The Ultimate Guide To Getting Married on a Budget

Walking the aisle should not be expensive, find ways to say "I do" without breaking the bank.
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Long gone are the days when parents felt obligated to pay for their child's wedding. Most young couples aren't so young anymore either, and according to Time (@TIME), people usually marry in their late twenties or early thirties. At this age, couples are covering most (if not all) of their own expenses. With all the other responsibilities resting on their shoulders, couples may be better off planning an affordable day on a strict budget.

Happily, cheap does not always equal low-quality—the day you've always dreamed of can be just as special on a strict financial plan. I know this for a fact since I planned my destination wedding at a fraction of the average price. My day exceeded all our expectations, and then some. Thanks to our savings, my husband and I were even able to place a down payment towards our home afterward. Based on my experience and tips from other couples online, here's the Ultimate Guide to Getting Married on a Budget.

  1. Gain inspiration from other couples.

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    Give yourself time to plan.

    Even if you want to elope, saving money may require a little time to plan the main details. According to the marriage gurus at The Knot (@theknot), the average length of an engagement is 14 months. What were the main reasons? Mostly, couples were happy with their ability to save more and liked having time to search for the vendors who met their needs.

    Follow frugal trends.

    Today's trends aren't all exorbitant and some are absolutely frugal. For instance, in 2016, freshly picked flowers and family-style buffets were a couple touches that honed the progressive, nature-friendly and comfortable styles we're seeing a whole lot more of, according to Brides (@brides).

    Learn from the financial Achilles' heel of others.

    What are the financial weak spots in wedding planning? Statistics can tell you a lot about where the money goes. You can gain a lot of insight from viewing specific trends from each region within the country, as well. The Knot (@theknot) once again pulls through as a planning aid by comparing the average wedding costs across the USA. Apparently, the East Coast is a big spender, while the Midwest spends the least. Depending on where you live, it may pay to do a little research into the trends of other regions. Just keep in mind that general prices and fees vary across the country.

  2. Create a planning list.

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    After doing your research and learning from other couples, it's time to plan your own special day. Since careful preparation can help you save thousands, I suggest creating and sticking to a checklist. This list from NearlyWeds is free and organizes each activity in chronological order. Everything is plotted out over a 12-month period, so this major project is broken down into manageable tasks. You can tweak this list to suit your needs and taste.

  3. Don't rule out other cities.

    Out-of-the-city destinations are great choices to say "I do" to love of your life.
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    To piggyback off the previous tip, don't try squeezing a budget wedding in a lavish and overpriced city. This may mean your hometown is out of bounds, and that's OK. There are plenty of wonderful areas with great and affordable venues across the country, if you know where to look. A few long-distance destinations may also be worth a glance. Here are eight beautiful and budget-friendly destinations compiled by (@oysterhotels).

    In fact, destination weddings may be a positive bet.

    Are you cringing at the thought of inviting people out of obligation? The additional costs this can accrue aren't attractive either. Planning a destination wedding, however, is a sure-fire way to ensure your guest list is small and manageable. Destination Wedding Details (@destinationweddingdetails) offers seven tips for planning a low-cost wedding in an exotic location.

  4. Timing is everything.

    The date and the day matters, especially to your guests and budget.
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    Depending on where you live, the time of year can influence your wedding day and budget. In New England, with its four seasons and unpredictable weather patterns, planning between late spring and early fall may be best. Florida, on the other hand, has stormy and dry seasons to take into consideration. In general, summer and early fall are the most popular seasons, while winter is least desirable. Which time of year is right for you? Bridal Guide (@bridalguidemag) simplifies the process in seven basic steps that take everything into consideration, from the style of your dress and reception theme to the benefits of an off-season date.

    Unconventional is sometimes cheaper and more manageable.

    Have you noticed how weddings are normally held on Saturdays? You can save quite a bit by choosing a different day of the week. While weekday weddings may not work around everyone's schedule, they are something to consider if you're going for quaint over grandiose. (@loverly) lists 10 points to consider when choosing a wedding date, including things many of us overlook like health issues of relatives and locally-observed holidays.

  5. While shopping, go local.

    Love your own and incorporate it in your wedding.
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    You can make your day unforgettable by incorporating the area's local personality and the environment. Not only can small, local shops take some weight off your spending, but you'll be helping the local economy in the process.

    Buy products that are in-season.

