Bride on a Budget – 7 Tips For Planning a Wallet-Friendly Wedding

When I got married in 2004, I had just graduated from college and had no job, my parents were in the middle of a divorce, and my then-fiance and I had no savings to speak of. But by planning smart, we still managed to have the wedding of our dreams. Here are some tips to help you do the same.

  1. Ditch the DJ. Instead of hiring someone to spin for us all night, we created a playlist on our iPod and hooked it up to the reception hall’s speaker system. Cost to us? Nada. And the added bonus is that we didn’t have to suffer through the Macarena, the Electric Slide, or the Chicken Dance.
  2. Quash the string quartet. I walked down the aisle to a beautiful arrangement of Pachbel’s Canon in D Minor on a free CD I got with a purchase of $10 or more at some boutique in town. I labeled the disk with track number and passed it off to the sound guy at the inn where we held the ceremony (which, I might add, cost less than $500), and it was just right.
  3. Downsize the dress. You’re going to be wearing it for, what, 6 hours max? Don’t spend thousands of dollars on a dress you’re only going to wear once. David’s Bridal has $99 wedding gown sales constantly, and you can find awesome bargains at regular dress shops, too. My dress was a prom-season find that cost me $130 and was miles better than any “real wedding gown” I tried on – and I tried on a lot of dresses.
  4. Minimize the menu. Do you really need crab balls and lobster bisque and filet mignon to be able to enjoy your wedding dinner? We negotiated a five-course plated dinner (including filet mignon, some fancy fish I’d never heard of but loved, rabbit, and a cheese course) with open wine and beer all night and an hour of passed hors d’oeuvres for less than $50 per person at the very nicest restaurant in town, and it was amazing.
  5. Get frugal with your flowers. My bouquet had more than three dozen roses in it, we passed out long-stemmed roses to all of the moms and grandmas (of which there were many – our extended family gets remarried a lot), and packed the rehearsal dinner and reception hall with blooms – and it cost less than $75. The secret? My best friend and I hit up BJs and Costco, two local discount wholesale stores, and cleaned them out, and then put everything together ourselves in about two wine-saturated hours using a few straight pins, a couple of spools of ribbon, and a picture torn out of Martha Stewart Living. The petals that fell off went in a ribbon-festooned basket for my flower girl, who wore a borrowed dress and her new school shoes for the ceremony.
  6. Guard the guest list. Do you seriously need to invite your entire family? If you wouldn’t recognize them on the street, they shouldn’t be at your wedding. It’s your day, and you should be surrounded by the people closest to you in the world – and that doesn’t always mean blood relatives. You may need to make some compromises here and there, but don’t sacrifice the presence of someone you truly want there because your mom doesn’t want to offend Uncle Bob. That’s her problem, not yours.
  7. Be prudent about pictures. Rather than spend thousands of dollars on a so-called professional photographer, we hired an art student from the local college and got literally the best wedding photos I have ever seen for $350 and the cost of one dinner, film, and developing. Ask to see a portfolio and make sure the personalities are right, but don’t assume that you have to shell out the big bucks for pride-worthy pictures.

There are dozens if not hundreds of creative ways to save money on your wedding ceremony, and these ideas will get you started on the road to planning a wedding that’s both beautiful and affordable.