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22 Budget Friendly Wedding Ideas

Let’s face it… we all know that weddings are expensive. Some of us can afford to splurge on a magical wedding and some of us need to find ways to scrimp and save just to pay for the basics.

Even if you’re part of the “scrimp and save club”, you can still plan a beautiful and practical wedding! Personally, I’ll likely be part of this club too, so here are some great ideas that I found for planning a wedding on a budget.

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Alternative Cake Ideas

Wedding cakes cost on average between $300-700. That’s a little over the top for me!

Instead of buying an expensive large cake to feed all of your guests, you can choose an alternative method.

I recently went to a wedding where the cake was very small, only two layers and just enough to feed the bride and groom, wedding party, and the parents of the couple. (The top layer was saved for the couple’s first anniversary.) For the rest of the guests, there were cake balls in a variety of flavors with different sauces to dip them in. What a great idea!

You can save a lot of money by going with non-traditional cake options. Another idea is to go with cupcakes instead of a full cake. You can get tiered cupcake stands to make it look similar to a layered cake, but it’s a lot cheaper.

Here are some alternate wedding cake ideas:

  1. cake balls or cake pops

  2. cupcakes

  3. cookies and milk

  4. cheesecake

  5. pies

  6. donuts

  7. cheese boards

  8. Macaroons

  9. mixed desert table

  10. Croquembouche

Buy Your Wedding Dress Online

This tip might seem a little scary, but I promise it’ll be okay and it’s worth a shot to save hundreds of dollars.

I recently found a company called Dressilyme (affiliate link). They sell discount dresses for the bride, bridesmaid, mother of the bride, flower girls, and more.

I haven’t actually purchased anything from Dressilyme but I’ve been reading their reviews and they look like a great company. WeddingWire has given them a 4.5 out of 5-star rating with 46 total reviews. Many brides are very happy with the dress they received, stating that it looks exactly like the dress they received. It’s also nice that some reviewers have posted pictures of themselves wearing the dress, and they did look beautiful!

With a place like Dressilyme, you have two sizing options. You can order a standard size and have a tailor customize it for you locally (this is probably the option I’d choose, except I’d probably order a size or two larger than I need). They also all you to submit your custom measurements on some dresses. You have to pay an additional $18.99 and they will tailor it for you. I’m a little more hesitant about this just because if one of the measurement is wrong, the dress might not fit… and it’ll be because I didn’t measure right. However, they do provide instructions on how to measure yourself, so it might be okay!

Choose In-Season Flowers

It’s always cheaper to buy resources that are currently available. It’s not impossible to get out of season flowers, but it’s a lot more expensive because you’ll need to have them shipped in from far away.

You can use this guide to help determine which flowers are best depending on what season you’re getting married in.

If you absolutely set on a particular flower but it’s really expensive to get it in the season you’re are planning your wedding, you can always consider buying real touch flowers.

Assemble Your Own Bouquets

While there is a lot of benefits to hiring a florist and the convenience of them taking care of everything, it comes at a cost. It’s not uncommon for brides to spend anywhere from $750-3,000 on flowers alone.

There is a better way. Many brides who are willing to DIY it are able to buy all the flowers they need for $200 or less and make all the bouquets for the bride, bridesmaids, centerpieces, and still have leftovers.

You can even turn it into a fun get together before the wedding and have a floral assembly party!

You can also make things cheaper by only choosing one or two different types of flowers and using more greenery to fill it in.

Unique Flower Vases

There is no need to buy a bunch of large flower vases. Seriously, these things could cost anywhere from $25-50 each! If you have 12 tables, that’s $300 just in vases!

There are a lot of other DIY options for vases that will cost a lot less! One of the probably the easiest and cheapest is to simply use canning jars. You might even be able to find these at a thrift store! If not, you can get 24 quart-sized mason jars on Amazon for about $28. You can use the jars just as they are or decorate them with paint, ribbon, burlap, etc.

