Weddings

How to have a beautiful budget-friendly wedding

Your wedding day can still be unforgettable without costing a fortune

Congratulations! You’re engaged and have decided to choose a lifetime of monogamy with the one person who still loves you no matter how loudly you chew or much you fart in front of them. I’m thrilled for you! But before it’s legal, you have to plan your wedding – a monumental feat in and of itself. Weddings can be incredibly expensive from the dresses to the suits, flowers, cake, and especially the venue. But there are creative ways around that. Here are 22 tips to create a low-budget, but still beautiful wedding:

1. Find a low-cost venue

The actress Judy Garland drives a tractor on a dirt road, bordered by a wooden fence and trees. She has short closely cropped, brown hair and sings, swaying back and forth
[Image Description: The actress Judy Garland drives a tractor on a dirt road, bordered by a wooden fence and trees. She has short closely cropped, brown hair and sings, swaying back and forth] Via Giphy.

Think outside of the box. Find a state park (which usually only requires a permit), a friend’s backyard or even a local farm. You can still make it the wedding your own and it will give you room to splurge on other parts of the wedding

2. Enlist your crafty friends

A kitten sits at a sewing machine moving a cloth forward
[Image description: A kitten sits at a sewing machine moving a cloth forward] Via Giphy.

If you have talented friends, recruit them to make a few things for your wedding. If they know how to sew, they can make items like table runners or the groomsmen’s ties. If they are bakers, they could bake your desserts. And if they’re musicians, they can play at your wedding. Not only will this add a personal touch but it can save you quite a bit of money.

3. Have friends chip in with their time

A cartoon of a round creature wearing a striped yellow and green hat decorating the yellow wall behind it with stars and abstract shapes. It turns around and smiles when it's done
[Image description: A cartoon of a round creature wearing a striped yellow and green hat decorating the yellow wall behind it with stars and abstract shapes. It turns around and smiles when it’s done] Via Giphy.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with the planning or needing help setting up at the actual event, ask your friends to offer their time in lieu of a gift.

4. Ask parents to fund the wedding as their gift

A woman sits in a gold bathtub full of money, lifting gold glasses off her face shaped like American dollar signs. She's surrounded by people throwing money in the air and there's money all over the floor
[Image description: A woman sits in a gold bathtub full of money, lifting gold glasses off her face shaped like American dollar signs. She’s surrounded by people throwing money in the air and there’s money all over the floor] Via Giphy.
If your parents can afford it and want to give you a gift, ask them to help with some of the wedding bills instead of a gift. This also works if you continuously run into arguments with them about inviting guests like your Aunt Susan, who you can’t quite afford to include on the list but they want there.

5. Don’t buy flowers

A woman stands in a field of flowers with her arms outstretched
[Image Description: A woman stands in a field of flowers with her arms outstretched] Via Giphy.

Flowers can really rack up the bill. Try collecting local wildflowers or going to a florist the day of the wedding and pick your own. If you really want to avoid spending money on flowers, try an alternative like paper flowers!

6. Buy your wedding dress in a thrift shop

A woman tries on a dress in a wedding showroom. She sighs and pats the dress happily
[Image Description: A woman tries on a dress in a wedding showroom. She sighs and pats the dress happily] Via Giphy.

Wedding dresses can range in price, from hundreds to thousands of dollars. It does seem a little ridiculous for a dress you will only ever wear once. There are many sites that sell consignment wedding dresses. Or you can find a non-traditional dress for your special day.

7. Cut the guest list down

Two men sit opposite each other. One unfurls a list that lands on the floor and rolls past them out of sight of the viewer
[Image Description: Two men sit opposite each other. One unfurls a list that lands on the floor and rolls past them out of sight of the viewer] Via Giphy.

When your special day comes around, you may want to invite everyone you know. Fight that urge. Not only will inviting 250 people feel overwhelming but all those people add up. Also on the day of, wouldn’t you rather have time to dance and eat then run around greeting everyone? If you really want to go small, narrow your list to 35 people max. Not only can it make it a truly intimate affair but will make your wedding that much more affordable.

8. Create a great playlist on your iPod

People dressed up as Captain America, Spiderman, Superman, and Batman dance and twerk in a circle
[Image Description: People dressed up as Captain America, Spiderman, Superman, and Batman dance and twerk in a circle] Via Giphy.

DJs can be great party-starters but if it’s not a top priority, create an unforgettable playlist and invest in some good sound equipment instead. Include guests in on the fun by asking them to include song requests with their RSVP.

9. Skip the wedding cake

A person dips a waffle into a chocolate fountain
[Image Description: A person dips a waffle into a chocolate fountain] Via Giphy.

The average cost of a wedding cake is $500. If you aren’t fussed about missing out on a special cake, have one small cake that you cut for the photo and then have a dessert alternative to feed the rest of the guests like brownies and cookies. Or skip the cake entirely and have a dessert bar or a waffle bar.

10. E-invites

A guy sits in a cubicle with a headset, saying I guess my invitation got lost in the mail
[Image Description: A guy sits in a cubicle with a headset, saying I guess my invitation got lost in the mail] Via Giphy.

There’s nothing quite like getting an invitation to the wedding of someone you love. But invitations can be quite costly and it’s not that eco-friendly. There are plenty of online sites that let you create beautiful e-invites, saving you time and money that you would have spent on the design and stamps.

