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Planning a Wedding on a Budget

198462342_45c08920d8photo by Forbes Creative

I will be getting married in the spring of next year, and, needless to say, I am very overwhelmed by the exorbitant amount of money that can be shelled out for a wedding. We have a very limited budget, and I am adamant about not going into debt to have my “dream wedding.”

While most people tell us that we’ll never be able to afford a wedding with so little money, I am determined to do so. I was hoping that you would be able to provide some tips on planning a wedding with a limited budget and ways one can be frugal without the end result looking cheap. -Angel

First off, congratulations on your upcoming wedding! Wedding planning and preparation for life as a wife is such an exciting time. Also, I’m very impressed with your desire to stay within budget and not go into debt for your wedding. Starting off a marriage with mountains of wedding debt is just plain unwise in my estimation.

I’m no wedding expert, but I have helped plan a few weddings on a budget — one of which was my own. From those experiences, I’ll share with you a few thoughts. Take them or leave them as they are useful to you in your situation:

1) Plan ahead and start looking for deals now.

We had 5 1/2 months to plan our wedding and this afforded us the necessary time to get everything we bought on sale — mostly at 50% or more off the retail price.

By planning ahead and figuring out what we needed and how much of it we needed, we were able to capitalize on the deals and sales over the months leading up to our wedding. Instead of buying everything all at once, we patiently waited until the item went on sale (which most items do over the course of a four-month period) and then we bought it at a discount.

I bought the majority of the items we needed at Hobby Lobby during their regular 50% off sales. Every week, I’d check the ad online and then check it against my list of items I needed to buy. Hobby Lobby also often offers 40% off coupons which you can print out online and use on any item which is full-price. These came in handy for those items which didn’t routinely go on sale.

We bought all of the tulle for decorating and fabric for sewing the bridesmaid’s dresses when it was on sale at 50% off or using the 40% off coupons we got in our fabric store fliers. We were able to get dozens of yards of tulle and all the fabric and notions very inexpensively this way.

2) Shop around for the best price.

Whether it’s cake decorators, florists, or photographers, don’t settle on the first one you contact. Get at least three different price quotes before making your final pick. The prices can often vary quite a bit and many of them will work with your budget if you ask them to.

I found that it was best to tell them your budget upfront. For instance, “I only have $150 to spend on personal flowers, what can you do for that?” It often surprised me what they could pull off while working with my budget!

However, do not just make your decision based on price alone. Make sure the person or company you are hiring is not only qualified for the job but that they will get it done well. Sometimes it’s worth it to pay a little more for something in order to guarantee the end result is what you want.

For supplies you need to buy, think outside the box. Don’t overlook dollar stores, overstock stores (such as BigLots) or online websites. I found that a number of things were less expensive if I ordered them online — even when paying shipping and handling — than I could find in any of our local stores.

263645581_bf9b2f9439
photo by sifu renka

3) Put your money where it matters to you.

Just because someone else thinks it’s important you have a stunning dress or an elaborate cake, doesn’t mean you need to. Focus on what is most important to you and invest the most time and money there.

Since I’m a minimalist by nature, many of the traditional wedding things didn’t matter to me. And Jesse’s the same way. We didn’t particularly care whether we had hundreds of incredible wedding photos, we just wanted to have a few pictures of us and our families on our wedding day. So, with this in mind, we chose one of the least-expensive photography services we found whose personalities and photography work we liked.

On the other hand, having fresh and beautifully-arranged personal flowers, were more important to me, and so we spent a bit more there (even though it was still quite inexpensive by most people’s standards!).

4) Keep it simple.

As I alluded to above, I like to keep things simple. I like things to be efficient and streamlined and organized. And our wedding was no different. We cut costs in a lot of ways because of this. Just a few examples:

::I wore my mom’s wedding dress. No, it wasn’t any incredible dress and yes, it was dated, but it fit and it was special for me to be able to wear. Best of all, we saved a chunk of money and headache by me doing so.

::We didn’t have a flower girl or ring-bearer. I know some people think these are absolute essentials, but since I didn’t have any little nieces and nephews to fill the part, we decided to just skip this altogether.

::Instead of a fancy multiple-tiered cake, we opted for sheet cakes and a simple little two-tiered cake for the center of the table. Sheet cakes are much less expensive and since the cakes are going to be consumed anyway, I figured people wouldn’t care whether they came from a fancy multi-tiered cake or a simple sheet cake. Honestly, I don’t think anyone even noticed!

::We only had a cake reception. I know in some parts of the country, only having a cake reception is like a travesty, but in the Midwest it’s quite common and much more frugal than serving a big dinner to all your guests.

::We kept our wedding party small. Simple is good, remember? We were actually going to just have one attendant each, but we changed our minds halfway through in order to include our younger sisters as bridesmaids. As a result, we had three attendants each.

::My sister made the three bridesmaid’s dresses. By doing this, we were able to get all three dresses for less than $100 total–which is often the cost of just one bridesmaid dress.

5) Borrow things from others.

My philosophy: if you’re only going to use it for one day, why go out and buy it if you know someone else you can borrow it from?

We borrowed a number of things for our wedding — many of which were actually offered to us and we gladly accepted. Some friends of ours had recently married off two of their daughters, and had had very large weddings for both. They asked if we wanted to borrow any of the leftover decorations and tulle they had from those weddings and that’s where the majority of our decorating supplies for the reception hall and the sanctuary came from. It saved us another big chunk of money and no one could tell they were “recycled.”

6) Utilize friends and family.

If you know someone who is great at decorating cakes, arranging flowers or photography, don’t hesitate to ask them if they might be willing to help out with your wedding. Likely you could work out a great deal this way and save a bundle of money in the process.

