A walk down the aisle is still a heartbreaker for U.S. couples. According to The Knot‘s latest Real Weddings Study, brides and grooms spent an average $34,000 for their special days in 2021, leaping from a pandemic low of $19,000. But there are always ways for a thrifty, creative couple to save money, including — although it may not seem glamorous — shopping at the same place they get bulk paper towels and hulking jars of mayo. Here are ways Costco, Sam’s Club, and BJ’s Wholesale Club can help save on a wedding compared with the cost of doing business as usual, according to figures from The Knot and other sources.
Related: Surprising Facts About Costco
The national average cost for a wedding cake is $500, and that assumes buying outside an expensive metro area such as New York or San Francisco, where high-end cakes can cost $15 a slice or more. Even simpler cakes in less expensive areas can command about $2.50 a serving.
A warehouse club may not offer the elaborate cake of your dreams, but it can bring big savings. BJ’s offers customizable two-tier cakes that can serve up to 45 people for $30. Costco, unfortunately, offers customization only on rectangular sheet cakes, not on tiered ones — but those sheet cakes can feed 75 people for $46. You’ll need to order in person, as orders cannot be placed online.
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Fresh wedding flowers can be a big drag on a wedding budget: an average of $2,300 last year, including bouquets, boutonnieres, and centerpieces. Even on the low end, a bridal bouquet by itself can cost $100 and bridesmaids’ bouquets start at $50, according to the Midwest flower and gift chain Bachman’s.
For couples willing to adjust their floral vision, warehouse clubs can help save a pretty penny. Costco offers a 20-piece collection with a bridal bouquet, three bridesmaids’ bouquets, six corsages, six boutonnieres, and two centerpieces for $290. (Add 5,000 rose petals to spread down the aisle and on tables for $75.) Sam’s Club has packages ranging from about $113 to $1,124.
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They’re only paper, but wedding invitations still cost an average of $530, and that’s for lower-cost digital printing. High-end options such as letterpress could cost at least $5,000 for 100 invitations, according to Brides magazine.
Costco and Sam’s Club offer digitally printed wedding invitations for thrifty brides and grooms. Costco prices start at 66 cents for each coordinated save-the-date card, RSVP card, enclosure, announcement, shower invitation, wedding program, and thank-you card. Sam’s offers packs of coordinating thank-you cards, RSVP cards, wedding programs, and invitation enclosures that are even cheaper. BJ’s offerings are more limited and pricier, costing around 96 cents each in a pack of 24.
Wedding photography is expensive — costing on average between $2,100 and $2,600 in 2021 — and relatively consistent no matter where you are, according to the personal finance site ValuePenguin, although there may be savings with smaller packages or less-experienced photographers. Then there’s the photo album, which can cost $500 on the low end and easily top $1,000 when curated and printed by the wedding photographer.
For couples willing to forgo massive prints and heirloom quality, there’s no reason to spend that much on a wedding album. As long as the photographer sells the digital rights to the photos, you can design your own album at a warehouse club. BJ’s largest hardcover photo books are 12 by 12 inches and start at $60 for 20 pages. Costco‘s 12-by-12-inch hardcover books start at $40 for 30 pages. Sam’s has a 12-by-12 lay-flat book for $34.
The cost of a honeymoon depends on where a couple goes, what they do, and how long they stay — some may spend a week in the woods camping while others may enjoy three weeks in Bali. But a WeddingWire Newlywed Survey pegs the average cost of a honeymoon at $5,000.
Costco Travel offers vacation packages just for members that are often a solid deal, including the lowest price on three out of four cruises in a head-to-head comparison with other travel agencies by The Points Guy. It also beat Travelocity and booking directly with United and Hyatt for a six-night trip to Costa Rica (but was pricier on a trip to Venice). BJ’s offers similar services. The real strength of warehouse-booked vacation packages is often the extras, including resort credits, meals, and other upgrades. Gift cards also may be thrown in to sweeten the deal.
Related: Ways the Pandemic Changed Weddings
Favors are a tangible way to thank wedding guests for sharing a special day. Most favors are small — it’s the thought that counts — but can still add an average of $450 to the bill. Even frugal, do-it-yourself options tend to clock in between $100 and $300 for 150 guests, according to ValuePenguin.
Sticking with a popular edible favor is a safe way to keep costs low. A 3.5-pound bag of Hershey’s kisses — roughly 330 pieces of candy — costs as little as $13 at Sam’s. Buy a few more bags and there’s enough candy for 150 guests for $52. Non-chocolate bulk candy is even cheaper, and cellophane treat bags cost next to nothing on Amazon.
An engagement ring is one of the first expenses on the path to matrimony, and one of the priciest. Of course, tastes vary — some brides are content with faux diamonds, smaller diamonds, or diamond alternatives — but the average ring cost $6,000 in 2021. And don’t forget wedding bands: A bride’s wedding band averaged $1,100 and a groom’s averaged $510, according to The Knot.
Savings at warehouse clubs depend on what you want, of course: Costco offers everything from a modest 0.10-carat diamond and gold band for $300 to a 5-carat platinum ring with 40 diamonds for $6,000 (and way beyond). Sam’s Club‘s offerings start at $325 and top out at an eye-popping $89,000 for a 5-carat solitaire diamond set in gold. BJ’s has a more modestly priced selection, from $80 to $1,550. Experts recommend buying rings with a Gemological Institute of America report, which not all warehouse diamonds have.
Bridesmaids and groomsmen traditionally get a token of gratitude for their time, effort, and friendship (and their patience). Engraved jewelry and flasks can easily run up to $100 each, and bridesmaids’ robes and gift duffel bags are typically about $40 each.
Sam’s Club has fragrance gift sets from brand names such as Kenneth Cole and Vince Camuto starting at $36. Costco has been known to lower the cost with makeup bargains such as a Sara Happ brown-sugar lip scrub and Lip Slip balm gift set for as low as $12.50 or, for groomsmen, a handsome Mele & Co. Rory wooden charging valet for a phone and tablet, with room for watches and other valuables, at $40.
One of the biggest costs of a wedding is feeding the guests, even with a less-expensive buffet-style meal. Wedding catering cost an average of $75 a person in 2021. Skipping dinner in favor of an hors d’oeuvres-only reception can still cost more than $30 a person.
For a wedding venue that allows outside catering, all the major warehouse clubs offer impressive appetizer selections, such as 3 pounds of cooked shrimp for $20 at Sam’s Club. Just don’t forget to pick up napkins, plates, and serving utensils, especially if skipping catering completely. One 120-person wedding featured on The Kitchn would cost only around $800 for food — much of it from Costco — for a family-style dinner, though incidentals will surely raise the total to more than $1,000.
Don’t forget to factor in the cost of booze. CostHelper estimates suggest that the cost could be $11 to $33 a person on the low end — and that’s with just beer and wine. Adding mixed drinks could mean $15 to $90 per person for a four-hour reception.
If the venue allows it, bring the alcohol. Warehouse clubs are an ideal place to buy in bulk and save, and there are numerous sources online for figuring out how much will be needed. Following guidelines on sites such as A Practical Wedding while shopping at a warehouse club can lower the cost of drinks to less than $10 a person. (Just don’t forget bartender costs and potential budget busters such as setup, corking fees, insurance, and gratuities.)