Blushing brides everywhere are gearing up for wedding season and the ringing of wedding bells has never sounded so appealing. That’s because finance-savvy couples aren’t interested in going into debt over Jordan almonds and Louis Vuitton dresses anymore!
If you are planning a wedding on a budget, read this compilation of the 23 BEST budget wedding ideas that will help you save you big bucks and still get your dream wedding.
How to plan a budget wedding
My husband and I were married in the fall of 2010 in Chicago, a time when wedding costs in The Windy City had ballooned to over $53,000 (that’s including the cost of rings and honeymoon).
Since my parents both passed away a long time ago and my husband’s family was in no financial position to help us, we knew we would have to shoulder all the financial burden of the wedding.
I knew I was going to have to roll up my sleeves and come up with some great budget wedding ideas to keep our wedding costs low.
With hard work, determination, and plenty of planning, I was able to save us $30,000 less than the average Chicago wedding final cost!
Even better, we walked away with great memories and ZERO wedding debt!
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Tips for planning your dream wedding on a budget
I want you to know it is ABSOLUTELY possible to plan a dream wedding on a budget — here are all the best tips.
Pick and choose the ones that work best for you and your wedding.
#1. Start saving for your wedding well in advance
If you are short on savings, make sure that you start stashing that cash right away!
How much should you save?
Well, if you are starting from absolute zero, ideally you should plan to save the total cost of the wedding, divided by how many months you have to save.
Therefore, if you are planning a wedding on a budget of $20,000 and will get married in a year, that means that you should aim to save around $1,667 per month to have enough saved up by your wedding date. (Don’t forget that many vendors will require a deposit which will be subtracted from the final fee.)
If raising that much money to spend on a wedding (and believe me, wedding costs add up FAST) seems crazy to you, you have two options:
- reduce the total planned cost of the wedding
- extend your engagement in order to save for a longer period of time
For example, you would only need to save $834 per month for a $20,000 wedding if you plan to push the date back 2 years. Conversely, if you reduce the budget to $10,000, it will also only take you $834 per month to save up for a wedding in one year!
#2. Write a wedding budget
Brides nowadays have so many awesome online tools at their fingertips that can help them plan ahead and save.
If you have no idea what a wedding might cost and need help with writing a budget, check out the Wedding Cost Estimator at Cost of Weddings and see what costs look like in your particular area.
If you have no idea how much money you are spending each month, now is a great time to figure it out!
Get your soon-to-be-married life started on the right food by planning for your financial future — this free printable can help!
#3. Identify your wedding must-haves
Been dreaming of an amazing wedding dress since you were a child?
Make that a priority.
Want beautiful memories that you can share with your husband and children for years to come?
Put photography on that list.
Dreaming of a destination wedding overlooking a beautiful beach?
Write it down!
Sit down with your significant other and jot down a list of the items that each of you feels will be most meaningful to invest in on your big day.
This is a great exercise that also allows you and your partner to explore your wants versus needs — the added benefit is that you can see how you can work together when it comes to financial planning!
Make it fun by having the discussion over a bottle of wine or a cup of coffee. Allow yourself to dream about how your future will unfold.
Hey, who said budgeting can’t be sexy?
#4. Be your own wedding planner
Hiring a wedding planner can cost an arm and a leg.
Plan your own wedding and save on planning costs — it’s even possible if you are working a full-time job!
(Trust me, I did it.)
You don’t need a costly wedding planner — instead, simply invest in a good book that has all the organizers and checklists to help you map out every aspect of your big day!
Bonus: book can’t try and steal your husband à la The Wedding Planner.
Below is the newest edition of the book that I used to plan my entire wedding on a budget, from start to finish.
My favorite part was the week-by-week planning checklist, which they provide for both short and long engagements!
#5. Get married literally any day except Saturday
Saturday is the most expensive day of the week to plan a wedding because it is typically the most in-demand and convenient. The convenience is expensive, people!
We chose to plan our wedding on a Sunday and saved several thousand dollars by doing so.
One of my best friends got married on a Monday and cut her total costs by around 50%!
Most people want to get married on a Saturday. Be flexible with your dates and you can save a lot of money!
Although people may grumble about the inconvenience, if they truly want to be a part of your big day they will make it happen. If not, no skin off your back — you can save wedding costs by cutting them off the list.
#6. Save money by hosting an off-season wedding
Prime wedding season will vary from state to state and region to region, so you need to research your area to see what months would be considered wedding “off-season”.
We got married right at the fringe of the fall wedding season when things were slowing down and it definitely saved us money (we lucked out and had excellent weather for the big day).
If you decide to plan an off-season wedding, it’s good to have a backup plan in case weather conditions put a kink in your schedule, such as having the option to move an outdoor wedding inside your venue in the case of rain.
Winter is the least popular time for weddings, so you can save big if you decide to go with a winter wedding.
(I can’t image why — I mean, who wouldn’t want the chance to wear a fur-lined cape like the one below to their wedding! Just imagine how amazing that would look against a snowy backdrop.)
#7. Choose a venue that doesn’t require much decoration
If you chose a location that is already beautiful, you won’t need to spend thousands of dollars to decorate it!
Weigh the cost of the venue and the amenities they offer (food prices, how much wait staff, alcohol included, etc) with how much you can save in other areas by choosing that venue.
#8. Use space that you already have
If you have a nice house with a big backyard, why not use that yard and host your wedding there?
Pop up some tents, use fold-out tables with a nice table cloth for your buffet, and you are ready to party!
If you have any friends or family that own picturesque property, reach out to them and see if they are willing to let you hold your wedding there.
