One of the things you told me in the reader survey was that you wanted tips for planning your wedding in the Washington DC area with “champagne taste on a beer budget.” You told me that you have great style and lofty dreams for your wedding, but don’t necessarily the have budget to pull it off. And, let’s face it – planning a wedding in DC, Maryland and northern Virginia is pricey! I went to some of the top wedding planners in the DMV and asked their advice. How would they help their client? Those crafty planners seem to know all the tricks to stretching a buck and making the most out of a wedding budget!

The biggest thing that I learned from the planners was that not breaking the bank planning a wedding is more about getting value out of your dollars spent and ensuring that you are making the most of what you have, instead of trying to get high end items at a low price or trying to hunt down deals. Yes, there are wedding deals to had, but in the Washington DC area the most effective to save wedding costs is by being smart about spending. Without further ado, here are some tips to pulling off a wedding with champagne taste on a beer budget from the best wedding planners in the DC area…


Photo Credit: Lisa Boggs Photography

The Wow Factor

“Focus a few ‘wow’ factor moments across the duration of the wedding instead of trying to do everything big the entire day. A few pops of interesting carrying the night in a much more lux way; than if you try to spread your budget too thin. The number one way to make a room feel more luxurious and rich is lighting. Having great ambient lighting such as up lights or a wash on the ceiling can make the room really come to life. Offset this cost with a few floral centerpieces balanced with candle centerpieces, which can cut your budget cost down.” — Tabitha, owner of Roberts & Co. Events

“With growth in sites like Pinterest, everything seem possible. The options literally seem endless to most brides. In reality, only some things are readily available in the DC market, online or work with a client’s budget. The best way to get the most out of your budget with decor elements and personal touches is to edit the list of ideas down to the ones that are the most important and to focus resources are a few high-impact items and then keep it restrained everywhere else. Our rule of thumb is three high-impact decor elements and three high-impact personal touches.” – Elizabeth, owner of Elizabeth Duncan Events

Date + Location

“Consider booking your date on an off-peak time, whether that means the months of January through March, July or August, or booking your event on a day other than Saturday evening. You can see a cost savings not only on your venue, but it can be a negotiation tool when discussing packages and options with your other vendors as well.” – Courtney, owner of A Sweet Soiree Events

“We recommending choosing a venue outside of Washington, DC proper. The tax is is less, the rental fees are less and you usually get more date and time flexibility at your venues. Also, try to keep your event to five hours, including the ceremony, cocktails and reception. The hourly fees for longer events can add up when you factor in the different vendors such as photographer, caterer, etc.” – Heather, president of HJ Planners

“A great option is to have a daytime wedding with a seated lunch as opposed to a seated dinner. Many couples would be pleasantly surprised by all of the savings they get with a daytime wedding.  With a lunch wedding, couples can provide a great meal and save on overall food and alcohol costs.” – Margo, owner of Bright Occasions

The Reception

“For the bar, consider doing beer, wine and a signature drink instead of full open bar. If you do full open bar, close it for dinner and just have wine service at the guests’ tables. You can opt for your DJ to also play the ceremony music instead of getting a string ensemble. Your DJ’s hourly rate may be less than hiring a separate vendor. You can also repurpose your ceremony flowers as tall table arrangements at the reception.” – Heather, president of HJ Planners

Splurge on Your Bouquet

“If you have a limited decor budget, I still recommend splurging on the bride’s bouquet. It will be in a vast majority of the photos that you will later cherish, so I’d make it a stunner. I once had clients who got simple centerpieces from Costco, but the bride got a gorgeous bouquet from Holly Chapple. It looked incredible in photos.” — Janice, owner of Bellwether Events

Interactive Experiences

“A great way to bring in the designer ideas without breaking the budget is to focus your attention on interactive ideas for guests that are not super expensive. For example, having a hot coco and/or a cookie station at the end of the night with take away cups and personalized sleeves really leave guests with a lasting impression. You can have a family member make the cookies homemade which saves on cost, and the only large expense is personalized sleeves or cups which won’t break the bank if purchased through wholesale websites.” — Tabitha, owner of Roberts & Co. Events

Guest List

“The best way to get more out of your event budget is to manage your guest count. The more you invite, the more you pay, so edit your guest count and then edit again.  If you have invited 250 people to your event, a reasonable budget it going to be tough.” – Elizabeth, owner of Elizabeth Duncan Events

“My best advice for couples that may have ‘champagne taste’ and a ‘beer budget’ is to keep the guest list small. By having a more intimate wedding, you can really stretch your dollars; thus being able to afford higher quality vendors, and possibly splurge on a delicious meal with an open bar and an amazing wedding cake or a dessert table.  Plus there are many benefits to having smaller weddings, such as you’ll have the opportunity to spend more quality time with your guests, as opposed to feeling like you didn’t get to talk with everyone in attendance.  n addition, you should be able to comfortably fit inside most of DC’s historic homes, which are beautiful options.” – Margo, owner of Bright Occasions


A huge “thank you” to the awesome wedding planners who helps us out with these great tips! I know I learned a lot and I’m not even planning a wedding! Be sure to check out each of their websites and consider them for your wedding. I firmly believe: wedding planners can save you money!

Are you looking for more local wedding ideas and advice? Be sure to look through our DC area wedding idea galleries and find wedding advice from local DC area pros. If that isn’t enough, check out our collection of local DMV weddings from the real world and the best DC area wedding vendors who make it all happen.

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