wedding bouquetWhen they see the pictures, most people think I spent hundreds of dollars on my bridal bouquet. The truth is, I spent $180 on ALL of my flowers. That included my bouquet, five bridesmaids bouquets, my mom’s bouquet, a floral candelabra for the reception, 12 chair hangers for the aisle, and a rose-petal strewn aisle. My sister spent under $300 for her wedding flowers using the same techniques, but didn’t have access to the deals I did.

You can do your own wedding flowers if you choose simple arrangements and get help assembling them. In my case, my aunt used to own a flower shop. She isn’t experienced enough to do complicated arrangements, but she easily handled the loose arrangements my sister and I wanted. My other aunt helped assemble.

Go Simple with Wedding Flowers
If you plan to do your own flowers, you can’t expect a formal wedding arch or ornate bouquets. Three options reign supreme with DIY bouquets: simple rose balls, single-type arrangements, and “wild” arrangements. For wild arrangements, you can simply choose several different flowers in colors that suit your theme, or several different flowers in one color and not worry about exactly how they’re arranged in the bundle. You can find videos and instructions online showing you how to arrange them. Single-type arrangements can have several blooms in them, but they should all be the same color and type of flower.

For floral centerpieces, you also have three options: three vases of varying heights with one type of flower in each, loose arrangements, or rose balls. All three can be done by you and your helpers.

Ask for Help Arranging and Delivering
As I said, we recruited my aunts to help, but I know of other brides who recruited their bridesmaids to help. In my case, my parents rented a suite with a large table for arranging. I didn’t stay at my apartment the night before the wedding, so a dark closet and cranked up A/C served as our “cooler.” In my sister’s case, my mom found a florist who would let them use her cooler and supplies. We both had our wedding coordinators pick up and deliver the flowers to the event.

Buy In-Season Wedding Flowers
This is my number one tip for saving money on wedding flowers. Buy in season flowers, by which I mean flowers grown in the US during that month. While most flowers are available year-round, they’re flown in from South America during the US off-season, which drastically raises the price. To find out what was in season, I simply visited my local flower market exactly one year before my wedding. I based my choices around the options I found there. If you don’t have a local market, visit a florist to ask what’s in season or check out Martha Stewart‘s list.

Also, don’t get married on Valentine’s Day or near Mother’s Day. Flower prices also drastically increase during this time. Avoid the two weeks surrounding the holiday if possible.

Buy from Wholesalers or Order Online
Los Angeles has one of the world’s largest wholesale flower markets and they open it to the public, which is another reason we were able to save so much money. I bought bunches of 25 roses for $6-10, depending on the stem-length. We’ve since learned that most other cities don’t have flower markets like mine. For my sister’s wedding, my mom ordered the flowers through the florist whose shop she rented.

If you want to go with simple flowers, you can also order bulk flowers from Costco, FreshRoses.com,  and FTD.com. They ship to your home or office, and come with instructions for prepping the flowers. If you don’t have a local flower market or a florist willing to rent you space, this is the next best option.

Stock Up on Sale Supplies
Even if you can’t access your local flower market, there are usually floral supply stores nearby that will sell to the public. You’ll find everything you need at drastically reduced prices. If you can’t find a store like that, then check the newspaper for Michael’s coupons and buy your vases and other supplies when they go on sale. My friend bought one vase a week each week with her Michael’s coupons. You may also be able to find rental items near the flower market. We rented our candelabra for $22 from a store next to the market. One of my bridesmaids returned it the Monday after the wedding.

For my flowers, we needed the following supplies: 5-gallon buckets from the hardware store, flower food, Quick Dip, Finishing Touch (all three are chemicals), stem stripper, floral knife, floral wire, packing tape or floral tape, hot glue and gun, and flower foam.

When I was planning my wedding, I would see some brides say they were planning to spend $7,000 on flowers. That was unfathomable to me even then. If you choose a pretty location and keep it simple, you can easily do your own wedding flowers for just a few hundred dollars, which frees up room in your wedding budget for something else.

Apologies for the belated recap. I was busy painting my house this weekend and forgot to recap!

First, the Carnival of Personal Finance #215 hosted by Good Financial Cents. In addition to my post recounting my long and winding road to homeownership, I also recommend M is for Money’s tips on the unexpected cost of home repairs. Boy do I hear that!

Second, the Festival of Frugality #188 hosted by Financial Highway. In addition to my post about the best and worst places to stash money, I also recommend a different perspective from Master Your Card. Are banks safe? I say they’re safer than the mattress.

Once again, we’re at the height of wedding season. We’re also at the height of engagement season. This week, I’m focusing on saving money on your wedding. Weddings are expensive, and many brides are looking for ways to cut costs, so I’ll look at the big things where you can save the most, as well as the simple things that add up. Today, we start with the budget. Before you do anything else, you need to set up a wedding budget. Then you need to stick to it. I know, that’s the tricky part.

How to Create a Wedding Budget
It’s definitely not romantic, but it’s practical. When I got married several years ago, I started with a wedding budget tool I found on the Knot.com. It gave me a jumping off point. Then I created this wedding budget worksheet in Excel. It’s yours to download free.

The More Detailed the Better
The Knot budget had some detailed line items, but also several general portions. I broke it out into even greater detail. I didn’t list “clothes.” I listed shoes, undergarments, jewelry, and dress separately. I didn’t list “flowers.” I listed the individual flower categories, like my bouquet, mom’s bouquet, bridesmaids, aisle flowers, etc.

Get Estimates in Advance
The first step is to pre-research. Ask recent brides what they spent to get an idea of what flowers, cakes, etc. cost in your region. This is where wedding message boards are your friend. The other brides will happily share their budgets. You can also review the websites of potential venues for an idea of the cost breakdown.

Determine a Total Wedding Budget First
If you start by entering what you want to spend in each category, you’ll go over budget right away. Instead, start with your total budget, then divide it between your categories. If you run out of money, you’ll have to start cutting. Also allow for about 10% overage, because things will come up and prices may rise between the time you start planning and the time you book.

Four Quick Tips to Reduce the Wedding Budget
There are some areas where you can reduce your wedding budget right out of the gate. Not all of them are simple, but they’re big savers.

First, cut all the crap you’re supposed to buy with your name on it, like cocktail napkins, favor tags, matchbooks, etc. Our venue supplied cocktail napkins. Guests can bring lighters if they smoke. We printed favor tags on our computer. Trust me, not one of your guests cares about these things. Save that money for the things that really matter.

Second, reduce your guest list. This is hard, but it’s key if you want to save money. This is the time to tell your mom that no, you’re not inviting your neighbor’s third cousin who you met once when you were five. Tell your crazy aunt she can’t bring her young escort. You also don’t need to invite every couple whose wedding you attended. Smaller, more intimate weddings definitely save money.

Third, consider alternate dates and times. If your peak wedding season is June through August, consider May or September. You could also consider Friday nights and Sundays. Most venues offer reduced rates for non-Saturdays (except on holiday weekends.) If most of your guests aren’t traveling from out of town, a Friday night wedding is a fun way to kick off the weekend. Follow it up with a Saturday barbecue at your parents’ house to keep out-of-town guests entertained.

Fourth, DIY what you can. I’ll talk about this more as the week progresses, but we did our own flowers, invitations, programs, favors, and wedding album and it saved us a lot of money.

Some brides don’t start with a budget and realize about halfway through the planning that they’ve spent $50,000 and aren’t done yet. If you want to start your marriage on the right foot, create a budget and then prepare to get creative. Consider it practice for your life ahead.

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