Package deals, tax write-offs, and pants: Save money on your wedding without the DIY headaches

Guest post by Melissa Miksch

Wedding photographer Melissa Miksch has seen a LOT of weddings, now she's giving away her insider info on how to save money at YOUR wedding.

Photo by Melissa Miksch
Photo by Melissa Miksch

As you know, the budget-friendly DIY craze has swept the wedding industry. But what if you're the kind of person who doesn't want a DIY wedding? What if the idea of making your own decorations makes you break out in a nervous sweat just thinking about it? OR, what if you've already got the DIY thing maxed out, but you still need ideas to get the budget beast under control?

Fear not! You can still save some serious cash with my budget-friendly tips below…

Saving on the package deal

Most wedding vendors offer packages. Look closely, and you'll likely notice that the package includes a discount — sometimes big ones. If an offered package doesn't exactly fit your needs, you're better off asking to customize the package as opposed to building your own from scratch, since that discount will likely still be there.

Saving on wedding dresses

  • Trunk shows can offer special discounts on designer gowns.
  • Many wedding shows have sample sales at steep discounts.
  • Check local second-hand or consignment shops.
  • Online retailers like IGIGI, Dolly Couture, Sydney's Closet, ModCloth, Lord and Taylor, Free People, and BHLDN all offer great lower-cost options!
  • David's Bridal — it isn't for everyone, but sometimes you just can't beat the deals.
  • Many bridesmaid and prom dresses are just as pretty as wedding gowns, and cost less for similar styles.
  • Have a dress made just for you. This can actually be cheaper than buying off the rack.
  • Find a dress that fits well already to keep alterations at a minimum. If you go “train-free,” you don't have to worry about a bustle.
  • Check local stores during sundress season to see if something pretty pops up.
  • Go short. Less material = less cost.

Saving on the wedding pants

  • When renting tuxes, often one tux is free if you rent a certain number for the day. Check with the rental company. Also, most people won't notice if you rent the fancy tux, so stick with the cheaper options.
  • For something you'll own and get more use out of, go for a suit. Look for good sales, or consider places like K&G or Burlington Coat Factory.
  • Skip the jacket, and simply wear black slacks, a dress shirt, and a black tie for a casual/cool almost formal look.
  • Khakis and a nice shirt are a great way to dial back the formality, especially for beachy or nautical-themed weddings. Jeans and cowboy boots are a cool option for all those trendy rustic chic weddings, too!

Saving on the catering bill

  • Does one of your favorite restaurants offer catering? These will often be lower-cost options than caterers that specialize in fancy wedding meals.
  • Think alternative. We had a couple recently that catered with gourmet pizza. It. Was. Awesome.
  • Food trucks are in the same category — unusual food, great creative presentation, and so much fun in addition to saving money. Who doesn't love that?
  • Did you know that most caterers charge a cake cutting fee? With cupcakes, there's usually no fee. And cupcakes can even cost less than a “serving” of wedding cake, too.
  • Have your friends and family toast with whatever is in their glasses instead of champagne, and you'll also skip out on pour fees, the cost of the booze, and potential corking fees as well!

Saving on the venue

  • Some venues include items you would otherwise need to rent (from tables and chairs, to linens, decor, and even china). So it is always a good idea to do a full cost comparison to see what you're getting.
  • Some local parks allow you to rent out certain areas for weddings.
  • Local community centers are often less expensive than “wedding venues,” and often still include the tables and chairs.
  • Consider a weekday wedding, or a wedding during the late fall or early spring. You'll probably get a better rate than you will on weekends or during the summer or holidays.
  • Sometimes you can rent out restaurants (or their banquet rooms) for nothing more than a food/drink minimum.
  • Getting married at your church? You can look into whether they have a reception space you'd be interested in using.

Saving on decor

  • Recycle. One of the easiest ways to save money is to re-use your ceremony decor during the reception. Bouquets and aisle and altar flowers can easily be re-purposed if you're careful with design. You can also buy decor that you can use in your home after the wedding.
  • If you can donate your decor to a non-profit after your big day, it's a tax write off. No immediate savings here, but you will see some come tax time.
  • Think outside the box. If you're using a regular florist, incorporate lots of greenery and in-season flowers to cut the bill down.
  • Also, if you're thoughtful with your venue choice, you may not need a lot of decor at all.

Consider your guest list

Consider cutting down your guest list. Each person you don't invite is one fewer person you pay the caterer for, one less place setting to rent, one less chair to rent.

Consider spending money to save money

photography: Melissa Miksch Photography

What are YOUR favorite budget-saving wedding ideas?

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Comments on Package deals, tax write-offs, and pants: Save money on your wedding without the DIY headaches

  1. all good advice, and I especially like the last tip: •Hire a great photographer: This may not save you money, but an experienced wedding photographer can take beautiful photos of even the most frugal events and make it look like a million bucks.
    I have seen some very unadorned weddings on OBB that look amazing because of a talented photographer.

