You’re finally engaged—now the wedding planning begins! One of the first things you should do together is set your budget. It’s a good idea to lay out all of your wants and desires for your big day, and then figure out how much it’s going to cost.
Of course, there are some areas that are worth the extra splurge and other areas where you can save money or skip altogether. Check out our list of the best (and worst) wedding investments for your money.
We can’t stress this enough—your photographer and/or videographer is your most important expense and worth your investment. Why? Because it’s one of the only things left after the wedding is over.
The moments that are captured on your wedding day will be something you look back on for years to come and you want to make sure you choose a quality photographer behind the lens. That means finding someone that has skill, talent, experience and professionalism. Trust us, you don’t want to regret not having the photographs you truly wanted because you couldn’t trust or communicate with your photographer on the day.
Another major investment that is worth every penny is a dedicated wedding planner and/or coordinator for your big day. A wedding planner will help you plan your wedding step by step from the very beginning and can even help you find and communicate with key vendors. A wedding coordinator helps execute all of your wedding day wishes on the day as smoothly as possible.
Some brides choose a family member or friend to help with these tasks, but we highly encourage hiring someone instead. That way your loved ones can enjoy your wedding day instead of being hired help. Plus, a planner or coordinator may have experience dealing with stressful situations or issues, if any arise, and can make adjustments without bothering the bride with the details.
You may not remember your centerpieces or who sat at which table, but you’ll always remember where you got married. It’s an investment of your wallet and your heart, so pick a venue that’s special and meaningful to you and your future spouse.
Since this is a once-in-a-lifetime event, it’s worth the splurge to say “I do” in a place that fits all your wants and needs. Before booking a venue, ask yourself these questions:
Do you want an indoor or outdoor ceremony and reception?
How many guests can the venue hold for the ceremony and reception?
Will your guests be able to access the venue easily? (Consider the terrain and distance to the ceremony and is it wheelchair-friendly?)
Do you want a religious ceremony? (Some religions are strict on where the wedding is located)
Do you want a venue with historical or ancestral significance?
One of the top things your guests will remember is your wedding food. They may not remember exactly what you served, but they’ll remember if it was good or not.
You definitely want to focus on quality over quantity and be sure you have enough food to serve, especially if you’re serving alcohol—you don’t want your guests drinking on an empty stomach. If you and your partner are foodies, we love the idea of a unique food item or experience like a buffet-style meal or a build-your-own taco bar. It’s definitely something your guests will talk about years later!
In the same vein as good food, a good band or DJ makes the world of a difference for your reception. Guests will remember if the music was jumping or a total bust. Plus, your entertainment really sets the tone for your reception. If nobody’s on the dance floor, guests are more likely to get bored and leave early.
We highly recommend doing your research ahead of time. Ask for referrals of weddings they’ve done in the past and ask for a sample playlist. It also helps if you figure out what type of songs you want and what type of energy you’re looking for before you meet the band or DJ.
The last thing that’s definitely worth the splurge is your honeymoon. After months of planning, you deserve an awesome vacation. Plus, you never know when you’ll have the money and vacation time to book a trip like this in the future, so enjoy it now!
The best part is you can plan whatever you want within your budget—whether you’re relaxing on a beach or cruise ship, or exploring a national park or major city. Find a location and book activities that both you and your spouse will enjoy together. You won’t regret spending your money on a trip of a lifetime.
Now that you know what’s worth your money for your big day, let’s dive into the areas you can scale back on or skip altogether. One of the biggest ways to save money is to skip the expensive stationary like save-the-dates and invitations. It may be a beautiful way to announce your engagement and wedding, but the save-the-date will sit on the fridge and eventually get tossed and the invites will most likely be viewed once and sent back in the mail through an RSVP card. Plus, the cost of stamps alone can add up if you’re inviting hundreds of guests. Either choose a simple invitation suite or save money by having your guests RSVP on your wedding website.
In the same category, other paper goods like custom napkins, menu cards, programs and bar signs will serve their purpose for a short while and get thrown away at the end of the night. We love the personal touch, but it’s not worth investing a ton of money. If you still want to add some flair, use eco-friendly signs that can be reused in your home like a mirror, window pane or chalkboard sign for your programs and menus.
We love small details throughout a wedding, but skip the elaborate centerpieces and decor. Most guests won’t remember what was sitting on their table all night or what color the tablecloths were. To be honest, you may not even remember what you chose at the end of the day. Plus, someone has to clean up and take home all of those little decor items when the wedding is over. It’s just not worth the money or hassle, especially if you’ll never use the items again.
Instead of decorating the entire venue, pick a few focal points that matter the most to you—whether it’s your sweetheart table or the entrance to your reception space. It’ll make a bigger impact to highlight a few spots and do it well and it’ll save you money in the long run.
This ties into the decor/centerpiece discussion above—don’t overdo it with the flowers. Flowers are beautiful and can really make the space look amazing, but it can be such a waste at the end of the night. Brides will choose to either throw them away or beg family and friends to take them home. Even if you choose to donate your flowers, it’s someone’s responsibility to have them picked up and delivered. It may be more of a headache than it’s worth.
The one area that’s worth the splurge on flowers is your bouquet. You’ll be photographed holding them throughout the day and it’s sentimental, especially if you choose to preserve your bouquet after the wedding.
Let’s face it, wedding favors can be pointless. It’s a nice gesture to want to thank your guests with a small token of appreciation, but most wedding favors are either left behind or thrown away. If you’re keen on having favors, choose something edible and leave it on their plate on the table so your guests don’t forget to take them.
Another alternative is to skip favors altogether and spend your money on memory-makers instead like a photo booth where guests can keep a photo from your big day. Your guests are less likely to leave their photo behind compared to another monogrammed drink koozie they don’t need.
Many people love the idea of a champagne toast to add a touch of class to their reception, but it’s really not worth your money. Guests will typically toast with a beverage from the bar like a glass of wine or beer. If they do take a glass of champagne, they may take a sip or two and then move on. Plus, any opened bottles that aren’t finished have to be pitched and most unopened bottles can’t be returned if they’ve been sitting on ice all night. You also have the added expense of providing throw-away plastic champagne flutes or renting glassware—another wasteful expense either way.
This final topic can go either way, but if you’re really keen on deciding what’s worth your investment then don’t buy a new wedding dress. Don’t get us wrong, this is a once-in-a-lifetime moment for you and your future spouse, but when the day is done that expensive gown will likely never be worn again. It will probably sit in a lovely preserved box for years until you pass it onto your daughter or granddaughter (if she even wants it) or you finally sell or donate it. The same can be said if you buy your husband’s suit or tux, although he may get more use out of it if you attend a lot of formal or semi-formal events.
As an alternative, you can either buy a pre-owned wedding dress or even rent one. There are tons of websites where you can shop online for the perfect gown (including ours!) at a fraction of the price. You may be able to afford something from your favorite designer that you normally wouldn’t have if you’d bought it new. Check out some of our stunning pre-owned wedding gown options for sale here.
Ultimately, it’s up to you and your spouse to determine what’s worth your time and money for your wedding, so be sure to spend it on something you’ll be happy with in the end.