Wedding on a Budget

How to Plan a Wedding on a Budget

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Congratulations! You’re getting married!

Whether you’ve just gotten engaged and you’re in the very beginning stages of planning your dream wedding or you’ve had some time to get some things checked off your list, you’d probably like to get the most for your dollar and save where you can.

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you but weddings are crazy expensive and unfortunately, they don’t pay for themselves. According to The Knot, in 2016 the average American couple spent $35,329 on their wedding! Which doesn’t even include the honeymoon! Say what?!?! And my husband and I thought that we spent a lot of money on our wedding!

That kind of money can help you start your marriage off on the right foot! You could use some of that money to:

  • Put a down payment on a new home
  • Pay off student loans or credit card debt before you officially start your life together as Mr. and Mrs.
  • Go on a super cool honeymoon to China, Japan, and Korea (that’s what we did and it was the bomb dot com)

But I want you to know that it is possible to have a beautiful and memorable wedding without going into debt or spending your entire year’s salary in one day! My husband and I were able to save over $10,000 on our wedding and I wanted to share my best tips and tricks with you so you can save money and plan a wedding on a budget.

After going through the list, I highly recommend that you talk to your partner and create a wedding budget you can afford if you haven’t already. Also create a list of must haves, nice to haves, and things you can do without for your wedding. That way you can splurge on the things that will make your special day even more special without feeling guilty or going over budget.

Skip the save the date

Save the dates are cute but definitely not necessary. Just think of it as one less thing you have to worry about. Plus, you can send your invitations a little earlier so your guests have plenty of notice to mark off their calendar for your big day. Skipping the save the dates saved me $150.

If you really want to send out a save the date, send it by email. I’ve seen others do that because they either didn’t want to spend the money, they didn’t want to waste paper (because it will eventually be thrown away), or both.

Choose a simple and cost effective invitation

Invitations can easily end up costing you hundreds of dollars if you want the fancy smancy stuff. Since invitations were on the bottom of my list, I went with a simple design that I created on Vistaprint for $0.38 per invitation. I spent less than $50 on 125 invitations. Wherever you end up getting your invitations from always look for promo codes!

Choose a venue that doesn’t need much decor

I choose to get married in an old antebellum house because it was stunning and had a lot of built-in charm. It was surrounded by beautiful gardens so I went super minimal with the decor because the space just didn’t need anything else. I was already paying more than I would have liked on the venue so I didn’t want to pay hundreds or thousands more on top of that.

Limit the amount of flowers you buy

Flowers can easily cost you thousands of dollars. But since I chose a venue that didn’t need much decor I ended up only getting flowers for the bouquets, boutonnieres, corsages, and buffet tables. We even used my bridesmaid’s bouquets as centerpieces for a few of the tables at the reception.

If you decide that flowers are a must have then be sure to shop around, compare prices, and buy what’ll be in season at the time of your wedding. You don’t always have to buy your flowers through a flower shop as they tend to be more expensive. More and more people are buying their flowers online, at the farmer’s market, and even at their local grocery store’s flower department.

Buy used whenever you can

You can find all sorts of wedding decor that’s been used once for a fraction of the price online. Be sure to join Facebook buy and sell groups, search Facebook’s marketplace, and look to see what people are selling/giving away on Craigslist, Nextdoor, and Freecycle. If you don’t find exactly what you need, create a post with the details of what you’re looking for and people will reach out to you if they happen to have it.

Shop for bridesmaid dresses from non-wedding retailers

I didn’t want my bridesmaids to have to spend a lot of money on their dresses. So my bridesmaid’s and I went on a hunt to find a decently priced yet still nice bridesmaid dress. We avoided wedding shops because they tend to be much more expensive than non-wedding retailers. We looked at Target, Nordstrom, and Macy’s and one of my bridesmaids found the perfect dress online at Target for $25! And the best part (other than the price) was that they could actually wear it again.

