50 Cost-Cutting Wedding Swaps

Every wedding choice that you make adds up! Here, wedding professionals share their favorite swaps for slashing hundreds, if not thousands, off your final tally. Pick and choose what's most important to the two of you (and what you can live without).

By: Stefania Sainato

Enter Slideshow
  • Skip: A weekend wedding date

    Skip: A weekend wedding date

    Swap in: A weekday wedding date

    "Be flexible with your wedding date! It can save you thousands not only on the venue rental but also due to lower food and beverage minimums. Plus, switching the day of the week can reduce your budget in more way than one. A Thursday rehearsal dinner for a Friday wedding is less expensive than a Friday rehearsal dinner for a Saturday wedding," says Reese Rowe from Herban Feast Catering & Events.

    "Thursday is the new Friday. Clients nowadays aren't saving  a ton on Fridays or Sundays anymore as they were a few years ago. I see more couples opting  for Monday through Thursday wedding dates now and throwing cocktail-style receptions, which saves a lot of money. They're having a quick ceremony followed by a fun party with tray-passed appetizers and drinks at a restaurant," say the pros at Janel Events.

  • Skip: A nighttime soirée

    Skip: A nighttime soirée

    Swap in: A daytime celebration

    "Often, outdoor daytime weddings can be much less expensive than outdoor nighttime weddings. You save money not renting outdoor lighting, and you can also limit seating for your guest so that they mingle more than they eat or drink," says Kathy Peterson, a vintage wedding designer, design expert, author, and TV personality.

    Related: 101 Ways to Save Thousands on Your Wedding

    Photo Credit: Andrejka Photography

  • Skip: Hosting your ceremony and reception in different locations

    Skip: Hosting your ceremony and reception in different locations

    Swap in: A venue that can accommodate both 

    "Holding your ceremony and reception in one spot will cut down on your transportation costs for getting your guests from the ceremony to the wedding, and it will cut down on time for vendors you pay by the hour," says Jessica Janik from The Invisible Bridesmaid, Bridal Concierge.

    Related: Find the Best Wedding Venue for Your Budget

  • Skip: A traditional banquet hall

    Skip: A traditional banquet hall

    Swap in: A restaurant as your venue

    "Consider throwing your reception at a restaurant with a party space, especially if you have a smaller guest list. You know the food will be delicious, and you'll likely save on décor and rentals," says Kathi Littwin from Kathi Littwin Photography.

    Related: 50 Unexpected Places to Tie the Knot

  • Skip: A made-to-order dress

    Skip: A made-to-order dress

    Swap in: A sample or secondhand gown

    "The sale rack at any bridal store can be your best friend. It helps the store move inventory, and you could get a great deal! It also saves you on shipping costs and rush fees," says Carrie Huyett from Carrie's Bridal Collection.

    "A fabulous sale dress can be made your own by working with a great, affordable seamstress that can customize parts and pieces for you. If you find the perfect dress off the rack, but the sample is too small, most likely you can have your seamstress put in a corset back. If the dress is too big, she can usually tailor it down several sizes. Have her show you different bustle options, ways they can add or take off beading on a gown, add straps or a jacket overlay. Two brides can buy the same dress and make it look completely different," Huyett adds.

    "Don't be afraid to shop at a thrift store for your wedding dress. One of my brides is a vintage store junkie, and she found her beautiful lace dress for less than $200!" says Mioara Dragan from Mioara Dragan Photography.

    Related: Dreamy Designer Dresses (and Their Budget-Friendly Counterparts)

  • Skip: A one-piece gown

    Skip: A one-piece gown

    Swap in: Bridal separates

    "Consider swapping out a traditional bridal gown for top and bottom separates, such as a lace crop top with a tulle skirt. Not only are they fashion-forward, but you can also save by selecting custom fit options that won’t require alterations. And don’t forget — you have a much better chance of wearing them again if you want," says Araceli Vizcaino-S from Azazie, an online bridal boutique.

    Photo courtesy of Wtoo

  • Skip: Store-bought bridal accessories

    Skip: Store-bought bridal accessories

    Swap in: Heirloom jewelry and other accessories

    "To complete your wedding look, ask family members or close friends if you can borrow items like jewelry and a veil. Not only will you save from not having to purchase them, but they'll also add a more personalized and sentimental touch to your bridal style," Huyett says.

