Let’s be honest. We all can’t afford to have the wedding of our dreams when those dream mean thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars – especially in the Washington, DC area. Planning (aka funding) your wedding comes down to priorities. Spend money on the things that matter the most to you as a couple and skip the rest. After all, what matters is the marriage. The rest is gravy!

With the skipping in mind though, I thought it would be fun to compile a list of the top 10 things that you can do without at your wedding to help save yourself a little cash. When you see average weddings costs and total wedding budget amounts, these items are generally included. So, if you skip ‘em, you’ll be saving yourself. When planning a wedding, the little things add up and saving every little bit counts. Here goes (in no particular order)…

maryland-eastern-shore-bicycle-inspired-wedding-muriel-silva-photography

Photo Credit: Muriel Silva Photography from Allison + Jonathan’s wedding

1. Menu Cards
Potential cost savings: $$
Menu cards are pieces of paper at each place setting letting the guests know what will be served for dinner. Sometimes couples have fun with the menu cards and have a designer make and print the cards, which costs money. Menu cards are a nice touch, but by no means required. Besides, it isn’t like your guests can order something different! If you still want menu cards, but can’t afford it, this is certainly something you could DIY ahead of time. You could also consider making one large menu board for all guests to view. These menu boards look awesome in chalk!

2. Transportation
Potential cost savings: $$$$
There are two types of wedding transportation: one is for you and your spouse, and the other is for your guests. Sometimes couples hire a limo to take themselves (and their wedding party) to/from the ceremony and reception. Couples can also splurge on some sort of get-away car at the end of the night. The get-away car is definitely skip-able. As one of our Facebook readers said, “By the end of the night, half of the guests have left already anyway and the remaining half is either drunk or tired, so they don’t care what you drive away in.”

Sometimes couples hire vans, buses or trolleys to transport their guests to/from the hotel to the ceremony, reception and home at the end of the night. Hiring wedding guest transportation is very common in the DC area (See: list of local DC area wedding transportation companies), because most guests are from out of town and getting around the city on time and in one piece can be really tough! But, you can image how this can add up very quickly. Skipping transportation for your guests and letting them be adults about getting themselves to/from your wedding is a huge savings for you.

If you skip formal transportation, it is nice to provide directions and parking information to help to your guests. Ensure that you have pre-arranged some type of ride for yourself. Also, make sure that it is clear to your wedding party that they will need to obtain their own rides. You don’t want anyone to get left behind!

3. Favors
Potential cost savings: $$$
Even if you only spend $2 per favor, the cost can still really add up. On a 200 person wedding that is $400, plus any shipping or additional fees. Finding nice and worthy favors for that price is tough to do anyway. If you are trying to save money, skip the favors all together. No wedding guest expects a favor. What is worse is that guests tend to leave favors or throw them out when they get home. If you are going to do favors, I’m partial to edible ones because I think they are appreciated the most. Favors are a great option to DIY. (See: Fudge wedding favor recipe and DIY wedding favor bags.) If you have a family member or close friend that really wants a role in your wedding, you can ask them to bake cookies or make granola for your guests as a wedding favor.

4. Bathroom Amenities
Potential cost savings: $
Sometimes couples put a basket full of amenities in the bathroom for their guests. Such items include mints, hairspray, tissues, feminine products – the list is endless for potential items to include. And, so is the price tag when you are talking more than one restroom. As Tabitha from Roberts & Co. Events said, “Guests barely use them or just take it with them at the end of the night as freebies. Saves $100 easily.”

5. Floral Centerpieces
Potential cost savings: $$$$
Flowers cost money. Period. It costs money to grow them, transport them, have a florist arrange them for you and deliver them to your event. I know that many suggest to DIY your flower centerpieces, or have a friend or family member do the florals to save money. This might work for some couples, but I’m not a huge advocate for the DIY floral anything option. For many reasons, I think florals are one of those things better left to the professionals. Skipping floral centerpieces is also an option when so many other, cheaper centerpiece options are available. Think: candles, seasonal items like pumpkins, even goldfish! Non-floral centerpiece ideas are endless. I really love the idea of doing potted plants and herbs as centerpieces and letting guests take the pots home – favors and centerpieces in one!

6. Programs
Potential cost savings: $$
Programs for your wedding ceremony serves a few purposes. It lets your guests know the order of things, it gives you a chance to write a dedication or thank you to your guests, and it allows you to introduce your wedding party. Beyond that, it is just something for your guests to look and fan themselves with at while your ceremony is going on! Be honest! If you are trying to save money, skip the programs. No one will miss them. If you are having programs, as Vicki from My Simple Details told her client in this real Virginia wedding that we featured: Print less programs than you think you need. You don’t need one per guest and you’ll save yourself printing costs.

7. Videographer
Potential cost savings: $$$$
This pains me to write, because I LOVE my wedding video to this day, but it is true. Videographers cost a lot of money. If you are looking to save money, you can certainly skip a wedding videographer. I definitely wouldn’t recommend hiring a photographer who also does video as a way to get both services for cheaper. This is just a disaster waiting to happen. You want your photographer focused on taking pictures, not worrying about video. If your photographer brings an additional person to help with video that might work and could be something to consider.

8. Fancy Linens
Potential cost savings: $$
This really applies to all wedding rentals. If you choose more affordable rented items, you can really save yourself. Wedding rentals like linens, china, glasses and chairs can add up when you are talking 150 to 200 guests. So, skip the fancy table linens and the fine china. Opt for simple, more affordable choices like white linens and plates. Nothing beats a crisp, clean white table linen anyway! Your guests won’t notice that you didn’t splurge on the custom-cut, imported silk table linens.

9. Open Bar
Potential cost savings: $$$$
Skipping the open, fully stocked bar at your wedding is like cash in your hand. Food and drink will probably be one of your biggest wedding expenses. Think about how much it would cost to take all of your friends and family out drinking to a bar one night!? It is astronomical! So, cutting back on or skipping the open bar has the potential for huge savings. I know you or your fiance might have had your hearts and minds set on the idea of an open bar, but let me tell you it isn’t easy to pull off financially. There are a few different options to indulge your guests and still save money. You can offer a few signature or pre-made cocktails. This should be a set price and cheaper than an open bar. You can go seasonal like a caramel apple martini in the fall or something personal, like your favorite drink. You can offer just wine and beer. This alone will save you the hard alcohol costs. If your venue allows it, you can purchase ahead of time and bring in your own booze. (Big box stores like Costco or even a trip to Delaware can be an option here!) With a little advance planning, this can be a huge money saver and you get to keep the extra booze!

10. RSVP Cards
Potential cost savings: $$$
I know it is fun to get things in the mail these days, but with e-mail and online RSVP options, you can certainly skip formal RSVP cards in your wedding invitations. You will not only save in the printing of the cards, but you’ll also save in the return postage that you’ll have to put on each card. If you have a wedding planner in DC, they can collect RSVPs for you. They might charge a small fee to do so, but it would still be cheaper than using formal RSVP cards. On Twitter, Erica said that an online RSVP was great for contacting all of her guests when they had to change wedding locations the day before because of a potential storm. If you do this, just make it clear on the invitation how your guests should RSVP. Most guests will look for the RSVP card and you want to avoid any confusion.

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So that’s it! What did I miss? Leave a comment and let me know what you are skipping at your wedding to save money! And, a super special thanks to everyone on Twitter and Facebook who chimed in with such good suggestions for this list. Keep ‘em coming!

In the meantime, check out this post on 5 ways to save money on your DC area wedding. You can also skip the money talk and have some fun looking around for inspiration in our local DC wedding idea galleries!

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