About · Press · Contact · Write For Us · Top Personal Finance Blogs
Featured In:

Planning a Wedding on a Budget – 15 Ideas to Get Married for Less

By Casey Slide

married couple greenCurrently, the average cost of a wedding is more than $20,000, making it one of the most expensive life events. In fact, it’s more expensive than the cost of most births (even without insurance), most first cars, home down payments, and funerals. For many students who receive scholarships, even four years of college can cost less than a one-day wedding!

If you don’t have $20,000 to blow, don’t worry. You can still have a stylish, fun, memorable wedding, while saving money at the same time. Here are 15 ways to do just that.

Ways to Save Money on Your Wedding

Wedding Planning

If you give yourself at least a year to book things like your venue and photographer, you have that much more time to shop around for the best price.

1. Wedding Venue
The only two things that are usually decided on before the wedding venue are whether or not to get married and the date. The wedding venue can be costly, but you can save a lot of money by getting married on a day other than Saturday and by finding a place outside the city limits.

2. Reception Food and Drink Menu
The best way to save on food, drink, and desserts for your wedding is to provide your own. Enlist your friends and family to help, and make sure that you don’t overextend yourself with complicated fare. If you don’t want to make your own, consider serving heavy appetizers instead of a sit-down meal, and find a venue that allows you to bring your own liquor, beer, and wine. The bar tab is generally the most expensive part of the refreshments.

3. Wedding Photographer and Videographer
When your wedding is all said and done, you want to make sure that you have a keepsake that will remind you of every moment and every emotion of that day, which unfortunately can be very expensive. Consider ways to save, like hiring someone that’s just getting started in their career or someone who shoots weddings as a side gig.

4. Wedding Ceremony and Reception Music
It can be expensive to hire a professional musician, a band, or a DJ, but luckily there are many ways to save in this category. You can hire a student musician, or consider a friend or family member to perform.

wedding ceremony decor

Wedding Decor

It’s easy to go overboard and let the budget get out of control when decorating your venue, but luckily there are many ways to save.

5. Wedding Flowers
Wedding flowers can cost thousands of dollars, but if you are frugal you can easily cut your flower bill down to only a couple hundred dollars and still have beautiful arrangements. Be smart about what types of flowers you choose, and think about how you can repurpose them throughout the wedding.

6. Ceremony Decorations
Sometimes less is more, and this will help you keep the price of decorating your wedding ceremony venue reasonable. Keep in mind that depending on your venue, the setting itself may be all you need.

7. Reception Decorations
The best way to save money on wedding reception decorations is to have a little fun with it. Get creative and pick a good, solid theme. Once you do that, everything else will fall into place.

8. Reception Table Centerpieces
Similar to the other reception decorations, this is another area where you can have a lot of fun but not have to spend much money, especially if you make all the centerpieces yourself.

wedding bride yard

Wedding Attire

9. Wedding Dress
It’s easy to get out of control when it comes to spending money on what is usually the bride’s favorite element of the wedding – her wedding dress. Fortunately, it is also easy to save money on the dress if the bride sticks to her budget and shops wisely.

10. Menswear
Even though most people will be looking at the bride, it’s also important that the groom looks good. And luckily, menswear is not nearly as costly as the bride’s dress. Men need to be flexible when choosing what they will wear on the big day and should consider alternatives to tuxedos.

11. Bride’s Hair
Having a stylist come to you on your big day may be convenient, but the big bill may cause unwanted stress. Doing your own hair or going to a cosmetology school are two great ways to avoid spending a fortune on your hairdo.

12. Bride’s Makeup
The same holds true for the bride’s makeup. If you have a professional do your makeup, it can be expensive. Alternatively, you can buy your own makeup and do it yourself, but that also can be costly. Consider ways to cut makeup costs, such as by using coupons to buy makeup or by visiting a department store’s cosmetics counter for a free makeover.

