Reader Suggestions For How To Plan A Fantastic Frugal Wedding
My husband and I have had a lot of things over the years: 10.5 years of wedded bliss, two darling children, endless conversations about grocery lists, vacations abroad, tears, exhaustion, and joy. One thing we didn’t have? A frugal wedding.
Yep. You heard it here first: the Frugalwoods did not get married frugally. Mr. FW and I met when we were 18 and 19 during the second semester of our freshman year of college. We got engaged at 23 and married in June 2008 when we were both 24. Writing those ages makes my hands hurt–we we SO YOUNG.
We were so young that I sometimes can’t believe we’ve stayed together because we’re such different people at age 35 than we were at 24. But the key for us is that we’ve changed, evolved, and matured together. At 24, we were not yet the Frugalwoods. While we were thrifty, we weren’t anywhere near as financially woke as we are now.
The reason we didn’t have a thrifty wedding is that my parents paid for it and Mr. FW’s parents paid for our rehearsal dinner and pitched in for our honeymoon. This is a very privileged experience, which is one of the reasons why I meditate on the role of privilege in my life both here on the blog and in my book. If Mr. FW and I’d had to pay for our wedding at age 24, we would’ve been able to afford hot dogs and beer for about five people in our basement apartment.
Our parents are ridiculously generous and they wanted us to get married in a certain style: formal, traditional, and classic. My parents were very involved in the planning process and made choices about the food, the alcohol, the cake, the invitations, the dress, the flowers, and–most importantly–the guest list. My parents (and Mr. FW and I) were of the opinion that since they were paying for it, they got to have a lot of say over how the wedding went, which was totally fine with me!
We invited everyone from both my and Mr. FW’s extended families, which is A LOT of people. We invited our friends and our parents’ friends. Mercifully, they didn’t ALL come or we would’ve had like a 500 person wedding. It was a spectacular, wonderful, gorgeous wedding. It was the wedding of my dreams. I am grateful to our parents every day for giving us the gift of this treasured day and the memory of being surrounded by all of our family and friends. It truly was magical and I cherish the memories and the photos. But it wasn’t frugal.
There were a few things that my mom and I did to trim costs:
- We bought my dress from a “bridal outlet” store. The dress had been a floor sample dress and so was dirty and had some rips, but the store had it professionally cleaned and repaired, so it looked good as new for a fraction of the price.
- I sent save-the-date postcards from VistaPrint in the same way that I now do my holiday cards (that’s an affiliate link).
- I designed, printed, and folded our programs myself.
We got married at the church where we were members, so the fee was nominal.
- A friend of mine sang at the wedding and other friends helped out as my day-of wedding planners and coordinators (thank you KKF, JMR, and VT!!!!).
- I hired a friend from work to serve as our DJ, so the fee was nominal.
- My bridesmaids wore $48 black dresses from Target.
- We held the reception at a hotel next door to the church so we didn’t need to pay for transportation for our guests.
- We bought Mr. FW’s titanium ring online for $40 (and he wears it to this day!).
- I wear my grandmother’s engagement ring and we bought my wedding band for 75% off at a jewelry store’s going-out-of-business close out sale.
- We used artificial flowers on the altar and bought our own candles and vases.
- For our honeymoon, we rented someone’s timeshare at a resort, which came at a deep discount.
While we trimmed around the edges, it was still an expensive soiree that was opulent and pure magic. If Mr. FW and I were to get married again today, we’d do things very differently because we’re very different people. But 10.5 years ago, we had the wedding of my dreams.
Given this, I haven’t known how to help the many, many, many (seriously, MANY) readers who’ve asked me for frugal wedding tips over the years. But that, my friends, is why I have a Reader Suggestions feature!!!! Reader Suggestions tackle FAQs from Frugalwoods Nation (that’s you!) and topics that I don’t have expertise in (that’s why we recently did one on saving money with teenagers). Thankfully, I have a braintrust of Frugal Experts who’ve weighed in on today’s topic to beat all topics: FRUGAL WEDDINGS!!!!!!!
Welcome to my monthly Reader Suggestions feature! Every month I post a question to our Frugalwoods Facebook group and share the best responses here. The questions are topics I’ve received multiple queries on and my hope is that by leveraging the braintrust of Frugalwoods nation, you’ll find helpful advice and insight. Join the Frugalwoods Facebook group to participate in next month’s Reader Suggestions!
How Frugalwoods Readers Had Frugal, Meaningful, GORGEOUS Weddings!!!
You all had a fire hose of advice on frugal weddings, so we’re going to get right to it today. I tried to separate these by category, but as you’ll see, most of you offered advice in more than one area, so just read the whole thing for a comprehensive overview.
