Every bride wants it all on her wedding day: the fancy dress, the gorgeous destination venue, an epic cake that really tastes as good as it looks. The problem? Those dream weddings can cost more than you and your partner make in a year. Luckily, your wedding can be KimYe-level fancy without spending KimYe cash. And you know what? Saving money doesn’t mean skimping on your wedding dreams. Here are 16 cost-effective wedding hacks so stylish, your guests will be raving about your wedding for years to come.
1. This ain’t your mama’s fine china.
There are so many decisions to make when it comes to reception planning. Peonies or roses for the centerpieces? DJ or live band? Chicken or fish? Instead of agonizing over place settings, take one thing off your plate by using disposable chargers to add an elegant touch to your reception tables. Now, “disposable” and “elegant” don’t usually go together in the same sentence, but let us make the case for disposable chargers. Renting chargers from your venue or a party supply company can be expensive, at around $2.00 or more per charger. But these Occasions Disposable Plastic Chargers, which are available in gold, silver, and ivory options, come in at less than a dollar per charger in a pack of 120, and because they’re made of ultra-heavyweight plastic, your guests will never know they’re disposable.
2. The future is plastics.
You’ve worked with a florist to design the most gorgeous custom centerpieces, but did you know that most florists also charge for the glass vases in which those beauties will be placed? Plus, those glass vases have to be returned to the florist post-wedding when you’re already on honeymoon time. Annoying much? But here’s a little secret: literally no one, and I mean no one, will notice if your centerpiece vases are plastic or glass. If you’re on a budget, a great way to save money on both flowers and vases is to place a single statement flower, like a calla lily, in a bud vase, like this set of Libbey Cylinder Bud Vases. Accent your bud vases with DIY table numbers (how cute are these?) and inexpensive tea lights for a classic, romantic table setting.
3. Rethink rentals.
If you’ve chosen two of the most glorious shades of pink, one much deeper than the other, naturally, you might be shocked to realize how much linen rentals in your wedding colors can be. In fact, table linens alone can run anywhere from $10–$20 per linen. Yikes. If that’s way outside your budget, don’t despair. Your reception venue most likely includes standard white table linens free of charge, and you can still create a stunning tablescape in your signature color by purchasing less expensive table runners to dress up white table linens. For a super romantic look, we love this DIY gauze table runner idea, using this Camelot Revisited 100 percent Cotton Cheesecloth as a base material. If you love the DIY look but just don’t have time to spend a Saturday morning elbow deep in a tub of Rit dye, order these handmade gauze table runners in almost any color instead.
4. Learn to hand letter like Meghan Markle.
Did you know that the new Duchess of Sussex loves calligraphy, and even hand-lettered the invitations for celebrity events? There’s no need to handwrite all of your wedding invitations, but you can follow Markle’s style and do the invitation envelopes and seating cards to save big on printing costs. Gail Godfrey-Nicholls’ Mastering Calligraphy: The Complete Guide to Handlettering is an excellent comprehensive guide to calligraphy; You’ll learn more than you ever wanted to know about the history of the art, including a wide range of lettering styles, with easy-to-follow instruction. It may take a couple of practice rounds, but you’ll be surprised at how fancy your table cards will look, and you’ll save a ton of cash by cutting out the printer.
5. Shake it like a polaroid picture.
Once a novelty, photo booths have become a mainstay on the wedding scene. These wedding staples are not without a premium price tag though, often costing around $150 per hour for a photo booth rental. Create a fresh spin on the photo booth at a fraction of the rental cost by making your own backdrop and purchasing a couple of throwback instant cameras like the Fujifilm Instax 9, along with chic DIY photo booth accessories like this gorgeous streamer backdrop, customized in your wedding colors, natch.
6. Create a luxe lounge for guests.
Guests dread wedding cocktail hour because it means standing around in an awkward circle trying to snag the best hors ‘d’oeuvres before they get gobbled up. Totally brutal. You’re spending a ton of money on that open bar anyway, so why not reinvent the cocktail hour by asking your venue to set up a couple of lounge areas using existing furniture? It doesn’t cost a dime, and lounge-style seating encourages guests to get comfortable and mingle in a more intimate setting. Cozy up lounge spaces with thrifted lanterns and tea lights, and encourage guests that may not know each other to chat by staging fun parlor games like these free printable Mad Libs from Something Turquoise.
7. If a princess can do her own wedding makeup, so can you.
Those bridal beauty busses that set up a glam station right at the wedding venue to give your bride squad the glam treatment are super trendy. But on-trend traveling salons come with a price tag that can quickly exceed your total hair and makeup budget. One solution? Do your own makeup! Princess Kate did her own makeup for her 2011 wedding to Prince William, and she looked, well, like a total princess. For a natural day-of look, we love this jane iredale Pure & Simple Makeup Kit, which includes the basics for a fresh-faced bridal look: pressed foundation, blush, eyeshadow, and lip stain. Still need a little help? Use this Jane Iredale makeup tutorial to create your bridal look. Encourage your bridesmaids to do their own makeup as well by providing a glam station with travel-size face masks, moisturizers, lip balms, and other day-of makeup goodies that won’t break the bank.
