Let’s be real with each other — our Pinterest boards are amazing and aesthetic. But once we get that diamond on our finger, it doesn’t take long to realize those perfectly crafted mood boards do not result in a budget-friendly wedding for the average bride.
Did you know that the average investment couples spend on their wedding is over $44,000?! That’s a real pretty down-payment on a home. Heck, that’s enough to buy a car in cash — a really, really nice car! And there are plenty of couples that spend well over that.
Now before you throw your hands in the air and start your elopement plans, hear me out. There are lots of practical ways to stay within a reasonable budget while still having that dream wedding that Pinterest has so deviously tempted you with. It may not be exactly like your perfect board, but it will be uniquely yours and close enough to make it a day to remember for you and your guests.
I want to preface these tips with this: I am that girl. I have a very specific vision for my wedding day… and I am not even close to being engaged! 80% of engaged Pinterest users started planning their wedding on Pinterest before they even had a ring, so you and I far from being alone in this category.
It’s all about prioritization. If you care about hosting one heck of a party at your reception, splurge on the DJ and catering and save on the ceremony details and maybe resist opting for the Badgley Mischka shoes. With that principle in mind, let’s dive in and start planning your Pinterest-worthy, budget-friendly wedding.
The average cost-per-guest in 2017 rose to $268, according to a study released by The Knot. Of course, your cost-per-guest will vary due to a number of factors: catering cost, venue capacity, # of rental chairs/tables you’ll need to accommodate everyone, wedding favors, etc. But because so many wedding planning factors depend on the number of guests you are expecting, the easiest budgeting tip starts with narrowing down that long list.
Wedding guest lists often present couples with the predicament of walking the fine line of obligation vs. relational priority. Your mom’s favorite second-cousin-twice-removed may be making space a little tight for inviting your childhood best friend’s on-again-off-again boyfriend.
A lot of people struggle in this area. A lot of brides/grooms struggle with being people pleasers, wanting to just include everyone so nobody gets their feelings hurt. But you have to remember this is your wedding, your most important day, and your wallet we’re talking about (or maybe your parents’ wallets too).
It’s important to prioritize who you most want to see attend your wedding, and whose presence you think would make little or no impact on it being the best day of your life. There are lots of guest list funnel exercises out there! Go through a few of them to narrow down that list, and you will see your budget (and your people-pleasing anxiety) free up exponentially.
That custom watercolor venue painting would look so amazing on your Save the Dates. And I totally understand the temptation to commission the design of a personal monogram to project on the dance floor. But for the budget-friendly wedding, these expenses add up fast.
And I bet you, or people you know, are more handy at DIY than you think! I once second shot for a wedding where the bride and her friends basically DIY’ed the entire wedding — and it was absolutely beautiful! With enough imagination, creativity, and help, it can be done.
But if you are not the artsy-fartsy type, don’t be afraid to put your vendors through a similar elimination process as your guests. What elements mean the most to you at the end of your wedding day? Photography? Videography? Ease-of-mind (that is to say, having a wedding coordinator stress about the details for you)? Impressive floral / decorative displays? Delicious food? Again, this is your day! Only you can answer those questions.
And once you decide on what services you value most on your dream day, find the vendors that you trust the most to execute that vision, using the money you saved eliminating less important aspects to hire the right people.
Pinterest has done a great job putting elaborate florals at the forefront of all our search queries. Don’t believe me? Go to Pinterest and type in: wedding inspo. Guaranteed at least half of your results will be floral- or foliage-focused.
But fresh flowers are P-R-I-C-E-Y! Having flowers everywhere your guests turn is a quick way to give up on that budget-friendly wedding you really need. But the good news is, you don’t have to have luscious greens and decadent blooms crowding every inch of your venue in order to have beautiful decor.
As a photographer, I can say from first hand experience that the most photographed floral arrangement will always be your bridal bouquet. Second most is maybe your bridesmaids’ bouquets, with reception centerpieces being a close contender (though not necessarily).
What I mean to say is that there are a lot of alternatives out there! Get yourself a beautiful bridal bouquet, but don’t be afraid to skimp a little more on the bridesmaids or decor.
For example, when my sister got married, she chose baby’s breath bouquets for her bridal party. Nothing more. It was super affordable! And we hardly had to those bouquets in the photos anyway, so we were happy we saved our money!
Centerpieces don’t HAVE to be floral either. Do some searching for alternative table decor!
But if you are the bride that does have a need for lots of foliage everywhere, here is one tip I suggest: choose your florals based on season. Out-of-season florals will cost you a prettier penny than those in-season. Plus, it will make much more sense visually to choose blooms that represent the season & location you got married in (hibiscus bouquets at a ski-resort venue in the wintertime presents a bit of a disconnect).
#WeddingSZN, amirite?? Block off your Saturdays in June early, because they are bound to be days spent at a friend’s wedding. Vendors and venues have caught on that the high demand on summer-Saturdays are a great opportunity for spiking booking costs to carry them through the slow seasons.
For this reason, consider what months of the year and days of the week would present an opportunity to have that beautiful budget-friendly wedding! Sometimes this is heavily dependent on your locale, so do some research here. But typically winter and early spring weddings are much cheaper than summer and fall, and Fridays and Sundays are often much more cost efficient than Saturday weddings!
I’ve often felt an obligation to my younger self to make past-Emily’s dreams come true in my present. To illustrate this better:
I moved to Washington, D.C. two years ago. It was my first big-girl move since college. I had been dreaming of moving out and being an adult since my Freshman year, and in turn created a fun Pinterest board full of home decor and apartment wishlist items for that first opportunity in a new city.
But then it actually happened. I rented my first big girl apartment and had a blank canvas in front of me 4 years later. And looking to my Pinterest board, determined to make Freshman-Em proud, I realized none of my ideas were feasible, even in my brand new, spacious one-bedroom condominium. (Not to mention, I couldn’t afford half of my ideas).
At first I was disappointed, but when I actually started filling out my new home, I fell in love with the new space I was creating. And I’m still living there, loving my cozy little representation of the “me” I am today!
The reality is that, for many of us girls, a lot of our wedding planning, dreaming, and pinning was done long before we met our future husband. Tastes can change, trends come and go, and our relationship with that one special person might be vastly different (and way better) than we ever expected. It may no longer make any sense to plan the kind of wedding you were planning at 16 now that you’re 25.
Either it isn’t logistically realistic, or that kind of wedding doesn’t properly represent your unique relationship with your groom. It’s ok to let old dreams go and create new ones. You’re not letting little-you down, you’re making future-you proud!
Don’t be afraid to start over, and invite your new fiancé into the process with you. Embrace this fun opportunity to explore your relationship in a new way, plan a beautiful budget-friendly wedding, and remember what this day is really about.
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Wedding days can be stressful, but they don't have to be. One of the number one causes of wedding day stress is a disorganized, tight timeline. In this guide, I'm sharing a sample wedding day timeline I use to craft all my brides' wedding day timelines, as well as diving into some pro tips only a photographer might know.