10 Tips for Planning a Fantastic Wedding on a Budget
How to Plan a Wedding Your Guests Won’t Forget on a Budget
Your wedding is one of the biggest days of your life and you want to commemorate the milestone accordingly. But, you’re also very aware that a massive bash could easily cost you and your beloved tens of thousands of dollars. With a limited money supply, you’re on a mission to live it up with your new spouse and loved ones without being in debt for it until retirement. Don’t be overwhelmed, though. You can have a financially prudent wedding — without it feeling cheap or lackluster.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to plan an amazing wedding on a budget:
- Determine (and stick to) your wedding budget.
- Be your own wedding planner.
- Limit your wedding guest list and wedding party.
- Be strategic when setting a wedding date.
- Choose a budget-friendly wedding venue.
- Say yes to the affordable wedding dress.
- DIY everything possible for your wedding.
- Save big on wedding vendors.
- Feed your wedding guests on short money.
- Get creative with your wedding cake.
Let’s dive deeper into each one.
1. Determine (and stick to) your wedding budget.
Planning a wedding can be overwhelming enough without having to worry about how you’re going to finance the event. So that means before doing the fun stuff like choosing your colors, finding that perfect dress, or tasting cake samples, you need to set your wedding budget. You and your betrothed should agree on an overall dollar figure that you can easily afford by combining your resources.
Once you’ve established the total amount of money that you’re working with, you need to determine and rank your wedding priorities. Knowing what’s important, you can create a detailed spending plan that gives you the most joy for your hard-earned cash. For example, if you could care less about designer wedding invitations, but you absolutely must have orchids as part of your decor, you should plan to spend more on flowers. Every element of your wedding should be a line item on your budget with either a dollar amount or percentage of the total funds available allotted to it.
Now comes the tricky part: sticking to these numbers. While some variance in any budget is to be expected, be sure to monitor for any pending overages. That money has to come from somewhere! But — if you keep a close eye on your wedding budget spreadsheet (or tracking method of choice) as the cash starts flowing, you should be in good shape.
2. Be your own wedding planner.
Even though coordinating your own wedding will be challenging at points, you can save a bundle in wedding planner fees by doing so. While it may be tempting to push your massive to-do list onto someone else, just remember: those savings can help you make other areas of your celebration better. Extended honeymoon, perhaps? Besides, there may be some credence to the old adage ‘if you want something done right, you better do it yourself!’
If you’re really too swamped to handle the task or if your organizational skills leave a lot to be desired, consider asking friends and family for help. Carefully spell out your wishes and expectations, give everyone their assignments (music, flowers, photography, etc.), and then divide and conquer! You’ll have the whole event planned quickly and you’ll know that everything was done with loving care.
3. Limit your wedding guest list and wedding party.
It’s understandable to want everyone you love in attendance for your special day. But, when more people mean more expense, you may have to pare down that guest list to stay on budget. As a couple, decide on who absolutely must be included and then add in extra folks if you’re able. Be assured: your great, great aunt Ida that you haven’t seen in decades probably won’t be offended when she doesn’t get an invite.
While you’re thinking about how to streamline those involved in your wedding, consider: do you really need 5 people in your wedding party — each? (If so, that’s OK. But, hear us out.) That’s a lot of gifts to buy and professional photos to take. And may your wallet have mercy on you if you volunteer to cover the cost of bridesmaid dresses and tux rentals! By choosing only one or two people to honor this way, you can save a lot of money and have closer bonds within the wedding party.
Note: Some venues may give you a volume discount for a large guest list, so you’ll want to weigh that as a possibility.
4. Be strategic when setting a wedding date.
Everyone and their brother wants to get married in September on a Saturday. If you’re dead set on being among them, that’s absolutely your choice. Just know that prices for venues and vendors will be steep and availability will be limited because the market will be saturated with other couples tying the knot.
To preserve some of your budget, consider having your wedding on a Sunday. You’ll have an easier time affordably securing what you need and it’s still the weekend so guests should have no trouble being available. Want to save even more? Avoid a fall wedding entirely. September and October are historically the busiest months for saying ‘I do.’ By getting married at an off-peak time, you can score some great deals from locations and service providers that need your business.
5. Choose a budget-friendly wedding venue.
Renting out your wedding venue will likely be one your bigger-ticket expenses — especially if you decide to have a destination wedding or you need a large space to accommodate a long guest list. But! There are many ways to save on this potentially huge cost. Consider hosting your wedding ceremony and reception at these common, budget-friendly places:
- At your home
- At a loved one’s property
- In a public park
- At the beach
- In a community center
Want something a little more unique? Check into getting married:
- In a school
- In a museum
- At a theater
- In a restaurant or bar
If you really want to save money, head over to the courthouse to make your union official. While you can’t bring your whole tribe for this part of the day, you can meet your loved ones at a favorite location for a celebratory meal and party afterwards.
Pro Tip: If your wedding is going to take place outside, have a backup plan in case of foul weather.
6. Say yes to the affordable wedding dress.
A designer wedding gown can set you back thousands. But you don’t need to spend that much. You can look like the gorgeous, chic belle of the ball that you are without going to the poorhouse for something you’re only going to wear once. Try these strategies to be jaw-droppingly stunning without the jaw-dropping price tag:
- Wear an heirloom gown. Your perfect dress may be sitting in a trunk in your grandmother’s attic. Donning this cherished piece will cost you nothing but alteration fees.
