Let’s face it, weddings are expensive. And my job as a wedding photographer doesn’t help. However, the value of quality photos of your wedding day is high.

Romantic, grayscale photo of fashionable bride and groom kissing

Let’s imagine for a second that you want quality, professional photographs from your wedding day but the costs are adding up and the budget is bursting at the seams. It’s tempting to find cheaper or free alternatives. Let me help you look at simple ways to save money on your wedding that doesn’t leave you skimping on pictures.

Let’s start with big picture questions. Consider the necessity and value of particular elements you wish to include in your ceremony, reception, or day as a whole. Ask yourself, “Why?” Is it just tradition or your own expectations? Can they be shifted and still respect the vision you have for your day?

More specifically, think about details and if you really care about including them at all or if you can do it yourself and not add to much stress.

Romantic close-up photograph of wedding day kiss

When considering flowers and food, opt for local, in season options. For example, serving watermelon in February isn’t going to be a money saver (nor will it taste as good!). And getting your florist to import an exotic flower won’t be as cost-conscious as choosing spring blossoms native to your area that are already in bloom in May.

Wedding day flower arrangement

Also, when considering flowers, if you are trying to stick to your budget, consider using less. I have had several winter weddings avoid flowers altogether, using the greenery already decorating the church or venue. In my own wedding, we didn’t do boutineers for the gentlemen.

Skip programs, or keep them simple. For longer ceremonies, it can be helpful for guests to have one, but I’ve attended many weddings without them and I don’t think anyone noticed. It also helps reduce waste.

Something old, something new. Something borrowed, something blue. The tradition to have each of these things isn’t a bad idea when it comes to minimizing your costs. Consider second-hand, borrowed, or otherwise re-used items. Decorations can be thrifted, bought used from Craigslist or similar places, or borrowed from a friend. I’ve had a bride who borrowed her dress. Some of my favorite flowers at a wedding were in a collection of jars the bride and friends saved and washed from things like salad dressings, spaghetti sauce, and preserves.

Details shot of wedding invitation on reception table with decorative greenery

Use one venue, rather than separate venues for reception and wedding ceremony. I’ve photographed several that are in the same room. It’s convenient for your guests and you as you coordinate only one location.

Feeding people can grow expensive quickly. Consider what options make the most sense for you. Maybe a dinner reception isn’t the best idea, and a cake reception better fits the bill. One alternative that I liked a lot was a cake reception for all the guests, but a more private affair was held later in the evening with dinner for family and the wedding party.

Wedding reception place settings

Do your research to find unique, affordable options that suit your tastes and match your values. Ask questions and seek alternatives. My wedding reception was in a non-traditional location and I was concerned I’d get turned down when I asked and that it would cost a fortune. I asked, and not only were they happy to oblige, but it was only $75 for a cleaning fee. What a treat to dance with my new husband where I’d dreamed!

Fun newlywed couple and bridal party dancing

Involve family and friends. If you have someone with special skills who wouldn’t mind being an emcee or coordinating for you, go for it. If you have aunts a plenty who want to make appetizers or arrange your flowers, use their gifts and give a hearty thanks!

If you love cars, splurge on an amazing unique kind of transportation for your day, but if not, your own car will be just fine. Though I might suggest cleaning it for a touch of extra sparkle.

All that being said, save for what you value and prioritize that. I’d love for you to clear the way for your photography. However, other vendors would likely hope you would do the same creating memories through the dancing, or atmosphere at the reception, or a stunning cake that looks like a work of art.