    Sheer abundance is a major reason to buy seasonal products. The second is cost; merchandise is usually cheaper when there is more of it. Local shops are great places to find in-season flowers, fruits and vegetables. Reboot with Joe (@rebootwithjoe) breaks down six key benefits that may have you rethinking your menu to incorporate in-season food.

    Your guests can take home an extra special memento.

    Steer away from played-out wedding favors by finding something that represents the city, state or region. A lovely idea from PopSugar (@POPSUGARSmart) involves giving small, decorative bags of seeds that will sprout into a native plant or flower. These gifts also serve as living memories.

  6. Do your own hair.

    Getting your hair professionally done is not cheap! You can save a lot of money by either doing your own hair or if you have a talented friend or family member, it's totally okay to ask them to do your hair. Here is an awesome list of diy elegant hairstyles on Inspired Bride that can spark some ideas.

  7. Hold the reception at home.

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    Or ask a friend if you can use theirs. One of the most beautiful weddings I ever attended was held in the family home of the couple's friend. Not only did they save on venue space, but each guest contributed something towards the day, from food and drinks to decorations, on the morning of the wedding. The intimacy and simplicity did not diminish the beauty of their special day but enhanced it. Are you considering a small event with your closest family and friends? This list of seven intimate wedding benefits, created by The Big Fake Wedding (@BigFakeWedding), will put the process into a clearer perspective.

    Transform your home into its own venue.

    You may not realize it right now, but a few small touches can revolutionize your cozy abode into a stunning wedding venue. Moving the dog's crate, cleaning the dirty laundry, mowing the lawn and wiping down the counters will help you realize just how much potential your home actually has. A Practical Wedding (@PracticalWed) breaks down, step-by-step, the way one couple prepared their home for their comfortable yet beautiful wedding.

    Backyard weddings are charming and easy to decorate.

    Manicured and maintained backyards come readily decorated and require very little extra attention. Flowers, tree trunks, pine cones, and even twigs become fair game in helping create ornaments and centerpieces. These 21 ideas from Country Living (@countryliving) will help you create easy and adorable decorations for outdoor weddings in a personal backyard.

  8. Pay careful attention to the menu.

    Your wedding menu is also an important factor to consider to wed on budget.
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    In addition to the venue, people spend most of their budget on catering, and appetizers, entrees and desserts (in addition to the cake) are all common. The traditional sit-down dinner can lead to another hefty bill, which becomes larger with each additional course and guest. Fortunately, there are always ways to shave down this expense. Bride Guide (@bridalguidemag) suggests 50 ways to cut wedding catering costs, from setting out colorful salads to serving dishes with inexpensive ingredients.

    Plan a potluck dinner.

    Asking everyone to pitch in with a dish is a nice way to get guests involved. Potlucks are a matter of taste, however, and may not be appreciated by some who may see it as tacky. On the other hand, when done right, this dining style can be cozy and bring the party together in a unique way. To prevent people from thinking that you're only after free food, consider these potluck  wedding planning tips from Inspired Bride (@inspiredbride).

    Opt for hors d'oeuvres in place of a full dinner.

    One way to cut costs is by eliminating the dinner entirely and serving appetizers. Placing the food on a table so guests can help themselves will also reduce the need for a serving staff. These 11 recipes from Real Simple (@realsimple) are delicious, easy to make and inexpensive. Serving hors d'oeuvres in place of dinner can also help everyone get right to the party as they mix and mingle while they snack.

  9. Wedding invitations don't need to cost an arm and a leg.

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    In fact, they can even be free if you have everyone's email addresses and a little web savvy! Otherwise, discount department stores like Wal-Mart and Target sell attractive cards for less. You can also check out websites like Etsy that sell handmade creations from their online collection of small or local designers. Here are some ideas for places that sell great yet affordable wedding invitations from Basic Invite.

    Make your own invitations.

    Do you want to make your own invitations but are worried about being judged or doing a poor job? As with potlucks, handmade invites are a matter of personal style, but when done right they can look great and save you hundreds of dollars! These 16 tips for DIY invitations from Money Crashers (@moneycrashers) will help you save by offering valuable information from skipping engraving to cutting out the extra tissue paper.

  10. You don't need an expensive photographer.

    Think about if you really need a photographer, sometimes you just need your iPhone.
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    After all the time and effort that goes into wedding planning, it's natural to want memories to look back on. So much so that in addition to photographers, many couples hire videographers. While hiring these professionals may feel essential to capturing each special moment, they can cost you between thousands of dollars. Luckily, there are plenty of options for hiring a cheap photographer as listed by Money Crashers (@moneycrashers)

    An iPhone or Android may be all you need.

