How I’m Saving Over $16,000 on My Wedding by Rethinking This One Thing

Wedding Traditions I'm Skipping

Earlier this week I came across this post on the wedding traditions people skipped. The comments were addicting. I’ll play along, I thought, mentally making a list of conventions my fiancé and I are doing without. But then the list started to get long, so I thought, why AM I deciding to forgo all these traditions?

So here’s a fun weekend post because:

A. My fingers hurt from all the typing I did for Wednesday’s post.
B. Come on, who doesn’t like to creep on other people’s weddings?

If you’re expecting a list of tactics on how to make your wedding cheaper, well, this post will disappoint you. Because you already know the ways to make your wedding cheaper. And my set of priorities aren’t the same as yours. Like, everyone, EVERYONE, tells you that no one cares about flowers, and you should just get them from Costco and do them yourself. And yet, flowers are one of my biggest wedding expenses yet!

Come on, guys, look at all the pretty that can be had with flowers! Photo: @putnamflowers

So if not tactics, then what? The #1 way I’m saving money on my wedding is by changing how I think about things. In particular, how I’m rethinking the one T word. Yeah, that’s right.

Tradition.

The 12 Wedding Traditions I’m Skipping

1. No Engagement Ring

I did so much research and looked at so many rings I think I qualify as an amateur gemologist now. But at the end of the day, none of the jewelry really excited me, and I had a feeling that no ring ever would, so I told my fiancé, “Instead of settling just because, let’s just skip the engagement ring altogether.” We decided the wedding band was enough.
Estimated savings: $3,000

2. Not Inviting Every Family Member

We have only 32 guests, including us. Even though neither one of us has huge families, we still didn’t invite them all. People say that if you invite one aunt, you have to invite all the aunts. Well, to hell with that. For example, I invited one cousin, but not her two sisters because I barely talk to them. Basically, if we haven’t talked to someone in two years, then they weren’t invited. One of the main reasons why we have the luxury to do this is because we’re paying for the wedding ourselves, and so it’s much easier  to call the shots.
Estimated savings: $2,450

3. Daytime, Not Evening

Everyone expects weddings to happen in the evening. The more I researched other weddings, a pattern emerged. The ones that inspired me the most were mostly from the past, and were very simple. I loved the idea of doing something a little more old-fashioned and casual by setting the wedding during the day, which used to be the norm. Also, with a nighttime wedding, I feel like there’s more pressure to “entertain” and to “impress” guests. By choosing the daytime option, it’s already less formal, so those grander expectations are automatically kept in check.
Estimated savings: $4,000

4. An Off-the-Rack Dress

Maybe I’ve missed out on a fun experience, but I haven’t set foot in a bridal salon. As someone who mostly wears pants, spending a lot on a one-time dress made me queasy. Oh, and you can question your dress color, too, if you want. Wedding dresses used to be red! But it wasn’t until Queen Victoria chose white for her wedding dress that white became the iconic choice. I look gross in traditional white-white, so my dress is cream-colored, which is much more flattering on my skintone. I also thought a lavender dress would be super pretty, but sadly, a dress in that shade never turned up in my searches.
Estimated Savings: $1,000

5. E-mail Save the Dates

As we had a short engagement, our main goal with the Save the Dates was to get them out as soon as possible. Paperless Post e-mails were the ideal option for uscute designs AND speedy. Plus, we included a section in the e-mail so recipients could send us their mailing addresses. This eliminated having to hunt people down separately for their addresses for the actual invitations, which we undoubtedly would have had to do if we had gone the paper route. 10/10 would recommend.
Estimated Savings: $100

6. A Non-Wedding Cake

Call me naive, but I found out recently that most wedding cakes are partly FAKE, supported by a cardboard structure. I felt the same way I did when I found out that Santa Claus wasn’t real. Betrayed. I looked up a cake I liked, and the “wedding cake” version cost $750. But then I thought, why exactly does it have to be tiered again? It doesn’t. So we’re buying a few of the regular, single-tiered cakes instead.
Estimated savings: $500