  2. I would also add -resell decorations and/or buy decorations on Craigslist or similar. I got all my pillar vases on CL, and will be able to resell at cost.

  3. One thing to note about Free People. Their dresses go out of stock fast. Also, they change up their stock each season.

    So if you see something, grab it quick!

  4. Here’s a fun one: skip paying for a limo or other fancy ride and hit up someone (who is coming from nearby) for a lift. Anyone would be excited to have one (or both) of the happy couple along for the ride. My parents were SO excited to drive me to my wedding, they are much more reliable than paid drivers, and I saved a lot of $$.

    Or how about: The wedding I was in this summer, the bridal party took public transit to the wedding. The photos were amazing and, again, saved a tonne of money.

  5. Ask your caterer about any additional service fees or mandatory gratuities not included in your per head fee for servers. We just got nailed with an unexpected $900 service fee because no one mentioned it to us through the entire process. Yes it makes sense to pay for servers (and yes they deserve tips) but it wasn’t something we had budgeted for because we didnt know it wasnt already included and now we’re scrambling to pay it. Know EXACTLY ALL fees up front.

    • Ouch! I loved my caterer (the food was amazing), but they decided to help out the bartenders we had putting our champagne together for the toast. On the day of I was all “Oh, that was super nice!”. Then they charged us for the pour fee…. that they weren’t contracted for. *smh*

  6. also, a great source for simple suits at a very reasonable price – their selection is somewhat limited, but you get a very decent quality suit with a ton of versatility for pretty cheap. plus they have a wedding deal for the groom’s suit free if you’ve got at least 6 suit-wearers.
    FH bought one for his residency interviews and will probably get another for the wedding.

  7. We passed on the champagne toast as well…not so much to save money on the actual booze, but because it would have cost money and been too much of a hassle to rent 130 champagne glasses!

  8. Depending on the baker cupcakes may not be cheaper than a full cake. There is just as much labor (and sometimes more) involved in making cupcakes as there is a basic wedding cake.

    On that note, please remember that while saving money is great, if you are getting custom services expect to pay a custom price. A hand made gown is not going to be as cheap as a knock off from China because you are (or at least you should be) paying your seamstress a fair wage.

    I guess I’m just saying to be aware of the human cost of “low cost” and to remember that your vendors are humans beings who have to make rent too. Artists and craftspeople are happy to work with your budget; but you should be aware of theirs as well.

    • Totally agree, though it seems to me that handmade dresses are often priced in the £100s, not the £1000s, making them cheaper than a lot of dresses in dedicated bridal stores. They are, of course, generally more expensive than off-the-rack dresses from a regular clothes shop, and I wouldn’t expect them not to be.

    • You make an excellent point about the fair wage side of things. As an artist myself, I totally agree with you. It really boils down to how intricate your “custom” item is, and what you’re trying to cut costs on. You’re also right about the cupcakes – it really depends on what you’re shopping for. It is just my general experience that a bunch of cupcakes with basic buttercream and minimal decorations is a much cheaper option that a fondant and sugar covered cake. And they usually taste better, too. lol But yeah, always a good idea to do the cost comparisons for sure!

  9. When renting tuxes, often one tux is free if you rent a certain number for the day. Check with the rental company. Also, most people won’t notice if you rent the fancy tux, so stick with the cheaper options. — a hundred times this. My other is in a wedding next month and he’s paying neatly $250 after taxes to rent a tux. Because the tag in the jacket is a wedding designer. I looked at it… And really, it’s just a tux jacket, nothing special.

  10. I have one- wedding pie! We’re getting a dozen pies instead of a cake, and it costs about $400 total including delivery for all of them from a nice local bakery. Saved several hundred at least (I think the median in my area was $700 for a traditional wedding cake, but I think it depends on how big- I’m in an expensive DC suburb).

    And yes, custom can totally cost less than off-the-rack, or the same for higher quality. For example, my dress is going to add up to $1,400 because I splurged, but it’s a bespoke, custom-fit (in person, not just measurements) steel-boned silk corset and 100% silk skirt to match. That’s for the price of the top-end of David’s Bridal (polyester, and not including fitting costs which add up there) or a very simple dress at a fancy wedding salon.

  11. Skip the favors! Seriously, no one will notice. And most people don’t want to have to carry favors to their hotels or in their luggage home. Many guests miss them on the way out anyways, and you’re left with a table of candles/olive oil/champagne glasses/frames.

    I can’t remember one wedding favor that I kept or use today. The one-off mugs or custom items with your names are cute on the day, but I will be donating to Goodwill when I clean out the cabinet next year. Save your money!

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