Like most brides, you're probably on a budget. And keeping costs manageable will mean deciding what’s most important to you every time another wedding decision is thrown your way (six- or eight-piece band? Filet or barbecue chicken? Invitations embellished with Swarovski crystals or a simple but elegant design?)
Here, some recent brides share what — with 20/20 hindsight — they did right and what they did wrong.
Worth the Splurge
A day-after party, charitable donations, transportation for tipsy guests—these brides called it right for these expenses.
“I’m so glad I paid extra to get my makeup done professionally. I loved how I looked in my wedding photos—so much better than if I’d done my ‘usual’ makeup.” —Stephanie, Durham, NC
“We set up a wine-tasting for our guests at the reception and had food stations instead of a sit-down dinner. They cost more, but I liked having something different for our guests to enjoy. They seemed to appreciate it—we got rave reviews for both.” —Meghan, Philadelphia, PA
“We hired an excellent videographer who was able to really capture the day for us. We can now relive our memories any time. My kids love watching the video too!” —Kate, Boston MA
“I thought that the dress and flowers were worth spending a little extra on. I got to feel like the beautiful, perfect bride!” —Karen, Oakmont, PA
“Instead of buying favors, we made a donation to the American Heart Association in honor of my husband’s father who died from a heart attack five years ago. No one seemed to care that there weren’t any favors, and I can’t think of a better way to spend money than to give it to a good cause.” —Beth, Pittsburgh, PA
“We spent a lot of money on a talented photographer. She was able to capture all of the ‘action’ shots and got good close-ups, too. Now, we have amazing photos that are great mementos of that day.” —Mandy, Columbia, MD
“We paid to extend the reception an extra hour. The added time with our family and friends was well worth it. And everyone was still in full party spirit up until the very last song was played!” —Emily, Pittsburgh, PA
"I think it’s worth splurging on a photographer and videographer who produce high-quality work. After the day is over, the photos and video are what you’ll have to remember it. Nothing else lasts!” —Krista, Glenolden, PA
“We had a party the day after our wedding. One hundred and twenty of our guests came to my parents’ house for a cookout. It wasn’t a necessity, but I loved sharing more intimate time with friends and family—and extending the celebration one extra day.” —Kate
“Instead of a six-piece band, we added two extra horn players to make it an eight-piece band. I was afraid to spend the extra money, but in the end it was worth every penny! I think the music was much more vibrant and enjoyable that way. And they played our first dance—“It Had to Be You”—so beautifully. Everyone still talks about how great our band was!” —Helen, Guttenburg, NJ
“Our DJ was awesome. He brought along two assistants, which made him cost a little bit more, but they really got the whole crowd pumped up. With his assistants helping, the DJ was able to concentrate on what he did best: playing fantastic music!” —Beth
"We splurged on really good food—and enough of it! That was important to us and well worth it." —Erika, Jackson Heights, NY