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We finally did it– we got married, you guys! After COVID pushed back (and later squashed) our hopes and dreams of an Italian elopement, we switched gears completely and started planning an intimate wedding ceremony in Camden, Maine. This, of course, meant we’d actually have to spend money on a wedding. So, we did what most couples do and created a not-at-all-accurate budget. I learned from friends that it’s important to set aside money for the things that are important to you. I also learned that the best way to save money on a wedding is to just avoid what isn’t altogether.
That being said, what was important to us was photography, food, and drinks. What wasn’t was the date, a DJ, and a handful of other things, most of which are listed below. Keep reading for more than a dozen ways we saved money on our wedding!
Ways We Saved on Our Wedding
1. We sent out digital invites.
Have you ever looked at how much printed wedding suites cost? I’m talking upwards of $20-$25 per person! It’s crazy! We started planning our wedding about 75 days out, so printed invites weren’t the best option for us from the get-go, but still, I decided to look and see if there was a more affordable option. Fortunately, I found Paperless Post. Their digital invites were incredibly easy to customize and cost a small fraction of the price of printed invites.
We also directed guests to RSVP and list out dietary preferences on our (free) wedding website. It was easy for them, super easy for us, and didn’t cost us anything in postage. Wins all around!
2. I ordered my dress online.
If you’ve never heard of BHLDN, check it out right now. It’s Anthropologie’s bridal line, and they make the most gorgeous wedding dresses and accessories. The best part? They’re actually affordable! I did end up spending more than I intended to (I fell in love with this gown the moment I saw it– it was the only one I ordered and the only one I tried on), but if you’re able to wait for big sales, you can get your dream dress at a huge discount.
Similarly, Kyle waited for a 50% off sale and ordered his navy suit from J.Crew Factory. He paid under $250 for the whole thing and had it tailored. Fit like a glove!
3. We planned our wedding on a weekday.
Let me start out by saying that I know weekday weddings aren’t for everyone. Kyle and I felt extremely guilty having ours on a Tuesday (yes, a Tuesday), but (A) beggars can’t be choosers when planning a last-minute Maine wedding in the summertime, (B) we were actually given a fair rate, and (C) it helped limit our guest count. We also confirmed beforehand that all our immediate family would be able to attend comfortably.
Our Tuesday ceremony worked perfectly for us, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t inconvenience a few of our guests. Destination weddings are expensive as it is, so asking people to travel to Maine and take off work was a pretty big request. So, yeah– I understand why people have Saturday weddings. That said, if your heart is set on a weekend but you’re strapped financially, ask about getting a discount if you have your ceremony on a Friday, Saturday morning, or Sunday!
4. We used the same (tented) venue for both the ceremony and reception.
If I’m being totally honest, Kyle and I originally planned on having our ceremony at the Camden Amphitheater. For reference, it’s about a five-minute walk from our reception venue. We actually chose our wedding date based on the amphitheater’s availability. Once the contract with 16 Bay View was signed, though, we found out we were bested by a kids’ dance group. I was heartbroken (and pretty darn mad) at first, but in the end, it ended up saving us $900 in a site rental fee. Additionally, this tragedy-turned-fortune also eliminated the need for guest and wedding party transportation and made it easy to repurpose the flowers and chairs for our reception.
Another thing worth considering– tented venues. Our wedding was on the rooftop of the 16 Bay View hotel in Camden, and it’s automatically tented from April until October. A lot of outdoor venues do something similar, especially in the summertime. If you can find a venue with a similar setup, it’s an easy way to avoid stressing about the weather and the cost of a last-minute tent rental simultaneously.
5. We asked a family member to officiate.
I didn’t know this, but officiants cost kind of a lot of money. The typical price range is $500-$800, sometimes more. We knew from the get-go that we wanted Kyle’s sister Michel to officiate, but we had no idea how much money it’d end up saving us. It also made our ceremony 1000x better. I mean, she knows us and crafted a ceremony that reflected us as a couple and our shared values entirely. A made-for-hire officiant just can’t do the same.