11. Get your DIY on

A person wraps raffia ribbon around the seat of a chair frame to make a seat
[Image Description: A person wraps raffia ribbon around the seat of a chair frame to make a seat] Via Giphy.

Save some dough and add a personal touch to your wedding by getting crafty. If you have a knack for it, try making your own centerpieces or decorations. You can find all kinds of inspiration on the internet. Just make sure to keep it manageable without going down a Pinterest rabbit hole.

12. Buy items from wedding consignment groups or Craigslist

Image of a person throwing money at their computer screen
[Image Description: Image of a person throwing money at their computer screen] Via Giphy.

You can often find local online groups where people will resell their wedding supplies. Craigslist or yard sales are always great options too.

13. Or shop for decorations at untraditional places

Youtuber Grace Helbig puts her hand up to block something being thrown at her. She wears a long t-shirt, fanny pack, and a baseball cap with a sprinkles print on it. Behind her is a sign that has a mouth on it and the words This Might Get Thrifty
[Image Description: Youtuber Grace Helbig puts her hand up to block something being thrown at her. She wears a long t-shirt, fanny pack, and a baseball cap with a sprinkles print on it. Behind her is a sign that has a mouth on it and the words This Might Get Thrifty] Via Giphy.

You would be surprised what kinds of decorations you can find at places like thrift stores, dollar stores, or places like Marshalls.

14. Buy your own alcohol

Actress Amy Poehler smiles and then chugs a bottle of wine
[Image Description: Actress Amy Poehler smiles and then chugs a bottle of wine] Via Giphy.

Many venues will allow you to bring your own alcohol which can be practical because you can cap the spending limit. Also, some stores will let you return unopened bottles of wine, beer, and liquor. Check your state’s laws and local store’s policy.

15. Have it during offseason

A couple dance in a big hall with wide arched windows decorated on the outside with Christmas wreaths. They are dressed in a suit and a wedding dress. The person in the suit twirls the person in the wedding dress
[Image Description: A couple dance in a big hall with wide arched windows decorated on the outside with Christmas wreaths. They are dressed in a suit and a wedding dress. The person in the suit twirls the person in the wedding dress] Via Giphy.

If you don’t mind chillier weather, having your wedding during winter or late fall can be a great way to save money. Plus your photo in the snow will look so gorgeous.

16. Get rings made by local artists

A person opens up a box with an engagement ring in it to propose. The camera switches to a woman looking surprised and happy
[Image Description: A person opens up a box with an engagement ring in it to propose. The camera switches to a woman looking surprised and happy] Via Giphy.

The average American spends $6,351 on an engagement ring. While you should totally do you, for some people, this is an extraordinarily large sum that could be better spent on your wedding day, a down payment on a house, bills, or your honeymoon. Seek out local jewelry makers and metalsmiths. Not only will you be supporting local artists, but sometimes you’ll find beautiful rings at half the cost of a commercial jewelry company

17. Cut the wedding short

Samuel L Jackson looking stern and saying this party's over
[Image Description: Samuel L Jackson looking stern and saying this party’s over] Via Giphy.

Venues often charge extra for adding more hours to your wedding. Cut a significant chunk off the bill by keeping the wedding shorter by an hour – you can always move the after party elsewhere or head off to bed for the evening if you’re ready to snooze.

18. Skip the hair and makeup

A cat sits on a bed while someone applies blush their cheeks
[Image description: A cat sits on a bed while someone applies blush their cheeks] Via Giphy.

Hiring a makeup artist and hair stylist can cost a couple of hundred dollars and to be honest, it’s one of the easiest things to cut for many. If one of your friends is skilled at doing makeup or hair, you can always enlist her help. Otherwise, you can easily practice a few looks for the day. And sometimes a simple hairstyle can be prettiest.

19.Small bridal gifts

Two friends sit by a fire pit. One hands the other a tin and the other says, "Oh you shouldn't have."
[Image Description: Two friends sit by a fire pit. One hands the other a tin box and the other says, “Oh you shouldn’t have.”] Via Giphy.

If you go the full wedding party route, instead of giving them gifts, make them a nice dinner or a lovingly-thought out but affordable gift like a framed photo of the two of you. Just the gesture is enough!

20. Commission your friends to document your wedding

A girl takes a selfie of herself on a beach with a polaroid camera
[Image Description: A girl takes a selfie of herself on a beach with a Polaroid camera] Via Giphy.

If having a photographer isn’t high on your list of priorities, ask guests to take pictures or have a Polaroid camera on hand for guests to snap a picture or two. If you have a friend who enjoys photography and doesn’t mind making the rounds, you can always barter with them.

21. Have a daytime wedding

Dwight, Angela, Jim, and Pam sit at a table, laughing. Angela is in a wedding dress
[Image Description: Dwight, Angela, Jim, and Pam sit at a table, laughing. Angela is in a wedding dress] Via Giphy.

You would be surprised how much money having an early morning wedding will save.  Bonus, you can include brunch food and guests won’t have to worry about finding their way back to their hotel room late in an inebriated state.

22. Elope!

Ben from Parks and Recreation looks at Leslie Knope and says "Let's get married. Tonight." He wears a suit and tie
[Image Description: Ben from Parks and Recreation looks at Leslie Knope and says “Let’s get married. Tonight.” He wears a suit and tie] Via Giphy.

Worst comes to worst – there’s always the option to skip the whole thing and elope. If you do want to include loved ones, bring a friend two and immediate parents

Happy wedding planning! At the end of the day, remember it’s just a day in the rest of your lives.