Just be sure ahead of time that whoever you ask really and truly is experienced in the area and not just someone who hasn’t much of a clue but generously offered anyway. You don’t want to create a huge headache if the supposedly “wonderful cake decorator” who is also your aunt ends up ruining half of the cakes while attempting to decorating them the morning of the wedding.

Those are just a few of my thoughts on the subject of planning a wedding on a budget. I’d love to hear from the rest of you who have experience in this area. Any words of wisdom or practical ideas for Angel or others who are in the midst of wedding planning right now?

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187 Comments

  • Robin says:

    Ditto on Congratulations! We had NO family to help do anything or pay for anything; we had very little funds to work with; we had no rehearsal dinner; the reception was in the social hall in the church; friends and co-workers gave us the food and their services to make it happen; there was no alcohol, of course; this may sound tacky, but we bought clear plastic plates, bowls, cups, and flatware as we did not want our friends washing dishes for five hours after the reception ended and we could not afford a caterer. We did order personalized napkins and of course the invitations, but we shopped around and got those through a wholesale place where my husband was a member at the time. Since we married in the spring, I found a BEAUTIFUL white sheath dress with a short 3/4 sleeve jacket – it was actually a prom dress – $100. I had one attendant…matron of honor…she also sang a solo; our choir director sang a solo; we had no ring bearer or flower girl since neither one of us had any nieces or nephews; the flowers used in the sanctuary were moved to the fellowship hall along with the rented candelabras for photo backdrops. We had individuals instead of companies do our cake and flowers. (I will say, be very specific with what you want for your flowers. Since I planned the whole thing by myself in three months, by the time I got to the flower issue, I basically just told the woman to show up with something…I was drained. I wanted a very colorful bouquet, but that’s not what I got and I was a bit disappointed.) A friend personalized the toast glasses for bride and groom as well as the unity candle and taper candle holders which was a huge gift. Photos are a big thing with me, so I did make sure we had lots of those…I guess that was our splurge area. Over the course of several weeks after our wedding we had quite a few people, who didn’t know each other, tell us that was the most enjoyable wedding they had ever attended. It was simple but elegant and they found the ceremony very meaningful. We did too. 🙂

  • Rebecca says:

    We did our own invitations (you can buy special kits at Staples).
    We had the reception at my house and my mother-in-law did the cooking (it was a buffet).
    I bought the flowers at the grocery store and made my own bouquet (I used to be a florist, but I did a simple hand-tie bouquet which anyone can make).
    We didn’t have a professional photographer at the wedding. My stepfather took church and reception pictures, and we had formal pictures taken at a local Motophoto before the reception.
    My husband bought his tux at a vintage clothing store, so the cost of the tux and shirt were less than renting one (and now he has a tux for other occasions).

  • Jennifer says:

    One way we saved a lot of money on our wedding was by having the reception in a large pavillion in a state park that could be rented for the day. We live on the coast, so the park was on the water. It was large enough and protected enough that rain would have been okay, although we didn’t get any. I would also suggest looking at doing your wedding in the off season wherever you live. As I said, we live (or did live) on the Florida coast, so we saved a lot by having the wedding in the early spring. We saved on things like the cake and flowers because business was slow, and everyone who travelled saved on their lodgings for the same reason. My husband’s family was able to rent a beach house for the entire week before the wedding (where they held the rehearsal dinner), and I was even able to rent a smaller condo down the beach a few miles for my bridesmaids and other friends who travelled to stay the night before and the night after the wedding. It was actually cheaper than a hotel room would have been on the beach for just me and my bridesmaids. I bet you’ll be able to get a lot of deals right now!

  • Heidi @ ggip says:

    I think the main thing to consider is that weddings nowadays have so many extras. Just cut them out. Make the day about getting married and being with your family and friends instead of trying to have an average wedding.

  • Krista says:

    My wedding was 10 years ago and we had 425 guests and we did it for about $5000.

    We used many of the techniques others have talked about.

    My priorities were my dress, my flowers and the still photography. I got a $1500 dress for $349 because it had a stain on it, which I easily got out. I kept the flowers minimal, but used only the flowers that I really loved. For my bouquet, 5 bridesmaid bouquets, lots of boutonnieres and corsages, a spray display for the unity candle and fresh cut flowers for the cake, it was $1,000. I spent $1500 on still photography and prints.

    We did the decorations and food ourselves using supplies purchased at craft stores and Sam’s Club. We had a cake and appetizer reception with things like veggie and cheese trays, pasta salad, fruit salad, crackers…etc. I used a woman who made cakes out of her home, for about $1 a serving (most cake shops are 2.50 a serving or so). We made the favors – those long-stemmed roses which are made of floral wire and leaves, two hershey kisses and colored saran wrap. We borrowed pew bows and just swapped out the centers with something that matched my colors. My grandmother made the flower girl dress.

    One of my favorite things was us all getting ready together. We met at the church and brought a sandwhich tray, bottled drinks and snacks for the men’s room and the ladies’ room so we could have lunch, get styled and dressed. My maid of honor and her younger sister (who is now a hairstylist) did all of our hair. I did make-up for those who needed help. We all used our skills to pull it together.

    Family helped us in so many ways with their time to decorate and prepare food. Friends who had experience cut and plated the cake with instructions written by the baker. We couldn’t have done it without them, and their help to make it all beautiful is one of my best memories of the day.

  • Jen says:

    The biggest way we saved was by cutting the guest list down to 60. If you can pull it off, I would suggest it. This way we were able to get a smaller room ($200 vs $1000) and you end up paying less for food and stuff. I also did not have a bridal party. My sister was my maid of honor and my husband’s friend the best man. My mom and aunt stepped in to help plan where the bridal party might have. One “different” thing that we did that the guests LOVED was served brunch after our morning wedding. We had an omelet bar and it was really popular.