    In today's world, the right cell phone camera and filtering application are all some photographers need, as shown in this article from the Bored Panda (@boredpanda) about a photographer who captured an entire wedding celebration with his iPhone.

    List the photographer or media specialist on a special kind of gift registry.

    Many couples live together before taking the walk down the aisle, so they already have furniture, slow cookers, dish sets and even lingerie. Can we agree on a truly special gift as assistance in funding the wedding? Online wedding registries like Gively now give guests the opportunity to help finance parts of the wedding itself! All you do is invite your photographer (florist, DJ, etc,) to the registry, send a link to guests, and let them help you finance parts of your wedding as their gift!

    Shop around.

    If having a professional photographer and real camera equipment is a must, take the time to shop around. Real Simple (@realsimple) suggests asking about package offers and finding professionals through word of mouth.

  11. Hire a DJ instead of a band.

    A DJ can bring life to your wedding day, hire one or be the DJ.
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    Bands are among the coolest forms of music and traditional entertainment, but unless you know members of a band personally, they can be very expensive. A DJ costs less and a homemade playlist can be very nice while practically costing nothing. Martha Stewart Weddings (@MarthaWeddings) suggests all three of these ideas in addition to a couple extra budget-friendly ways to entertain your wedding party.

    Be the DJ.

    Would you rather DJ your own wedding but don't know where to begin? Luckily, there's an app for that (as with everything else these days), according to the Budget Savvy Bride (@savvybride)!

    Add unique twists to the entertainment.

    Why must a wedding only have music and dancing? Some couples add a photo booth and make-your-own candy bag stations, but the sky is the limit when it comes to entertainment. Bring Jenga, Twister, cornhole or any other fun games that you may have lying around the house and set up game stations. Here are seven unorthodox entertainment ideas from the Huffington Post (@huffpostwedding) that are worth a try!

  12. Wear a pre-loved dress.

    Pre-loved clothes are the trend these days for wedding gowns.
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    Wedding gowns can be an easy area to save on your wedding budget, but they can also become a financial black hole. Every bride wants to be the belle of the ball, and she can while also being smart about her spending. These 6 suggestions from Real Simple (@realsimple) can help you find a beautiful dress with an equally attractive price tag.

    Borrow your mother's dress.

    Or your grandmother's, aunt's, sister's or friend's, as long as she offers. Lots of brides love the vintage look anyway, so why not make yours extra intimate with something borrowed? Are you unsure if you can wear someone else's dress? Read the words from this bride in Love My Dress (@LoveMyDressBlog) who wore the same dress as her mother and grandmother! A couple alterations may be all you need to be sure the dress fits your body and personality like a glove.

  13. Have your cake and eat it too.

    Put a personal touch to wedding cake by making your own.
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    Usually, the wedding cake is for the groom what the dress is for the bride, but everyone gets curious for a sneak peek and taste. Couples can splurge quite a bit for these few bites, and according to The Knot (@theknot), each slice of cake can cost between $1.25 to $12, depending on the ingredients, where the cake was purchased, and the aesthetics.

    Make your own cake.

    Do you take pride in your baking skills? Do you have a relative who's amazing with a whisk? Baking the cake at home can actually save you hundreds. Check out these 11 cake decorating ideas from Martha Stewart Weddings (@MarthaWeddings), to help you figure out how to decorate your cake easily and beautifully at home.

    Cut the cake and the costs by being budget-savvy.

    Don't feel confident enough to attempt DIY wedding cakes? No problem, there are plenty of ways to buy cakes on the cheap. From sheet cakes to skipping the fondant, there are as many tips as flavors and Wedding Party (@Wedding) shares 12 of them with you here.

What do you think about this list? Is there anything you'd like to see added? My favorite aspect of it is its simplicity; each tip from shopping around to buying in-season can be used in many areas of the planning process. A beautiful budget wedding is easier than you may think and can even be accomplished on $1000 without looking cheap! Feel free to share your thoughts below, and don't hesitate to share this list with your friends!

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Shanetta @ Living Simply Fabulous
7 years ago

I think that paying a lot of money for a wedding is overrated. A friend of mine paid over $50,000 for hers and she regrets it. Considering that when I get married my boyfriend and will be paying for it ourselves and I can’t imagine taking on that much debt going into our marriage. Thanks for the tips.

Jessica @ The Budget Savvy Bride
7 years ago

Thanks for the mention. Great tips! 🙂

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