Cake tasting = fun. Dress shopping = fun. Crafting your dream reception playlist = fun. Wedding = fun times twelve. But while you’re getting ready for your Best. Day. Ever, inevitably a concern or two about budget may arise. But hey, fear not. A) it’s totally normal, and B) Yes, budgeting and reallocating funds can be a bummer and quite the lackluster task in your wedding to-do list, but there are nearly endless ways you can have your cake and eat it for free, too. Read on for some of our top tips for scoring free swag for your wedding from wedding and savings experts.
Photo Credit: Red Letter Days
1. Snag a free suite
#Suitelife, giddy on up! “If you have a lot of guests staying in a particular hotel, ask for a suite for you to stay in on your wedding night,” advises Jeanette Pavini, Coupons.com Savings Expert, who offers additional tips on their wedding blog. “Most hotels will give you a complimentary room if you are securing a certain number of rooms for guests!” Hotel for your wedding night? Check. Nuptials-night romance? Check plus.
2. Stuff your welcome bag with awesome goodies
You’ve pinned away for months now dreaming up your ideal bundle o’ treats for your guests. Ever thought of this genius idea? “Welcome bag content can range from wine to water to maps. Why not visit your local chamber of commerce to receive a few complimentary contents such as a concierge magazine that will guide your guests on local restaurants and attractions?” offers Lydia Redmond, director of weddings at Ritz-Carlton, Naples in Naples, Florida. From vouchers to postcards, you may be surprised at all the neat and locally-fitting gifts they can offer!
3. Upgrade your invites
Between calligraphy dreamin’ and reply card draftin’, consider this: “Printed invitations are one of those costs that can add a lot to your budget,” states Pavini. “Ask the printer for a complimentary upgrade of paper. Many times they will do this for you, especially if your total order is significant.” Now, back to that creativity brainstorming sesh…
4. Get the future hubs a free tux
Real talk: Your “Mr.” probably hasn’t been clipping photos of his ideal tux since, oh, age fourteen. “Many tuxedo rental companies will provide a complimentary tux for the groom with multiple paid tuxedo rentals for the groomsmen/bridal party,” suggests Redmond. Talk to various menswear providers to see which best match your needs.
5 Reach out to your local college’s music program
“Check with your local college music department or music school to ask students to play for your ceremony,” says Pavini. “Many advanced students will do this for the experience and exposure (although you should tip them) and some will play at a deeply-reduced cost.”
6. Lean on your friends
The Bill Withers song tells you to do so, and you know you’d do the same in a heartbeat (if you haven’t already!) for you gals on their big day as well. “Weddings are the appropriate time to call in favors from friends. Do you have a friend that is a talented carpenter? Have you had your eye on that beautiful wooden bench for your ceremony, but can’t quite fit it into your budget? Call upon your friend’s expertise to create this for you,” suggests Redmond. “This will provide a customized piece made especially for the two of you, and bragging rights for your friend.”
7. Score a comped honeymoon
Dream on, you say? Dream up, we reply! If you’re getting married at a hotel chain, inquire about any honeymoon specials — The Ritz-Carlton, for example, will treat you to a “honeymoon on us” experience, which includes a stay any one of the 55 Ritz-Carlton hotels and resorts in the U.S., Caribbean or Mexico. Based on how much you spend, the hotel will give you a complimentary 3, 5 or 7-night honeymoon with airfare credit. To score a dream vacay of your own like this, simply inquire with the venue when booking your wedding about honeymoon specials. Even if they don’t market the special, you may be pleasantly surprised with swoonworthy bespoke options available to you.
8. Do all your paper products with one vendor
Not only will this save you the headache of dealing with extra vendors, but it can also give your wallet a big-time break. “Paper products, such as save the dates, formal invitations, place cards, menu cards and thank you notes, can add up fast. Combining these services with one vendor will give you the opportunity to receive the best possible value and your outcome of these important details will be seamless with a common theme running throughout,” shares Redmond.
9. Ask about the venue’s preferred vendor list’s waiting list
Yes, you read that right. “Getting on a venue’s preferred vendor list is priceless for caterers and this can be a big money saving negotiating strategy for you!” exclaims Pavini. “Here’s how it works: Most venues have certain caters that they work with. Caterers get on this list by having someone hire them to do an event or wedding at the facility. Ask the venue if there are any caterers wanting to get onto this list. Most of the time these caterers will offer you rock-bottom prices and in turn they are now able to be put on the preferred vendors list.” This sneaky strategy can save you upwards of hundreds, even thousands of dollars for your wedding.
10. Book free glam squad services
“When planning your trial hair and makeup appointments, inquire with your glam team if they can give you a credit towards the wedding day if you secure their services for the entire wedding party,” suggests Redmond. Since trial hair and makeup runs can set you back a few hundred dollars (or more!), try shooting your engagement photos the same day while you’re all gussied up.
11. Book free photo services
Speaking of engagement photos, that leads us to our next point: Signing with a photographer is no small deal (here are some of the best questions to ask before booking one) and oftentimes sticker shock for their services can be overwhelming. Many photographers will throw in a free or heavily-discounted engagement shoot for singing, so enquire up front about any special offers that may be available and get hashtag planning. “Depending on the amount you are spending, some photographers will give this shoot to you at no charge.”
12. Get a free guest book
Those beautifully-bound books your guests adorn with their love for you and your beau can set you back a pretty penny. But a little savviness goes a long way: “Check sites like Shutterfly for wedding deals like free guest books. Also, look for coupon codes at sites like coupons.com to save even more!” suggests Pavini.
