Real Couples' Biggest Splurges & Savings

Let's face it — most of us don't have unlimited wedding budgets. But how do you decide what's worth the big bucks and where to cut corners? Here, 15 real couples reveal their biggest indulgences and top money-savers. 

By: 
Kristen O'Gorman Klein

  • Splurge: Beachfront Venue

    Splurge: Beachfront Venue

    Jessica and Amir held their wedding at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Half Moon Bay, California, with their ceremony on the seaside bluffs. “It reminded me of my grandmother’s stories about the coast of Ireland, where her parents grew up,” said Jessica. “It made me feel like we were having a destination wedding.” The couple even applied for special permits to close the public streets near the hotel, giving them and their guests a feeling of complete privacy. See more from this wedding ►

    Photo Credit: Nick Brown

  • Savings: Forest Venue

    Savings: Forest Venue

    A friend’s bucolic, forest-like estate in Shreveport, LA provided the perfect backdrop for Jenn and Matt’s whimsical carnival-inspired wedding. See more from this wedding ►

    Photo Credit: Three Nails Photography

  • Splurge: Designer Dress

    Splurge: Designer Dress

    Stephanie decided to splurge on her dream dress for her and Tom’s romantic wedding on a ranch in North Carolina. See more from this wedding ►

    Photo Credit: Choco Studio

  • Savings: DIY Dress

    Savings: DIY Dress

    Not only did Kelly make the centerpieces, invitations, programs, menus, and hair accessories for her and Curtis's aviation-themed wedding , but she also made her own wedding gown! See more from this wedding ►

    Photo Credit: Ashley Rose Photography

  • Splurge: Open Bar

    Splurge: Open Bar

    For their modern, glamorous celebration in downtown Atlanta, Fatimah and Jean splurged on an open bar. Here, the groom and groomsmen enjoy a toast with customized shot glasses. See more from this wedding ►

    Photo Credit: Scobey Photography

  • Savings: Stocking the Bar

    Savings: Stocking the Bar

    Kristen and Brad splurged on their venue — a beautiful ranch in Carmel Valley, CA — but recouped some costs by stocking the bar themselves. Brad brewed five custom beers for the wedding, and the couple toasted with beer instead of champagne. See more from this wedding ►

    Photo Credit: Photography by Leah

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  • Splurge: Photography

    Splurge: Photography

    Like many couples, Stacy and Paul chose to splurge on photography and videography in order to capture all of their wonderful memories. They also opted for a carnival-style photo booth, where guests posed with playful props and took home copies as their favor. See more from this wedding ►

    Photo Credit: Jeff Wallace Photography

  • Savings: DIY Photo Booth

    Savings: DIY Photo Booth

    Jenna and Iván wanted a photo booth at their reception, but it simply wasn’t in the budget. Instead, they placed a Polaroid camera next to their guest book, so that guests could add their photos and well wishes to the book. See more from this wedding ►

    Photo Credit: Chris Cook Photography

  • Savings: Favors

    Savings: Favors

    Jars of jam featuring Laura’s grandmother’s recipe paid homage to her grandparents, who made fruit preserves during the Depression. See more from this wedding ►

    Photo Credit: Choco Studio

  • Splurge: Flowers

    Splurge: Flowers

    From the hand-carved peonies in the bride’s bouquet to the massive arrangements of orchids, peonies, hydrangeas, calla lilies, and roses, Jessica and Amir’s beachside celebration was filled to the brim with purple and green flowers. See more from this wedding ►

    Photo Credit: Nick Brown

  • Savings: Flowers

    Savings: Flowers

    In keeping with the wedding's understated vibe, friends and family handcrafted Jenn’s floral headpiece, the bouquets, and the boutonnières for Matt and his groomsmen. See more from this wedding ►

    Photo Credit: Three Nails Photography

  • Splurge: Wedding Weekend

    Splurge: Wedding Weekend

    Jenna and Iván decided to host a four-day wedding weekend on Cape Cod, where Jenna spent many summers growing up. “It’s a place that’s very dear to my heart,” she said. Since many guests came from out of town or overseas, “we wanted to treat them to the best Cape Cod had to offer.” Weekend activities included a welcome clambake, a guided nature walk of the local marshlands, a yoga session on the beach the morning of the wedding, and a morning-after brunch at the bride’s parents’ house. See more from this wedding ►

    Photo Credit: Chris Cook Photography

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  • Savings: Getting Married on a Friday

    Savings: Getting Married on a Friday

    After falling in love with the luxe Cornerstone Gardens in Sonoma, a venue that captured Kate and Dave's passion for sprawling vineyards and rustic nature, the couple compromised by choosing a Friday for their celebration in order to save money. See more from this wedding ►

    Photo Credit: Sherman Chu Photography

  • Splurge: Catering

    Splurge: Catering

    During the cocktail hour, Kelly and Curtis’s guests enjoyed hors d'oeuvres of Tomato Gazpacho, Chinese Chicken in Wonton Cups, Hummus with Feta Cheese on Crostinis, Pork Mini Tacos with Spicy Red Cabbage Slaw, Baby Beets and Goat Cheese on Crostinis.

