Where Should You Splurge and Where Should You Save on Your Wedding?

Wedding set up on beach.
Space_Cat / Getty Images/iStockphoto

You can’t wait to spend forever with your fiancé, but first, you have to get married. Planning a wedding can be simultaneously fun and stressful, as there are a lot of decisions to make — and most aren’t cheap.

As of 2021, the national average cost of a wedding is $28,000, according to The Knot. Whether you’re planning to pay more or less, you’ve probably already realized something — or more like several things — will have to give to avoid overspending.

Larissa Banting, the owner of Weddings Costa Rica, a wedding planning firm that handles nuptials locally and abroad, said every couple has a budget, so she encourages them to prioritize their spending.

“When I start to work with clients, I always tell them to list the top three things that are most important to them and the bottom three that they are happy to scrimp on,” she said. “But you don’t want to put yourself into a situation where you’ve spent the entire budget on renting an amazing location, only to realize you don’t have the funds for any decorations, photographer or a meal beyond cake and punch.”

Here’s a look at several items to consider splurging for on your big day and a look at what might not be worth the extra money — along with the average price for each, according to The Knot.

Make Your Money Work for You

Splurge: Wedding Planner

  • Average cost: $1,700

You can plan your wedding on your own, but Banting recommends working with a professional.

“Now, I may be a bit biased, but I think splurging on a wedding planner is a smart idea, as a planner will not only save you time — the average wedding takes 250 hours to plan on your own — but also a Tylenol supersized bottle worth of headaches and stress that no amount of meditation can calm, especially on the big day itself,” Banting said. “A planner will save you money, as they know tricks of the trade, as well as which vendors are going to be the best fit for your vision and budget.”

Splurge: Photographer

  • Average cost: $2,500

Since photos live on long past your wedding day, Banting advised choosing a seasoned photographer who will capture stunning shots and have failsafe systems in place to back up all the images.

“Hire an experienced wedding photographer, as they’ll be able to keep calm under duress, corral large groups of people effectively and [know] how to get the best out of their nervous subjects,” she said. “A pro will also have the right equipment such as multiple lenses and a secondary camera body and know how to beautifully edit the final photos.”

Splurge: DJ

  • Average cost: $1,400

In theory, creating a playlist for your wedding reception might seem like a great way to avoid the cost of hiring a DJ, but Banting said this never works. In fact, she said one of her clients tried this, and accidentally had “Baby Got Back” play during dinner.

Make Your Money Work for You

“A DJ will know how to read the crowd to keep the dancefloor packed, will be able to keep things flowing as the MC, and will save you or the guests from having to babysit the iPod,” she said.

Splurge: Wedding Venue

  • Average cost: $10,700

Going all out on your wedding venue might come with a high initial price tag, but Fátima Falcon, founder of Momentos Weddings and Events in Los Cabos, Mexico, said it’s worth the money.

“You can invest more in the choice of the wedding venue since this will mark the aesthetics of the day and it may also help you reduce costs,” she said. “If the place already has a very marked décor according to the style you like, then you can reduce costs in flowers, ornaments or extra accessories.”

Splurge: Food and Drinks

  • Average cost: $75 per person

If you and your beloved are foodies, you wouldn’t dare serve anything less than the top-quality fare to your guests. As long as this is truly important to you, Falcon said spending extra in this category can be a good idea.

“For some couples, drinks and food selection are also important in the amount of investment for the wedding,” she said. “Although it can help in the experience, everything will depend on what are the priorities that you have as a couple.”

Save: Favors

  • Average cost: $450

They might add a special touch in the moment, but Falcon said wedding favors aren’t necessary.

“Although they are very special details, normally these are completely forgotten or must have a very specific use to be worthwhile,” she said. “If you want to save money or not spend it all, then you can forget about these details and invest in a more personalized experience.”

Make Your Money Work for You

Save: Flowers

  • Average cost: $2,300

You probably wouldn’t dream of having a wedding without flowers, but the type you choose can seriously increase your budget.

“You do not need to fill your wedding with flowers with very elaborate designs, especially if the species are not in season,” Falcon said. “Choosing too many flowers can add to your budget, so what we can recommend is that you choose seasonal flowers or a greater amount of foliage.”

Save: Wedding Cake

  • Average cost: $500

Cutting the cake is a special moment in many weddings, but Banting said there’s no need to go all out on a huge one because everyone won’t eat it.

“If you’re serving dessert, have a small cake for cutting and to plate enough small pieces for about 50 – 60% of the guests,” she said. “If the cake is important to you, consider not having dessert with dinner and instead, serve the cake a short time after the dinner service is finished and people have had a chance to dance a bit.”

Save: Stationary

  • Average cost: $530

Emily Heckler, owner and lead wedding planner of Unveiled Wedding Planning LLC, based in Central Florida, said stationary is her top savings area. “Other than your mother, no one is saving the invitations,” she said. “Only a small percentage read programs. A menu is easily displayed on a large sign for everyone to see.”

Therefore, she recommended ordering just a few fancy invitations for the detailed photo and immediate family members who will appreciate it.

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