How to budget for a wedding, plus secret ways to cut costs

Newly-married couple
Flower tip: Roses, lithianthus and hydrangeas are some of the most affordable flowers.
Credit: Colourbox

The endless expenses that come with planning a wedding are almost enough to make even the most party-loving couples want to elope. But there are ways to cut costs without your guests even noticing.

We talked with Annie Lee, the principal planner for leading New York City wedding planning firm Daughter of Design and author of “Learn to Speak Wedding: Flashcards for Beginners” about ways to save, what you can skimp on and what unplanned expenses often catch brides by surprise.

When you are initially starting to map out your budget, Lee says it’s important to start with the guest count. “You can’t know how far your budget will go or how much budget you’ll need without it,” she explains. Compile a list — including everyone your parents and the groom’s parents will want to include. She also says it’s very important that everyone involved in the wedding planning is on the same page as far as what falls under the “wedding budget” umbrella. Is the dress part of the budget? The rings? Honeymoon? Speak up now to avoid arguments down the road.

This may come as a shock, but Lee says one big area where you really don’t have to go all out is the invitations. “You can still get something very beautiful that’s not custom, five-ply paper or letter-pressed in, like, five different colors,” she says. “There are a lot of beautiful predesigned options, like Wedding Paper Divas and Bella Figura, who have some really outstanding stuff. A lot of custom designers have even been doing lines with some of these predesigned places, so invitations are definitely a place where there’s a lot of flexibility.”

annie lee
Annie Lee is the principal planner for Daughter of Design, a leading NYC wedding planning firm, author of “Learn to Speak Wedding: Flashcards for Beginners.”

Another way to save money is by booking a DJ instead of a band. Not only is it a fraction of the cost, but it means fewer people to tip. Speaking of the reception, something else you can save on is the cake. “In a city like New York, cake costs an average of $12 to $25 a slice, so what some people do is have a one-tier cake for cutting and then cupcakes for their guests, which comes out to about $1 or $2 a person,” Lee says.

She also says it’s socially acceptable to lose the party favors. “Your friends love you, but they don’t care about having something with your name on it,” she says,

Something she says you absolutely cannot skimp on: the photographer. Getting bad photos back from your big day can be heart-breaking. But when it comes to the wedding album, watch out; Lee says the cost often catches couples by surprise. “They cost anywhere between $1,500 to $5,000,” she says. To get around this cost, Lee recommends making your own albums with an Apple template.

Something else that couples usually leave out of the budget is tips, which can sometimes add up to $7,000. “Think about it: You have to tip the photographer, valet guys, servers, hair and makeup people — it just goes on and on. A lot of people see an administrative service fee on the bill and think that’s the tip. It’s not.”

Most importantly, be honest with your partner and your wedding planner about what you want and what you’re able to spend. A little creativity combined with industry know-how will get you the wedding of your dreams without leaving you broke.

Follow Emily on Twitter: @EmLaurence


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