9 Tips For Throwing A Beautiful Wedding Without Breaking The Bank

We all know that weddings are notoriously expensive. Here’s how to save some money without compromising on having a beautiful, memorable, special day.

By Keelia Clarkson4 min read

Most women grow up with an idea of what their wedding day might look like. Many of us were influenced by old rom-com classics like 27 Dresses, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and Father of the Bride. We might’ve always imagined ourselves in a sleek, fitted dress with a long veil, walking down the rose petal-covered aisle to Pachelbel’s Canon in a grand venue with hundreds of guests.

After all, our wedding day is supposed to be one of the most special days of our life. It’s the first day of the rest of our life, in many senses. It’s a brand new chapter we’re beginning as a wife, the very beginning of building a new life with our love. So it should go without saying that we want that day to be magical – which is why, according to The Knot, the cost of the average wedding is around $28,000.

But what if you’re not looking to drop tens of thousands of dollars on a single day of celebration? What if you want the day to be beautiful, but you’re also working within a budget?

As someone whose wedding cost a grand total of $700, I have a few ideas. Here’s how you can still have a special wedding without racking up a big bill.

Don’t Do Something Because You Think You’re Supposed To

When it comes to weddings, we have a lot of preconceived ideas of what we’re supposed to do, like spend hundreds of dollars on endless floral table settings or get an eight-tier custom-made cake or have a three-course salmon meal at a reception for hundreds of guests. But these aren’t necessary in order to have a wedding you love. And that's the key: To make your wedding something that fits you and your husband, not anyone else.

Sit down and make a list of wedding “shoulds” that you don’t actually want at your own wedding or don’t have a strong opinion either way about – and poof! You’ve just cut down on a lot of unnecessary expenses for things you don’t really need.

Make a List of Nonnegotiables 

It’s time for another list, but this one will focus on what you really want. Maybe you’ve always dreamed of getting married in the same church as your parents or having professional photos taken to remember the occasion. Maybe live music is really important to you or you've always envisioned yourself in a certain dress. It’s okay to have must-dos, but try to keep your list of nonnegotiables pretty tight. The key to keeping your wedding bill as small as possible is remaining flexible and willing to compromise in order to stay within the budget. Having too many nonnegotiables makes it difficult to save extra money.

It’s okay to have must-dos, but try to keep your list of non-negotiables pretty tight.

Keep the Guest List Short

All of the weddings in the movies we watched growing up have so many guests. And it’s fun to think about seeing old yet familiar faces, all gathered in one place, to celebrate you on your special day. But inviting tons of people is one of the quickest ways to rack up a bill.

Try to keep your guest list on the short side, inviting your closest friends and family members only. This way, you won’t just save a lot of money, your wedding will be more intimate, you’ll be less distracted, and it’ll feel like the day is all about you and your new husband.

Find Ways To Save with Your Dress

Most of us have an idea of what kind of wedding dress we’d like. Maybe we’ve always seen ourselves in a huge puffy princess dress or maybe a chic modern silk dress. But for a dress you’re only going to wear once, wedding dresses are pricey. One study found that the average bride spent nearly $2,500 on her wedding dress.

If you’re looking to cut costs when it comes to your dress, feel no shame in looking for secondhand dresses, repurposing your mom’s wedding dress, or buying a white dress off the rack that you think could definitely work as a wedding dress.

Skip the Professional Venue

The average cost of a wedding venue in 2022 was $11,200 – which means, if you’re looking to slim down your wedding costs, choosing a wallet-friendly venue is one of your most important tasks. But this doesn’t mean you have to go with a bland, outdated, or ugly venue.

Consider holding the ceremony in your or your fiancé’s backyard, at a national park (where you can reserve an event space), at a rental found on Peerspace (that isn’t labeled as a wedding hall and therefore won’t be marked up), or even a fancy Airbnb. Get creative and brainstorm a few nontraditional venues that will save you thousands.

Use the Aux Cord

We all love the idea of a live wedding band with a singer crooning old classics or a string quartet playing for hours on end. And yet, at the same time, live music is one of those not-totally-necessary expenses that could be done away with. And if you’re really wanting to save money, skip getting a DJ and go straight to the aux cord.

This way, you have complete control over what’s played because you made the playlist. There’s no worry about the singer not being as good as they sounded in their sample video, or a DJ playing a bunch of Top 40 hits you don’t like. The music will match the mood of your wedding perfectly, and it won’t cost a dime.

You have complete control over what music is played because you made the playlist.

Head to a Smaller Town

The average cost of a wedding in the New York City metropolitan area is over $65,000. In Helena, Montana, it’s just over $16,000. Needless to say, if you’re in a big city, it might make sense to head out of town for your wedding – maybe to your hometown or a small town within a couple of hours’ drive. 

Wherever you choose to go can coincide with what you’ve decided to do for your venue. If you go to your hometown, your parent’s backyard is right there. If you drive upstate, you can stay at the Airbnb you booked as your venue. 

Do Whatever You Can Yourself (Or Ask Friends and Family for Help)

Do you need professional floral arrangements? A catering company? A huge cake? A professional hair and makeup artist? A videographer? The more people that are hired, the bigger the bill gets, so wherever you can, take on a do-it-yourself attitude – or even enlist friends or family.

Maybe you can do your makeup yourself. Or perhaps you have a family friend who’s a talented baker and is willing to make you a cake or cupcakes for a fraction of the price of using a professional. Ask a friend who’s a pretty good photographer if they would take pictures for a discounted price. Task your bridesmaids with getting flowers from the grocery store on the morning of your wedding instead of hiring a company that will overcharge you. Consider all the ways you can do something yourself or have someone help out instead of hiring someone.

Do a Small Restaurant Reception

Receptions can easily add on a few thousand to your wedding bill. You’re paying for the venue, the food, the music, and much more. But this isn’t the only way you can have a beautiful, memorable, special reception.

Rather than hosting a traditional reception, why not book a big table at a nice restaurant and take your closest friends and family there instead? Try to find a restaurant that has a private room so you still have some privacy and don't worry about keeping it down to do toasts.

Closing Thoughts

It’s not easy to plan a wedding on a budget, but it’s not impossible. Once you have your priorities worked out, it’s simpler to cut costs on the things that won’t add as much to the beauty and specialness of the day as they’re costing you.

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