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Nine Fun & Frugal Wedding Ideas

Guest post by Amanda

The wedding industry has become a beast to be reckoned with. I recently pulled off my entire wedding for less than $2,000. It can be done!

My Advice

Be prepared to have an army helping you! We could not have done it without so many people offering their services and their time.

Prioritize what you really want and be prepared to make tough decisions. Do things because you and your fiancé want them, not because they’re expected.

1. Our Invitations

Frugal Wedding Invitation

We got 100 invitations from Vistaprint.com for less than $35. Formal invitations didn’t fit our not-so-fancy wedding, and we liked that we could customize the postcards. The purpose of invitations is to give people information — they don’t have to be a piece of artwork!

2. The Flowers

The only flowers we had were bouquets, which we got at Kroger for less than we would have spent at a traditional florist.

3. What We Wore

Frugal Wedding Dresses

I was lucky enough to find my dress (which I loved!) on sale for $99 at David’s Bridal.

Bridesmaids wore blue dresses of their own choosing. I’ve been a bridesmaid six times and know how expensive it gets. My girls looked great and each of their total outfits was less than $40.

Frugal Wedding Suits

The guys wore black pants and white shirts, and matching ties from a discount online tie shop.

4. The Cake

Frugal wedding cupcakes

We decided to do only one small cake and supplement with cupcakes. I made a “tower” for the cupcakes by covering boxes with white wrapping paper and accenting with orange ribbon.

5. The Cake Table

Just Married Sign

I found a template for a “Just Married” sign online. We ran string above our cake table and secured the letters with clothespins.

The total cost of this was less than $10 and it looked great!

6. Instead of Centerpieces…

We didn’t do any centerpieces for our reception tables. I struggled for weeks trying to think of an inexpensive idea, but even at $5 a table, the cost really adds up. I finally decided that centerpieces weren’t necessary, and they definitely weren’t worth the stress!

I searched online for a crossword puzzle template and made one themed around Dave and I. I used them as placemats and they also served as a fun activity for guests.

7. Reception Decorations

Frugal wedding decorations

I made tissue paper flowers to hang from the rafters. These were inexpensive and added a great pop of color and dimension to our space.

Don’t be afraid of plastic serving ware! Our color was orange, so I wrapped orange cutlery in a white napkin and secured it with orange ribbon. I also made contrasting ones of white cutlery in orange napkins with a white ribbon. So cute!

8. Our “Guestbook”

We made a homemade “photobooth” by hanging a sheet where guests could take pictures with my digital camera and leave a note on a card made from scrapbook paper in leiu of a traditional guest book.

9. Be You!

Keep things simple and do things that reflect who you are. Dave and I had volleyball at our wedding because we both love it. And people didn’t think it was weird — they loved it!

Our wedding was definitely a reflection of family and community, which made it all the more fun.

Amanda Ungleich lives in Knoxville, TN with her husband Dave. They both work two jobs and are going back to school, so they know the value of saving a dollar!

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81 Comments

  • Megan says:

    What a great post – thanks! We also pulled off our wedding for around $2,000 and used many of these same tips. I am especially a fan of doing your own wedding flowers. Ours cost about $100 and that included bouquets/boutonnieres and reception table arrangements. I think the best advice you gave here was to be yourself! Love it!

  • Laura says:

    I am honored to count Amanda as one of my dearest friends and had the privilege of attending this wedding! It was so beautiful and reflected both of their personalities and gave glory to God above all. They made us as guests feel so special and even had handmade coloring books with crayons for the kids at the reception, which was a HUGE win!! 🙂

  • Lindsey says:

    I think having volleyball at your wedding sounds so fun! My husband and I had an inflatable obstacle course and bounce houses instead of a dance and EVERYONE had a blast! Even the ones not playing had a blast watching, and we also put cards, and games like Jenga and Mancalla on our tables for guests to play, as well as crayons seems how we used white paper instead of table cloths! It was a lot of fun to read the messages people wrote for us on the tables!

  • Lauren says:

    I just loved reading all these great budget friendly ideas! I’ve seen shows on TV where people spend thousands, upon thousands of dollars on their wedding. I think they need a show for us budget minded folks showing people who spend relatively little on their wedding, and still end up with a fabulous day to remember .

