How to Throw an Rocking Wedding on a Budget

Published on March 3, 2017 by Lauren
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    Lauren Greutman Recovering Spender

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    My husband and I have been happily married for 15 years now! Our wedding was wonderful! It was so much fun… and it cost my parents a small fortune! I've been a bride's maid half a dozen times and been to about 20 other weddings. While each one is magical and special, I've discovered a few areas where it's easy to spend more than you need for a wedding (like I did). If you're wondering how to throw an awesome wedding on a budget, I've got some tips you should check out.

    The average cost of a wedding hovers right around $30,000, give or take a little. That's a significant portion of many Americans' annual income! If you don't have a budget, you'll pretty much always spend more than you wanted, which is why planning your wedding on a budget is super important.

    wedding on a budget

    How to Throw an Awesome Wedding on a Budget

    1. Get Your Budget Number

    This might seem obvious, but if you want to have a wedding on a budget, you'll need to know your budget limit when you start. If your parents are paying for the wedding or giving you a portion to help out, get that hard and fast number.

    Next, set your limit a few hundred or $1,000 less than your top dollar. This will give you some wiggle room for things that pop up.

    2. Organize the Wedding Expenses

    If you Google “Wedding Checklist” you'll get a bunch of options for some pre-made and free wedding checklists. I personally prefer The Knot Wedding Planner because it keeps all your details in a single place.

    These resources are a great place to start and get you thinking about things you might have forgotten. But your major categories are pretty simple to nail down:

    1. Venue
    2. Dress
    3. Photographer
    4. Reception Food Type (dinner, drinks, appetizers, etc)
    5. Cake
    6. Transportation
    7. Music
    8. Decorations

    Do a little homework and assign an initial cost to each one of these categories. is a great website that will help you organize your wedding planning, negotiate with vendors, and design the perfect wedding for your budget.

    3. Decide Your Non-Negotiables

    In my opinion, this is the most important step. With certain things, like a photographer, going cheap usually doesn't pan out. If having stunning wedding pictures is a high priority for you, pay for it. If having a memorable and classy cake is important to you, you're probably going to have to pay for it. Whatever they are,

    Decide on the items you will not compromise cost on, and plan and cut your other expenses around those.

    Also, as a word of caution, do NOT take someone's word for it. If they are a friend, or friend-of-a-friend, or a family member, and they say they can make wedding cakes, ask to see some of their work. If they say they can take pictures, ask to see some of what they've done. I've talked with couples that skimped on the pictures and cake specifically and were not happy with the results. Just be aware of what you're going to get.

    Areas to cut expenses:

    1. Scrap the DJ – Spotify 30 Day free trial

    When we got married, most people typically needed a DJ because they were the ones that owned all the music.

    Enter the Internet and Spotify. Poof! You now have access to all of the music the DJ's of old had!

    Spotify has a 30-day ad-free trial option. 30 days is more than enough time before the wedding to sign up and make a few different playlists of ad-free music. You might need to rent some speakers… but chances are, you know someone who has decent speakers they'd be willing to let you borrow for the day.

    wedding on a budget

    2. Venue – Airbnb

    You can use Airbnb for much more than finding a place for a night. You might be able to find an awesome venue for a fraction of the cost! Try this:

    1. In the “Where” search area type “backyard” or “event
    2. Click on ‘More Filters' and under ‘House Rules' select “Suitable for events
    3. Drag the map to the general area you'd like to have your wedding
    4. See if anything fits what you're looking for, inside or outside
    5. Once you contact the owners, you can probably have a conversation about particulars and work something out.

    wedding on a budget

    3. Dress – Once Wed

    Once Wed has a bunch of great resources to inspire the wedding theme you might want, they even have a DIY section with some great tips! But they also have a wedding dress selling section where brides sell their dresses for a fraction of the cost. You could find your dream dress right in your price range and in your size! Or, if you need alterations, getting a ‘once worn' dress could give you the leeway to afford alterations.

    4. Food – take out, and disposable dinnerware

    Event catering can get very expensive very fast. But, you can still have a great meal for much less. Why not contact your favorite restaurant ahead of time, even if it's barbecue, and see if they can give you a good carry out price. Give someone the job of picking up the food for you. Next, “splurge” on the nicer plastic plates, napkins, cups, and flatware. Check and see if Amazon has what you're looking for.

    Even if this is a little more casual, that could be worth it. Weddings are supposed to be a joyous celebration, and ‘fancy' doesn't always equal ‘fun'. And a wedding on a budget can be something that fits your personalities perfectly!

    wedding on a budget

    5. Decorations – Dual Purpose

    This is a place where you can get some friends to help make some Pinterest-inspired decorations. What if you made the decorations double as the party favors? Try and think of a way to make those nice thank-you gifts be the table decorations. This will make the clean-up much easier too.

    We used the wedding party bouquets to decorate the head table. I bought some cheap vases and set them on the head table and that's where the wedding party kept their flowers during the reception. It was cheap, easy, beautiful, and functional. I'm not saying do this with everything, but considering the versatility of some decorations might save you a few hundred dollars.

    6. Keep things in Perspective

    Here's the bottom line – when that wedding day comes, you're going to get married. Whether you got the tulle draped on the reserved rows or not, whether you got the perfect cake or not, whether the guests got a salad, dinner, and dessert fork or not. Keep everything in perspective. This day is about celebrating the union of two people, not about some decorations that will get thrown away after a few hours use.

    The limo ride can be fun but weigh the costs. Is a few hundred dollars worth a 10-minute limo ride?

    I found that after talking to some brides-to-be, they feel pressured to spend more based on appearances. This is actually true in other areas of life. Plan your wedding on a budget, stick to that budget, and focus your money on what you will remember most, and what is the most important.

    I would love to hear how you kept your wedding on a budget – please share your tips below.


  • When our youngest son got married our daughterinlaw made a grooms cake….small wedding cake(was beautiful) for pics for the bride & groom. She then made a cake as the center pieces for each table in the wedding colors. We went to Oneidia sliver and bought silver cake cutter for each table. Every table could cut their lovely cakes, and the oldest lady at the table received the silver cake cutter…( our daughterinlaw makes is a awwwwsome baker & cook)

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