What Real Brides Wish They Hadn’t Spent Money on at Their Wedding

By Madeleine Luckel
A scene from My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

Weddings are undeniably expensive. Not only does a couple have to feed and entertain a large number of guests, there’s also the siren call of many a picture perfect purchase to contend with. That beautiful (and very expensive) lace wedding dress! The ideal peony center-pieces! The calligraphy invitations done by hand! Who can resist?

With so many costly temptations, the last thing any bride would want to do is waste wedding day funds on a superfluous aspect of her special day. But for the vast majority, this error is somewhat unavoidable—nobody can throw a perfect wedding on the first try, after all. To help those about to tie the knot mitigate the risk of making a novice error, we reached out to eight former brides and asked them to share what they wouldn’t have spent on, now that they have the benefit of hindsight. Below, their tidbits of wedding wisdom.

Fancy Food

“I got married in Florence over a decade ago, so the location, romance, and nostalgia definitely over took the days we spent with our guests. However, that’s not to say I wouldn’t have done a few things differently. For starters, I would have tried to serve ‘simpler’ food. We opted for some fussier dishes such as beef tartare and squid ink pastas that I think proved challenging for some of our guests. I wouldn’t sacrifice culinary excellence, but choosing dishes or food for a wider variety of palate would have served me better.” —Jean Liu, Interior Designer

The Outfit Change

“I wish that I hadn’t gotten a second dress—I ended up not changing into it because I was having so much fun I didn’t want to leave the party! Ultimately I wore the short second dress on my honeymoon, and I love still wear it to this day, but it wasn’t necessary.”—Ariel Okin, Premier Designer at Homepolish and Writer

The Afterparty

“Afterparties are practically de rigueur, and we followed suit at our wedding five years ago. But if I were planning it all over again, I would probably skip it. Not because it wasn’t amazing and fun—it was! We had a ’90s cover band and it was just a hilarious, drunk bacchanal. But, frankly, we were having a total blast at the reception dancing like maniacs and the DJ was crushing it. When we transitioned from the reception to the afterparty, we lost a bit of that party momentum, and a few guests decided to call it a night (to be fair, it was 11:00 p.m.). I think we should have just kept the reception going.” —Virginia Van Zanten, Writer and Editor

Designer Shoes
“I wore a pair of beautiful designer shoes for my ceremony which were not comfortable, and might I add, no one saw them! I wish now I’d worn the special wedding boots that my brother and sister gifted me: a sky blue pair with my new initials, my ‘something blue’ on my wedding day! I changed into them the second I got to the reception, and danced the night away. Happy to help a bride who wants a special pair of wedding boots as I now sell them in my store!” —Lizzie Means Duplantis, Co-Founder of Miron Crosby


“We probably shouldn’t have served tequila shots as post-ceremony cocktails! We were married at Maroma in Playa del Carmen, Mexico and by the end of the night we had a handful of husbands who had one too many drinks!” —Mignonne Gavigan, Jewelry Designer

A Foreign Cover Band

“In retrospect, I would have opted for a DJ instead of an Italian cover band. I recall technical issues related to setting up for a band, and we also experienced our fair share of ‘lost in translation’ songs. I don’t think this meant my guests were more reticent to get out on the dance floor and cut a rug—after all, the vino and prosecco flowed abundantly. But all in all, it definitely proved to be an area where we could have saved some money.” —Jean Liu

Hosting the Wedding Party in the Same Place

“I got married in a small town and became obsessed with all my closest friends and family staying under one roof at the hippest hotel in town. We ended up spending a significant amount of money on a buyout fee that didn’t even include everyone’s room rates. At the end of the day, I loved the hotel but let’s face it, we barely spent any time there. Everything would have been just as perfect with guests scattered around town.” —Colleen Mistry, Product Line Director at Matouk

A Design Backdrop

“This is super-specific, but we had this fabulous living wall constructed to go behind the DJ’s table. But nobody could see it! It looked great in daylight, but when it got dark, it was totally lost. So, it wasn’t a waste of money per se, but it should serve as a friendly reminder that if you’re going to spend the money to have a cool design feature, make sure you spend a little bit extra to have it properly lit!” —Virginia Van Zanten


“I have long considered myself a stationery aficionado, so I knew from the beginning that the invitations mattered to me. Mine were letter pressed, stitched, and placed in beautiful wood like envelopes to evoke a rustic feel. I should have stopped there, but instead, we placed the invitation along with RSVP cards in a suede folder with a pencil and placed each one in a brown box. In retrospect, I would have sent the invites without the box and the suede folder. Ten years later, I still can’t bring myself to throw away the box because I know how pricey it was, but it’s not the easiest keepsake to store. I’ve often wondered if my guests have long since tossed theirs away.” —Jean Liu

“I would have eliminated our amenity boxes. The boxes contained traditional Mexican wedding cookies (“bizcochos”) baked at my family’s cattle ranch and roasted pecans from the trees there. While this was a special touch, they required last minute handling and the distribution was a huge headache. And, some of the guests didn’t even open the box!” —Lizzie Means Duplantis

No Room for Dessert

“I wish we worried less about the cake. We were having such a fun time, we didn’t even stop to cut it! Eventually, the event staff cut it for everyone, but it was a priority for us to do the cake-cutting moment.” —Mignonne Gavigan

A Fancy Display

“We cut so many corners throughout the wedding planning process, from sending e-invitations to blasting a Spotify playlist instead of a band, and for every frill that we trimmed from the list, it was one less thing to have to worry about wrangling that day. We walked away thrilled to have focused on fun (like fireworks, worth it! And a bonfire, basically free!) instead of fancy. The ceremony programs, for example, were printed out by my next door neighbor Glenda Jones onto some leftover cardstock she had on hand. Why would we need something more luxurious than sturdy paper and ink? Plus, it felt like a gift to have someone taking that off of our plate—there’s so much value in problem solving with friends! Everything ends up reminding you of the people that helped you throw a sweet party, instead of a hefty bill for a lavish display (that might not have even represented your real life together)!” —Arden Fanning Andrews, Beauty Editor and Writer

Toasting with Bubbly

“A champagne toast wasn’t worth it to me. I knew half of our guests wouldn’t drink it. I chose to have my guests toast with wine.” —Alison Laesser-Keck

Thank You Gifts

“Favors are not worth it! They felt very ’80s or ’90s wedding to me. Instead, I opted for welcome bags and turndown gifts. There is nothing better than arriving back to your hotel room and being welcomed by a little treat on your pillow.” —Alison Laesser-Keck