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7 New Wedding Trends That Could Save You Money on Your Reception

By Jacqueline Curtis

weddingI often bemoan the fact that I was married just before digital photography became common. While modern brides get to share their wedded bliss on Facebook, my wedding prints are stuck in a drawer somewhere. The real disadvantage of getting married back in 2003, however, is the fact that my nuptials happened long before the creation of what may be the greatest wedding idea machine of all time: Pinterest.

The best thing about looking for wedding ideas on Pinterest is that unlike dedicated magazines and websites, a lot of the links and pictures you find aren’t sponsored in any way, and are pinned by people just like you – including DIYers and bargain hunters. In fact, the current trendiness of saving money on weddings is due in large part to Pinterest-type online sharing. After years of lavish affairs as the most coveted weddings, pared-down celebrations and more frugal attitudes mean you can now save as much as 40% on wedding costs while still staying on top of trends.

Frugal Wedding Trends

Whether you want to go DIY on some of your wedding details for a more personal touch, or are cutting back simply because of budget concerns, you can remain trend-conscious and budget-savvy at the same time. Shouldering some of the labor for your wedding favors or scrapping that pricey wedding reception menu means you can still throw a great party without the prospect of starting your married life in debt.

Here are some of the best frugal trends for a cheaper wedding:

1. Forgo the Wedding Party

I had a fairly large wedding party when I was married – eight people – and I didn’t realize how costly that could be. I had to pick out and pay for my bridesmaids’ dresses and rent the groomsmen’s tuxedos. I also purchased gifts as a “thank you” to each member of the wedding party, and there were extra costs involved in setting up a head table, not to mention purchasing bouquets and boutonnieres.

Today, it’s less taboo to forgo the wedding party and instead shine the spotlight on just the bride and groom. You can eliminate significant costs and reallocate those funds to other aspects of your nuptials. Or, try what my best friend did: Choose to only have a maid of honor and best man. Assuming you opt for that instead of an eight-person wedding party for which you purchase dresses, tuxes, flowers, and gifts, you could save $800 to $1,000 or more.

2. Serve Signature Drinks

The bar at your wedding is usually included in the cost of the venue or food-and-drink fee. If you choose an open bar, you pay a premium for it – and for the variety of drinks served.

At a friend’s wedding I recently attended, the open bar only served a selection of liquor along with a signature drink that she and her groom made up – a blue-toned cocktail coined “Something Blue.” It was served alongside less pricey drinks and displayed on a menu so guests knew exactly which drinks they could choose from.

Reducing the number of drink choices and the costs of premium liquor can seriously shrink the cost of your bar tab without damaging the party atmosphere at your reception. Just check with your food and drink provider to see if a signature drink is an option.

wedding drinks

3. Have Cupcakes in Lieu of a Traditional Wedding Cake

The wedding cake is practically iconic at the reception, with tiers rising above the party and a chance for that classic cake-in-the-face photo op. However, wedding cakes can also be outrageously expensive, with bakers charging for cake flavors, fillings, tiers, and anything extra.

One of the best current wedding trends is skipping the cake and opting for cupcakes instead. They’re already single-serve, so no cutting is required, and you can order a variety of flavors all for a lot less money than a wedding cake – especially if you make them yourself or order from a local bakery, rather than from a specialty shop.

If you still want a traditional cake feel, you can set the cupcakes on tiers and have a small bride and groom cake at the top for photo ops. The average cost of a cake is $4 to $5 per slice versus $1 to $2 for cupcakes in bulk. If you have a 120-person guest list, you’re looking at $480 to $600 for a cake (plus extra for any design elements you want) as opposed to only $120 to $240 for cupcakes – or less if you’re willing to make them yourself.

4. Host a Cocktail-Only Reception

Let’s face it: the traditional wedding reception is nothing new. There’s the cocktail hour, which leads into dinner – chicken, prime rib, or fish, generally – along with some type of salad and dessert. It can cost anywhere from $40 to $75 per plate for the entire service, and depending on the number of guests, this cost can eat up most of your wedding budget.