    "Reach out to your female relatives and ask them to share several 'somethings borrowed' with you. They will feel special to be a part of your big day in this significant way!" says Lauren Groeper from Chancey Charm Denver.

  • Skip: Bridal-specific shoes

    Skip: Bridal-specific shoes

    Swap in: Shoes you will want to wear again after the wedding

    "Instead of searching for the best pair of unique white heels, opt for a classic style that you can wear again and again! Think long-term when shopping, so opt for comfort over height," Janik says.

  • Skip: A traditional bridal veil

    Skip: A traditional bridal veil

    Swap in: A floral headpiece

    "If your style is boho-chic, why not create a beautiful greenery headpiece with pops of floral instead of an expensive  veil?" say the pros from White Peacock.

    Related: 50+ Stunning Ways to Wear Flowers in Your Hair

  • Skip: Floral bouquet

    Skip: Floral bouquet

    Swap in: Brooch bouquet

    "For your bouquet, go with less fresh flowers and more bling. Incorporate vintage brooches into your arrangement. After the wedding, you will have a glamorous memento of your big day that may be handed down for generations!" says Paula Ramirez from Historic Mankin Mansion.

  • Skip: A traditional bridal party

    Skip: A traditional bridal party

    Swap in: Other meaningful roles for loved ones

    "Forgo the wedding  party! You'd be surprised at how much bouquets and boutonnieres can cost, and you won't have to worry about buying  thank-you  gifts for them or possibly paying for their attire, accessories, or hair and makeup. You'll also be saving  your friends a ton of money (and they will love you for it). If you still want to incorporate those people into the wedding  somehow, consider having  them do a reading  during  the ceremony or  give a toast at the reception," say the pros from Color Pop Events .

    If you don't want to completely skip the bridal party, consider downsizing. "The fewer girls you have, the less stress you have, and the less you will spend on flower bouquets, bridesmaid gifts, makeup/hair, etc.," Janik says.

    Related: How to Include Loved Ones (Who Aren't in the Bridal Party)

    Photo Credit: A Perfect Impression

  • Skip: Super custom welcome bags

    Skip: Super custom welcome bags

    Swap in: Freebies and affordable goodies

    "Call your local Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau and see if they have any free promo items they give to groups coming to your city. These can include maps, coupon books for local restaurants, key chains, mugs, or other swag. Pair those in a cute gift bag with a couple of bottles of water, and a couple of apples or other fresh fruit from Costco, and your guests will love it!" says Amy Green, the author of Where Will They Stay?

    Related: Welcome Bag Ideas for Every Wedding Theme

    Photo Credit: Chung Li Photography

  • Skip: Printed save-the-dates

    Skip: Printed save-the-dates

    Swap in: A wedding website

    “Destination weddings often require couples to send out a lot more information to their guests since travel and accommodations come into play, so it can be both efficient and cost-effective to swap out the paper save-the-dates for their online counterpart. This allows you an unlimited space to share pertinent details with family and friends," says Megan Velez from Destination Weddings Travel Group.

  • Skip: Custom stationery

    Skip: Custom stationery

    Swap in: Online invitation suites

    "If custom-designed invitations aren't in your  budget, but you would still like to make a few personalized tweaks, consider online collections from custom designers. With most, you’ll have options to personalize your suite without the price tag of custom," say the pros at Five Dot Design.

    Related: 50 Ideas for Your Wedding Invitations

    Photo Credit: Anchor and Flourish / Stationery: Five Dot Design

  • Skip: Raised printing methods

    Skip: Raised printing methods

    Swap in: Flat printed wedding invitations

    "Opt for a flat printed invitation style instead of thermography or letterpress. You can still achieve the same look without breaking the bank," says invitation designer Danielle Behar from Danielle Behar Designs.

    Related: How to Choose Affordable Wedding Invitations

  • Skip: Individual stationery items

    Skip: Individual stationery items

    Swap in: A larger sign or one per table

    "Order fewer stationery items than your guest count on the details that don't need to be one per person. For example, menu cards can be swapped for a larger sign or one per table. Items such as bar menus or  hashtag signs can be moved by your planner  from one area to the other, instead of doing  three or more of each," say the pros at LVL Weddings & Events.