7. No Wedding Party

Bridesmaids and groomsmen are yet another thing to coordinate and add stress. We also don’t have to deal with paying for outfits, additional flowers, hair, makeup and gifts. Also, I’m pretty sure my specific set of friends are secretly relieved about this decision because they just want to enjoy my wedding as guests.
Estimated savings: $1,000

8. Getting Ready Together at Home

At first I imagined my fiancé and I getting ready together a fancy hotel, and all the dreamy photos that would yield. After all, don’t we deserve to treat ourselves on our wedding day? But then I thought about our actual home. And how we might move someday. And wouldn’t we regret it more if we didn’t have pictures of us in the apartment we used to live in? The first one we shared? Even though our apartment isn’t as photogenic as a trendy hotel room. Even though our apartment isn’t as minimalist as I’d like it to be. Even though there are unsightly air conditioners installed in the windows right now. At-home pictures, it is.
Estimated savings: $700

9. The Wedding Is the Only Party You Need

Engagement parties, bridal showers, rehearsal dinners, day-after brunchesthe list of events is exhausting. I know traditionally that these events are covered by parents, but since we’re paying on our own, this would mean more expenses and more parties to coordinate. Damn, planning the wedding is hard enough! And for a casual wedding, all of these felt unnecessary for us. As for gifts, I generally don’t like receiving them, with a few exceptions.
Estimated savings: $1,500

10. No DJ

Because I’ve never been to a wedding where one was actually good. Plus, my fiancé and I like making joint Spotify playlists, so this is another fun project we can work on together.
Estimated savings: $500

11. No Wedding Planner

If you couldn’t tell already, I’m Type-A PLUS, so I’m planning everything myself, with some help from the fiancé. And with fewer events to coordinate, the task is infinitely easier. However, I’m not totally unrealistic. We’re paying for a day-of coordinator who will handle all the logistics the day of. Otherwise, I’d be spending my time managing instead of being present at my own wedding.
Estimated savings: $1,500

12. No Fancy Transportation

At first I had imagined renting a vintage car for day-of transportation, like an old Rolls Royce. But then, the more I thought about it, the more I had to be honest with myself: the only reason I wanted a vintage car was for the pictures, and not because I actually cared about arriving in a nice car. So, a regular Lyft ride would work just fine.
Estimated savings: $100

Total estimated savings: $16,350

Despite all the traditions we’re skipping, I don’t think this makes my wedding any less valid or festive than anyone else’s. And I don’t feel like I’m “doing without.” But I DO feel like we’re doing things our own way, and that’s empowering.

The Thing No One Tells You About Weddings

My wise friend once said: The thing that no one tells you about weddings is that you aren’t equipped to plan one on your own. Because most people only do it once or twice, the skills you learn mostly get wasted. So it’s easy to get overwhelmed and feel lost. Then you turn to websites for help. Maybe you go onto The Knot.com and grab a planning checklist. It feels productive, and you’ve got to start somewhere, right? But it’s also dangerous. Because let me tell you, I have that Knot.com checklist, and it tells me that by month 3 I should have booked my photo booth already. Like having a photo booth is a requirement. It’s understandable to think that all the items on the list are necessary components of a “nice” wedding. After all, how much of a failure would you feel like if you left all those boxes unchecked? Recognize that the checklist is simply a TEMPLATE, and that means you can cherry-pick what you want to do. You don’t have to do all the things. Really.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Yourself Questions

If you’re having trouble deciding whether or not a wedding tradition is for you, here are some starter questions to ask yourself:

  • What is the purpose of this, and does it represent my values?
  • If I’m doing something, can I explain why?
  • If I decide NOT to do something, will I regret it?

People Will Tell You You’re Doing It Wrong

Fact: everyone judges everyone else’s wedding. Combine that reality with nontraditional choices, and you get comments like this:
“Your wedding is just a brunch.”
“How can you really celebrate during the daytime?”
“You must have a brunch for the day after.”
“You need a dress rehearsal the night before as a gathering point.”

