Weddings are memories that can be treasured forever. Saving money on your wedding doesn't mean you are cheap, but instead you are choosing to prioritize and plan for other things in life. Here are our top 30 ways that you can have a great wedding without paying top dollar:
1. Have your wedding during a pandemic
Sadly, we’ve seen lots of weddings get canceled, but many happy couples have also gotten married during this time of social distancing. Having your wedding during the pandemic can give you a great excuse for not inviting your awkward Uncle Larry.
2. 4S Rule (Small, simple, short and sweet)
Even after the pandemic is over, weddings do not have to be large reunions for everyone’s friends and family. Technically, a trip to the courthouse is all that is required. We can blame Disney Movies and Celebrity Weddings for giving us crazy ideas for our dream wedding.
3. Prioritize what is important to you
This is the most important rule and something that is great to practice in all areas of life. Create an ordered list of 5 things that are most important to you for your wedding, then have your spouse-to-be create their list. You can utilize these lists to communicate a plan and figure out which things are worth spending more money on. These priority items shouldn’t be an excuse to go over-budget but might require compromising or cutting out some lower priority items.
If you would like to hear more about Jackie's and my perspective on these tips, head over to listen to our Podcast #10:
4. Don’t use a wedding venue
The venue was my own wedding’s most expensive item. Having a wedding outside, at a church or rented home, on a campus or an alternative event venue can save a lot of money. Sometimes having a wedding outside can cut out the venue costs altogether, but I’d recommend trying to have a backup plan in case of rain.
5. Wedding and reception in the same venue
I once went to a wedding at a church and then drove 30 minutes away to the reception location. Not only was it very expensive, but it also required a lot of extra coordination and planning. I’m sure the guests (speaking for myself at least) would have been just as happy staying at the church for the reception.
6. Pick an alternative day or time
Saturday nights are a popular time and convenient for any traveling guests, but they can also require a higher cost. Friday night, Saturday morning with brunch, or Sunday evening are all great alternative times to have your wedding.
7. Less is sometimes more
Reigning in your ideas is one of the trickiest parts of planning a wedding. Sometimes doing less is more. You don’t need to provide everyone a printed program; you can have it written on a chalkboard sign near the entrance. Minimalist bridesmaids’ bouquets are in style now and still provide something for their hands to hold during the ceremony. The groomsmen don’t need to have boutonnière’s; maybe a colorful pocket square will do. Having a minimalistic mindset towards your wedding can help you save money in a lot of ways.
8. Not everyone needs to be in your wedding party
Ever been to a wedding with 12 people on each side of the bride and groom? If you are having difficulty deciding who makes the cut, you might be trying to avoid conflict. More often than not someone will be just as happy to help out with your wedding as they would be to be in it.
9. Have a DIY party basket gift for the groomsmen/bridesmaids
A gift for your groomsmen and bridesmaids is customary and a nice thing to do in exchange for their time being in your wedding, but an expensive gift is unnecessary. It is especially difficult to pick out something everyone will appreciate. A customized gift basket with thank you notes, gift cards, and their favorite candy can go a long way in expressing your thanks, and might even be more appreciated.
10. Don’t make your groomsmen or bridesmaids pay a ton, especially if they’re having to travel
If you are trying to save money on your wedding, then you might also consider bridesmaids’ and groomsmens’ financial situations. Keeping their dress code simple will help make them feel better about their obligation of being in the wedding. You might even offer to help offset the costs for some of the people in the wedding party.
11. You don’t need to have an extravagant bachelor/bachelorette party
A trip to Las Vegas to enjoy your last unmarried moments could be fun, but is it worth it? Something simple, like going out to eat, or staying in and ordering pizza are memories that can be just as special.
12. Buy flowers in bulk from HEB
Obviously not everyone has access to an HEB, but a local grocer can be a great option for bulk flower purchases. Buying flowers in bulk will require extra planning and more work, but it’s a great way to save money on your decorations. It’s helpful to have friends and family who are available and willing to help you with your DIY preparations.
13. Buy less expensive flowers
Maybe not all flowers are the same, but most flowers are beautiful. Selecting in-season flowers or even utilizing carnations can help cut down the cost of your flower arrangements. In 50 years, your wedding flower selection will hopefully not be impacting your marriage. You could even skip flowers altogether if they’re not important to you.
