Cut Costs and Keep Your Dream Wedding

By Casei Castner

Weddings have become much more expensive than they used to be. The average wedding today costs about $21,000. I know that’s more than I can afford, and I’m sure that’s more than what a lot of Americans can afford, also. My wedding averaged out to be around $10,000 when everything was said and done. I was able to cut my costs in half while maintaining the same size and type of wedding.

I want to tell you a few secrets that luckily I was told while I was in the process of planning my wedding. Hopefully these ideas can help save you as much money as I did.

Your dress:

A bridal warehouse/outlet or the Internet is a great source to cut down on the costs of your dress. Two websites, and are very helpful when looking for that perfect dress. When I was looking for a dress, I went to a designer gown boutique. No dresses were under $800. My mom and I spotted a bridal warehouse down the street. I found my dream dress for no more than $650. This cost included a free veil.

If you’re really hurting for money, there’s nothing wrong with looking at a Goodwill or Salvation Army store. I actually know someone who has gone there and was successful in finding her dream wedding gown for under $40. "It was a great buy for me," said Polly Dickerson. "It was my second wedding, and I didn't have much money. It was ideal."

Bridesmaid dresses:

I was lucky with this one because my grandmother is an excellent sewer and volunteered to make my bridesmaid dresses. There’s usually one in every family or circle of friends. This cuts down the costs immensely. To buy an average bridesmaid gown, you’re looking at around $150. For five gowns, it cost me around $300. It was a savings of $450!

The flea market is also a good source for dresses. I had a cousin who obtained her dresses this way. "My mom goes to flea markets all the time, and sometimes I go with her," said Sarah Gibson. "When I saw the dress that I loved, and there were five of them, I couldn't pass it up." She bought five dresses at a $200 savings.

The Wedding Cake:

Choose an independent or out-of-home baker. This usually cuts down on price because you’re going with one particular person rather than an actual store. You can usually negotiate and find a better deal. My sister had a friend made the cake as her wedding gift. It was a great touch to her informal wedding.

Do the cake "switcheroo." In Bridal Bargains, authors Denise and Alan Fields suggest that you decorate a Styrofoam cake. Make sure there’s a small portion of the actual cake for pictures when you’re cutting the cake, though. After that, have the wait staff roll the cake to the kitchen to "cut" it. In the kitchen, you can have sheet cakes that will be cut up already. Sheet cakes cost about $.50 or less per serving, and no one can really taste the difference. They’ll never know.

Another nifty idea is to use a cupcake cake. There are actually cupcake stands that you can find in bakery supply stores that you can use for the wedding cake. You can make the cupcakes yourself and decorate them. The ones that don’t fit on the stand, you can just put all around the cake for more decoration.


Get blank invitations. You can find these on the Internet or at your nearest craft store. They cost a fraction of the cost of printed invitations, and then you can just print them yourselves on the computer.

There are also do-it-yourself invitation kits that come with everything from the cards to the response cards to the tissue paper that goes inside.

Doing everything yourself can save a lot of money. This is the option I took. I browsed through invitation books and found the style I liked. I did a replica of the card. Rather than ordering them and having them cost $400, they ended up costing me $40. It was a real money-saver.

Reception Hall/Ceremony Site:

Getting the church hall, an American Legion or some sort of community building can really cut down costs. A friend of mine, Mandy Spielvogle, who’s getting married in May of this year did this. She’s having her ceremony in the Great Hall of her college’s Campus Center. "It’s a real money-saver. It’s costing us only about $200 to rent it out for the day, and we both have many college memories here," said Spielvogle.


Wholesale is the key here. Look at a place like Sam’s Wholesale Club. You’re likely to find deals.

Another option is going out of state. Many states like Kentucky and Indiana are much cheaper when it comes to alcohol.


Go through a travel agent. They are trained in this area and know where the deals are.

Don’t forget about the greatest source of them all, the Internet. You’re bound to find cheap deals, as long as you can hold off to book your flight. The longer you wait, the cheaper it could be. Some websites strive from cancellations that are waiting to be filled by you.


Well, I hope you’ll find these useful. I know I certainly did. Whether you use them all, or not at all, just remember that they are there, and if you’re in a dilemma with money, these can cut the prices.

The 'average' wedding The 'bargain' wedding
Bride's Dress $1,500 $40
Bridesmaid Dresses (5) $750 $300
The Wedding Cake * $500 $200
Invitations * $400 $40
Ceremony Site * $900 $200
Alcohol $2,000 $1,000
Total $6,050 $1,780

+ note: the totals are not completely accurate, you still need to add the caterer, florist, photographer and other miscellaneous items.

- ‘average’ wedding costs based off Bridal Bargains by Denise & Alan Fields, 1999.

* figures are based on 300 guests