Tips for Planning the Perfect Wedding on a Tight Budget

Tips for Planning the Perfect Wedding on a Tight Budget


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Weddings, as glorious of an occasion as they are, can top the list of the most expensive things we ever pay for in life. Dream weddings leave many couples starting of their life as a married couple in a serious amount of debt, straining the budget from the second the words “I do” are uttered.

The last thing I wanted when I got married was to start out with a debt that could easily go into the tens-of-thousands of dollars if not kept in check. I needed to be able to plan my wedding on a budget. Here are some things I did (and you can do) to keep that wedding budget under control.

Your wedding is a special occasion and deserves to be celebrated. You can still plan a beautiful wedding with a limited budget and avoid going into debt. Stay committed to the bigger picture of avoiding future


Start Saving Now

Even if you’re not seeing anyone, if you want to get married someday, now is the perfect time to start saving for the big day. Even small amounts will grow over time and allow you to splurge a little more when your special day arrives.

If you’re currently seeing someone and things are getting serious, or are already engaged, make saving money for your wedding a priority. Work on your personal budget to create extra room for saving for your wedding.

When I was dating my future husband, I was working a part-time job for $9/hour. That wasn’t going to get me very far without using credit for a wedding, so it was imperative to start saving money and plan my wedding on a budget. Even with $9/hour part-time pay, I was able to save a little bit of money every month. I didn't borrow one penny to pay for my wedding ... woo who! Go me!

Set Priorities

Discuss with your fiancé what are the most important aspects of your wedding for you to have.

Make a wish list of things you’d like to have at/for your wedding.

Organize your list into three areas: must haves, things that would be really nice, and items that are contingent on the budget (i.e., if there’s enough money).

After you’ve got your sub-lists, start numbering them in order of importance. The items that rank lower are ones you’ll need to reconsider at a later stage depending on your budget. This doesn’t mean you’ll have to cut it from your wish list, but perhaps find a less expensive alternative or get creative with your ability to get everything you want on your list.

Make a wishlist for your wedding

Divide your wishlist into categories, then prioritize the items within each category.

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    Must Haves
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    Things That Would Be Really Nice
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    Depending on the Budget

Have a Budget Meeting

It’s time to talk money.

Being open about your financial situation and the way you manage money is critical for any successful relationship, so be willing to be honest with your fiancé about money.

Your meeting should help you decide how much money you can each contribute to the wedding and who will be responsible for paying for different expenses of the wedding.

There are certain things that are traditionally the bride or groom’s responsibility, but it’s still best to be on the same page as each other.

If your parents or other family members have offered money or to help with preparations, take the time to divvy up the wish list to what is appropriate for your situation. Don’t overextend the generous help of others. Always be gracious in accepting what they can or cannot help with.

Your budget meeting should involve more than just planning for the wedding. Talk about what debt you already owe and how you’ll combine finances and responsibilities after you’re married.

Identify Areas You Can Negotiate

There are many areas you can be creative and find a way to cut the costs of typical wedding expenses.

Depending on your wish-list (which should be listed in order of most important to least), here are some areas you might consider for cutting costs.

The Dress
  • Find a style you like and get an inexpensive version. It doesn’t need to be a designer label to be a beautiful dress.
  • Find something close to what you want, then add your own alterations to make it uniquely yours.
  • Check for advertisements for used wedding dresses. Some brides might be happy to sell an old for a great discount. You may also decide to get some alterations to the dress to make it your own.
The Venue
  • Host your reception in a backyard for a free location and use part of your budget to spruce up the place with decorations. (Weather permitting of course)
  • If a venue requires you to use their vendors, keep searching for one that will let you bring in your own resources.
  • Check with people you know (and friends of friends) to see if they know a privately-owned property or location you can borrow or rent for a low price. Keep in mind you will need to provide any chairs, tables or other items that are typically provided by a reception center.
The Cake
  • Whip out your cake decorating skills (or ask a talented friend) to decorate your cake for you.
  • Decorate a faux cake made from Styrofoam to set out as a prop, then serve a separate sheet cake to your guests.
  • Limit the amount of fresh flowers you use.
  • If your main flower is expensive, mix in some less expensive flowers for a beautiful and budget-friendly look.
  • This may be another area where a talented friend might be able to help you for a reduced rate.
  • Use silk flowers. You can create stunning flower arrangements that are fake flowers but still look beautiful.
  • Check your local area for freelance photographers who are new and looking to build their business. They are usually willing to take pictures for a lower rate in exchange for testimonials and the ability to share some of your pictures in their portfolio.
  • Use multiple photographers. We found it useful to have one photographer for my bridal pictures and another for the wedding and reception. They were both amateur photographers trying to build their business and we were able to get a good rate while not tying up too much of their resources for a low fee.
  • Look for a freelance graphic designer who can create a custom invitation. Like photographers, someone who is relatively new would likely give you the best rate.
  • Check local print shops and online printing services (like to find the best rate.
  • If invitations are too expensive, you might limit the number of invitations you mail out by reducing the number of guests on your guest list.
DIY Decorations
  • Find inspiration for table centerpieces and create your own version.
  • Use strands of white Christmas lights to add flare and elegance to your decor.
  • Collect and borrow items from friends and family that match your theme. Carefully catalog anything you borrow so you can return it to the proper owner in the same condition you borrowed it.
Food and Refreshments
  • Keep the food you serve simple and easy to scale for a large group
  • Serve refreshments rather than a full meal to save money
  • Ask members of your wedding party (brides maids, groomsmen, flower girls, etc.) if they would be willing to help serve food at your wedding. (This may not be a be an appropriate assignment for VIP members of the wedding party like the parents, best man or maid-of-honor)

Shop Around

Be sure to research several venders to get the best price and best quality for what you are paying.

If you live in an area that hosts bridal shows, be sure to register and attend. This is where vendors for anything you’d need for a wedding all get together in one room to showcase their products and services. You can collect information, prices and contact information for your favorite companies and compare their services.

Ask for Wedding Accessories as a Gift

If you know you won’t be able to afford everything you want for your wedding, you might consider asking for assistance in paying for something in lieu of a gift.

Aside from our wedding, our entire honeymoon was donated to us from various people in the family as a gift. Among the donations were a time-share reservation at a resort, sky miles for our airfare, a hotel upgrade, spending money and someone even let us borrow their car instead of renting because they lived in the area where we took our honeymoon.

What are your favorite money saving tips for creating a beautiful wedding on a budget? Can you add anything to this list? Let us know in the comments below. 

Plan a Wedding on a Budget 

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    Save early so you can pay with cash and avoid debt.
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    Set your priorities of what is necessary for your wedding and what might need to be cut (or cut back) to meet your budget.
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    Have a budget meeting with your fiance to decide who will be responsible for what and how you will work with your money once you are married.
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    Identify areas you can negotiate price or or creative ways to obtain different elements of your wedding. There are many ways to save and still have the wedding you'd like.
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    Shop around to make sure you get the right deal with the right vendor. Attend a bridal show in your area if it's available.
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    Ask for things for your wedding as a gift in lieu of a traditional gift. This might include help with paying for your honeymoon.

Cameron is a Financial Coach who works with couples and individuals to achieve financial freedom and peace of mind. She believes being in control of money = less stress + more fun! Join her on the journey to think about money less and enjoy life more.