    It is really easy to get tied up into the online world of weddings and what other people think you should have. But if you clear your head and figure out what is important to you, you will have a beautiful day no matter what you spend.

  • Heather says:

    I think simple is more classy anyway. Looking back, I am so glad we kept it simple. No attendants was the best decision! No favors – don’t most just get thrown out? We had a backyard reception (no need to fuss over decorations), with appetizer type foods and cake. No alcohol. Those who wanted to make a full meal out of it certainly could, but none of the expense of a sit-down dinner. Plus at a sit-down dinner, you’re stuck talking mostly to the people at your own table. Mingling is more social and party-like. Now outside can be risky depending on the weather . . . Have to have a backup plan.

  • Heather says:

    Check your yellow pages for rental companies that you can rent alot of your decorations from. We did that for my sisters wedding and saved alot of money plus you dont have to get rid of it afterwards.( tulle,pillars, christmas lights ect..) Ask around, people you know may have stuff that they used in their wedding that they would let you borrow. I borrowed a friends silk bridal bouquet, the knife to cut the cake, the isle runner,ect…. Most would gladly let you borrow their stuff and you save $ by doing it.

  • Vicki Hookham says:

    We had a large, formal wedding for under $1000 in 1999, and the biggest chunk of it was my clearanced Italian gown with a mile-long train, and the groom and groomsmen’s tuxes! Staying affordable and sane is a matter of knowing what’s important to you, and what is just important to other people, and letting their problems stay their problems while you enjoy *your* day. If someone can’t let you go without it, then they can pay for it. Just smile and say “It’s not in the budget” and let them decide how important it is to them!

    *We rented plants from the florist rather than buy flowers, and had full gorgeous ferns of all kinds everywhere. We also, in our invitations, asked our guests to bring a candle and place it as they arrived, and burn it for us as a sign of their good wishes as we were married — then they took them back home when they left (we did have someone discreetly check for hazardous placement). Anything more than all those plants and candles would have been overkill and unattractive.

    *My 3 bridesmaids had long-stemmed, single red roses with baby’s breath, docorated with ribbon, and i didn’t give a rip if my bridesmaids all had the same dresses. We went together to go buy clearance prom dresses in the same burgandy color, but each one was unique to the personality of the girl wearing it. It didn’t detract from the wedding — all eyes were still on me when i came down the aisle 🙂 . My sister found a gorgeous dress for $24, the other $65, and the other $48.

    *We also printed off our invitations and made them special with card stock and scrapbooking tools, eagerly provided by relatives delighted they could help. We set our wedding for 1:30 in the afternoon and told our guests in the invitation to stick around for the cake-reception, so they’d know to eat before the wedding. We had decided between this and asking for a potluck lunch to celebrate (in the end, i didn’t want to have to get quickly out of my wedding dress to eat, so we ditched the potluck idea). We didn’t bother with a reception with dancing, meals, and alcohol — Jake and i were just eager for quiet, and to be together after everyone left!

    *Music for going down the aisle was my brother playing his acoustic guitar, and Jake’s brother playing his djembe (a drum). We are Christians and were celebrating this wedding in respect to God, so we had our church’s worship band play our favorite worship songs after we said our vows and were pronounced, with me and Jake offstage, and then we had cake. We asked the band and our marrying pastor to come in khakis and a white shirt and tie, and they all looked great.

    *i asked a few different relatives to bake sheet cakes for the wedding. They were delighted to be able to contribute this way. We served cake, ice cream, nuts, mints, grapes, cheese and punch.

    *We used potpourri to toss on the carpet instead of flower petals, and bought bubbles for all the children to blow at us as we came back down the aisle together. Our litle ringbearer wore khaki pants and a white shirt (and everyone thought the fresh sucker stain on his shirt was cute) and our little flowergirl wore her Easter dress — the same burgandy and white dress her mother let me buy her knowing it could do double-duty in a couple months at the wedding. 🙂

    *We had a bunch of disposable cameras and left them near the entrance to the auditorium, allowing anyone who wanted to take pictures. Then we had our photos done as a wedding team during the cake reception, by friends who were good with their cameras. We didn’t get all the disposable cameras back, but it doesn’t matter – we did get some good ones from the people who did return them.

  • Mary says:

    We had our wedding on a budget, too! (And were much happier for it). Here are some of the choices we made that saved a lot:

    1) We aren’t big fans of cake, but we love ice cream so we served that instead. We fed each other the first bite from a pint of Ben and Jerry’s

    2) No limos – the family mini-van worked just fine!

    3) We made our own centerpieces with terra cotta plates and fruit – lemons, gala apples, green grapes, all of which reflected our wedding colors, and it was gorgeous.

    4) We hired our photographers for the ceremony, post-ceremony pictures, and the first hour of the reception. It saved a ton – and we don’t miss the pictures from later in the reception.

    5) we got married on a Sunday. The venue was a lot cheaper as a result

  • Christa says:

    Totally up to you, but…
    1. a lady in my church made the cake and it was beautiful and tasted great! People want to be involved in making your wedding beautiful, so get them involved if you can!

    2. pictures were the main thing we spent $ on. Everyone is different, but pics are what you will have to remember moments once your mind is fading. 🙂 We paid for the photographer and the cd with printing rights and saved tons by getting pics printed at stores rather than having our photog print them.

    3. be flexible. come up with a plan, but then definitely be open to other options. If you are, you’ll most likely find an idea you like even more for less money. I had a small budget for my wedding, but went way below it and loved every part of it!

    4. Pray that the Lord would help you find good deals. He can find them better than you! 🙂

  • Linda says:

    If you like ‘vintage’, try shopgoodwill.com for all sorts of wedding things. You have to pay shipping and handling, but there are great things to be found. Last week they had a Reem Acra (sp?) gown, which retailed for $6,000 for $200. Even with alterations, you can find something fantastic.