13. Refer a friend!
“Every vendor loves a referral, and caterers and venues are no different,” explains Redmond. “Should the opportunity present itself to refer other couples, don’t be afraid to ask for some type of concessions in return. Maybe it’s an additional hour of a complimentary bar, a few additional options of passed hors d'oeuvres for the cocktail reception, or a confections table to satisfy your guests late night sweet tooth.” Whatever it is, think about what the most meaningful freebie throw-in would be for your big day, and politely ask if it could be arranged in exchange for the successful referral.
14. Turn those frowns upside down
But really, though. If you’re considering Botox or other minimally invasive forms of plastic surgery or deluxe facial packages before your wedding, listen up! "At the Lorenc plastic surgery office, we have treated bridal parties, and mothers of the bride and groom! We offer a 20% discount to all in a bridal parties that are treated on the same day,” says Dr. Z. Paul Lorenc, NYC Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon. “For any surgeries, we offer the same discount. Brides of all ages come in to get procedures done such as Botox, fillers, facials, etc.” Speak up and ask if you can guarantee a certain amount of business if they will throw in free treatments for the bride.
15. Maximize your wedding registry
Milk it, ladies! “You may get a free gift just for setting up your bridal registry. Some stores or manufacturers will give you dishware or other items for adding their items to your gift registry list,” shares Pavini. When registering with various stores and websites, ask about their policy and see how you can cash in on that china set or blender you’ve been lusting over.
16. Choose your wedding day wisely
“Many times, you can save up to 50 percent by simply foregoing the ever-so-popular Saturday,” says Pavini. Sure, weekend dancing is fun. But think beyond the extravagant sit-down dinner, and you may be surprised at how much farther your dollar goes.
17. Rethink your floral arrangements
As an engaged lady, you may quickly realize how much of a dent in your checkbook bouquets, flower arrangements can make. “Flowers can be expensive! It’s interesting because it seems that just because it’s a wedding, flowers are more expensive. Ask the florist if you let them choose the flowers, if you can get a discount,” advises Pavini. “Many times, florists have certain flowers in excess and need to get rid of them before they die. So, they will offer a great deal to create your bouquets or arrangements out of what they have on hand.” It’s essentially like getting 20 dozen roses for free. Or, try newcomer bloomerent.com, a flower-sharing platform for weddings, charity events and more to score incredible discounts without compromising quality.
18. Volunteer to be a video guinea pig
It's more fun and less risky than it sounds, thanks to the autopilot abilities of many pro cameras and the young talent in the wedding industry looking to get started. “Offer your wedding as a test run for video production companies trying to break into the wedding business. In exchange for shooting a video at no charge of your wedding, the video production company can use your video for promotional purposes to get work,” suggests Pavini. Win-win for all parties involved!
19. Rethink your wedding envelope size
So, that whole postage thing... yeah. It’s really adding up! “And you will use four for every invite: Save the date, the invitation, the RSVP, and the thank you. That is close to two bucks per invite!” says Pavini. So, consider the size of your invitation: square cards require more postage and add on an extra 21 cents each”
20. Make staff meal more budget-friendly
A little overlooked but important-to-remember newsflash: Everyone from your photographers to musicians have to eat some grub on your big day, too. “You are usually asked to provide a dinner for your musicians, bartenders, servers, and other workers of your wedding. But at meal cost of upwards of $60 a head, that can add up! Ask the caterer if they will provide ‘vendor meals; at a reduced rate. Most of the time you can save about half the cost of the meal,” recommends Pavini.
21. Get some free swag on us for your wedding day!
Here at Bridal Guide, we're constantly offering amazing sweepstakes. Check our "Win" section frequently for a chance to win couple getaways, a free wedding gown, and unbeatable swag for your bridal party. Hey, you never know! Also look for honeymoon giveaways in unconventional places, like from your favorite band, author, or sports team.
22. Be savvy with your band selection
“During the band selection process, ask if one of its members can DJ during the band’s breaks or even take over the playlist for the after party at no additional cost to you,” offers Redmond. For your after-party, also consider apps like Spotify, which even have lists of the top wedding songs and give you the ability to customize your tunes. "Crash Into Me" reprise, anyone?
23. Shine up that engagement ring
Ready, set, let’s sparkle! As a bride, chances are, you’ve been wearing your glistening stunner for a while before your big walk down the aisle. “Instead of doing a basic cleaning, the jeweler you purchased the ring from will usually [throw in a free upgrade to] a ‘Wedding Day’ cleaning which is a deeper, looks-like-new cleaning,” shares Pavini. Like-new splendor for your nuptials and photographic wonder? Don’t mind if we (say I) do.
24. Score a better deal on your dress
"When you're at the store, ask to look floor samples," says Pavini. "These are dresses that the store used for brides to try on. You can get good deals on these dresses!" Also, if you notice a slight imperfection on a floor sample (something practically imperceptible to most, so you can live with buying!), don't be afraid to ask for a steeper discount.
25. Dig into more heaping spoonfuls of cake
Mmmmm... it’s the moment your tastebuds (and uncle, college roommate, best friend from middle school, and swim team relay race partner) have been dreaming of. “Cakes can add an additional $800-$1,200 to the budget,” says Pavini. "Here’s a great tip so you can still enjoy the elegance of a wedding cake but the practicality of a sheet cake: Ask your baker to create a small decorative cake for you to put your cake topper on and for the two of you to cut. Then, have them make the rest of the cake to be served as a basic frosted sheet cake. It’s the same cake but far less expensive!” It’s pretty much like getting two or three cakes for the price of one. And in case you want to hold onto the tasty magic for another year, here’s a refresher on preserving your cake!