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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.

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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

  • Sienna says:

    We did our invites on VistaPrint – super cheap and we used the free business cards to print RSVP info on (they have a wedding cake design business card that works really well). Pair this with the cashback offers on ebates, etc. and it can be done really cheaply!

  • Davonne says:

    Formal Wear:

    David’s Bridal often has select wedding dresses on sale for $99.

    Consignment shops often have beautiful wedding dresses that have only been worn once for a very low price.

    Also, choosing the Bridesmaid’s color and allowing them to choose the style will enable them to shop the clearance racks.

    Use a local person for alterations instead of having the outfit altered at the wedding store you choose. I had the length of a dress and the straps shortened from a local seamstress all for $10.

    Borrow jewelry and shoes or check places like Penny’s and Payless instead of buying them from a bridal shop.

    I wrote an article that has more tips about formal wear here:
    http://www.piercemyheart.com/2009/03/18/formal-wear-part-two/

    Think about what YOU want – like Crystal said: Maybe a family member insists you have an extravagant bouquet, but the flowers aren’t that important to you. Choose to spend the money on something that does matter (like cake or photography) and purchase simple small bouquets. If you try to make everyone happy, you’re going to spend a bundle on things you don’t even care about. This is your day, so make sure you’re the one who loves it.

    Good luck!

  • Erin says:

    Mary at Owlhaven (owlhaven.net) had a number of posts in January and February about planning her daughter’s wedding, and some great suggestions for beautiful but inexpensive touches. One post is at http://www.owlhaven.net/2009/02/27/wedding-planning-beautiful-photographs-and-affordable-decor/ , unfortunately I couldn’t find an index of all of the other posts on this topic.

  • Michele says:

    I think Crystal gave wonderful ideas. And it’s true – you have to do what is important to you. I am exactly the opposite of Crystal in that I wanted to invest a lot in the photography and videography, while flowers were just simply unimportant to me. In fact, I told the florist to pick whatever he thought looked nice, while I was very, very specific in other areas.

    And I have to laugh at Crystal’s comment that a cake reception would be a travesty in some circles. On the East Coast, that would be unheard of. I’m Jewish and we tend to have huge, expensive weddings. Mine was probably cheaper than many at $15,000, yet I remember some friends of my husbands who came from the country going on and on how elaborate the wedding was. But in our circles, it was very average.

    I ordered the invitations online – very cheap compared to in person. I made personalized candy bar wrappers on our computer and bought the candy bars at Costco. I did the calligraphy on the envelopes myself. I bought my dress and ordered the bridesmaids dresses at a discount wedding store in North Carolina. We booked a place that included many extras – the cake, the centerpieces, the dinner, the cocktail hour for a reasonable price. Shop around – the price differences are amazing.

    Best of luck in your wedding AND your marriage. Or as we say, “Mazel Tov!”

  • Christine says:

    Have your wedding on an “off day”. By having our wedding on a thursday we saved over half costs because it wasn’t a major day for people. Granted we had a much smaller turnout because people were working but it was worth it in the cost we saved.

  • Laura says:

    I was married 10 years ago, but considering that the wedding was in Manhattan – a city known for over-the-top affairs of all kinds – the fact that we spent only $4000 stunned everyone who knew. We invited 60 of our closest family and friends, which excluded many potential guests, but we wanted the day to be intimate and special, so this was the trade-off. We booked a restaurant that my then-fiance had worked in, so we got a great deal. We choose to marry on the day after Christmas so the restaurant, which was already beautiful, was seasonally decorated. We didn’t hire a florist. On the morning of my wedding, two girlfriends went out to the florist wholesale market and bought flowers to tie in a ribbon for my bouquet and small evergreen wreaths which we threw onto the tables along with a tapered candle in the center for an instant centerpiece. We were married by a minister at the site at noon, then sat down for a delicious brunch with unlimited mimosas and bloody marys.

    My dress wasn’t a bridal dress at all – I bought it off a clearance rack at Macy’s for $60. For favors, I snapped up beautiful cloissone Christmas ornanments at Marshall’s (three different locations) and had ribbons imprinted with our names and wedding date which we hot-glued on. Every Christmas without fail, someone will mention that they thought of us and our wedding day when they decorated their tree and put our special ornament on it.

  • alice says:

    owlhaven.net just did a series of posts on planning her daughter’s wedding frugally. you might want to check there for additional ideas.

    alice

  • S. Mullinax says:

    I got married almost 7 years ago with a $1500 budget.
    Bought my dress “off the rack” and my entire wedding party’s dresses/rented tuxes from the same shop. The more we bought/rented the bigger the discount got. Ended up saving 20% on the bridesmaid dresses, the guys got a discount plus free shoes with there tux rental and my husbands tux was free.
    Kept my wedding party small and “recycled” my groomsmen by using them as ushers as well. Also had no children in the wedding.
    Cake and punch only reception – using a lady who made cakes out of her home.
    Photographer was not a professional just a friend of a friend – save big $$$ there. But some of my favorite pictures where the ones that people attending the wedding took so really I don’t even know if the photographer is really a necessity?!?
    Ask others who have been recently married if they have any leftovers you could buy – most people will gladly just give things to you. I got most of my little bottles of bubbles for free!
    Ordered my flowers through my local grocery store! Sounds crazy but they were beautiful and a lot cheaper than a florist shop! Also, order flowers that are in season for your area.
    I only put pew bows on the first 3 rows – still looked real nice but saved me big time! Also, Hobby Lobby is the best!

  • Rachel says:

    I had a beautiful, church wedding, for less than $3000 (including our simple gold bands and a honeymoon night away). The majority went toward the reception (cake only), flowers and decorations. I rented my wedding dress (many large cities have shops that offer this service), my husband’s mother made our invitations (which were beautiful – paper can be purchased at craft stores), I made all of the bows that lined the center aisle, used borrowed tulle, had a single attendant (who picked out her own dress), the men wore black suits rather than tuxes, my husband’s cousin (a film student) did our video and a friend (also a professional photographer) took pictures as our gift. The day was simple and all about family. I have no regrets. In addition, I have since learned how to do wedding flowers so that I can help friends and family keep their expenses low (and have loaned out my large, homemade, well kept bows for use in several weddings). No one has ever complained that my wedding gift was nothing more than beautifully arranged flowers.

    Set a budget, shop around and don’t buy on impulse or emotion. Decide what is most important and don’t be ashamed to allow others to donate their expertise.

  • Jisela says:

    In helping a friend plan for an inexpensive wedding we went to thrift stores in search for modest wedding gowns, which are hard to find these days. We were surprised to find a few that met our criteria and blew our minds when it came to their cost. One particulart one was under $9!! Don’t discart them until you try them!! Who knows, you might find other items you’re looking for!
    Have fun and Congratulations!

  • HappyHues says:

    Photography tip: my husband and I “hired” a photography student from the local university. She did our engagement pictures, rehearsal pictures, and wedding day all for the price of the film! In exchange, she got to use some of the pictures in her portfolio and the experience of being a wedding photographer of course.

  • Amy says:

    Make things you can’t afford to buy!
    Some examples from my own wedding (almost a year ago):

    1. A company in the town where I live rents this giant-sized candles (3-10 feet tall), but they are arond $30 each to rent, and that wasn’t in our budget. So I bought PVC pipe, and my dad cut and spray painted them to the same size as the candles. We put the caps in and stuck a little tealight in the top; everyone thought they were the real thing!

    2. I didn’t wear my mom’s dress, but I did like her veil, so we repurposed it. I cut off the old headpiece and took the veil and a comb to the alterations shop that hemmed my dress. They attached the veil to the comb for $10.00.

    3. I love flowers, but I couldn’t afford to have a boquet preserved, and it was important to me to be able to save my boquet as a keepsake. So I made my own boquets with silk flowers. It took a little research, but I found there were great resources available online and at my local library to teach me how to arrange flowers. I had a lot of fun doing it, and I still have my beautiful boquet!

  • Cessie says:

    We also had our wedding, reception, and honeymoon to plan on a limited budget ($1500) which I’m sure now that I’ve learned so much more about saving, could have reduced much further. The way we saved the most amount of money was on the food at the reception. Most of it was provided by family members as part of their gift to us and it turned out really well. I recently went to a beautiful outdoor wedding that was held at around 10:30 a.m. and so the food they had for the reception was brunch (waffles with several types of toppings, muffins, etc.). I know that that type of food is much cheaper than providing meats and typical reception food. Hope that helps.

  • Bethany says:

    If I was getting married again I would look on e-bay for my dress! I recently researched what is on there for wedding dresses in the hope of selling my aunts dress for her. I told her not too because there are SO MANY and they sell for SO CHEAP! Seriously.
    You can always get it cleaned and/or altered if you have to. Ask around – you never know who can do this for you! One lady in our church has altered a dress for just about everyone I know who has gotten married in our church.

  • Lisa says:

    Here’s ways we saved so we could go to Hawaii for our Honeymoon.

    1. We had our wedding and reception at the same place. GREAT way to save!
    1b. ANother great way- we bought invites at Target, took them to a copy center and had them made. It cost us $50 for invites and printing. It was more to mail them!!
    2. I found a great cake lady…my cake AND the grooms cake was $200. Another quote I received was for over $1000!! And I liked the less expensive cake so much better! So much that I have ordered cakes from her for birthdays.
    3. If you are going to buy things in advance, make sure you have a plan to use them. I bought some small silver bags for gift bags on clearance after Christmas, then we didn’t use them. Fortunately I didn’t spend too much, and made most of my money back re-selling them.
    4. My husband volunteered his 2nd cousins for our flower girl and ring bearer. I didn’t want one, but it was too late to back out. I made the basket and pillow for them. I also found the flower girl gress on ebay and the ring bearer’s tux was free (special promo)
    5. Friends helped decorate for me. One of the friends boyfriend was a hair stylist, and that was my gift from them.
    6. We didn’t “participate” in the little extras- throwing rice, gift bags, extravagant decor.

    Congratulations, and above it all, ENJOY YOUR DAY!!

  • Lucky says:

    I was able to order my flowers from the grocery store! A lot of people thought that was weird, but I kept an open mind and was able to get great flowers at a great price!

  • Bethany Henderson says:

    I had a wedding with over 500 people, ( my dad is a pastor, and we went to a Christian school that my mom teaches at ) so we really needed to invite that many people. We did the whole thing for $5,000. People act like this is crazy, but it can happen. I borrowed a vail, my slip, and some decorations. We had the reception in the church gym…which we decorated and it looked great. My best friend’s mom made my wedding cake as a gift. Another lady made apple cobbler which we used as the groom’s cake and we just paid for the ingrediants. We only had cake,punch, veggies, fruit, and cheese. We used a cheap photographer…which now, I kindof regret, but really, how many wedding pics are you going to have up in your house. My aunt did all the flowers on the stage and bridesmaid flowers silk and as a gift. My hubby at the time, did work at a flower shop in college, and they gave us a big discount on fresh flowers. My parents even bought all the six bridesmaid dresses…and we found them on clearence for $65. I firmly believe that you can do, even a huge wedding, like mine, for a small budget.

  • Leah says:

    These are a few “money savers” I used for my wedding: 1)The day you find “THE” dress purchase the exact one you try on for a 50% savings ( most dress shops will order you a new dress at full retail but it is way cheaper to pay for dry cleaning)
    2)Consider getting married on a Friday or Sunday. Most vendors will give you a substantial discount for their services because they will still be able to book another event for saturday.

  • When my husband and I got married a few years ago, we got good recommendations from friends and from browsing online. For example, two friends who had recently gotten married found a wonderful photographer who, for whatever reason, had very reasonable prices and a wonderful personality. I also did a lot of online research, and did my own hair and nails.

    My biggest advice would be to figure out what is most important to you, and then budget around that. Weddings can be a lot of fun, but they are one (crazy) day that goes by in a rush. Try to focus on what really matters – you and your soon-to-be spouse, and those closest to you. Everything else, in the end, is just details. Best of luck with the planning!

  • Megan says:

    When we got married, we used musicians from a local University. It was great & they were happy to get some experience and easy money. Just call the music department of any university to see if they have any students who do this. I had a friend who also did this for her photographer.

    Ask around to anyone you know who has gotten married lately or who has had a kid get married….people are more than happy to share the “great deals” they found while they were pulling together a wedding; that’s how we found our baker and photographer. Another good thing is that they might have things that you can borrow for free!

  • Amanda says:

    If you are buying a new wedding dress, I would suggest checking out David’s Bridal’s $99 sale. My sister found the most amazing dress for $99. If your future husband is going to be wearing a rented tux, find a tux shop that gives the groom a free rental as long as the groomsmen rent their tuxes there.
    I would check craigslist and ebay for decorations.
    When it comes to dinner, just give your guests one option. You end up paying a caterer a lot more money if you have two options. If you do get a caterer, make sure they aren’t going to charge you extra to cut the cake. I used to work for a catering company and we charged as much as $3 for each piece of cake we cut!!! I have cut the cake at several friends weddings to save them this charge. Can someone in your family/church/friends cook the dinner for you? If you know someone who is a good cook, I would ask them to handle the dinner. (Make sure they can cook for large groups of people and have help)
    Have your wedding on a Friday or Sunday. You will save thousands of dollars by renting a venue on any day other than a Saturday. I have been to a few Friday night weddings and I actually prefer them because they don’t drag out as long as Saturday weddings. I can’t tell you how many weddings I’ve been to on a Saturday where I have nothing to do for 3 hours after the ceremony and before the reception. At friday night celebrations I usually don’t have this problem. The ceremony is usually later, so the dinner and reception typically are immediately after the ceremony.
    Most importantly, don’t cut out things that are important to you. If you are going to look back 5 years from now and wish you’d had a big cake and lots of flowers, then get those things and cut out something else.

  • angel says:

    We had a small but beautiful wedding. I bought my dress on clearance right after prom time It was white and gorgeous, and only $40!!

    We also had no bridesmaid, groomsmen etc. We did have a flowergirl and ring bearer, but they just wore their sunday best, nothing expensive.

    I had a beautiful bouquet..of carnations, they were the cheapest, and I asked for any extras they were going to throw away after trimming and I used those to adorn my hair, and make a boutonniere.

    We made the favors and decorations ourselves, buying supplies fromMichael’s.

  • Rochelle Wilkerson says:

    Ebay, ebay, ebay!

    When I got married, (about 6 years ago) we purchased nearly EVERYTHING off ebay. Bridesmaids dresses, flowers, decorations. Of course, my bridesmaid dresses weren’t perfectly matched, but they were the same color, in different styles. And I’m sure I didn’t pay over $30 for a dress.

    Ask a church near you if they have any supplies left over from other people’s weddings. I know at our church we have TONS of beautiful wedding things stored in the attic of our church.
    Good luck and congrats! I also am glad that you are able to start your married life out on the right foot! Do what you can, look back at the memories, and remember it isn’t about the wedding it’s about the MARRIAGE! 🙂

    Rochelle

  • Heather Snyder says:

    My husband and I got married a year ago and did our wedding for $4,000. I would definitely say do a budget, and stick to it as closely as possible. We find that we had wrongly priced a few items. Sometimes that helped us and sometimes it didn’t. Also be willing to shop until you find a deal you can accept. We had to do this with our reception hall. It was not an ideal place for a wedding reception but you could NOT beat the price, we made it work. Hobby Lobby is definitely a good store. We were able to take a few ugly things (like the guarder) and spice them up for much cheaper then a nice full price item would be. Also, we got fake flowers there. Many people had no idea they were fake and they worked beautifully. Michael’s also offers 40% off.