    For the entree, friends and family dined on Heirloom Tomato Salad with Fresh Burrata Cheese and Basil, Grilled Salt and Pepper Free Range Chicken, Slow-Cooked California Boneless Beef Short Ribs, Roasted Fingerling Potatoes, Grilled Oxnard Vegetables.

    And for dessert, apple pies by Julian Pie Company were displayed on cake stands along with a customized banner. Guests also were treated to an espresso bar and coffee service. See more from this wedding ►

    Photo Credit: Ashley Rose Photography

  • Savings: Catering

    Savings: Catering

    Jenn and Matt kept it casual with carnival-themed fare; for dinner, guests enjoyed a buffet of nachos with various toppings, buttered popcorn, and deep-fried corn dogs. For dessert, an assorted candy bar featured multicolored lollipops, licorice, jelly candy, Skittles, cotton candy, and lemon drops, in addition to the three-tier wedding cake and a layered cookie groom's cake. See more from this wedding ►

    Photo Credit: Three Nails Photography

  • Splurge: Cake

    Splurge: Cake

    Rebecca and Anil honored the groom’s Indian heritage with a henna-inspired cake, custom-designed by Fleur de Lisa Wedding Cakes. The shimmer-fondant cake with gold accents featured vanilla poppy seed cake, layered with white chocolate cream cheese, fresh raspberry puree, and tangy lemon curd fillings. See more from this wedding ►

    Photo Credit: Mike Peyzner and Natasha Valik of Choco Studio

  • Savings: Cake

    Savings: Cake

    Chera and Richard kept it simple for their wedding cake, save for a few special details: the cake was inscribed in Japanese with the words for ‘marriage’ and ‘happiness,’ as well as the couples’ initials. See more from this wedding ►

    Photo Credit: Chris Humphrey

  • Splurge: Wedding Planner

    Splurge: Wedding Planner

    Candice and Chip enlisted the help of celebrity wedding planner Sasha Souza to make their wedding dreams a reality. The theme of the festivities was “sharing the things we love with the people we love,” which translated into a brunch reception with local organic food in a natural, outdoor setting, with philanthropic components and a slew of lawn and board games. A whimsical feel was created through the orange and blue color scheme. See more from this wedding ►

    Photo Credit: Shawna Yarbrough and Damion Hamilton

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  • Savings: DIY Makeup

    Savings: DIY Makeup

    After splurging on a destination wedding location in the Florida Keys, Andrea saved by doing her own makeup. Her adorable Chihuahua, Louie, went au naturel. See more from this wedding ►

    Photo Credit: KT Merry

  • Splurge: Covering Costs for Guests

    Splurge: Covering Costs for Guests

    Mariel and Matt knew they wanted to have a destination wedding, where their guests could experience their big day and enjoy some fun-in-the-sun. They found their dream location in Jamaica. To help out their guests, they picked up much of the tab, in addition to organizing several activities, ranging from an ocean-view welcome cocktail hour and a sunset boat cruise to a volleyball tournament on the beach. They also stocked welcome beach bags with an itinerary and plenty of goodies. See more from this wedding ►

    Photo Credit: Andy Marcus of Fred Marcus Photography

  • Savings: Cutting the Guest List

    Savings: Cutting the Guest List

    To make their dream wedding a reality, Jessica and Amir trimmed their guest list from 150 to 70, giving their wedding a more intimate feel. See more from this wedding ►

    Photo Credit: Nick Brown

  • Splurge: Eco-Friendly Venue

    Splurge: Eco-Friendly Venue

    Kristen and Brad, who both grew up in the Bay Area, chose the lush, rolling hills of history Holman Ranch to hold their wedding. Their menu was based on fresh vegetables and meats available at the local farmers market. For the tables, the couple’s mothers planted fresh herbs in terra-cotta pots, which doubled as favors. “It was important to us that both the food and décor be eco-friendly,” said Kristen. See more from this wedding ►

    Photo Credit: Photography by Leah

  • Savings: Invitations

    Savings: Invitations

    Instead of sending expensive paper invites, Candice and Chip donated what they would’ve spent to UNICEF for African crises, setting the tone for their charitable wedding day. See more from this wedding ►

    Photo Credit: Shawna Yarbrough and Damion Hamilton

  • Splurge: Unique Venue

    Splurge: Unique Venue

    Both avid golfers, Chera and Richard chose an unusual venue: the 18th green at The Golf Club of Oklahoma. “It’s one of the most beautiful courses in the state,” said Chera. Richard and his groomsmen even played a round of golf during the hours leading up to the ceremony, while Chera relaxed with her mom, sister, and best friends, having their hair and makeup done together. “It was nice to have some private time with the women in my life. See more from this wedding ►

    Photo Credit: Chris Humphrey

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  • Savings: DIY Décor

    Savings: DIY Décor

    Stacy and Paul wanted their wedding to reflect their passion for reading and writing; personalized décor helped bring their vision to life. Hand-painted wooden signs with literary quotes and advice from loved ones began the vintage storybook theme. For their guest book, friends and family were asked to type up their marital advice on an old typewriter and decoupage it onto a heart-shaped print. The couple hung a clothesline of photos throughout the years to emulate a storyboard. Even the table settings included a paper runner for guests to write on, and the table numbers and place cards were embellished with Scrabble letters. See more from this wedding ►

    Photo Credit: Jeff Wallace Photography