I know that planning a wedding is a crazy experience. You’re expected to flawlessly throw the largest, most complicated party of your lives, while not knowing anything about the inner workings of weddings before the day you got engaged. I started this series because I wanted to provide a way for brides and grooms to navigate the system with ease and clarity. A way to answer some of those questions you’re dying to ask, but don’t know how to ask them. Got a topic you’d like me to talk about? Post a comment on any Tips for Clients post, and I’ll add it to my list! xoxo, E.


Marriage is pretty cheap, according to my husband (the accountant), it can save you a good chunk on your taxes. To get married, you only need four* things: someone to marry, someone to officiate the marriage, witnesses to the marriage, and a license to make it legal.  Awesome. That’s only going to run you a couple hundred dollars, max.

Weddings, on the other hand, are not cheap. They’re expensive. According to this nifty tool, the average wedding cost in Spokane is just over $26,000. Hop over to Coeur d’Alene, and that drops to $17,000. Throwing a wedding in Seattle? That’s going to set you back an average of $35,000.

Ouch. Why is a wedding so much more expensive than a marriage? It’s easy: you’re throwing the biggest party of your lives. But, most of us, even with the help of our families, don’t have a $20,000+ just laying around. [If you do, I’ve got some student loans that I’m still paying off…]

How to Trim Your Wedding Budget (without being a jerk) // Emily Wenzel Photography

The internet is full of articles on ways you can save money on your wedding. Do a quick search for “budget weddings” or “how to save money on your wedding” and I’m sure you’ll find lots of (bad) examples like telling your vendors it’s a family reunion (I’ve seen it), or asking them to work for free (would you do your job for free?), or DIYing the whole thing**. Frankly, the suggestions usually range from “this is a bad idea” to “screw it, we’re flying to Vegas” to “something you’d see on a B rated movie at 3am”.

Every couple is on a budget when it comes to wedding planning, and when you’re on a small budget, every little bit helps. After planning our wedding, and working in the business for almost five years, I’m here to give you my inside tips on five ways to cut your budget (without being an ass).

1. Cut the Guest List

The best and quickest way to cut your budget is to have a smaller wedding. Fewer guests means a smaller venue, fewer tables, and less people to feed. Catering fees are usually calculated “per head”, meaning per guest. Using a rough average of $25/person for catering, cutting the guest list from 150 to 100 can save you $1,250. You’re also able to save on the venue by renting a smaller space, rentals – if you need them – by renting fewer tables, chairs, and linens (~$250), and cake ($150).

Total savings: $1,650.

Batch Bakeshop Wedding // Emily Wenzel Photography

2. Get Married in the Off Season

Here’s the thing: we all know that there are only so many Saturdays during the busy season (which varies by region). In June-September of 2015, there are 17 Saturdays. Those days fill up months in advance, and (especially) venues charge a premium for them. If you’re willing to forgo 80+ degree days for a fall, winter, or spring wedding, you can save big. How big? According to a recent interview with Apple Brides, the rental fee for Schweitzer Mountain can be as low as $900 in the winter. Can you believe that? On a prime summer date, their venue is about $5,000. Schweitzer’s current indoor space fits 100 people in the winter, so you’ve just saved an additional $4,000 by going for a winter date. Not willing to give up your late spring, summer or early fall wedding? Having your wedding on any day but Saturday can often drop the venue price by as much as 25%, and sometimes, you’ll be able to get a lower price from other vendors as well. We like to have Saturdays off occasionally too!  [Side note: I would LOVE to have more winter weddings, so if you’re planning a winter wedding, shoot me an email!]

~Total savings: $4,000.

Nectar Tasting Room Wedding // Emily Wenzel Photography

3. Have a Morning Wedding

Still want to have your summer wedding? Get married in the morning, with a brunch or lunch reception. Brunch menus are usually cheaper (an average of $15-20/person compared to $25-30 for dinner), plus your guests are less likely to drink as much, so you’re going to save on alcohol too. Cutting just $10/person off the catering bill, and $5/person bartender’s bill will save you $1,500 for a 100 person wedding. Still want to go out and party? Arrange a small after party for your nearest and dearest at your favorite club or bar and party as late as you want.

~Total savings: $1,500.

Gonzaga University Wedding // Emily Wenzel Photography

4. Rent, don’t Buy

I recently popped on to Rent the Runway to look for a dress for an upcoming vacation, and I’m in awe of all their gorgeous dresses. I don’t about you, but my wedding dress is the most expensive piece of clothing I’ve ever bought…and I wore it once. With Rent the Runway, you can rent dresses for either four or eight days, and they’ll send you a second size as a back-up. For this little exercise, I was looking at an 8 day rental. This may not work for every bride, but they’ve got some stunning gowns (both short and long) like the Say I Do gown, which rents for $120, or if you’re looking for more bling (who isn’t?), I love the Heaven on Earth gown for $240, or the Dipped in Gold Mermaid gown for $280. Like I said, this may not work for everyone, but if you love a dress they’ve got, it could save you hundreds, plus it won’t stare at you, sadly, from the guest room at your parents’ house every time you visit while your mom asks what you’re doing with the dress. Or is that just me? The average wedding dress purchase is around $1,200, and you’re only going to wear it once. Men, instead of renting, scout out a couple outfits you like and purchase one. Chances are, you’ll be invited to a wedding or other fancy party sometime again, and a suit can absolutely be worn more than once. Waiting for a good sale can save you a bundle, plus there’s no panic about it not fitting when it gets delivered.

~Total savings: $1,000.

Epic Dance Party Wedding // Emily Wenzel Photography

5. Slim Down the Wedding Party

It starts out innocently enough, a sibling or two, maybe your best friend from high school. Then, you’ve got to add a college friend, maybe a cousin too, and before you know it, you and your fiance have ended up with a wedding party in double digits. It’s not bad, you think, until you add up the cost of all those boutonnieres and bouquets. At $25 for a boutonniere and $50 for a bouquet, cutting your wedding party by three people on each side can save you $225 in just flower costs. Go from a 10 person wedding party to none, and you’ll save yourselves $750 on flowers alone. That doesn’t include the gifts you would have bought them, the time spent coordinating dresses that look good on five women who all have different body types, and the guilt from including one friend but not another. That leaves them free to enjoy your wedding. Hey, they might even thank you, since according to numerous sources, being a bridesmaid can cost upwards of $1,600. Ouch.

~Total savings: $750.

PS – Don’t want to cut your wedding party? Take it easy on your women (and their closets) and rent their dresses too. Most bridesmaids spend a couple hundred on a dress, and these rent for as little as $50.

Seattle Wedding Photographer // Emily Wenzel Photography

All that being said, you could, hypothetically, save a crazy total of $8,900 by having a wedding of 100 guests with no wedding party in the morning during the winter, given the example pricing above.  That’s more than 30% of the average cost of a wedding in Spokane, or 50% of the average Coeur d’Alene wedding, and about 25% of the average Seattle wedding. Crazy! By the way, each of the photos above is from a wedding where the couple used at least one of the tips I mentioned — and they were all amazing!

*In the state of Idaho, you don’t need any witnesses, so you really only need three things to get married. Woohoo!

**I personally like DIY and projects. Heck, we’re renovating our house right now, and doing a good chunk of work ourselves, but DIYing a whole wedding is a stress headache and you’ll probably hate yourself.

What ways did you save money on your wedding?