My husband and I got married in 2013. At the time we really wanted to elope to save money (use it for things like furnishing our first place and traveling) and have an intimate celebration with our closest friends and family. But eloping wasn't cool then like it is now. Eloping was a way to get married in "secret" because I was either pregnant or we were being forced to get wed. Neither of those were true.
When we opted for a traditional wedding we knew we had to do it on a slim budget - $5,000.
That sounds like a lot of money to me! But I know for a wedding the average couple spends $25k-$35k in the USA. And that's the AVERAGE couple!
This can make planning a wedding really overwhelming because most vendors are used to that budget.
I learned sooo much planning my wedding on such a tight budget. Looking back I don't think I could have distributed the money better.
And you know what, coming out of our wedding we still had $1,000 left for our honeymoon! I was so proud.
So trust me when I say, planning a beautiful wedding on a budget can be done!
Here's a list of ideas and tips on how to cut corners, save within your budget, and things I consider to be spending priorities. Not everyone is the same so this list will change and move in order of importance for everyone. But you get the general idea :)
Here's some scans from my wedding as well as photos from weddings I've done this last year! (forgive the quality of the scans, I don't have digital files!)
#1 : Venue
There's a lot of things to be decided on when planning a wedding. But I think your venue takes the cake. Not only is it probably (usually) the biggest wedding cost, it's the most essential. It will be where you walk down the aisle, where you have your first dance as bride and groom, where you huddle in close with friends and family, it's where these precious memories are formed!
If you know a friend with a barn or have a giant backyard to pitch a tent, PERFECT. This will seriously save you so much.
Another thing to consider when booking a venue is: do they include food? Do they allow outside caterers? I've found venues that have exclusive caterers tend to be a bit more pricey.
Our venue was one thing I couldn't see myself settling on. It was our biggest expense and it needed to be perfect. I don't regret spending 1/3 of our budget on the venue and I'm so glad we toured dozens before picking the one for us. That's right, you might have to tour for weeks to find one within your price range AND that's available for your date!
#2 : Dress
This might be a little debatable for people. but I think what a bride wears on her wedding day is A BIG DEAL. Not only will she be the main focal point for a big part of the ceremony, she will possibly pass her dress down to her children. She will look back on all her photos thinking how beautiful she looked (hopefully!) and being so glad she married the person she loves in the dress she picked out.
I've found a huge help for dress shopping is searching at your nontypical white dress suppliers.
I found my dress at Free People and I think it was perfect for my vibe and it was a fraction of the cost of a traditional dress. I've also seen incredible dresses from ASOS, Just search around for white dresses - you don't have to buy a wedding dress from a wedding dress store! You can find it anywhere!
#3 : Photographer
My only regret from my wedding - not hiring a photographer. At the time we had a friend who offered to do photos and so it didn't seem like that big of a deal. While I love those photos and am so glad we have them, I wish I had just hired the photographer I loved. The area we were married in had a small market of photographers and all of them were going to cost $2,000+. But the saddest thing is I only have photos of certain moments of our day like the ceremony and a few dances and really no photos of speeches or the guests (besides the photos from the disposable cameras we handed out). It would've been so incredible to have memories of every moment and I wish I could change that.
#4 : Food
I'm not sure if I'd say it's a significant part of your day, but it will take up a significant portion of your finances. Maybe $15 a plate doesn't sound like a lot, but if you multiply that by 100 people, that's $1,500 before tax! I knew I needed to find delicious food without spending more than 1/3 of our budget. I mean of course I wanted to eat something I'd love but I also knew that food would be a small part of what I remembered about my wedding day.
I found a small family run restaurant and looked into their menu options. They offered a smaller portion lunch option and it was half the price of their dinner menu! To save money on a delivery fee (our venue was 90 minutes from the restaurant) I had a friend pick it up in these hot boxes and my family helped set it up to be served. Think potluck style dinner! Everyone grabbed a plate and dished up for themself.
There was no waiters or waitresses (not important for me) and it was a simple, easy, AFFORDABLE option.
The food was delicious and I'm so glad we got to use a restaurant we loved and wanted to support.
For dessert we did pies because we found a local pie shop that would do all the dessert for under $200. I've never loved cake so for me pie was a perfect other option.
#5 : Linen, Florals, + Table Decor
Another one of the things I compromised on was flowers. I just knew after a lot of research that if I did fresh flowers I'd spend over 1/3 of the budget on decor. For some people that's really important and I totally understand that. I love flowers and wanted to have the most beautiful things on my tables but I also thought I could find a more sustainable option.
I ended up going with dried florals I found on Etsy and I bought 4 or 5 bundles of fresh flowers from the grocery store that we used to line the aisle and put in various mason jars around the venue. Another big part of our day was cacti - I bought a little terracotta cacti arrangement for each table. I also made sure to get linens I loved. This wasn't something I could skimp on because used or cheap linens just looked that - used and cheap. I'm so glad I had cacti arrangements for people to take home and I think the guests loved it too!
IF YOU WANT REAL FLOWERS at your wedding I'd suggest making that priority number 2 or 3 as it will be a huge cost - probably equal or close to food.
#6 : Gifts and Favors
I think as brides we can underestimate the thought of intentional gifts. I don't think we have to spend hundreds of dollars to let our closest friends know we love them a lot. If anything, our friends are so excited to be a part of our day they aren't even thinking about getting anything.
I didn't do any custom mugs or fancy "will you be my bridesmaid" cards, and I don't think anyone noticed (I hope! haha). I bought them all a pair of earrings and wrote a personal note saying how thankful I was and how much it meant to have them there with me. It was sweet and simple and I love that they could have something small from me thanking them.
For favors my husband and I cut down a few trees and sliced them up to make coasters. We had a stamp we were using on all our invitations and stamped each coaster. We sealed them with polyurethane and tied them together with twine in pairs for people to take home. They were custom, cute, and significant and I love going to homes and seeing them on peoples' coffee tables to this day!
#7 : Hair and Makeup
Do you know someone who knows someone who does hair and makeup? Ask them what they charge! I have an incredible sister-in-law who is a magician with hair and makeup. Since she was already going to be at my bridal party and wedding I asked her if she'd do my hair and makeup as a gift. She said yes and I'm so thankful! Having people do gestures like these instead of getting you a gift is a great help to a budget.
#8 : Honeymoon
Honeymoons are important. No doubt! But where and when you go on your honeymoon might not matter quite as much. Does it have to be immediately after your wedding? Does it have to be a backpacking trip through Chile? Or a treehouse in Costa Rica?
Ricky and I love to travel but we knew that we couldn't do a big trip right then. It just wouldn't be worth it if we had a super tight spending budget while we were traveling. So instead we did a 5 day road trip all through New York state (where we got married) and did our real honeymoon a few months later in Mexico when we had more money saved. In a way, it's like we got two honeymoons!
I think it was perfect for us and we did it all without breaking the bank.
If you have your heart set on a cruise through the Mediterranean, start saving now. Make the honeymoon a spending priority and be willing to put other things aside to make it happen.
At the end of the day, know your priorities.
Everyone is different, therefore every wedding will be different! Some people might rather have the most extravagant floral arrangements and chips and dip for dinner. Some people would rather wear a thrifted $10 wedding dress and go on a 2 week long honeymoon all over SE Asia. What suits you will work best, and it's really important to think outside the box and make it feel like your day.
Nothing is off limits and nothing is impossible if you think where you can save money to spend money. Be creative! Be intentional! Start saving now and wait for the sale at your favorite dress store.
I hope this little list is somewhat helpful and you find yourself excited about having A BEAUTIFUL WEDDING ON A BUDGET. It is possible!