10 Tips For Planning a Beautiful Wedding on a Shoestring Budget

A wedding or a house?

That’s the question many engaged couples face nowadays. Because the average wedding costs $25,631 – the same amount as a down payment for a nice house – more and more people are choosing to give up their dream fairy tale wedding for the much more affordable alternative: elopement.

In today’s world, a wedding is no longer a simple gathering where two people become united, but a huge stressful dog and pony show that pushes a newly married couple (or their parents) even deeper into the debt hole. The wedding industry has done a wonderful job of manipulating couples everywhere into believing that their wedding day is the most important day of their lives where no expense should be spared.

However, with more money-conscious people walking the earth these days, we’re seeing less and less of engraved wedding invitations, wedding cakes covered in gold flakes, and 10-foot-long wedding dress trains encrusted in sequin. Elopement, small, intimate do-it-yourself weddings and even super casual backyard barbecue weddings are becoming more common.

If you still want your dream fairy tale wedding, we have good news for you: you don’t have to break the bank to have a nice wedding! You can easily have one for under $10,000, or even $3,000. All it takes is a little time, determination, creativity, and a few tips and tricks up your sleeve.

The first, and probably the most important, tip is to…

1. Prioritize your budget.

Ask any married couple, and they will tell you that they don’t remember much from their wedding day. They were too busy smiling and posing in front of cameras to remember what the reception table centerpieces looked like or how many flowers the bridesmaids were holding. There’s no need to go all out on everything. Just focus on the wedding elements that you think are really important. A good way to do this is to write down each key wedding element, like cake, photos, bride’s shoes, etc. on a note card and move the note cards around until you both agree on an order of importance. This helps you prioritize your budget and scrap or skimp on the things you both agree are unimportant or unnecessary. Erika Shay, a wedding planner, advises, “Set a realistic budget based on how much money you actually have, and never, ever, ever expect your gifts to pay for the wedding.”

2. Plan your wedding during off-peak times.

You can save a lot of money by getting married sometime between November and March. When there’s less competition for dates, you have a lot more negotiating power. It costs even less to get married on a day that’s not Saturday. Don’t worry about annoying your guests, because with Friday and Sunday weddings becoming more and more common, chances are they’re used to the idea by now.

3. Toss your B list.

One of the best ways to slash your wedding budget is to slash your guest list. It seems cruel, yes, but would it really matter if your mother’s cousin’s husband’s brother came to your wedding? If you have someone on your B list, it’s likely that you don’t consider them a close enough friend or relative to be at your wedding, so why bother inviting them? Save your money. A smaller guest list helps cut down on your food, drink, and reception expenses, and you’ll still get to be around your closest friends and loved ones!

4. Send out your save-the-dates via email.

Considering how much postal stamps, magnets, paper, and design services cost these days, you can save a lot of money by emailing out your save-the-dates. You can make your save-the-date email look just as cute as a save-the-date magnet or bottle opener! Calling any of your guests who aren’t computer-savvy is also a great option, because it’s personal and your guests will appreciate that you took the time to personally inform them about your wedding date.

5. Make your own invitations.

If you have a quality printer and some creativity, you can easily make classy invitations in no time. Having a design company create your wedding invitations can cost hundreds of dollars. If you do it yourself, you only have to worry about spending only tens of dollars on paper and some printer ink. This also gives you the opportunity to be as creative as you want!

6. Skip the party favors.

Let’s be honest here. Party favors are usually junk half of the guests will end up leaving on the table. There’s no rule that says you have to give out party favors, so skip them or at least make a small donation to a charity of your choice on behalf of your guests.

7. Enlist the help of your family and friends.

Rather than hiring a baker who will charge you an arm and a leg for a wedding cake, why don’t you ask your baking enthusiast aunt to replicate a Martha Stewart wedding cake you found in a magazine? You can hand-pick your family members and friends who are talented at something (DJing, seamstressing, putting together flowers, etc.) and ask them to help out in lieu of a wedding gift. Most people would be glad to be an important part of your special day!

8. When talking to potential vendors, don’t mention your wedding until after they quote you a price.

Limo services, florists, reception halls, and other vendors love weddings, because they can get away with doubling or tripling their prices. Rather than telling a venue that you need a place to host your wedding reception, tell them that you need to host a party for 100. Rather than telling a limo service that you need a limo before your wedding, tell them that you need a limo for two hours. Try to save the details until after they quote you the price.

9. Find a location that doesn’t have a reputation as a wedding hotspot.

Unconventional venues, such as a historical landmark, an opera hall, or a national park, are usually much cheaper than typical wedding locations. If you go with a typical wedding reception hall like a hotel, you’re likely to be gouged to no end with outrageous prices and countless hidden wedding-oriented fees. Also, try to go with a location that allows you to…

10. Use your own caterer.

Have you ever had typical wedding reception food that was actually good? I haven’t, either. Rather than paying $60 a head for the reception hall’s mediocre food prepared by a burnt-out chef, ask your favorite family-owned restaurant to cater your wedding. Family-owned restaurants will almost always go the extra mile to ensure that the food at your wedding meets your high expectations, and they’ll also charge a reasonable rate. Another option is to handle your own food preparation, if you have some time and a lot of help, that is.

Additional tips

There are tons of tips and creative ideas out there on how to save money on your wedding, such as:

–          Visiting a thrift store for place settings and linens.

–          Buying a white dress that’s not marketed as a wedding dress. (Dresses marketed as wedding dresses are far more expensive than regular white dresses.)

–          Holding as much of your wedding in one venue as possible.

–          Hiring local musicians.

–          Renting tuxedos as a group.

–          Recycle the decorations by moving the wedding ceremony decorations to the reception site.

Just remember…

Your wedding is all about you and your significant other. As long as you’re happy on your wedding day, you don’t need anything more!