    Crystal covered almost everything we did to save money. The other option I would offer is garage saling. Many people want to get rid of all the wedding stuff they have left so they sell it at garage sales.

    I think that you stick to what you feel God is telling you that you should have for a budget then you won’t have a problem. He will find a way to get you some great deals, and probably a few extra’s that you never thought you could have. We watched him work miracles for our wedding.

  • MJ says:

    My brother’s wedding last summer was done on a budget. The cake was an easy way to save money. My parents went to Sam’s club and bought their 3 tiered cake stand, and single layer cakes , then used flowers and decorating sugar. It was gorgeous. If you’re interested in finding out more, I have some pictures I can email you, just contact me via email at: majarus (at) insightbb (dot) com

  • Lisa says:

    Assuming you have no objections to utilizing used items…here is an idea for finding things on the cheap (sometimes even free).

    I joined some “trade and sell” yahoo groups for my area and there are constantly people listing wedding items for sale, and they are usually dirt cheap because they are just wanting to get rid of the stuff. Most post pictures so you can see the items they are offering. To find yahoo groups like this for your area go here:

    http://dir.groups.yahoo.com/dir/Regional/

    Then, type your state into the search box and see what comes up.

    There are also sites like bookoo.com and craigslist.com where you can search locally for listings.

  • shelly says:

    We had a “fake” cake that was styrafoam inside and frosted on the outside. We had a real cake on the top of it to cut into and eat. Then we served sheet cake to everyone.

  • Rochelle Wilkerson says:

    I had more ideas 🙂

    Make your own invitations. Kits are available at Office supply stores.

    Another idea, if you get married close to a holiday, there’s a good chance the church will be decorated anyway!

    Rochelle

  • RebeccaC says:

    Our church often gives the couple their reception. The couple makes a menu (nothing too extravagant, generally finger foods), and then each family or couple that attends the wedding brings a plate of food as assigned (cut up fruit, cheese and crackers, veggies and dip, meatballs, etc.). If you had, for example, 8 menu items and 24 families planning to attend, then you would get 3 plates of each menu item–generally plenty to serve the crowd.

    Get a friend to do the flower arranging. I know several very talented women who just took classes at the local community college. They buy the flowers at the farmer’s market and make all the bouquets, corsages, centerpieces, etc.

    Consider getting married at Christmastime. Often churches and reception areas will be already decorated, so you don’t have to spend extra to make the space pretty.

    Above all, keep the focus on your marriage rather than your wedding. Make it simple and elegant and fun, but don’t worry about making it a big production. The marriage is the most important thing.

  • Jenn says:

    Always find sales! We got my gorgeous wedding dress for 60% off because the dress shop we went to (one of MANY) was going out of business! We tried David’s bridal, but the one we went to…let’s just say the employees were not very nice or helpful. Most everything you need for a wedding will go on sale at some point! I also found my bridesmaid dresses online for very cheap (and they didn’t look cheap). If you want to have more than a cake reception, you might be surprised at how cheaply you can put together a “finger-food” reception. We had tea sandwiches, fruit, pasta salads, and relish trays catered for only $3.50/person (6.5 yrs. ago). I’m sure, if you have the time, you could do prepare most of those things yourself even cheaper. Crystal has very good tips! 🙂

  • JenR says:

    You can also use your bridesmaid’s bouquets as table decorations, and the flower arrangement/unity candle as the centerpiece at your main table. See if you have friends/relatives who can do some things for you. Our wedding was huge – 400 people, and we did it for $12000 with a buffet dinner included. We had a lady from our church do the flowers – she was a former florist and was able to get the flowers at wholesale cost for us. We had our minister’s daughter do the photography – then she gave us a CD with the pictures to reprint ourselves (saving much $$$). A cousin who is graphic designer did the invites, programs, etc, and only charged us for the paper and printer’s fee – I estimate we saved about $1000 there alone.
    Flower girl dress was $20 on eBay (new!). Wedding favors were also off eBay. If nobody can make your dress(es), try to buy your gown and bridesmaids dresses all from the same place – if you do, they will probably give you a discount on everything (we got 10% off).
    Don’t rent a limo, just let everyone drive themselves, and borrow a nice car for yourselves. Have an usher or groomsman drive it and you will still have a “driver” that day.
    I’ll second the borrowed decorations and sale shopping. All of ours came from the stash our reception hall and church had. We just bought some ribbon, vases, baskets, and shiny glass pebbles to personalize it for ourselves.

  • Elizabeth says:

    In my area a cake reception would be a travesty – I think it’s fine – but it’s not the norm here. I would say if you are looking to do a dinner reception,keep your guest list small and go to a nice restaurant that has a party room. I have read about people doing barbecues in their yards (decorate nicely :)) where they had some items catered and then made ahead some items ahead of time. That to me sounds nice. No matter what you do, keeping the guest small is the easiest way to keep your costs down.

    Liz

  • Margaret says:

    Ditto to much of this!
    We cut costs by doing the following:

    We did not have a professional photographer (this is the only area perhaps I would do over–but that is because as MSM said, this area was important to us…) but I will say that many professionals will do no better job than a friend with a good eye.

    We did not serve any alcohol…this is one of the biggest areas people spend money on, believe it or not.
    We had chocolate covered strawberries instead of an ornate groom’s cake.

    The only gorgeous real flowers we used were for my bouquet. We did not do bridesmaid bouquets nor boutenniers. We decorated the aisle of the church with fake ivy and tulle that looked really real and nice. This got around spending the money for the flowers as well as not having to display rather less than real looking fake flowers.

    We did not have a dj for the reception, nor a dance floor. AGain, another huge expense cut!

    We made simple full skirts for the bridesmaids. I did have 6 of them, but this was not very expensive since each mom made the skirts and they bought cheap cotton dress tops to go with the skirts. And remember, no flowers for them.

    You can also create your invitations on the computer and then either print out yourself, or for just a little more, take them to a kinkos type place to print out. We did not do this, although my brother did and saved quite a lot.

    We still had a gorgeous wedding that looked like we had spent far more than we did. If you are wise how you cut your corners, you can too. These are just a few tips…there are so many other ways to save money.

  • jenn says:

    To find a photographer you can also try any local colleges to find a student …

  • Lisa says:

    One more thought…in addition to buying and selling on those groups I listed above (yahoo, bookoo, craigslist), you can utilize them to post “wanted” ads. That would be a great way to get the word out if you’re looking for a specific item! Hope this helps.

  • Sarah G. says:

    I just wanted to add: even if you know someone who does cakes, photography, flowers, etc. don’t expect they will do it for you for free or reduced rate simply because you’re friends. If they offer and really want to help for nothing, great! 🙂
    But too often it seems like people have no idea how much time and labor goes into something like that, and just assume you’ll do it for free. I make cakes, and the ingredients alone are EXPENSIVE, let alone the long hours put into it.
    Maybe something could be worked out where the person donates their time, while you pay for all the supplies? That would still be a savings from retail bakeries. 🙂

    Thanks for the great post, Crystal. I’m amazed when I read what people are spending on weddings these days – if I ever am married, I’ll have to come back to this post. 🙂

  • Nancy says:

    A few more ideas…I rented my wedding dress for $100. It was beautiful and current in style plus I haven’t had to store it for years to come. I also had a professional make sheet cakes for guests and a small tiered cake for us. Then an artistic friend added flowers from the grocery store to decorate the tiered cake – it looked great! We paid for the tuxedos and bridesmaid dresses in lieu of gifts for our attendants. I think they appreciated that. Like Crystal said, It’s good to splurge on the few things that really matter to you and be thrifty on everything else.

  • Elizabeth says:

    Oh one more thing I forgot to post before, here most people have dj’s provide music. That’s about $1000 (or close to it) for 5 hours. I would totally skip this and just get an ipod or even a cd player and do that instead. You can set them to play continuously. Hide it behind some flowers so it’s not obvious – the music is just “there” without people knowing where it’s coming from. You could have the best man call attention to cake cutting and things like that. I am not a big fan of the dj’s.

  • Angie Rouse says:

    I had to giggle at your comment about a cake only reception, it’s so true! My husband wanted to get married in the evening so we felt we needed to do something for food. We kept it simple with crescent rolls, sandwich meats and cheeses as well as some salads. All made by us and very inexpensive. It’s a great option if you need to have more than cake. Otherwise, your wedding sounds like mine so I think it’s great advice 😉

  • Kama says:

    Those are some good tips. We had a relatively cheap wedding, compared to most these days. I chose to go with simple flowers–gerbera daisies–for the girls. We also got their dresses for $40 each through JCPenney, so that was part of their “thank you for being in our wedding” gift. We had cake, cheese, crackers and fruit at our reception. We got the cheese and fruit at Sam’s so we didn’t have to pay a caterer. We didn’t have any fancy music in the wedding, but I love Spanish, so we hired a mariachi band for about $400 to play at the reception. We gave everyone a bell to ring when we left that we had gotten at the dollar store. My mom made favors too–scrapbook paper cut into cute cones filled with M&M’s. The most expensive thing was the photographer and he was even a family friend! My brother did the videography (we got married 3 years ago and still don’t have an edited copy of the wedding though). I think there are ways to have a nice wedding without spending a ton…

  • Jennie says:

    We also did it very simple and inexpensive. And it didn’t matter! My best friend took our pictures, a family friend did our flowers (silk, so we were able to keep them & saved a lot since we had to have receptions in 2 states!). We used the local grocery stores for our cakes, just a simple 2-tier & a sheetcake. My mom made my dress.

    We didn’t have attendants at all. I have never been a big fan of standing in a long line waiting to talk to the bride and groom, but having to get through a million people I’ve never met on either side of the guests of honor! I also hated standing in the line at my sisters wedding. So I didn’t want to force something I didn’t enjoy on to other people. We got SOOOOO many compliments and thanks for the simplicity of our receptions. Our parents were able to mingle with the guests, we just stood at the door so people could talk to the 2 of us on their way in. Our siblings loved the freedom of an open room instead of a line. So, we saved money on Tuxedos & dresses since we only needed them for the 2 of us. And we saved ourselves the headache of standing the whole time! (We had chairs by the door so we could sit in during lulls)

    Simple really is the best way. It is one day that is wonderful in so many other ways, spending a lot of money doesn’t make it any more or less wonderful.

    Good luck!!

  • Tasha Via says:

    I wore my mom’s wedding dress too, and it didn’t even need a single alteration. We also planned our wedding in 5 months which was plenty of time for our plans to get in order. I found all my 5 bridesmaides dresses in a department store clearance section for $45 each and only 1 of them had to be altered.

  • Amy Bushatz says:

    I had a LOVELY wedding last year on a $4k budget — half of which was spent on the photographer! (proving the money where it matters point). So, my tips:

    1. Make your own invites. This can be a little time consuming but it’s totally worth it. I used kits bought at Michaels and JoAnns. I bought them using the 40 to 50 percent off coupons offered many weeks in the month. Some stores are sticklers and only let you use one such coupon per transaction, so I basically went once a day to get around that. They turned out VERY beautiful and cheap!
    2. RSVP online with a free web site such as mywedding.com. This saved us the cost of stamps for RSVP envelopes in the invites (which adds up!!). I did use RSVP envelopes for a few choice people, in particular the older folks who dont use the internet.
    3. Go with cupcakes instead of a cake. They are quaint, whimsical and soooooo much cheaper. We had a friend who made ours for us and did a lovely job decorating them.
    4. Simple flowers. We did a lot of the flower prep ourselves (not hard!) and did flowers that are cheapish but lovely. I did have a rose bouquet (expensive).
    5. Dress on the cheap. My mother made my dress and while I know this is not possible for everyone, it DID save a lot of money. Watch for the big bridal sales at stores such as Davids Bridal and you should be able to do it for around the same cost.
    6. Small reception. We did cake and punch and that’s about it. Big parties cost big money.

    If you want to see photos of some of the things Im talking about go here: http://snaptography.net/events/article/amy-luke-get-hitched/

  • Sandra Cutler says:

    My sister and I both used flowers from Costco–they have some lovely lilies–as boquets. There’s usually an aunt, sister, etc. who is more than willing to help put these together the day before or the day of the wedding. You can also order flowers wholesale from some websites. We held our reception at a city facility that cost only $50 to rent. We had a string quartet from the local high school as music during the ceremony; they were accomplished musicians a fraction of the cost!

  • Jessica says:

    Unlike Crystal, flowers weren’t a high priority to me. In my mind, they would be dead within a few days anyway and be tossed, so we opted for artificial flowers. My grandmother was a florist all her life, so I knew she would make the “fake” flowers come to life. Like Crystal mentioned, we shopped at Hobby Lobby often for 2 reasons. First the deals were so good with their 50% off sales, we literally got ALL the flowers needed for the entire wedding for under $100. That included table centerpieces (over 200 guests, so lots of tables), flowers for the entire wedding party (6 attendants each, plus the flower girl and ring bearer), my bouquet (which I got to keep and it’s parked in an antique vase that is a family heirloom on our dresser that I get to look at every day), plus we made a separate toss bouquet. It also covered some ivy that we used to help decorate the cake table, food tables, and anywhere else that needed a little something! We also chose Hobby Lobby because my grandmother said that their flowers are by far the most real looking!

    I expected to get funny looks when people found out the flowers weren’t real, but we got so many compliments on what a great idea it was!

  • Julie says:

    Here are three big things I did to keep my wedding inexpensive:

    1. Bought the wedding dress on ebay–I found an ebay store that makes really cheap dresses custom according to whatever size you request. Mine was $60, including shipping! I bought it 3 sizes too big and took it to a tailor to have it fitted to me for only $100.

    2. Fake flowers for the church and reception–I didn’t know what I would do with so many fresh flowers (we were leaving for our honeymoon immediately and couldn’t take them home to enjoy ourselves and there weren’t any nursing homes/hospitals in the area to give them to) so we opted for silk flower arrangements instead. I don’t think ANYONE noticed! We found a wedding coordinator lady in the area who made them for us from her own stockpile of flowers. They looked great and nothing went to waste. This option saved us about $500. (My personal flowers were real, but the florist made them from my mother-in-laws flowers from her garden.)

    3. For 200 guests we opted for a BBQ buffet lunch that we had catered. It was super cheap and delicious. And we had several “normal” sized cakes instead of a massive one because it was tons cheaper. Plus we got to have several flavors.

    Good luck!

  • Stephanie says:

    We had our wedding and reception at the same location. This meant that we only had one place to pay for. We could have had the wedding and reception at my church for free, so that would have been a cheaper option, but for various reasons decided against it. If we had wanted to keep it on a smaller budget, I would have had it there and worked around the restrictions.

    If you don’t have colors picked out, see if your bridesmaid(s) has a dress already in her closet. We only had one attendent each, which also helped on buying gifts. Also, check out second hand stores. They have both wedding and other formal dresses. Some are over priced, but others are very reasonable.

    Instead of renting table clothes, my mom sewed them. It helped bring in the main color of the wedding and was actually cheaper. I now have lots and lots of table clothes for home, too. In the future these will probably end up in a quilt.

    Think outside the box for decorations. We had to cover a metal door and exit sign because it was right behind where we were going to stand. Some batting overlaid with lace curtains did the trick cheaply and looked beautiful.