14. Avoid anything with the word “wedding”
Weddings are known to be expensive and vendors that cater to weddings know that they can get away with charging a premium. But frugal planners can also use this to their advantage by substituting non-wedding counterparts. I actually found this to be a fun challenge when planning for my wedding.
15. Find local non-wedding vendors to cater
Wedding food-catering can get pricey in a hurry. Weddings don’t require food if they occur between meals, but if your event is near meal-time, then it’s probably a good idea to provide some sustenance for your guests. For my wedding, we had a deliciously simple menu of chicken and waffles. We found a local waffle food truck and got chicken strips from Cane’s. As a bonus, our venue already had some large heater ovens that we used to keep the food warm. Our average per-person cost for food was under $5, with plenty of leftovers.
16. Have a buffet instead of full service
Weddings don’t need to be on the same level as a fancy restaurant. Guests are more than willing to serve themselves, and might even appreciate the excuse to stretch their legs. You still might want a few helpers making sure that enough food is out and the water jugs are full.
17. Buy your own alcohol
If you want to throw a party with alcohol, a trip to Specs can save a ton of money. Bars that provide their own alcohol will charge a premium. You’ll need to make sure your venue allows it,and make sure you’re following the rules. You’ll probably have to provide a licensed bartender and security guard.
18. Limit beverage choices
Some people prefer beer and wine to hard liquor beverages. However, if you like mixed drinks then offering a few preselected specialty drinks can help you narrow down the alcohol you need to provide. You can have fun coming up with themed names for your drink specials.
19. You don’t have to have a fancy cake for everyone
If you need a cake at your wedding, you can save a lot of money by having a much smaller decorative cake as your display cake and then a more boring sheet cake to serve the masses. We decided to forego the cake altogether and instead provided Round Rock donuts as our main dessert option, saving a substantial amount of money for something just as delicious.
20. Utilize your network of friends/family
Weddings can be a lot of work, so it always helps to have the help of friends and family. Sometimes your friends will be happy to help with various aspects of your wedding. They can help you with creating decorations, DIY projects, setup, and teardown.
21. Hire friends or friends of friends to help serve
You might have friends who have a bartending license, know how to DJ, design invitations, or are good with a camera. Hiring friends or someone they know for various aspects of your wedding can help secure services at a lower cost.
22. Create your own invitations
Depending on how many people you are inviting, paying for fancy wedding paper can add up. Even if you pay for a design, printing and sending your own invitations will be cheaper.
23. Do a digital invitation
Paper invitations are still common, but it would not be unusual now to forego traditional invitations in favor of a digital approach. Here are a few good options:
24. Borrow speakers/audio equipment
We were lucky with this one because one of our friends was a worship leader at a church. They were able to bring over their sound system for our wedding. You might have a connection with a band, school, or church that will let you borrow their sound system for your special occasion.
25. Skip fancy rings or additional wedding bands
If jewelry isn’t very important to you, sometimes it makes life easier to go with a simple band. You can save a lot of money by going with something simple or with a non-traditional gem. There’s also no need for an additional band to put on during the ceremony; simply use the engagement ring.
26. Hire students
Students are always looking for side-gigs to earn money. You’ll probably be able to find a few talented musicians, photographers, bartenders, or whatever else your wedding needs at a nearby school program.
27. Find a non-wedding “wedding” dress
There are entire reality TV shows about wedding dress shopping, but this can easily add a huge and unnecessarily large expense to your wedding. You can find great options by ordering a bridesmaid’s dress in white, any non-wedding specific white dress, or even a worn-once dress. Technically your dress doesn’t even have to be white; it can be any color you want it to be.
28. DIY photo booth
Photo booths are a fun way for people to capture memories while at your wedding. Having a DIY photo booth is the best of both worlds because they can be both cheap and fun. Polaroid cameras allow guests to take their memories with them or leave them behind as a gift. You can also find themed costume supplies and signs pretty easily shopping online.
29. Have your wedding favors be the centerpieces
If you have a unique or fun wedding favor for your guests, you can utilize them as centerpieces for your tables. Bonus points if they are a DIY creation. The Knot has a great list of DIY Wedding Favors here: https://www.theknot.com/content/diy-wedding-favor-ideas
30. Home baked goods or candy display
An easy way to add decoration without spending much is by utilizing home baked goods or candies. Pinterest has a lot of great examples of these, and they can be fun (and tasty) to create.