How Not to Blow Your Budget

Money can be a touchy subject, particularly when it comes to wedding planning. Who’s paying? What can we afford? A three-tier cake costs how much?! David’s Bridal reached out to wedding planner Emily Norton from The Main Event in Smithfield, Virginia, because she’s a genius at making every dollar count. Here’s her advice for getting your dream day at a cost that’s actually doable.

Couple in suit and wedding gown walking down aisle surrounded by people holding sparklers

Ask for help

This is what friends are for! Enlist a steady-handed pal for calligraphy duties and your most socially skilled bud for seating charts. “Those are hours of work that many vendors would charge you to do,” says Norton.

Pre-choose the booze

Instead of a pricey full bar, offer beer and wine—Norton suggests two types of each. And, for an extra option, serve a signature cocktail made with just a couple types of liquor. Share your all-time favorite sip, or pick one that relates to the wedding theme.

Start with the speeches

“Do the toasts when you first sit down for dinner, not later when you cut the cake,” says Norton, because you can forgo costly champagne as everyone raises a glass of whatever they’re already drinking. Plus, speakers aren’t tipsy yet, so spiels will be shorter—and you’ll get more time to dance.

Be a weekday warrior

Weekday venue bookings generally cost less than Fridays, Saturdays, or Sundays. Try this tactic if most attendees live nearby, or snag a pre-holiday date—say, December 23 or July 3—when folks are likely to have off work the next day.

Beat the crowds

Instead of a prime-time event, how about a morning wedding? You’ll slash costs—not necessarily on the venue, but on the food and drinks, says Norton. “You can host a brunch or a luncheon with lighter and less expensive fare.”

Take it slow

“A bride can save a ton if she uses a long engagement to research good deals or DIY a lot of the details,” Norton says. If your timeline is short, vendors’ availability may be limited, leaving you stuck with higher rates. 

Consider hidden costs

Outdoor venues like local parks often come with low, if any, fees. But be careful, says Norton: “You still have to rent a tent, tables, chairs, and linens, which can run up to $4,000.”  Translation: These aren’t automatically more wallet-friendly than a traditional venue.

Skip the plated dinner

“The number of staff required for a seated, plated meal means it’s always going to cost more, no matter what entrees you choose,” says Norton. But there is middle ground between five-star dining and a self-serve spread, such as passed hors d’oeuvres before dinner or a manned meat-carving station beside the buffet. 

...Or skip supper altogether

Who wouldn’t love a wine-tasting reception? Or a dessert and coffee bar? Hold a candlelight ceremony around 7 p.m. that gives way to a late-night celebration. “Just be sure it’s clear that guests should eat dinner before they come,” says Norton. “Otherwise, people will leave early when they get hungry.” 


More than anything, Norton says, “focus on what’s important to you.” (An amazing deal on an ice sculpture isn’t amazing if you don’t care about having an ice sculpture.) “Make a numbered list of what matters to you and your fiancé,” she advises.  Take care of those top items first, because when you hit your last budgeted dollar, you won’t miss what’s left. “Have you ever left a wedding and thought, ‘Oh my, can you believe that couple didn’t have monogrammed napkins?’” she says. “Didn’t think so.”