  • Nichole says:

    I helped my sister plan her budget wedding last summer. The key was thinking outside the box and scaling way down on the things that weren’t too important to her. The bridesmaids (and flower girls) all picked out a formal black dress off the rack – any rack at any store, and they were all adorned in some way with the same simple teal colored ribbon make them all look unified (some were tied around the waist, some sewn at the hem or neckline). The groomsmen wore black dress slacks (most of them already owned them) and simply ordered a tux shirt and teal bowtie – no jackets. Music was provided by Ipod programmed in a certain order, which the bride registered for and received at her shower. And a close relative volunteered to operate it when needed and make simple announcements when necessary. Finally the cake – designed by the bride it was simply Oreo cookies stacked in beautiful round tiers and adorned with the wedding flowers!(my sister is an Oreo nut!) It was accompanied by a dessert table that was delicious baked goods provided mostly by close friends and family. Where she spent – the food and drinks and the comfort of the guests. When everyone is comfortable and well fed and relaxed they have the best time ever and can enjoy the meaning of the event!

  • Leslie says:

    Hi,

    I guess I have had a lot of practice in this area. Not only did I have a hand in planning my wedding but also my three sisters. I think the biggest savings are to be had in photography, cake, flowers, and food. I had a photographer take the wedding party photos but had cameras on the tables with a note that asked guests to take some candid photos for us. This worked out great and some of my favorite pictures of our reception were taken by our guests. For the cake we might have had an advantage. We found a lady that had retiredfrom a bakery that made wedding cakes on the side. She charged around $40 for a gorgeous tiered cakes. My sister ordered fresh flowers online and we arranged them the night before…they were gorgeous!! I think she had over 50 roses in her bouquet…and it was a fraction of the cost. I chose to have an afternoon wedding with cake only reception. But, my sister contacted a local farmer and bought a whole smoked hog from him, bought all of the sides from Sam’s Club and had friends and family in charge of heating and serving. It saved a lot of money…and maybe you can get away with these things only in the midwest, but maybe not. Remember, your still just as married as the person that spends thousands of dollars and that is really the point isn’t it?? I think people are beginning to lose perspective of what a wedding is for and about and it has become about the party.

  • Jaclyn says:

    My advice is to know what you want. Know what you are willing to skimp on and what you must have.

    The Dress! – I needed to be married in a Vera Wang dress but I really didn’t want to spend 5k plus on a dress. So I went to ebay and found an amazing dress and paid $1700 for the dress, veil, and blusher. The dress was made so well that I didn’t need a corset or petti coat. There was a height difference between the seller and I so I adjusted the height of shoes I would need and presto – no alterations need. The shoes – also Vera Wang – new on ebay for $80.00. Best of all after the wedding I sold my entire outfit on ebay and made a small profit! If I had bought a dress from Davids Bridal I would not have been able to do this!

    The pictures! I knew that I was going to sell my dress so pictures were the most important thing to me. They were a splurge but I am so happy we did this.

    Color! This was a bit of a problem. I found out that ebay was going to be the best place to get great deals. Unfortunately coral to one person may be pink to another. It would be really hard to find the same shade of anything on ebay or online. So I picked Ivory and was able to get the embossed napkins, ribbons, etc. without worry. We were married in a tropical location so we added color with our flowers – a little bit of everything.

    Invitations! I am picky so I made my invitations. I got them at party city – clearance and then put them together. When you buy invitations sets there is probably some part of the set you don’t like but because you put them together – you can change them! If you think the bow is too big and cheap looking – go to Michaels and pick out new ribbon (take your 40% off coupon with you). My mom did the caligraphy and I sealed them with wax – clearance at party city.

    Favors! I made the favors too. I had found some mini white buckets/pales at target on clearance so I bought a few packs. Then I bought chocolate peices from Michaels and two trays of chocolate shell molds. I made a bunch of chocolate shells mixing brown and white chocolate. Then filled the pales with brown sugar and then placed 3 shells in each. Shells and sand!

    Extras! I really wanted fireworks but it was not in the budget so I bought a bunch of sparklers and everyone had fun with them at the reception (it was outdoors). The pictures with those came out great and sparklers are so cheap.

    Sit down with your fiance, figure out what is important to you, what isn’t, get creative and don’t let anyone try to change your mind!

  • Alana says:

    We did our wedding for under $2,000.00 by accepting all offers of help from friends and family. At first, I was feeling a little disappointed about our budget because I was afraid that the wedding would feel cheap or second hand. I didn’t want it to feel like a thrown together event that didn’t have any of my or my fiance’s personality in it. It turned out that having all our friends put their special touches on it made it that much more unique and special! My husband’s cousin played the piano, and my Dad composed the bridal procession music. The groomsmen doubled as ushers (quite common here in the South). A friend did the flower arranging for free so we just had to pay for the flowers, and while she may not have had the skills to make everything look extravagantly “done up,” she really wanted to know what I liked and disliked and worked with me so much more than a professional would have. Another friend gave us the same deal for photography. We had a “dessert reception,” where several friends and family members volunteered to make something and bring it to the reception–there was a lot of sharing of recipes going on at that reception! Our cake was gorgeous, made by a lady who does cakes out of her home and decorated by my florist friend with flowers. Those are just some of the ways that we saved money while still making the wedding so memorable for us and for those who attended. We really focused on the content of the ceremony and the impression we wanted to leave of what true love really is. Maybe the simple elegance of the wedding allowed the deeper meaning of marriage to shine through. That’s my hope, at least. I just want to encourage anyone trying to fit a wedding into a small budget that a “cheap” wedding can be pulled off without sacrificing that perfect day feeling.