A lot of people are telling me what I “have to do” or what I “should do.” I politely ignore them, because their version of what a wedding looks like isn’t the same as mine. But that doesn’t mean my feelings don’t get hurt. When I start feeling down or second-guessing my choices, I’ve found the best antidote is to rant to a good friend who’s always got my back. Doing this almost always sets me back on track.

Setting Expectations

If you’re doing anything nontraditional for your wedding, I’ve found the very best thing you can do for your guests is manage their expectations. The reality is, most people will expect your wedding to look and feel like all the other weddings they’ve been to. To avoid a jarring mismatch of expectations, we spent a TON of time thinking through and writing the content for the wedding website. We had an FAQ section that answered every single question we thought guests might ask or wonder about. We chose words carefully, so like, using “intimate”, so people knew it was a small wedding. Or “laid back”, so they knew it was less formal. I can’t overstate the importance of communication when it comes to weddings, especially if you’re going the nontraditional route.

There’s Nothing Wrong with Tradition

Make no mistake. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with doing traditions if they mean something to you. If you’re a traditionalist, then all these things I’m doing without probably make you happy, and that’s cool. But if you’re unsure at all, don’t be afraid to question the status quo, because everybody’s different and not everything will make sense for you. Don’t say yes to traditions just because you feel pressured to, or because that’s what “you’re supposed to do.” Your wallet, and future marriage, will thank you for it.

What are some wedding traditions you skipped, and why?

Image: The Luxe Strategist

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  • Adventure Rich

    Haha, are we twins? I did many of the things above… it is AMAZING how affordable weddings can be if you steer clear of the norm. Great post! ~Mrs. Adventure Rich

    • Hehe, WEDDING TWINS. And a note on “affordable”: all the money-saving choices I made are getting cancelled out because we’re having a wedding in NYC. Priorities…

      Thanks for reading!

  • (Ack sorry for my monster of a comment! I clearly think about this a lot ;)) We did so many of these things too! We’ve tried to think really hard about whether we care about something and ruthlessly cut out everything else. Our estimated cost still ended up being way larger than we thought – mostly because of our guest list and that feeding that many people is simply costly.

    Our budget line items are: venue & catering, photographer, wedding site, DJ, cake, hair & makeup, escort cards, wedding dress, invitations, and thank you cards.

    We saved a bunch on the photographer by not doing ceremony or getting ready coverage and by going with a smaller photographer who doesn’t outsource much of her work or have a second shooter. Our venue provides table flowers and we aren’t doing any additional flowers. We saved originally by having a friend marry us and a friend take photos, though we wish we had someone take a video of the ceremony.

    1. We ended up buying an engagement ring for me after we got married and I love it. I’m so glad we did it. I am, however, really glad that we spent the time thinking about it consciously together! We got the setting on sale (and the matching wedding band on sale too – though we didn’t do that one right away) and spent about $6,000 on the engagement ring and $1,200 on the matching band. We also bought it online (JamesAllen), rather than in a store, which was definitely a savings. I joked to him when we first got married and bought matching plain bands that his was way more expensive than mine ($595 for his versus $195 for mine – his is 6 mm versus my 2 mm one, both plain white gold).

    2. We did invite all of our aunts, uncles, and cousins and even gave all of our cousins plus ones. About 10% of them live within a 3 hour drive of us and none of them in our city, so we were not too worried about all of them coming. My husband turned out to have a pretty big family – mine is ~20 people and his ~50. For friends though, we needed to have talked to or seen them within a year or they weren’t invited. In the end, we invited 175 people and we are anticipating about 100 will come, though we haven’t hit our RSVP deadline yet.