    I had some friends play the music for our wedding, but at the reception just had a CD player going with some soft background music. (We aren’t big dancers so having a band wasn’t important.)

  • kj says:

    our wedding budget was $2,000, I made the flower arrangements and bridesmaid and my flowers. All were FAKE, which is a no no, but, I didn’t have the money to spend on more. I just used solid yellow roses all clustered tightly together, wrapped ribbon around them and they were done. I used white roses on mine, wrapped with big fat silky ribbon and it was lovely..
    A friend did the reception, little foods and such, very lovely, but simple…
    CD player under a table with a table cloth that had a mix cd playing instead of a dj or something else
    we bought my wedding ring at a pawn shop, I get compliments every day for my “vintage” looking ring. I bought my husbands ring through James Avery, very affordable.
    we made our programs
    we got married 10 years ago so I didn’t know about making my own invitations, I would so being doing that now days.
    We did NOT skimp on giving our pastor a gift of $$, so happy that we did that. I think they often get the last of the care, and it is their day off usually, so I would recommend remembering and budgeting for that.
    Decide on what is the most important thing and spend money there and cut costs everywhere else.
    My first place to skip would be little gifts that will be thrown away!!! What a waste! If you must give something, don’t just give something out of guilt.
    One of my friends gave out m&m’s in pastel wrapped in fabric, it took forever to make and was such a headache, who even cared if they go that? Skip things which make no sense but your MIL tells you are a must. (I know, not nice, but you get the drift)

  • Jessica says:

    DIY DIY DIY

    I’m doing my own flowers to eliminate vendor cost and markup. I hit ebay for ties and we found $200 ties for $10! You can do your own invites and programs and have them printed cheaply. We got my fiance’s suite for $150 dollars on clearance and he can wear it again. We have a small wedding party and each is wearing a black suit that they have or are buying and the girls are wearing simple black dresses they already had.

    It really also depends what kind of wedding you want or need to have. You can elope quite quickly and have a small reception at someone’s home pretty inexpensively.

    There are lots of great wedding blogs out there for ideas:

    http://www.diybride.com/
    http://www.weddingfanatic.com/
    http://snippetandink.blogspot.com/
    http://100layercake.com/blog/
    http://bklynbrideonline.com/
    http://www.oncewed.com/

  • Samantha says:

    I worked at a florist and with caterers for years. During that time I saw a number of neat ways people pulled off a wedding on a budget. Some other ideas I thought are worthy of mentioning:

    1. Plan the wedding for morning or midafternoon. Morning is great if you want outdoors. This way it is easy to serve just cake, punch and mints and nobody is expecting food.
    2. If you are planning a church wedding, try to schedule it around a time when the church (or other location for that matter) will be decorated anyway (Easter, Christmas, etc…) I have even heard of brides sharing decorations.
    3. I saw several beautiful weddings where the family provided houseplants borrowed from relatives or purchased ferns and had us place them. With so many lovely green plants, only a few decorations were needed.
    4. If you don’t know how to make bows, go to a class at your local craft store (Michael’s, Hobby Lobby) Drag your bridesmaids and family too. Someone is bound to pick up this skill. Florists charge $10-50 for bows(!). I saved a lot by making my own.
    5. This one may sound a little strange, but I scheduled my wedding for a 4th of July weekend. I was able to invite all the people I “had” to invite (and unfortunatly this happens all too often) but only the people the really wanted to be there came since so many had other plans. It was also nice for our families to have a few days off built in.
    5. If there is a flower you love that blooms when you get married USE IT. I love hydrangeas. My mother and aunt ended up asking people all over our town if they could cut off their blooms for my wedding. Many agreed and it was gorgeous and cheap!

  • Kelly says:

    Try getting your flowers and cake from a grocery store. We got all our flowers and cake for around $550 from Jewel and they will all look fabulous!

    Also, if you must serve food, try doing a morning wedding with a lunch reception. You can probably negotiate down at your wedding location and we’re paying $20 less per person for the same food!

  • Rebecca says:

    I’m in the midst of planning a frugal – and long distance – wedding right now (less than 3 months to go!). We had a long, 18 month engagement so we have been able to pay for things as we go. However, we’re both in graduate school and have little money left over each month after our expenses. We have been blessed that we are not going into debt for this wedding. It has been a challenge for sure!

    One of the biggest money savers for us was the invitations. We decided to make them ourselves – from scratch. We went to a local craft store when they were having a blowout sale and stocked up on sheets of scrapbook paper, glue, etc. I bought extra printer cartridges when Target had a giftcard rebate, and also from Wags when they had rebates offered for refills. We chose to do postcards for RSVPS instead of the traditional card and envelope and saved a bundle on that as well. Total, including postage, we paid about $150 for 80 invitations that would have cost us nearly $400 if we had ordered them. Check out stationary websites for ideas and with a little practice you can get them down in no time!

    We also are making our own favors – wedding cake shaped cookies – using an old family recipe. I love to bake and my sister is quite handy with a piping bag, so we’re saving a lot there as well.

    Last tip as this is getting long, the dress. I went to 5 different dress shops – discount chain stores, small local boutiques, etc. – and tried on over 50 dresses before picking “the one” (can you tell I’m indecisive?). When it came time to order, I was in between dress sizes based on my measurements. I opted to pay the extra $75 up front to have the dress “cut to measure”. This has saved me hundreds of dollars as the dress arrived fitting me perfectly. Had I ordered a set size, I would have shelled out hundreds in alterations.

    Good luck!

  • Kelly says:

    Some excellent lpaces to look for wedding dresses are craigslist or thrift stores. Also look in the penny saver (if you have one near you) You can also find great bridesmaid dresses this way. we have the dollar tree stores by me and they ALWAYS have cute wedding items. You can do wonders with there products if you are just a little crafty. Good luck on your future wedding and marriage

  • Robyn says:

    All great points, Crystal. I was a wedding planner for several years, and I would say that point #3 is the best advice your readers could hope to get! The wedding industry is a giant machine, and women are convinced by all the magazines that they must have every little aspect to make a “perfect” wedding, which is just not the case. In fact, it is always those same women who are then disappointed when the elaborate, expensive show they have spent so much time on doesn’t fulfill their dreams of perfection. Decide what’s important to you as a couple, and hang the rest, I say. Also, remember that a wedding is NOT a marriage; it’s a chance to share something incredibly meaningful with all those you care for, NOT an opportunity for the bride to be a diva. If you think of it as “YOUR day”, you’re missing the point entirely!

  • Megan says:

    I wore a bridesmaid dress for my wedding dress. I selected a dress and then asked for it to be ordered in white. Not all dresses can be ordered in white, but ask around. It was just what I wanted–at a fraction of the cost!

    We also held our wedding late on a Friday evening. It was much cheaper than holding a Saturday night wedding.

  • Jenny says:

    We spent less than $2,000 for everything in our wedding (except for my ring, which my husband still won’t tell me how much it cost). We had a huge luncheon at a favorite restaurant. Here’s a couple of the transferable savings tips that we learned:

    – lunches are much cheaper than dinners at many restaurants. Get married late morning and have a nice luncheon for a fraction of the price.
    -we got my dress from Jessica McClintock. It was much cuter and more well made than the ones at the bridal stores–for only $125!
    -keep in mind that the wedding industry wants you to believe you NEED this and that to have a wedding. Really, all you need is the groom, the bride, and the officiant. From the rest, pick the things that matter to you most–but don’t get sucked up in the industry of it all.

    Congrats and best wishes for a happy marriage.

  • Southern Gal says:

    My daughter is getting married in May. We are trying to be frugal with all the planning. It’s been tough, but things are working out for us. Thanks for some of your ideas.
    Her theme is “Southern Vintage”.
    Areas we have saved in:
    Handmade invitations – everyone has raved about them.
    Our church has a flower room where everyone who has a wedding or event leave things they want to donate. We will be using a huge floral arrangement, two antique-looking candleabras, tulle, white bows, votives, and tablecloths from that room.
    Wedding gown – she’s wearing mine with minor alterations I did myself.
    Flowers – we’re going to a florist warehouse to pick up flowers the day before the wedding for bouquets, etc. The other flowers are going to be wildflowers that we and relatives with green thumbs have planted for us.
    Decorations – we’re using an old Martha Stewart idea for lighting at the reception. Mason jars with votive candles hung up with wire holders and ribbon. Old milk jugs my daddy collected with wildflowers in them for table decorations. Galvanized buckets of wildflowers and ferns others are loaning us.
    The cake is from a bakery, but it’s not a traditional cake and is costing at least a third of what even a Wal Mart cake would cost.
    The hardest part has been the photographer. The cheapest one is going to be as much as all our other expenses combined! We’re still praying and waiting to see what happens.
    Through it all, it’s just been FUN trying to see how we can get what she loves at a price that we all love.

  • Melissa says:

    I really like this post. I was in the same boat this time last year. Personally, I did not want a “traditional” wedding at all. My husband bought my dress (with me there of course) at Lane Bryant off the clearance rack – paid $30. It was red and black and it was very pretty. We only had one attendant each – our best friends and our moms were there. Just a ceremony. My mom gave us a nice reception the weekend following. My aunt made the wedding cake for about $80 total – 3 tiers, 3 different flavors with filling. I baked the groom’s cake 2 weeks in advance and froze the layers and icing. It was thawed and assembled before the reception. I got invitations on clearance at a party supply store and printed them myself and all the address labels too. We also got napkins, plastic tablecloths, forks, etc. on sale at the party place. Went to Sam’s Club for the finger foods. All total it was about $700 for about 50-60 people. That was decorations for the fellowship hall too. My mom recruited friends and family to decorate, set-up, prepare food and serve. My cousin, who could be a professional photographer, took our pictures. That was his gift to us. He gave us a CD and we could print as many as we wanted. They are gorgeous and didn’t cost us anything. Knowing people is the key. I wish Angel all the best for her wedding and i know she will be on budget!!

  • Sariah says:

    I had an inexpensive wedding – but not because I was smart enough to desire to be frugal, but because we were very poor.

    All of my money saving came from networking – from who we knew and by using the talents of people around us.

    My mother made my wedding dress and bridesmaids’ dresses. I rented a veil and wore some white dress shoes I already had.

    These days you could do invitations very inexpensively on your own computer – which you couldn’t really do when I got married. I had an aunt who owned a business where she could do the invitations for me at cost, and include a bridal package for free which had things like a garter, bride and groom glasses and a cake cutter. My father-in-law, who does photography as a hobby, took our invitation picture.

    An uncle is a chef, and he bought the food (we had a buffet and NOT a sit down dinner) at cost, prepared it for us as our wedding gift, and then whatever we didn’t use he returned and refunded our money. That uncle’s mother was a cake decorator and she made us an elaborate multi-tiered cake (with a waterfall in the middle) for $75 (and to this day family members still tell us it was the best wedding cake they’d ever had).

    Another aunt knew of a decorating service that would convert church gymnasiums into a gorgeous reception – it was worth the money to hire them to set it up and take all the decorations down – and they only cost $500 (they provided everything including centerpieces and table cloths). Plus, we got our church’s gym for free (so no cost there for the reception).

    A cousin recommended an excellent photographer who did our wedding for very little, and gave us all the negatives. The florist we used was the wife of one of my husband’s co-workers who made beautiful bouquets for us at cost.

    I’d let everyone know that I was getting married and that you needed to be as frugal as you possibly could. You might be surprised by the help your friends and family can give you by who they know or what they can do.

  • Daina says:

    One thing that let us keep costs down was holding the reception in a park pavilion. This isn’t possible everywhere or in all seasons, but it was great for September in Maryland and it was just our style. We worked everything out — catering, drinks, music — and had lots of folding fans out in case it got a bit warm (which it did). Perfect.

    We got our wedding invitations printed with VIstaPrint, and they turned out quite nicely! As members of Ebates we got a 50 percent off coupon at one point plus cash back, so it was a great deal. These coupons come around every once in a while, if you’re able to plan ahead.

    Also, my husband made the wedding cake! It wasn’t that hard, but getting it there did add a bit of stress to the big day. It was worth it for us, but I know some people thought we were crazy. Not all caterers are willing to let you provide parts of the meal, but ours was. We also bought the drinks ourselves, which saved us some money.

    We had some family members make the bouquets and arrange the other flowers, and it turned out beautifully. At the very least, fresh wedding bouquets are totally easy to make, even if you have no prior experience.

    And wedding favors are not a necessity. We weren’t going to have any, but then I guess the fans ended up being favors, since people could take them home if they wanted.

  • Lacey says:

    If you buy a dress, you can often get a discount for buying it “off the rack” instead of special ordering it. It also eliminates the time many brides have to wait for their dress to come in (often months!). Thankfully, I bought one off the rack, and it fit perfectly!

    Also, with the help of a few ladies (mom, sisters, sisters-in-law), I bought my own flowers wholesale online (at freshroses.com, but there are other sites) and arranged our own bouquets/boutonnieres, etc. You could find out if any of your local floral shops offer flower-arranging classes. Taking classes is a small expense and tremendous help!

    And my husband and I like donuts more than cake, so we contacted a local donut producer, and they gave us a discount. We got 300 donuts for $62.50, and then borrowed a three-tiered cake stand to arrange them on. Inexpensive, fun, and totally US.

    Be creative! And don’t be afraid to not compete with the Joneses!

  • Megan says:

    Love this post! I got married in ’07 and we had a beautiful ceremony, lunch reception, flowers and cake (the whole bit) w/55 guests for under $2500. I have far more advice than could fit in a comment, but I’ll mention the major ways we saved money:
    1) We were only engaged 2 months (and were leaving for Africa 2 days after the wedding!), but that was great for us. We had to plan very effectively and simply. Sometimes too much time enables you to buy more stuff than you need. But this varies from person to person, of course!
    2) Consider doing your own flowers. We ordered ours from Costco (roses, greens, spider mums and alstromeria for personal and table arrangements) and I arranged them with my mom and sisters the day before. They were BEAUTIFUL and only cost $130 (including supplies & a practice bunch). There are tons of online tutorials (including YouTube videos) to help you.
    3) We shopped around for a church. I had been living out of state and wasn’t connected w/ my parents’ church anymore (besides, it wasn’t exactly pretty!), so I contacted 7-10 churches in the area until I found one (stone, stained-glass, industrial kitchen, the whole bit) that only charged $300 for the sanctuary and use of their fellowship hall/kitchen for the reception.
    4) I bought a brand new dress (discontinued design) at a local shop for $100.Ebay is also a good option for a dress.
    5) My husband and his 2 groomsmen wore black suits.
    6) My husband actually made our two-tiered wedding cake! He used boxed cake mixes (like most bakers do these days), made a delicious ganache filling and decorated it simply with swirled frosting and flowers. It was an incredibly special wedding present.
    7) A friend who used to have a small photography business did the photos
    8) We had a simple classy-picnic style reception that cost around $10/person. Chicken BBQs are also a good option.
    9) We cut the guest list WAY down. Only invite the people you really, really want to be there on your special day. Be strong and try to resist family politics!
    10) Congrats, Angel! (if you have questions about any of this, esp. flower arranging, feel free to e-mail me at megs92 at hotmail dot com)

  • Eden C. says:

    great ideas! and that was a good question. my husband & i just celebrated our first anniversary sunday. 🙂

    one thing i had thought of was about corsages. of course, they are definately something that you can do without. however, we knew a lady who knew how to make them, so the day before the wedding, we all had a fun time making them together. they are not hard to do & we just kept them in water till we needed them. if you don’t know anyone who can do this, of course you can google it or try finding a demonstration on youtube.

    we really found out how much we could make ourselves throughout the course of planning our wedding. my husband made the invitations & we ordered them through a store that was local (so we picked them up, no shipping fee.) my mom also bought the materials to make my veil & it turned out lovely.

    another thing that we made ourselves were the party favors. this is another thing i don’t think is necessary & people definately do put a lot of money into them buying them pre-made. we just used some tuille to make little “bags” that we put two hershey kisses into. then we tied it with ribbon of my wedding color. my mom also printed out tags (just at home) that said, “Hugs & Kisses from the New Mr. & Mrs.” 🙂

    there are just so many things you can make yourself! it does take more time, which is something you will want to consider, but is definately worth the money you save!

    hope some of that helps. congrats!