- Buy off the rack. Buying something that’s fully custom from the get-go is always going to be expensive. Instead, hit up a clearance sale and alter that garment until it looks like it was made for you.
- Look at bridesmaid or prom dresses. One of these gowns will be much cheaper. And, with a skilled tailor’s handiwork, it can become the luxe dress of your dreams.
7. DIY everything possible for your wedding.
Much like the wedding planning process itself, if you DIY parts of your big day, it will be time consuming (and possibly frustrating), but it can really pay off in savings. Depending on your available time, expertise, and patience, here are just some of the projects that you can take on:
- Wedding invitations and save the date cards
- Centerpieces for the table
- Decorations for the venue
- Wedding favors
- Floral arrangements and bouquets
Now’s the time to become a Pinterest addict, scouring the site for clever ideas that fit your wedding’s vibe. And, since you’ll practically be living there, it’s also a great opportunity to sign up for your local craft store’s coupon list. Want to save even more? Hit up yard sales and thrift stores for supplies.
Don’t be afraid to keep things simple and look for chances to repurpose wedding pieces (whether they’re handmade or store bought). For example, flowers from the wedding ceremony can be used as decor at the wedding reception. You can also make your table centerpieces do double duty as wedding favors.
Just think — by getting creative and putting in some elbow grease, you can put on a beautiful wedding for an affordable price. As an added bonus, by taking charge, you know that your special day will be unique to you, crafted with love, and an event that you can always be proud of.
8. Save big on wedding vendors.
A wedding takes a lot of professionals to pull off and the cost of their services can really add up! Depending on how you’re handling your big day, you’re probably going to need at least some of these folks:
- An officiant — someone needs to officially pronounce you as married!
- A beautician/hairdresser/makeup artist — to get you looking your best.
- A photographer/videographer — to beautifully capture each moment.
- A DJ, live band, or musician — to enhance the ceremony and entertain guests.
- A florist — to liven the place up with fresh flowers.
- A decorator — to make the venue look like your dream wedding.
- A caterer — to serve up delicious and memorable fare.
- A baker — to create the famed wedding cake.
- A professional driver — to get you, your beloved, and the wedding party to and fro in safety and style.
So how can you put together your wedding A-team without totally blowing your budget? Try implementing some of these ideas:
- Ask a family member or friend to officiate. They can become ordained or certified online easily and for short money in many states.
- Tap your personal network for these skills. People you know may be willing to give you a discounted rate — or consider their services as a wedding gift.
- Promise vendors an honest review after the wedding. Social proof is gold so service providers may be willing to reduce the bill if you help them build a solid reputation.
- Check with area schools. They may be able to pair you with students learning the trades you need such as catering, baking, playing music, or beautification.
- Try the barter system. Perhaps you can offer a product or service a vendor needs in exchange for their contribution to your wedding.
- Haggle your way to a deal. If you can’t do it yourself, don’t know anyone personally who can, and there are no eager students around, don’t be afraid to ask for the vendor’s very best price.
9. Feed your wedding guests on short money.
Serving a massive group of wedding guests a gourmet three-course meal for dinner will decimate your wedding budget in a hot minute. You do want this to be a great party — and great parties have food. So how can you keep your loved ones satisfied without breaking the bank? Try these money-saving tips:
- Schedule your wedding to occur between meals. If you time things right, you’ll only have to offer your guests hors d’oeuvres at a cocktail hour, which can save you a ton of money.
- Skip the caterer entirely. Choose a venue that lets you bring in your own food and make your post-nuptial meal a potluck where everyone pitches in.
- Serve it up buffet-style. Have guests grab what they want and avoid having to pay extra for waitstaff.
- Limit the amount of free booze. An unlimited open bar will rack up an insane bill so consider just offering beer and wine, giving guests drink tickets, or opting for a cash bar.
10. Get creative with your wedding cake.
Some of the best wedding photos are of the new couple admiring their wedding cake (and then promptly jamming some into each other’s face). The problem is, your classic sky-high wedding confection can come with a steep price tag. To enjoy the moment without financial guilt, think about these options:
- Have a smaller cake. It sounds simple because it is. No one says you have to have a gargantuan wedding cake. Smaller, in this case, is definitely cheaper.
- Go with sheet cakes. Although not as impressive looking, your guests may appreciate having their own individual cake at each table.
- Make a decoy. If you really love the look of those big, fancy cakes, secretly ask your baker to make the bottom levels out of foam or cardboard. Under the frosting, your guests will never know — but you’ll save big.
Pro Tip: Ask your relatives to channel their inner Betty Crocker and bake some cookies, pies, and other treats to become a frugal dessert buffet that complements your wedding cake.
While your wedding is a huge day, it is only one day. To set you and your new better half up for long-term success, you may want to think twice before splurging too hard. But that doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice the quality or memorability of the event. With some hard work, creativity, persuasion, and may be a couple of lucky breaks, you can plan a wedding on a budget that you and your guests will talk about for years to come.