6. We limited guests to immediate and extended family only.
Probably the single most effective way to save money on your wedding is to limit the guest list. It makes sense– fewer people equals less money. This may be a deal-breaker for you, but for us, we have too many incredible friends to risk offending any of them. So, we capped our guest list at extended family only, plus SOs and a few friends who are family. This worked perfectly for us considering (A) the max capacity on the roof was 45 and (B) Kyle’s family alone has a zillion people in it.
Also, just a tip– if you’re having a destination wedding, even if it’s on a Tuesday, don’t plan on people not coming. We didn’t honestly expect anyone to come outside of immediate family, and we ended up right under the max capacity. Both fortunately and unfortunately, our wedding was also right around the start of school, so most relatives with kids weren’t able to come. If they had, we would’ve needed to find a new venue.
7. We got creative with wedding decor.
Truthfully, we had two legs up here. The first was our venue. Although we’d never seen it in person, we quickly learned that The View is called The View for a reason– and it’s because it has the best view of Penobscot Bay in all of Camden. So, even if we went super bare with decor, the scenery was still pretty spectacular.
The second’s name was Deb. Deb is Kyle’s mom, and she’s an interior designer. I entrusted her with most of the decorating, and as expected, she delivered 1000%. Instead of grand chandeliers and ceiling drapery, she hung ethereal white paper lanterns, flowers, and petals from the tent frame. Deb also brought Christmas lights and put them all over the planters and tent poles. Combined with the heavy greenery we ordered from Flowers by Hoboken (Italian Ruscus is now officially my favorite), it created a fairytale-like environment for a fraction of the cost. Granted, she recruited six other wedding guests to help set everything up on the day of our wedding, but everyone seemed genuinely happy to help.
Also, when it came to smaller wedding details, I got crafty. Trust me, all those adorable touches you order off Etsy add up. So, I bought what I felt I couldn’t make (like these personalized sea glass place cards) and made what I felt I could comfortably manage. I ended up making our own wedding welcome sign, seating chart, floral dog wedding collars, and personalized wedding welcome bags!
8. I did my own makeup.
Throughout the entire wedding planning process, Kyle had one major request– that I wouldn’t get my makeup done. He said that every time he’d seen me with professional makeup, it just looked weird (he wouldn’t say bad, but I could hear it in his voice). Fortunately for him, I couldn’t find a good makeup artist anywhere in Camden, so I also ended up saving us a couple of hundred bucks by doing my own.
I admit that I still splurged a bit on wedding makeup, though– specifically this Dior Airflash Spray Foundation. It’s pricey (bought mine for $62) but made my skin look flawless!
9. We created specific playlists in lieu of hiring a DJ.
Kyle has never had a nice thing to say about wedding DJs, so we had two options– hire a band or create our own playlists. A band wasn’t in our budget, so we made our own playlists and asked our venue’s coordinator to manage them. To make it ultra-easy for him and/or anyone else manning my iPhone, I created the following six playlists–
- Pre-Ceremony– This included about an hour’s worth of my favorite instrumental Christian worship music.
- Procession Song– This playlist included our single procession song (“The Canon in D” by Pachelbel) but duplicated three times, just in case the music ran out before I got down the aisle.
- After-Ceremony Song– For right after the ceremony, we created another single-song playlist.
- Wedding Playlist- Dinner– Your wedding night will probably be divided up into dinner, special dances, and full-blown partying. So, we created separate playlists for each stage. Our Wedding Dinner playlist included about three hours of our favorite slow and mid-tempo Motown, soft rock, and country songs.
- Special Dances– This playlist included the music for our three special dances– our first dance song, Kyle and his mom’s song, and my and my brother’s song (my dad isn’t able to dance, so my brother stepped in).
- Wedding Playlist- Dancing– Our dancing playlist included all the amazing wedding party music I’ve been stockpiling since I was a kid! It had all the classics– Backstreet Boys, Hanson, KC & The Sunshine Band, The Supremes, Run DMC, etc!
If you go the playlists route, I highly recommend turning on the crossfade setting to avoid pauses between songs. To do this in Spotify, go to settings –> playback –> crossfade (we set ours at 8 seconds).
