The Surprising Way to Avoid the “Wedding Tax” and Save Thousands, According to 3 Brides

published Jul 7, 2024
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
illustration of a table with grocery bags, receipts, flowers, drinks, desserts, and foods being prepared for a wedding

Are you a bride-to-be with a budding wedding Pinterest board? If so, maybe you’ve pinned a few (dozen) photos of lush floral arrangements and long candlelit tables set with personalized name cards. There’s probably inspiration for elaborate tiered cakes and walls of dessert. There might even be a few half-drunk glasses of sparkling wine in the mix. It’s a joyful, dreamy image that thousands of us hope to nail on that very special day.

One thing that likely doesn’t appear anywhere on this board, but absolutely should? Your favorite grocery store.

No, I’m not suggesting you plan your wedding to take place at a grocery store (though more than a few newlyweds have said their “I do’s” at Aldi, Whole Foods, and more), but rather to take all that inspiration with you to the grocery store — and not just for deals on flowers

Add the word “wedding” to anything, and the prices instantly soar — unless you’re at the grocery store.

One thing I’ve seen firsthand when I worked at a grocery store: whole weddings planned seemingly out of thin air. Well-meaning mothers-in-law carting a half dozen cases of wine to their sedans. More shopping carts overflowing with roses, peonies, and filler to be made into archways. And bricks of butter just waiting to be whirred into homemade fluffy, buttercream-frosted wedding cakes.

It got me thinking, why isn’t the grocery store our first stop for wedding planning? Think about it. Add the word “wedding” to anything, and the prices instantly soar — unless you’re at the grocery store. Wondering what this decision actually looks like IRL, I asked some brides who grabbed a shopping cart and headed down the (shopping) aisle for their big days. Much like any other wedding day, the choice to go the grocery route is often incredibly personal. 

“Using a grocery store for our wedding is exactly us,” says Rebecca Droste, who primarily shopped at Hy-Vee for flowers and dessert for her 200-person wedding. “My husband was in charge of desserts, and he loves grocery store cake and cake donuts. He was adamant that’s what we’d serve our guests.”

Opting for grocery desserts was a no-brainer that quickly expanded to other sections of the store, including Hy-Vee’s floral department where Droste ordered floral arrangements, bouquets, and even an arch the couple got married under. On top of that, Hy-Vee also delivered and set up the flowers on-site for the ceremony and reception. “I was concerned it would just be grocery store mums and babies breath,” recalls Droste, “but they were able to source the flowers that I wanted at a much lower cost than any of the florists I had spoken to.”

Credit: Becca Rea Tucker

Of course, flowers are a popular option for many of these de facto grocery store wedding planners. With florists charging between $2,800 to $8,000 for wedding arrangements, every single grocery store bride I chatted with came more than a bit under the average.

For Becca Rea-Tucker, who spent around $300 for flowers for her 50-person wedding, the grocery floral section at Central Market was an inspiration in itself. “Honestly I liked not having to make the decision of which flowers to get until the day of! We just showed up that morning and picked an assortment from what was there,” Rea-Tucker says. “There were tons of specialty options, including my fave: ranunculus. I wanted it to feel loosely curated, kind of haphazard, but also beautiful. It worked well for that purpose,” she adds. 

Credit: Becca Rea Tucker

A baker herself, Rea-Tucker also picked up a few bundles of edible flowers to decorate some of the 12 (!) desserts she made for her wedding guests.

The DIY aspect of Jenny Woodford’s wedding was made more special, as a DIO (do-it-ourselves) project shared amongst family and friends. The flower sourcing became a true divide-and-conquer mission, explains the bride, at, where else, a nearby Trader Joe’s. “My mother-in-law and [fiance] went the day before and furiously sent us a million photos of the store’s crowded flower section,” Woodford says. “[A friend] and I circled the flowers we liked in the photos and sent them back. The morning of the wedding was a real community effort. Friends and family all gathered in the barn to cut stems and make arrangements.”

Credit: Jenny Woodford

If your venue doesn’t offer, say, tableswear, bar supplies, and more traditional amenities — something that Woodford ran into when planning her 70-person wedding — the grocery store is also there for you. She and her then-fiancé picked up alcohol, juices, sodas, coffee and tea, as well as coffee- and solo cups and garbage bags for their makeshift bar for way less than a venue would charge. In total, they spent $500 on the bar and flowers combined(!). That number is far below the average cost of just an open bar, which is roughly $20 to $35 per person.

Of course, saving thousands by shopping at the grocery store is not without its own cost. “So much more planning, so much more hands-on,” Woodford says. “But also! [It’s] more custom, more family involvement, more of an everyone-pitches-in type of vibe.” 
Woodford says she would still make all the same decisions over again, and that her grocery-sourced wedding felt uniquely her own. “The hullabaloo of the traditions and vendors and outfits and money and schedules does not matter AT ALL at the end of the day,” Woodford adds. “It will be the best day ever no matter how you do it. Ultimately, we had a blast and made memories that will last a lifetime.”