Saving Money On a Wedding (Even If You Don’t Pay For It)

by Nick on May 4, 2012

I’m Jana. I blog at Daily Money Shot, where I ramble about money at the intersection of life, pop culture and everything in between. I could not be more stoked to be paired with Nick for this blog swap (which, oddly enough, sounds even dirtier when you have blog name like mine. But I digress…) because he is, hands down, one of my all time favorite bloggers. He’s a pretty swell guy, too. But I digress again…

I should probably start with a confession. I didn’t pay for my wedding.

I was very fortunate that my parents paid for most of it. More specifically, they paid for the expensive parts: my dress, the reception, the rabbi and minister, hair and makeup, and transportation (our flowers, cake, food and drinks were all included in the per person price at the reception site. We also had our ceremony at the reception site, on the patio). My husband’s parents paid for the DJ (though we did get a good deal on that). Even though we didn’t foot the bill for the majority of the wedding, we still did whatever we could to keep the cost reasonable.  Because we didn’t want to take too much advantage of our parents’ generosity (the martini bar was totally my dad’s idea).

Here’s what we did:

  • Got married off-peak. Our wedding was approximately one week before the start of peak wedding season in our area (end of April). Because we did that, we were able to get married on a Saturday night and we saved approximately $20 per person. We also tried to set a limit on how many people we invited as another cost cutting measure.  If we had gotten married during peak wedding season, we would have gotten married on a Sunday.
  • Ordered invitations online and put them together ourselves. This was a huge pain in the neck but it saved some serious money. I believe the difference between doing it this way versus using a stationery store was in the neighborhood of $1000. What was nice about the site we used (which I cannot remember) was that we could email the designs to our parents for their feedback and we were able to order samples (up to 5) for free. As an added bonus, my parents have a friend that does calligraphy and was kind enough to do our invitations for free, so that saved a bunch of cash as well.
  • Researched the most reasonably priced hotel for our out of town guests. Ok. So technically, we didn’t pay for this but it was probably the most frustrating part of our wedding. We got married in Drexel Hill, PA and, unfortunately, the hotels that were near the reception site were expensive. Like really, really expensive. By going a little farther down the road and crossing into Philadelphia, we were able to find a much more reasonably priced hotel and we were able to reserve a huge block of rooms for a substantially reduced price. Sadly, the hotel was torn down a few years ago but it was a beautiful hotel and the staff was wonderful to work with.
  • Made our own favors. When we got married, people still listened to CDs. Rather than pay to have them made (which one DJ was willing to do for approximately $500), we burned them ourselves, made the labels and inserts on our printer and spent about what felt like 87 hours putting them all together. It was time consuming and an even bigger pain than assembling the invitations, but the overall cost was $100 rather than $500 (or more). We also put together our own gift bags for all our out of town guests and saved money on that by buying everything in bulk (note: if you are prone to stress eating chocolate, do not, under any circumstances, have 60 gift bags filled with chocolate sitting in your living room the week before the wedding).
  • Had a rehearsal dessert instead of a rehearsal dinner. For approximately $200, we had various cakes, cookies, pastries, coffee, and tea for our extended families and our entire wedding party. Not only did this save money, it was much more informal and relaxed and we were able to include a lot more people in the rehearsal festivities.

We also got creative in paying for our honeymoon and our rings (both of which we paid for ourselves), as well as gifts for our wedding party and parents.

I will say that, had we had to pay for our own wedding, we totally would have done a very small wedding, probably a destination wedding, with only our immediate family and closest friends. But what I learned through this was that, even though someone else was paying, that was not a reason to spend ridiculous amounts of money on anything. However, if you are going to pay a lot, make sure you do it on the aspects that are most important to you and go frugal on the rest.

Oh, and make sure your seamstress doesn’t smoke. That was a really ugly situation…

How did you save money on your wedding?


Image: Timeless Photography /

{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

Modest Money May 4, 2012 at 6:33 am

That’s great that you did what you could to save on your wedding even if you weren’t paying the major costs. I’m sure your parents appreciated that. With the cost of weddings these days (or back when cds were popular lol), it is an area that we should be trying to save. Unfortunately people feel the need to show off and make it as lavish as they think they might be able to afford. I’m not married, but I think I’d opt for something small and intimate. I guess it comes down to what the woman wants though haha.


Jana @ Daily Money Shot May 4, 2012 at 9:44 am

I agree. People feel this overwhelming need to show off at their wedding and it is so frustrating (it’s part of why we don’t go to most weddings. We can’t deal with the ostentatious factor).

I’m pretty sure my parents appreciated the fact that we tried to save where we could. Then again, my dad was pushing pretty hard on some extras that we vetoed so I don’t know.