  • Trixie says:

    Hello,

    What great tips for the upcoming wedding season! We did just about all of these to keep our wedding costs down and we had a beautiful wedding.

    The one thing that was really important to us was having a nice buffet style sit down dinner so all of our family could enjoy visiting and catchin up with each other. We spent the most money for this. To compensate, we didn’t spend much on the areas that did’nt matter as much to us.

    I would have to add one more piece of advice to the bride to be: Don’t feel like you have to do what everybody else is doing. Just focus on planning a wedding that’s right for you and what you can comfortably afford! You will have a wonderful time:)

    Regards,

    Trixie

  • Jessica says:

    We also had a VERY limited budget for our wedding! We incorporated many of the ideas listed above in order to save money. In addition to these we had our reception in the church’s reception hall and only had to pay the custodian $50 for clean-up! This was one of the BIGGEST money savers because reception halls are so expensive. I also had all the time in the world to decorate because they let us come all day on Thursday to decorate! I am a very crafty person and made the bridesmaids’ flowers and the groomsmen’s boutonnieres! Saving this money allowed me to order my bouquet and the mother’s corsages. I also had my cousin and uncle take pictures at the reception so that we were not charged extra by the professional photographers! Good Luck with your wedding! Hope these ideas help!

  • Laura says:

    by making the center pieces yourself you can save money theres a few diy websites just search diy centerpieces or diy wedding centerpieces

  • Kathryn says:

    My blog is all about weddings, and I have several posts about planning a lovely wedding on a budget:

    http://snippetandink.blogspot.com/search/label/budget

    I hope they’re helpful!

  • We had pots of flowers for our centerpieces. We painted terra cotta pots and grew the flowers from seeds. We only spent about $20 for all the centerpieces. They added a lot of color to the tables and really helped us reign in our floral budget. I wanted roses in my bouquet, so we splurged on a dozen for me, only three roses for my maid of honor mixed with carnations and only carnations for the bridesmaids. The fillers were the same and the bouquets looked beautiful for a fraction of the cost. We had baskets at the alter and moved them to the reception site after the ceremony to stretch the budget further.

  • Angie says:

    Another idea is to look at local museums for a location to wed. Some friends of ours just recently married in the DFW area and did so at a museum for free! There is one catch…you had to buy a piece of artwork from them. I thought that was a very cool idea.

  • Amy says:

    I made my own wedding invitations. I had a friend who is a great photographer take our picture and used that as the focus of out invitation. And I only used one envelope to ship them. And I made copies at Kinkos.
    My mom also helped me make my veil using a veil kit from Joann’s fabric – it was about $16 total. And then I let two of my friends borrow it for their weddings.
    My aunt made our cake as a wedding gift to us.

  • Jessica says:

    Your advice was spot on! We did a lot of the same things and didn’t spend a lot on our wedding, either. You want your wedding to be beautiful, but it’s one day and it’s much more important to prepare for the marriage.

    I wanted to weigh in with the fact that a wedding CAN be planned frugally even if you DON’T have a lot of time. We planned a wedding in 3 months and did it on a budget! The fact that our wedding was so close at hand meant that people offering services (photographer, florist, etc) weren’t booked that weekend and wanted our business. Like you said, make lots of phone calls, get several quotes and narrow things down. I spent every lunch break on the phone with my notebook!

  • Jennifer Zandstra says:

    I have one thing to add… DO NOT SKIMP ON WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY. If having photos actually matters to you (since it’s the only thing you’ll have left when it’s over), it should be a majority of what you’re paying for… a good photographer is worth the money, and a bad photographer will leave you in tears years later.

    I made the mistake of hiring someone because they were cheap, and my pictures are all blurry and awful. I got better pictures from my friends with point-and-shoots, and that’s not saying much.

    A good photographer is worth their weight in gold.

  • Kimberly says:

    Craigslist is great! You can make a post under the “wanted” section explaining that you’re planning a wedding on a budget. You might be able to get things for free or cheap from others in your area!

  • Jennifer says:

    We make wedding invitations, and it’s INCREDIBLY helpful for the bride to be up front about her budget when we first start talking. If I know what she wants, then I don’t waste her time with more extravagent invitations. I listen to what she wants style-wise and design something that is simpler but still beautiful! So being up front with vendors in the area of budget is a must in my book.

  • Sara says:

    If I had it all to do over, I would do some things differently. I was really blessed to have a mom and dad who had saved most of my life and were able to give us a very nice wedding. It wouldn’t have won awards in a magazine or anything, but it was very nice. However, I’ve been to other weddings and have seen some of the thoughtful (and frugal) things other brides have done. Here is one wedding I particularly loved – a friend from college had a musical family so his family members played all the wedding music. He also had a family member who was the minister who performed the ceremony. They invited close family friends to each bake several dozen cookies. For their reception they borrowed some beautiful antique silver trays and loaded them up with the beautiful (and delicious) array of cookies. The only catering they had was from a coffee company who provided some gourmet coffees and teas to go with the cookies. This couple loved to have dates at coffee houses and this reflected them. I love to see weddings where the couples take ideas from things that are personal to them – family, friends, and shared activities – and figure out ways to incorporate it into the experience. I think this approach can be low budget (like cookies your friends bake for you) and still have so much heart and be beautiful! Congrats!

  • Honey says:

    I could not agree with you more. Especially number five. I only paid one person to serve in our wedding. Of coarse, we gave gifts to people who served, but only the cake (which was seriously discounted as a friend of the family made it) was something we paid someone to make. Everything else was a display or love by our friends and family-which made it much more special than paying a stranger to do it all! The flowers my mother bought wholesale and arranged herself. (I have also heard of people getting flowers at places like Sam’s). We bought food and a bunch of friends (whose weddings I had helped with) made all the food. A friend (who used to work with a photographer) took beautiful pictures. Then we took the negatives to a photo developer and had what we wanted printed and sized. And some of our favorite shots were just taken candidly by friendsusing their black and white settings on their digital cameras and given to us as gifts. We even used one for our Christmas card the first year and it made a very nice black & white card. Even the venue was just a quaint church with an unbelievablely low fee). When it was all said and done we spent $2000 ($1000 of which my father gave us back the day of the wedding). I was really glad he hadn’t offered to give us something before as I would have just “upgraded” the wedding if I knew. This way, we had money afterward to do things on our honeymoon with. My friend made the dress and it was custom, elegant, wonderful-and $300!!! I think our whole church was involved in helping us with our wedding. What I remember from that day was the fact that God had done such a beautiful thing in bringing us together and I felt the love of my friends/family. Beyond that,the details have faded and those decisions that seemed “so important” now are not. (Today is our 9 year anniversary!!!!!!!-yes, we’re April Fools!) The important thing is, it’s not just a wedding, its a marriage-that’s where the investment should be made. The wedding celebration lasts a few hours-debt can last for years. And put alot of stress on a new marriage and hinder your future dreams.

  • Ashlei says:

    Here are some money saving ideas that I used when I got married almost 7 years ago.

    1. Have your wedding and reception at the same place. I had mine at a temple and I then only had to decorate and set-up in one location.
    2. The venue I got married at allowed outside food as long as it was from a licensed caterer. My great-aunt had been wanting to get her catering license, so she took the classes and did the food for my wedding. I saved so much money doing it this way!
    3. I bought my flowers from Sams and then a friend of mine put the bouquets together, although I think I could have done it myself. Even if you need to have someone make the mens flowers, at least you saved on the bouquets.
    4. The day after Thanksgiving, Michaels runs a special (at least for the last several years they have) where you get extra, extra savings on purchases. I bought all my flowers, bubbles, etc. at that time to get the best deal.
    5. We wanted our pictures to be taken at a garden in our area, but they would have charged us $6 dollars for every person to enter. SO, we just took bride and groom pictures there, and then the whole wedding party met at a city park close by for outside pictures.
    6. We had a local baker make a beautiful, small wedding cake that we cut and used for pictures. However, we had my aunt make her “famous” sheet cakes in all different flavors that we served to everyone. We cut the cakes in the kitchen and brought them out. Nobody even knew the difference and everyone commented at how wonderful the cake was!
    7. We had our wedding at 6pm and then served finger food and cake at the reception. We saved so much money by not serving a dinner. We just put that appetizers would be served on the invitation so people would know to eat ahead of time.
    8. I had a friend, who was the mother of one of my students and a make-up artist, do my makeup. She did it for free as my wedding gift. So, find friends that are talented to help cover some of the costs of different services.
    9. I would definitely print my own invitations now. It wasn’t as popular when I got married so I bought mine, but I wish I could have had the option of doing my own.
    10. You could call a photography school and see if anyone getting their photography license would be interested in shooting at your wedding for practice and a discounted price!
    Good luck and God Bless!

  • great ideas… We kept it simple and had friends/family do the flowers, reception decorating, pictures, etc. I collected pictures from magazines and catalogs of things I liked and was able to make some things at a better price! I had learned from attending lots of weddings and being a part of a few family members’ weddings that I didn’t want a huge reception or lots of “fluff” (in otherwords, too many decorations!). Making it fit your style and personality is important, but the most important aspect is the fact that you’re getting married–and marriage is a life-long commitment. Too many people focus so much on the wedding that they forget that they need to prepare for marriage.

    One more thing–I bought my husband’s ring on overstock.com using a coupon. To this day, I have not told him how much his titanium ring cost–but it was a lot cheaper than his college class ring!

  • LadyCiani says:

    Look into all-inclusive packages at resorts or hotels. The large hotel/conference center we used threw in the room, tables, chairs, white table linens, bud vase centerpiece, dance floor, plates and utensils, the 3 servers, and even the cake all for the cost of the catered chicken meal for 40 (approx $1,500 total). If I had gone to a local hall or country club I would have had arrange for all of them myself, and pay separately for each item, with the cake alone potentially costing upwards of $600 (if bought from a bakery). Major savings there. Also, you get a coordinator to help you with organizing your event, arranging the decorations and table set-up before and clean-up after. A wedding coordinator can easily cost a percentage of the wedding total – not cheap.

    Alcohol is expensive, and is separate from food costs. Don’t assume you have to have an “open bar,” especially if you don’t drink. If family members grumble, then why are you inviting someone who is coming only for the alcohol? Limiting the time alcohol is available, issuing drink coupons (2 per person, for example), or offering only generic types of beer or wine are also excellent options. We offered house beer and red and white wine only for a couple of hours, then only sodas or water, and the cost was extremely reasonable.

    The best cost-savings? I rented my dress from a local store in Los Angeles. My mom’s dress was aged and damaged so it was not usable. I rented a beautiful, designer-name dress for the same amount I would have paid to buy an off-the rack mega-store dress. Minor hemline alterations were astoundingly cheap, the rental included the poofy under skirt, cleaning, and damage insurance. Now I don’t have to store the dress somewhere in my limited amount of apartment space, and someone else can enjoy it too! (ultimate recycling)

  • jessica says:

    My husband and I planned our wedding in just 3 months. He was graduating from college, and I was quitting my job to begin grad school 2 weeks after our wedding. My family is “working poor” and his is middle class, so none of our parents had loads of money to spend.

    We did our wedding for less than $2k. Really.
    My dress was found at Marshall Field’s in downtown Chicago for $28. It was technically a prom dress and I got it after prom clearance. It was white with irridescent tulle and spaghetti straps, and was just what I wanted. The photography was important to me, and my father in law worked with a professional photographer, who charged a minimal fee and gave us proofs and a cd to print as much as we wanted from.

    For food, we got meat and cheese trays, veggies and fruit at SAM’s Club and a sheet cake from Giant Eagle. Beverages were punch, coffee and tea, and it was in the social hall of the church.

    When my husband’s older sister got married a year and a half before we did, they had the full blown catered meal, and the whole works (including open bar)… and ya know, *they aren’t any less married than we are*.

    Invest in your marriage, not you wedding!

  • One way that we saved money was having a cake and punch reception at the church. We decided to have a really nice rehearsal dinner for friends, family and the wedding party the night of the rehersal. This was a great opportunity to relax, have a nice dinner and visit. This way we were able to have a nice dinner without spending a lot of money or excluding people. Wedding guests don’t expect to be invited to the rehersal dinner. If you are looking to save money on a dress, check your local thrift stores. We have a store in Kansas City (The Resale Shop) that has an entire section of beautiful and even some designer wedding dresses. Most of the dresses are priced between $75 – $200! These are not old dated dresses, they are really nice ones. You might want to check and see if you have anything like that locally!

  • Kim Carlile says:

    I rented my wedding dress. I’m not super sentimental and didn’t care about having to keep and store it. For under $300 I got the dress with all the alterations, veil, the undergowns and it was pressed, cleaned and ready to go. After the wedding my Mom dropped it off for me.
    We also pre-ordered our flowers from Costco. I had a sister who could make the bouquet and arrangements, so we were able to have a lot of beautiful flowers at our reception, with very little cost.

  • Stephanie says:

    For our wedding we did not have a multi tiered cake. Instead we had a small cake for my husband and I to cut, and everyone else had cupcakes. It went over very well, and we had no waste at the end of the night. People seemed to be more drawn to eating a cupcake than a piece of cake. It really worked well for us!

  • Katherine says:

    Table decorations are a necessity, but they are a nice touch. We had a friend who borrowed or bought glass bud or single stem vases inexpensively at a thrift store and put a taper candle in each. They didn’t match and that made it all the more beautiful. The wedding was during peony season and they didn’t need many large flowers so what they did need they took from friend’s gardens. My mother was happy to donate several peony blooms. It’s also possible to find plenty of candles at garage sales and even on Craigslist.

  • Stacy says:

    Sounds like great advice! My husband and I had a huge (450 people) but beautiful wedding for $5000. We didn’t serve food, just cake and ice cream (my husband doesn’t like cake) and everyone was fine with it. My sister did our flowers (which we bought at Sams) and a good friend had a lot of contacts for decorations and the ice cream. Make sure to take up any and every offer for help! I have a large family and we’re all used to pitching in for everyone’s weddings. Oh and we also did the sheet cake thing – they’re very yummy and cheap at Costco.
    David’s Bridal has seasonal sales and I was able to get a nice dress there for $100 and my mom made my veil for about $6!
    It can be done, good luck!

  • karen says:

    Get married on a WEEKDAY!!! This worked for us because most of the guests were out of town family that had to fly in anyway–the few local guests did have to leave work early but no one seemed to mind. We also did not have attendents. My father and MIL signed as witnesses.