10. We passed around a polaroid instead of renting a photo booth.
Kyle and I knew we wanted fun candid photos, but we also knew (A) photo booths are expensive and (B) our photographer’s time was precious. So, instead of renting a photo booth or worrying about candid moments being captured, we ordered a Fujifilm INSTAX Mini 11 camera from Amazon and a ton of film from Walmart. Guests ended up pasting almost all of the photos in our wedding guest book, too, so now we have those to look back on and enjoy.
11. We served kids meals.
To put things in perspective, our total food cost was $85/person. I know, that’s a lot, but again, food was important to us. This was the cost regardless of dietary restrictions, too, meaning the vegetarian meal cost the same as the short rib. When I asked the head chef if she made kids’ meals, she said yes– and for only $12/person. Fortunately, we had some kids at our wedding, so instead of asking them to eat fancy adult meals, they were served yummy chicken tenders and mashed potatoes. Not only did we have happy kids, but we also cut a break in our final food bill, too.
12. We downsized our cake.
How in the world are wedding cakes so expensive?! I mean, they’re gorgeous, but most people don’t even eat them! So, for the sake of tradition, we ordered a one-tier blueberry cake from our caterer (which, surprisingly, was big enough for everyone to little get a taste of) and then supplemented our dessert menu with mini blueberry pies and ice cream.
Another way to save money on your wedding is to order a basic tiered cake from a grocery store and then decorate it yourself. To learn how, check out this short video about how to (sanitarily) decorate a cake with flowers. Just a warning, though– make sure your venue will allow you to bring in your own dessert. Some, including ours, don’t.
13. We paid per drink.
Let me start this one out by saying that millennials have re-written a lot of the rules about propriety and weddings. It’s no longer taboo to have your wedding on a weekday, nor is it strange to have food trucks instead of buffets or serve donuts instead of wedding cake. It is, however, still really tacky to have a cash bar. I’m sorry, y’all, but it just is. Your guests have given you gifts, made time in their schedules to attend your ceremony, and have probably helped out in more ways than you’re aware of, so it’s only right that you pay for their drinks for one night.
If you’re really tight on funds, serve only beer and wine or eliminate top-shelf liquor from the equation. If you’re really really tight on funds, ask if you can stock your own bar, which honestly isn’t likely (most venues aren’t into this). Another option is to only serve house wine.
Given how much we love craft cocktails, limiting the bar wasn’t an option for us. In fact, we were that couple who created two signature drinks (along with a custom drink sign) for their two dogs. For reference, Nala’s was a French 75, and Nellie’s was a smoked Old Fashioned. Fortunately, we don’t have very many heavy drinkers in our families, so it made sense for us to pay per drink instead of buying a liquor package.
Aside from the risk of guests ordering only top-shelf liquor, paying per drink can definitely have downsides. For example, we had bar tab minimums at both our cocktail hour and reception. We stressed out about both, but that anxiety quickly became a hilarious joke after seeing our tab an hour in. But I digress. My point is that paying for a drink package may actually end up being a better bargain for you! It just depends on your guest list.
Thanks so much for reading, y’all! As always, please let me know if you have any questions. I love hearing from you guys, and I’m happy to help!
Also, to all my fellow brides, what are some of the ways you saved money on your wedding? Are there any budget-friendly wedding ideas I didn’t think of?
Photography by Catherine Rhodes
This was so fun to read!! Love the fact y’all got married in Maine. 🙂 Congratulations!!!
This is so helpful! I’m not yet technically engaged, but we’ve put the cart before the horse and we know that we’d like to go to Gatlinburg for a TINY destination wedding next October with a big local casual reception in November. Money isn’t really an object — my dad will pay for his only daughter’s wedding, even if I am 46! — but we are frugal as all get out and don’t want anything unnecessary or frivolous. Love your ideas and I plan on Pinning this for later! (You looked BEAUTIFUL, as did your venue. And a blueberry cake/desserts is so Maine!)
I’m also getting married in a tent on the harbor. I love the paper lanterns and garland!! How did Deb get them to stay??
That’s so cool! Hope you’re getting excited!! And thank you so much– the tent had a peaked ceiling, so she used fishing wire (and some serious knots to handle the wind) to tie everything to the poles at varying heights. Let me know if you have any other questions, I’m happy to help!