  • Melissa says:

    Great tips. I thought we did a great job to have a wedding for $6,000 for 175 people 10 years ago, but yours is much more reasonable than ours. I love how you put the marriage first, rather than the wedding. And it is so smart not to go thousands and thousands of dollars in debt for one day.

  • Emily says:

    Great idea for your invitations! Truely, wedding invitations ultimately end up in the recycling bin after the wedding. I would love to receive a picture one like the one you designed and at least it would live on my refrigerator for a few years! Even for a formal wedding.
    Oh – another idear, we get a free website with our online subscription – I put info for the guests on there (directions, that our wedding would be outdoors ect…)
    Em

  • Susan says:

    LOOOOOOOOOOVE IT!!!! “Do things because you and your fiancé want them, not because they’re expected.” This statement is sooooo important!

  • Amy Looney says:

    Go Vols! What great ideas!

  • KatieBee says:

    Love the ideas. We’ve been married 14 years and had a very small, simple, beautiful wedding outside. As an event planner, I didn’t want an “end all” wedding. Instead, we had brunch, on a Sunday, using rosemary, basil and some tulips for our flowers – cut directly from our garden. The best advice I got was in a note from my boss, “The cost of your wedding is not in proportion to how married you are. Surround yourself with those who will lift your marriage up through the years and celebrate love and commitment, not a wedding magazine.” He was right!

  • Sandra says:

    We had a morning wedding with a brunch reception. We invited immediate family only (seriously – no cousins or anything) which had our number at 40 guests ($480). We hired a photographer who takes the pictures and gives you the disc, you develop the photos yourself – $250. No attendants (I was 35 – my sisters are older than me – I didn’t need to put them in tafeta). My aunt made my bouquet and made the boutineers and corsages for parents/grandparents. City park site for ceremony – $250.
    Officiant – $100. My mom insisted on buying my dress. It was a beautiful spring day. Everyone loved the intimacy it. We did not go debt. It was paid for before the day even happened. My 4 siblings all said they wished they had gone smaller and simpler.

  • I wish I was invited to your wedding! It sounds fantastic.

  • lee says:

    Love the “TN” theme! Pretty cool the poster is from Knoxville, I used to live near there and hopefully will again once I get my RN degree/license. My husband and I also had a “cheap” wedding. We bought blank invites and printed them ourselves. My dress was bought in June i think, reduced white prom dress at JCP, husband rented tux. Our rings were just plane silver bands (later when I’m an RN will upgrade, maybe our 10th Ann. gift), his adoptive aunt married us in my brother’s house, we gave out disposable cameras for guests to take pictures, cake from walmart, in-laws made some food but husband and I never ate, oh and my mother made my veil. Flowers were walmart too. When you are 21 it’s hard to have money for a big wedding.

  • Susan J says:

    Great ideas! And I thought we’d done pretty well to keep it to about $6 grand. Way to go, Amanda! And congrats on your marriage!

  • Bree says:

    Love the postcard invitations! Nifty idea, indeed!

  • Allison V. says:

    I love this! I helped my best friend plan her wedding in less than two weeks, and you’d have never known it to see it! I tell everyone to not go crazy spending money on their weddings…at the most, get a dress you love (clearance racks still work), and find a good photographer (you want those memories to last). Cheap cake tastes just as good as expensive, fancy flowers die, and people can enjoy themselves much better when they aren’t peering around a towering centerpiece that blocks their view of their tablemates! And your last point is spot on-do what YOU like! It’s your day, your money, your wedding!

  • lyss says:

    Defintely don’t worry about what’s expected! All the printed napkins, the monogrammed cake cutters and glasses, the favors…so not necessary! Unless, of course, it’s important to you! Cut out what you really could care less about, or at least look for frugal alternatives. And borrow whatever you can! Or if you have to purchase things-resell what you don’t want to keep.
    Instead of the traditional guestbook, we bought lined scrapbook paper with “Guests” written as a heading. I put these into our wedding scrapbook-no extra book to have hanging around!

  • Joy says:

    I always love frugal wedding posts. We have four daughters and even though they are still young (oldest is 13), I have already started taking notes on what worked and what didn’t from other weddings that we attend. Our girls will each be given a modest budget, so all the frugal tips will be necessary!

