By Faith West of the Caffeinated Photographer
January 4, 2019

Hi! As a successful Philadelphia wedding photographer who has photographed over 1,000 weddings, I'm often asked by eager couples how to save money on their weddings. It's the burning topic on most couple's minds, whether they're spending from a strict wedding budget that their parents gave them, or can't afford much because the bride-and-groom-to-be are paying for the wedding themselves. In my experience, even the most wealthy brides and grooms still find weddings to be expensive. The bottom-line price tag floors everyone.

Here are the tips I tell my friends and colleagues who ask for my advice, and now I'm sharing it with you, too:

1) Don't fall in love with a venue you visit when it has no decorations and no party going on, and blow your budget on it.
A wedding in the most humble interior space can be turned into a breathtaking night-to-remember for the guests with theatrical lighting. In most instances, renting an inexpensive hall and then paying a lighting designer to go over-the-top to make it glamorous is still multiple thousands of dollars less than renting a venue that even looks glorious when you see it on a normal day, in the sunlight, and with no decorations.

3) Pay for tall florals on every other table, not all tables, at the reception. To create more visual interest in the reception hall and save money, ask your florist to design tall, elaborate florals for only every other table. The tables without the large arrangements get either much more modest arrangements, or, to save even more, only candles and floating candles with a couple of flowers floating, too.


2) The dress is the easiest item to save money on. A fantasy of finding the perfect dress, regardless of cost, often prevents this from happening. We get it - the bride-to-be has typically seen bridal shops as a single person, and longed to have a reason to go inside and pick out a dress. When you get engaged, unbeknowst to your fiance, (if your fiance is male,) it's like getting inducted into a secret society of bridal gown shoppers. By all means, indulge the fantasy of going inside with your mom and friends, and trying dresses on. But actually purchasing a dress is not a way to save money in the easiest area of the wedding to save money on. More brides are turning to Rent the Runway to rent their bridal gowns. There's also The Bridal Garden in New York City, which sells gently used, still-fashionable dresses, or last year's samples leftover from bridal shops, at greatly discounted prices, for charity. Finally, you can reach out to a talented custom dressmaker in your area to create a knock-off of a popular style, or your own creation, that probably will flatter and fit you better than off-the-rack dresses. If you can't find a seamstress in your area, find one on etsy.com. The dressmaker will send you a mock-up of your design in muslin, and ask you to mark where it does and doesn't fit. Then you mail that back to her to create a virtual custom fit. 

Front & Palmer event space with decor and lighting by Synergetic Sound & Lighting All photos by The Caffeinated Photographer.

Jill purchased her beautiful dress at a BHDLN trunk show

Ballroom at the Ben wedding Philadelphia - Julia and Anthony made good use of candles and lower flower arrangements from Carl Alan Design to add interest and save money, instead of having all tall arrangements..Photography by The Caffeinated Photographer.

4) Use online invitation services. Services such as minted.com and Wedding Paper Divas at shutterfly.com provide the same quality product as in-person paper shops without the expense. To save even more, consider receiving your RSVPs online using services like evite.com, or going paperless entirely, with several virtual wedding invtation vendors available.

Katie and Dave got their cool save the dates + invitation at minted.com. Photography by The Caffeinated Photographer.

6) Avoid favors. The trend is to give money to a charity that has meaning to the couple. Many of these couples communicate to guests that in lieu of favors, money has been given to a charity, on a framed announcement near the sign-in book. You can save money overall and do a good deed.

7) Get a cake that's too small, or rent a cake. More couples are opting for a dessert bar, and that means the cake doesn't get eaten as much. You can rent a styrofoam cake that is covered in icing with a hole in the back for you to cut a real piece of cake at the cake cutting to get the most fabulous cake for the least cost. Or, your official cake can be too small to serve the guests, but there is a sheet cake in the kitchen. 

No one has to know what's real and what's not with this rented cake from cakerental.com.

Here's where you should spend as much as you can afford to get the best:

1) The entertainment. The guests will remember how much fun they had at your wedding, and not a myriad details that I've seen couples spend a lot of money on. The band or DJ set the tone for the entire day, and determine the difference between a meh wedding and a great one. Do not skimp on this. Hire the best professionals you can.

Jellyroll from BVT Entertainment was the incredible entertainment at Aimee & Mike's glamorous wedding at the Ballroom at the Ben.

5) Don't rent a limo, limo bus, or trolley if your wedding venues are close to one another. In my opinion, having seen many weddings firsthand, the idea that never really pans out is that wedding party members are going to have a ton of fun on a short limo or trolley ride. Those are very expensive rides to go for a short hop. Consider taking two or more large UberX cars, or, for fun, allow your wedding party members to work out their own transportation, and the bride and groom take a convertible from the ceremony to the reception. You can rent fun, flashy convertibles from rental car companies such as sixt.com for thousands of dollars less than hiring a limo. 

2) The photography and video. The day goes by in such a blur for the bride and groom that many couples do not even remember it. Photography and video become critical to serve as a forever reminder of what happened, and how much love was expressed for you on that special day by all your assembled family and friends. That same group of people who are so important to you may never be together in one place ever again in your lives. You will not be young forever, and long marriages have their ups and downs. The wedding is an inflection point in your lives that deserves to be recorded by the best professionals you can afford. The most common mistake couples make is to commit to all the other vendors first, not leaving enough to hire the best photographer and videographer -- or deciding that since no one will see all the photos and the video except the bride and groom themselves, that the expenses that guests can see on the wedding day are more important.

All photos from The Caffeinated Photographer.

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