WTOP’s Wedding Week: A little sweat equity can help make your wedding a little more affordable

Wedding Week on WTOP is a 5-part series that explores wedding planning, budgeting and more on air and online.  This story is part 2.

If you are dreaming of that big wedding and hope to make it a little more affordable, there are plenty of ways to save you a little money, whether it is avoiding some common wedding money pits, or going to friends and family to help make the big day happen.

Luke kisses his wife Leslie's cheek on their wedding day
WTOP’s Luke Lukert and his wife, Leslie, got married at his family’s home in Georgia.(Courtesy Zachary Dailey)

“Priorities, priorities, priorities, if you want the big shebang at the wedding, let’s order invitations online, don’t go to a custom invitation,” said Alexandra Perry with Cherry Blossom Weddings and Events.

Little costs that add up

Invitations and “save the dates” are one of the common expenses that can be drastically reduced.

“A great way to save money on any sort of stationery items is to maybe consider a digital option,” said Jessica Bishop, who runs the Budget Savvy Bride website. “I feel like as we’ve progressed in this very digital age, people are more comfortable with that as an option.”

For my wedding, I paid around $100 in total for invites and save the dates by going online and sending them through email, as opposed to the quotes that I received for stationery that was over a $1,000.

Bishop said smaller expenses really add up if you are trying to keep the wedding budget. One thing to think about ditching is party favors.

“You’re feeding them, you’re giving them alcohol most of the time, a monogram tchotchke with your wedding date on it, people don’t want, let’s be honest,” joked Bishop.

This is a pit I fell into. I got monogrammed coozies for our guests. About half of the 200 I ordered are still sitting in my dining room. Lesson learned.

WTOP’s Wedding Week

Out-of-the-box venues

Many of the traditions that you see at a wedding go by the wayside, when thinking about cost consciousness. It can even include your wedding venue, which eats up a huge portion of the budget.

Rather than going to the same hotel ballrooms that are used over and over again every weekend, Bishop suggested turning to alternative locations that may not see as many nuptials.

“Whether it’s like local community centers, or many neighborhoods might have like a recreational center that you could rent, things like public parks or zoos,” Bishop said. “One thing that I’ve heard is that some couples in major cities are actually doing what they’re calling a reverse destination wedding. So they’re going like more out into the country to get married.”

This is exactly what I did when I returned to my rural hometown of Villa Rica, Georgia. Hotels, food and alcohol were much cheaper. And the venue was a steal! Of course, it was just packing 150 friends and family into my parents’ yard.

The best way to save money though is with sweat equity and creativity.

Tapping on talents of friends and family

Bishop said she calls it the “it takes a village approach” to wedding planning when engaged couples get help from family and friends

A bridesmaid applying makeup to the bride, Leslie Lukert. (Courtesy Zachary Dailey)

My mother was my wedding planner; family friends arranged our flower; groomsmen helped DJ and did day-of manual labor, including erecting the wedding tent.

A bridesmaid even did my wife Leslie’s makeup, all the while saving thousands of dollars (I was quoted $629 to set up chairs and tables). Just make sure you send thank-you notes afterward.

This strategy also allows the wedding to be infused with more of the couple’s personality, Bishop said. She gave an example of a couple who ate tacos on their first date.

“They hire a taco truck for their caterer instead of like a traditional sit-down meal,” Bishop said. “It’s a more interactive experience.”

The wedding cake was made by the sister of the groom, WTOP’s Luke Lukert. (Courtesy Zachary Dailey)

As for my wife and I, we saw this as a chance to have a much more laid-back wedding, with a charcuterie grazing table, boiled peanuts and homemade wedding cake baked by my sister.

Bishop has noticed many nontraditional trends in weddings since the pandemic, such as micro weddings, where there are 30 or fewer guests.

“I think it almost has given couples that license to do things their own way, maybe buck tradition a little bit more and really just focus on the meaning behind the day,” Bishop times.

She said couples are avoiding getting “caught up in the extravagance … not just for the affordability, but also because it’s less stressful.”

And when you are coming up with a wedding budget on a per head basis, the fewer heads the better.

“Having a smaller guest list allows you to treat those guests to a nicer experience,” Bishop said.

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Luke Lukert

Since joining WTOP Luke Lukert has held just about every job in the newsroom from producer to web writer and now he works as a full-time reporter. He is an avid fan of UGA football. Go Dawgs!

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