Realistic Wedding Budgets & Our Top 10 Wedding Budget Savings Tips

Everyone knows weddings are expensive.  However, it is not until you have actually started planning a wedding do you realize just how expensive it really is.  There are tons of hidden costs and fees, and unless your a wedding planner – you probably have no idea about what they could be. We hope this article will give you a realistic look into what weddings really cost.

If you are like most couples, you probably have no idea how what a realistic wedding budget is or how to even start figuring one out.  According to the Knot, the average wedding costs $27,800 and usually more in more popular, urban areas (Hawaii). Most often, the wedding budget includes: the venue, rentals – lighting, tables/chairs, linen, dishes, etc., dinner and drink tab, wedding cake, wedding coordinator, favors, wedding dress and tux, bridal party attire, florals – centerpieces, bouquets, leis, arch pieces, isle petals, etc., rings, transportation, photography, invitations, hair and make up, deejay, lighting, dance floor, graphics (menues, etc.) and much more. Extras often include: videography, uplighting, passed appetizers, and live entertainment. And thats a quick – off the top of my head – list. There are of other details that need to fit into this budget… So it’s not unheard of to see a $10,000 budget for 100 people – turn into a $30,000 budget really quickly.

As a Hawaii Wedding Planner, I can tell you that in our experience, most simple (nothing too fancy) outdoor weddings for parties of 100 guests usually start at $30,000 – and often quickly go up to $60,000+.  Meanwhile, an indoor Hawaii hotel wedding for the same 100 guests can cost anywhere from $20,000 and up…

However, if you are willing to do some of the work yourself and spend some time (a lot of time) researching, planning, organizing, etc. there are many ways to create a reasonable wedding budget. Making smart decisions up front can help you keep your budget under control.

Here are our Top 10 Wedding Budget Savings Tips:  

1. Have friends and family help out with specific jobs. Do you have a graphic artist in the family that can help with invitations, menu and program design? A family friend who plays live music? What about Aunty Ruby who has that little flower shop downtown? Or the cousins who can help with the set up? Nows the time to start pulling in favors. By asking friends and family for assistance, you can save thousands of dollars. Pull out a paper and pen and figure out who you can ask for help.

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2. Venue Location. This is going to be your largest expense, and finding a beautiful  budget friendly location is going to be tough… But if you do your research, there are plenty out there just waiting for you. Make sure to ask the right questions – are there any hidden fees? What does the price include? Is there an event fee? If your guest list isn’t too large there is always the option of having the reception in a beautiful backyard or even a public garden.  Of course, hiring a planner who knows the best budget friendly venues could be helpful as well.

3. Consider having the event on a weekday or earlier in the day. Most hotels and venues have a special, less expensive rate on weekdays (Monday – Thursday) as opposed to Friday and Saturdays. Also, lunches are always more budget friendly and they usually involve a much smaller alcohol budget. Daytime weddings can be just as fun and intimate and there is always an option to keep the day going and plan to go out later in the night with the wedding party and a smaller group of friends & family.

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4. Florals are a huge portion of most wedding budgets. A big way to cut costs is to have a small entourage of family and friends assist with the floral arrangements. Order the florals in bulk ahead of time and buy the vases for under $2 at places like Walmart or Price Busters. Make sure to do your research and watch a few you tube videos on centerpiece making beforehand so your crew knows what they are doing and do a few samples a head of time. Buying flowers in season that are locally available can be a huge savings as well.

5. Save on Decor. Chose your decor wisely… you can cut costs with decor in so many ways. We see so many couples spending a huge chunk of their budget on florals and linens. An easy way to make a big impression is to use table runners with matching satin napkins instead of fancy linen which can often save you $50+ per table. Also, when your on a limited budget, consider personalization as a way to make a big impression rather than fancy, expensive floral arrangements. For example, spend a little time creating personalized escort cards for each seat (printed at home) and a little less money on fancy floral arrangements.

6. Hotels vs. Outdoor venues. I know I mentioned venue already – but because this is usually the first thing you book and usually the most expensive – I’m going to mention it again. What is difference in price between an outdoor venue and a hotel venue? Hotels often appear more expensive at first glance. They might seem stuffy and too formal – BUT there are plenty of beautiful hotel locations that are quite the opposite.  Hotel venues – include a full staff (this means people to help set up, break-down, clean up, etc), tables, chairs, linens, silverware, glassware, a dance floor, lighting, microphones, a sound system, and so much more.  Meanwhile outdoor receptions include none of this. All need to be rented separately which means – yes, you guessed it – additional costs.

7. Cut your guest list. Thats right, I said it. This is the absolute easiest way to cut costs. Do you really need to invite that friend from that old job that you don’t talk to anymore? There is absolutely no reason to invite guests who you have not spent any time with whatsoever in the last five years.  What about kids?  Do you have to invite the entire family? Children often add on an additional 10-25% to the invite list. It is not disrespectful to ask that your guests find a sitter for the evening, and to just enjoy the night out. It is your day – don’t feel guilty about it. Invite the people who mean the most to you and let go of Uncle Ed you haven’t spoken to in 10 years. He’ll forgive you.

8. Alcohol. Is it necessary to have an open bar? No. This is completely up to you. You can host the first two drinks OR have drink tickets for the night for a specified amount OR you can skip the open bar all together and have guests pay for their own drinks. We usually save this for a last resort but if you have to cut costs… this is one way to do so. And nobody will hold it against you if you only bought them their fist two drinks. In fact, many guests only drink two drinks anyway – and if your a big drinker, you usually don’t have a problem buying your next two anyway.

9. Hire a wedding planner. I know Hawaii wedding planners are expensive. BUT the truth is, they can save you a ton of money, if you hire one up front.  They can suggest the best value venues and vendors and if you give them a budget to work with they can assist you in finding everything you need and helping it all fit into your budget. You can also cut costs by doing most of the research yourself and booking the vendors on your own and then handing over the “sorting out the details” part – to your planner.

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10. Do your homework. Yep, its that simple.. spend time researching vendors. Who is the best and most affordable florist, deejay, caterer? Spend some time with your best friend “google”, make some phone calls, and ask lots of questions. Start a notebook, keep everything in a binder and write down notes and prices. Go to bridal expos and gather information (and tons of great coupons). If you spend enough time doing the research you’ll start seeing what the going rates are and what your best options are for your budget. This is what your wedding planner would do for you- BUT if you can’t afford one, you have to spend the time doing the research yourself. You might spend hours figuring out what centerpieces should cost and where to find the most reasonable florist to help you pull it off – but in turn, this could also help you to pull off a gorgeous million dollar looking wedding on a pocket-book budget. It is doable.. it just depends how much time you are willing to devote to it. Check out budget wedding blogs like –

Hope this helped you in understanding the basics of a wedding budget and how to get costs down. This and more weekly tips on our blog and in our monthly newsletter.. to subscribe – send us an email ( today & write in the body or title of the email –  “please put me on the newsletter email list”.

Your favorite Hawaii Wedding Planner – Best Day Ever Hawaii.

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