By swapping dinner for a cocktail reception with drinks and hors d’oeuvres, you can scale back your food costs without leaving guests hungry. Choosing a cocktail reception also allows you to explore offbeat wedding venues, such as nightclubs or bars, for a more intimate feel.

5. Add Your Own DIY Touches

I’m obsessed with a show called “Four Weddings,” in which four unacquainted brides agree to be guests at, and score, each other’s weddings for a chance to win a honeymoon. Each time I watch, I’m surprised at how high DIY projects and personal touches score when guest brides are judging the festivities. Often, a homemade favor receives a high score, while a fancy, costly centerpiece gets lower marks.

In addition to saving you a tremendous amount of money, making time for a few DIY projects adds charm and personality to your wedding. Make a homemade favor by molding your own chocolates, or create table numbers from cheap picture frames and photos of you and your groom. When compared to purchasing the same items ready-made, the result is a more personal wedding and a less strained budget.

6. Book Off-Season

Wedding vendors are inundated with requests during the summer and early autumn months, which means they increase their prices to match that demand. Choosing to get married off-season – or even on a weekday – could save you significant money, and is more common for budget-conscious brides. Swapping a Saturday affair with a swanky Friday night cocktail party means vendors are more willing to lower prices to snag the off-day work. Or, opt for a holiday themed winter wedding instead of waiting for the busy summer season.

Modern weddings and receptions mean working with a budget and using the resources you have. If you want pricier components, you may need to sacrifice your dream of a Saturday night reception in favor of a Sunday brunch. According to the BBC, you can expect about a 30% to 40% savings by nabbing a weekday wedding date.

winter wedding

7. Go “Rustic”

The word “rustic” may be the best adjective to ever grace the wedding industry. While some brides still want glitz, glamour, and bling, others are choosing more handmade details to help keep costs down.

For instance, wedding flowers can represent a huge chunk of your budget. Rustic brides might forgo them, however, in favor of branches and hanging votives for centerpieces. Or, you might borrow potted plants from friends and neighbors that can be returned or even replanted later.

Rustic also applies to the venue, skipping sleek banquet halls for wineries and even barn-style receptions. If you’re more into the simple life, choosing to label your wedding as rustic means you can avoid a lot of the pricey details and go instead for mismatched dinnerware, DIY decor, and even BBQ for an easier atmosphere and less pressure on your budget.

Final Word

A wedding is already a huge financial burden on a couple just starting out. By being more money-conscious at the beginning of your relationship, you can set yourself up for a lifetime of financial harmony with your new spouse and skip the stress of starting a marriage stuck in wedding debt. Checking out the latest ideas and, yes, creating that all-important vision board on Pinterest can help you zero in on a few trends that can actually save you money.

What’s your best money-saving wedding tip?

Jacqueline Curtis
Jacqueline Curtis is an experienced style expert, and she focuses on getting high fashion on a tight budget. She writes for several online publications, including her own fashion blog, How Not to Dress Like a Mom, and specializes in fashion, finance, health and fitness, and parenting. Jae grew up in Toronto, Canada, but now resides in Utah with her husband, two kids, and prized shoe collection.

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  • brokeGIRLrich

    I’m always so surprised by what people are willing to compromise on and what they’re not. I just got home from a wedding where two things were a huge hit – a rented photo booth and home made bell shakers with ribbons attached to send off the bride and groom at the end of the night. The bride had stressed over the flowers and the food to serve for ages, and I honestly don’t think they needed to splurge on anything else, because everyone was enamored with the photo booth and the shakers. It seems to me that if you focus on one cool thing for people to do, you can really reduce in all other areas.

    And I loved the signature drink idea. Someday, I’m going to steal that.

  • Gala

    I am from the Philippines where a wedding entourage is always large, but there are ways also to be frugal — like have a morning reception, w/c is definitely cheaper. Also, open bars are not usual here. Drinks are optional — water or plain softdrinks/iced tea will do. Cakes can be made by a friend for a “friend fee”. The same goes for the other details like flowers, pictures, tokens, etc. I know of a missionary couple whose reception was potbless! Of course, it all depends on the friends and venue .. and culture, too.

    Let’s keep things in perspective: a wedding is so different from a marriage :-)

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