How to Save on a Wedding When You Live in an Expensive City

If you are a frequent visitor, you likely know that I am getting married in a few months. Needless to say, I am very excited to be marrying my fiance and to celebrate with friends and family. But being engaged, paying, and planning for a wedding can be stressful!

My fiance and I are both from Iowa, but we are getting married where we live in Charleston, South Carolina. Charleston is a gorgeous city, but the wedding scene is absolutely crazy. I mean, these brides are cray. Just the other day, I was in Starbucks (obvi) and a couple was there for a meeting with their event planner. I overheard (okay, I creeped) and the couple said their budget was $40,000 *insert dismayed emoji*

As you could have guessed, my fiance and I are NOT spending nearly that much on our wedding.  I could pay off my student loans and car with that type of money!

Though Iowa weddings are typically much more affordable, we opted to get married in Charleston for a few reasons. First, I didn’t want to plan a wedding from 1,000 miles away. The logistical challenge and stress would be too much. Second, Andrew and I knew we would have regretted not getting married in Charleston, when it is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. And lastly, even though we love our family and friends, we knew not all of them would be able to travel for our wedding, making it smaller and more intimate.

With my wedding less than 6 months away, here is my insight on how to spend less on a wedding in an expensive city.

Be flexible with your date

Many venues and vendors will charge less if you have your wedding on, say, a Thursday versus the typical Saturday wedding. I noticed that some venues charged even half as much for a weekday wedding than for a Saturday wedding!

My venue was one that didn’t charge any more for Saturday events, so luckily, I am able to have my wedding on a Saturday. If a Saturday wedding is important to you, remember that you may need to pay additional for it.

Also be flexible with your season. One reason we are having our wedding in March is because it is the “off-season” in Charleston. In the South, April and May are busy seasons, as well as September and October (because the summers are too hot and the winters too cold).

Because of the off-season, I also got my photographer for half price and cheaper hotels!

Opt for indoors

Though outdoor weddings are alluring, they can actually be much more expensive.

You’ll likely pay for the venue itself plus you’ll want to make sure you have tents on hold in case of rain. Most places I talked to give you 24 hours before the wedding to decide if you want the tents up or not, and they are costly to put up. So you spend the night before your wedding trying to forecast to see if you have to pay $1,000 for a tent that you may not even need.

I can’t handle that kind of stress, so that was enough for me to hold my whole wedding indoors.

Additional costs for outdoor weddings include chair rentals, a runner, blankets if it’s cold, fans if it’s hot, and maybe even bathroom facilities.

Again, it’s not a bad thing if you want to have an outdoor wedding! They are gorgeous and if that’s your priority, go for it. Just know it might be a little more expensive.

Look for all-inclusive venues

Speaking of venues, many places charge you thousands simply for the roof over your head, forcing you to look for yet another rental vendor for your tables, chairs, dance floor, place settings, etc.

Having to rent all of those items is a much bigger cost than most brides anticipate. To me, this was a huge factor in picking my venue. They provide everything for us, down to the table cloths. It saves me a ton of time, money, and stress!

Consider nontraditional food options

I know many people are traditional and expect a full plated meal at a wedding. In a big city, this is a huuuuuge expense!

My sister who got married in Iowa 8 years ago paid $9/person for a whole meal. In Charleston, I was looking at $50/person for a meal. Keep in mind, you also have to pay taxes and a service fee on top of the actual food charge.

There was no way I was going to pay that much for food, so we opted to do fun stations and hor d’oeuvres instead. Personally, I prefer this at a wedding because people are up and moving instead of sitting forever. And saving all that money is a huge bonus as well 🙂

Settle for your invitations

When I first got engaged, every bride was telling me how hard it was to find affordable, but original invitations. And I didn’t really believe it until I started looking.

Nothing is more disappointing than to find some invitations you like, only to find out they cost $2,000 locally. Are you kidding me?!

It goes without saying, but I will be settling for some more generic/boring invitations because honestly, who cares?

After much researching, I will likely be ordering invitations through Minted. Those foil pressed invites…drool!

Get creative with the rings

Though I’m not sure how much my fiance spent on my engagement ring, when we were looking at paying for our wedding bands, we both decided it wasn’t worth it to us to pay thousands of dollars.

All men’s bands look pretty much the same, and my fiance is the typical man who is rough on things. We couldn’t justify spending much on an expensive ring. He was all for the cheap one! For his ring, I researched different metals. I opted for a Tungsten ring for him.