    4. I bought my dress at a consignment store. Not only was it a better experience, but it was also significantly cheaper!

    5. We did email save the dates and invitations except for the people who don’t have internet, our parents, and anyone who wants a keepsake invitation. For our paper invitations, we found a pattern we liked on VistaPrint, which was SO much cheaper than Minted. We saved a ton on postage by not mailing invitations, though we made up for that by picking the most expensive wedding website we found.

    6. Wedding cake is definitely one of our splurges…we ended up at the place where it is $8/slice. Oops! It is positively incredible though.

    7. No wedding party for us either, though I did give someone the MOH title because she has been SO helpful. She also convinced me into doing a bridal shower which was lovely. And we decided to pay for hair & makeup for our moms, sisters, my MOH and sister-in-law, as a treat to them.

    9. Our plan for a rehearsal dinner is to host it at our house. We don’t have a ton of space but we have enough that it should work.

    10. My husband determined we needed to provide dancing and music to people, so we got a DJ.

    11. Nope, no wedding planner. We did, however, snag my MOH’s wedding timeline. Our plan is to have a friend help with the day of setup and our DJ will run the schedule.

    • Hehe, I just copy/pasted your comment into a separate text file because I wanted to make sure I answered everything 🙂

      Yeah, photog we nixed a “package” and chose the a la carte version since our wedding is shorter than average. Officiant we found a friend who could do it, saving $. And for me, video is a MUST. I know many ppl don’t care or are embarrassed by it, but I think there’s something to be said about seeing/hearing ppl talk and how they move. No one’s getting any younger! But yeah, I did not want another expense so I asked a friend to be the “Wedding Mole” who will basically record the ceremony from her seat on my iPhone, then capture random videos throughout.

      1. Glad you took some time to think over the ring, and you capitalized on sales, too! I looked at James Allen as well, and all those sliders you get to use to customize are sooooo fun.

      2. Both of our families are fewer than 15 people deep, so I’m glad we could invite most of our family. 100 sounds like it could be a perfect size. Not too big where people feel lost.

      4. Yes, I remember when you said you got it on Twitter, then was immediately jealous.

      5. Pretty sure I overspent on paper at Minted. Actually, I KNOW I overspent, hehe. I know ppl say no one cares, but I do like design, so I didn’t want to compromise here. I didn’t do any research on wedding websites at all. Maybe that was a mistake? I just used The Knot because I had heard of it.

      6. Yes, I picked my favorite cake from my real life, and basically just bought a few whole ones. To me, having a pretty tiered cake wasn’t a priority. I want it to actually taste amazing!

      7. Makeup is all me, and I tried practicing hair tutorials which were total fails. Gotta hire a pro for that.

      9. A rehearsal at home sounds cozy and personal. I wish more wedding events happened at home! If only I owned a brownstone here, then I’d do my entire wedding at home.

      10. Hope the DJ is good! One cute thing my friends did at their wedding was have a space for you to list your favorite song on the RSVP. Then they set up a playlist based on everyone’s songs, and had a friend MC. It was really a thoughtful way to include guests.

      11. I created my own timeline based on what I saw online. I showed it to my coordinator and she was like, omg, you’re the most organized person ever.

  • I love making wedding choices that you love! I’m not yet engaged to my love, but with two women, we feel able to just have the celebration we want. Other people’s opinions aren’t involved. I doubt I’ll wear white because I love radiant colors. I’ll probably buy something I can wear for other purposes. My girlfriend loves flowers ans arranging them, so I imagine we’ll have them.

    • I’m loving the sound of your wedding already! Yeah, I’m always surprised at how many weddings I’ve been to that have been planned by the parents. I’m so happy my mom is easy-going about that kind of stuff.

