday brunch instead of a traditional Saturday sit-down dinner," says Zapala. "You can save a bundle if you choose something other than a Saturday. Friday evenings of long weekends are usually a fantastic option. Most people work half days that day, and they are off for three days afterwards, which still gives them a chance to enjoy their long weekends away from the city," says Zapala.
"With rentals, generally you get what you pay for," says Cragg. "Check with the vendors you have already hired to see if they have discounts with any rental companies. Most wedding planners will have them set up already with rental companies."
For couples who want to incorporate live music into their day but not shell out the big bucks for a dance band, consider hiring live musicians to play during your cocktail hour and dinner, and then having a DJ or playlist take over for the party," says Walker. The musicians will help create the ideal atmosphere and be an unexpected treat for your guests. Look into musicians you have heard at your favourite local spots, as opposed to traditional 'wedding' companies, as their prices will often be less. Plus, the style of music will most likely be exactly to your taste." A soloist will cost you a lot less than an entire band and can wander around during cocktail hour, taking requests. A DJ may be able to double up as an MC and is usually a better option than a playlist. The latter can't read the room and adjust accordingly, and you'll need a reliable friend dedicated to the task of changing the volume as necessary.
"Find a beautiful venue that needs little decor. For example, you can omit expensive draping if a room has gorgeous chandeliers and walls," says Samborski. Also, consider having your ceremony and reception at the same venue to cut down on time and transportation costs for you and your service providers. If your wedding is outdoors, the natural setting often does a lot of the decorative legwork, and if you're lucky enough to have a willing loved one with a huge garden, you can save a ton, period. Just don't put pressure on anyone who's on the fence about loaning you their backyard.
Another way to cut costs is to cut down on the people in your wedding party. Samborski says that a small bridal party can make a difference—you'll have fewer thank-you gifts to buy, for starters. Brides often cover the cost of bouquets and transport, and it's common for bridesmaids to pay for their dresses and glam, but smaller bridal parties allow you to reduce these costs for your nearest and dearest by going halfsies with them. When you ask someone whether they'd like to be your bridesmaid, let them know what it might entail cost-wise because they likely have a budget to stick to, just like you do.
"If you fall in love with a photographer that is out of your price range, you can still have them, just limit the hours you have them for to make them work into your budget," Cragg advises. "Have them for the important parts – the ceremony and formals," she says. You can skip the "getting ready" shots and the reception.
"This is a great area to save money, and there are so many ways to go about it," says Walker. "My favourite is to buy a small cake from your favourite bakery in town and have it on display for the 'cutting of the cake' moment. Then, have either a slab of cake in the back for the caterers to plate and serve, or opt for a dessert bar filled with a variety of your favourite desserts for guests to taste." Keep in mind that your venue might charge a cake-cutting fee. This is a provision for the plates and forks and the washing of these items. You can get around this fee by offering a tower of cookies or cupcakes with cute takeaway boxes in lieu of a traditional wedding cake. We're partial to heart-shaped macarons in affordable PVC boxes because there's no mess and zero washing necessary. If you're trying to go plastic-free, look into the costs associated with more eco-friendly packaging—they vary.
Tangible wedding stationery is increasingly a thing of the past. Even though the delicate paper and intricate boxes added a degree of pomp and ceremony we used to love, there's no doubt that going digital is the more sustainable and cost-effective option. "Instead of having multiple inserts with maps and RSVPs, create a website," Cragg advises. Or make beautiful free video or static invites and directions on apps like Canva for everything from your bridal shower to your rehearsal dinner. With solid planning, you can send it all in one go, making it easy for guests to find your wedding bundle in a single email or message.
"Host your wedding off-season," suggests Zapala. "Winter weddings can be super cozy and full of heart-warming details. Spring weddings are my personal favourite – grass is getting greener at that time, temperatures are nice and mild (which means you won't be sweating in your gown), and so many flowers are in bloom at that time. You can get significant discounts from many vendors such as wedding photographers and reception venues during the months of November to April, so why not take advantage of that?"
"Favours often go wasted at weddings, so I always recommend skipping them and putting the savings into another aspect of the wedding that will add to your guests' overall experience, such as a champagne toast, live music, or a shuttle bus," says Walker. "Your guests will appreciate these things so much more than favours!" Photo via iStockphoto.
"I am a huge fan of 'biggest bang for your buck,' so what I often tell my couples when it comes to flowers and décor is to have a few statement pieces rather than a room full of mediocre centrepieces," says Zapala. "This way, your wedding will be stylized and unforgettable, and no one will know just how much you saved on the décor. With the average price of a tall centrepiece being somewhere between $150 and $300 each and low centrepieces of hydrangeas or baby's breath being around $50 and $75 each, you can save a few hundred and maybe even a few thousand dollars if you opt for having just a few statement pieces and low centrepieces for the rest of the tables," she adds.
"Talk to your florist about which flowers are in season at the time of your wedding, as the price of flowers is greatly determined by availability," Walker explains. "A good tip is to gather lots of inspiration pictures of your dream bouquet and determine what it is about the pictures that you like: is it the overall shape, size of the blooms, texture, palette? Then, share those with your florist, who will be able to recommend in-season flowers that will give you the same feel at the best price point," she suggests. Local flowers that haven't had to travel far to get to you are often priced better and last longer because they're fresh as can be. You can save by using more lush foliage than flowers—this works out well if green is your favourite colour or you love the leafy aesthetic. Finally, use atmospheric candle clusters instead of flowers in parts of your venue.
"If you want to save money, the best tip is to cut your guest list," says Cragg. "Once you cut the number of people you need to feed, you also reduce the number of centrepieces, table clothes and favours you will need."
"There are multiple ways to save on alcohol, which is one of the larger costs at a wedding," says Cragg. "You can hand out tickets to guests, let's say three each so that they can have alcohol on your tab but not get completely intoxicated. Instead of having wine wasted by being at each table, have it at the bar or have the servers pour it. For the reception, another way to save money on alcohol would be to limit your bar. Don't have every single beer and whisky available. If you really want to cut costs, limit yourself to two or three types of beer and wine."
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