  • Great job. Wish I could have done the same thing on the same type budget. But from my understanding, it really depends on the type of people you are. If both are limited by budget or have the attitude of trying to do the wedding on a budget then it’s possible. Even if 1 doesn’t have that attitude, it becomes very difficult and it’s where most of the arguments then come into being.

  • Sam says:

    Great tips! We spent about $1500 for about 25 people and it was awesome. Had a professional photographer we found cheap on Craigslist, my mom got ordained online to be a minister (which she was super psyched about…she wants to do start doing weddings, baptisms, blessings for other people), and we also used cupcakes!

  • Gretchan says:

    We had a small wedding and including my dress and his suit we spent around $600. And everyone says it was the best wedding they have been to. We got marries on my sister’s land overlooking the Willamette Valley in Oregon. We took the black metal arbor from our front yard, wrapped it in twinkle lights and ribbon. Placed potted maples and pumpkins around it and mason jars with candles lined the aisle. Everyone sat on hay bales and everyone had a snuggly blanket and warm cider. My mom and I made homemade breads like pumpkin and zucchini. And we made hot toddies for the grown ups. The flowers were all local from the farmers market and my friends yards. On the 18th I will be celebrating my anniversary married to the man of my dreams. Truly blessed.

  • Brian says:

    The reception is one place I do not recommend being frugal. Your guest remember the experience. Decorations etc is ok for saving money however food/bar service is not the place to skimp. As a bartender (my 2nd job to support my family) I find all to often that people skimp the bartender’s gratuity as an effort to save money.

    • Joy says:

      @Brian, I agree with your point about not skimping on gratuity if that is the type of reception that people have! I too was a waitress for years and it was a major bummer when gratuity was lacking.

      But, I do think that a formal dinner and bar service doesn’t have to be the standard wedding affair. Cake and punch receptions, potlucks, etc. are all perfectly fine in my book. Yes, I do remember receptions that I have been to and some are more fun than others, but in the end what really matters is that the happy couple is married.

      • Brian says:

        @Joy, Oh I completely agree Joy.. I was just mentioning that taking care of your wait staff and bar service is important not to be overly frugal on. My sister had a cake and punch reception and my cousins have all had potluck receptions.

        • Leah says:

          @Brian, I’m shocked that gratuity is not included in most packages!

        • Joy says:

          @Brian, I’m really glad you brought it up though Brian because it is awful when the servers get stiffed! And I know that more often than not, the bartender is the one who ultimately gets the short end of the stick. If people choose to have those kinds of receptions, then they absolutely need to take into account the gratuity for the servers.

  • Kadee says:

    I’ve always said at the end of the day, as long as you are married, it doesn’t matter how fancy or simple the wedding was! The most beautiful wedding I attended was held in the backyard of the bride’s parents – very simple and informal, yet absolutely lovely. I love your invitation idea and letting the bridesmaids choose their own dresses. Wish I had been so wise when I got married 19 years ago!

  • Jennifer says:

    Great ideas! I have four daughters and I’m taking notes for their weddings. The oldest is 11 so we have a few years left 🙂 Creativity goes a long way!!

  • Angela Adams says:

    We had a very simple and inexpensive wedding! All said and done I think we spent $1000. Lots of things were donated by family and friends! I got my dress for $99 at David’s Bridal. One of the main emotions I remember feeling that day was “peace”. I was not worried about things going wrong because it was so low key and simple! I remember sittingh eating a McDonalds breakfast burrito in my wedding gown, just waiting for the wedding to start! Love the Photo Booth & Notes in place of guestbook! What a memorable idea!

  • Ashley says:

    I am getting married on Nov.6 of this year (we have only been decided on a date for 3 weeks today.) I am so glad this post came out today it helps a lot. Thanks Amanda you gave me a few hints.

  • Amber says:

    I got married in 2009 and we spent $2000 on our wedding and it was lovely. We had the ceremony and reception at our church, which was free, and we had over 150 guests. We spent $250 on the photographer, $100 on the cake, $500 on food (I wanted to splurge in that area for our guests), $99 on my dress, $100 for (gasp!) fake flowers, $50 on picture invitations, $100 on real flowers for bouquets, and the rest on miscellaneous decorations. It was beautiful and personal and wonderful.

