If you’re like most couples, when figuring out the steps to plan a wedding, you are always looking for smart and effective ways to keep wedding costs affordable. It seems impossible with the overwhelming amount of flowers, wedding gowns, centerpieces,  wedding ideas and decor options available with a click of a button.

The glorious, glorious wonders of Pinterest, countless blogs, magazines and Instagram have single handedly raised the bar for weddings and social celebrations everywhere. And thank goodness!! After being in the wedding industry for over 26 seasons, one can safely say long gone are the days in which an event planner would have to spend countless hours trying to convince a couple getting married to rent floor length linens, or use any color other than white in her decor scheme; simply because it was all included in some hotel “wedding package”.

Shiny sparkling sequin linens, colorful glass beaded chargers, chic reception chairs, and amazing food. Oh the delicious indulgences. Hors d’oeuvres passed on trays served in mini tasting spoons to handcrafted signature cocktails, amazing entrees to desserts. Now go ahead and factor in setting the mood with lighting, fabulous flowers, and finally all those family and friends who you’ve invited to witness the joyous occasion. You’ll soon discover that the costs add up quickly, very, very, quickly. What couples don’t realize is that all of those elaborate elements you want to add in your wedding shopping cart cost money, and lots of it. And this is why weddings are expensive AF.

Good news: now you can learn to tackle expensive weddings and keep costs affordable by following these 8 wedding tips:

  1. Table Decor: Use patterned linens if table décor is lacking.
  2. Wedding Venue: Host your reception at a restaurant.
  3. Select a hosted bar vs. an open bar.
  4. Avoid the “Why rent when you can buy.
  5. Some wedding myths are just that, myths.
  6. Reduce your guest list.
  7. You don’t know what you don’t know, go consult a wedding pro
  8. Understand who is in charge of what.

stick·er shock n. NORTH AMERICAN informal – astonishment and dismay experienced on being informed of a product’s unexpectedly high price. Let’s take a deep dive and look at each of these tips for planning a wedding in a little more detail…

Tip 1: Wedding Decor for Tables – If guest table top décor is sparse, use patterned linens.

This first trick is pretty simple, affordable, and used by seasoned wedding planners everywhere. It can save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, with your wedding decoration expenses. 

A lot of couples tend to end up with extra space (or what the pros like to call real estate) due to lack of that expensive wedding decor. 

If the cost of all the things for table decor – candles, florals, decorative plate settings, upgraded glassware, etc., make you want to pass out when reading the decor proposal from the rental company, then you should select a linen with a print, texture, or pattern instead of a solid color.You want to be sure your guests are focusing on all the decor that is at your wedding reception rather than what is not. A busier linen with a fun flare will break up the negative space and draw the focus to the patterned design, giving the illusion of a fuller table.

Tip 2: Wedding Venue Selection-Consider hosting your reception at a restaurant.

Yes, hosting the reception at a beautiful hotel or unique space is the ultimate dream. However, if you have a modest budget or a smaller guest list, instead of Googling “Wedding Venues Near Me” consider a restaurant as a fantastic option for a venue. Restaurants are built to be beautiful, located in a convenient location and employ some top notch chefs who can create amazing cuisine. They are affordable, designed beautifully, and typically don’t charge a rental fee – only requirement is for you to spend a minimum for food and beverage. As a bonus, the meal cost per guest is typically much more affordable than a hotel plus tables, chairs, linens, servers, and bartenders are included in the price.

Tip 3: Reception Bar – Opt for a hosted bar vs. an open bar.

Are you wondering how much is an open bar at weddings? A bit of wedding planning education for you first. 

To utilize this tip, you first need to understand the difference between a hosted bar and an open bar. 

If you opt to have a “hosted bar”, this means you are paying for beer, wine, cocktails and non-alcoholic beverages based on actual consumption only. First they ring then they bring. That means you are charged for each drink (around $4-$8) your guests order and not a flat fee. 

While an “open bar” sounds sexy and appealing, you often end up overspending on your wedding bar package which makes this option more expensive.

