Your Step-By-Step Guide to a Budget Wedding: Part 2 of 2

Part 2: How to save thousands on décor, flowers, photography and more

In part one of this series last week, we talked about how to save money on venue, music, bar and more for your wedding. Part 1: How to save thousands on venue, music, bar and more (Pro tip: Opting for a few signature cocktails instead of an open bar cut your costs in half and save you $2,000 to $5,000). This week, we get into how to cut costs on flowers, wedding planning and photography — as well as “unexpected” costs you should make sure to account for beforehand.

Wedding Favors

Stevenson says hundreds of favors are often left on the tables at the end of the night, mostly because they’re often awkward to carry and people are in formalwear. If you do go with favors, it’s best to go with something edible, like cookies iced with your monogram for $2 to $3 each. Most favors cost between $7 and $15 per person, so you could save up to $1,500 by cutting them out altogether.

Dress and Décor

The bespoke trend means it’s now easy — and trendy — to shop around for wedding décor. Set your sights on thrift stores, antique stores, eBay, Craigslist and especially recycled wedding items websites like Ruffled, Wedding Recycle and Tradesy. You can find brides who had the same colors and theme you do, and you can also often find upwards of $7,000 wedding dresses for about $500, says Stevenson.


In-season flowers will always be cheapest, but bypassing professional arrangements for ones you put together yourself (with blooms purchased online) can cut your costs even more. “If you’re looking at a simple hydrangea and rose bouquet, you might pay $75 to $250 at a florist, but if you do it yourself you’re paying $25 to $100,” Stevenson says. As for fancy centerpieces, they can cost up to $2,500, but if you decide to go to a regular, small florist, it could be about $250. If you do it yourself, that cost decreases to between $100 and $125.


Skipping the wedding planner and doing it yourself — with the help of a timeline template from or WeddingWire — will of course save money. But if you want or need the help, go with a “month-of” wedding coordination package. The way these work, the planner steps in after you’ve contacted all the vendors. (They’re better than “day-of,” unless you have a very intimate wedding, because day-of planners won’t be able to make as much of a difference regarding how smoothly things go.) It’ll set you back about $1,500 to $2,500, a huge savings over full service planners that can cost three times that or more.


“Just because a photographer is so expensive doesn’t mean they’re the best,” says Stevenson, so look closely at their work to find one you like. You can save here when it comes to the wedding package — there’s no need to get a printed wedding album, costing between $500 and upwards of $1,500, from the photographer. Mpix, Snapfish and Shutterfly are good resources for DIY online printing, and Mpix’s premium wedding album costs only $39.99.

Unexpected Costs

Finally, when you’re creating your budget, make sure you leave pillow room for unexpected costs. For the venue, these are things like additional cleaning fees, dance floor fees, guest count overage fees for those unexpected show-ups and parking and/or valet fees. Since most venues only provide tables and chairs, some couples forget to budget for table linens, napkins and chair covers. All these costs together can be anywhere from $700 to $1,200, says Stevenson. Most couples also don’t realize that for unexpected additional guests (added the week of the event), many vendors will not only add the quoted price per person, but also an additional service fee (between 15 and 25 percent) depending on the short notice. Bridesmaids gifts are another often forgotten cost, about $25 per bridesmaid, as well as transportation — usually anywhere from $500 and $6,000. Other unexpected costs include flowers for the groomsmen, mothers and grandparents to wear; stamps for the invitations; gratuities; and rain backup for any outdoor part of the event (usually upwards of $500). Making sure you have a buffer of 10 to 15 percent will keep you sane and happy for your big day.

Jean Chatzky

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