    A few months later, we had a reception in my hometown–BBQ in my parent’s backyard. Not much expense and everyone had a great time.

  • Charlotte says:

    Our wedding photographer was trying to break into the business. She wanted to specialize in black and white photos, in turn she shot our wedding for free if we agreed to let her use our photos. We happily oblidged.

    We also have a friend who contacted her local university and had a student do hers.

    Ask around for photographers – someone may know a SAHM who enjoys this type of thing (I know several in my area).

    Wedding dresses – check craigslist. The way the economy is right now I’m sure there are several people who are getting rid of their dresses to help out financially at home.

    We didn’t want a long drawn out engagement so we planned our entire wedding in under 6 weeks. MY FIL is a pastor so we knew we would have at least 500 in attendance – we miniamlized as well – cake, punch, water, peanuts and mints. No need to have a feast.

    Our bridal party, but consisted mostly of little kids who were actively involved in our lives. We were fortunate that their parents had money so they all looked nice. As for our bridal party, I bought a swatch of fabric and sent it to each of them, then they got to pick a dress that they wanted to buy and wear again.

    Our biggest blessing was one of my precious friends surprised me one day by taking me to a bridal store and telling me to pick out whatever wedding dress I wanted. Her and her husband knew that money was tight and they wanted that to be their gift to me. I still went cheap ($200.00) but it saved us money!

    Congras and good luck!

  • julie says:

    Great advice.
    Just be careful with the “I have only $XX to spend.” There are people out there who will make sure that whatever you get will cost every last cent of that amount.

  • Amy D says:

    We were married in our church, which we were members of at the time. Because we were members we were able to use the facility for free. I also had a friend do my hair, which saved me $50 or more.

  • Jennifer B. says:

    We are planning a wedding in October 2009. My parents are paying for most of the expenses. However, I refuse to spend their money any differently than I spend my own. Here are some ways we have cut costs so far:

    1. When shopping for a bridal gown I looked only in my price range (so there was no chance I would “fall in love with a dress that was too costly and talk myself into spending more than I ought to). I ended up buying one from David’s Bridal that was recently discontinued. It retailed once for nearly $1, 000. I got it for $450. I will save it for a daughter one day, if I am so blessed.

    2. My accessories (earing, necklace, etc.) will all be borrowed. This takes care of my something old and borrowed. I did splurge on shoes though.

    3. My bridesmaids are all buying their own dresses. I was sure to pick a style they really can wear again, and choose a relatively inexpresive one. Some of them have already decided they will sell them on Ebay afterwards. They are ech wearing shoes thay already own, rather than buying new ones. The guys, including the ring bearer (my son) will be in rented tuxedos. I am still shopping around. If anyone has any tips on a great deal in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia I would appreciate the info.

    4. I bought the flowergirl’s dress on Ebay, used at a great price.

    5. Church Decor – We are skipping the pew decorations and huge flower displays. Our church is beautiful the way it is! Decorations will be limited to two small arranements at the alter (only because my mom insists upon it). We are skipping programs too… everyone knows what is going to happen!!!

    6. We are using quality fake flowers for the bouquets, corsages, boutiners, and arrangements. All we have to do is purchase the supplies at the craft store, and they arrange them for FREE! We are saving a ton this way. Plus, the bouqets can be kept. I am giving all of my bridesmaids a vase to keep them in as a gift.

    7. The reception hall we booked is full service. They offer a range of lable linen, centerpiece, and decor options, and do all the set up and take down. So we don’t have to hire individual vendors. They also do the catering. We are a big Italian family. Food is a must. We splurged on food!

  • Amber says:

    We spent $700 on our wedding. It was mid-evil themed, and I bought a white “princess” dress on ebay from a lady who hand makes them. My sil made my husband’s “prince” outfit. He wore a real sword at his hip, borrowed from a dear friend who collects these kind of things. That same friend gave me away, and wore complete “knight’s” garb, that he already owned. We borrowed stands and fake flower arrengements from a friend who owns a gift shop. My mom, moh, and I decorated before the wedding. The most expensive part was renting the grounds, which cost $450 for the whole day. But it was important to us to be handfasted outdoors, and the scenery there was gorgeous. I made my own wedding cake, with the help of a friend. It was a three dimentional castle, and it was awesome (and delicious)! It was also important to us to serve a “feast” to our guest, in celebration. But the food was the same theme as wedding. Think roast chicken and potatoes, hand-torn loaves of bread, fresh fruits, and of course ale and homemade wine! My grandmother, moh, and I did most of the cooking the day before, then used the ovens in the kitchen of the banquet hall to heat the food up for the reception. We had about 60 guests, just those friends and family closest to us. Our wedding pictures were taken by our guest, bc our photographer had an accident on the way to our wedding. (he’s ok) Everyone had a wonderful time, and everything was so beautiful!

  • Kristy Caver says:

    As far as flowers, ask what will be in season to save money as well. My florist says that many brides come in stating they want a specific flower. Most florists will say, “No problem!”, but may charge you an arm and a leg to ship it in from whatever part of the world where the flower is in season. My wedding was in October in California. White roses were in season. I got 5 gorgeous bridesmaid bouquets, my bouquet, 4 parent corsages, 5 groomsmen boutonnieres, the “toss” bouquet and two centerpieces for $350.

  • LisaGrace says:

    I am eight weeks away from my wedding! I had a relatively tight budget as well and have LOADS of great ideas! I’ll keep it short and post a few.

    I like what Crystal said, “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?” I’ve adopted a similar philosophy.

    -My greatest finds have been online. Between envelopes, printing, ribbon, and flowers, I’ve saved loads of money online!
    Here are some websites I highly recommend!

    Printing: http://www.vistaprint.com-This website is AMAZING! We printed postcards for our save-the-dates, RSVP cards, and thank you notes. We got them ALL printed for FREE and paid about $6 dollar shipping on each bundle of 100 (TIP: sign up first and wait about a week or so, you’ll begin getting loads of emails with advertisements like, “100 free postcards!”)

    Envelopes: Envelopes can be the most expensive part of invitations! I found a very affordable website for envelopes. Just shop around, online, not in stores.

    Ribbon: If you need ANY ribbon AT ALL, go here: http://www.jkmribbonsandtrims.com, I purchased 300 yards used for invites, decorations, etc. (yes that’s right, 300!) of ribbon for under $35.00 after shipping and handling!

    Flowers: I’m using samsclub.com for my flowers. I have a friend who used to arrange flowers for a local flower shop who is putting together the arrangements. I’ll spend less then $200.00 for all of my bouquets and centerpieces!

    Lastly, I second Hobby Lobby! I haven’t used it much but I haven’t bought anything there less then 40% off.

    Feel free to email me for more ideas!

  • Angie T. says:

    Here are a few ways I was able to save money. Utilize the message board at http://www.theknot.com for your local area. I found loads of affordable vendors with tried and true reviews. I was able to get my 3 tier wedding cake for 100+ people that tasted awesome and looked nice for $100. The message boards were a great resource for directions on how to make things yourself. It was there that I got the idea to contact the bride getting married at my facility the same day to share a caterer and wedding flower centerpieces, etc. I saved a bundle that way.

    Also, call around to get a price for your wedding dress. I found my dress at store local to my house that wanted $1100. I was not about to spend that on a dress but I found it at a store near my parents house that didn’t have sales tax for $400…the same exact dress
    A friend of mine got her dress on ebay. It was a $2K dress that she got for $200. It was new and still had tags on it.

  • Heather says:

    We also had 5 1/2 months to plan our wedding, and everyone said “you’re crazy” and “you can’t do it.” Why not? We wanted to be married, not plan the social event of the year. Identify the things that are most important to you, and make those your priority both time and money wise. Mine were my dress, photography, and adding personal handmade touches since I like to think I’m artistic. 😀

    I bought my dress on ebay. I know that can be kind of risky, but it worked for me. I was fed up with really expensive, cookie-cutter dresses, and happened to find one online that I really loved. It was 6 sizes too big for me, so I took the picture to a lady who sewed and altered wedding dresses, and she said she could alter it down to my size even though it was incredibly intricate and elaborate. I paid $200 for the dress – it was brand new – and $150 for the alterations, and it fit wonderfully. My distant second choice would have been a dress on clearance at a bridal shop that was closing, I could have gotten it for $100 and a lot less money in alterations, but I was happy to “splurge” for a dress that I was so happy with.

    I cared a lot about pictures and spent a LOT of money on them. Even so, I wasn’t 100% happy with them. That’s going to happen – not everything is going to live up to your expectations. I don’t think anyone could have taken all the pictures I had floating around in my imagination.

    We handmade/sewed a lot of decorations for the church: banners to cover ugly spots on the church walls, candles, flags to wave as we were leaving instead of rice (though someone did give me their leftover rice things from their wedding, so we had both), etc. I used Hobby Lobby coupons also and spent very little on all this, and had a TON of fun making my own decorations.

    Think about the time of day you have your wedding. Ours was at 2, and we had a simple cake and punch reception at our church afterwards (no reception venue to rent and little food cost). Select close friends and family were invited to my parents house after that for a buffet dinner and informal folk dancing taught by my grandparents. It was a lot of fun.

    Crystal’s idea about being upfront with your florist about your budget is a very good idea. We did not do this and spent far too much on them, especially because they were not as important to me. If I were to do it again I would seriously consider getting a friend to do something very simple with flowers bought from Sam’s and potted plants from a nursery or something like that.

    The bridesmaid dresses were simple summer sundresses from the department store – much cheaper than bridesmaid dresses and surprisingly, much prettier and better made. The bridesmaids were grateful to have something they could actually feel comfortable wearing again.

    Don’t forget to save for the honeymoon – we were blessed with a free week stay in a friend’s beach condo and only had to spend money on food, gas, and a few fun outings. It was very relaxing and very special, and I’m glad we didn’t try to do something elaborate.

  • Jennifer says:

    I planned my wedding two years ago and we had a small budget too. With a little work, though, we ended up with a perfect wedding! A friend helped me design the invitations and we assembled them ourselves, we used a local DJ instead of a band, had the reception at a location that included the cake and serving, ordered flowers from Sam’s and assembled them ourselves, bought accessories from Michaels with 40% off coupons and Ikea, bought a dress off-the-rack for nearly half off…. the list goes on and on! The biggest thing is to have fun with it and remember that at the end of the day, as long as you end up married, the rest is icing on the cake (please excuse the pun). Have fun planning; you only get to do it once!

  • Summer says:

    We had a beautiful wedding w/out incurring any debt. Use resources available to you. My father in law is a pastor, so he was our officiant, and we got married in one of our sister churches, so that was free as well. We just used the reception hall in the church, so that was free. We served a buffet style lunch, which was much cheaper. Also, we saved lots of money by not serving alcohol. My husband’s family doesn’t drink, and I was not legally old enough when I got married, so that was an easy decision for us. You could just place one bottle of champagne at each table for a toast, and serve other, cheaper beverages during the reception.

    We aren’t big dancers, so we had no dj or live music during the reception. We just downloaded some of our favorite tunes and had them playing on a cd as background music.

    I bought my dress off the rack, on sale, and bought high enough heels that I didn’t need to pay for alterations.

    Lots of fresh flowers were really important to me, so I asked around, and found that one of my mom’s students owned a florist shop, so she gave me a great discount! Also, I just had my bridesmaids carry a single rose- it looked classy, and saved on the expense of boquets for each of them.

    I had always dreamed of having a harpist play at my wedding, and was surprised to find one that was very affordable. I think I paid $100 for her to play before and during the ceremony. It was beautiful.

    Rather than paying for a big stretch limo, opt for a town car. We were leaving straight from the church to the airport for our honeymoon, and choosing a Lincoln Town car over a stretch limo saved us over 50%, but still looked nice and saved us from driving and leaving a car at the airport for a week.

    We hired a professional photographer, but only got the most basic package. We also placed disposable cameras at each table at the reception for guests to take pictures. So we had our nice professional pictures, as well as fun candid pictures from the guests.

    Print your own invitations! There are some really nice kits out there now that make them look professional.

    Create your own wedding favors. There are lots of great options at places like Dollar Tree. I paid to have ribbon professionally printed w/ our names and wedding date, then used it to tie bows onto hershey kiss roses that my family and I hand made. They were beautiful, unique, and pretty inexpensive!

    Good luck!

  • Katey says:

    One thing I did to make my wedding special and unique without spending very much extra money at all was a little girls’ teaparty with the bride at the beginning of our reception. I have a post about it on my blog

    http://havingfunathomeblog.blogspot.com/search/label/wedding%20ideas

    Our reception was a casual outdoor barbecue with lots of games (volleyball, croquet, etc). It was cheap and people had a genuinely terrific time- lots of fun memories!

  • Lisa says:

    When my husband and I got married we were twenty years old, I was a full time college student, and my husband was a retail supervisor at a local electronics store. We had a small, mid-morning wedding with a brunch reception (at our church) around Christmas and instead of gifts we requested money (when asked !). We had our wedding at 10am and only had 40 people (close friends and relatives) there. A family friend’s sister owns a catering company so as a wedding gift she catered our wedding with a very upscale breakfast. Also, my friend was working for a photographer at the time and her boss took professional pictures of us for free and gave us all rights to the photos as well. Another family friend was friends with a wedding singer so we got a deeply discounted price. We had our reception at our church’s hall(for a donation of $50!) and since we were married in early December the church had already put up beautiful floral decorations in the hall and sanctuary so the flowers we purchased were for the bridesmaids, groomsmen, my husband, the alter, the tables in the hall, and myself. All other supplies were purchased at a discount store about 45 minutes away from my home. When asked what we wanted for a wedding gift we were honest and said that we would appreciate money. We set up a “wishing well” (purchased at any wedding supply store) at the front of our reception hall where people put monetary gifts inside as well. Word got around (as they usually do!) and on the big day most people gave us money. My husband’s grandfather paid for our honeymoon’s hotel stay as a wedding gift. My mom paid for my wedding dress as a wedding present and the bridesmaids’ dresses were purchased at Dillards (now Macy’s) instead of a wedding shop so they were much cheaper yet more beautiful. Overall we paid very little money for our wedding and the money we received actually paid for all of our wedding and our honeymoon. Our wedding was absolutely beautiful yet no one who was there (or who looks at our pictures) would realize how little we actually spent. Good luck!

  • Rebecca says:

    Don’t tell the vendors that it is for a wedding… as soon as they hear wedding… all they see are dollar signs in their eyes… tell them it’s for a party… you aren’t lying!! 🙂

  • Heather says:

    Christmas is a great time to get married because the churches are usually already decorated beautifully! Our local church goes all out at Christmas time and it would make for a wonderful way to save money (I know it is used often for weddings this time of year). Also, Ask the church if they have candelabras or pew candle sands. Using these can add a HUGE visual affect for very little money. An evening wedding with dimmed lights lets the candles create a warm, special and romantic setting).

    I have done flowers for several weddings (I used to work for a florist) over the past years….. one way to save money and still create a beautiful affect is with ribbon and greenery. You can use either fresh or silk greenery (use hobby lobby’s sales).

    A pretty and frugal center piece idea is to use china tea cups/saucers filled with flowering plants (or even ivy). The tea cups don’t have to match… scour thrift shops!