    Related: 50 Clever Wedding Tricks to Make Your Life Easier

    Photo Credit: Lauren Scotti Photography / Wedding Planner: LVL Weddings & Events

  • Skip: Individual escort cards

    Skip: Individual escort cards

    Swap in: A seating chart

    "Featuring one beautiful framed seating chart is a great way to cut costs," say the pros from Sash and Bow.

    Photo Credit: Defining78 / Event Design: Sash and Bow

  • Skip: A hired officiant

    Skip: A hired officiant

    Swap in: A close relative or friend to do the honors

    "If your ceremony isn’t at a church, opt to have a friend or close family member officiate. This means more to you as a couple and speaks immensely to your relationship with that person," says Miranda Tassi from Chancey Charm Charlotte.

    Related: 10 Meaningful Touches for Your Ceremony

    Photo Credit: B.O.B. Photography

  • Skip: Hiring a singer or musician for the ceremony

    Skip: Hiring a singer or musician for the ceremony

    Swap in: Having a musically-inclined pal perform

    "Do you have any musically talented close friends? Ask them to be a part of your big day by performing a song for you to walk down the aisle to, in order to cut down on ceremony music costs. Not only is this cost-effective, but it's also meaningful," says Alana Futcher from Chancey Charm Richmond.

    Related: The Complete Guide to Wedding Music

    Photo Credit: Al Gawlik Photography

  • Skip: A ceremony canopy

    Skip: A ceremony canopy

    Swap in: A decorative arch

    "A four-legged ceremony canopy requires far more installation time and materials than its two-legged alternate option, the arch, which translates to big cost savings. While a focal point is a must for your ceremony, you will get a very similar effect and won't be sacrificing your vision," says Aviva Samuels from Kiss the Planner.

    Related: 50 Gorgeous Wedding Ceremony Structures

  • Skip: An elaborate floral chuppah

    Skip: An elaborate floral chuppah

    Swap in: A chuppah using cloth

    "My biggest wedding-saver came from my own wedding and the  first chuppah I ever made. I took a family heirloom tablecloth that my husband's grandmother and mother cross-stitched — they used it for holiday meals —  and attached ribbons to the corners.  Instead of creating or renting a huge structure, we decided to use handheld branches (our brothers held them). It was so meaningful to have them hold our chuppah, it was easy to load in and out, and we saved a ton of money!" says Traci Kaye from Four Branches.

    Related: Modern Twists on Popular Jewish Wedding Traditions

    Photo Credit: Karen Cunningham / Rentals: Four Branches

  • Skip: Peonies

    Skip: Peonies

    Swap in: Garden roses

    "Garden roses are one of our favorite blooms that have the same gorgeous ruffled effect as peonies and are almost always in season! Be flexible with your flower choices; if blooms aren’t in season, they will cost exponentially more than other varieties," say the pros from Hidden Garden.

    Related: 25 Floral Dupes: Real, Affordable Alternatives to the Priciest Blooms

    Photo Credit: Focus Photography / Floral Design: Hidden Garden

  • Skip: Specific flower types

    Skip: Specific flower types

    Swap in: A desired floral color palette

    "Give your florist a color scheme instead of asking for specific flowers — this allows for flexibility within your budget and for your florist to have some creative freedom," Tassi says.

    Photo Credit: B.O.B. Photography

  • Skip: Floral bridesmaid bouquets

    Skip: Floral bridesmaid bouquets

    Swap in: Bouquets that are heavy on greenery

    "In lieu of floral arrangements for  the  bridesmaids, this couple chose small bouquets of baby’s breath. So dainty!" says Janelle Brooke from Janelle Brooke Photography.

    Related: Say No to Flowers: 25 Alternatives to the Bridal Bouquet

  • Skip: Elaborate sweetheart table décor

    Skip: Elaborate sweetheart table décor

    Swap in: Repurposed florals from the ceremony

    "Repurposing florals is key to saving money and being smart in your wedding  design. In this example, we used stunning garlands made by  The  Flower House down  the  aisle for  the  couple’s ceremony, then moved them to  the  head table, popped in  the  bridal bouquets and violà! We had an incredible head table arrangement all while saving money," say the pros at Sugar Rush Events.