Another really good idea is to use old wine bottles. Not only will this save you on the cost of vases but also on the cost of flowers since you’ll only be able to fit a couple flowers in the mouth of the wine bottle. As friends and family to save their bottles for you. You could even contact a local restaurant and see if they save their bottles. You can use the bottles as is or wrap them with twine, paint them, etc.

You could even save spaghetti jars, salsa jars, pickle or olive jars, etc. Just remove the wrappers with some vinegar and Goo Gone and you could have a unique assortment of vases that are different heights and sizes.

Do Your Own Catering

This might seem a little overwhelming and hiring someone to take care of everything is definitely more convenient. However, it can get pretty costly at an average of $25-40 per person depending on the type of meal you want to serve.

In order to cater your own reception, you will need to find a few people who are willing to oversee everything. From setting up, making sure everything stays warm, replenishing food throughout the evening, and cleaning up afterward, you’ll need someone with good attention to detail and patience to do the job.

It probably isn’t a good idea to cater your own sit down meal because you’ll need a whole crew of people to be waiters and waitresses. However, a buffet style meal is definitely doable.

A really great idea is to have a “make your own” food bar such as:

  1. baked potato bar

  2. taco bar

  3. coffee bar

  4. salad bar

  5. fruit

  6. meat and cheese

  7. trail mix

  8. popcorn

  9. nacho

  10. burgers and hot dogs

Have Breakfast for Dinner

This is actually becoming more and more common. Breakfast foods tend to be cheaper as it is, so having breakfast for dinner is actually a fun AND cheaper idea!

There are mixed opinions about whether breakfast for dinner is tacky or not, but I think it completely depends on the couple and their taste. It doesn’t have to look like a hotel continental breakfast. You can make it a super fancy feast by having a prime rib station, eggs benedict, various bagels and cream cheese spreads, seafood options, omelets, steak and eggs, and more.

If you think that some of your guests will absolutely hate the breakfast for dinner menu, you could go for a chicken and waffles option. If they don’t want breakfast food, they can stick with the chicken. Hopefully, that will make everyone happy.

Punch & Cake Instead of a Full Meal

The whole reception meal takes a big chunk out of your budget. If you’re planning a morning or midday wedding, you may want to consider a simple punch and cake reception. This will act as “lunch” for your guests and still give time for dancing and celebrating in the afternoon.

Another option is to provide some finger foods like veggie trays, meat, cheese, crackers, desserts, etc. You can save a lot of money by not needing things to keep food hot as well. It will also take less people to manage the food and leave more time for the celebrating.

Use Your Wedding Favors as Centerpieces

Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on centerpieces and another couple hundred dollars on wedding favors, why not kill two birds with one stone?

You may want your DJ or emcee to announce that everyone should take a ____ before leaving as the couple’s thank you gift for coming to the wedding. This way there is no confusion that the centerpieces are meant to be wedding favors.

There are some really neat options for wedding favor/centerpiece decor.

  1. Fancy packages of candy displayed on cake plates with flowers

  2. Little boxes wrapped with ribbon and filled with favors

  3. Seed packets or small potted plants

  4. succulent pots

  5. small fruit baskets

  6. customized candles

Off-Season Wedding

There are a lot of ways to save money if you’re willing to be flexible with the time of year to plan your wedding. You might be surprise how much more things cost during the peak of wedding season.

Many wedding venues will give large discounts to off-season weddings due to the lack of business since most people choose spring and fall weddings. When your venue(s) cost thousands of dollars and take up a majority of your budget, any dollar you can save is wonderful!

Additionally, many vendors will give discounts too. From photographers to caterers, many of them will be in the midst of the slow season and will be grateful to get your business.

Keep an eye on sales all year round. You never know when you might find a great deal that you’ll never find when you actually need it. This is best when you have a lot of time to plan your wedding. If you don’t have much time, it will be difficult to find sales on short notice.

Find an All-Inclusive Venue

Instead of spending one dollar amount for the ceremony venue plus another dollar amount for the reception, you can save a lot of money by finding a place that can hold both.

If you’re planning for a lot of guests, it might be difficult to find a place large enough to fit the ceremony and reception.

Additionally, you might be able to save a little money if the venue provides their own catering, you may be able to save some money by not having to hire another company.