Allison said, “When I was wedding planning, I was surprised by how much flowers would cost. I decided to use my crocheting skills to make flower bouquets and boutonnieres. It took me about 8 minutes to crochet each flower so needless to say, the bouquets were a labor of love. I saved hundreds of dollars making the flowers myself and they last forever! I also loved being able to DIY something that turned actually looked good for the wedding. I also crocheted some flowers to decorate the cake.”
Rita shared, “I wore a secondhand dress (and passed it on to several other brides afterward). Family and friends sponsored or gave us heavy discounts on food, makeup, photography, decor, a violinist, invitations, etc. Our rings are made of stainless steel worth about $50 for the pair, which is fortunate because they no longer fit! I had a bouquet made of wooden flowers that cost much less than live ones, and we decorated using ferns picked outside the church, recycled paper, old jars, etc. We also got married in a church in our old university, so we got a discount on the fee. My husband used his Lego castle set and minifigs for our “cake”, a cream puff tower from my colleagues. He also used one of his 80s love song CDs for our reception. Our community made it possible for us to have a beautiful budget wedding!”
Krista said, “My tip is to never be scared to ask for help! My matron of honor made all of our flowers out of my favorite book, and our friends set up the venue with us. We saved money by combining the ceremony & reception in the same room in the city museum we rented out. We asked the museum if they had tables & chairs from meetings; they did so we got them for free! We set our date right after Christmas so the museum was still decorated. We borrowed books from the library to decorate the tables. My aunts made a shawl & gloves to match my dress.”
Cindy wrote, “Made my own bouquet. One dozen roses, babies breath and some green floral tape. We saved out one rose for the boutineer.”
Chantal shared, “My wedding was certainly a budget wedding, but I really don’t think anyone there would have guessed it! I bought my dress 50% off at a bridal expo. We purchased a wedding package that included our celebrant and wedding venue, photographer and reception venue, 2 course meal and drinks package for every guest and included the cake. We chose to marry on a Friday as it was half the price of a weekend wedding.
We were limited to 40 guests and that was fine with us. All the furniture was provided and decorations including centerpieces etc. I was driven there for free by my cousin who has a fancy car he often hires out for weddings. I made all invitations, place cards etc myself. I purchased the groomsmen and bridesmaid clothes over the previous year as I found great sales. We did splash out and hire a dj for the night. I honestly found by spending the time to do things myself and doing research into the options available I was able to have a fairytale wedding on a budget. Our total cost was $6,200 Australian. The average wedding here costs $35,000 to $55,000.”
Suzanne said, “We got married in the daytime on a Monday. This saved us a lot of money because venues are far less expensive. Also, it was a far less stressful planning experience. We weren’t competing for vendors because everyone is free on a Monday!”
Caroline said, “So fortunate that my parents paid for my wedding, but the key thing is not to be too set or have too much of a specific ”vision”. Our florist was not cheap, BUT by saying to him ”here’s the budget, I like these colours, each table can be different or similar, we love candles and candlelight, hate balloons” he was able to unleash his incredible creativity and make it stunning, rather than have us pay top dollar for some very specific colour flower. My mom made my dress, we kept the numbers moderate (80 all in), focused on what we really wanted, which was table service (no buffet), a generous bar tab and a good dance floor. We also had it shoulder season, on a Friday, which is easier and a little less expensive than Saturdays or peak-peak season. Churches, even quite grand ones, are often far less expensive than ”wedding venue” type places. Ours was in a cathedral (the chapel!!), and even with bell ringers and the amazing organist, was a tiny, tiny fee, comparatively, for a gorgeous venue.”
Cate shared, “I loved the look of more expensive dresses in North America but couldn’t stomach the price for a dress I’d be wearing one day, so I ordered my wedding gown online from a dress maker in China. Everyone thought I was crazy. It was approximately $500 USD for a beautiful custom made lace gown with matching lace veil. Minor alterations were required for about $100 USD. Overall it was about 1/4 of what I would have spent had I purchased a comparable dress at a store here.”
Trish said, “We were the first couple to get married in our new church so they did not charge us to use it for the wedding or reception. One of the head ladies of the church even worked free to help out. We did pay our pastor $50 for the service. My dress I did splurge $100 on sale at JC Penny’s. A friend of my Moms altered it for free. My Mom and several church ladies made all the food, my Sister in laws Mom made and gifted us the beautiful wedding cake and grooms cake. My Mom made all the decor and flowers. The honeymoon to Disneyland was paid for by my Brother in law. My Matron of honor and bridesmaids made their own dresses. We did not have much money when we started out. I was thankful to everyone for all that hard work.”