  • Melanie at Mindfully Spent

    Yes! Tradition can be great, but we shouldn’t invest time and money into something that is going to create no meaning. We also had no wedding party. We let our guests know that our wedding party was them – the people we loved – and we didn’t want to single out a couple of them and ask them to buy fancy duds. I also just have one ring, but it’s the incredibly unique vintage ring that my fellow found for our engagement. It’s from around 1930, and it feels one of a kind. We tried to find a band to go with it until I asked myself why the heck I needed two rings when nothing else felt right. Because other people did it? No. We also skipped the DJ, built killer playlists for various parts of the day, and even managed to have some crazy amazing dancing take place. You already know that many family and friends each pitched in small parts of our dinner and dessert bar as their wedding gift to us. We supplemented with some goods from a highly regarded bakery, including a single tier cake. On a side note, a friend volunteered to do our flowers as a gift (just bouquet, boutineer for my husband, boutineer for my son, and flower girl “wand”)… and they were incredibly stunning. They meant way more to me than we thought. The reception tables were decorated with hundreds of sword ferns we cut from a trail we walked a lot during our first months getting to know one another. I needed greenery at least to be a part of the decor, and this was a meaningful way to incorporate it. I think it’s great that you’re following your gut, and I can’t wait to hear how things turned out.

    • I think if I got an engagement ring, it would be vintage for sure. There’s something about the history and craftmanship of it that really appealed to me over anything new.

      How you felt about the band to match your engagement ring basically sums up how I felt. I was just kind of going through the motions of finding a ring, because that’s what I thought I was “supposed” to do. But once I started questioning it, I couldn’t come up with any good reason why I needed an engagement ring.

      And now I’m swooning over the sword ferns. I actually think there’s a very good case for using more greenery than flowers at weddings. I think it looks a lot fresher. And even better that you were able to gather them from a trail you and your husband used to walk through. Seems like your wedding was filled with meaning, and those ones are always the ones I remember the most.

      Oh don’t worry, there will be a full recap post-wedding, no doubt!

  • Dr. Curious

    We skipped an engagement ring and went on a 2-month vacation to the South Pacific instead. Think we regret it one itsy-bitsy iota? I’m with you on everything else except #10. I actually agree that DJs can suck, but if you find a good wedding band it can R-O-C-K! My brother’s wedding band had people standing on the chairs and scream-singing at the tops of their lungs, and I went to a wedding in France last year at which the band was one of the better I have ever seen, period. Have fun planning!

    Dr. C

    • Yes, I’ve definitely embraced the idea of opportunity costs when it comes to weddings. So, instead of a 3k engagement ring, I could basically pay for all the guests’ food! And a 2-month trip to the South Pacific sounds like an A+ choice.

      I think most of the DJs I’ve seen have come with the venue, or it’s small town, so there aren’t tons of options, but I definitely think the right one is the key. I’ve been to a few weddings with bands, and they are super fun and double as entertainment. The idea of having one for my own never crossed my mind because I always thought bands seemed $$$.

  • I’m not married but I completely understand skipping a lot of common traditions, and I think I would follow in your footsteps on many of these. I’m still set on an engagement ring but right now I’m loving cheap, non-diamond rings made by a local jeweller (aka an Etsy ring). As for the actual ceremony, I would be happy with a small, fairly casual backyard ceremony. My bf and I have been dating for so long that we just don’t feel any need for a lot of hype.

    • A backyard wedding was actually my dream! All the weddings I admired were ones done at home. There’s something really genuine about those. Unfortunately, I have no backyard…

      Loving that you’ve been able to look beyond the diamond thing and see value in alternative, more artistic options!

  • All of this is amazing! The wedding I went to this weekend was missing a lot of the traditional stuff and it was great! No wedding party, no officiant, no flowers, no cake, minimal decor, no presents, no sit down dinner, no speeches, no DJ and it was probably the best wedding I have ever been to! I’ve never been interested in getting married and a huge chunk of the reason why is money- it’s just insane to me what some people spend on one day of their lives. Congrats on slashing the costs of yours- I’m sure it will make your wallet happy for years to come.

    • Thanks! My favorite weddings as a guest were just like the one you mentioned. The couple has incorporated only the stuff that is meaningful to them, or put some kind of twist on it. My friends loooooves cats, and she had all these cat tattoos for the photo booth. It was super fun.