Nick May 4, 2012 at 9:58 am

Haha – I suspect, at least with the chocolate fountains, that we were “Frustrating Fancies,” although most of it made me want to puke. Almost all of the fanciness was because of our stupid “food and beverage” minimum, which had so much left over at the end of us doing everything we “wanted” that we added open bar and the chocolate fountains just to make the minimum… My wife wanted the open bar but we weren’t sure it would fit it. Sure enough it did – we nixed a bunch of things that would not have counted towards the minimum…


Modest Money May 4, 2012 at 5:59 pm

Of course you needed the open bar Nick! What’s the point of going to a wedding if the there’s no open bar?? lol


Jana @ Daily Money Shot May 4, 2012 at 7:09 pm

That was actually how we picked our location. It was the only one that had a 5 hour open bar.

It’s all about priorities, right?

Well Heeled Blog May 8, 2012 at 12:34 am

CHOCOLATE FOUNTAINS!?! So. Amazing. I would love to have chocolate fountains at my wedding… we are “settling” for a chocolate mousse cake, instead. 😉


Nick May 8, 2012 at 5:00 pm

Oh yeah… those were a hit. Mmmm… chocolate mouse cake…

WorkSaveLive May 4, 2012 at 8:19 am

We bought our wedding invitation packet from Target, printed everything out on our own (including the save the dates). The problem with the packet is that EACH invitation had a stupid ribbon to tie around it…it TOOK FOREVER!

lol. We saved a lot of money though.


Jana @ Daily Money Shot May 4, 2012 at 9:46 am

Holy cow, assembling those invitations was the most annoying part of the whole process! Ours came in all these little pieces that had to be put together. And the main part of the invitation (you know, with the details) was on this thin piece of paper. Let’s just say I’m glad we had some extras 🙂


Nick May 4, 2012 at 10:01 am

Very cool – I can see how that would be annoying… Although my wife would have nixed the plan, I would have printed out a small piece of paper and put it in the envelope saying something to the effect of: The untied ribbon symbolizes our love for each other. Please join us as we “tie the knot.”

It’s not a perfect metaphor but good enough for me to avoid actually tying the knots! 🙂


Emily @ evolvingPF May 4, 2012 at 2:16 pm

Haha, very clever!


Nick May 4, 2012 at 5:48 pm

Thanks 🙂 When it comes to avoiding annoying time drains I can be very, very clever and resourceful…


TB at BlueCollarWorkman May 4, 2012 at 8:26 am

“We also got creative in paying for our honeymoon and our rings (both of which we paid for ourselves), as well as gifts for our wedding party and parents” –> You should tell us how you got creative! Great job staying frugal, even if it wasn’t on your buck!


Jana @ Daily Money Shot May 4, 2012 at 9:47 am

I knew I forgot something! I actually wrote about those both on my blog a couple of weeks ago and totally meant to add the links to those posts. If you’re interested, you can check them out on my site.


Nick May 4, 2012 at 10:02 am

Haha – if you want, send me the links and I’ll post them in an update.


Michelle May 4, 2012 at 8:26 am

Those are definitely great ways to save!


Jana @ Daily Money Shot May 4, 2012 at 9:48 am

Thanks Michelle!


Nick May 4, 2012 at 10:05 am

Yep – we worked the off peak a bit too (Sunday of a long weekend)… sort of off peak. I love the rehearsal dessert idea.


Shawanda @ You Have More Than You Think May 4, 2012 at 10:49 am

I’m glad you were cognizant of the amount of money your parents were spending on your wedding. You’re right. Just because it’s not your money doesn’t mean it’s okay to be frivolous. This isn’t totally the same thing, but I really try to watch how much water and electricity I use in my apartment even though my landlord covers the utilities. I have to remind guests of this when they leave the water running while they brush their teeth or use my toilet as a trash receptacle or leave the air conditioner running when no one is home….


Nick May 4, 2012 at 11:49 am

We’re big on saving water even though we rent where we live (we own 2 rentals…long story…). My almost 3 year old even knows we need to not waste water “because the fishies need it.” 🙂

Water is crazy expensive, too. We had a leaky toilet at our rental (we didn’t know why) and it cost us something like $300 per month extra in water. That’s an expensive toilet!


Jana @ Daily Money Shot May 4, 2012 at 7:10 pm

Waste is waste. I think it’s even more important to be mindful of resources (financial or otherwise) when someone else is paying.


Emily @ evolvingPF May 4, 2012 at 2:18 pm

I love your photo, Jana! What a gorgeous dress!

Our parents paid for the bulk of our wedding as well, and we tried to minimize costs where we could. My parents were alternately appalled by the price of things and wanting to upgrade so the whole endeavor was “nice enough.”


Nick May 4, 2012 at 5:47 pm

That’s actually my photo… (not of Jana, or my wife, just one that I found online that I felt fit well. It is a nice dress though isn’t it?)

