By Sara Bristoll

Let’s face it… weddings are expensive. If we’re being honest with ourselves, they’re probably one of the most expensive parties we’ll throw in our lifetime. Shortly after the proposal comes the shock of the cost that cuts through the excitement and glow that accompanies the decision to spend your lives together.

I was recently married, and even though I employed most of the cost-cutting tricks you’ll find online (short of getting married at the courthouse or having my uncle become an iPod DJ), our wedding still hosted a hefty price tag.

My now-husband and I wanted an upscale wedding. We wanted the glitz and the glamour…but we didn’t want the price tag. So, we sat down and together decided on what we could sacrifice, and what we could not. In our minds, the venue was important, the quality of food and dessert was a big deal, and the DJ and officiant would make or break the party.

Here’s what we skipped that most of our guests didn’t notice:

  • Ceremony décor: Our ceremony site hosted a gorgeous view of the park with floor-to-ceiling windows, clean wood flooring, and simple white chairs. Most of our guests were more focused on us and our officiant and didn’t notice the lack of aisle runner (that gets scuffed up by dirty soles before the bride walks down most of the time), or missing archway.
  • Boutonnieres: For every event I went to where my date ‘needed’ a boutonniere, I remember the painstaking attempts at putting it on just right. And, by the end of the night, they were never where you originally put them. We opted for nice matching suits that the guys looked so good in no one even noticed the lack of floral accompaniment.
  • Floral Centerpieces: Another way we cut costs with flowers was by using candles, mirrors and sand for our centerpieces. They were simple and elegant, and they didn’t overcrowd the tables. In total, we spent $200 on centerpieces and $180 on flowers for the bride and bridesmaids.
  • RSVP Cards: RSVP cards are a formal way for guests to reply to your wedding. But most people don’t know how to fill them out, or forget to turn them in. As the host, you end up paying for the cards… and the postage. Then, you have to manually track the responses (and hope you don’t lose them). If you’re going to build a wedding website (which most wedding planning sites like The Knot and Wedding Wire offer for free), use their Guest Tracking Tool. You upload your list of guests by party, then your guests RSVP on your website and your guest list is automatically updated online and in the app. This was a life saver for me.
  • Other paper goods: Ceremony programs, custom thank you notes for the tables (not for the gifts!), menus – these were all items we opted to skip. Don’t get me wrong! They are often beautiful and the details can make the wedding, but they also end up in the recycler after the wedding is over. The only thing we opted for (and because they were 60 percent off) was customized drink napkins.
  • Wedding Favors: My favorite wedding favor that I’ve seen was a mini-champagne bottle with my name attached to a tag tied on it. And even that friend of mine confessed half of the guests left without theirs. Yes, we tend to think anything customized with our name and date are cute and must-have accessories; but most of our guests don’t. We opted out of wedding favors and guess how many of our guests asked where the favors were? That’s right….zero.


Just remember, as you’re planning your wedding, that there are a million other brides and bridal magazines pressuring you to ‘keep-up’ with the celebrities or perfect brides. Sit down and decide what is really important to you, and ask yourselves if your guests will really notice if that extra customized glass, or hand printed welcome card, is not at the wedding.