Get someone you know to officiate the wedding

Hiring an officiant could cost you anywhere from $200-$500 if not more. And for 15 minutes of their time (my ceremony was short and sweet) I decided to ask a family friend who happened to be a judge. But if you don’t know a judge, don’t worry! Ask a reliable friend or family member who isn’t afraid to speak in public. It’s free to get ordained in most states and it only takes a few minutes to sign-up. You’ll save a few hundred dollars going this route but you’ll have to do a little more work since you’ll need to provide a script for vows to your officiant.

Use a DJ from a local bar

I got a number of quotes for wedding DJ’s that I found online and through referrals. Most quotes were over $1,000. That just wasn’t in my budget so we ended up asking a DJ from a local bar and he did an excellent job. A lot of DJ’s have done weddings before so just make sure to ask as you may not want to risk having a total newbie since weddings are a different kind of beast.

Have a smaller one or two-tiered wedding cake

Traditional wedding cakes can cost you anywhere from $500-$800. I was lucky enough to have a dear family friend make our lovely wedding cake and set it all up before our reception. However, if I didn’t have her then I probably would have ordered a smaller cake from a local grocery store and supplemented it with a larger sheet cake hidden in the kitchen. I’ve also seen people have other types of desserts like cupcakes and pies which is a cheaper but still delicious alternative.

Have donuts instead of a grooms cake

Cakes can get expensive especially when they’re custom made. I surprised my husband with donuts instead of the traditional groom’s cake. Which was perfect because my husband loves donuts and we liked having another dessert choice other than cake. I paid $35 for 4 dozen of his favorite donuts. If your fiance doesn’t care to have his own cake then skip it all together.

Consider having a day wedding

I never thought that I would want a day wedding. However, the price difference between having a day versus evening wedding was several thousand dollars so I became a lot more open to the idea. We ended up deciding to go with a day wedding and having an after party that night which was still a whole lot cheaper for us. Not only was the venue cheaper but the food and alcohol were cheaper. Many vendors also charge less for day weddings because they aren’t as popular as evening weddings.

Find a venue that allows you to bring your own alcohol

Alcohol makes weddings more fun (in my opinion). That’s probably why it’s so freakin’ expensive if you have to buy an alcohol package from your venue or an outside vendor. If you go with a venue that allows you to bring your own alcohol you could save thousands of dollars depending on your guest count. Another perk of bringing your own alcohol is that you can take whatever you don’t use back home with you. After party anyone?

Have beer and wine instead of an open bar

If the venue you choose doesn’t allow you to bring your own alcohol then choosing to stick to beer, wine, and even a signature cocktail instead of having a full bar will save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

Choose a venue outside of a large metropolitan area

The cost of your venue will most likely be one of your largest expense if not the largest. With that in mind, I looked at 7 or 8 venues both inside and outside of a large metropolitan area. I went with a venue that was 15 minutes outside of the city and it was slightly cheaper. But generally the further you are away from a large city, the cheaper your venue will be.

Always ask for a discount

I always negotiate and ask for a discount from my vendors. The worst that could happen is that they say no. But surprisingly a lot of the times I was given a discount. Many times if vendors can’t or won’t give you a discount then they’ll throw in something extra for free to keep you happy. I was able to get a discount from my photographer, venue, food, alcohol and the florist gave me a free toss bouquet.

Use bigger tables so you can have fewer centerpieces and tablecloths

Many places charge you for tables, chairs, and linens which add up quickly. So I went with larger tables because larger tables mean fewer centerpieces and tablecloths.

Skip renting a nice getaway car

You don’t need a nice limo to drive you away into the sunset once your wedding is done. Just have someone you know drive your car or borrow someone’s car if it’s nicer than yours.


Your wedding will be awesome no matter what! So keep that in mind as you’re planning because you’ll have a lot of moments where you want to spend money on things that you don’t really even care about because someone else did it or because it’s pretty. Weddings definitely aren’t cheap but prioritizing what’s important to you and making smart decisions can help you save thousands of dollars and keep you from going over budget. And who knows, maybe you’ll even surprise yourself and come under budget!

What’s your best money saving tip that others could use to save as they’re planning their own wedding?

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