    Photo Credit: Michelle Pattee Photography / Event Design: Sugar Rush Events

  • Skip: One large centerpiece per table

    Skip: One large centerpiece per table

    Swap in: Multiple bud vases

    "If you want flowers but don't have a large floral budget, invest in one or two centerpieces that can be moved around from  the  ceremony to  the  reception, and order smaller loose blooms in bud vases for  the guest tables," say the pros from Art & Soul Events.

    Related: 30+ Impressive Low Centerpieces

    Photo Credit: Katie Branch / Event Design: Art & Soul Events

  • Skip: Floral centerpieces

    Skip: Floral centerpieces

    Swap in: Creative non-floral materials

    Use non-floral centerpieces for your tables and displays — vintage books, candles, photos, chalkboards, etc. Not only will you save money, you will be adding your own personal touch," says Ronda Sierra from Twigs and Lace Event Design.

    "Ikea to  the  rescue! This incredible ombré  centerpiece  was a showstopper — we hung  floral chandeliers that were spray-painted above  the  tables and featured some small candles down below. Everyone  was blown away," say the pros at Grit & Grace.

    Photo Credit: Kelsey Thompson Photography / Event Design: Grit & Grace

  • Skip: DIY or store-bought wedding décor

    Skip: DIY or store-bought wedding décor

    Swap in: Gently-used wedding items or shared rentals

    "Look for arbors, kissing booths, backdrops, handmade brooch bouquets, hair accessories, table number cards, etc. for a fraction of the cost of retail or having these props custom made. You can find groups like this on social media," Peterson says.

    "Ask the venue about other events that week, and if they have rentals, or ask their vendors. Sharing rentals with another party is easy, and sometimes you only have to pay for the change of pick up time. I have seen this work many times on elegant chairs, lounge furniture, or draping!" says Jyl Deering from Chancey Charm Boston & Cape Cod.

    Related: The Ultimate Guide to Wedding Rentals

    Photo Credit: Mioara Dragan Photography / Florals: Flora Detroit

  • Skip: Décor overload

    Skip: Décor overload

    Swap in: Colorful table linens

    "Choose beautifully colored table linens for your reception, which provide a signature pop of color without requiring you to spend lots on décor," Paula Ramirez says.

    Related: Stay Under Budget With These 25 Dollar Store Wedding Hacks

  • Skip: Uplighting

    Skip: Uplighting

    Swap in: LED string lights

    “Get the most bang for your buck with versatile LED string lights, which can easily be swapped out to replace more expensive lighting options. String them overhead, wind them around candelabras or coil them up in a vase and fill with water. Better yet, they are easy to transport so you can repurpose them throughout your wedding weekend celebration," says Audrey Isaac from 100 Candles.

    Related: 25 Ways to Transform Your Wedding With Lighting

    Photo Credit: Mike B Photography

  • Skip: Traditional candles

    Skip: Traditional candles

    Swap in: Battery-operated candles

    “Swap out wax candles for their battery-operated counterparts. They’re energy efficient, come in a variety of colors, and can easily be reused throughout the wedding weekend — from the rehearsal dinner to the ceremony, right into the reception," Isaac says.

    Related: 15 Money-Saving Tricks from Real Brides

    Photo Credit: Don Mears Photography

  • Skip: Expensive containers

    Skip: Expensive containers

    Swap in: Decorative items from home

    “Repurpose vases, bowls, and other vessels from your home that can be used as candle holders. Not only will it help you stick to a budget, but it will add a personal touch to your celebration," Isaac says.

    Related: 30 Unexpected Wedding Costs Brides Forget to Budget For

    Photo Credit: Chung Li Photography

  • Skip: Small circular tables

    Skip: Small circular tables

    Swap in: Larger family-style tables that can seat more guests

    "To save a small but still reasonable chunk of change for your wedding, opt to do fewer  larger  tables vs.  more smaller ones for your guest seating. Fewer tables equal fewer linens, centerpieces, table numbers, etc., and those costs can add up," say the pros at DPNAK Weddings.

    Related: Secret Ways to Save Money on Your Wedding Vendors

  • Skip: Plate charger rentals

    Skip: Plate charger rentals

    Swap in: Dinner plate rentals

    "Since the first course is typically a salad (served on a small plate), why not rent fancy dinner plates instead of having chargers? Dinner plate rentals usually run about $1 per piece, whereas the cost of a charger plate can fall anywhere between $3 and $10. The dinner plate still functions as a charger and dresses up the place setting, and no one will be the wiser!" Samuels says.