You’ll want to do your research because an all-inclusive venue might not be cheaper. You might be able to find other options that add up to being cheaper.

Hire Newbies and Part-Timers

While it’ true that you get what you pay for, it can pay off financially to hire newbies and part-time for your wedding. From photographers to the DJ, you could save a lot of money.

There are a few disadvantages to hiring part-time people for your wedding. They’re schedules might not be as open, they probably aren’t as seasoned and experienced.

But if you give them a chance, you might find that they do a great job! Ask around. Put a post out of Facebook asking for recommendations. For example, if you’re considering a specific part-time photographer, ask for samples of their work and for references.

Whoever you’re looking to hire, just ask for their references, look at their work, and read their reviews! You can save a whole lot of money this way!

Choose a Venue That Requires Less Decor

Some venues just speak for themselves. They are beautiful enough, that to add to it would be too much. If you can find a venue that is beautiful in and of itself, you don’t need to spend as much money on decor.

The only hitch to this is the really beautiful locations will probably cost a lot more. You will need to look at various venues and decide what you like. Whether it’s amazing outdoor views or a timber built building, you will know what is beautiful when you see it.

Venues with natural beauty will save you a lot of money in the long end. You need to weigh the costs because spending a little bit more for the venue might still be cheaper than a less expensive venue that you have to decorate.

DIY Your Decor

Not everyone is into the DIY thing, but it can be really cost-effective to do so. If you aren’t a crafty person, maybe you have some friends or family who would be able to help.

If you wanted to and had the time, you could almost DIY your entire wedding! Here are a few ideas:

Hula Hoop Wreaths. Buy a few cheap hula hoops from the dollar store and wrap balloons or garland around it. You could even hang pictures through the center of it or even cut out a word to attach to the center of it.

Photo Booth. Create your own photobooth back drop with some PVC pipe, hang fancy material from it and buy some funny props to round out the booth. Have some people take the pictures with a camera or Polaroid and you’ll have memories for a lifetime!

Rustic Table Numbers. You can easily make your own table numbers by buying a bunch of old picture frames from a thrift store and painting them white. Instead of putting pictures in them, use burlap or some paper that matches your wedding colors to display the table numbers.

Pallet Boards. There are so many fun things you can do with pallet wood. From making signs to making a beautiful ceremony backdrop, either left as is or painted and decorated pallet wood is very versatile for whatever look you are going for.

These are just a few things you could do. There are a lot of things and ideas to do!

Digital RSVP

Instead of having response and RSVP cards printed and paying for stamps to have them sent back, ask for digital RSVPs. You can set up a free wedding website through places like The Knot, WeddingWire, and so forth.

You can learn more about wedding websites here. It can be incredibly helpful and less expensive. They will even track your RSVPs for you, let you know who hasn’t responded, etc. Not only are digital RSPVs so much cheaper they also help you stay organized and keep track of your guest list.

In order for your digital RSVP to work, you have to upload or input your guest list into the site. Only people who are on your guest list are allowed to RSVP… so not just anyone who finds the website can come.

There are a few disadvantages to a wedding website, the main being that it’s not traditional so some older guests may have a hard time figuring out what to do. You may want to do a few DIY response cards for certain guests that you think might have an issue with the online RSPV.

Skip the Wedding Favors

To be completely honest, I’m not sure how many weddings have favors anymore… and maybe it’s just more popular in other places. I haven’t been to a wedding that gave out wedding favors (other than the little bottle of bubbles used to send off the happy couple).

It’s completely fine to skip the wedding favors altogether. After all, you did pay for them to have a meal at the reception and gave them a reason to party 🙂

Another option is to pay for extra desserts to be made and offer small “to-go” boxes on the the dessert table. This is a cute way to allow guests to take home some goodies.

Make Your Own Naked Cake

Naked cakes have become all the rage in the last few years. It’s especially great for people who don’t care for loads and loads of icing.

This type of cake is so easy that you could most certainly do it yourself. You don’t have to worry about getting the frosting perfect or anything. It’s meant to be imperfect.

