The Dos and Don’ts of Cutting Back on Your Wedding Budget

Photographer: Lauren Lee Photography | Planner: Alston Mayger Events | Floral Design: Swoon Floral Design | Linens: Nuage Designs | Rentals: The Party Place | Gown: The Label | Tux: Stitch and Tie | Hair and Makeup: Olivia Hawthorne

The Wedding Budget. Yep, we are talking budget today. I know it’s not the most fun topic, but so very important! You want to make sure you are keeping within your budget. As a reminder, your wedding is such a fun and special time, but you shouldn’t go broke heading into your new life together. That is NOT what a wedding is about. If you are just starting out with planning, we highly recommend using a wedding planning book to help you along the way. Our GWS Wedding Planning Book also has helpful budget pages so you can keep track of all your expenses!

To help you determine where and what to cut, we reached out to some experts to hear what their best tips are to stay on budget. Let’s hear what they have to say…

What to DO with your Wedding Budget:

DO question your budget and reduce it in the beginning. “We all need to work towards a budget when planning a wedding, and that helps to keep us in check. However, my first tip would always be to question the budget – Is that your actual maximum? If it is, then I would reduce your ideal budget by 20% already before you have even started. This is simply because 99% of couples will go 15-20% above their initial budget. That way you will not find yourself halfway through planning having to make big cut decisions.” – Charlotte Ricard-Quesada, La Fete

DO determine your main priorities. “When it comes to wedding planning, each couple’s priorities will be different. Start by figuring out what you and your partner care most about. Then, you can make sure the parts of your budget that matter most receive the biggest proportion of the funds. Perspective is often the key to trimming a budget. If your priorities have been established, you may have a better time choosing where to cut costs.” – Anna Rodenbeck, Whitehead + Co.

Photographer: The Justin Jay | Planner: Feathered Arrow Events

DO cut back on your guest count. “The single easiest way to cut back on your budget is by limiting the number of guests you invite. Guest count affects most line items in a budget from catering, to bar, to invitations, to florals, to rentals. Cutting just one table, or eight guests, can make a considerable difference. I’m a big fan of splurging on wow factors such as great lighting, ceiling installations, a cool bar, escort walls, gorgeous chairs, or a beautiful cake display, and cutting back on the smaller details that aren’t as noticeable such as favors, out-of-season florals, or custom-designed florals. The wow factors bring a bigger punch and are much more memorable than other items that can add quite a bit to the budget but go completely unnoticed. Splurge on the guest experience!” – Nora Sheils, Founder Bridal Bliss, Co-Founder Rock Paper Coin

DO consider rentals whenever possible. “Wedding budgets aren’t the most fun part of wedding planning, but you can still have an amazing wedding if you look for areas you can be more cost effective in your spending. One big way to lower costs is to go with items that can be rented. This will be the biggest day of your life, but you won’t need everything from your wedding day after the wedding. Consider renting your outfits instead of purchasing. You can get high-quality, fashionable garments at a fraction of the cost. And, rental practices and technology have come a long way so it’s easier in a lot of ways. Your wedding party will thank you too.” – Matt Ramirez, SVP of Marketing, Generation Tux

DO choose flowers that are in season. “Make sure the flowers you’re considering are all going to be in season. This can significantly decrease what you spend on florals!” – Melissa Wilmot, Founder & CEO, WedBrilliant

DO pay for total alcohol consumed, not a per-person cost. “Find a caterer or bartender that will bill alcohol consumed by guests on consumption versus a per-person cost. This is and always has been the safest way to ensure you’re only paying for what is consumed during the event.” – Ashley Lachney, Owner of Alston Mayger Events

Photographer: Broden Jessup Photography | Planner: Bridal Bliss

DO completely cut items you can’t afford. “I would always recommend to completely cull something if possible; sometimes it just looks better to completely skip something rather than pay so little for it and make it seem cheap.” – Charlotte Ricard-Quesada, La Fete

DO cut back on items that don’t affect the guests. “You could cut back on things like favors or extra flowers or upgraded rentals, those are things that won’t affect the guest experience but have more of an impact on design. At the end of the day, make decisions on what’s most important to you and your partner and to make sure your guests will have a great time!” – Kari Dirksen, CEO + Lead Planner, Feathered Arrow Events 

And what you Don’t Want to Do with Your Wedding Budget

DON’T make any more purchases, even necessary ones, once you know you need to make cuts. “If you’ve hit the point in the wedding planning process where you’ve realized you need to cut back on your budget, take a pause on signing any new contracts or making any major purchases to reassess your budget. Figure out what you’re already locked into that can’t be edited or adjusted, such as your photographer’s contract or your planner’s contract, and what can potentially be cut back a bit. Maybe you don’t need that extra floral arrangement after all, or you think 2 lounges will work fine as opposed to 3. Once you’ve figured out where (if at all!) you can make cuts from what you’ve currently committed to financially, you can better plan out a realistic budget for the remaining purchases you need to make.” – Maya Holihan, CEO & Founder, EWedded

DON’T be unrealistic about what you’re going to cut out. “Take advantage of the resources available to you (AKA your amazing vendor team!) and ask for their help. Your vendors want your wedding to be a success, and honesty is the best policy – explain that you’re starting to feel like your budget is stretching you beyond your means, and see if they have suggestions. But don’t expect vendors to make cuts for you that are completely unrealistic. Your rental company, for example, is not going to suggest cutting out all of your linens entirely to save on those costs. Instead, they might help you find a more affordable style that’s more cost-effective but achieves a similar look to what you’ve already selected. Being realistic is the best plan of action when it comes to budgeting!” – AJ Williams, Founder & Creative Director, AJ Events

DON’T overlook venue fees and rentals. “Unless you’re hosting your wedding at a truly all-inclusive venue, there may be rentals you’ll need to budget for. This may include tables, chairs, linens, a dance floor, and even things like portable restrooms, tents, or outdoor heat lamps. You also may need to cover additional venue fees for things like security, valet service, service charges, and cleanup. These additional costs can really add up, so save yourself a big headache by building a bit of cushion into your overall wedding venue budget.” – Jenna Miller, Creative Director of Here Comes The Guide

Photographer: Lauren Lee Photography | Planner: Alston Mayger Events | Floral Design: Swoon Floral Design | Linens: Nuage Designs | Rentals: The Party Place | Cake: Zelia Rose Cakes

DON’T scale back or cut meal service at all. “Buffet vs. plated? Fine. Reducing down to hot appetizer stations vs. a full meal? Not a good look when your guests have spent thousands on travel, attire, and likely purchased a gift for you to have day-of.” – Ashley Lachney, Owner of Alston Mayger Events

DON’T skimp on photography! “You will never regret having a fantastic photographer capturing the events and emotions of the day. These are memories you’ll get to revisit again and again!” – Melissa Wilmot, Founder & CEO, WedBrilliant

DON’T tell your vendor team they don’t know what they’re talking about. “We get it — you may have waited a few extra years to tie the knot due to the pandemic, but your vendor team members are subject matter experts in their field. If they are trying to gently let you know that with rising costs/supply chain issues/etc. that a certain item is no longer within your budget’s reach, listen and pivot. Something you might like even more could be waiting!” – Ashley Lachney, Owner of Alston Mayger Events

DON’T skimp on the guest experience. “If you’re looking to cut back on your wedding budget, I always suggest to cut back where it won’t compromise the overall experience for your guests. For example, don’t skimp on food and drinks or good music for the night. It really makes for an enjoyable guest experience for everyone to celebrate and party.” – Kari Dirksen, CEO + Lead Planner, Feathered Arrow Events