To this day the word “nice,” when associated with wedding planning makes me cringe…


Emily @ evolvingPF May 4, 2012 at 7:33 pm



Jana @ Daily Money Shot May 4, 2012 at 7:13 pm

Nick’s right. That’s not me. Or my dress. But it is pretty!

I think my parents were pleasantly surprised at the cost. For them, I think our wedding was cheap. They are used to “New York prices” (since that’s where they live) and PA prices were less than what they were expecting. For all I know, I saved them more than I think just by getting married in a different state!


Richard May 6, 2012 at 11:53 am

When we got married, my wife and I saved money by making our own favors. Also, it helped that she used to work at a flower shop and was good friends with the owner. We saved a lot on flowers. Also, she saved a ton of money on her wedding dresses (we had several due to asian wedding traditions) by having them made, rather than buying name brand. She just pulled pictures of the dresses she liked out of magazines and had them copied. This is probably the one area where having a dress made is cheaper than buying.


Jana @ Daily Money Shot May 7, 2012 at 4:56 pm

My dress wasn’t too expensive, probably because I didn’t have a big name designer. I just picked the dress I liked. Also, I struggled with spending a lot of money on something I was going to wear once. My initial plan was to wear my mom’s but she had borrowed hers from a friend. I guess frugality runs in the family!


Nick May 8, 2012 at 5:02 pm

Flowers KILLED us – we spent quite a few bucks on that. Turns out a relative is now marrying into a florist’s family… 4 years too late! I think we spent $750- on her dress, with all the fittings, etc.


Young Professional Finances May 6, 2012 at 12:43 pm

I love the idea of having a rehearsal dessert instead of dinner. I never really understood the point of a rehearsal dinner – just added costs! Dessert seems much simpler and could be even more delicious. 🙂


Jana @ Daily Money Shot May 7, 2012 at 4:57 pm

The dessert idea came about because everyone was from out of town and couldn’t make it for dinner. Also, about half of our wedding party was celebrating a birthday in the week before and after our wedding so this was a good way to acknowledge that.

It was definitely cheaper and a lot more fun!


Thad P @ May 7, 2012 at 8:33 am

I have a daughter…I’m saving this post for future reference! 🙂


Jana @ Daily Money Shot May 7, 2012 at 4:58 pm

I’m glad I could help!


Nick May 8, 2012 at 5:02 pm

Jana rocks! Most of what she writes can be saved for the next generation to learn 🙂


Thad P @ May 9, 2012 at 8:36 am

Genuinely good ideas aren’t time trapped, are they?


Bichon Frise May 7, 2012 at 10:36 am

We designed and made our own invitations. We had a die cut made (less than $40), bought the paper we wanted online and then had the printer run it for us. My spouse has a background in offset printing, so it may not be doable for all people. We also had our reception in a friend’s back yard.


Jana @ Daily Money Shot May 7, 2012 at 4:59 pm

I have 2 bichons!!!

What you did was definitely a great way to save money on invitations. We printed the direction cards ourselves, which did help save some money. Not much but some.


Nick May 8, 2012 at 5:02 pm

Wow! Love the utilization of resources!


From Shopping to Saving May 7, 2012 at 11:04 am

These are really great ideas, especially since BF and I plan to get married in the cheapest way possible! We want to celebrate our love with the people we love, but it doesn’t mean we have to have the fanciest wedding out there. I like the idea of the rehearsal dessert, and also I would have done the same with cheaper hotel accommodations for out of town guests.


Jana @ Daily Money Shot May 7, 2012 at 5:01 pm

I think that people think that “cheap” doesn’t equal “nice”. Those people? Are very, very wrong. Besides, if I was friends with someone who judged my wedding based on cost rather than the fact that they’re celebrating my marriage, I don’t know that I want to be friends with that person.


LifeInTransition May 8, 2012 at 12:35 pm

We saved money on our wedding by finding a venue that lets us bring our own food. We had a dessert reception instead of serving dinner (we made sure to include that on the invitation…I’ve been to a few weddings expecting dinner and got only desserts instead). My mother-in-law and a few friends pitched in making brownies, cookies, fudge, and cake pops. I also designed my own invitations and stationary and found an online printing company to print them. Printing them on my own would have costed way too much money


Nick May 8, 2012 at 5:19 pm

Very cool – I’ve never been to a dessert wedding, but I like pretty much any simple/alternative setup. I floated a potluck idea to my wife, but she nixed it, haha!


Andrea from Your Long Island Bankruptcy Lawyer May 9, 2012 at 7:11 am

Hi Nick,

I don’t have idea with that but it seems dessert wedding is really cool!But when i get

married i wanted to have a theme like medieval era.



Nick May 15, 2012 at 10:49 am

Medieval era sounds fun (and casual), too! I like fun and casual. 🙂


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