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For some couples, a well-planned dream wedding can cost tens of thousands of dollars. But money isn’t the only thing that makes a wedding day go-round. In fact, there are so many ways you can throw the wedding of a lifetime on a limited budget you’ll wonder why every else is spending so much.
Here are 20 things to consider on how to throw an inexpensive wedding.
1. Start With the Budget
Take time to figure out how much of a wedding budget you have realistically. This budget should be a reasonable amount based on your income, minus your expenses, and how much extra cash you have to put towards your wedding day.
Let’s say you can put away $200 a month confidently for a period of 24 months leading up to your wedding. You have roughly $5,000 to spend on the big day, as long as you can commit to your savings plan.
If your parents or other family members decide to help you financially with your wedding, you can add the total amount to your overall budget or allocate the money towards a specific service. If great Aunt Ida gives you a $1000, consider looking for a photographer or a DJ that costs $1000.
Etiquette says that you shouldn’t ask for wedding donations, but if the opportunity is offered, graciously accept it.
Employ a new notebook where you can jot down your initial budget and all of the information you collect when pricing caterers, photographers, and florists. This makes it less likely that you’ll lose any important details.
The more organized you are, the more effectively you can plan without worry of losing important contracts or even money.
2. The Wedding Attire
There is often a lot of expense associated with the clothing traditionally worn on the wedding day.
With an open mind and a little digging, you can save thousands of the wedding attire, putting that money to better use for your reception, your honeymoon, or for life after the big event.
Men’s wedding wear is generally much less expensive than it is for the women. To save on rental fees, keep an eye out for coupons to local tux shops. You can also find out if anyone you know has a tux you can borrow for a few hours during the ceremony.
To cut out the rental cost of tuxes completely, you opt to ditch the formal wear in favor of coordinated casual wear for the groom and his men.
This is a popular option for those who are having a wedding ceremony outside of a church. But even for a religious event, a nice suit and tie combination is still acceptable attire without the extra cost.
4. Bridesmaid Dresses
Generally, the bridal party is responsible for footing the bill for their own dress and accessories. If this is a hardship for any member of your bridal party, it may be worthwhile to consider relaxing your dress code, opting for less expensive, less formal attire.
You can also consider taking your party to local consignment shops to find an assortment of formal dress in different variations of the same color. This unique approach can save you 50%-75% off the original price of the dress.
5. The Wedding Dress
While some brides spend several thousand dollars on their wedding dress alone, consider how much farther you can stretch your wedding budget by option for an off the rack dress, priced at only a few hundred dollars instead of a few thousands.
You can also get sentimental and ask a family member for a loaner dress. You may need to pay for a few basic alterations and you’ll need to get permission to make changes to the dress.
However, the cost and time you save dress shopping can be significant. You can also make the day of your loved one who will likely be honored you choose to wear her wedding dress.
If you don’t have the borrowing option, you may want to consider renting a dress for the day. There are companies, like Rent the Runway, that do exactly that. You can save hassle and money by renting your dream dress and returning it soon after your event.
Plus, you also get a large selection of styles and designer options to consider, ensuring you can find something to match your style and tastes.
Finally, if the dress isn’t the focal part of your dream wedding, consider wearing something already in your closet or from the local department store. A breezy sundress or dignified suit can be the ideal dress choice for your big day.
7. The Venue
There are many budget-friendly venue options available, you just have to think outside the box and maybe call in a favor or two from a family member or friend.
You can have a cost-effective wedding ceremony at the local courthouse, paying for a judge or justice of the peace to marry you, then put the rest of your budget towards your reception or honeymoon.
You can also ask to borrow a backyard, if yours isn’t sufficient in size. An outdoor venue can be lovely, although there may be associated costs to account for, such as rental tents in the event of inclement weather.
If you’re sure you want an indoor venue, ask around for pricing ant local community halls before moving on to hotels and other, more expensive venues. You may find great diamond in the rough event area that’s unique and also affordable.
Consider places like:
- Local park pavilions
- School campuses
Membership lodges and social halls for groups like the VFW, the Elks and the Moose, may also have an events room you can rent relatively cheap and often include a ready-to-go bar, bartender, and food serving staff.
If you can’t find your own places off the beaten path, ask your friends and co-workers for referrals.
The first way to cut down on your food costs is to invite less people to the reception. As most caterers charge by the plate, you can keep food costs low by having a smaller, more intimate gathering with less menu choices.
If you come from a family of cooks, you may consider asking extended family members to help you prepare a buffet-style wedding feast. It’s worthwhile to compare the cost of your own ingredients and the time you need to do the work versus the cost of a professional caterer.
If you go this route, be sure to hire independent services so your family can enjoy your wedding day.
Whichever option you choose, keep your menu nice and easy, without fancy fixings or expensive ingredients. Fresh local fruits and vegetables, appetizers, and easy to prepare foods are all a perfect way to keep your guests fed without breaking the budget.
For the cake, keep it simple skip the fancy bells and whistles and multiple layers. Choose a design you like in a flavor you both love. The size only has to be as big enough to feed the number of guests you are expecting for the reception.
One of the biggest expenses most couples face for their reception is the open bar-style wedding. It can help cut costs if you offer only a few select drink choices for your guests, buying the alcohol for yourself, rather than having it supplied.
