How to Save Money on Your Wedding Decorations (and Save the Earth)

by - Friday, April 27, 2018

Oy, wedding costs! You go into it with a vision, and then slowly, that vision can be chipped away just by the shrinking amount still left in the budget. Before you are really planning, you spend a lot of time plotting decorations and cool details, but those are often the things that get cut for the sake of the event as a whole. Some of that is inevitable, but I do think there are cool ways to approach your wedding that can save you BIG money.

Even better, if you shift your approach to the stuff you buy for the wedding, you can save things from landfills and create less waste. So many of these decor pieces are used one night only, but if they are shared between many couples, they can have much longer and happier lives.

1. Get Everything You Can Used

 This is the most cost-effective AND eco-friendly thing you can do for your wedding decorations. So many wedding decorations become one time use things, and I hate to think of all the perfectly useful objects that get thrown out. But the bright side is you can find so much out there if you just know where to look and don't mind some browsing.

You can find great used decorations:

Newlyweds- We all know these big life events happen in waves. If you have friends getting married before you, check and see what you can get off their hands once they are hitched. We definitely gave decorations away to the Boy's beloved cousin, and our lights to the high school for dances. Your friends will have stuff they are happy to part with. Doesn't perfectly match? Get creative about what you can stretch to fit or change the color of and then offer the rest to others. After your hitched you can pay the favor forward!

On Buy Nothing- Have you joined your local Buy Nothing Project yet? I have seen it all on there- people offering their table runners to other asking for (and receiving) tons of glass vases for their center pieces. Check with your Buy Nothing and you could save 100's of dollars.

Goodwill and other Consignment Stores- Sometimes, this kind of shopping is a bust, but if you know what you need, you might find a steal. Also, lots of cities have craft consignment stores that might sell the ribbon or fabric you need as well.

Online Resale sites- Thank goodness for the internet, because you can now find everything you would ever want to decorate with used. Cheaper, convenient, and keeping things out of landfills? Amazing.

Ruffled is an absolute treasure, and you can find so many gorgeous things on their "Recycle your Wedding" pages. They have at least a thousand items, so it's a lot to go through, but you are sure to find something.  Make sure to check the price against the brand new cost, and don't be afraid to ask them to lower it a little (I mean, what else are they going to do with 100 extra mason jars?) Browse often, because things are going up all the time! You can find a steal on beautiful decorations.I may actually buy some things from them for a non-matrimonial party.

Tradesy- Tradesy started as wedding only, but they have had enough success to branch out. They have all kinds of wedding stuff, from bridesmaid dresses to wedding papers, but their decorations section is especially amazing and well-organized. They have 5,500+ items up right now! Easier to browse than most of the other sites as well. Be sure to join their mailing list so you get even more money off.

Wedding Recycle- This website also has lots of selection (about 3000 items) and they are connected to the Can't Buy me Love Project, where you donate wedding dresses that can be given away to brides who otherwise couldn't afford them. Pretty cool.

2. Let the Space do the Work

 You picked your venues for a reason. Start with that premise and just let the beauty of your wedding and reception spaces shine through. Choose colors that match the space. If it's already a good-looking spot, you may not need much. Don't pick a theme that doesn't fit the room, and you have already saved yourself tons of money.

3. Focus on Lighting (and someone can always lend you lights)

 If I had to decorate a whole reception with one item, it would be white twinkly lights. Lighting sets the mood, makes everything look intentional (even when it isn't), and adds that magical thing. Even better, you can almost always find lighting as a rental or used. Twice this summer, I have seen brides gifted tons of Christmas lights for their weddings on Buy Nothing (have you joined Buy Nothing yet? DO IT). If you do get lights lent to you, be sure to mark who each strand belongs to. Otherwise, you can get this high impact item for very cheap or even free.

4. DIY it

 I love browsing the decoration ideas on Etsy, but I am often struck how many of the things on there can just be made- you don't need to buy them! Sparkly branches? Glue, glitter, and a walk in the woods. Tissue paper flowers? Buy some bulk tissue paper and wire. Peg doll cake topper? Paint that business yourself. We made our escort cards from paint swatches- it doesn't have to be expensive to be memorable and fun. I love these crocheted boutonnieres, and you could do so many kinds of homemade flowers like these to cut floral costs.

 When you buy decor, you are paying for time and skill. Work ahead so you have the time, and you can self-assess which skills are within your wheelhouse. You can a little bit of money go a lot further this way! Only trick is to plan ahead!