    Related: Wedding Costs: Where Does All the Money Go?

    Photo Credit: The Tarnos

  • Skip: Plated dinner service

    Skip: Plated dinner service

    Swap in: A family-style dinner

    "One of the biggest ways to save money on your dinner menu is to swap out a traditional plated dinner for family-style spread. Family-style allows you to keep the formality of a coursed dinner while spending less per person! Another perk is it creates a great experience for your guests to interact and dine together," Rowe says.

    Related: 50 Ways to Cut Wedding Catering Costs

    Photo Credit: Dominique Bader on Snippet and Ink via Lover.ly

  • Skip: A sit-down catered dinner

    Skip: A sit-down catered dinner

    Swap in: A food truck

    "Pick your favorite food truck, and have fun with it!" say the pros at Love Me Do Photography.

    Related: Wedding Food That Won’t Bore Your Guests

  • Skip: Fancy ingredients in your wedding feast

    Skip: Fancy ingredients in your wedding feast

    Swap in: New preparation techniques or garnishes 

    "Basic ingredients can have the same impact as more expensive dishes and ingredients. Upgrade traditional entrees with new preparation techniques (e.g. pureed cauliflower instead of sautéed), or garnish a steak with edible flowers and  microgreens," say the pros from Modern Art Catering.

    Related: How to Save Big on Your Wedding Menu

    Photo Credit: For the Love of It / Catering: Modern Art Catering

  • Skip: Appetizer stations

    Skip: Appetizer stations

    Swap in: Hand-passed hors d'oeuvres

    "For cocktail hour, choose mostly passed and nicely timed apps in lieu of stationed bites, eliminating wasting food and money," Paula Ramirez says.

    Related: How I Hacked $10,000 Off My Wedding Budget

    Photo Credit: Don Mears Photography

  • Skip: Filet mignon

    Skip: Filet mignon

    Swap in: Braised short ribs

    "Braised short ribs are cooked low and slow, and guests won't complain if their portion is undercooked or overcooked — it always comes out just right. Also, it's priced much lower than filet mignon," say the pros from Janel Events.

    Related: "What's the Best Way to Negotiate with Wedding Vendors?"

  • Skip: A full open bar

    Skip: A full open bar

    Swap in: A fun signature cocktail, along with wine and beer

    "Your guests will appreciate  the  cocktail options, and you will save hundreds at the  bar by not having to stock everything. It is also far easier to estimate your bar budget this way because there are so many fewer variables," say the pros at Moana Events.

    "Select a signature drink featuring ingredients native to the region. Not only will this save you a bundle, but your guests will also love the local flavor!" Velez says.

    Related: Wedding Bar Guide: How Much Alcohol Do You Need?

    Photo Credit: Visionari Photography / Event Design: Moana Events

  • Skip: Champagne toast

    Skip: Champagne toast

    Swap in: A toast with drink in hand

    "For the toast, instead of passing champagne to all your guests, simply have your DJ make an announcement that the toast is 'drink in hand' and that champagne is available at the bar...chances are only 30% of your guests will head to the bar, saving you big bucks," Paula Ramirez says.

    Related: 7 Secret Money-Saving Tricks, Revealed

    Photo Credit: Chung Li Photography

  • Skip: Fancy barware

    Skip: Fancy barware

    Swap in: Mason jars for a more casual wedding style

    "This bride's new married last name was  going  to be Vlasic. As a fun tribute, she collected Vlasic pickle jars from  family, friends, and  coworkers to serve as  the  barware at  the  wedding," say the pros at Grit & Grace.

    Related: Real Couples' Biggest Splurges & Savings

    Photo Credit: Photography Du Jour / Event Design: Grit & Grace

  • Skip: Edible flowers on your cake

    Skip: Edible flowers on your cake

    Swap in: Fresh flowers on your cake

    "The cost of the fresh floral is usually about half the cost of gum paste. And for bows and ribbons, use satin ribbon over fondant. The look will be the same, but your cost will be less," says Jennifer Punch from Confection Perfection.

    "When on a tighter budget, consider doing the entire cake the same flavor. Sometimes, having too many flavors can lead to needing more cake because guests may think they can have a slice of each," Punch adds.