  • Kimberly says:

    My husband and I got married 3 years ago and spent less than $1000 on our wedding. Here are a few things we did:
    1. The David’s Bridal $99 sale is a great place to get a good dress for less.
    2. I enlisted the help of family and friends for everything.
    My mom and I made the cake with a cake mix and homemade buttercream frosting. My mom did all the alterations for my dress. My sister-in-law did all the flowers and even paid for them as our wedding gift. We had several friends do the photography and music for FREE.
    3. We made our own invitations, it cost about $30 without postage to make our own.
    4. We just had a cake reception.
    5. I told my bridesmaids what color their dress should be and let them pick the dress. They really appreciated this because they all picked dresses they could wear again to different formal events, you can’t really do that with bridesmaid dresses.

    I think the one thing that helped us the most was that we were willing to ask for help! Most of our friends and family were so willing to offer their services for free.

  • Teresa says:

    We actually made our own cake. My husband wanted cheesecake and no one would do that for an outdoor August wedding in Utah. I also had a neighbor who wanted to make the cake. She doesn’t do fondant frosting and that what I wanted. We decided to experiment with some fondant and some foam. It turned out so well we decided to do it ourselves. We made two layers out of foam and the other was cheesecake which we froze beforehand. We then just had the florist make up a topper and the neighor made sheetcakes. Everyone was happy and it was very inexpensive. You could do the flower out of silk to save even more. A word of caution, if you freeze the cake before and use foam and fondant it will stay frozen for quite a while. You can buy fondant at craft stores, and use their 40-50% off coupons.

  • Sarah says:

    I didn’t have time to read the rest of the comments, but Trent at http://www.thesimpledollar.com has a series of posts this week about frugal weddings.

  • Mary in Ohio says:

    Some of the things we did when we got married were (this was 20 yrs ago next month) my dad did our photography (saved me a mint! he did them for us as a wedding gift), a friend of my fil did the video with fil’s camera (free), my grandma did our flowers (from her florist) as her wedding gift to us (free!), my inlaws took care of the food (free!), we paid for the hall, my dress(bought on clearance) and veil (also on clearance), dh’s tux and extras. My mom did our cake (elaborate 3 tier with 4 side cakes as her wedding gift to us) free!, my mom also did the alterations to my dress and my bridesmaids dresses (free!) I think our total outlay ( our personally for the hall, my dress and veil, dh’s tux, live band (friends of my dad who did for a cut rate!) and extras was around $1000 totalfor a wedding with 400 people and a live band!! This was 20 yrs ago but could still be done today.

  • Mary in Ohio says:

    oops for to mention that we did our invitations through a friend that owned a printing business she printed them for the cost of the ink and paper – we got what we wanted and cheap too! This was 20yrs ago and printing them at home was not yet an option! If I were to do it now I would do them at home (we have a photo grade printer to they would be easy to do) I also did not do rsvp cards (all our people called anyway) and we did not do programs either. Our pastor refused to charge us for the church or his services or his wife’s (she helped with getting everyone down the aisle and lining them up) we gave him money anyway along with the singer and the church pianist, guitarist and drummer. These are addded in the $1000 I did on the other comment!

  • Alexandra Hancock says:

    I’m getting married in October and this post and comments have been SUPER helpful!

    We have a wedding budget of $8000 and so far we are waaayy under that with only a caterer and florist to hire. 🙂

    1. We bought cardstock and ribbons from michael’s using their printable 50% off regular items coupon to make the inivitaions. Cardstock is on sale 4/$1 this week!!!!!! Our total per invitation was .79. We are also using the same paper for our programs.

    2. I bought my dress from David’s Bridal during their $99 sale. And I LOVE it!

    3. We only have 3 attendants each and our gifts to them are the Converse All Stars that they will be wearing at the wedding. These were $35 each.

    4. We were able to rent Jesse’s tux for free since we got his 3 groomsmen and our ringbearer to rent their tux from Men’s Wearhouse. This is a current special promotion. Take advantage!!

    5. We are waiting until the month before to buy decorative items that can be returned to the store we bought them from (most likely bought from Michael’s using the %off coupons). What is the point in buying them to use only once.

    6. I’m making our favors myself (like the invitations). For 100 favor boxes at Micheal’s I paid $10. I bought ribbon for about $12. And will be using the left over cardstock from the invitations and programs to decorate them as well. Hershey’s Kisses are going in the boxes and are on sale at Target for $1.99 a bag so I will be stocking up then.

    Hope some of these ideas help you. The main idea here is to be creative and watch for sales. I am really proud that my guests will get handmade items from the two of us and that our wedding will have an overall southern feel. I’m excited!

  • Alexandra Hancock says:

    i remembered some more…lol

    7. We are playing music through my fiance’s band’s PA system using a playlist we are creating on our iPod. lol. People can also request songs this way too.

    8. Our centerpieces will be mason jars (that my grandma has) filled with water and tulips (which bloom in October) and ribbons I bought earlier at Michaels to dress them up.

    9. We rented a city park for the entire day for only $1000 and this includes the use of the grounds, house, tables, chairs, silverware, and dishes!!!

    10. A family friend is making our wedding cake for us for FREE! How nice is that! We are just paying for the ingredients, etc. Look to your family or friends and employ their talents!

    Good luck at your wedding!

  • Kelly Welch says:

    My husband and I paid for our own wedding, and it was a delightful time. For $3000 we were able to do everything we wanted for our wedding, including a week of exploring our state’s coastline for our honeymoon–dune buggies, jet boat tours, sunsets from our hotel room, who needs Hawaii!?

    1. Don’t get roped in to all the things the bridal shows make you think you HAVE to have. Frillies that are thrown away are a waste of money. I chose to do my own wedding flowers in silk, and after the ceremony, rearranged those same flowers in vases that have graced my home for years. The craft stores have big sales on flowers, and books that show you how to arrange. Making your own bows are SO MUCH CHEAPER than buying them for your floral arrangements, and they are easy. My dear bridesmaids sat with me and we made all the flowers together for around $100.00, and did it all in a weekend.