13. Wedding Jewelry
Not only will there be an exchanging of rings during the wedding ceremony, but the bride will most likely want to wear a few pieces of jewelry to complement her wedding gown. The best way to avoid spending above your jewelry budget is to stay out of high-end stores, and borrow from friends and family.

wedding couple toast

Other Wedding Costs

14. Wedding Invitations
The wedding invitations are another category where you can save a ton of money by doing part of it or all of it yourself. Consider providing your own cardstock to the printer or go electronic by sending out email invitations.

15. Wedding Favors
It is traditional to give wedding favors to your guests as an appreciation for their loving support of your marriage. When you have a large wedding, the cost of favors can be fairly expensive, so consider making them yourself, by doing something as simple as bagging up some candy or burning a CD.

Final Word

You will hopefully save a lot of money on your wedding using the above tips, but regardless, you will be spending some money on each and every one of your guests. They will want to spend money on you, too, to show their appreciation for being invited to your wedding and to show their support and happiness for your marriage. Make sure you create the perfect wedding registry so that there is an absolute guarantee that they will buy you a gift that you truly love.

And above all remember, the amount of money you spend on your wedding day is not a direct correlation to how wonderful it will be. You can have a beautiful, memorable day for far less than the average $20,000.

What did you do to save money in preparation for your big wedding day?

(photo credit: Shutterstock)

Casey Slide
Casey Slide lives with her husband and baby in Atlanta, GA. She graduated from the University of Florida in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering and worked for a prominent hospital in Atlanta. With the birth of Casey’s son in February 2010, she decided to become a stay-at-home mom. Casey’s interests include reading, running, living green, and saving money.

Related Articles

Comments

  • http://liverealnow.net Jason@LiveRealnow

    Really? 50% of your annual income? Working 6 months to fund a single day is crazy.

    In my experience, anybody spending that kind of money on the wedding will find some little thing that didn’t go as planned and “ruined the whole day”.

  • Anissa

    Unless you are having a destination wedding and paying for all the guests’ travel and accomadations, there is no reason to even think about spending $25K on a wedding! Yeesh!
    We also saved a bundle by having the reception at the church as they didn’t allow dancing or alcohol (so no DJ or bar which are 2 of the biggest expenses).

  • http://www.homeschoolblogger.com/frugalhomeschooler Wendy

    I think if someone is willing to shell out $25k they need to give it to the newlyweds for a house down payment!

    We got married twelve years ago and used many of the tips you mentioned. My husband and I were both in the military at the time and stationed in Hawaii many miles from home and family. My husband and I paid for our own wedding. I think we spent less than $200 and we still had a beautiful ceremony and a fun reception.

    I bought a tea length off white lace sun dress on clearance for $15. I spent more on my jewelry and shoes than I did on the dress. My husband already owned a tuxedo he had bought for a prior engagement. For a few dollars more than a justice of the peace ceremony, we got married in a beautiful garden in Honolulu that had Diamond Head as the backdrop. This was well worth the extra expense.

    We had just a few close friends attend our wedding. Our friends took our photos and did video photography too. Some of our friends actually threw our reception for us and it didn’t cost a thing!

    Instead of wedding invitations, I sent out hand printed announcements on pretty stationery cards to our friends and family on the mainland.

    These tips won’t work for everybody since our circumstance was kind of unique, but even if someone used some of these they would save a bundle and still have a wonderful day.

  • http://www.yourfinances101.com/blog David/Yourfinances101

    Another good one–have the rehearsal dinner at home. We had a great time at ours, and did our practicing in the backyard.

    A great time!

    • Erik Folgate

      great tip, David. That can save a lot of money, and rehearsal dinner should be more about catching up with loved ones and less about where it’s at.

  • gail

    it’s really easy to say “geesh 25k. I WOULD NEVER DO THAT” until you are actually the one getting married in this century.
    granted, i think the cost of wedding is completely out of control and NO i’m not spending 25k. my budget is 10k. i’m doing EVERYTHING i can to keep costs down…having in season tulips (and having a friend do half my flowers at that), a family friend is catering the reception, i’m doing a standing brunch reception no alcohol, i got my wedding invites on etsy, a friend is playing the piano, a friend who owns a photography business is doing the pictures…all that said it’s ridiculously hard to have a wedding for 300 in washington dc (we are an extraverted family) for less than 10k.
    thankfully my parents have been saving and i’m not a bridezilla so i think we can do it.