  • Krista says:

    As soon as I saw the orange I knew it had to be a TN wedding. Enjoyed her post! Congrats to Amanda and her hubby!

    My DH and I just moved to Knoxville. It’s nice to know we are not alone when it comes to trying to save a buck while getting through work and school. Some days it really beats me down. I would love to be able to talk to Amanda and pick her brain about thriftiness and the area!

    DH and I only had a few weeks to plan our wedding because of his military schedule. To save money I made all the decorations and invitations myself. We also skipped out on a cake and gave everyone Lindt chocolates instead. He wore his Navy dress blues instead of a tux and I also had my bridesmaids pick their own dresses. My biggest splurge was my dress, but you only get married once right? 🙂

  • These are great tips! I’m a big fan of tissue poms too- they are such fun decorations and so affordable to make. And I love the DIY photobooth too- it’s such a fun way to capture some of the memories of the day without the hefty price tag of a ready-made photobooth! It sounds like an absolutely beautiful wedding and most importantly- fun and special to you and your husband! Congratulations!

  • Samantha says:

    We are getting married November 6th of this year and I think we have spent a total of $150, and thats pushing it. I was given two wedding gowns, along with maid of honor dress. My fiance and his brother (best man) have matching suits and all of the invitations and decorations we have done ourselves. =] While moving into a new house we knew we had to be frugal. The wedding was first and once we found this house we had to get it so now we have two major events! But its the marriage, not the wedding that matters to us.

    • Ashley says:

      @Samantha, thanks and Congrats to you too. We have done everything on our own, except, my splurge was my cake I wanted to have a specific bakery here where I live to make my cake. I think it is about 55 guests, we are having it here at our farm, and we have spent about $600. However, I didn’t do the traditional wedding attire (I tried on 20 something dresses and decided NO they are just not me) I am wearing a long brown skirt and a lacey top and he is wearing a nice pair of pants and nice button up shirt. We want the wedding to be about us and what we love. Not what everyone else wants for us.

  • Amanda says:

    @Carrie,

    My husband is a personal trainer and is most comfy in his gym clothes…I was lucky to even get him to wear a tie 🙂

  • Steve Jobs says:

    I would suggest this great tip to my sister in law, where she and her 10-year boyfriend are planning to have their wedding next year. Great savings and wise spending on their wedding expenses would be a great start.

  • Megan says:

    Thank you for the great ideas!! Our wedding is June 12, 2011. So far, I’ve bought my 4 bridesmaids’ dresses – a steal from Kohl’s for 30 dollars apiece after discounts – and I made the money back for them in one week by selling on eBay. We have someone to marry us for free (he says, “as long as I get to party” – no problem) and a venue (fiancé’s parents backyard – they have tons of land).

    Total OOP expenses so far – $0.

    We’re providing the food (italian beef and other homemade delights). I’m happy to put lots of work into it as long as I save money!! I’m planning on finding a $99 David’s dress as well – and if I can’t, I’m altering a white dress I already have into a halter dress. Only a few more things to pay for but we’re shooting for >$500. It can be done!!

  • Leah says:

    My younger sister just got married in May. They paid out of pocket for their wedding.
    They saved money by having a champagne toast only instead of a full reception, accompanied by hors d’oeuvres, fancy desserts and a cake. Friends of the family (who work in catering) served. She shopped at goodwill and thrift stores and managed to buy all her champagne glasses for cheaper than you could buy plastic cups or even rent glassware! She also bought lots of crystal decorations and silver trays/candlesticks at thrift stores and goodwill. Her wedding was very fancy, but still extremely cheap!

  • stacy says:

    Marthastuartweddings.com have great downloadable templates for the cutest invitations ever! That’s what we did for ours and they turned out awesome!

  • Dani says:

    I got married in June and did the tissue paper balls also! We made them half of a sphere and used them as our table decorations along with a few glass bottles that I got from a wholesale website (that will be used for decorations around the house in the future) with two or three small flowers from our grocery store! It was actually a fun family affair putting together the tissue paper balls (I hope they would agree!). I also bought the tissue paper from a wholesale website and have a TON leftover. We use it to wrap gifts in now!

  • Allyson says:

    My husband is going back to school in Knoxville as well. We love it here. Where are you going to school?