Here are some other differences: An open bar package works by charging you a flat fee for your guests regardless of how many bottles of beer, glasses of wine, signature cocktails or non-alcoholic beverages each person consumes. Typically, this amount has a very high average (around $50-$100 pp). 

I’m sure I know what you’re thinking,  that your guests will leave you with a hefty bar tab but the secret is you are able to set a limit on how much you would like to spend. If you do not wish to exceed a certain amount for alcohol, you can decide to set a limit for the tab. The bartender will then charge for individual drinks. Your guests will appreciate the complimentary beverages, but can decide to continue drinking on their own tab if they would like. 

To understand the difference, do the math:

If you have 100 guests and everyone has 3 cocktails at $8 each this could cost you about $2,400

If you have 100 guests and your open bar package is $50 this could cost you about $5,000

Tip 4: Avoid the Wedding Planning Myths Like “Why rent, when you can buy?”

One word of warning: This is one of the oldest sales tactics out there aimed at brides who are anxious about the next steps and are not  familiar with planning  a wedding. We’ve all seen it in big neon letters flashing WEDDING DECOR SALE on a million websites and in your favorite craft stores. Sure, it might seem logical to buy at first but then you have to consider how many pieces of one item do I really need. Yes, you can buy hundreds of candles, tons of glass cylinders and vases to showcase florals,  but what will you do with it all afterwards? Not much, unless you plan on being a professional caterer. Of course you can sell it, but have you considered going through the hassle of listing each item and looking for a buyer? Plus, chances are whoever buys the items from you will not pay full price despite the fact that it’s only been used once.  Do yourself a favor, rent your wedding decor unless you have storage and plan on entertaining hundreds of guests at home.

Tip 5: Understanding why certain wedding myths exist.

When you hear about a wedding planning tactic and it sounds too good to be true, you wonder why no one else has done it. Well, keep wondering.  

On most occasions, wedding magazines are more concerned with grabbing your attention than providing facts. Do your homework before you start spending and signing on the dotted line.

Tip 6: Make your guest list more intimate.

This is single handedly the most cost effective way to save your budget. For every person you invite, you are going to need to add on another chair, plate of food, beverage, glass, silverware, napkin, favor, invitation etc.. the list goes on. Keeping your list to an intimate number will no doubt help free up some of your budget.

Tip 7: Consult a wedding planner or virtual wedding planning coach.

Do you know how much geometry and math is involved? It also helps to be familiar with legal contracts, interior design, psychology, horticulture, rentals, food, beer, wine pairing and mixology. I love bridal tv shows but watching them in order to prepare for planning your wedding is like watching Grey’s Anatomy to prepare to be a surgeon so you can operate on yourself, for the first time [solo].

Tip 8: Understand who is in charge of what.

Wedding planners are like a personal shopper and a personal assistant (for your wedding) all in one. You give them your idea of your perfect wedding and your budget, and they use their resources to make it happen in a snap! They get their couples special discounts, proprietary treatment from wedding vendors and creative partners, insider perks and lots of free stuff too. A lot of couples believe wedding planners are not a necessity but simply an added cost to their budget. But a seasoned planner can save you so much money and protect you from overpaying! There’s a good chance you will save more than what you’ve paid as their fee. Oftentimes when couples look back, they say “We would pay double the fee for our planner”. A couple’s  best friend.

Overcoming your wedding budget shock in a nutshell.

Whether you have a modest budget or you are planning a luxury six-figure soiree, every couple is seriously surprised when the proposals start rolling in and the budget calculator starts adding up.  Cha-ching! Keep your chin up and don’t get discouraged if the “dream” wedding you envisioned costs much more than you expected.  Adding all your wants and needs together with a hefty guest list may  cost you more than anticipated, but with this new knowledge you will be able to better navigate your planning decisions and bring your vision to life within your budget!

Now there’s just one thing left for you to do – take action! 

Which wedding price tag shocked you the most?