Planning a Wedding on a Tight Budget

I remember when my husband and I were working out the details for our wedding. We didn’t have a lot of money, and didn’t want to rely on family to pull the weight of the financial burden. It came as a shock to my husband and I that the average wedding in the United States costs $26,645! These numbers only added more stress as we thought,”How will we have a decent wedding on less than $3,000?” Think about it, the costs add up quickly, there’s the wedding dress for the bride, a nice suit for the groom, the bride’s bouquet, flowers and decor, photographers, the venue, catering, and other rentals. What is a frugal couple supposed to do?

1. Set a Budget and Keep Track of All Receipts

To start, set a realistic budget together. How much are we willing to spend on our wedding? Make sure you stick to it! If you don’t have a budget, it’s going to be easy to see your money fall through into the dark oblivion. Also make sure you have a folder or file to keep receipts and other related papers including deposits, rental agreements, etc. as proof and a reminder of what you have spent. Also, if you need to cancel your venue or anyone you hired, see what their cancellation policies and deposit fees are and if they are refundable or not. Know where your money is going.

2. Consider Renting a Wedding Dress and Suit

Is it important for you to own a dress for the sake of memories or handing it down if one day you have a daughter that gets married? Is it important for your husband to keep his wedding suit for the memories or if he has a son that gets married? If you’re not concerned about these things, consider renting a wedding gown or suit online for a fraction of the cost!

3. Buy the Dress and Suit on Sale

If renting a wedding dress or suit is not for you, set a budget for the wedding dress and required undergarments. Make sure to set a budget for your fiance’s suit. Look for suits on sale. My wedding dress, a veil, an underskirt (slip), under corset bra, and white slippers for under $410. I bought the wedding dress on sale. The veil and underskirt were full price, but their cost was minimal compared to the dress. The corset I found at a department store for less than $20. I found some white slippers with pearl beads on them from a craft store for $10 with a 50% off coupon. Keep in mind sometimes there are sales in the stores on certain dresses and suits that may not be available online.

4. Save on Invites

Depending on how many guests your inviting, it’s usually best to buy in bulk, especially if you have more than 50 people. Remember you will need to pay for postage if you are mailing the invites. If you want custom invitations, most websites will offer you discounts for the bulk amount and choose a design that doesn’t cost a lot, but has easy customization. Check out party stores for wedding invites, too, as they sometimes have sales. If you truly want to save, send out invites via e-mail and social media if appropriate. Consider making your invites on your own printer with card stock paper and a card making program. If you lack the computer making program, printer, or card stock paper then consider making your own customized cards by hand that add your own special and unique touch.

5. To Cater or Not to Cater?

Do you plan to have a reception? This can cost thousands of dollars! It will sometimes costs extra to use the caterers table linens, plates, silverware, and glasses. If you want an appetizer or snack served for guests to munch on before and during the wedding, that will cost you a little more. If you have a caterer waiting on tables, bringing orders to tables, and fetching drinks that could add more. See where I’m going with this? If you want everything “perfect”, it’s going to cost you. To be honest, we did have family that stepped in to help for catering costs and we did a buffet style with a pitcher or two of water on each table. We also knew the caterer, which helped us communicate our needs and budget with them. Before we thought family would pitch in, we were planning on a few family members who are great cooks making food for the wedding. While I have no doubt in my mind this would have worked and served our guests, it may not have been the easiest option, but it was a less expensive one!

If you’re totally broke for food costs in feeding your guests, consider having a potluck and request each household bring a dish to share instead of a gift. Keep in mind the eating needs of your guests as well. I cannot stress this enough, do not pay for more food than you are going to need. Buy the amount of food appropriate for the amount of guests you are expecting. Don’t pay for extra appetizers or desserts if you truly don’t need them. The wedding cake is often dessert enough and extra appetizers may fill people up before they get to the main course.

6. Save on the Venue

This is another one of those pricey things because large deposits, liability insurance, or high prices can be involved. If you want your wedding at a ritzy hotel or the most beautiful flower garden in town, expect a large price tag. If you already attend a church, talk to the pastor or whoever is in charge of renting out the building. More than likely, they will allow you to use the church without charging you. Renting a space at a local park can be cost effective if you don’t mind the idea of an outdoor wedding and the weather is expected to be appropriate. An additional fee may be charged if you expect a lot of guests, want to serve alcohol, or rent a bouncy castle for the kids. If there is no money in the bank for a venue and you have a family member with a big house and nice backyard, ask if you can have the wedding at their home and allow them to know how many people will be attending. This is by far one of the most cost effective methods for a wedding venue.

7. Limo Rentals, Horse Carriages, and Luxury Rides! Oh My!

Unless you’re getting these for free, you might as well skip them. You can eliminate this cost by getting a ride to the wedding, or driving your own car. Taking a taxi would probably be cheaper if you didn’t want to bring your own car for fear of car markers, strings, and soda cans.