  • Amanda says:

    I had a December wedding and for our reception my mother in law used trees to decorate. It seems like everyone we knew had the set of three small Alpine pre-lite Christmas trees that you use to decorate your house or porch. She borrow all of them and set them up around an arch she decorated with greenery and flowers for us to stand under (we had a receiving line). I was skeptical but it was beautiful. The lights at the reception were dimmed and with all the twinkle lights it was like a little fairy forest. I have tons of ways we cut but that was my favorite. Let me know if you want more.

  • Marie says:

    Make-up and Hair: EVERYONE knows someone who does hair! And I mean everyone! So find and contact that someone in your life and see if they would be willing to be a part of your big day by doing your hair. My SIL did mine and it was a God-send! She did my hair a few days in advance to be sure that we got what I wanted. It was so great. And for the make-up, I prefer the natural look. But I didn’t want to do it myself because it was a special day, right? But guess what??? Department store make-up counters do free make-overs! Seriously, they do! So I called up my most favorite make-up brand department at Nordstroms (Clinique) and asked if they could do that for me and the answer was a ecstatic YES! They asked me to come in a few weeks in advance to do a test run to be sure that I got what I wanted and then I set up an appointment for my wedding day, about 2 hours before the ceremony. It all went so well. There was no cost to me, but I did buy some of the products that were used (powder and lipstick) for reapplication throughout the day. Totally worth it!

    Another thing that we was design our own wedding invites, buy the papers/announcements, and then hired a pritner. The invites only cost us $250 which included formal invites with printed envelopes, insert cards and thank you notes with envelopes. So dang cheap!!

  • Rachael says:

    Our biggest money-saver for our wedding was the fact that we didn’t have a dj and dancing. Our wedding was at noon with a lunch reception immediately afterward, and dancing didn’t seem appropriate for a lunch reception. (One reason we had the wedding at noon was to help out-of-town guests avoid having to shell out money to stay overnight at a hotel.)

    Also, because we didn’t need space for dancing, we were able to have our reception in the church fellowship hall. The church only asked us to pay $40 so they could pay the cleaning person afterward.

    In addition, serving lunch to our guests was much cheaper than serving dinner. We kept it simple. Our guests nibbled on fruit and veggie platters while we took some quick photos in the church immediately after the ceremony, and then for lunch we offered a choice of chicken or roast beef sandwiches with caesar salad … and cake for dessert.

    This is not exactly a big money-saver, but we felt funny about the garter toss, so we didn’t do that. It was one small thing we didn’t have to buy.

    And finally, we had an extremely simple honeymoon and saved for a year so we could take a nice first-anniversary trip to the United Kingdom. We drove 3 hours to Indianapolis, Indiana, and we didn’t have a specific agenda while in the city, but we knew there were lots of options if we wanted to go out – museums, theatres, zoo, restaurants, etc. So many people told us they were exhausted after their weddings but felt like they had to go out and do all sorts of activities on their honeymoons to get their money’s worth out of the trip. Instead, my husband and I knew we could go out if we wanted to, but we also were free to stay at our hotel and enjoy (ahem) life as newlyweds.

  • Katie says:

    Our wedding was very inexpensive – I found by making a lot of things myself I could save lots of money. I made my own favours, bridesmaids head-dresses, invitations and order of service. Also, many of our wedding presents were part of the wedding i.e. someone made the cake as their present to me, someone else sung, someone else made the bouquets, flowers in church and pin-holes (this made everyone feel part of the wedding and saved lots of money).

    My wedding cake doubled as a pudding – it was chocolate so no complaints there!!

    Another way of saving money is only have one meal rather than a wedding breakfast and then buffet – if you time the wedding right this is achievable. Many people I know just have an old fashioned afternoon tea which is lovely for summer weddings.

  • Michelle says:

    I don’t know what Angel’s budget looks like…but my wedding cost under $6000…including my dress (that was a splurge…but really WAS the ONE.) We saved money on location…rented an old church for very inexpensive and held the reception in a vintage hall…also inexpensive. We also kept the guest list small…80 guests including about a dozen kids. For the flowers we made sure they were in season. And the food (delicious buffet dinner) was the least expensive on the caterers menu and was perfect. I had a friend do the photography…she was semi-professional. We got an album full of GREAT photos…and many envelopes of so-so ones! We also bought disposable cameras for each table and got a LOT of great photos from the guests!

    Sorry to take up so much space…this is just a great topic. And a wedding CAN be done on a budget. Even a “Dream” wedding…my husband and I look back on our day with fondness all the time. And guests are still saying how beautiful and wonderful and fun it was!

  • Liz says:

    We were pretty much obligated to have a big wedding, but we were able to cut a lot of costs, mostly by having family and friends offer to help with the preparations.

    1. We bought all our candle holders and vases at Goodwill’s 50% off days.
    2. We ordered long stem roses from Sam’s Club. They were shipped in the day before, and we worked together to put them in the vases. My mom’s friend used them to make the bouquets and corsages.
    3. We bought rotisserie chickens from Sam’s Club as our main course.
    4. We did the sheet cake thing.
    5. I made CDs of all our wedding music, instead of hiring a DJ.
    6. Instead of traditional bridesmaid dresses, I had my bridesmaids wear their own black, tea-length dresses. My friend got hers for $10 on clearance! That way, their look flattered them, and they were able to use the dresses again.
    7. My husband designed the invitations, and we had them printed at Kinko’s.

  • Maggie says:

    —It is easy to make your own invitations. My sisters have made beautiful invitations using craft paper, ribbon and cardstock.

    —Favors can be made easily as well. We cut out sections of tulle, wrapped up three Hershey’s kisses, and tied them w/ a ribbon.

    —Gifts for your attendants can be practical–the wedding shoes or earrings/necklaces for the girls that they can wear in the wedding. For the guys, I have seen them receive their wedding tie. (Have the guys wear nice black suits instead of renting tuxes.)

    —Bridesmaid dresses can be easily bought used online, on ebay, craigslist or just by searching google. I have bought and sold my bridesmaid dresses this way. IF they are a popular name / color / style / size (such as David’s Bridal in red) they are relatively easy to find.

  • I did all of the above! Also, we had our wedding on a weekday that coincided with easy traveling because of a holiday (New Year’s Eve was on a Monday). It got us the weekday rate for renting the reception hall, which was HALF of the weekend rate. And when looking for a dress, I thought David’s Bridal would be cheapest. But it turns out they weren’t. We went to a nicer bridal store and I didn’t think they’d have much I could afford. However, they had a whole section of their display dresses. Normally, you’d try on a dress then they’d order it in your size. When you can no longer order a dress (last season, etc.) they sell that in-store dress as-is for a big discount (and aren’t wedding dresses timeless anyway?). I got a GORGEOUS $1000 dress for $500, and the alterations were under $100. Still much cheaper than anything I liked at David’s Bridal. Not to mention the smaller store makes a better experience! You can also get discounts for tuxes, bridesmaid dresses etc. if you buy/rent from the same store/partner store.

  • Ashley S says:

    I got married 15 months ago, and we were on a budget as well. The best advice I could give for saving money on a wedding is to do as much as you can yourself. Yes, you could hire someone to make your programs or design your invitations, but these were things I enjoyed doing, so I did them myself. (I bought the invitations at Hobby Lobby when they were half off, then took them to Mail Boxes, Etc. to be printed.) Also, don’t be afraid to ask friends to help you! We had a whole church full of eager volunteers who did everything from tying ribbons onto our programs to directing our wedding to acting as our “chauffeur” for the night. This makes the day more meaningful to be surrounded by friends who are showing their love by serving you.

  • Heather says:

    I thought of some more ideas:

    One way to save a ton and still celebrate with a large crowd is to have a very small Friday evening wedding (closest family and friends) and then have a HUGE pot luck dinner celebration on Saturday. I know that some might find this tacky, but historically it isn’t. Also, with the economic times I think that people are more sensitive to creative options than in the past few years. We live in the COUNTRY and I have been to many wonderful receptions held in the farm barn! A carry-in dinner held in a country barn is VERY fun! Provide the Cake, beverages and maybe the meat (and plates, utensils, etc) and let the guests bring sides. I went to a wedding like this and was completely FINE with taking cheesy potatoes!

    Also, use flowers grown in the home garden. There are lots of flowers that are easy to grow that make BEAUTIFUL cut flower arrangements. We went to a wedding that did this with daisies arranged in canning jars. Simple, country, and frugal.

    One of my friend’s sister got married at 10am and had a “Brunch” reception…. more affordable than dinner food.

    This is great!
    HEather

  • Kristin says:

    You did a lot of the same things we did to pull off an inexpensive wedding 9 years ago!

    I’m also a “pick your battles” advocate. The important areas to me were my dress and the music/ceremony. I didn’t care about the decorations, flowers, food, etc. and happily delegated those areas to friends & family who were eager to help (and talented in those areas).

    Oriental Trading has a lot of cheap wedding stuff.

    We printed our own invitations, which saved a lot.

    My mother-in-law made the cake and did the bouquets. It was all beautiful.

    A friend decorated using mostly borrowed ferns and ivy & flowers that she picked from various donors.

    We didn’t have children in the wedding either.

    The bridesmaids’ dressed were homemade and cost about $15 each. The patterns were appropriate for Sunday church attire, so the girls didn’t have to “waste” a dress on just one formal occasion. They wore inexpensive pumps from WalMart.

    I took my time shopping for a dress until I found the perfect fit/style for about $300. That was my big splurge.

    Above all, remember ~ the MARRIAGE is so much more important than the wedding! And in our opinion… the honeymoon is, too. We didn’t bat an eyelash on dropping $1000 on a week (plus) long honeymoon, and we don’t regret it a bit. We rented a nice secluded cabin and enjoyed getting to know each other before settling into “real life” together.

  • Katie says:

    I ordered all my flowers from Globalrose.com I did Designers Choice where I could specify which type/color of roses I wanted. I got TONS of beautiful flowers for so inexpensive! My mom made simple bouquets with them and I loved it! Lots of bright color and lush roses for so much less. If you want more info about Globalrose, drop me an email at dellerbk at gmail dot com because I had incrediable success with them.

  • Kathleen says:

    We were going to do a “cake” only reception but since people were traveling to celebrate with us, we decided to add appetizers. We made everything ourselves and bought in bulk at Costco. It only added about $60 to the budget BUT it was well worth it. Plus we still saved TONS!!!!
    Also, look for off beat cake decorators. We found an elderly woman who made cakes as extra income. It was the BEST CAKE we EVER had!! Her prices were extremely reasonable and we didn’t have any issues booking her. Plus she and her husband came to the wedding to cut/serve the cake. FAB!!!
    The only thing I wish we did differently was delegate activities to more relatives. I felt like we did so much ourselves that we hardly had anytime to actually enjoy the day.

  • Brooke says:

    I bought an absolutely gorgeous bouquet of flowers from Kroger for $20 for a hostess gift. It would have made a beautiful bridal bouquet. Just buy the flowers a few days before the wedding so they open up well. You might try a trial run a few weeks before so you know what to expect in terms of when the flowers look the best. That’s part of what we pay the florist the big bucks for.=)

  • Dodi says:

    I found a great deal on farmer’s market flowers (summer for best selection). We did my sister’s whole wedding for $180.00 We made the bouquets and the ones the men wore. It was an outside wedding so big pieces were not needed. Clear vases at Ikea were $2 for the tables.

    She also got three different tier stands and made her cake that way. Simple with more flowers on top. It was beautiful.

  • emilybreanne says:

    Best wishes and good luck with the wedding plans. My wedding in May of 2008 was very simple, frugal, and beautiful. My budget for everything was $1500.00 but I think I stayed a little under that. I shopped around for my dress and found the perfect one for just over $200.00. I did my own make-up and my regular hairdresser did my hair and nails as my wedding gift. We had 2 attendants each and no flower girl or ring bearer. I created the invitations on my home computer and the church allowed me to use their copier. Because we used our home church and fellowship hall the venue fee was virtually free. The churches also keep some in-house decor that they use for showers which they gave us free use of, as well as table and chairs. My aunt is a Martha Stewart of sorts and she did all the decorating and flowers. For decor flowers we used potted plants and purchased flats of flowers to put in pots, baskets, and tins etc. Like Crystal she shopped Hobby Lobby, but also Fred’s and the dollar stores. For my bouquet she ordered the flowers from Kroger and created the bouquet based on pictures I found. I used a church member with a professional quality camera for pictures and another church member for catering the reception. They gave significant discounts as wedding gifts. The reception was a light brunch because Ihad a morning wedding. This allowed for more than cake without too much expense. I called around for the best deal on a cake.

  • Donna says:

    I realize some people may find this tacky, but I honestly got a lot of compliments on our dinner served….it was catered by my family! My immediate family pitched in a brought a variety of dishes..meatballs, veggie trays, stuff to make your own sandwhich, various side dishes, just a ton of food…all brought lovingly by my family. Many people said it ws one of the best wedding dinners they had ever had…because it was honest home cooked meals by many. This made it affordable for us to have a DJ and lots of dancing….which is what we looked the most to doing.

  • Liz Kay says:

    Couples can save a ton of money on traditional wedding venues by planning ceremonies off season, whenever that is in your community — here in Baltimore, people avoid winter, and a number of sites slash their rental fees as incentives to bring in bookings. And as you recommend, if a coordinator doesn’t offer a discount, negotiate!

  • Liz W. says:

    My daughter got married in April of last year. We did everything we could ourselves and by shopping sales. We had a wedding for 100 at a country club, with a dance, dinner, and bar for less than $8000. This also included the rehearsal dinner. Everyone told me that they thought we had spent twice that much. We did the invitations ourselves by using the kits from Michael’s and Joann’s and using the 40% off coupons. My daughter did all the flowers by buying flowers from Hobby Lobby, on sale. The professionalphotographer was a friend that gave us a special price, even her usual price is less expensive than most wedding photographers because she will give you a CD of all the pictures. The professional dj was referred by a friend and so he gave us a discount. He handled all the music for the wedding as well as the rehearsal. A donation was made to a charity that my daughter is involved with instead of wedding favors, although at the last minute a friend made candy bars for us for free (her idea). The wedding and reception were at a country club and I couldn’t believe how inexpensive it was. The price included set up and clean up. Instead of having a formal sit down dinner we had a buffet of appetizers and there was plenty of choices and plenty of food. We did all the decorations and center pieces with items we bought from Michael’s (on sale), Big Lots, and Dollar Tree. Instead of a cake we had cupcakes that were ordered from Walmart. The icing was colored to match the wedding colors for no extra charge. Walmart has some of the best tasting cakes around. My daughter and son in law paid for the bar but they cut it off at the $500 minimum-I would have totally eliminated it. If you shop around there are very many ways to cut the costs of a wedding.

  • Kasey says:

    My mom got a lot of stuff on eBay for our wedding- she made it special by personalizing the little things, like getting cocktail napkins with our names and wedding date on them. They weren’t expensive, but they were a nice classy touch. She also had ribbons personalized with our names and wedding date, and we used the ribbons to tie around single silk long-stem roses which we used in bunches as centerpieces in vases at the reception, and then offered to our guests as favors to take home.

    My wedding dress was another budget saver- I was in college living on campus at the time of my engagement, and I knew I wanted to have my dress made for me, so I contacted the theater department on campus and got in touch with one of the costume designers. She was a skilled seamstress, and used to working with fancier fabrics, so she was able to make my dress for me and since it was a side project, she charged me very little- altogether it cost around $300. I loved that I was able to have it custom designed (like interchangeable sleeves- long for the wedding, short for the reception), and I could just walk over to the theater department for my fittings- very convenient! I still get compliments on my dress today from people seeing the photos because it was so unique.