5. Pick Focal Points over Details

 I have seen so many weddings where there were fussy centerpiece things at the table but nowhere to look in the room. Make a few spots really worth looking at and don't bother trying to make every corner beautiful. People will only remember a handful of things anyway.

6. Multi-Task Where You Can

 Use your favors or cake or guests as decor. You have millions of choices dependent on your favor, but it's a nice way to have something do double duty. I went to a wedding last year where the cakes were the centerpieces, which saves tons of money on flowers, and you get more time with cake, so who can complain? Stepping out of the box even a little might help you figure out how to make what you are already paying for a key part of the room.

7. Think Smaller

This can mean anything from a smaller guest list to a smaller wedding party to smaller floral arrangements. Simple is good, and over the top is actually kind of boring. Rather than totally giving up on your dreams, think about how you can do it in a smaller way.

Another way to think about this is that it is for one day, so anything you can rent DO IT. One day is a pretty small increment of time, so think in terms of borrowing, NOT buying.  A bunch of bought and disposable stuff may seem cheaper, but how much time, effort, and money are you spending trying to make it look nice? Skip the plastic table cloths and just rent. You will save in the end, and it will look fancier (because plastic looks like garbage even before it is garbage).

There is so much joy in not letting things become a circus. And you will be just as married.

8. Everything Doesn't Have to Match Perfectly

Prioritize what is free over what perfectly matches. Matchy matchy can be great if you are meticulous, but a little variation never hurt anyone. One of my friends is very detail-oriented and got all the colors to match perfectly at her wedding. And it looked amazing, but it doesn't have to go that way.

It's more important to have a set sense of style than an overly particular matching set mentality. That sense of style and vision for the big picture is what will have the impact in the end. Try this- write a list of five things you want your wedding to feel like (elegant, joyful, fun, cool, etc). Have your partner do the same. Start with those lists and build an overall style from there.

If you can find 40 free plates that look one way and 50 that look another, and they both fit, just use them both. The people at table 3 will not be comparing plates with the people at table 9. It can be hard to remember when you are in the thick of planning, but your guests don't care. They just want to eat.

9. Please Don't Monogram your Napkins

 Why. Why. Why. Why is this even still a thing? If you are doing the little cocktail napkins, by all means, get them in a color that resonates with your scheme (even better, get them recycled from a company like Susty). But why is this insta-garbage a good time to remind people whose wedding they are attending? No one has forgotten, and honestly, it is never all that classy. Put your money into other details, and then whatever you don't use can be for another couple or your dinner parties.

10. Do What Feels Like You (and What Makes You HAPPY)

We have been to so many weddings, and my favorites are the ones that are undeniably THAT couple. Like, I could look at the details and guess it was them.

There are always trends and childhood fantasies to contend with, but if you can't afford a grand ball, it will show. Instead, talk about what you actually like to do together, what kind of party is fun to you. When you start from that place, instead of looking at chandeliers on Pinterest or the 50,000 dollar event you saw on a blog, you will come up with something people love even more. If you aren't really champagne and caviar, but are more of a picnic couple, do that. And you can do that well.

To me, this is the key to happiness in most life events, and I think it works for us. I am not dreaming of a mansion, instead I want to do a small family home really well. You are always going to hear the message that more, bigger, more expensive are better, but we all logically know they aren't. Empower each other to do what is real and meaningful to you, and let the rest go.

So you may be overwhelmed with the amount of money you have already spent nailing down the DJ and planning with the caterer. I don't blame you- weddings are expensive! But decorations is an area that with a little creativity, you can make huge impact with a little bit of money.

Want an environmentally responsible registry? Be sure to read The Eco- Friendly Wedding Registry. Want more Green Wedding goodness? We have SO MANY ideas here of how to make your special day kinder to the environment and that much more original. Check out the Green Wedding Page for more ideas.

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  1. These are great tips for any party really! I've already had a wedding come and go... but I'll share this with my engaged friends!

  2. Love these tips!! I think adding some cheap lights can really make a dramatic difference

  3. These are great tips for when my husband and I renew our vowels. We only had a tiny park ceremony last year but want to renew our vowels next year and I love these tips.

  4. Great tips! We chose our venue because we knew it would be so easy to decorate with just a few things because it was already beautiful. DIY is the best for weddings...saves a fortune!

  5. Weddings can cost a lot. These are some great tips to raise funds and save towards it.



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