Fact: Weddings are expensive. Make that very expensive. In 2017, the average wedding cost was $33,391, according to ‘s annual Real Weddings Survey. That number was even higher in big cities in California–$39,329 in San Francisco and $44,142 in Los Angeles. In Manhattan, people dropped on average a whopping $76,944 to get hitched. Almost half of all surveyed couples admit to spending more than they planned to–by approximately a third of their initial wedding budget.
So while the design vision for your wedding day is important, there is something even more crucial you should think about before diving into Pinterest boards and color palettes.
“The wedding budget should come first. I think sometimes couples are following their dreams and not following reality,” says Yifat Oren, founder of and celebrity wedding planner who counts Reese Witherspoon and Anne Hathaway among her clients. “People start planning without having a plan. It’s sort of like building a house without having blueprints.”
And while it is important to allocate a reasonable amount of money to the categories that tend to devour most of your budget–wedding venue, décor and flowers, photography, entertainment, food and beverage–you should also set aside funds for less obvious expenses such as rentals, delivery and set-up charges, and lighting and power.
“You don’t think about it when you attend [a wedding], but you start thinking about it when you have to pay for it,” adds Oren. She explains that every chair, table, and glass that your guests are going to use is part of that rentals category.
You could save on those if you simply opt out of the fancy china plates and glassware, and instead, go for more affordable options like bamboo. String lights are also a budget-friendly lighting option and look great in photos.
Keeping your wedding decor simple without too many frills and unnecessary details will keep your costs down. “People don’t realize that every element that you add takes a lot more labor to set up. And labor is expensive, especially in big cities,” says Oren.
If you have found your dream venue but renting it comes with a hefty price tag, try to be more flexible. Could you get hitched on a Friday or a Sunday instead of on a Saturday? How about a daytime wedding instead of an evening fête? As Oren points out, people don’t drink as much at daytime weddings and you don’t need lighting, so you are already saving quite a bit on these two categories. Venues are also more flexible with daytime weddings so you may be able to negotiate a lower rate.
Photography is important, too, but it is also one of the most expensive items on any wedding budget. If your favorite photographer or videographer is out of your price range, don’t despair. Look for someone else who has worked for him or her as an assistant photographer, and who has the same artistic vision but who doesn’t have a lot of sample work. They may be willing to work on your wedding for less.
If you are particularly crafty, you could also try to DIY certain decor elements like the floral centerpieces or the wedding favors. But don’t venture out in the unknown.
“Don’t try anything new,” warns Oren. “If you’re new at pottery, don’t try to make all the pots for the flowers a couple of weeks before.”
Finally, while there are quite a lot of ways to save on your big day, there are certain things you shouldn’t cut corners on.
“Always have enough bartenders, because lines at the bar are not good. Music is really important. If you do want dancing but don’t have a playlist, hire a DJ. And make sure you think about proper parking arrangements both for the staff that’s coming to work your event and for the guests,” says Oren.