    • Anonymous

      I AGREE GAIL, WE ARE PLANNING OUR WEDDING NOW FOR ABOUT 200 HERE IN BALTIMORE, ALSO WITH A $10,000 BUDGET (WHICH AT FIRST I FELT WAS TOO LOW)….WEDDINGS ARE VERY EXPENSIVE AND CAN GET OUT OF HAND….WE ARE BLESSED, WE HAVE A FAMILY MEMBER OR FRIEND THAT DOES JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING WE NEED….THE CATER, PHOTOGRAPHY, MUSIC, MAKE-UP, EVENT PLANNER, AND OUR CAKE MAKER, WHO DOES CUSTOM CAKES….THEY ARE ALL FAMILY OR CLOSE FRIENDS…..I EVEN HAVE MY BFF AND SISTER HELPING ME WITH INVITATIONS, AND FAVORS, SO WITH ALL OF THIS HELP I CAN HAVE MY DREAM WEDDING….:-)

      BUT IF I DIDNT HAVE SUCH GREAT FAMILY AND FRIENDS, WE WOULD BE SPENDING ABOUT $20,000…..OR MORE

    • Anonymous

      I AGREE GAIL, WE ARE PLANNING OUR WEDDING NOW FOR ABOUT 200 HERE IN BALTIMORE, ALSO WITH A $10,000 BUDGET (WHICH AT FIRST I FELT WAS TOO LOW)….WEDDINGS ARE VERY EXPENSIVE AND CAN GET OUT OF HAND….WE ARE BLESSED, WE HAVE A FAMILY MEMBER OR FRIEND THAT DOES JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING WE NEED….THE CATER, PHOTOGRAPHY, MUSIC, MAKE-UP, EVENT PLANNER, AND OUR CAKE MAKER, WHO DOES CUSTOM CAKES….THEY ARE ALL FAMILY OR CLOSE FRIENDS…..I EVEN HAVE MY BFF AND SISTER HELPING ME WITH INVITATIONS, AND FAVORS, SO WITH ALL OF THIS HELP I CAN HAVE MY DREAM WEDDING….:-)

      BUT IF I DIDNT HAVE SUCH GREAT FAMILY AND FRIENDS, WE WOULD BE SPENDING ABOUT $20,000…..OR MORE

  • Nicole

    In addition to ebay, I’d check local sites like www.SmartBrideBoutique.com so you can meet the seller in person and try on the dress. They seem to have lots of new dresses for sale too from brides that wound up with two dresses. I saw a vera wang for under half of the price.

    I found out about the site through some videos they made following a girl wearing her dress around the city. www.obsessedwiththedress.com

  • Erik Folgate

    Hey everyone, good stuff again. Clarify the $25k. I, Erik the Editor, added the $25k thing to the article, but by no means was I recommending spending that kind of money. My point was that if someone wanted a ceiling for what they could spend on a wedding, that is the general rule of thumb.

    My wife and I spent about $13k and we had 150 guests for a beautiful wedding. But, location and size of families also factors into the cost of the wedding.

    • Msbharrison

      Where did you get married for that price w 150 guests? Please tell me Long Island and if so WHERE?! I have money to spend but do not want to spend more then $15k for about 150-175 people.

  • Sally Aquire

    Thanks for the comments, everyone! There are some great tips being mentioned.

  • http://www.youngandthrifty.ca youngandthrifty

    $25000 is the ‘usual’ for people who want to have a hundred or so guests… I have a friend who is getting married and it’s going to cost $20,000 (she says that’s on the cheaper end too). BUT the good thing is that if you ask your guests to pay you money (lets say for example you have all the toaster ovens you really need), then that’ll chip off some of that cost.

