By Naomi Atwater

The average wedding in the US in 2024 is $33,000, according to Forbes. And unless you are in the rare situation where that seems affordable, many people resort to taking out loans, accumulating debt, or skipping the wedding altogether. 

For many women, their wedding day is one of the most exciting days of their lives, and the stress of working around a budget can make the planning process excruciating. Thankfully, there are many ways to cut out some of the extra expenses that, in the end, won’t really affect their overall wedding experience. 

The fastest way to increase wedding expenses is by adding more guests. The most expensive parts of your wedding are typically the venue and the catering, which often charge per seat. According to the Knot, the overall price per guest (for their food, cake, seat, etc.) is usually around $300. So, if you invite 100 guests, you’re having about a $30,000 wedding.

This doesn’t mean you should exclude the close friends or family members you really want to attend, but look closely at your list and check if you are inviting anybody out of obligation to your big day. Typically, people should understand that weddings are extremely expensive, and receiving an invitation should be an honor and not an expectation.

A good litmus test for deciding whether or not to invite somebody is to ask yourself if you would spend $300 (or whatever your cost-per-guest is) to have them there. If you are on the fence, maybe that’s a sign they could be removed from your list.

An exception to this is if you are having a backyard wedding with a potluck or a similar low-key style. Even then, consider that you are still buying wedding favors for everyone, renting chairs and table centerpieces, and other expenses for the larger the wedding becomes.

Usually, an unforeseen wedding expense is all of the customized stationary you can order. The sad part is that most guests will not notice if they do not have a printed program handed to them at the ceremony or a menu at the reception. These are also some of the most common discarded items by the end of the day. 

Instead of printing individual programs and menus, you could opt for a sign with a QR code and a digital program or a single sign with the menu at the reception. 

Traditionally, for your wedding, you would send a Save-the-Date to your guest list about a year in advance and an invitation around two to three months out. That means you pay for printing and postage at least twice (not to mention if you mail thank you cards or wedding announcements after the wedding!).  Try opting for an in-between option and creating an invitation that also serves as a save-the-date that you send out around five to six months from the wedding.

Many brides feel pressure on their wedding day to adhere to all of the traditions, but in truth, there are so many aspects of your wedding that you, your spouse, and your guests will most likely not miss or care about. 

Keeping it simple will reduce stress in planning and on the wedding day. According to YouTuber Jaimie Wolfer, a few things to consider cutting out include guest books, favors, over-the-top backdrops, and bouquet tosses. The more you can reduce your mental load on the day of your wedding and save on supplies, the better. 

If any of those things are genuinely important to you and you think you will miss them the day of, absolutely still include them. But if you are on the fence, the chances are you will not regret having less stress and less money spent on your wedding day!

If you need more help planning your wedding day and setting a budget, Jaimie Wolfer’s YouTube channel has a lot of resources to offer on planning on a budget. The Knot also offers a free wedding budget builder for brides who need a place to start. 

Naomi lives in Pittsburgh, PA but her roots are from a little Christmas tree farm in upstate New York. She works in marketing for Greater Europe Mission, an international nonprofit organization. She’s always finding ways to make room in her budget for traveling and reads over 100 books each year.