    Related: 35 Ways to Save Money on Wedding Desserts

  • Skip: Fondant cake

    Skip: Fondant cake

    Swap in: Buttercream frosting or a "naked" cake

    "A buttercream cake is often less expensive than a fondant cake. If you or your fiancé aren't big on a lot of icing, then a 'naked' or 'semi-naked' cake may be perfect! You can check with your cake designer and see if it's less per serving than even a buttercream cake (ours is $0.25 cheaper per serving). Not only are they more affordable, but they're also still very trendy, and with some fresh flowers, greenery or fruit, you can easily garnish to create a beautiful wedding cake," says Carissa Hobbs of Cakes by Carissa.

    Related: How to Get a Beautiful Wedding Cake Without Spending a Fortune

  • Skip: Stacked wedding cake

    Skip: Stacked wedding cake

    Swap in: Multiple smaller cakes

    "In place of a traditional stacked wedding cake, choose a pastry chef that will make three or four individual cakes of graduated sizes and place them on a tiered stand that may be found in any home décor shop. Place the stand on a four-foot table for beauty and drama without the big price tag," says Paula Ramirez.

    "A one-tiered cake can be far less expensive than a two or three-tiered cake but just as beautiful. Consider multiple one-tiered cakes or just one token small cake that can be served alongside the desserts already factored into your caterer's package costs. That way, you can still ceremoniously perform the cutting of the cake but will not have spent extra money on more dessert that might not get eaten," Samuels advises.

    "A fun way for brides to stretch their wedding cake budget is to choose a smaller wedding cake and supplement with cupcakes and cake pops. To create a cohesive dessert station, ask your cake designer to match the frosting of the cupcakes or the color of the cake pops to the wedding colors or accents that are on their cake," Hobbs says.

    Related: Steal-Worthy Wedding Cake Designs

  • Skip: Elaborate cake design

    Skip: Elaborate cake design

    Swap in: A decorative cake stand

    "If your wedding budget only allows for a simple wedding cake, your cake stand can add another element of design without a lot of expense. You can either rent a cake stand from your cake designer or venue or even see if someone in your family may have one to borrow. Sometimes, the most beautiful displays aren't even 'stands' at all — a wood slice, bird bath, antique mirror. These are some of the most creative options, but even by having it displayed on a vintage silver or crystal stand will make your cake that much more beautiful!" Hobbs says.

    Related: 25 Creative Ways to Show Off Your Wedding Cake

  • Skip: Wedding cake

    Skip: Wedding cake

    Swap in: A dessert bar or passed small sweets

    Not crazy about the idea of having a traditional wedding cake? "Substitute  it for a more affordable dessert bar or passed small desserts," say the pros from Gold Leaf Event Design & Production.

    Related: 25 Delicious Wedding Cake Alternatives

  • Skip: A photo booth with all the bells and whistles

    Skip: A photo booth with all the bells and whistles

    Swap in: A DIY photo backdrop

    "I had a couple make a really cool moon and bench installation, and they had a photographer who was stationed in front of it all night. We handed out little cards with a designated link and had photos up the next day for the guests to download. They loved it!" Dragan says.

    Related: How to Get Wedding Photos You'll Love

  • Skip: Escort cards

    Skip: Escort cards

    Swap in: Double-duty favors

    “Select favors that can double as escort cards, such as shells, luggage tags or miniature champagne bottles. By including their names and table assignment on the favors, you’re able to send them home with something memorable without having to worry about how guests will find their seats," Velez says.

    Related: 35 Cool Ways to Display Your Escort Cards

    Photo Credit: Chung Li Photography

  • Skip: Favors that cost a fortune

    Skip: Favors that cost a fortune

    Swap in: Favors you can buy in bulk or edible take-home treats

    "Wedding favors can run the gamut regarding pricing, from very expensive to very inexpensive. As they say, it's the thought that counts, and something simple — a decorated sugar cookie, a breakfast danish, or the like — can be enough to make guests smile as they exit the celebration," Samuels says.

    "Buy in bulk! Candy, soaps, and packaging are excellent finds at low prices in large quantities," says Sierra says.

    Related: 30 Favor Ideas From Real Weddings

    Photo Credit: Edmonson Photography

50 Cost-Cutting Wedding Swaps