What venue will you choose? Which photographer fits your style best? When’s the date? Gold or silver accents? The choices are seemingly endless, but one thing that isn’t endless is your budget.

Whether you have a strict budget or you have a bit of wiggle room, coming in under budget is never a bad thing. Below, well-known Arkansas wedding pros have dished their secret, less obvious ways to cut down on your bottom line — and you won't have to sacrifice quality. From flowers and wedding planning to your dream dress and reception booze, we’ve got you covered on all manner of savings.


Forget what you heard about wedding planners being only for brides with big budgets. You can actually save money by hiring a planner. Planners are used to haggling prices, they have tons of experience working with brides on a budget and they have working relationships with vendors. All of this translates to money you’ll save. And, for the sake of your sanity, hiring a planner is worth every penny.

Once it’s time to start, wedding planner extraordinaire, Natalie Scott, recommends brides get realistic about those dreamy (read: expensive) Pinterest tablescapes and put their money where it matters.

“Do you love a letter-pressed linen menu card and lush peony compotes? Splurge for this on your head table,” she says. “Love a gorgeous wooden table with dripping greenery and gold taper candles? Go all out styling your cake table and entry table. Scaling back on the other 25 guest tables cuts costs without compromising the design.”


Florals are a big deal, and brides who want lots of them need to budget accordingly. While flowers are one of the pricier categories, there are plenty of creative ways to save.

► Shop wholesale.
Shirley’s Flower Studio recently launched a wholesale online flower website, NWA Wholesale Florist. Brides can buy flowers direct from farms at wholesale prices — you just have to order in bunches not stems.

Use bridesmaid bouquets as table arrangements at the reception. Tanarah Haynie, owner of Tanarah Luxe Floral, also suggests brides use their rehearsal dinner flowers at the reception.

Greenery is your friend.
Anna Beth Rogers, owner of Magnolia Belle Floral, recommends incorporating more greenery than flowers to make your reception looking lush for less.

Be selective.
Large, fully open blooms can help cut back on the number of stems needed to create each arrangement.

Make a statement.
Planner Amanda Reed’s advice is to put your money where it counts. “They won't remember that there was a small floral on their table — they will recall the feeling when they walked in and saw that giant pair of urns flanking the dance floor!”


Anne Foster, Catering Director for K-Mac Catering, shared six sure-fire ways to slim down your catering budget.

1. Non-dinner time reception
One good way to get around the cost of serving a whole meal is to time your wedding at a non-meal part of the day — brunch for a morning wedding, hors d’oeuvres or even a dessert reception are all totally appropriate options if you have a wedding ceremony and reception at a non-dinner time of day.

2. Self-serve bites
Skip the hand-passed hors d'oeuvres altogether and set cocktail tables with beautiful spreads of crudités and dips, artisan cheeses, baskets of gourmet crackers and fresh breads, and fruit. This will help you save money on food preparation and serving staff.

3. Three is good
We suggest you select a maximum of three prepared hors d'oeuvres to serve during the cocktail hour. Remember, you're just giving guests something to nibble on before the main culinary event, so an abundance of food at this point adds an unnecessary expense.

4. Limit entrée choices
There's no rule that says you must give guests a choice of entrées. To stay within budget, ask your caterer to create one widely appealing main course, like a savory chicken breast with an assortment of sauces or a crowd-pleasing pasta dish.

5. Supplement with stations
Make a budget meal seem sumptuous by adding one or two cost-friendly “stations" to your reception menu. Consider a self-serve pasta bar with different sauces or a loaded mashed potato station with fun toppings.

6. Three-course meal
A three-course meal that includes a soup or salad, entrée, and finishes with wedding cake is plenty of food for your guests. Especially after those self-serve bites (refer to No. 2 above).


Lindsay Hollomon, wedding coordinator with Rick’s Bakery, says the number one way to save on your wedding cake is to do a smaller decorative cake to show and serve, then make up the difference in sheet cakes. This is especially nice for large weddings with 250 or more guests. And if cake isn’t really your thing, Hollomon says many brides are opting for a dessert bar with donuts, petit fours, cupcakes or cookies. “This is a fun and unique dessert option that people love and will remember!”

Jo Johnson Photography


Rent your linens.
Who needs 20 or more tablecloths in their linen closet? No one. Not only does renting your linens save money, it also cuts out the hassle of steaming the linens on the day-of.

Go disposable.
Cindy Barson with Eventfully Yours recommends brides go with acrylic disposables for the cocktail hour and cake to save a bit of money.

Choose a venue that includes tables and chairs.
This will save you quite a bit of money on rentals and set up down the road.

Pay attention to additional fees.
When choosing a rental company, pay attention. Many charge additional fees for delivery and pickup after hours or on weekends. Look for businesses like Somthin’ Borrowed, which charges one flat fee (including set-up, pick-up and delivery).

