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10 Wedding Reception Decoration Ideas on a Budget

By Casey Slide

wedding reception flowersAlthough a wedding is really about the ceremony, for many of your guests, the real wedding begins at the reception (i.e. food + dancing + open bar = serious fun). For the bride and groom, the reception is usually when they get to relax and let loose as well, but the planning of the reception is anything but relaxing, especially if you’re trying to stick to a strict budget.

Luckily, there are plenty of ways to save money on fun, elegant, and memorable decor. Here are ten inexpensive wedding reception decoration ideas.

Save Money on Wedding Reception Decorations

1. Use White Christmas Lights
Many people use white Christmas lights all year round on their back porches as a simple and elegant decoration. And these lights can make a beautiful addition to any wedding reception venue! They can be hung from the ceiling, around tables, around the cake, or in potted plants. If you don’t want to use Christmas lights, consider lanterns instead.

2. Tie Ribbons
Seat covers can be expensive to rent and a lot of work to make. Instead of using seat covers, get some beautiful wide ribbon to tie on the backs of the chairs to add some elegance and spruce things up. Ribbon is a cheap alternative compared to fancy seat covers. Enlist the help of friends to get the ribbons cut and tied for the big day.

3. Add a Water Feature
A nice addition to the entrance of your reception would be a water fountain. It could even be a small one that you have in your home that sits on a table. The sound of a water fountain is so refreshing, and it would be nice for your guests to listen to as they can finally relax at the reception.

4. Use Feathers
Feathers are a big trend in wedding decor. Buy them in bulk from a craft store and create large feather wreaths to hang on the walls or add them to centerpieces of flowers for an elegant (and inexpensive) look.

5. Decorate with Food
The wedding food and drink menu you choose and the way it’s arranged on platters can add lots of pizzazz to your big day. Huge and assorted apothecary jars of candy on the dessert bar create a festive mood, while gorgeous trays and farm fresh cheeses and rustic bread can instantly make the party have a more organic feel.

6. Add Candles
There’s nothing more romantic than a dim room lit only by the glow of hundreds of candles. And luckily, candles are inexpensive.

wedding reception candles

7. Cover with Fabric
You can get yards of your favorite fabrics at a craft store and use it for everything from covering tables to draping from the ceiling (i.e. sheer fabrics work well for this and create a romantic atmosphere). Get creative with material to create a soft, intimate atmosphere.

8. Have a Picnic
I was at an outdoor wedding once where reception “tables” were just blankets and pillows on the ground and each blanket had its own picnic basket filled with goodies and wine. It was fun, classy, and unique – not to mention much cheaper than a formal affair with chairs.

9. Display Your Engagement Photos
Your guests will love to look at your engagement photographs, and your reception is the perfect place to display them. In fact, your reception may be the only place that some of your guests will ever get to see your engagement photos. And while you’re at it, bring some of your favorite pictures of you and your spouse-to-be to show at the reception. If you are unsure about displaying them in frames or in a collage, consider creating a slide show for reception entertainment.

10. Have Fun with Flowers
I went to a wedding once that had some large flower displays. They looked like large flower balls. They were elegant, eye-catching, and memorable. To be honest, I don’t remember any decorations other than the flower balls from this wedding. While these displays looked professionally made, a bride and groom could make these flower balls themselves by getting large styrofoam balls (at a craft store like Michael’s) and inserting the stems of the flowers into them. These would be inexpensive to make as long as you either used silk flowers or ordered your flowers from an online wholesaler to save money on wedding flower arrangements.

Wedding Reception Theme Ideas

While a themed wedding may not be the best option for everyone, it will enable you to have a more focused approach to planning your reception decorations. By tying in all the wedding elements, such as centerpieces, flowers, favors, and overall reception appearance, you will simplify the process for yourself, make decisions easier, impress your guests, and save money.

The most difficult part will be picking the theme. You need to make sure the theme is fresh, elegant, and appropriate for you and your spouse-to-be. Make sure you do not pick a theme that could be mistaken for a prom theme, such as “Under The Sea.” Have fun with it, but make sure it is mature. Here are 3 ideas to get you started:

1. Black and White
With a black and white themed wedding, you will base everything off of the basic and elegant colors of black and white. This is a very inexpensive theme for the bride and groom because the guests themselves will be the main decorations. At a black and white wedding, guests are invited to wear black to set apart the bride and groom who will wear white. A word of caution: Do not make your theme white and some other color other than black. Most guests will already have something black to wear and would not have to purchase a new outfit for the wedding. If the bride and groom want to save money for themselves, they need to make it easy for those attending the wedding to save money as well.

2. Seasonal
No matter what time of year it is, it is always some season, and therefore, you can always do a seasonally themed wedding reception. Holidays, such as Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Easter, are very easy to decorate. You could also decorate according to spring, summer, autumn, and winter. For example, if you are doing a spring wedding, you could have a garden theme including gardening tools as centerpieces and little potted plants as the wedding favors. Decorating seasonally will allow you to save money on your wedding flowers as well.

3. Zen
There are so many things that you can do with a Zen wedding reception theme. Just like with a Zen wedding ceremony theme, you can set up a reception that is relaxing, refreshing, and peaceful. Set up a water fountain as the guests walk into the reception hall. Once the guests are inside, allow them to be transported to another world. Set up paper parasols, bonsai trees, rock gardens, lanterns, and origami. Guests will have a lot of fun with this theme, just like I did at a Zen themed wedding I attended a few years ago. It will be memorable for all.

Final Word

Wedding receptions are big, elegant parties, but they don’t have to cost as much as you think. With a little creativity and some do-it-yourself know-how, you can create a romantic atmosphere for your big day.

How did you save money decorating for your wedding reception? Share your experiences and best tips in the comments below!

(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.

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  • http://www.savings.com/blog/blog.html Amy Saves

    water fountain idea is brilliant!

  • Casey Slide

    Thanks, Amy!

  • Majorsolutionsllc

    I am using candelabras instead of flowers for centerpieces. My personality is really to do it right or not at all. Flowers are beautiful, but can be expensive. Therefore, I’m going to rent candelabras, and use taper candles. I think it will look elegant and I don’t have to look like I’m on a budget with the flower arrangments. My wedding colors are black and white, so hopefully, this will lend itself to a high-end look:)

    • Casey Slide

      Oh wow, I bet that will look classy! I think people will enjoy that more than flowers anyways.

  • Arunprabhujee

    thanks for your kind tips.

  • Amanda

    When i decorated my wedding, i took champagne flukes with sand art and sealed with voitive candles. I decorated the glasses with roses of the wedding colors. I also took the mini bubbles and put doves on top and tied little ribbons inbthe wedding colors.

  • Bridesign Wedding Flowers

    Another idea would be decorating with wine bottles! Use them as table numbers, to showcase pictures of the couple, etc… Also, re-purposing flowers or candles used in the ceremony for the reception can help save some money that can be very well spent during the honeymoon or even a house down payment! :)
    Great post, Casey!

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