8. Make Your Own Flower Arrangements

Fresh flower bouquets can get pricey and fake arrangements online can costs upwards of $50. If you can get a good deal on a bouquet and it is in your budget then go for it! If not, consider creating your own! It’s easy! All you need are fake flowers you like that follow the color scheme you want (think going to Hobby Lobby or Michaels). Once you have selected flowers you want for your bouquet and your brides maids bouquets, buy a decorative ribbon to tie around the flowers to hold them together. For the bride’s bouquet, you may need a plastic holder if it is bulky. If you have a hot glue gun, you can add fake dew drops to the flowers as you please. Add your own touches to your flowers for a personal touch. If you would like to use real flowers then go for it! They may not be as cheap unless you plan ahead and grow them yourself or know a florist! Don’t forget to pick out some fake flowers to make your fiance’s boutonniere! Give a less formal boutonniere to the best man and friends that will be standing with him. This is also a great chance to sit down and bond with your fiance or invite some friends over to help craft the flower arrangements.

9. Use Inexpensive Decor

Want nice centerpieces for each table? Need hanging decorations? What about a decorated arch at the front? Get creative! We bought a bag of basic balloons that were our wedding colors, rented a helium tank (which was a $100 deposit, and they refunded it completely because we used such little helium for balloons). The two balloons were tied with ribbons and wrapped around a weight (weights are inexpensive to purchase or can be made with a rock wrapped in elegant or shiny paper) around each table. We got ceramic tiles, which reminded me of coasters that were our wedding colors and placed them under the paperweight. We used those flat marble rocks and placed a few on each table. Next, we took the ribbons we used for the balloons and ran pieces of 1-2 inches each along a pair of scissors to curl them and sat them on the table. Last, but not least, we bought a bulk pack of bubbles for our guests to enjoy. For wedding decorations consider using Oriental Trading. We allowed guests to take home any of the decorations on the table. The balloons were a hit with the kids!

10. Hire Friends and Family As Photographers

Photographers aren’t always cheap, but keep a look out for good rates. If you want professional photos, definitely take a look around to see who has the best prices. Beware of non-refundable deposits. I remember the day we got married, there was a wedding nearby and the photographer charged a $1,000 non-refundable deposit and didn’t show. We paid a friend that my husband took photography class with in college and the photos were not a disappointment! We ended up with many wedding pictures because friends and family brought cameras. In conclusion, we have over a hundred wedding pictures. Same principle applies if you want your wedding recorded on video.

11. Don’t Go in Debt For Rings

The last thing a couple needs to start a marriage is debt on a wedding rings. This is unnecessary. My husband and I went online and chose our own rings after finding out our sizes. It was a unique bonding experience to sit down and choose our rings together. We also skipped engravings and the need to resize to save a few extra dollars.

12. Choose Your Entertainment Wisely

I have been to weddings with and without entertainment. Music from a DJ can create a lot of fun energy in the room, but this can be pricey. Ask yourself before choosing any entertainment if it is a necessity. If it is, budget and stay within that budget. Instead of hiring a DJ, put songs together on my laptop. When the laptop is ready, hook it up to a speaker system on the day of the wedding. It is wise to test to see if this works a few days ahead of time. I created folders in order of the songs to play and when. The pastor that changed the songs at the appropriate times. We were able to listen to our favorite songs without the need for a DJ.

13. Skip the Bar

Need I say more? The bar is going to cost you more. It also saves embarrassment if there are guests that are heavy drinkers. I remember hearing about a co-worker that got married. This couple paid for each person to have a certain number of drinks. Each of their guests received a voucher for their drinks at the bar. Instead, there were inconsiderate guests that ordered more than their voucher allowed. As a result, the bride and groom were left with the large bill for extra drinks. Consider making large bowls of punch for our guests to cut costs.

14. Don’t Hire a Wedding Planner

If you are looking to save money, don’t hire a wedding planner. This will only drain your budget. It is awesome to have a wedding planner, but it isn’t essential. I am confident you are equipped to plan the wedding you want!

15. Avoid All Non-Essentials

Do you need those bows to place around each chair? What about that intricate altar piece? Must you have every water bottle with you and your fiance’s picture on it? I urge you to sit down together and get rid of non-essentials.

16. Skip the Expensive Shoes

This is especially true if your wedding dress is long enough to cover your feet. For this reason, I wore silk, white, and beaded slippers. They matched the dress and were absolutely comfortable! If your dress is short enough it shows your feet, shop for shoes on sale.

Know of ways to save money for a wedding? Post below!

[Photo Credit: Celia Michon on]

Leave a Reply