  • Jessica says:

    As a transplant to Vols country, ( I’m originally from MD and moved to TN and the Knoxville Area, love it here!) I’m thrilled to see that when I do get married eventually,( beloved hasn’t popped the question but it’s in God’s hands) I can afford a frugal wedding here where I live. I looked at the enclosed invitation, and know where that church is! Thanks Amanda!

  • Emily says:

    We focused on the fact that we were starting a MARRIAGE – it wasn’t about one day. It’s about the rest of our lives!

  • Elizabeth Sue says:

    Oh my goodness, this has to be one of the cutest weddings I have ever seen! What great ideas.

  • Michelle says:

    My sincere congratulations! I LOVE seeing couples start their marriage off on the right foot – not thousands in debt or – even worse – the parents going thousands into debt! If you want to save up and pay that much cash out in one day, that is great, but it is also wonderful to show others that you don’t HAVE to do that.

    I am sure you will have many long, happy years ahead of you!

  • Rachel says:

    i wish wish wish this posting was a round a few years ago when both of my sisters got married and i had to be in the weddings with an expensive dress, shoes, hairdo etc. i love them to death but it pained me greatly to shell out the money for those dresses. ugh.

  • Nat says:

    Great ideas! We were married 4 years ago, and while we didn’t go into debt from wedding expenses, we still paid a pretty penny. It’s great to keep things into perspective. As a guest at weddings, I never focus on decorations or fancy invitations. I attend to show my support to the couple and celebrate their marriage.

  • Doreen says:

    We are getting married next week on the 23rd and keeping the wedding and reception (425 guests) below 2000. I made my own dress and almost all the other dresses, and we’re doing all the food ourselves. In fact tomorrow I’m baking Romanian style bread (since my fiance is Romanian) 🙂 Instead of cake we opted for frozen Raspberry swirled cheesecake. So much tastier and since we found cream cheese on sale for .50. . . and graham cracker crumbs at a bent and dent store. . . you get the picture!!!! We even had coupons involved for some of the food!
    For centerpieces I found cute watering cans at 1.50 a piece at a thrift store (I think they were leftover from some big banquet, because I have all that I need! 🙂 and I’m planting pansies in them. We will use them as gifts for the ladies that help us serve. WE are looking forward to a good marriage, and we want our wedding day to be a day of service to others, bringing glory to God and not a lot of attention on ourselves. After all, marriage is about service. Serving each other and together serving God and the church.

  • Doreen says:

    Oh, and I found my invitations at a Goodwill store of all amazing places!!

    • Leah says:

      @Doreen, I found a bridesmaid dress at Goodwill for $3, once!! It was the exact color and fabric I needed, and the bride told me I could choose my own style. I paid under $10 for dry cleaning before I wore it, so it was a steal at under $15!!

  • Beth says:

    We had a plain small tiered cake and put fresh flowers on it, then served most of our guests from a sheet cake that was precut in the kitchen. And our table centerpieces were different sized bowls and goblets with flowers floating in water. Plus, never underestimate the value of family and friends… it is amazing what loved ones will do for free to help you prep for the big day!

  • Ash says:

    I was able to keep our wedding under $1,500. Our center pieces were framed quotes that held meaning for us. It ended up being so cheap that everyone got to take one home with them. They included:

    Square frames from the dollar store/target’s dollar section
    Pertinent quotes
    A themed pack of scrapbooking papers and stickers we liked.

    I just returned from a trip to visit my husband’s friends and family. They all had their framed quotes displayed. :o)

  • We did some very similar things.

    We didn’t have a cake (we had an ice cream bar instead). Our flowers were done by the grocery store florist. We didn’t have any bridesmaids or groomsmen.

    We were very blessed in that our church does not charge for the ceremony. We were also able to use the church reception area free of charge, which included tables, chairs, and tablecloths (we just had to wash the tablecloths, and my family set things up themselves).

    My husband didn’t have the money for a tux, but he did rent a tux shirt, tie, and vest to wear with his exisiting dark charcol suit, and it looked very nice.

    Also, we don’t drink, so there was no alcohol to pay for, either!

  • Angie says:

    I *just* got engaged on Sunday and I found this post OH SO HELPFUL! Thank you!!