    • Erik Folgate

      Yeah, it can add up quickly. I think more young engaged couples are looking for alternatives without sacrificing quality, and they’re enjoying a debt free wedding.

    • Sally Aquire

      It’s scary how quickly the costs start to add up and you can easily arrive at a mind-boggling figure without even realizing!

  • Elizabeth I

    Regarding dresses, I suggest going to the “Running of the Brides” at Filene’s Basement if you like designer dresses. I purchased a Romena Keveza (I love her classics and her dresses retail for around $3000+). I got mine for $699. It had the most amazing silk I had ever seen.

  • Elizabeth I

    Another way to reduce costs is to negotiate less time with your photographer–we had our photographer for perhaps 3 hours and got a great deal.

    I would also consider calling wedding planners. Some of them charge very reasonable rates and actually get reduced costs from vendors which they pass along to you.

  • http://womeneverywhere.wordpress.com/ Melissa

    Another way is to cut out the alcohol – we served no alcohol at our wedding and had no complaints. Also, see what you can do to work with whoever does your food if you hire someone. Ours had set packages, but just by asking I got her to allow us to bring our own dessert and cut out the cost of that. Also, consider bartering. If you know someone who regularly does something for weddings and you do something that has a monetary value, see if you can trade.

  • ninjasrolled

    My brother and sister in law had almost no money, and their wedding was inexpensive and lovely. Both the ceremony and reception was held at an American Legion my parents belong to, so they got a discount there. The bakery manager at the local grocery store gave them a deal on a simple cake, the aunts pitched in with food for the reception, the bride’s brother got his certificate online so he could marry the couple, and guests bought their own drinks. My brother bought a bottle of good scotch he could share with special guests (like his big sister, lol!) Their favorite two-piece band played as they walked down the aisle, and they put together a playlist on an iPod for the reception. Each guest got a CD of the music from the wedding. Also, the flowers were silk, and sprayed with the bride’s deceased mother’s favorite perfume – a really wonderful and thoughtful touch. They were able to spend a bit more on the dress and decor, and if I had to guess, I would say they spent about $3000 for the whole shebang.

    • Caseyslide

      Oh wow, good for your brother and sis-in-law! Thanks for sharing a real life example of how to save money on a wedding, ninjasrolled!

  • Sarah

    We started with an $8000 budget and I thought I had it figured out. We were doing fine until recently, I learned that the food (catered through our venue) is going to cost an abominable amount! The service charges and tax alone are almost $1500. So needless to say, our budget is increasing dramatically and it’s not even in my hands. We already sent out save-the-dates so we can’t cut the guest list. We’ve skimped on most aspects (my dress was $550, my photographer $1100, invitations printed at home, craigslist decorations, doing own hair and make-up, no veil) The only thing I’m splurging on is a great DJ ($1200). So needless to say, our budget is not going to be what we originally thought, but at least we can say we tried.

    • Casey Slide

      You can say that you tried, and you can say that you saved on many, many different aspects of your wedding, and that should be commended. Many couples splurge on everything only to get hit in the face with the bills after the big day. Good luck to you, Sarah, and hopefully you won’t go too over your budget!

  • Magnoliacourt

    I own a reception hall, Magnolia Court, here in Lafayette, Louisiana. I do things differently than anyone else here in town. I have a beautiful place with an indoor area and outdoor decking, pergola and walkway to the gazebo and gardens.

    Times are tough right now, no one wants to go into debt over a wedding…but they want something nice. I rent my reception hall with the tables and chairs. I have a large kitchen for my customers to use…we don’t do catering. My customers get together with family members and prepare their own food. The same holds true for the bar, they use my bar but bring their own beverages. My venue stays booked!

    My own daughter had 350 people at her wedding…the food cost was $500! We prepared everything ourselves 3 days before the event.

    There are many ways to cut cost and still have a wonderful event. I have a list of ideas on my website to help my customers. And yes, I do find a lot more customers cutting out the alcohol Not only for the cost savings…but because it keeps their guest from drinking and driving.

Links monetized by VigLink
Close