Any money you will spend will surely be less than an outside venue.
#9. Shop around for a venue
If you don’t own your own house or know anyone in your local area with any scenic property, you can shop around the local venues.
There are all sorts of venues in all different price ranges!
A good place to start is at online wedding sites like Weddingbee and The Knot, where you can find local vendors and reviews from couples who have used their wedding services — always pay attention to reviews.
Start by exploring the highly-rated venues in your price range.
Also, don’t be afraid to extend your search outside of your local neighborhood!
Hosting a wedding in a metropolitan area often drives up the cost of weddings, on everything from food prices to venue costs.
Moving our wedding out of Chicago saved us a lot of money; we ended up finding a sweet little golf course in the suburbs to host our wedding.
(Although my husband nearly got knocked out by a stray golf ball! Watch out for stray golf balls if you choose a golf course, FYI.)
Consider returning home to have your wedding if you are from a cheaper area or consider expanding your search outside of your expensive city.
#10. Invite fewer people
It’s simple math; fewer guests equal less food, flowers, alcohol, space, and everything else.
Try and trim the guest list as much as possible and save across all categories.
Do you really need to dance the Cha Cha Slide with your father’s best friend’s cousin twice removed?
#11. Cut costs on flowers
Flowers are a great place to slash costs — a little can go a long way.
Instead of purchasing massive and expensive arrangements, brainstorm ways you can DIY your own floral arrangements!
Paper flowers can make stunning photography props and backdrops. Crafty brides have even made bouquets from things like vintage brooches or buttons!
Even purchasing glass cylinder vases in bulk and submerging a single flower can result in a show-stopping centerpiece!
As a rule, the fewer flowers you use, the more money you will save!
#12. DIY menus and cards
It pays to do-it-yourself!
You can create place cards, menus, and any other necessities nowadays with your printer and some nice cardstock.
I tried to make my non-English speaking family members feel welcome by creating table cards with Chinese characters on them.
#13. Hold the ceremony and reception at the same venue
Instead of getting married in a church and the driving to a separate location, cut costs by selecting a venue that allows you to hold the ceremony and the reception in the same place!
You will save on the cost of two locations AND the price or renting the typical bridal troop limo.
#14. Choose the right food for your budget wedding
Think about ways to save on meals.
Sit-down dinners are more expensive than buffet-style meals.
Or if you are hosting a backyard wedding, you can even turn it into a potluck!
A friend of mine who got married in Hawaii even hosted a luau-style wedding and roasted a pig, Hawaiian-style!
#15. Email your save-the-dates
Even your 95-year-old Grandma Margie probably has a Gmail account now — capitalize on that and save money and the environment and send your save-the-dates by email.
That way you can save money and still follow up with formal invitations (or just email those too, I won’t judge).
#16. Shop second-hand or discount
Find great deals on designer dresses by shopping at places like Poshmark, eBay, thrift stores, etc.
Even online wedding sites like Weddingbee now have a Classifieds section where brides can get deep discounts on designer digs.
Prom dresses also cost much less than wedding dresses but can look just as nice.
And don’t overlook Amazon! (Would I get married tomorrow in this dress? Yes, yes I would!)
#17. Ask an ordained friend marry you
Have a family member who is an officiant or even that odd friend who decided to get certified in college?
Ask them to marry you and save on officiant costs.
#18. DJ your own party
If boogieing to music isn’t high on your priority list, you can drop the DJ and have a music-loving friend drop a beat instead.
Even if you invest in some outdoor speakers like these to hook up for your backyard wedding, you are still going to spend a fraction of what a DJ would cost!
#19. How to save on wedding cakes
Are you or someone you know really into baking?
Consider a DIY wedding cake or even a dessert bar featuring such goodies as cupcakes, s’mores, donut walls, or even an ice cream station!
Any of these options are sure to be winners with your guests.
#20. Recruit help
Have friends or family close?
Recruit as much help as possible for your wedding.
There are any number of errands that loved ones can help with, from baking desserts to helping with the shopping and planning to transportation to and from the wedding.
Most of your loved ones would be honored to be a part of your big day.
Don’t be afraid to reach out!
#21. Skip it all and get married at the courthouse
Plan B; skip all of the above and just get married at the courthouse!
The family that saves together, stays together after all.
#22. Sell your wedding props
After the big day is over, most of the items that you have purchased for your wedding can now be sold if you don’t want them anymore.
I myself sold my wedding dress for $650 after my wedding, which was a little over 50% of the purchase price!
Flower vases, decorations, clothing, DJ or photography equipment, etc can be sold if you decide you don’t need it anymore.
This is a good way to recoup some of your wedding spendings!
#23. Find ways to make extra cash before your wedding!
The truth is you can only budget so much before there isn’t anything left to cut.
If you are really struggling to find the amount of cash you need to cover your wedding, here are some fast and sneaky ideas for pulling in extra cash quickly.
- Get free money back on EVERY SINGLE PURCHASE you make for your wedding with sites like Ebates/Rakuten – they literally pay you to do shopping you were going to do anyway! (You can read my full review here.)
- Earn up to $45 extra cash at a time by completing online surveys (you can sign up for FREE at this top-rated site)
- Get free gift cards to use at your favorite places like Starbucks and Sephora (hello, DIY wedding makeup?)
- If you love animals you can get paid to babysit them at sites like Rover, which is a great way for dog-lovers to make extra cash!
- Start selling off your unwanted clutter and you can make $1,000 or more – here’s how I did it.
I hope you enjoyed these money-saving budget wedding ideas!
Let me know your favorite money-saving tip for weddings in the comment section below.