A Wedding Guide for Budget Brides (and Grooms!)

As we approach wedding season, I want to share a little bit of our frugal wedding planning.

We just got married in November of 2017, and when I was researching how to get married on the cheap, most of the budget wedding advice I found boiled down to “Just DIY it!” Even as a pretty creative lady and an avid crafter, I was not into that. My advice? “Just don’t do it!”

Not the wedding, of course. Do the wedding. But don’t do all the wedding. We’re conditioned to believe so many absurd purchases are necessary, when all that’s really necessary is you and your partner (and a little paperwork).

First, make a “top three” priority list. Have your partner do the same. Those are the six (or less, if there’s overlap between you two) things you have to care about. That’s where you want to put the bulk of your budget and/or time. For everything else? Either do it cheap or don’t do it at all.

For me, it was the venue, the food, and photography. (And sort of the dress. I snuck in a fourth. Whatever. I’m the bride.) For him, it was the venue, food, and music.

So we ended up with two beautiful venues, great food, and a kickass photographer. These things were easily 80% of our budget. But just because those areas were taking up the bulk of our money doesn’t mean we were going to overpay. We saved on these big budget items by:

  • Keeping it small. We had 36 people and I actually think we could have brought it down a little lower. We were able to spend quality time with each guest in amazing venues that would have been ten times the cost if we’d had a larger group.
  • Picking a weird day in a weird season. We were married the Sunday before Thanksgiving. This helped us save on both our venues and our photographer. All in all, we received about $2500 in discounts because of this decision. Bonus: those savings also spilled over into our honeymoon since we were traveling to Europe in the off-season.
  • Knowing when high priority didn’t mean high cost. For the music, even though it was a high priority for my husband, we just plugged his phone into some speakers. He spent a lot of time picking songs and tailoring the playlist to the tastes of our guests, but we didn’t spend a lot of (okay, any) money.

You’ll notice flowers aren’t on either of our lists above. So you know what? We didn’t put time or money into them. My mother insisted on bouquets, so I had those, though I would have been fine without them. Centerpieces were beautifully assembled by a family friend from fake flowers and items bought on clearance. Stationery wasn’t on our list. I spent $40 on Vistaprint, including stamps and envelopes. We didn’t even do Save the Dates. Thank you cards were postcards we bought for a couple cents each on our honeymoon. We skipped a lot of the “Pinterest”-type details in favor of making the main budget items as high quality as possible.

But if you want those “Pinterest”-worthy details, get them on the cheap:

  • Check out the used market! Most wedding items are sorely overpriced, especially considering they’re only used once and just for a few hours. Check out Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace for items like card boxes, signage, tablecloths, and centerpieces. eBay is great for finding used dresses, as are formal resale shops.
  • DIY is fine, but only where you already have skills, materials, and/or interest. Don’t attempt to learn calligraphy to make your own invites if your handwriting sucks and you’re never going to calligraph again. But if you already know it or have been dying to learn and can borrow the fancy pens from Grandma? Cool! DIY it! I DIYed my hair and makeup because that’s something I’m good at, love doing, and have all the materials for already. But DIYs that require purchasing extra equipment/materials or learning new skills are going to add money and stress as well as take up time at a point in your life when you don’t need any additional anxiety.

Finally, follow your heart. If you really want something, and you can pay for it without going into debt, just do it. This is your wedding. It (hopefully) only happens once, and it should be special.

I bought a designer sample dress at a steep discount just because it was cheap, even though the strapless design made me uncomfortable. A few months later, I broke down and bought my real dream dress, even though it was pricier. It would have been more frugal for me to just suck it up and spend the money to get the dress I really wanted in the first place, instead of pushing myself into something I didn’t want because it was the “frugal option.”

And whether you get married in a courthouse, a castle, or somewhere in between, make sure you’re starting off your marriage on the same financial page. Have “The Talk” (options here, here, and here) before you walk down the aisle, and you’ll be in wedded, financially-savvy bliss.


Featured image by Palermo Photo (a piece of the budget we’ll never regret).


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