    Something I did for my sister-in-law’s wedding was to make scrapbook pages for her and her fiancee. I used their engagement photos and quotations on love and created several 12×12 pages in their wedding colors, and then I put them in plastic protective sleeves and used ribbon to hang them in the reception hall. Everyone thought it was a beautiful addition, and after the wedding I was able to put them all into an album for them to keep.

    I did something similar for another wedding- I “scrapped” some small 5×7 sheets with quotations on love using the couple’s wedding colors, then framed them and they used them as table decorations throughout the reception hall. After the wedding the couple used the framed art to decorate their new apartment as a reminder of their special day.

    For the food for our wedding, I asked my sister-in-law to cater. She is a genius in the kitchen and everything she does always turns out classy and beautiful (and TASTY!). She and I went to Costco to shop for the food that we wanted, and she had a few friends and family members help put it all together the day of the wedding. She brought various tablecloths and placed boxes underneath them to vary the height, and then she brought some small table lamps to put on the buffet tables for some soft lighting. Our food was mostly finger food and hors d’ourves.

    For our cake we had a very small tiered cake all in white from our local grocery store, and then we had 2 large sheet cakes that we personalized by having our engagement photos airbrushed onto them (most grocery store bakeries offer that now).

    Hope these ideas help!

  • Meg says:

    Two things in my experience: don’t always go with the cheapest. For example, we picked a ‘cheap’ photographer and she was awful. I still regret that 8 years later. However, we had what many people said was the most beautiful wedding they had been to, and we spent, including renting the tuxes for the groomsmen and EVERYTHING, $2000. Take up any and all offers for help. We had planned a cake reception, but so many people offered to help and so we ended up having people do appetizers and it was lovely!

  • rosie says:

    So many great ideas on here! We got married last year in Annapolis, MD. Since I went to the Naval Academy, we got the church(which is always decorated beautifully) and is a gorgeous cathedral for free. Annapolis is typically one of the most expensive places in America to get married. We did not serve alcohol, we ordered a plated dinner(ended up being cheaper than a buffet), my brother in law has professional photography equipment and did our pictures, then I printed up 700+ photos at costco for about 80 bucks. We did hire a wedding planner, since I was working full time, but she was worth every penny. She was able to negotiate pricing with the caterer and got some prices of linen and other things knocked off our bill. My sister is extremely krafty with design, and did our save the dates, invitations, and programs on her computer (we bought the blank invitations from a craft store, and the invitations and program were of the same paper, saving money). We did not need favors, and bought votive candles from Michaels for our rehearsal dinner. All in all, our friend did our flowers, sister with programs/invites, and brother in law with photos. We were able to upgrade our wedding night room to a suite (we decided spending a little more money on this was well worth the cost), instead of some favor that someone might throw away anyway. When you put it into perspective like that, it makes refiguring your budget so easy! Find friends who excel in certain areas, and ask for help! But do not expect it for free, unless they give that to you for a wedding present. You can have an elegant wedding at any price point! My husband and I paid our wedding reception in full on our rewards credit card, then paid cash to ourselves(we wanted the cash back off the card). We entered our marriage with 0 wedding day debt!

  • Erin says:

    I went to a wedding reception that for the food they had Chocolate covered cookie, fruit, pretzels, bananas, marshmallow, bitesize cheesecake pieces and any other dipping type of food and had a cute chocolate fountain for everything. It looked great on the table and pleased everyone. The chocolate cookies they bought for like 80% off at local candy and chocolate shops right after christmas. They just bought all the fancy prepackaged christmas chocolates and then froze them until the end of February when they had their wedding. I thought that was a great idea to save alot of money on food.

    Also, I decorate wedding cakes myself and in Utah most couples do a wedding reception where they pretty much just cut into the top layer of a big cake and then the rest goes to waste. They don’t usually serve the wedding cake they just do refreshments like I said earlier. If you are wanting to do something like this make sure to ask the cake decorater if you can just do Cake forms (foam) on the bottom layers of the cake. Doing cake forms is WAY cheaper than doing all real cake for your cake because there is a TON less prep work and supplies that they have to by to make the cake when it isn’t all real.

  • SarahJane says:

    We really utilized our family’s expertise. They all pitched in with their various skills with the photography, decorating, flowers, music and sewing.

    We didn’t have a “wedding party”, but we made color suggestions for siblings and made matching ties/jumpers for the nieces and nephews. We also opted for suits instead of tuxes for the men (My husband’s mother had *just* bought him a lovely, black three piece suit, why waste it?). My dress was a summer style that I bought on clearance in October.

    For the honeymoon, we pricelined 3 nights at a 5 star hotel at $35 per night and went to a few shows in the city.

    Really, the only thing that matters is your marriage. Try to focus on that instead of the details of the day. Best of luck.

  • Jill Foley says:

    We had a very limited budget and were very frugal. I loved every aspect of my simple wedding and would do it all over again if I could. Here are some of the things we did…

    I bought a simple, yet beautiful dress for under $200. I also bought a used veil.

    The only flowers I got from the florist were my bouquet, the groom’s boutineer and a large arrangement for the front of the church. I also ordered a large batch of baby’s breath. My bridesmaids carried bouquets of roses from friend’s gardens. All our reception tables had beautiful wild flower bouquets from friends gardens. We used the baby’s breath to fill in the bouquets.

    My brother is an artist so he designed the invitation. It was on a regular size sheet of paper and folded in three… it was designed to include the rsvp card and no envelopes were necessary. The only cost was printing.

    We also designed and printed up our own bulletin.

    I did have a flower girl, but no ring bearer. My aunt made the dress (it was her granddaughter who was flower girl).

    My bridesmaids wore dresses that we bought at the mall. Not overly formal, yet simple and practical.

    I used an inexpensive photographer and bought all the prints, but very few large photos.

    I had a small wedding cake and several sheet cakes.

    We did have a simple meal at the reception…no “favors” for guests.

    Our rehearsal dinner was lasagna, salad and garlic bread at the church…then the rehearsal…then cheesecake for dessert.

    Like I said….it was simple and very frugal. We focused on the marriage, not the wedding. This July will mark our 13th anniversary and we are still going strong!

  • Jamie says:

    I got married 6 years ago on a very small budget – less than $1500. Here are some things that helped us:
    – We had our reception at the church where we got married instead of renting out a banquet hall.
    – Our reception was “catered” by many of our friends who contributed food. We got married at 11 am, so people brought appetizers, sandwich fixings, cheese, fruit, and veggies. This allowed us to have a very casual, community-oriented reception. There were over 800 people at our wedding, and we didn’t hear complaints about anyone going hungry!
    – Our cake was made by a chef friend as his gift to us.
    – My dress was made by a friend as her gift to me, I only had to pay for the material – and I got to help design it!
    – I found a friend who is a Martha Stewart type, and asked if she’d help me with flower arrangements. We went to Sam’s the morning before my wedding day, I picked out a bunch of different flowers that I loved, and she arranged them (beautifully!) for me and everyone else that we wanted to have flowers. She also made all of the boutonnieres. This was her gift to us – we just paid for the flowers.
    – I’m not a big fan of fancy shoes, so I went barefoot and my bridesmaids wore flip-flops with rhinestones on the straps. We did buy Converse All-stars for my husband, the groomsmen, and our dads, as well as a pair for me to wear later in the day – shoes that we all were able to wear for years later.
    – We had a friend video (free) and another photograph (paid, but he’s a pro and it was still cheaper than if we’d hired a studio)
    – We found it simpler to choose only our siblings as our attendants; otherwise we wouldn’t have known where to draw the line with our friends. We did find other ways for friends to be involved, by reading Scripture, lighting candles, playing music, etc.
    – A friend who loves to decorate her own home brought a bunch of her own things – flowers, garlands, tablecloths – and graciously decorated the room where our reception was held.
    – We designed printed our own invitations. Instead of including extra paper, an envelope and stamp for RSVPs, we set up an e-mail account strictly for people to respond.
    Things I didn’t do but have loved at other people’s weddings:
    – Allowing the bridesmaids to choose their own dresses in a certain color.
    – Instead of a cake, some friends of ours had people bake a bunch of chocolate chip cookies, and had their own “tiered” cookie cake to cut. It was what they liked (and I like cookies better than cake, myself!)

    There were some things that were definitely not traditional, and we made a few sacrifices and may have missed out on a few things, but I’ve never been to another wedding like ours!

  • Tina says:

    I agree that it is important to decide what is the most important thing to you and go with it, as for the rest, do what you like and try not to think about what others will be thinking. My two important things were flowers and the dress. We did things a little differently than most and it ended up saving a ton of money. For instance, I had one “Maid of Honor, one flower girl, and my husband just had a best man, who happenened to be his 9yr old nephew. I designated my girlfriends, many who had purchased airfare to be at the wedding as “honorary bridesmaids”. They were each given a single rose and I wrote why they were each special to me in the bulletin. They appreciated not having to buy a dress and shoes they may never wear again.
    Having one bridesmaid meant that we were able to get a dress off the sales rack for $35 and it was gorgeous. We planned the color scheme from there. We knew some people that had a little restaurant and they were able to cater a full buffet meal for little money, and they gave us all the leftovers for meals the next couple of days. We don’t care for cake, so we decided to decorate three cheesecakes with live flowers with toppings on the side, people just loved it. I printed my own invitations, hired a person who took photos on the side, she just gave me 5 rolls of film and I developed them at a photo shop, then ordered reprints off of snapfish. They were beautiful. We had a brother in law video tape, and fireworks instead of a dance. Our friends and family loved it and many made the comment that they wished they would have had our laid back, fun, stressfree wedding, instead of going into debt while trying to impress everyone. Good luck, have fun! Its your day!!

  • Emily says:

    Hire me, I’m a wedding photographer, lol!

  • Melodie says:

    Get married in your own church. Instead of paying a large fee for using the building, see if they will settle for having their piano tuned at your expense, or if they would be interested in the decorations from the wedding for future potluck dinners, or if you could volunteer to take over for the janitor for a couple of weeks.

    I got my bridesmaid’s dresses 50% off from Chadwicks. My mom did some minor alterations to make them unique to my tastes, and each gown cost less than $50.

    Simple is often prettier! Instead of a big gaudy bouquet, what about carrying a single rose with a long chiffon-like ribbon tied to it?

    Skip the expensive slips and shoes and bridal underwear!

    Make your own veil! These can go for more than $100 minimum. But if you take a look at them, they are sooooo easy to make. Tons of patterns available for them too.

    Get your shoes at Walmart or Payless. You are not likely to use them more than one or two times more. Why pay $60 – $100 on such impractical articles of your wardrobe? I actually went with silk white slippers. So comfy and cute. Better than crunching my toes into high heels. And under a long gown, nobody was the wiser.

    Go with an afternoon wedding. Afternoon at 1:00 says: eat your lunch first and don’t count on dinner. Have little h’ordeurves and punch at different tables and have folks mingle for the reception. But don’t worry about full meals or a sit down dinner.

    Have friends bring the dishes for the reception. Really! Delegate the cost to those who ask what they can do and let them help when they volunteer!

    Use tuling and ribbon and a solitary silk flower here and there. Tuling can be bought pretty cheap by the bolt. And it really makes a room look pretty for a wedding. Looks like you went all out, but really, you just spent $30 or less to dress the whole room!

    You don’t have to do a cruise or go to Honolulu for your honeymoon! Honeymoons are more about getting to know eachother better anyway. Do something small and close to home for a weekend, then use the rest of your week to help each other get settled into your new apartment/house. Or, see if one of your friends’ families have a vacation home they wouldn’t mind letting you use for a week.

    Keep a watch at CVS for deals on things to give your bridesmaids for gifts. Nail polish, makeup, razors, hair accessories, make up kits, purses –these are all often available for very low costs if you use your ECB’s right. Walgreens too!

    Get your invitations at A.C.Moore or Staples or Office Depot. They often have really nice do-it-yourself kits for low costs. Sometimes, if you watch, they will even go on sale. My sister got several boxes of invites for dirt cheap. They didn’t all match, but they were pretty and she loved every one of them and saved a heap of $$.

  • Plain Jame says:

    One thing that really helped me was my mother said “PICK 3 THINGS YOU WANT TO FOCUS ON” and that was where we put the little money we had. The flowers were very important to me, my dress, and the cake. Those were the 3 things we focused on. FANTASTIC ADVICE FOR ME and everyone else!
    You can find invites cheap at copy centers, get parting gifts in bulk online, and with flowers everywhere, the decor was minimal and just simply elegant. We didn’t serve dinner, we served cheesecakes! 4 different flavors to choose from, and they are SO EASY to make they were all made ahead of time and frozen (just remove from the freezer a few hours before the reception). We served a sparkling drink with it, and it was a hit.
    We also did not pay a photographer to come and take pictures throughout the reception – we had family and close friends take photos and candid snapshots of everyone there.

  • Calee says:

    Find an art or photography student to do your photos. To me and so many of my friends, photography was the most important part and we spent gobs of money on professions. Turns out, the people who work in that industry may take fine photos, but across the board, all of us had horror stories about how long it took to get our photos from the blasted photographers.

    If you hire a student they will:
    -WANT to do a really good job
    -LISTEN to what you want
    -Be very nervous about messing up so they will focus
    -Bring an artistic eye
    -And this is perhaps the most important thing–NOT be a friend or family that you will be upset with if things don’t turn out perfectly

  • Melodie says:

    Also, we got flowers at http://www.flowers.com. 200 flowers plus greenery, baby’s breath, and two gallon bags of rose petals for less than $100. We used the petals to decorate everything! So pretty! Plus we had enough to fill a huge basket and folks tossed petals at us instead of rice. A friend was a florist and arranged the roses for us. We paid her for her time. The roses and real flowers were for the wedding itself. But she also got us a bunch of silk flowers for the reception. I told her what colors I wanted and she found them for very cheap on sale and was able to make more arrangements over a longer period of time for a very attractive reception.

  • Ashley says:

    Great tips! Thanks everyone!

  • jules says:

    I found that it was cheapest to order invites for a large number of people from costco.com and we didn’t have to be a member. Also, no one cares about favors or how much food there is. Having a pasta bar or breakfast bar would be cheaper than sandwich,dessert, etc. foods and avoid serving any meat or veggies at the wedding since those are more $$$. Ask people in your hometown about if they know of someone who does flowers, cakes, catering out of their home for extra money…much cheaper than someone who is a “professional”. Enjoy your day!

  • Morgan says:

    My frugal wedding last year:

    My dress was a bridesmaids dress in white.
    Used an up in coming photographer found on craigslist.
    Made my own cake.
    Got married at the courthouse.
    Took gorgeous (free) photos at the historical courthouse.
    Had reception at my parent’s house.
    Made my own bouquet.
    Reception was pot luck (delicious)
    Groom wore a black suit he already had w/ black tie.

    It was great!

