Debra McClinton

  • Try a less-expensive package. "Photographers usually offer packages based on the hours they’ll work," says Naylor. To buy a less expensive (shorter) package, she suggests, “do your at-home, getting-ready pictures as candids. Cut the cake early so you can release the on-the-clock shooters, and let your guests supplement your album with candids.”
  • Talk to former brides. To help you decide whether you’re really going to need the 1,000-picture package or whether 500 will do, find people “with similar sensibilities to yours and see what their experience was,” says Naylor.
  • Consider hiring a photography-school student. Make sure you check out his or her portfolio, with examples of portraits. Though, Fields says, “it can cut the bill in half,” it’s not worth the savings if photos aren’t in focus.

The Invitations, Programs, and Favors

  • Take advantage of the talents of the bridal party and other friends and family. Anything you can make yourself becomes a fun shared effort and can save a lot. “My aunt did her own invitations and program for her wedding because she wanted the personal touch,” says Post.
  • Make some items do double duty. To save the cost of printed place cards, add guests’ names to the favors and set one at each place, or print the names at the top of your menu cards.
  • Make your own favors. If you have time, whip up your grandma’s famous macaroons or make your own chocolate-covered almonds. “Edibles are the most appreciated,” says Naylor. “Especially for nighttime weddings―a bag of cookies will be gone before the guests hit the car.”
  • Skip favors. Place a bowl of candies on the cake table with a note saying, “Please enjoy these candies. In lieu of favors we’ve made a donation to charity.”