It can be extremely easy to spend a ton of money on a wedding. While I know that many people are asking how to throw a wedding on a budget, coming up with the answers isn’t always easy. Some people can afford to spend quite a bit, but everyone can afford to save some money as well. If you fall heavily into the second category, here are some ideas for how to throw a wedding on a budget.
Set a Date During the Off-Season
The summer months are a busy time for wedding venues, especially outdoor locations like parks and gardens. Planning your reception for winter, early spring or late fall is a great way to save. You are more likely to get good rates since the venue of your choice is less likely to be booked and those venues are actively looking for business. Not only that, but other wedding services (photographers, videographers, caterers, etc.) often have lower rates during the off-season for the same reason.
Buy a Pre-Owned Dress
One of the biggest personal decisions to make when planning a wedding is finding the perfect dress. Unfortunately, this same dress can also be one of the biggest expenses. Save money on a wedding gown by shopping for a gently-used option. Bridal stores near you may carry a selection of used gowns or gowns on clearance for various reasons. There are also a number of websites (like eBay) that will let you find people that are looking to sell used dresses. This should bring your cost down from between $1,000-$10,000 to under $100.
Hire a New Photographer (and Include the Guests!)
When it comes to hiring a photographer, try to look for one who is just getting started out in the industry. Photographers who are well-established and have worked many weddings will likely charge more. A photographer who is shooting one of their first weddings may make a deal with you in exchange for shots from your wedding being included in their portfolio, a written reference for their website, or even a shorter length of time at the wedding. Be sure to look at samples before hiring! Consider having your professional photographer attend only for the ceremony and an hour of portrait pictures. After they leave, ask your friends to help out! Everyone has a camera on their phone, so this can be part of their gift to you. Ask all of your wedding guests to take photos throughout the party and share them with you. Afterward, collect the pictures and make a beautiful reception photo book for yourself from a site like Blurb. This way, you’ll get the best of both worlds AND save a bunch of money.
Skip the DJ
Hiring a DJ for the reception can make the experience more memorable, but it can also be very costly. Instead, make the music for the reception more personal by bringing your MP3 player and playing your own music. While it may seem like a major sacrifice at first, your guests will appreciate a wedding music playlist just as much and it will save you a bundle. If you don’t think that you have the time to do this yourself, ask a friend (that you absolutely trust) to handle the responsibility. This can be their wedding gift to you.
Trim the Guest List
It may not be easy, but one of the best places to cut back when it comes to having a wedding on a budget is the guest list. Inviting less people to the wedding means spending less on catering and invitations. If you are planning a wedding on very tight funds, it may be best to keep the guest list restricted to very close friends and family members.
Make Your Own Food
Choosing to not have a caterer can cut the budget in a huge way, but you still have to serve your guests something. Consider having finger foods for a 2:30pm ceremony. If you choose a time that is not a standard “meal time,” you may be able to lighten the number of items that you serve – particularly if it’s a small guest list. Make the local Sam’s or Costco your friend and buy several tubs of dips, bags of chips, and sweets. Ask family members to pitch in and make simple finger sandwiches (think turkey, cheese, and mayo with the crusts cut off that has been cut into four rectangles), deviled eggs, bowls of olives and pickles and other small snack foods for guests to graze on.
Don’t Buy a Wedding Cake
I know what you’re thinking – NO WEDDING CAKE?? That’s right! Many people don’t purchase actual wedding cakes these days. Wedding desserts can range from awesomely styled Long John donut “cakes” (think 30 Long Johns piled in a design that you make yourself) to cupcakes or sheet cakes from Costco or Sam’s. Feeding Swedish Fish to your betrothed at your wedding is just as romantic (and MUCH more memorable and fun!) than paying $1,000 for a wedding cake just for the sentiment.
Make Stationery at Home
Between the invites, menu cards, place cards, and programs, there can be a lot of stationery at your wedding. Unfortunately, this also means a costly trip to the printer. Instead, decide what you must have. Do you really need printed invites? Go with a free online invitation service like Evite. If you’re having an open affair without a strategically designed sit-down meal, skip the menu and place cards altogether. Want to tell your guests where they are to sit? Create a single posterboard with everyone’s name and table printed on it. (There are printers who can do this for you as well.) Hang or prop this up at the front of your venue, and voila! Everyone has a designated place to sit without place cards. Should you choose to, you can do the same thing with program information as people are entering the wedding venue. Choosing any or all of these options will help cut the cost on printing.
They Sell Flowers at the Grocery Store
The only necessity when it comes to wedding flowers is usually the bouquet. Create your own bouquet by buying some ribbon and purchasing two or three $5 bundles of flowers from the local grocery store. For centerpieces, ditch the flowers and put out small candy dishes with candy finds from the Dollar Store.
These a just a few money saving cuts to help you save on your wedding. It is up to you and your partner to decide which ones are right for you, but any or all of them will trim the budget at least a little bit. Remember, it is absolutely possible to spend less and still have a beautiful wedding! Just decide which two or three things are absolutely necessary for you, and then do your best to save on everything else.