    -Morgan

  • carla sorensen says:

    My daughter bought three bridesmaids dresses that were gorgeous at Deb! They were on sale and were $12 each! They were the last year’s prom dresses. There were only three left, and they were the sizes she needed. After finding them, she chose her color scheme. We used fancy computer paper and printed the invitations on the paper ourselves. The computer paper we got at the Thrift Store for 90 cents for 100. The second pack (same price) we used for bulletins, and put ribbons on them. we just had people email or call to rsvp. It all worked out and was very nice. She got her dress at Deb, too and it was was a white prom dress, very beautiful and she made her veil. Cost for both was less that $100. (maybe $60) The guys all wore dark suits and white shirts and matching blue ties. (dresses were blue). Ring bearer had a suit from the Goodwill. All of this may sound tacky, but it was not at all! It was perfect!
    Best Wishes

  • Jen says:

    1.We bought all our flowers at Sam’s Club-got a discount and the family spent the day before my wedding making bouquets. They enjoyed the ability to help and so did I!
    2. We made our favors-chocolate roses-which allowed my fiance and I to spend time together and was really inexpensive to boot! Friends of ours made chocolate chip cookies, put them in a cell bag and sealed with a thank you sticker.
    3. Check freecycle or Craig’s List for deals on wedding stuff.
    4. We got really cute invitations from Target-I believe they were 50 for $20.
    5. For our reception we made a playlist and used our laptop as a DJ.

  • Use the people around you! We had a family friend do the reception (since it was 2 o’clock we did finger foods), another family friend made the wedding cake (I gave her a picture of what I wanted), my sister-in-law made the flower arrangements. One of my close friends from high school played the violin for FREE (and it was such a memory to treasure).

    Don’t be afraid to borrow from friends. It is amazing the amount of stuff that people have leftover from weddings. We reused the candleholders from my sister-in-laws wedding and later for my little sister’s wedding, I was able to pass on a ton of little glass bowls, white candles, and tulle.

    Like the person above me, we cut hydrangeas the day of the wedding from a family friend’s yard. It was gorgeous and FREE!

    Ask a family member/friend to be your videographer. We learned this the hard way. At my wedding, I had a terrible videographer that my in-laws paid a lot of money for. For my sister’s wedding, my mother-in-law came, she used a tripod and taped the whole thing, I edited it on the computer and gave it to my sis when she returned from her honeymoon!

    Pick up items slowly over time from Michael’s using 40% off coupons.
    Mark the things off your list that you don’t really care about. For example, we didn’t have a ring bearer because I didn’t know any little boys. We didn’t do a bridesmaid luncheon because I didn’t care to do it. We gave homemade bookmarks as favors because I wasn’t about to spend a lot of money on something that people wouldn’t really bother to take home! I also only invited people that I really felt would REALLY want to be there. Why should I pay for other people’s date night?

    Don’t get caught up in making it special for everyone else. It is for YOU and it will be over before you know it.

  • I forgot a really good one! I had a Mary Kay consultant do the make-up for everyone in my wedding party. She did it as a “party” and we all purchased something small from her in return. Much cheaper than the $80 I just paid in another wedding!

  • Julie says:

    While out shopping for a wedding dress, and gulping at all the high prices…I had a store owner suggest that I use a bridesmaids dress and get it in whatever color I wanted, including white or ivory. I did just that and it cost me just a little over $200 and except for a lack of a train, it was the exact style I was looking for. I also hunted around and ordered it from a store in NH because there are no taxes to pay! As far as everything else…
    -I had a very small wedding, mostly family (I think there were 25 people there TOPS)
    – we asked our local favorite restaurant if they would cater for us (they usually didn’t and it was very affordable!)
    -alot of my flowers came from HobbyLobby. A very talented arranger put some pieces together for me to hang and place around. My bouquet was real, I wanted that
    -we had our wedding at my husbands parents place (free location, not to mention beautiful!)
    -I found a local work-from-home cake maker, thanks to a referral from my florist!
    -my brother-in-law married us (for sentimental reasons) and he had a priest friend of his sit in at the wedding to make it official and sign all the paperwork 🙂

    I chose to splurge on photography, being a photography major.

  • Catherine says:

    I just had my wedding in February. The best things we did money wise were:
    – had the wedding on a Friday the 13th (we didn’t have to compete with other weddings for the date in terms of location, photographer, etc)
    – ordered bulk roses and made the bouquets and boutonnieres myself (cost less than $200 and our lowest quote from a florist was over $1000)
    – ordered bridesmaid dresses online for $68 each
    – made invitations, favors, and programs myself
    – didn’t go crazy with decorations, just an archway and an aisle runner for the ceremony
    The biggest wastes of money were:
    – the tuxes (over $600 for four tuxedos – hubby left it too late and we had no time to shop around)
    – the bar tab (we didn’t want a cash bar, but instead of paying a flat rate per guest for an open bar, we thought no one would drink and had a host bar where WE paid for each drink – it cost over $1200!!!!!)

  • Laurie A says:

    I shopped the Michael’s/A.C. Moore sales and 50% off coupons and my mom and I made my bouquet and my bridesmaids bouquets. My then future mother-in-law (who clearly had more people to impress than I did) was mortified that I was doing that. Up until the week before my wedding she kept asking me to get real flowers. She only became a believer when her friends who had no idea the flowers weren’t real told her how beautiful my flowers were. My bridesmaids got their dresses at David’s bridal for $99 + tax. Nothing fancy but they looked beautiful and I think it would have cost about that much to make them.

  • Stephanie says:

    I picked pink dresses and a single rose colored rose for each girl to carry it was extremely elegant. My flower were simply white roses wrapped with ribbon. No need for florist.

    I also booked the Masonic lodge / I also had a choice of a community rec. lodge which was almost as nice.

    A private caterer who did it from her home and a cake from the local grocer who even delivered it to the lodge. All total I spent $2,500 I had 180 guest and everyone thought I spent a ton of cash. For the drinks there was soda and beer only. I had a great photographer and I also had a very nice dress. I negotiated on everything until people were blue- LOL I also got some things (luckily as a prize) So put your name in for every contest you can think of. Most of all enjoy your day and do it your way. If your lucky you”ll only do this day once.

  • April Krause says:

    I also was on a budget and had little time to plan my wedding.
    1. Look online for other places that sell wedding dress, such as did you know Target online has bridal or I got my from Fashion Bug, it was really plan but my mom did some embellishing and it was perfect.
    2. I had my brother design the invites and then went to Office Depot to have them printed. It cost me about 30 cents per page (2 on a page)
    3. I did all my own flowers and all my bridemaids, I spent like 25 dollars on flowers. I used the Michael’s coupons and got some more every week.
    4. I really wanted a chocolate fountain and so when I ordered my cake, I got half off my chocolate fountain. Look for those deals.
    5. I got a cake that was fake the bottom 2 tiers it was great and no one knew. It saved a lot of money too.

    Hope that helps if you need me you can e-mail me

    aprilk01@yahoo.com

  • Coby says:

    The best ways we cut costs on our wedding was by making the invetations ourselves. We had a small wedding in the forest and I used recycled cardboard that I glued pine needles and the “leaves” of pine cones on. I then attached the paper (that I made on the computer) with some twine. The envelope was made of recycled paper bags from the grocery store and held on by the address labels I printed on my computer. Basically I just paid for a little ink, some paper and stamps to mail them. I had many, many compliments on my invetations.

    Next for the cake, we aren’t particularly fond of wedding cake, So we opted for a build your own angel food bar. We got angel food cakes from Von’s (safeway affiliate) for $2.50 each and got different toppings like berrys, chocolate, carmel and whipped cream.

    We also save money holding our ceremony in a state park, it was free! We just were not guaranteed that no one else would be there. Which was fine since it was so small. We borrowed an arbor from a friends yard and set it up near a small lake. The location was beautiful.

    Just be creative and ask around and you can save a ton!

  • Loved all the ideas! My husband and I live in a large city two hours outside of the small town where we went to college and met. That was a special place for us and we decided to hold our wedding and reception there. Perhaps a few guests didn’t come because of the drive, but the important people made it. And we were able to serve a much nicer menu because restaurants/catering was more reasonable in this particular college town than where we live.

    One thing that can save a big chunk of money is nixing the booze…it really adds up!

    Just an idea, but a friend of ours did a rehearsal dinner for his niece. The aunts and uncles got together and each did one course…it was a lot of cooking, but each only had to do one recipe.

    One last bit of advice about those expensive pictures. Visit a specialty lab where the pros get their stuff developed and ask for individuals who do good work. You might find a semi pro like my brother who is an accountant by day and does photography as a hobby. Or, skip the big packages and just hire the photographer by the hour with some understanding of what you will later spend to get the pictures you want. If you don’t get the perfect “bridal” shot, you can always go to a less expensive photo studio later on and get that shot.

    Best of luck!

  • Amanda says:

    My husband and I got married in 2003 a week after we got engaged and before he left for a year in Iraq. I still wanted a wedding since ours was rushed and only my mom could make it to VA from NY. My husband had his parents and two friends there. His criminal justice professor (a judge) married us. We had always planned to have a wedding when he returned. In 2006 about a year after he was home, we had our wedding.
    Some of the ways I saved were:
    1.) We had a Sunday wedding in June. I wanted to get married in June, even though summer months are busy for weddings, but because the date we wanted was booked (Saturday) we opted for the day after on a Sunday. We had our wedding at a Marriott because I loved their ballroom, but it was of course expensive. In 2006, they had a $10,000 min. for Saturday receptions, which was my total budget. I aksed how much the min. on a Sunday was and much to my surprise there was no minimum to spend. I was relieved. Since I was pretty new to the area, I didn’t have a church to get married at. We had both the wedding and reception at the Marriott, for not too much more. This also cut out the need for a limo. We had a buffet to save money and also opted for 2 entrees instead of three. For the cocktail hour, we only served fruit and cheeses, instead of fussy hors’devours. Since, I don’t drink much and my parents do not at all, we rented two Smoothie machines, one with alcohol and one without. It saved a ton of money, although we still paid slightly more than buying it ourselves because the hotel had to buy it and tacked on their taxes and finance charges. We also did sodas buy consumption only, we paid for what was drank. For those that wanted beer, they could go to the hotel bar, but most were happy with the Smoothies w/ alcohol. The toast was included for everyone. Because we had our ceremony and reception at the hotel, we got a free suite the night before and night of the wedding. There was a snafoo with the room the night before, but we did get it worked out.
    2.) Instead of a restaurant rehearsal dinner we had a luau picnic at a local park. My mother-in-law lived in the county of the park, so we got two neighboring pavilions for $50.00. My mother-in-law made the food and my uncle helped cook on two grills we brought there. I got luau decorations on sale at Oriental Trading months before. What I loved about the picnic was that instead of only having the wedding party and parents there to limit costs at a restaurant, we were able to have all of my out of town family and friends come as well. It was great because we were able to visit with them all before the wedding. The wedding day goes buy in such a rush and there is not a lot of time to visit with everyone. Another great thing about the park where we had our rehearsal dinner was that it has a nice pond with a fountain. Our two pavilions had a great view being right next to it.
    3.) Shop around for the best deals and vendors. I found things I liked and then shopped around for them on the internet. I got my veil, tiara, invitations, decor, gifts and many other items online for lower prices because I shopped around. I found all my vendors online first and then met them in person. I met with a couple different vendors in each category and then picked the one I thought was most affordable and would still do a great job. For the most part, I was very happy with my vendors. I did have some issues with the photographer though. I liked our included engagement session and paid for a bridal portrait, which I also liked the pictures from. I wish I had spent more money on the pictures, even though the wedding package to me was a lot at around $1,000 and $250.00 for the bridal portrait. The photographer I chose does really nice theater photos and also does weddings, but what I didn’t like and saw before the wedding was that he didn’t give a lot of direction and that is key for posed pictures. Also, his style was more simple with the photos and a like refined and artsy. I like more of a photojournalism style and wish I paid extra for it, since to me memories and photographs are one of the most important parts of a wedding. I loved our wedding video though and felt it was worth the cost to remember not just the actions of our day, but also all the sounds, music and the background stuff that I missed while getting ready for the wedding.
    4.) Do things yourself. I made save the date magnets, like ones they have online, but purchased them online and printed them on my home printer. I also made a little announcement about the story of our engagement and first small wedding before my husband’s deployment, the wedding itinerary (luau picnic) and things to do in Richmond, VA and sent them together. I really loved the look of the contemporary Jean M invitations and decorations. Since they are so expensive I got the simple two layered paper look printed with them and added my own ribbon. I couldn’t do it exactly like theirs because I could not find the Victorian lilac color ribbon in the right size. I added shear silver ribbon instead and tucked in a black and white engagement photo of us. I bought candles for centerpieces at Michaels on sale and added the layered ribbons like Jean M and combined them w/ the hurricane, mirror and tea lights from the hotel. I added flower petals around the candles, but saved b/c I didn’t do flower centerpieces. Also, the girls’ bouquets, mine and the unity candle arrangements were placed on the head table for the reception along with the candles. The two ceremony arrangements and the floral decorated arch we were married under were also at the reception. The arch was a great place for couple’s photos. For favors, I loved the idea of edible favors because I know many times you get things that just lie around the house. I didn’t want to give knick knacks as I don’t really like them myself. So we did Hershey’s chocolate bars (bought at Walmart) and I bought the wrappers online at Whimsy Wraps because they have really nice contemporary labels you can have printed. My parents, brother and I had an assembly line to wrap them. It saved us money wrapping them ourselves and I didn’t have to worry about having them sent overnight so they wouldn’t melt.
    5.) Tell vendors your story; it might also get you savings. We told our vendors our story about having our first wedding before my husband left for Iraq and that we were technically renewing our vows and that we wanted to share the celebration with our family and friends. Some of the vendors gave us a military discount. They liked our story and were touched by it. Also, again the Sunday date helped with vendor discounts.
    6.) Although this one I did not do, I wish I had. Go to a local bridal show. I went to two with a friend as her maid of honor. The have a ton of vendors and you can register for prizes, which may include free engagement photos or even a honeymoon. One of my friends won a wedding dress! Since she already bought one prior, she is wearing two, one to the ceremony and one to the reception. The great thing about all the vendors in one place is that you can get price books and materials and take them all home and look over them later. I didn’t really know many girlfriends around my area at the time of my wedding and my mother-in-law never suggested it, but I really wish I had been to one before mine. I found some affordable, and very good wedding photographers when I went with my friend and wished that was available to me before mine. I think I would have found a great photographer for the price I wanted and the style of photos I prefer.
    7.) One last thing, is to think outside the box. One of my friends wanted to do the iPod song list things as someone mentioned above, but ended up having a dj instead. However, the friend that I was her maid of honor in her wedding did this and it worked out. The best man just announced the highlights like cake cutting and such. I had a dj though and was very happy with the job he did and how smoothly everything went as he announced it. It is all a matter of opinion though and it can work for some people, as I have seen.
    I hope some of these ideas help and good luck with the planning process. Try not to stress out too much. I had a lot of small things go wrong throughout the planning process, but my wedding day was a dream with only a few small minor bumps. Take time to enjoy your day and let everything happen as it will because it goes by in a flash!

  • Liz says:

    I also found my wedding dress on the Macy’s clearance rack. It was a leftover from prom – all for $68. It worked and no one was wiser. Happy shopping!

  • Megan says:

    I had an “open bar” with Shirley Temples and the like. Since we had a midafternoon reception people didn’t seem to miss the alcohol. We also saved a bunch of money by having our ceremony and reception at a local art museum. It saved on decorations and it was a conversation starter for our guests. We booked 7 months ahead and were given the artists names so we’d have an idea of what to expect. Our photographer didn’t offer prints, only a DVD with all the images she took. As someone said before, it saves you (and everyone else) tons of money on prints.

  • 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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