A few tips for making your own naked wedding cake are:

  1. Make sure you use parchment paper in the bottom of your pans before pouring in the cake batter. This will help you get your cakes out the pan much easier.

  2. Cut the tops off the layers evenly so you don’t end up with a lopsided cake. I use this really inexpensive cake leveler for cakes 10″ or smaller. It’s adjustable so you can get the desired height and helps make sure all the layers are the same height.

  3. Use a piping bag for frosting and filling. After piping a ring of frosting around the perimeter of the layer, use the piping bag it get the filling in. The frosting should keep it fro oozing out the sides.

  4. Get creative with the toppings by choosing fruit or flowers. You could also leave it plain and get a neat cake topper that matches your theme.

Dual Purpose Decorations

There is no reason why you couldn’t use ceremony decorations for your reception. This is especially easy if your reception is in the same place as your reception. If not, you should appoint someone to transport the ceremony decor to the reception venue and place them where you want them. This will help you cut down on costs because you’re not buying decor for both venues.

When buying decor, think about getting things that can serve a dual purpose. Perhaps the decor you have for the end of each aisle can also double as centerpieces for your reception. Maybe there were items you used as decor on the table for your unity candle that can be used for the head table?

Choose Less Formal Food

Not everyone needs filet mignon or prime rib for dinner. By choosing a less formal dinner menu you can save a lot more money on your reception.

Casual wedding reception menu items could be:

  1. pulled pork

  2. hamburgers and hot dogs

  3. walking tacos

  4. potato bar

  5. roast beef

  6. pasta

  7. finger foods

  8. shish kabobs

  9. BBQ chicken

Go Buffet Style for Dinner

Buffet style dining is by far the cheapest option you can choose for your wedding reception.

Just because the food is buffet style doesn’t mean is cheap quality. You can still have high-quality foods and get it for cheaper than a plated meal.

Here is a great example of a reception buffet menu:

  1. Assorted Rolls

  2. Garden Salad with Ranch & French Dressings

  3. Seasonal Fresh Fruits Display

  4. Poppy Seed Pasta Salad

  5. Green Beans Almandine

  6. Parsley Boiled Potatoes

  7. Pasta Primavera

  8. Sicilian Chicken Marinara

  9. Market Style Tenderloin Tips

  10. Regular & Decaffeinated Coffee

  11. Cream, Sugar, Whipped Cream, & Cinnamon Sticks

  12. Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Ask for Help

It’s okay to ask for help… instead of hiring a wedding planner or day of coordinator, just ask someone for help. Many people will be willing to help you for free if you just ask. You can get people to help you with everything from overseeing the guest book to doing the photography. Here is a list of jobs that you can consider asking for help with:

  1. make the wedding cake

  2. help decorate the church and/or reception venue

  3. oversee the guestbook

  4. oversee the gifts

  5. pass out programs to guests

  6. watch over the ring bearer and flower girls during the ceremony

  7. be the photographer

  8. liaison to the photographer

  9. be the videographer

  10. run a photo booth at the reception

  11. ask them to help put together floral arrangements

  12. plan and/or provide transportation

  13. be a witness on the marriage certificate

  14. day of coordinator

  15. lady in waiting to run errands on the day off for whatever is needed

Consider Non-Traditional Wedding Venues

There are plenty of options for wedding venues, you just have to think a little creatively. Consider a place that matches your personalities. Maybe you met at the gym… see if your favorite gym can clear out a space and rent it to you for your reception.

If you love camping (or glamping) you can hold a ceremony and reception at a camp ground. They might have a facility on site or allow you to rent a tent for the festivities.

Don’t underestimate Airbnb… you could find a very nice venue to hold a wedding. Some might be pretty expensive, but you might just find a steal!

Also, don’t forget to look into rooftop venues. This may only provide enough space for a small gathering but it could come at a much cheaper price.

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Hi, I’m Kristin. While I haven’t found my Prince Charming yet, I’ve been dreaming of getting married for a long long time. I started this site as a place to record all the things I’ve found and researched in preparation for my own wedding someday. I can’t wait to share it all with you!

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