Planning a Wedding on a Budget: When to Skimp and When to Splurge

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Planning a Wedding on a Budget: When to Skimp and When to Splurge

Planning a wedding is a delicate balancing act. The lead-up to your big day is one of the most exciting times in your life, and it's easy to get wrapped up in the anticipation and spend more than you expected. While the idea of bringing two families together is lovely, the reality is that weddings are expensive events and can be a significant source of stress for the happy couple. Trying to please all of your friends and family is daunting, especially on a budget. Unless the sky is the limit for your financial resources, you'll probably want to cut back on some aspects of the celebration so that you can splurge a little more on what matters most to you and your soon-to-be spouse. Here are four items you might cut back on without sacrificing any fun for your big day, and two areas where a little splurge usually goes a long way.


1. Attire. While you may have dreamt of the perfect wedding dress since you were a little girl, the truth is that you'll only be wearing the dress for one day. If you simply must have a designer gown, it's a good idea to check sample sales and wait for seasonal clearance prices. Retailers like J. Crew now make simple, elegant bridal gowns that won't break the bank. Many bridesmaids dresses that come in white or cream colors can easily pass for a bridal gown - at a fraction of the cost. For grooms, buying a nice suit is rarely a bad investment, and it may even make more financial sense than renting a tuxedo. Just be sure to choose a timeless cut and color, and you should be able to wear it for years to come.

2. Stationery. A traditional wedding calls for lots of custom-printed stationery: a "Save the Date" card, the invitation and reply card, a program for the ceremony, place cards for your guests, a menu for the meal and, of course, the thank you cards for all of the exquisite gifts you are sure to receive. Some of these are negotiable, depending on the formality of your event. For example, instead of reply cards, you could have your guests respond electronically via your personal wedding website (easily created even by those with no web design experience). If your food will be served buffet-style, there's no need for individual menus: Well-labelled chafing dishes could suffice.

3. Favors. Your guests already know that you are delighted by their presence - why else would you invite them? Many well-intended favors are left behind at the reception by guests. The truth is that they may not want items embellished with your new monogram, or have already had their fill of Jordan almonds this wedding season. Spare yourself the expense of favors. If you hate the idea of your guests going home empty-handed, consider a photobooth. You could rent one, or even just make your own with a digital camera and some props.

4. Alcohol. While alcohol may liven up the event, you're not obligated to provide a full bar for your guests for the entire event. Consider limiting the selection to beer and wine or a signature cocktail. Your guests will still have fun, and you'll save a bundle.


1. Food. All of the festivities will surely work up an appetite. It's usually worth the expense to make sure your guests have enough tasty food to keep the party going. While you don't need to serve filet mignon and lobster, make sure there's a variety of flavorful, fresh food for all palettes. Your guests will remember if the buffet ran out of food before their table was called, so trust your caterer.

2. Photography. The sad truth is that your wedding day will fly by, and you probably won't get to witness every memorable moment firsthand. That's why it is critical to have a talented photographer on hand to capture the perfect moments from your special day. Let your guests relax and enjoy the fun instead of expecting them to photograph the event for you. A professional should get better shots and know how to be unobtrusive during all of the big moments, and you'll have the keepsakes to treasure for years to come.

Bottom Line

The truth is that there is no one way to plan a wedding. Your experiences and priorities may vary from mine, and that's perfectly fine. Your wedding day should be a reflection of you and your partner as a couple and the special life you are building together. What are your thoughts? Did you splurge on flowers and have a potluck, or go all out with a live band and stick to serving appetizers and dessert? We'd love to hear about your wedding planning experiences and strategies. Leave a comment below to let us know where you skimped and where you splurged.

About the Author: Kayleigh Gaddor is the Community Manager at Credit Karma. Not content to stay in one place too long, she's most recently traveled to Hong Kong, Scandinavia and Hawaii. An avid reader and proud introvert, Kayleigh can usually be found with her head buried in her Kindle.

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