Friday, September 26, 2008

30 Ways to have a Wedding on a Budget

I very much enjoy weddings. I loved dreaming and planning from when I was pretty young up until the time I got married, I enjoy helping friends with their weddings in any way they can use me and I even started a home business doing wedding flowers and other wedding stuff. The one thing that does bother me about weddings however is that many people (either the couple or the parents) go into major debt for a wedding. I guess the average wedding in the US right now is around $10,000. I don't know about you but the majority of people don't just have that money laying around. When the couple is paying for it (which is a method that I think works just fine, we did it that way) if they go into debt it means starting out their married life with a big disadvantage as debt is something that hinders a marriage rather than helping.

I personally think it is possible to have a beautiful wedding without having to go into debt. My husband and I did it and I have seen many others do it as well. It does help to have a willingness to spend time working on it and to be able to be creative and be willing to think outside the box. I thought I would share a list of ways that either I have used, seen used or read about that help you spend less money on your wedding.


  1. Make your own. At one time I think people would have looked at you weirdly if you didn't have engraved invitations on fancy white card stock. Times have changed however and invitations are incredibly varied. For our wedding we found some heavy weight paper that we liked and then Ken's uncle (who enjoyed doing things on the computer) offered to design and print our invitations as a gift to us. We also made our own envelopes out of matching paper (but that isn't necessary, you can find nice envelopes to buy). I have also seen (and I helped one friend make) pretty invitations using stamps and the computer. You can use embossing powder to make it even fancier. Here is a link with more detailed advice for making your own invitations. Here are some nice invitations available for free to print at home.

  2. Purchase a kit form Office Max or somewhere like that to use for your invitations. One friend I believe found some kits on clearance.

  3. Or at least buy from a magazine or online instead of paying card store prices.

  4. If it is a small affair, send out nice handwritten invitations.

  5. If you want you can buy a calligraphy pen and get a book from the library and learn how to do calligraphy for addressing your invitations. People will think you spend $2 an envelope to have it done for you.

NOTE: While it is nice to save money on invitations, I really suggest that you don't skimp on the sending of them! While many people just announce about the wedding in the newspaper to invite local people that can cause a lot of confusion and hurt feelings when people don't find out if they are invited or not. The same thing can happen if you just hang up one invitation at church or work. Somebody is bound to miss these notifications. My advice is to find an inexpensive way to make invitations and then have plenty of them. (You can still hang one up and church or work if you are afraid you might have missed somebody but don't use that as your only invite for those people.) You could be like the people of India and hand deliver all the local invitations. This could save you money on stamps (though if you are driving to each place your gas money will probably cost more than the stamps would.).

Wedding Clothes:

  1. Sew them. Sometimes sewing clothes isn't cheaper than buying them, but when it comes to wedding dresses I haven't seen that to be true. The top picture is of my sister-in-law and her husband and she and I sewed her dress together(last year for under $50). For our wedding (2nd picture) we sewed all of the dresses. For my wedding(almost 10 years ago) I chose a simple style (which is what I liked) and I spent around $50 for my dress and I figured out the bridesmaids dresses were about $8 each. The candlelighters and flower girls fabric was on clearance and I made their dresses for a couple of dollars each. If you are

    sewing it does pay to shop sales.

  2. Buy a second hand wedding dress. The 3rd photo is another friend who found a beautiful dress 2nd hand. I helped her do a little altering on it (for fit and to make the neckline more modest) and she looked lovely.

  3. Shop the clearance racks. Other friends have found some wonderful deals looking through the clearance racks at big bridal stores.

  4. Borrow a dress.

  5. Look at white dresses that aren't "wedding dresses", you might find something that is perfect for you. Feel free to be nontraditional if that is your style.

