14 Unique Cost-Saving Tips

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Engagement season is upon us! Saving money is always a hot topic, so I thought I’d share some unique tips to help maximize your budget during the planning process and on the wedding day.


o   Ask your planner about up-and-coming vendors. Your planner may not have worked with them yet, but newer vendors can often provide a little wiggle room on pricing and date availability.

Invitation Design

o   Use a calligraphy font to digitally address your envelopes, instead of having calligraphy done by hand.

o   Get a single envelope addressed with calligraphy (with your address!).  Include it in a pretty, styled photo for your wedding album, or slip it into a frame or shadow box.


o   Check out hotels that are frequented by business travelers during the week, as their weekend rates will be a lot lower. Also, suburban hotels are going to offer lower rates than “in-city” hotels.

Floral and Décor

o   Stick with standard napkins, which can save up to $2 to $4 per person. Custom or non-standard napkins typically only supply a pop of color on the tablescape, so your budget is probably better spent elsewhere.

o   Skip an accent floral at each place setting. This is a beautiful touch but not worth spending $5 to $7 per place setting. Your planner can arrange to have one place setting accented so that your photographer can snap a special shot.

o   Depending on the timing and locations of your ceremony, cocktail hour and reception, you can repurpose aisle/ceremony décor as accent pieces at the reception. (This will only work if you have a separate cocktail space or if you’re planning an afternoon ceremony and an evening reception.)

o   Candles provide a lot of bang for your buck and create a romantic ambiance.


o   Create two signature drinks for your guests to enjoy throughout the evening, in addition to your beer and wine selections, instead of offering a full range of liquors. I love this idea as it shares a little more about you two as a couple, which is what the day is all about!

o   Forgo wine service at the tables during dinner.

o   Close the bars for 30 minutes so guests can gracefully transition into the reception space. This will eliminate additional setup fees and allow you to have the bar open 30 minutes longer into the evening.


o   Ask the hairstylist who typically cuts your hair if he or she can style your wedding-day hair.

o   Visit a beauty counter a few months prior to your wedding to have your makeup done. Bring a trusted family member or friend, such as your mom or maid of honor. If you like the result, purchase all of the products and do your own wedding-day makeup (with the assistance of your shopping partner). Make sure to practice at least twice prior to the day of.

Bridesmaids’ Attire

o   Rent the Runway offers fabulous designer dresses for rent. Your ladies can borrow a high-end gown for about $50 to $70 (they’ll send two different sizes), instead of spending $175 to $250 on a traditional dress.

By thinking outside of the box, you can cut costs and still end up with the wedding of your dreams. Prioritize, get creative, and never forget the real reason you’re planning this special day! It’s going to be amazing!


Christine M. Darden

Escort Cards vs. Escort Board

A question I receive a lot as a wedding planner is: “What’s the best way to show guests where to sit?”

I know the seating chart is a daunting “last month of wedding planning” task, one of those to-dos that must wait until last minute because of the RSVP deadline. But here are some things to think about before the final month to make your seating chart process go as smoothly as possible!

Escort card

The formal card that is set out in alphabetical order as guests are moving into the dining room for dinner. This card has the guest’s name and table number so that he or she knows where they’re being “escorted” to from the entrance of the venue.

Place card

The card that is preset at the place setting of each dining table. This place card is essential if there are different entrée selections that guests have noted on their RSVP cards. You will need to have a different indicator for each entrée option. A popular way to indicate the different dishes is by using a different colored card for each type of meal.

Escort board

An escort board displays an alphabetical list of guests by last name with the respective table number next to each name; the list is typically separated by letter on a large board that’s usually 24 by 36 inches in size. There are two types of escort boards: ones that are fully printed through your invitation designer like the one to the right, or you can make your own “board.”

To go the DIY route, take a large piece of fabric and wrap a 24 x 36-inch foam board, then hot glue the edges of the fabric to the back. Then, hot glue a second foam board to the back to cover any jagged edges. Next, print the guests’ names out onto 4x6 or 5x7 cards alphabetically by last name with the respective table number next to each name. You can use as many 4x6 or 5x7s as you would like but just make sure each one has a “title” that indicates which letters are on that specific card. (See picture for details.) And finally, glue, pin or tape those cards in alphabetical order to the board that you have made. If desired, you can frame the board with an open air frame 24 x 36-inch frame to really finish out the whole look.

One small thing that sometimes gets forgotten is table numbers for the tables. If you are one of my clients, ask me about this as I have lots of ideas for you! If you decide to name the tables instead of using numbers, you’ll have to display a floorplan with the table nameson the respective tables near the escort cards or board; otherwise, guests will not know what sequence the names go in, even if it is alphabetical order.


Pros and Cons of Escort Cards


  • They are more traditional and guests know exactly what they are when they see that table full of cards.
  • You can double them as place cards if you are doing different options for a plated dinner and you do not want to pick every guest’s seat for them.  If you do this, remember you have to make one for each guest individually.
  • Easier to make extras at the last minute if guests decide to RSVP two days before the wedding.
  • You can double them as a favor by tying each one to a fun treat (a cookie, bottle of champagne, popcorn etc.)


  • If you are trying to double them as place cards to indicate entrée selections, you will need to tell your emcee to let the guests know to place them in front of their place settings at the table prior to the start of dinner service.
  • If the writing is too fancy or the lighting is too low, guests might have trouble seeing their names.
  • They can get out of order quickly if guests accidentally pick up the wrong person’s card and place it in a different spot on the table.
  • If your foyer or cocktail area is tight on space, then an 8 to 10-foot table full of cards may be hard to squeeze in.

Pros and Cons of an Escort Board


  • Guests can quickly find their names under the corresponding letter.
  • You do not need to alphabetize individual cards; the list is already printed in alphabetical order.
  • Guests can easily look at where other friends are sitting to make sure to visit those tables and catch up with them at some point in the evening.
  • The board is portable and can be moved in the middle of cocktail hour from the front entrance of the venue to the entrance of the dining room to give people two chances to find their names and table numbers.
  • It is compact and takes up little to no space in a foyer or cocktail space.


  • It cannot double as place cards or favors.
  • If you decide on the fully printed option, last-minute guests are not on there and you will have to tell them individually which table they are sitting at.
  • I hope this helps out with your seating chart process! I know it can be an overwhelming task during your last month of planning, but having assigned seats is so inviting and efficient for your family and friends at your reception.


Christine M Darden