You can also let your guest know that BYOB is acceptable if they want alcohol. This puts the responsibility and the cost of alcoholic purchases on your guest, if you’re not interested in having a bar. This may be a great money-saving solution if you and your partner aren’t drinkers by nature.
Flowers can be a surprisingly expensive accessory for your wedding. Consider not using flowers for your reception, as part of your table or church décor.
Stick with boutonnieres for the groom and his men, if it’s affordable. For the ladies, choose simple bouquets or opt for your bridal party to carry a single, favorite flower.
Today’s technology makes it really easy to be your own wedding DJ. Set up a wedding playlist on a site like Spotify. You can download all your favorite songs and play music from your phone or tablet throughout the reception.
You may need to borrow or rent a suitable speaker system to ensure everyone can hear the music throughout the venue.
Enlist the help of an up and coming band that would be thrilled for the chance to play to an audience at a considerably reduce price than a more established band. You can hit up local art schools or music venues to find experienced, but still affordable musicians for your wedding day.
Hire an up and coming DJ who is still learning the ropes but eager to play for the right price. To avoid potential disaster, ask the DJ to provide you with videos, other references, or a live performance to ensure they can handle the job at hand.
High priced invitations can quickly blow your wedding budget. With today’s printers and computer technology, you can create beautiful invitations for pennies on the dollar.
Hand-deliver as many invitations as you can to save on the price of stamps and ask for RSVPs via email or sites like evite.com to cut out the cost of return stamps completely.
Depending on the type and location of your venue, you may not need much in the way of decorations. You can certainly create a lovely atmosphere with a few well-placed white lights and minimal table décor.
Shop for clearance items leading up to the wedding. The big craft stores, like Michaels and Hobby Lobby, likely offer a wide range of coupons and sales throughout the year.
Wedding supplies are often reduced after the summer wedding season ends. Buying and storing decorations over the year can save you a lot of money and ensure you still get everything your want.
14. The Rings
Unless diamonds are a must-have for you on your wedding day, consider exchanging simple matching bands during the ceremony. You can save up your monetary gifts from the wedding to buy a wedding ring set in the months after the wedding, when your funds are more stable.
A great way to get quality wedding photos at a very reasonable price is to ask someone you know to do the honor as a wedding gift to you. Expect only the time it took for the photographer to snap the pictures as your gift.
You should still offer to pay for all associated costs for developing the photos and making the albums, while still saving hundreds or thousands of dollars. Don’t be offended if they’d rather just enjoy your wedding day instead of working. Have a backup plan in mind
Check in with a local art school or college that offers photography courses. The career services department of the school should be able to refer you to several students who would be willing to photograph your wedding for a small fee and for the experience.
Skip the favors. Instead, take the time to make it around to each of your guests to say thank you personally. Send thank you notes promptly to all your guests.
Enlist the help of your family or bridal party to stay on the lookout for clearance sale items that would work as favors, or even table décor. Collect these items throughout the months leading up to your wedding.
Rather than gift your bridal party members with trinkets they may never use again, consider spending your money on a memorable day of adventure and fun. Plan a day trip to a favorite place, like an amusement park or the beach after the wedding as a thank you for all they’ve done for you.
18. Hair and Nails
Contact a local beauty school to find out if any students are interested in helping you and your bridal party prep for the big event. You can save considerably and still get salon-professional hair and nail services done at your home.
Ask friends who are good at makeup and manicures if they’ll help you and your bridal party on the morning of your wedding.
If it’s financially viable, rent a small bus for your entire bridal party to travel to and from the ceremony and the reception. This eliminates having to round up several cars or pay for more expensive limos to transport your party and family members. Ask your favorite uncle to play chauffeur for the event.
If you have several friends with cars, ask them to be your wedding party’s transportation. Offer to pay for gas and be thankful if they refuse.
20. Miscellaneous Savings
Attend a bridal show in your area. Many of the vendors attending these shows are offering reduced rates and other incentives for show attendees. Seek out the services you want in your wedding and take some time to discuss your options and pricing with a variety of vendors.
You may leave with bigger, better, more affordable ideas than you had when you started.
Use Pinterest to see how other people’s frugal weddings have turned out. This is another place where you’ll find new ways to think outside of the box and achieve the wedding of your dreams.
Get married in the ‘off-season’. Summer weddings are incredibly popular. Consider sharing your vows in the middle of winter when prices for venues and other services are less. You can also consider getting married on a day besides Saturday and earn similar discounts on pricing.
Borrow, borrow, borrow. Before you buy anything for your wedding, explore all of your options for borrowing. At the end of the day, you’re going to end up with a ton of things – from decorations to a dress – that you’ll never use or wear again.
Most wedding supplies end up in an attic, taking up space. Buy anything you want to keep and remember – borrow everything else.
It certainly is possible to have a grand wedding on a small budget, if you put your mind to it. It also helps to have some time to plan and add more money to your budget.
On the opposite side of that coin, some of the best marriages started out with quick elopements that totally eliminated the stressful, costly planning process. This author married in the office of the District Magistrate of Las Vegas for less than $100, plus the cost of travel and food.
Our hotel was a wedding gift and for four wonderful days, we enjoyed the combination wedding/honeymoon with our closest friends and not an ounce of wedding-related stress.