Tungsten is nearly indestructible and it won’t scratch…just what Andrew needs! Looking at it, I can’t tell the difference between it and a white gold ring. Total cost = $80.

For mine, the wedding band that matched the engagement ring was over $1,000! I thought that was crazy. I decided instead to do a totally separate wedding band. I just wanted a thin, simple band for cheap that I could wear when I’m out camping or being active so I didn’t have to risk losing my engagement ring. Plus, I love the way my engagement ring looks without the band attached.

So it a very unromantic, typical frugal Rachel way, I bought my own wedding band at Pandora for $25.

I actually love it because I can mix and match or buy more “wedding bands” if I get sick of the one I have. I’m not super sentimental about this, so having the flexibility works for me.

We might upgrade our bands someday, but we are happy with our decision now!

Buy a dress off the rack or out of town

Wedding dresses are also sold at a higher cost in major cities than they are in a small town.

The thing I was shocked about while shopping for dresses in Charleston is that I was seldom asked for my price range. And if I was, the consultant didn’t hold true to that. I can’t tell you how many times I tried on a dress I loved, only for the consultant to tell me it was $3,000! I left 3 stores empty-handed and disappointed.

I finally randomly found a small boutique in the area that actually listed all of their dresses with the prices online, so I had a good idea which ones I wanted to try on before I even got there. I loved that boutique’s honesty!

When I got there, I actually fell in love with a dress sample that they were selling off-the-rack. This dress was originally $3,000 that they were selling for $900. I didn’t go in to the store with the intention to buy off-the-rack, but I am so glad I did!

I got to bring my dress home that day, so I don’t have the buyer’s remorse. I can try on my dress whenever I want, plus it gives me more time to get quoted for affordable alterations and I can visually shop for accessories.

Had I not found this dress, I would have gone back to Iowa to search for one in a more affordable salon. Because honestly, a dress doesn’t have to be expensive for you to love it and look gorgeous in it.

Borrow and craft as much as you can

What I have found is that friends and family are usually ecstatic when you ask to borrow something for your wedding. There is some sentimentality around borrowing and I’ve never had someone tell me no.

My sister is letting me borrow her veil, saving me the $300 price tag of one in store.

My future sister-in-law is letting me borrow some decorations, table runners, and her cake cutter.

My other sister is letting me use her old centerpieces, which I am spray-painting to go with my décor.

My fiance’s grandfather is making our cake topper.

I am so appreciative of everyone letting me borrow items and making things for us! It saves a ton of money and time and my family has been so honored to let us use their stuff or skills for our wedding.

Buy fake flowers online

I made it my personal mission to have as few vendors as possible, mostly because I didn’t want to deal with coordinating with 7140 different people.

I love the look of real flowers, but after getting some quotes from florists, Andrew had to peel me off the floor. Talk about sticker shock. We are talking $300 for a bridal bouquet, plus $150 for bridesmaids.

Because of this, I started looking online at artificial flowers. And let me tell you, they have come a long way! The pluses of buying artificial flowers is that the bouquets are ready to go way in advance, you don’t have to worry about crushing them day of, and also that I’m allergic to real flowers so I should have just looked at fake ones in the first place!

I ended up ordering flowers for all the bridesmaids and me through I bought a few extra so I can bulk up the bouquets if needed. The bouquets were on sale, plus afloral always offers coupons, so I spent a total of $70 on florals.

I just got the flowers in and honestly, they far exceeded my expectations. By the way, I was not paid to sponsor They are just a website I was very happy with and want to share with you!

Phew! This is my longest post to date, so thanks for sticking with me! Hope you learned a tip or two from that. Any other tips you might add? Comment below!

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3 thoughts on “How to Save on a Wedding When You Live in an Expensive City

  1. Really solid tips! I know it’s a broad statement and cliche, but “spend money on what you care about” is good advice I think. My wife didn’t care about the flowers so we spent almost nothing on it. Someone else (like my Mother who couldn’t believe flowers weren’t a priority for us) may spend more on them. Saving on big things like the photographer and venue are obviously big wins, as you pointed out.
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted…5 Specific Situations Where Planning Ahead Saves You MoneyMy Profile

  2. You can Consider local foods and ingredients for fresh and great flavors. I think $50/person for a meal is perfect. Engagement ring and Wedding dress tips are wonderful. Plan properly about the menu, Reception hall, caterer and finally about the date and save huge money!!!! Great tips!

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