6 Ways to Make Your Wedding Cheaper, But Not Suckier

“That was the cheapest wedding EVER!”

Ok, so this isn’t what you’re hoping your friends will say after your roll off in the limo (or the Honda Civic, or the wheelbarrow). But even if your name is Donald Trump, you didn’t get where you are today by blowing cash on stuff you didn’t want or need.

So how do you make your budget stretch – without making your wedding suck?

What not to do

Never hire a lousy vendor. If you’re whittling down your budget, you’ll be tempted to make decisions on quantity instead of quality. A DJ who plays 6 hours for the cost of 3 seems like a great deal. So does a caterer who can feed 100 people for the cost of 50. But if that all-night DJ can’t get people dancing or your wedding food tastes like cardboard, all you got was more of a bad thing – and that’s no deal at all.

What to do instead

Find vendors who are known for quality work. If their “usual” services aren’t in your budget, ask if they can scale back their services without compromising quality. Chances are, they’ll give you suggestions like the ones below.

6 ways to save

1. An “off peak” wedding date

Fall and summer Saturdays are the most popular times for weddings in Chicago. Those dates fill up fast. But your first-choice venue might not charge as much for a Sunday wedding in mid-January.

2. Black and white invitations

Want custom invitations, but still want to keep the price in check? Ask your designer about ways to save on printing (foregoing color is just one). You still get high-quality design, but with a lower printing cost.

3. Fewer photo books

Most photographers will offer you all sorts of final products, from custom-designed photo books to wall-sized prints for your new home. These make amazing keepsakes – but you can always buy them later. What you can’t get later is amazing photographs. Hire a photographer you love, then ask to buy digital copies of the photos. You’ll have the best content possible – and the rest of your life to dress it up in books and frames.

4. A smaller band

So you’ve found the musicians you love – but not at a price you feel good about? Ask about booking a smaller ensemble. You can dance to a 6-piece group instead of a 9-piece orchestra – or just book the trio for dinner music. Far better to hear a little of a good group than a lot of a bad one.

6 Ways to Make Your Wedding Cheaper, But Not Suckier5. Uplighting

To be clear, decorative lighting is NOT a wedding essential like food and music probably are. But if you're decorating - and who doesn't? - good lighting makes arguably the greatest impact for the lowest cost. Here's what it costs at my company.

6. Close the bar during dinner

Open bars are great – but when dinner is served, most of your guests will be at their tables and not at the bar. You can save some cash by closing the bar altogether during this time. A lot of caterers will suggest this for you.

The ideas above are a starting point, but the single best thing you can do is to meet with your vendors. They know their business – and their business is taking care of you.