    2. I wanted a big reception just like my mother had at HER wedding—and here’s how we did it AT NO COST TO ME!. I understand that this is a Polish tradition,and my mother got hold of all our family and good friends, and they each brought their most favorite dish—yes, we would call it a wedding potluck, but looking at her wedding photos of old family and friends dining and rejoicing together—it was the PERFECT idea for my wedding. We had a lovely room at the church for our meal, and clean up was provided by the family and friends who brought the goodies.

    3. Focus on what really matters. My elderly adopted Grandparents (my own had passed on when I was small, so I adopted my best friends, since I spent so much time with them!) came to pray over us as part of our wedding. I have cherished that more than the cake and the decorations.

  • Emily MacGill says:

    We got married on a Friday evening, so the photography studio gave us a discount.

    I ordered 10 bunches of roses (25/bunch) for $160, incl. shipping. The company is Nusabana, and they’re based in South America. You can order online and they’ll ship the flowers directly to your house or church. They deliver on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and since we got married on Friday night, we had them delivered on Tues. We bought a kiddie pool, gathered some 5-gallon buckets, and kept the roses in the buckets of water ’til Friday morning. What I would do differently is have the flowers arrive Thursday instead of Tuesday. (We were concerned that they would open too early, so we left the wrappers on. Not a good idea, since some of the roses got moldy.) We did order corsages from a local florist, but I didn’t mind spending the money there since I had saved so much on the bulk of the flowers.

    Check out David’s Bridal – I got my dress for $100, and I love it!

    My sister-in-law is a graphic designer, and she offered to do our invitations and programs. I just gave her the info, approved the layout, and it was done!

  • Nathan & Julia says:

    One area I wish I’d been LESS frugal on with our wedding six years ago, was photography! The attire, the flowers, the food (big one!) are all over after that day, but the pictures are what you have to keep. I’d cut in other areas to splurge there for an excellent photographer! (No offense, Crystal, just different priorities! =)

  • Chelssya says:

    I was married 6 yrs. ago, and we had a strict $5000 budget that included a 5-day honeymoon at a beach resort in Mexico. This is what we did:
    -We kept the guest list small, 60 people attended. This was easy for us, as we lived 1000 miles away from our families, so we didn’t feel obligated to invite all the distant relatives we never see. And, that way, no one felt obligated to spend lots of money on travel costs.
    -We kept the wedding party small, 4 people total. We used formal dresses my sister found at an after-prom sale, since we only needed 2 dresses.
    -Since I was in grad school at the time, I could rent a room for free at the student union. This is where we held our reception. Our room overlooked the lake, had a balcony, terrazzo floors, and was clad in mahogony pannelling. It was stunning on its own, so the only decorations we added were some ivory votives and floating candles as table centerpieces. We bought these 50% off at Hobby Lobby and later sold them in a garage sale. Look into organizations you, your fiance, friends or family belong to see if you can get a free or cheap venue. I’ve been to receptions at men’s clubs (like the Lion’s Club, not the other kind!), workers’ unions, even a fire station that were nicer than the vapid hotel conference rooms that are so typical.
    -We only served appetizers, beer, and wine. Our wedding was at 7pm so people would eat dinner before. We had to use the university caterers, but limited the selection. We only offered a house selection on alcohol. We paid for the alcohol, but only a pre-determined amount. (Cash bars in our area are considered very tacky, but this is probably regional)
    -We hired a dj instead of a band, which is much cheaper. And, personally, I enjoy listening to original recordings rather than wedding band covers!
    -My mom, sister, and a few close friends made all the bouquets,etc. We ordered roses from 2G Roses online, http://www.freshroses.com). The prices are just above wholesale, and the quality was superb. None of us had any experience arraning flowers, but I got some books from the library and followed the instructions. My bouquet had 2 1/2 dozen roses arranged in a ball and cost about $35 dollars. The local floral shops wanted over $200 for a similar bouquet! Our entire flower budget was $150. We didn’t have flowers decorating the church, which helped on costs.
    -The “church” we were married in was actually an 1830’s one room former synagogue owned by the city overlooking the lake. We had to stand in line in the wee hours of the morning to rent it (it’s very popular!), but the rental fee was only $30. Plus, it was a fun story. The building had historical charm, with a beautiful hand-carved altar, so we didn’t decorate it other than a few rented candle holders. We also rented folding chairs, as it had no seating.
    -Photography was the most important thing to us, so this is where we put our money. But, we still found a young photographer who worked out of his basement. His pictures were beautiful, but his prices were low. If you can find people just starting their business, they’ll often cut you deals just for the exposure. He threw in the wedding album for free and gave us all the proofs. There were over 500 photos!
    -I bought my gown at a bridal store sample sale. I fell in love with a $1300 gown I tried on, but it was well over my $500 budget (which, incidentally, the bridal consultant knew, but she brought dresses way out of my budget anyway. they’re very tricky!) A few months later, the shop held their annual sample sale, and I found my dream dress for about $600. It was over budget, but we just cut back in other areas. Luckily, I wore their sample size and only had to have the hem let out and the straps shortened. I also bought the tulle skirt thing that goes under the gown for $5 (reg. price $45). It was big in the waist, but I took it in myself.
    -We didn’t hire a coordinator. We did all the planning, arranging, and booking ourselves, which I found to be tons of fun. If I had it to do over again, though, I’d hire a wedding-day-only coordinator. I hated to delegate tasks to my family and close friends because I wanted them to enjoy themselves, but it was very hard handling all the arrangements that day and get married simultaneously!

