Before you start planning, it's hard to imagine that the average wedding costs more than $27,000. Once you realize how quickly things begin to add up, though, you're going to become a cost-conscious queen. But beware: Not all of the money-saving tricks you've heard are true. Do the seasons really affect flower prices? Are buffets actually budget-friendly? We separate the fiscal fact from fiction so you can save (and celebrate) smartly.
Myth: Go seasonal to save
"It's true that flowers that are in-season and available locally will generally be more cost-effective than importing that same variety,"says Liza Roeser Atwood of FiftyFlowers.com, a wholesale floral company. "However,"she adds (and this is where the myth part comes in), "some varieties are grown year-round on commercial flower farms near the equator, so their costs don't fluctuate. One could say that those flowers are never out-of-season."But it still comes down to availability. Sunflowers, for example, can be imported from farms in South America year-round, so prices stay constant. Peonies, on the other hand, have to be chased around the globe from season to season. This limited availability is what drives prices up.
Instead Opt for look-alike blossoms. If your favorite blooms won't be in-season for your wedding, ask your florist about similar blooms that will. For example, garden roses have a similar look to peonies, but they're often a more cost-effective option, as they're more easily sourced year-round.
Myth: Backyard equals budget
When a certain Facebook CEO got married in his backyard earlier this year, Forbes lauded him for hosting a "resolutely low-key affair."But by low-key, they didn't mean low-cost. "One of the biggest misconceptions is that you can wed at home for less,"says Andrea Correale, celebrity caterer and owner of Elegant Affairs. "It can cost three times as much as renting a venue."Sure, there's no site-rental fee, but you'll have to factor in a laundry list of other expenses, such as porta-potties, catering trucks, a tent, tables and chairs.
Instead Investigate an all-inclusive wedding venue. These have-it-all event spaces come fully equipped with tables, chairs, dinnerware and linens, so you don't have to worry about pricey rentals, including tents, which may not even be necessary. Plus, all-inclusive venues often bundle their amenities into wedding packages that cost less than if you were to pay for everything à la carte, and that can add up to hundreds of dollars or more in savings.
Myth: A destination wedding will save you big
"Destination"doesn't always mean "deal."Last year, destination duos spent nearly the same as the national average for a wedding (not including the honeymoon or engagement ring) -- about $20,890, compared with $21,891. Destination weddings can mean savings if the travel required trims your guest list (your biggest expense) significantly. But if all your friends are on board for a weekend in Turks and Caicos, those savings can quickly disappear once you factor in the added costs of planning trips, airfare, hotels and importing décor and vendors.
Instead You can still venture away from home, but skip the high prices of the peak season and book for the shoulder season (just after high season) to save yourself (and your guests) money. Keep in mind: The further you go into the off-season, the lower the prices will be, but the weather can be iffy, and you may find that stores, venues and vendors close up shop.
Myth: Buffet is budget-friendly
Correale warns that skipping a sit-down dinner in favor of a buffet or food stations will not save you money. "You have more tables, more linens, and people will eat for longer,"she says. Unlike taco night at the college cafeteria, a wedding buffet can't look picked-over after the last guest has been served. So your caterer actually has to order more food than they would for a plated dinner, where portions are controlled, which adds up to extra costs.
Instead If you really want to save on catering, embrace the idea of brunch and consider celebrating when the sun is still up. While a sit-down dinner can run anywhere from $75 to $200 or more a head, the average brunch costs $61 per person or less, depending on your venue. Even if you offer an open bar, you're still likely to save on a morning reception, since most people tend to drink less during the daytime. Also, many vendors will cut you a deal for hosting your celebration during nonpeak times. And finally, early birds can save on entertainment: A 12-piece band or DJ blasting dance hits might be a bit much at 11 a.m.
Myth: Cupcakes cut costs
While cupcakes can be a fun alternative to a wedding cake, they're not necessarily a more economical one. Each cupcake has to be individually decorated, which means you'll need more pricey sugar appliqués and often just as much of the baker's time and effort.
Instead Use the "sheet cake trick."Many bakeries charge $4 or more per slice for a decorated, tiered cake, with fancier confections costing upwards of $2,000 total. However, those same bakeries may only charge $100 for a sheet cake that serves 100 guests -- or $1 a slice. To take advantage of this savings without losing your photo op, order a smaller "cutting cake"for you two and then a sheet cake to feed the rest. Or order a Styrofoam model covered in icing with an edible top tier. When the cake is wheeled to the back to be plated, no one will realize you're pulling the old switcheroo.
Myth: You'll save online
While deals on designer wedding gowns are now just a few clicks away, like with handbags, counterfeit wedding dresses abound online. Even if you purchase a gown from a certified retailer, you'll have to pay extra for shipping and tailoring. And if the store doesn't accept returns, you could wind up having to pay for two gowns if you don't end up loving the dress once you see it and try it on in person.
Instead Take your hunt offline. Brick-and-mortar bridal salons still have their advantages, including saving you time (and often money) by offering everything in one place, including certified authentic gowns. (Plus, you get to have the fun of trying on all those gorgeous dresses!) Many salons offer discounted or free alterations with the purchase of your dress. Considering that simple adjustments can add up -- a bustle here ($30), a take-in there ($50) and a hem ($115 for lace) -- that could save you hundreds.
Learn more wedding budget tricks at TheKnot.com/budget
Budget Wedding Ideas
Wedding Planning Basics