When Morinda Birkl gets married in October, she won’t be carrying a bouquet. There will be no bridal party, and her wedding reception won’t feature a DJ.
Birkl, 29, and her fiance decided to skip these wedding traditions to save money. It’s the second wedding for both, which she says helped them prioritize their spending.
“Looking back on our previous weddings, we can think about what was a waste of money,” she says. “We sat with each other and talked about ‘Where do we really want to focus our finances? What can we live without?’”
Turns out, they can live without a lot. They plan to spend $5,000, including the dress. That’s a fraction of the national average, which rings in at nearly $33,400, according to an annual survey by The Knot.
Breaking with tradition doesn’t just help cut costs, though. Doing something unexpected can make your wedding feel fresh and personal. Here are a few ways to make your wedding your own, and pocket a little savings in the process.
Note: We used The Knot’s annual Real Weddings Study to determine potential savings. The amounts listed are the average amounts spent on each category nationwide, according to the survey.
1. Skip the bouquets
Potential savings: $2,379
“Controversial opinion alert — not every wedding needs flowers,” says Lauren Goldberg, founder of Electric Celebrations, a wedding planning company in Brooklyn, New York.
Flowers are expensive, and they may not jibe with your wedding vibe, Goldberg says, so try something that does.
“I’ve designed tables using everything from sentimental items picked up during the couple’s travels to beautifully arranged fruits to specially chosen vinyl records and liner notes,” she says.
But what will you do with your hands if you don’t have a bouquet? Don’t panic. You can hold the arm of whoever walks you down the aisle to start, and cling to your newly minted spouse as you exit.
2. Ditch the DJ
Potential savings: $1,231
You don’t need a DJ to have a killer dance party. Instead, curate a playlist combining guaranteed crowd pleasers with your favorite tunes. Just make sure your venue has a sound system that you can hook an iPod or laptop into, and designate a reliable friend or family member to man the playlist.
3. Cut the cake
Potential savings: $540
There’s no rule that says you must have cake at your wedding. Serve your favorite sweet treat instead. Doughnuts, cookies, cobbler, ice cream — the possibilities are endless.
Tyler Bookman served cheesecake pops from a favorite restaurant at her June 2017 wedding in Glen Allen, Virginia. She spent around $200 and had leftover pops to enjoy after the wedding.
Thinking outside the box for dessert can save you more than just cake costs. Some venues charge a cake-cutting fee, and you don’t need to buy an expensive cake topper or server.
4. Opt for e-vites
Potential savings: $408
Electronic invitations aren’t just environmentally friendly, they’re also budget friendly. Joy, a wedding website, lets you send save-the-dates and invitations for free, and it makes tracking RSVPs a breeze. You can take paperless a step further and eliminate menu cards and wedding programs, which guests often throw away or leave behind after the ceremony.
5. Nix the favors
Potential savings: $252
First, wedding favors aren’t actually traditional. Second, most of your guests will forget to take one, leaving you stuck with a box full of personalized can holders. “In retrospect, I would eighty-six the koozies,” Bookman says. “I bought 150 and I still have so many left.”
Tips for managing expectations
Breaking with tradition on your wedding day isn’t always easy.
“Family and friends are always going to push back,” says Catherine Clark, senior editor of wedding website Offbeat Bride. “It makes sense; they care about your day and want everything to be perfect.”
Visuals can help calm fears, says Clark, who suggests showing concerned parties pictures of your inspiration to illustrate how beautifully it can turn out. Explaining your “why” can also help — whether it’s money, space or personal preference. A huge guest list might be an anxiety trigger for an introvert, for example.
And take comfort in the fact that most guests won’t remember what you didn’t do or didn’t have, Clark says. “When it comes down to it, your guests are probably going to remember the food and entertainment.”