  • Chelssya says:

    Oops! I knew I’d forget something.
    -We made our invitations and programs on the computer. We bought wedding invitation kits at an office supply store. I dressed them up with some tulle and sealing wax. I think they were about $50 total.

  • I got married almost five years ago and we did it for WAY under $1,000! Plus, I married a youth pastor so we opened the wedding to the whole church (350+) on top of our 300 person guest list. We had to pray half wouldn’t show up because the church sanctuary only held 417 with the fire codes!:-) I believe there were 10 seats empty!:-)

    A wonderful friend designed the invitations and we paid only for materials, printing, and postage. We addressed them all. ALSO, we had an RSVP via our website (hubby set up a wedding website complete with directions) or phone to my mom. Saved stamps and extra paper this way.

    It IS all about what is important to you! I had silk flowers made by a friend for the bouquets. But, we had twenty real white carnations that were a part of a flower ceremony involving the teens in our youth group (I couldn’t afford the roses). We stated in the wedding program that the white flowers carried by the teens symbolized our purity. THIS WAS IMPORTANT TO US-teens seeing we remained pure for each other until marriage. A purple rose was carried in by the last teen to represent my husband’s sister who passed away when she was twelve. The teens took home their flower at the end of the ceremony and my mother-in-law kept the rose. We also had Praise and Worship in our wedding lead by a very close friend to my hubby and the husband of my best friend and wedding attendant. He was free–a gift to us! She was already coming to be in my wedding so it worked out so well! I think we tried to offer him something. Also, my family sings! So, I had the music covered. My uncle and cousin sang everything. I Paid for my fav. pianist who always accompanied me in other weddings, and I sang the unity candle song to my hubby! My husband’s father did the wedding (also a pastor) so he didn’t ask for any money, either. You know what? All of the things that happened in this paragraph meant the most to us. We barely remember our reception and others talked about our ceremony the same way.

    We made our own programs and some relatives at the rehearsal dinner folded them while waiting for us to finish the rehearsal.

    I bought my dress at David’s Bridal, but had it altered and the bustle put on by the music pastor’s wife at our church. I borrowed a long train-like veil and had a short blusher made for me by the same lady. She charged only materials.
    SHE also made me a FAKE cake (bottom two layers styrofoam, top two real for cutting the cake ceremony)!

    I served cheesecakes that we found at Gordon’s Foods on sale that we kept frozen until the day before. The wedding was at 1:30 so I had a dessert reception of cheesecake, frozen fruit salad, and my grandma’s homemade sugar cookies (she made over 800 as edible favors for me–froze them ahead of time, as well. I helped ice them.) Only one guy asked why we didn’t cut the cake!:-)
    We served Sweet tea (from Wal-mart–bought tons when it was on sale), coffee and water. That’s the cheapest way to do it! My hubby was from S. Carolina so the sweet tea fit!;-)

    I chose cheap dresses at David’s Bridal for the girls and told them to pick the style. Also, asked them to wear silver shoes–I had girls’ feet from size 5 to 13 so why was I going to try and force them to all find the same??? They all saved money that way! They also did their own hair. I had a friend hairstylist who did mine for my wedding gift.

    I had a friend and a cousin do the gift table, as well.

    I shopped the sales at Bath and Body works during their January clearance time and bought wall flowers or lotions for the female singer/gift attendants/kitchen help and so forth. I paid 75% less during that time for gifts everyone likes to get.

    My wonderful mother and aunt did all the decorating! Four of my mother’s friends volunteered to serve everything at the reception with the help of a family in the church.

    We borrowed what we could from the church—those storage closets have everything so when you rent a church, ask what they have that you can use from the candelabras to the planters. We used pewter plant stands to hold huge pillar candles from Wal-mart. Looked way more elegant than the price it took. Also, my cousin, sister, and Aunt all had trees that we strung tiny twinkle lights through and placed in the gym for the reception. With the lights dimmed and much candlelight–no one felt like the teens’ sweat was lingering with my cake!:-)

    We were bummed about our photographer. She was a friend’s mom. So, cheap isn’t always better there, but my sis got married two months after me so we knew exactly how to direct the photographer that time around and her pics are great. So, be very clear with what you want!:-)

    Another uncle videoed everything. FREE!

    You can do it!!!!:-)

  • BY THE WAY, as a pastor’s wife, I appreciate Stephanie’s comment about paying the pastor well! They do get forgotten many times and it is their day off or they have to take that time away from their families to officiate.

    My pastor was FREE because it was my father-in-law!

    Also, I’ve sung in many weddings where I ended up not getting paid because I was a friend or it was an oversite. Most were before I married a pastor so I wasn’t already a fixture of the church, if you know what I mean!:-) So, I’ve learned to not get a gift unless I received payment. But, keep in mind, I had to drive pretty far to practice sometimes and to the rehearsal and to the wedding. Not getting my gas covered was hard enough, let alone the fact that I put effort into preparing the wedding pieces for the bride. Others may be more up front and state a fee. If they do, good. If they don’t, ask up front what they expect then you won’t be surprised–now, if they’re family, they may want their gift of song to be their gift. I loved it when I could do that for a person since most got married when I was in college and had no money!

  • I am a wedding cake decorator…I am a home baker.

    Because of this I charge almost 50% less than most Big Bakeries. I love working with budget brides…because I create better on a budget.

    I recommend looking for a home baker…contact your local cake supply store…they usually have a list of home bakers.

    Feel free to check out my cakes on my web site..
    http://simplycakesbysusan.zoomshare.com

    By the way…my web site is a FREE site. Just another way to keep costs down! LOL!

