Most people are pretty sure about their feelings for their future spouse on their wedding day — but other components of the ceremony, not so much.
Some 76% of people say they would do things differently if they had the chance to marry again, and 43% say there are things about their wedding that they “flat out regret,” according to a survey from jewelry company Dana Rebecca designs of 2,000 people who married after 2010.
What are the biggest regrets? Most people wish they had spent more money on their honeymoon, rings, and photographer — and less money on the dress and invitations, the report found. The average American wedding in 2016 hosted about 140 people and cost $35,329 (not including the honeymoon), according to a survey by The Knot. But they are couples who used the wedding website and, as such, were likely to have spent more on their big day.
Here are some tips from brides who married within the last 8 years on what to splurge on, and where they wish they would have cut costs.
Better lighting and a cloth runner can go a long way
New York City fashion stylist Shea Daspin got married in October 2016 and still holds onto a few financial regrets, she told MarketWatch. For her wedding of around 150 people, she saved “a ton of money” by not buying any flowers as decoration, but wishes she had spent more on lighting for the night time portion of the indoor-outdoor wedding. She also regrets not having a cloth runner or rug for the aisle since they walked outdoors.
“I think we decided to scrap it just to save a few hundred bucks and looking back at pictures, I wish there was something simple and clean covering up the ground,” she said. “I feel like all the things I would change are small details.”
Paying for a venue with a kitchen can save you a lot
Daspin’s other regret: Choosing a venue without a kitchen, leading to more food costs than expected since it all had to be cooked elsewhere and catered. She and her partner ended up being $2,000 over budget. If she could do her wedding again, she would consider a cheaper venue, but because they wanted to have it in New York options were limited.
“In hindsight I would have tried to choose somewhere low key like a family’s backyard to have the wedding to save money on the actual location expenses,” she said.
Guests may prefer to drink and dance than eat dessert
Abby Mills, a 31-year-old digital product designer in Brooklyn who married in May 2016, said she and her husband Jeremy spent a larger portion of their budget on food.
But she would have skipped dessert if given the option again: her guests were far more occupied with the open bar and dancing to partake and didn’t eat all of the sweets. “Moral of the story: know your audience,” she said.
Different ways to make a splash with your dress
Clare Redway, a marketing director based in Brooklyn who married in June 2016 said she wishes she spent more on the wedding dress, or at least found a more unique one. “I just got mine on sale at David’s Bridal,” she said.
Daspin, on the other hand, said one of the best financial choices she made during her wedding was to reuse her grandmother’s wedding dress. After looking at designer dresses of more than $15,000 (the average wedding dress costs $1,100) she decided to get the vintage dress personalized for a much lower price tag of $2,000 in alterations.
“My grandma had passed 10 years ago, and her husband, my grandpa passed earlier that year before my wedding and couldn’t make it,” she said. “When we were cleaning out their house for the estate sale I came across my grandma’s dress. It seemed like the perfect way to have them at my wedding even though they couldn’t actually be there. Best money I ever spent.”
Big or small wedding, hire a good photographer
After spending months planning a wedding ceremony for 2018, Irina Gonzalez, a 32-year-old writer based in Florida and her husband decided to downsize to save money. They instead got married at the end of 2017 at a courthouse with five guests rather than their original planned 50 attendees. She said she was very happy to avoid the major price tag of a traditional wedding, but has one major regret: Not hiring a professional photographer.
“It’s the one thing that everyone told us to get, but we got busy during the holiday season and didn’t want to spend thousands of dollars when our entire wedding would only be a few hundred,” she said.
Other women expressed similar regrets: Soraya Sybele Hossain, who got married in January 2018 in Brazil, said she wishes she would have paid more for photography and less on decorations. And Lindsey Miller, a Texas-based property manager said she wishes she would have spent more on photography and videography and less on personalized napkins, flowers, random Hobby Lobby purchases I thought I needed that no one probably noticed.”
Despite the regrets, however, 90% of married couples in the latest survey said the good parts outweighed the bad.