Triple check your list.
Ray Imbro, president of Party Time Rental & Events, says he’s seen his fair share of brides coming into his showroom in a panic because their rental company forgot about essential details. The right amount of linens and the right size chair covers are two common emergency calls he gets on the day-of. Make sure your rental company has it all handled to avoid wedding day drama.


You can get a dream dress for less, you just have to be savvy. Betsy Manning, owner of Unveiled Bridal Collection, has these tips for you:

Order your gown at least 16 weeks out from your wedding date to ensure no rush charges (they range between $75–$200).

Look for diffusion lines.
Manning says most designers with a couture line have diffusion lines too, which are a lower price point. For example, Monique Lhuillier has Bliss Monique Lhuillier and Lazaro has Tara Keely. “These lines are usually considerably less but with the same look and aesthetic,” she says.

Ask about fabric.
Some gowns come in multiple fabrics. Synthetic or blended fabrics are cheaper, and gowns made of taffeta and/or chiffon are cheaper than those made of silk or real lace.

Ask about custom lengths when ordering your dress.
Designers will often create a custom-length gown based on the bride's height in heels. Shorter, custom lengths require less fabric and thus it may cheaper than getting alterations on the standard size later.

Shop trunk shows of your favorite wedding designers for discounts.


We discovered in our 2017 Arkansas Wedding Report that 46 percent of brides are hiring videographers (up from 37 percent in 2015!). Lucky for you, there’s no shortage of exceptional videographers in Arkansas. Two of them dished a few secrets for getting the most out of your wedding video.

Just ask.
Elizabeth Reeves, part of the husband and wife duo behind Betwixt Magnolias, encourages brides to contact their dream vendors directly about price, instead of getting sticker shock at estimated prices on their websites.

Reeves says it's important to figure out what’s most important to you in a wedding video, then the videographer can put together a package that best fits your needs.

Buy a package.
Caitlin Trickett of Caitlin Trickett Photography recommends a photographer/videographer package deal. This is a great way to save money, and it also means the photographer and videographer are a team, so the bride's wedding day documentation will have a cohesive “look.”


Since photography (and your wedding video) will be how you revisit your big day for decades to come, this is one category where you don’t want to skimp. And we’re not alone in that thinking. In our 2017 Arkansas Wedding Report, brides said photography was their most worth-it splurge. You can find ways to save with almost any photographer, but talking through your vision can help them work with you on budget. Here are a couple of easy ways to do just that:

Do a ceremony exit instead of a reception getaway.
This cuts down on the time that you have to pay your photographer to stick around after the big moments are finished. “It’s a win, win — less coverage, and a more comprehensive wedding day gallery,” says Meredith Benton, owner of Meredith Benton Photography.

Choose day-of photography only.
“If you have to go without an engagement session and/or a bridal session, it will have been worth it to be able to budget the wedding photographer of your dreams,” says Classie Ehrhard, owner of Classie Photography.

Ask your photographer to go solo.
Professional photographers know how to properly photograph a wedding from start to finish and capture all of the necessary images, details and décor. No second shooter necessary. “If your wedding is average sized, about 150-200 guests, a wedding pro that has the experience and skill will be able to capture your wedding day with beautiful images,” Ehrhard says.


Find out whether your venue provides professional sound and lighting for a band or DJ. Many bands and DJs will adjust their pricing if they don’t have to provide and/or set up their own sound and lighting equipment. Wayne Willems, booking agent for Little Rock Entertainment Agency, suggests another way to save would be to rent a professional sound system from a local sound company or entertainment agency. “Just plug in your iPhone and get the party started,” he says. This eliminates the cost of gratuity associated with having a DJ or band.

Bonus tips: Local bands may cost less because you won't have to reimburse travel; and smaller bands with fewer musicians or vocalists are usually cheaper (and you'll have fewer folks to tip).



Jimmy Hamilton, general manager of Legacy Wine & Spirits, shared how to save big on your reception booze just by doing a little simple math.

1. Figure out the number of “drinking” guests you have.

2. Multiply that times the number of hours you’ll be serving alcohol at the reception.

3. Then multiply times the average number of servings you want to have available.

(Keep in mind that this average takes into consideration light and heavy drinkers. Most averages assume 1.5 drinks per person per hour up to three hours. You can start reducing that number as the hours of service increase.)


For example:

drinking guests
X 3
hours of service
X 1.5
drinks per hour
= 450
drinks needed

You can break it down by the type of alcohol you will serve at your reception, as well. Here’s an example: 50 percent wine and 50 percent beer would equal 225 servings of wine and 225 servings of beer (this would equal the grand total of 450 total servings).

You can then break it down even further by figuring out the percentage of wine you’ll serve (red, white, rose) and the percentage of beer (12 packs, 30 packs, kegs).

By playing with the formula you can tweak the price to whatever you need it to be. And remember, nobody turns their nose up at free booze. No matter what you serve, guests will be happy!