  6. For bridesmaids dresses, think about what your bridesmaids like and possibly shop at a normal department store instead of a bridal shop. They don't all have to wear exactly the same thing either, they can just follow some kind of theme. One of my pet peeves is when brides pick out this dress that a bridesmaid would never wear again and then expect them to pay a lot of money for it. (By the way I have been very blessed and the weddings I have been a bridesmaid in I have never had to pay for the dress, I have often sewed it but they always provided the stuff, I did the same when it came to my wedding.)

  7. For men, feel free to be creative. A tux is not required. :-) A groom looks nice in a suit as well. Ken was able to use one he already had but even if you need to buy one, it possibly wouldn't cost a lot more than a tux and then he would have one for a long time (as long as he doesn't gain a lot of weight after getting married!)

  8. Casual works too. Another sister-in-law got married last year as well and her groom did wear a tux but the other men wore tan slacks and blue shirts. (And all of them wore flip flops!) It was an outdoor wedding and it looked quite nice.

  9. For our wedding and quite a few around that time we simple told the men to wear black slacks and white shirts and then provided them with vests (which we made). This might not be so in style as much right now (I'm not sure) but it certainly was cost effective.

  10. For a ring bearer go shopping right after Easter time and find little suits that have gone on sale. Or try out E-bay. When my son was a ringbearer and needed a black suit I was able to find one there (including the shirt) for $11. And then a friend found the black shoes he needed on clearance for $2.

  11. Veils are one thing that will often cost a lot to buy but are very inexpensive (and pretty easy!) to make. Here are some links that explain how to make one:

The Cake

  1. Have a friend do it. If they haven't done it much it probably would be good if quite a bit of practise was done. To make it easier for them you could bake it first (people that I have talked to who decorate cakes usually freeze them first anyway) if you wanted. You could use box mixes if you want, but I love it when I find a wedding cake that is from scratch! I was blessed to have a sister and a friend that did a wonderful job for us. My friend has also done cakes for a lot of our other friends and family as well.

  2. Even if you have somebody that isn't that skilled at decorating, you can use fresh flowers on top to decorate and you will have a gorgeous cake! (Just don't use ones that are toxic)

  3. Find somebody that has a home business of doing wedding cakes. In my experience they are cheaper, taste better and look nicer than the ones that come from the grocery store bakery.

  4. Don't have a cake. I personally like the tradition of a cake but I have seen that being disposed of quite often lately. My sister-in-law used chocolate covered cherries instead. She also had a wide variety of other desserts. Another option is the have cupcakes (which would be much easier to frost neatly for a novice than a whole cake) and then place them on a tiered platter.

  5. Buy sheet cakes from a baker (far cheaper than a big wedding cake) and then place them on at different heights. You can use platters on vases to make a base or for a rustic look use logs or even cover boxes with decorative fabric.

The Food and Drink(Where a ton of money usually goes!)

  1. Don't have alcohol. It is amazing to me how much money often goes for something that doesn't even feed people! I think this is totally unneeded and it will save you a ton of money to not have it.

  2. Consider having your wedding at a time of day where you don't need to serve a whole meal. (For example: 2:30 pm, 7:15pm, etc.) Then just serve cake or desserts and possible some hor d'oeuvre. (We used this method for our wedding (it was in the evening). We had 3 types of cake which were all made by my sister and a friend. On cake was a white one and had tiers, it was frosted simply in white and I put flowers on it. That was our traditional cake but not a favorite of either Ken or I so we also had a "Grooms" Cake which was Carrot Cake (his favorite) and a "Brides" cake of German Chocolate which is my favorite. We also had nuts and mints and root beer floats (A favorite of mine and I really dislike any punch made with kool-aid!)

  3. Have it catered by family and friends. Many people love to help with weddings and this is an easy way to get many involved. If someone asks if you need help say "Yes! Would you be willing to bring ____?" You could/should offer to pay for all the ingredients. Have someone who is a great hostess/party giver be in charge of setting everything out and making it look nice.

  4. Don't feel like you have to have steak or something else that is equally expensive. Pasta is okay! Or having a BBQ. Maybe you love oriental food,or tacos, make the reception your own by choosing things that you and your fiance really enjoy! (And something that doesn't cost too much!)