Lindsay shared, “Currently wedding planning on a budget and right now my favorite find has been the website Azazie.com. You can order sample dresses that are shipped to your home (affordably), try them on, then order through their site. My dress is $250 vs a very similar one I loved in a bridal store for $825 after their ‘discount’!!!!
Kara said, “I ordered a bridesmaids dress in ivory as my wedding dress, since I wanted tea length anyway, and it was perfect and a small fraction of the cost of a wedding dress. We used as many local vendors as possible, and because our wedding was in a small town it was definitely cheaper than big city prices. We rented the church hall instead of a fancier venue, and dressed up the tables instead of the walls. My MIL sewed beautiful table runners, we borrowed linens and chair covers from a friend of the family who does banquets for his company, and I purchased sets of old pretty China dishes from kijiji, which I sold/donated after the wedding and kept my favorite set as our ‘wedding china’.”
Amanda wrote, “Loved all this advice! Some of it we did at our own wedding a couple months ago. My mom was amazing enough to buy my dress, but I wanted lace sleeves and couldn’t stomach the higher price tags of dresses with sleeves, even with someone else paying, so I chose a simple sleeveless sweetheart neckline dress and found a $10 body suit on Amazon I wore under the dress. It matched so well even the seamstress didn’t realize it wasn’t attached to the dress itself.
We also had the wedding and reception at a beach house we rented for us and the bridal party to stay in for a few nights (in December, so much cheaper than peak season) in lieu of a formal venue and only invited very close friends and family.”
Laurie said, “I asked my ladies to just wear a beautiful dress they loved.”
Laurie said, “I asked people to bring their fanciest appetizer for potluck instead of a gift.”
Megan wrote, “We had a cake reception instead of a dinner.”
Allie suggests, “Ditching the full meal! We did an after-dinner wedding, ended up getting Pizza just to make sure there wasn’t too much drinking on an empty stomach, and asked some great bakers in our lives to do a pot-luck dessert bar. This enabled us to host 200 guests for around $11,000.”
Cindy, “Ordered a cake from the local grocery store asked them to leave off top decorations. $20 to $30 dollars (don’t mention a wedding) added my wedding cake topper.”
Kati said, “Going with a farmers market vendor for our food option was the best decision! We had a morning wedding and brunch reception, so bagel sandwiches were perfect! Not only was the food delicious–I still have people complimenting the food!–but it helped support a local business and the people who own and work for them are wonderful!! They gave us high quality food, added to the fun environment, and were at least half the price of a caterer!”
Ashley wrote, “We did a cake and punch afternoon wedding (no booze) for about 100 people at a wedding venue. I personally baked homemade cookies as wedding favors (not because I felt people HAD to have favors but because I love to bake). I bought my wedding dress off the clearance rack. I purchased fake flowers online and put together all the bouquets myself. We went with a photographer on the cheaper end and while some of the shots aren’t that great, there are still some good ones. It wasn’t extremely cheap, but it was still a lot less than what the “norm” is. Looking back, I wouldn’t change anything.”
The Centerpieces and Favors
Laura said, “We made our own centerpieces. I made flowers out of dictionary pages and then asked friends and family for really old books and set the flowers on the books. Bought little chalk boards from the dollar store for the table numbers and had tea lights surrounding them. I should mention that I had just received my graduate degree in English that year and was a teacher so it reflected a personal side of me!”
Molly said, “I refused to have flowers for centerpieces because it seemed like a silly waste of money. We rented antique birdcages from a wedding rental place for the main focus, then surrounded them with gold votives borrowed from a family friend, pinecones and branches gathered from around town that we lightly sprayed with gold and bronze paint, and fake leaves I found at Michael’s on sale. We ordered babies breath from the grocery store and filled the birdcages with it (only cost about $20 for an entire trunk full!). I also got a toy buck and doe and spray painted them gold for our cake topper.”
KaLynn shared, “Here are my best ideas: Save the date postcards from Vistaprint, cheap (that’s an affiliate link)! Find a dress store that really takes care of their sample gowns. Instead of ordering my dress new I bought the sample gown that I tried on and got 15% off! It was in pristine condition and I’m petite so no matter the size it was going to need major alterations.
Make your own favors (warning this is time consuming). I made tiny jars of strawberry jam. I found a woman who does photography on the side. She was reasonably priced and had her daughter be the 2nd photog. Photos look great and after the wedding she edited them and mailed us a flash drive with all the photos. Patronize a small, local jeweler. Twice a year our jeweler does a buy one get one 50% off weekend for wedding bands. Borrow a veil! Veils aren’t cheap and you don’t wear them for long.”