  • Lisa J says:

    A subject that is near and dear. I wanted a dream wedding on a shoestring budget. We spent about $4500.00 (about $1200.00 on rings, a splurge but lasts forever) and got pure bliss.
    1. Sundays are savedays. We got married on Sunday of Labor Day weekend. It was great for our traveling guests, no work the day before/after and as a bonus, most places, including the golf course we got, do not charge a rental or min. fee/charge on Sundays. In fact everybody is cheaper on Sundays!
    1B. Weigh your options. We had a one choice sit down dinner for 125 (same price as a two choice buffet, but it was important to us to not make our guests wait in a buffet line). The menu was slightly more than at other places, but it was a beautiful site, that hardly needed to be decorated. What’s important and cost friendly for you?
    2. Get it in writing. Ask for brochures/price lists when calling/visiting vendors. My d.j., reception hall/caterer, and photographer all had misprint prices or sent me last years brochure so I got great deals!
    3. Make as much as you can. Without prior experience, I made centerpieces, pew bows, guest book and pen, garter, fabric covered card box, all the flowers (I wanted to keep my bouquet so I splured on realistic fakes which I bought at WalMart in bulk and assembled with the gals) and tons more. You might be surprised how creative you can be, especially with the book/ideas/kits that Hobby Lobby has. Definately hit them at half off sales.
    4. Of course shop around, but also consider the internet. I bought a few items off of E-Bay and Amazon for cheap.
    5. Lovin the family. $75 to cut the cake? Forget it, ask the mother-in-law. Family can also help decorate/tear down.
    6. Have fun, take a moment to breathe (the day goes so fast), and have fun.

  • dream says:

    I am getting married in a few weeks and we have 190 people coming. My budget was $4000 and we are under that. We were actually told by both sets of parents that they had set aside $8000 total, but we just couldn’t see how it was reasonable to spend that much. Our focus: getting married and spending time with friends and family.

    1. My mom made the bridesmaid dresses.
    2. I got a great deal on a photographer by cutting out the 200 proof album. I’d rather pick out the few special ones and put those in a book. She takes unlimited photos and is amazing. I’d say look into that.
    3. We’re doing an hors d’oeuvre reception with cake. It can around the same price as serving a meal, but we found a wonderful (!!!) caterer who did the food and cake for $1000. She is also providing all of the linens and has some centerpieces we are borrowing. She arranges the food in such a beautiful way that the food tables don’t need any decorations. Having this type of reception allows family to wander and mingle with each other. With so many family members living so far away from each other, this was so important to us. We didn’t want people spending so much time sitting at a small table eating. We’re so tired of that kind of reception. We wanted something different!
    4. We are having our ceremony and reception in the same place.
    5. We are getting married in an art museum, so we really don’t need that many decorations.
    6. Our DJ is a recent college grad and just starting out. We heard him at another wedding and he was fabulous. $250!
    7. We are buying my flowers through a wholesaler and making my own bouquet along with the bridesmaids’. Simple, but real.
    8. For $25 we got a temporary alcohol permit and are serving beer and wine only. We also got that from a store that will let us return the unused and get our $ back. We do have to have insurance coverage, but we had to have it anyway with the historic building. For a one-day event, we got $5 million in coverage for $150. My dad worked this all out. Still comes up much cheaper than a bartender.
    9. While I understand that making our own invites saves $, we just didn’t want to have the hastle. We ordered them from davidsbridal.com and spent $225 after taxes for 125 invites.

    We are so blessed also: my uncle is giving us a week of his timeshare in Hawaii and my brother and his wife paid for our airfare there.

  • Pam DeArmon says:

    Like many here…I planned my wedding on a budget. At the time I thought I did a great job, but now I realize that I didn’t. 😉 Our entire wedding cost $6500, but there were several things that I would not budge on. The photography was one, but I ended up having a bad experience anyways. *shrug* Good pictures, just a not nice man. Oh well….I was just looking at Craigslist the other day, and I saw some gorgeous brand new wedding gowns listed. I would check there. I also just saw a vintage wedding gown (I”m talking from like the 40’s here) at a goodwill. I was so mad at myself later for not buying it and selling it myself. 😉 It was gorgeous. A friend from church made our cake, and we topped it with fresh flowers. Those were the only real flowers at my wedding. The rest were silk. I really didn’t care too much about my flowers. My grandmother fixed my hair, mom did my makeup, I bought my shoes at Payless. We had a full meal, but we put it together. I wanted to just have a cake reception, but my Dad actually insisted on a dinner. Then, he complained about the cost. 😉 My wedding easily would have been $4000 without the food. ah well…Another idea is to check with the church where you will be getting married to see if they have candles, pillars, or even entire floral arrangements that you can use!! Good luck and happy planning. Remember, it’s the rest of your life together that matters…the day is nice, but it’s not worth going into debt over!

  • Lorie says:

    Here’s what we did. First, we used friends (or friends of friends) for everything who provided their services for free or for a very reasonable price. I even ended up with a string trio (violins, bass) to play the wedding march which was just beautiful. A couple of friends coordinated for us. We held the reception outside at a friends’ home. This was the biggest money saver I think. We even had a buffet style dinner with appetizers & a bar with wine & beer. Definitely let people know you’re getting married cause many will let you borrow things. Michael’s & JoAnn’s are also two good places to watch for sales.

  • Kara says:

    My husband & I picked out our wedding bands at a local pawn shop. After visiting 3 jewelry stores, they were the first place that had a band that looked good with the engagement ring.

  • Sarah says:

    My money saving tips (I have no affiliation with any companies outside of satisfied customer)

    We got our flowers from online supplier 2G Roses–fresh, gorgeous roses, lilies and other flowers for about .75 a stem including postage.

    We rented a professional grade digital camera for $50 and had a talented amateur friend take all our photos. They came out beautifully.

    We got our 3 tiered wedding cake from a supermarket and paid about .50 per slice compared to $10 per slice at the fancy bakeries. We didn’t tell anyone and we got so many compliments on how good it tasted.

    I made my own wedding dress.

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