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Wedding Savings from Start to Finish

Money Saving Tip of the Month (featured column)
submitted by Betsy West of Arlington, Virginia

Save money on your wedding!

When I planned my wedding two years ago, a budget and a priority list were my best tools!
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My parents gave me a set amount of money, and I had some of my own savings to use for the wedding. That amount became the total for the wedding budget. Then, I thought about what aspects were the most and least important to us. Location and photographer were the most important. Cake and stationary were the least important.

I did an Internet search to help set the budget – what would we need and what do those things generally cost.  I cut back on things that we didn’t want or need, and I put more money towards things that were most important.  Then, I stretched my wedding budget dollars for everything possible (most and least important).  I was amazed that things that weren't that important ended up being very inexpensive but super nice.  And I found ways to save on some things that were the most important.

Here are some of the ways I saved:

Ceremony and Reception Decorations

11 candles on the altar in honor and memory of family and friends came from the dollar store.  They were already in a pretty glass container, so no extra purchase was necessary.

The frames I used to display pictures as centerpieces at the reception were from yard sales and Freecycle.  I painted the same color so they matched in that way.

The baskets that I used to hold the favors and for the bubbles (that guest blew for our exit) were from yard sales, Freecycle, Goodwill, and the Salvation Army.  I spray painted them to make the old baskets look new and the same.

The silk flowers and ribbon used to decorate the bubble baskets and gift card holder were on sale.

The ribbon we used for the bows on the chapel pews, doors, and outside railings and lights were purchased with coupons from the craft store.

The flower girl's basket and the ring bearer's pillow were on clearance for next to nothing. They were white, but everything else for the wedding was ivory. That wasn't working for me, but I couldn’t see paying full price for the right color.  So, a very talented friend covered them in ivory lace. They were beautiful!

I wanted the flower girl to use silk flower petals. I couldn't see paying $9.99 at the craft store for them. Even on sale or with a coupon, they were too much. The dollar store had packages of the same quantity (300 count), obviously for just a dollar. However, all they offered were white. I needed ivory. So, I tea-stained them, and they looked great!

The chocolate lollipops that my sister made for favors were not only tasty and cute, but we got the supplies on sale and with a coupon at the craft store.

Wedding Cake

The beautiful wedding cake was from Wal-Mart. (This was an amazing deal compared to very expensive bakeries.)  The florist decorated it with flowers.  I’ve attached a picture.  Wal-Mart put the ribbon on it.  The bridesmaids and groomsmen wore black and carried/wore very bright colorful flowers.  So, the cake fit right in.

The knives and servers for the wedding and groom's cakes were purchased with coupons at the craft store.


We got the wedding bands online from two different vendors (Blue Nile and eWeddingBands.com). Of course, we had coupon codes! And Blue Nile is a partner with Discover Card, so I got an extra Cash Back Bonus there.  We experienced great quality and customer service from both companies, and their prices were much less than in the “bricks and mortar” jewelry stores.

I thought I was going to wear Mom's pearl necklace that I like, but it was too short for the neckline of my dress. Not wanting to spend much on a new necklace, we got one at Kohl's on sale and with a coupon for about $13.

It was simply good luck, but I found the perfect necklaces for the bridesmaids at Talbot's – and they were on sale!  It pays to shop early and look around at a lot of stores.

I got the flower girl a monogrammed silver locket from Blue Nile with a coupon code. And again, I got an extra Cash Back Bonus from Discover Card.


My wedding shoes were on clearance (for $13 -- regular $80) at an outlet store.

The dress I wore for the ceremony was my grandmother's wedding dress. It did require some repair work.  However, it was still less than a new wedding dress and much more meaningful.

I wanted to be more comfortable for the reception and not worry about spilling anything on my grandmother’s 72 year old dress.  So, I got an ivory bridesmaid dress to wear.  You could even do this as your “regular” wedding dress.  It was simple, elegant, and a whole lot cheaper than a wedding gown.


Our DIY invitations were on sale.

Our matching DIY programs were purchased with coupons.

TIP:  Consider printing invitations and programs at home.  I took them to two different copy stores and tried using their self-serve copiers as well as getting their staff to do it on their machines.  I wasn’t happy with the quality of the samples on any of these copiers.  All of them made black marks on the edges of the stationary.  At home, it took a while to print, but the quality was much, much better.


Ask for a discount for paying the full amount instead of just a deposit when you reserve their services.  Our photographer gave us a 10% discount for paying in full up front.  You can also ask for a discount for paying cash instead of by credit card.

Let the vendors know you have a budget and make sure they stick to it.  If not, find a new vendor.  I gave my florist a wish list and let her know which things were the most important.  She came back with an itemized bid that was within the budget but showed me what she had to cut out to make it work.  I asked her to scale back the size of a few things and then was able to get a few of the “nice-to-haves” to work in the budget.  I appreciated her working with me to get what I wanted for the price I needed.

After the Wedding

Sell your decorations and whatever else you don’t want to keep (i.e. shoes, handbag) on Craigslist or Ebay.  I posted what I had to sell with a description of how I used it and with pictures from the wedding.  That helped sell things that I never imagined people would buy.  When brides-to-be came to look at what I was selling, I talked with them about my wedding and experiences.  In a few cases, I was able to sell them things they didn’t initially think of buying.  I didn’t have tons of things to sell, but even things I didn’t think anyone would want (like slightly used candles), sold.  I made a couple hundred dollars!

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