8. Be the buffet of the ball.
Any wedding caterer worth their kitchen salt will tell you that the best way to save money on reception costs is to offer guests a buffet rather than a plated dinner. A thoughtfully orchestrated buffet can be just as decadent as a more formal meal but won’t cost sit-down meal prices. If you’re catering your own wedding, you can cut serving costs by using inexpensive platters and candlestick holders to create serving stations for your buffet. This tutorial uses items that can all be found at your local dollar store, but this adorable Sugar & Cloth Peach Melamine Serving Set (slightly pricier but still less expensive than a caterer!) pairs perfectly with Dollar Tree Glass Taper Candleholders for a romantic wedding look. Accent your DIY buffet serveware with small, hand-lettered chalkboard signs to let guests know what each item is.
9. The one wedding favor guests will actually love.
We say this as kindly as possible: Literally none of your friends and family want to take home a packet of seeds or a scented candle with your wedding date stamped on the front. Skip the favors altogether, but if you absolutely must offer guests take-home treats, opt for something easy and edible, like an inexpensive individual s’mores kit. Because who doesn’t love the melty, throwback goodness that is a s’more? S’mores kits are tasty, can be made in a hotel microwave, and all of the ingredients can be ordered straight to your door through Amazon Pantry. Plus, you can use these cute tags from Orange Umbrella Co to give simple s’mores take-home bags a more polished look.
10. Don’t forget to cut the cake.
A couple of things can quickly make the cost of your wedding cake get out of hand, like intricately decorating each layer with fondant artwork and purchasing custom cake toppers. Have your cake and eat it too, but save cash by having your cake maker ice your cake in white buttercream. An inexpensive, carefully chosen cake topper, like the AntoArts Heart Wreath Wedding Cake Topper will elevate your cake into an elegant (and delicious) centerpiece of your wedding that’s anything but plain. Another wedding cake hack? Order a smaller cake to display and cut at the reception for photos but have staff serve guests from sheet cakes out of sight in the kitchen. No one will know the difference, because your cake will be just as delicious wherever its served.
11. Alexa, order wedding dress.
Go to the fancy bridal shop, drink champagne with your besties, and try on gorgeous gowns to get a feel for what you like. But save the actual dress shopping for Amazon. We know, it sounds crazy to order a wedding dress from Amazon, but real brides actually have found their dream dress online, and you’d never know they spent under $100 for a bridal gown. Amazon brides recommend really examining reviews of dresses you’re interested in purchasing to get a feel for the right fit and size before ordering. While every bride has her own unique style, we love the timeless feel of this highly reviewed Beautyprom Lace Mermaid Bridal Gown, which features a classic sweetheart neckline and beaded waist detail.
12. Save the boutonnieres for prom.
Let’s be honest, boutonnieres are right up there with mother-of-the-bride corsages as far as outdated wedding traditions go. While boutonnieres are quite a bit less expensive than other floral wedding expenses at around $20 a pop, that can really add up if you have a large bridal party. Give your soon-to-be hubby’s groomsmen pocket squares to wear instead. Pocket squares, like these IvyFlair Satin 8-inch Squares come in a variety of colors and add an instant classic, polished look to suits. Combine pocket squares with a coordinating tie and socks and they can also double as groomsmen gifts.
13. Get creative with bouquets.
We love weddings with lots of flowers, we really do. But floral arrangements can often be one of the priciest expenses in a wedding budget, with bridesmaid bouquets eating up a large chunk of that at around $75 per bouquet. But it’s 2018, and brides are rethinking the traditional bouquet in favor of accessories that are waaaay more fun (like this bride who had her ‘maids carry real life puppers down the aisle!). Just like pocket squares, a thoughtfully chosen bouquet alternative, like these NUOMI Lace Folding Fans or this Jane Austen book collection (each bridesmaid carries a tome) can double as a bridesmaid gift that lasts long after the bouquets have wilted.
14. Sometimes smaller really is better.
Some brides go overboard with welcome bags that are extravagantly filled with extras like scented candles or even sand toys at a destination beach wedding. While the bride and groom scored points for creativity, it’s slightly (read: totally) annoying to try and fit all that in an already overstuffed carry-on bag. Wow your out-of-town guest with thoughtful welcome bags that don’t cost a fortune by visiting the local visitor’s center for free maps and coupons to local stores and restaurants. Instead of buying pre-printed gift bags, dress up standard brown-paper lunch bags with ribbon and printable gift tags to deliver helpful goodies like Shout Wipes, Starlight Mints, and DIY Do-Not-Disturb signs your guests will be sure to love.
15. Bring the sweet beats for free.
DJ’s can cost between $500 and $1000, and live bands can be even more expensive. But why hire a DJ to play the same tired version of the Cha Cha Slide (seriously, if we have to slide to the left at one more wedding …) when you can curate and play your own playlist for minimal cost? Most venues have some sort of sound system you can plug into for free, and you can have guests request songs they’d like to hear when they RSVP. If your venue doesn’t provide sound equipment, we’ve got you covered. Just plug your device into this Technical Pro Rechargeable LED Active Loudspeaker Kit, which also comes with a microphone, so your reception beats can be heard all night long.
16. Save trees and your wallet at the same time.
Your mother and grandmother will probably save copies of your wedding day program and menu card, but all your other guests? Those expensive paper products will end up stuffed in a hotel desk drawer, thrown into the backseat of a car without a second thought. Instead of splurging on programs and menu cards for each guest, save money by printing one large poster-size program for guests to see as they enter your wedding venue and the same size menu as guests enter the reception area. Display your signage in this gorgeous Frametory 16×20 Aluminum Photo Frames with Ivory Matte and reuse the frames post-wedding to display your wedding photos.