It’s the one thing that takes the romance out of what’s supposed to be the most romantic day of your life — money. Most Colorado couples will spend more on their wedding than a down payment for their first home. A new survey by finds the average cost of a wedding rose in 2016 to $32,641. That’s the highest number in American history.

Here’s the thing. Spending more does not necessarily buy more. Nancy Gibson Schmidt married her wife in a backyard wedding in Wheat Ridge. She said it’s important to remember, “the day is about your love, not the size of the cake or anything else. Your friends and family will not care how much money you spent.”

The trick is to figure out how to say “I do” to a beautiful wedding and “I don’t” to extra costs.

what’s important?

Before you begin planning, make a list. What’s most important? What’s least important? Where do items rank? This will help you focus on areas you need to budget more money for and areas you can cut.

Overall, you’ll save up to 30% by getting married during the off-season — anytime other than summer. Avoid wedding shops, as they tend to mark up everything. Consider a morning or afternoon wedding. A wedding brunch costs must less than a wedding dinner. Weekends will also cost you more than weekdays.


Choosing a venue sets the tone for everything from the kind of invitations you’ll send to the type of photographer you’ll use. Many of Colorado’s parks and mountain areas are available for very reasonable prices. The Washington Park Boathouse, for instance, is $600 for nine hours and that includes alcohol service.

Backyard weddings are also popular if you’re on a budget. But just because the venue is free, don’t assume it will cost you less. You will need to rent everything, from tables and chairs to lighting and linens. This can add up.

“The location we rented includes the property for the full day, tables and chairs. They supply the bartender, we pay for open bar,” Cathy Valentine said.

Valentine is helping plan her daughter’s summer wedding in Colorado Springs. The pair opted for a mountain location that provides the basics, so they’ll be using their wits to come up with the little things.

“We will be making part of the food and having some brought in with the flatware,” she said.

When choosing a venue, renting a more ornate space may save you money in the long run because it won’t need to be decorated. Hotels cost a little more, but they come equipped with almost everything you need. They usually have a dance floor, a kitchen, a full staff, and food and alcohol.


The very first glimpse into your special day for guests is the invitations. Make sure they reflect the nature of your wedding. A formal wedding calls for formal invitations. A casual wedding calls for more casual invitations.

It’s never been easier to make your own. Dozens of companies offer templates you can fill in and have printed on the paper you like.  Also, use this time to really examine the guest list. Trimming the list is the easiest way to trim the budget.


When planning decorations, think about what you have on hand. Do you collect tea cups or stuffed animals? Maybe you have a large collection of family photos. Using these items to decorate is an excellent way to infuse your personality into the festivities and save money. Cardboard boxes can be wrapped in beautiful paper with ribbons for table centerpieces. Table mirrors can hold sand and seashells.

One popular trend is to make mini-wedding cakes that do double duty as table centerpieces and as dessert.

Fresh flowers are expensive, so if you’re using them, utilize cheaper options. Discount stores like Sam’s Club and Costco offer wedding flowers. Use them strategically. Martha Stewart suggests buying a few exotic ones, then framing them with less expensive white ones. These make the more expensive flowers stand out. To save more money use flowers in season.

Cathy plans to make some of her daughter’s flower arrangements herself.

“The rest will be bought in bulk. We are making our own guest book and bridal book. We will buy a cheaper cake cutting set and I will decorate the handles.”


A live band starts at around $2,000 for four hours of music. DJs start around $700. DJs are trained to keep the party going.  A seasoned one will know what works well at a wedding and what doesn’t. This is an area where Schmidt didn’t skimp. She says her DJ was, “money well spent.”

food and drinks

You can save a lot of money by cooking your own food and serving it buffet style. Hotel prices begin at about $25 a plate for sit-down dinners and $15 a plate for buffets. Open bars begin around $15 per person and you must pay for an on-site bartender.

If you’re having a backyard wedding you can cut costs by simply setting up a bar and letting guests make their own drinks. Be careful. If you’re in any public setting, serving liquor usually requires a license or is banned. Check the laws before serving alcohol at a park or beach wedding.

what to wear

Online wedding warehouses are the way to go if you’re looking for something less expensive you want to keep. Many now offer custom made wedding dresses. You pick the style, send them your measurements, and they do the rest at a quarter of the cost of buying one from a regular shop.

If you want something extravagant, but don’t want to pay extravagant prices, consider renting a dress. This is also a good way to make sure it fits properly.


Do not overlook professional photography. It’s the one item that allows you to stretch those few precious hours into a lifetime. And, if you can find someone looking to build a portfolio, you can get it for free. Cathy found a photographer by posting requests on social media.

“The photography is being done for free with the release of the photos for the photographer to use in her magazine,” she said

Bottom line: The more you do yourself, the more you save. Schmidt created a big impact by stringing old Christmas lights around her reception area.

“Being classy is in the details, which are those little extra personal touches.”

By Yvonne Wright

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