  • Candice says:

    We will be married 10 years this coming January. I planned our wedding in about 6 weeks, but you never would have known. We got married on January 6 and the church was still decorated for Christmas, so we didn’t have to pay for any of those decorations. Since the church was already decorated in reds, we decided to make our colors red, black, and silver. My matron of honor wore a black dress that she already owned and the best man wore dress slacks and a sport coat that he owned. Our cake and flowers (bouquet and corsages) were both done by the grocery store. We had an alcohol free reception. My big splurge was my dress that I got on sale at David’s Bridal for around $500 (originally $1200). Even though we did the wedding inexpensively and in only 6 weeks, people still talk about how much fun they had.

  • Bonita says:

    Love this post! Almost makes me want to get married all over again! I hope my daughter will go this route when her time comes.

  • Mary says:

    I love the idea of the scrapbook page and photo…such a memorable way to reflect on your special day and who was able to help you celebrate!

  • CJ says:

    Small, simple weddings are the best! My ideal wedding would be a small ceremony outside or in a church, everyone in “normal” clothes, with a picnic lunch at a park afterwards. I’ve never understood why people spend so much for a wedding instead of putting that money towards their life together.

  • Beth says:

    I think this is the best guest post I’ve read! As someone soon to get married I really loved some of the ideas. I really liked your idea for the “Guestbook” I’ve often thought who wants a book of signatures anyway?!

    Thanks for posting! 🙂 Congratulations on the new marriage!

  • Fun post….we got married about a year ago- spent $1100 with about 150 guests.

  • Lacey says:

    We got our wedding cake from Costco 😉

  • jen says:

    Wow. I can appreciate the effort at making a wedding frugal. We didn’t go overboard either. I got my wedding cake at the grocery store. However, I scrimp and save so that I can enjoy moments that are special…like a nice dinner out for an anniversary or a wedding or other special celebration. If you have some resources – consider splurging a little on something that is unique and special and will create a memory for you that YOU will treasure (not to other people’s standards). After all, this is supposed to be a once in a lifetime event. Now, if you don’t have the money – that is another story – you do the best with what you have. It doesn’t have to be expensive to be significant to you.

  • Kim says:

    Sorry if this is a repeat question, I started reading but there were SO many comments 🙂 Do you remember the site that you did the crosswords on? Sounds like a great idea, and definitely something me and my fiance would look into for our wedding in March! Thanks for sharing.

  • Amanda Y. says:

    I think I’ve mostly only ever known “firehouse weddings” so when people talk about fancy things, I just feel lost, but even being frugal as I am–there were some awesome tips in this post, THANK YOU for sharing! (esp. love the crossword idea)

  • Jessica says:

    We had a wonderful wedding and reception that people still talk about (in a good way!). When people asked “what can I do to help?”, we let them help. Our reception was picnic style, and my dad works in the restaurant industry, so he was able to get all the food really cheap, plus his boss’s gift was footing the food bill 🙂

    We collected baskets on sale, and at yard sales throughout the year before, and each family that came to the reception was given a size appropriate basket to carry their picnic in. They went down a serving line, picking out what sandwich, salad, and fruit they wanted. We had lemonade and ice tea to drink. They got to keep the basket as a wedding favor. The cake was made by a sweet girl who earned a little extra money doing a few cakes a year. She used the recipe my mom had for her wedding cake, and did a terrific job.

    The highlight of the reception was a dunk tank my brother rented. The groom knew nothing about it, and the look on his face when he spotted it was priceless. Instead of a “Dollar Dance” the bride, groom, groomsmen, and best of all…the father of the bride all took turns being dunked for donations. Lots of fun, and the proceeds payed for our entire honeymoon (a week in the Smokey Mountains, staying at my grandmother’s cabin).

  • Summer says:

    Glad to see someone else not buying into the hype of major wedding expense. We had a wedding and reception for 250 people, plus paid for our week long honeymoon for only $3,000.

  • Dee says:

    Wow — I can only hope my daughter will someday use ideas like this! I often regret spending so much cash on a one-day event. We could have gone to Europe for a month instead! I wish couples knew what a waste those big weddings are!

    I also think the ideas do not come across as “frugal” — just creative and personalized. Love it!

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