      Yes, the costs and importance for a single-day event is INSANE. But I’m hoping to not hate myself after it’s all said and done. We almost chose the city hall thing, but then we decided writing and sharing our vows in front of people was more important.

  • Piggy

    1. Amber engagement ring. People were freaked out that I didn’t have a diamond, but it was dirt cheap.
    2. Who needs cake? We had some friends bake 10 pies and they were fucking delicious.
    3. Our DJ was an iTunes playlist I made and a friend who was tasked with plugging the speakers in and pressing “play.”
    4. I made our flowers by folding the pages of used books into origami flowers. All of them.
    5. RSVP by email or text!
    6. Getting married in the “off-season” saved us 40% on the venue.
    I love this article! I’ve wanted to write one like it for awhile, but you knock it out of the park.

    • Pfffhfhh, I think your audience would love it if you wrote one like this. The same topics can be written about over and over again, but they’re different because of the author’s experiences.

      Oh yeah, getting married in the off season is a great tip! I think the winter season extends to March 31st, and you can really luck out with spring-like weather then.

    • One of the first things I told my fiancé was we aren’t having paper RSVP cards. I can’t spend $100 or more on tiny pieces of paper + Stamps for people to mail back the answer to a multiple choice question.

  • Hey Viktoria,

    Thanks for stopping by, and congratulations on your engagement!

    Like you, I’m so over that there’s really one right way to do things. It got tiring having to explain to vendors that I’m not doing a lot of expected things. Like:
    Wait, why do I need a pic of me awkwardly posing in front of the cake again??? That means nothing to me. And no, I do not need votive candles in the daytime to add “atmosphere.”

    And yeah, the whole commercialization bugs me, too. It’s like, as a ‘bride’ you’re now a person to be sold things to. To keep my sanity I try to approach everything like the way I do in real life. So I’m like, OK, I don’t wear eye shadow in my every day life, so why all of a sudden wear it for my wedding? I should look like me, but just with a little extra. Or, just picking music I regularly listen to, and not hiring some celloist because that’s what’s expected. And yes, I got asked about whether or not I’m having “musicians.”

    Pick a cake you love in real life. Even if it’s a grocery store one. The best wedding decision I’ve made so far.

    Looking forward to seeing some of your details on Instagram!

  • Hey!

    The photog is a big deal for me, too. I don’t want to look like I belong in a Sears catalog, so finding that natural style was key. And yeah, we discovered we could reduce the price with an hourly rate instead of a 9-hour package.

    How special that your MOH made your bouquet for you! That’s way more meaningful than paying a stranger to do it for you. And Trader Joe’s actually has nice flowers! I just bought a bunch of peonies from there for $6.99!

    Thanks for stopping by!

  • This post was so incredibly helpful. Thank you so much! We just got engaged and I don’t want to spend a fortune on a wedding. I also don’t want a ton of the traditional stuff I’ve had to suffer through in the past like bridal showers (I’ve never been to a single one that was fun) or the bouquet toss (by 30, they just feel humiliating). Your post has me thinking of other options, like perhaps a rehearsal dinner in our backyard instead of a restaurant!

    • Hey Brittany, I’m glad you found it helpful and thanks for stopping by. Congratulations on your engagement! It’s funny how you mention the things you suffered through in the past. That’s actually how I inadvertently planned my wedding. Whatever stuff I didn’t like about other weddings I basically did the opposite! A rehearsal dinner in your backyard would be lovely and much more personal. Especially if you’re having a small wedding, one long communal table looks amazing, and no one would feel like they’re at the “rejects” table.

  • I love it that ‘non-traditional’ is becoming the norm. The only things required for a wedding are 2 people in love and ready to commit to live life together. Everything else is fluff, add only that which makes you happy. Well done making thoughtful choices and sticking by them! Congrats!

    • You’re so right. More often than not weddings are becoming a lot more casual these days. I think it’s become a reaction to those big weddings that have been the norm previously.

      Thanks for the well wishes!