  5. If you want to make things easier by getting it catered, think about just catering part of it like the main dish and then make much of the other stuff yourself (with help from friends and family). Choosing chicken for your meat will help you to save money too.

  6. Have a potluck. I have heard of couples asking for everybody to bring a dish to share instead of a gift. I bet they often have better food than at a catered event.

  7. Have an appetizer buffet instead of a sit down meal. For this you could buy some ready made and make other things yourself (some things can be made ahead and frozen). This can be done very elegantly with different food stations set up at various places in the room and then decorated nicely.

  8. Have ethnic foods. Many may be cheaper and you might find an ethnic restaurant that will cater some much more reasonably than a general caterer. Also serve it buffet style or family style at the tables.

Here are some links with additional ideas:

    There are so many more aspects that I have left to cover such as flowers, decorating, wedding favors, themes, etc.. Visit my post on 19 more ways to have a wedding on a budget. If you have any comments or questions about have a wedding frugally I would love to hear them!

For more Frugal Friday posts, visit Biblical Womanhood.


The Messy Mom said...

Great ideas. I am a wedding photographer so I have seen A LOT of weddings. We did our own invitations and my dress was hand made when I got married. I had several flower girls and they all had used dresses. Even if I did have a huge budget I would have done it all the same, it so much more sentimental than just getting stuff "off the rack".

Carrie said...

Excellent ideas. We kept way under the average, but there were things we chose to spend money on. One was the church building- we needed to rent a bigger space. But my bridesmaids wore skirts that were clearanced, and my mom sewed the shirts, the flowers were from a friend's garden, another friend made our cake, we had very simple luncheon type food that different members of the church made, our photographer was another friend and my dress was a gift. I think we made out very well! And it was beautiful.

Melissa said...

What a great post. You have really good ideas. Our wedding was planned very quick and we did not have very much money. I bought my dress second hand and Bruce wore tan pants and a blue shirt. The guys wore gray shirts and tan pants. The girls wore white sundresses. The food was provided by my aunt and uncle for my wedding gift. My grandma bought my flowers and Bruce's aunt put them together for me. One of my friends from work made my cake. I had rose scrapbook paper (a lot of it) and we printed up invations on that. Shari had pictures made up to send out with them. Bruce and I felt we had a beautiful wedding and we only spent maybe $300. Thanks for sharing this post.

Bonnie said...

18 years ago this weekend, my husband and I had a beautiful fall wedding. We decorated the church with branches of autumn leaves, branches of ornamental crab apples and big bows. It was elegant, totally unique and pretty much free!

Kim said...

My husband and I had a small ceremony followed by a simple dinner with family at my parent's home. We used many of the ideas you have listed here. It was important to us to buy a home, not go into debt for a wedding. We have friends who had a large wedding and lavish honeymoon. Unfortunately, they found themselves filing for bankruptcy two years into their marriage. Thankfully, they made it through this difficult period and have made great strides in their financial situation.
I have no regrets about our lack of lavish wedding. My husband and I like to say that we wanted a marriage- not a big wedding:)

Anonymous said...

I was blessed to be married into a family that was used to jumping in and helping. They helped sew dresses, make favors,decorate the church, and make the food platters.You can foster that same attitude by helping others when it is their turn so that when it is yours they will be used to doing it.

Anonymous said...

Well I have to come at it form a lil different perspective. I didn't have a lot of help at all. My mom would not even come to my wedding let alone help. Anyway we did everything on CC and what lil money we had. We spent tons of $ on a rented flower girl dress! Big mistake. I had lots of ideals and very little planning time. Our wedding had a lot of "issues" that had I had the knowledge I have now and connections I would have done things completely different! Basically from Early summer to early Aug was all the time we had for planning our wedding! Oh well, that is the past! Hope to help anyone else save $ and have a better wedding then I did and learn from my mistakes. This is a great post and hope that all planning a wedding can learn from the comments and post as well.


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