17 Wedding planning tips on a budget
Weddings are one of life’s most beautiful moments. The day when your best of friends, your families all come together to celebrate love and the growth of family. And that comes with a price. There is no denying that the cost of a wedding has become very expensive. And with social media, there is an endless amount of content that shows engaged couples every possible way they can have every part of their special day. From when they wake up, to the late-night after-party snacks.
But getting married doesn’t have to break the bank! You can cut costs and still have your big day the way you want, it still be beautiful and your guests have an amazing time.
In this post, I’m going to give tips that will save you money. Everything from understanding wedding budgets to wedding DIY to real ways you can have the wedding day you want.
01. Forget what you know about weddings
Turn off Instagram, Pinterest, and your phone. Talk to your partner. Ask what is important. Ask who is important. And ask what you want from the day. When you get to this place of experience over things, you’ll be in a much better place of deciding what is worth spending more money on, and what is not worth spending money on.
02. Make a wedding day timeline
The first thing you should do when you get engaged is make your wedding day timeline. This is the timeline for the order and times of events on your wedding day. It is often the most overlooked, but most important part of your wedding day. It is also the key to reducing stress and for weddings on a budget.
If you have your wedding day timeline made (even if you adjust it later) before you start hiring vendors and wedding venues, you’ll know when your morning is going to start, when you’re doing photos, how long it takes to travel from locations, and when your reception is going to end.
This means when you interview venues and vendors, you’ll know exactly how long you need their services and if the venue or vendor can accommodate what you’re planning, saving you money in the long run.
While you can hire a wedding planner for a few thousand dollars (the national average cost is $3,000), you can make your own timeline using weddingdaytimeline.com to have it all done for you professionally in minutes. Having it done right will ensure you don’t forget or miss anything which will cost you money down the line.
03. Learning what things cost
You can’t budget until you start looking at what things cost. Look at websites, even if the vendor is not your top choice. Once you start learning what things cost in your area, you’ll be able to start making better-informed decisions, which will save you money.
04. Ask about hidden charges
Ask open-ended and direct questions about extra or hidden charges. If you’re hiring a caterer, ask what it does and does not include. I’ve seen couples get invoices after the wedding for bottle recycling fees. I’ve been to weddings where I’ve seen guests, and myself included, have helped clean up and throw trash away from tables because catering didn’t include clean up. Ask all your vendors about the “what else” cost of their service.
05. Find a wedding venue that you don’t have to decorate
Try to find a venue that isn’t just an empty wedding or event space. A unique hotel, that also does weddings will often have its own fresh-cut flowers and decor that will help you cut costs on decorations. A unique store or building that is something else “in the day” will often allow for weddings and need virtually no money to decorate. Mike and Amanda had a beautiful wedding in Des Moines, Iowa in the popular West End Architectural Salvage and as you can see, they didn’t have to spend any money on decor!
06. Find a venue of a friend or family member
There are 3 major costs for weddings. Location, Food, and alcohol. Solve one by using your home, your parents or in-laws, or if you’re lucky, a friend with a large home or farm. Jack and Krista were lucky to have a family friend that let them use their farm overlooking the Potomac River outside of Washington, DC.
07. Find a venue at a state park or other natural setting.
You can often have a wedding at a state park, or if you’re near the coast, on the beach. Another tip is to consider a large Airbnb which can double as your ceremony and reception site. The beach is usually no cost, and state parks the cost is free or minimal. Below you can see photos from both a state park and an Airbnb on the coast.
08. Weddings at home and restrooms
When it comes to real weddings, you don’t want everyone going in and out of a personal home to use the restroom. Instead, you’ll want to get portable restrooms. And I’m not talking about the yellow ones you see at construction sites. Today, you can easily get large men/women restrooms that are fully decorated, mirrors, sinks, and even with air conditioning and background music! While this tip might cost you a few dollars, it will save you the long-term agony of having a bunch of people using an indoor home restroom.
09. Bouquets as centerpices
Rather than getting new flowers for your centerpieces, use the bridesmaid’s bouquets. They’ll look great and save you a lot of money on florals.
10. Bouquets from the grocery store or farmer’s market
If you’re creative, you can find beautiful flowers at a grocery store the day before your wedding and have your bridesmaids over for a DIY party. Below you can see Amelia shopping for fresh flowers on the morning of her wedding at the local farmer’s market on San Juan Island.
11. Wedding cake from the grocery store
While you’re there, look at the bakery section. You can get a mini round cake to cut, and sheet cake for the larger cake to cut for guests. Over the past few years, I’ve seen more and more couples doing this.
12. Wedding websites and RSVPs
Make use of free wedding websites and have all or part of your RSVPs done online. You’ll save good money on printing and postage for wedding invitations (which, don’t forget, is done by weight!)
13. Wedding dress that isn’t a wedding dress
You can look to high-end stores for evening dresses that are on sale. You’ll be different and save some money. The same idea holds true for the dress of your wedding party.
14. Consider a non-Saturday or off-season wedding
Some venues and vendors will cost less if you’re having your wedding on a weekday, or during the off-season. And don’t be afraid to ask or speak up for a discount, or specify a price you want something for. Just be sure those on your guest list can make it.
15. Mix it up with a partial cash bar
Save on alcohol costs by paying for beer and wine, and a cash bar for mixed drinks.
16. The wedding cookie table
You don’t have to have a cake if you do it like they do in Pittsburgh. Their wedding cookie tables were born from saving money. They were a result of the Great Depression. Family members are enlisted to make their favorite cookies for the wedding. I can tell you, some of the most flavorful and most loved weddings I’ve been to are one with people from Pittsburgh!
17. Borrow a veil
Veil’s are surprisingly expensive. Ask around and chances are you have a friend or friend of a friend who will let you borrow one. At least half the veils I see at weddings are borrowed.
Remember, when you plan a wedding it’s easy to get caught up in it all. There are so many amazing ideas and beautiful images to entice you to spend money on your wedding. But at the end of the day, it’s all a backdrop to the experience you’re all having. Focus on the experience, the rest will follow. Happy planning!