The Music, Photos, and Videos
Kristin said, “I recommend that everyone make their own playlist. We spent no money on a DJ, loved every song that played all day, borrowed sound equipment from a friend, and asked another charismatic friend to emcee the key parts of the reception. We still listen to our playlist all the time more than two years after our wedding; it makes us happy :).”
Melissa said, “For our video we used a college student. He got to make some money (much less than we would have paid for a seasoned professional) and he got to build his portfolio. We paid for our bridesmaid’s dress. We got her dress and my wedding dress at a post-prom sale at JC Penney’s.”
Gabby wrote, “We had no money when we got married, so we had to be very frugal to make a wedding happen at all. We opted for an evening, after dinner time wedding, with a dessert reception instead of a meal and had about 100 guests. My mom made my wedding dress (not everyone has the luxury of an excellent seamstress in the family, but if you do, this is money-saving and very special!).
For drinks, we served just wine and New Glarus, a set amount that we purchased ahead of time that turned out to be just right. My favorite part was being my own DJ….I worked hard putting together a playlist for dancing (the trick is to arrange the songs in a specific order rather than just shuffle playing…you don’t want to accidentally have five slow dances in a row!) and just plugged my ipod into the sound system I got with the venue. I got so many compliments on the music and people danced all night, without any DJ tricks. Maybe this is tacky in some books, but we skipped the wedding favors…I never really care about them at other folks’ weddings, so I didn’t much see the point. Our wedding was at the local senior center… which is a hilarious thing to put on a wedding invitation, but it was dirt cheap and was a beautiful room that came with everything we needed setup wise and allowed us to cater from anywhere.”
Whitney said, “I called a local music college to see if there were any students that were looking for some extra cash/performance practice. We ended up with an AMAZING banjo player!”
Kristin said, “We did not send traditional invitations via snail mail (though we did send magnet save the dates because we wanted to see ourselves on our family and friends’ fridges forever). My husband, who is a 3D animator, made an awesome invitation video which we emailed to all of our friends, and simply asked them to RSVP via wedding wire, linked in the email.”
Heather said, “My big tips are: Save the dates are just expensive. I designed wedding invitation postcards on Vistaprint– bought 200 for ~$50 and sent almost a year in advance (that’s an affiliate link). Postcards are also cheaper to mail than most heavy wedding invites. And Look into your state parks for ceremony and reception locations. I spent $400 on two day rental of a giant lodge with tables & chairs for 150 included. And my wedding party and family was able to stay in park at gorgeous cabins for $125 a night. They slept 6-8 comfortably. We invited and planned for around 100 people but due to a surprise snowstorm only 60 could make it. Made for good pictures though. I wanted to have the ceremony outside but it was too cold. Luckily the lodge was big enough for a ceremony location and reception space.I bought bulk cedar garland for $200 for 75 feet and used it as my main decorative feature. January wedding in the woods. The theme was sort of a winter picnic with 3 types of soup, sandwiches and a hot cocoa bar. Dessert was mini pies (300 minis 6 different flavors for ~$200). My best advice: a traditional wedding is EXPENSIVE. For almost no reason. If you don’t care about a certain detail, don’t drop money on it. The promise is important not the party.”
Erika said, “I used Zazzle for my save the dates and invitations, I think they are basically always having a 50% off sale! For my save the dates I did them as a postcard to cut down on postage and the cost of envelopes. Other frugal things-I did not give out favors and I hunted around until I found a florist within my budget and she rented me items to put on the tables (lanterns, vases, pillar candles etc) to make it look more “full” so no one would be focusing on my small (but gorgeous) flower arrangements. I did my own makeup, I bought my wedding dress on eBay, bought my shoes at a department store sale I randomly went to. I had the ceremony and reception in the same venue which cut down on costs as well as stress. I had around 100 guests. I also had a set cap amount I was paying for drinks and when it went over that it was no longer open bar.”
Sarah wrote, “I designed the save the dates and invitations myself and had them printed on Vistaprint (that’s an affiliate link). We got married at the courthouse in front of our parents, and went out for a small dinner afterward with family. We wanted to get special clothing for the day, but it was all things we could (and have!) worn again. I used rings from two of my grandmothers and we bought an affordable wedding band for my husband. My dad took pictures. Our joy and priority was preparing food and spending time with friends and family. Most of our money went toward renting two cabins in the GSMNP for friends and family. We spent a long weekend visiting, eating, grilling pork, sitting on the porches, and playing games. All our friends said it was probably one of the most fun weddings they’ve been too, and I think we planted the seed with some folks about what counts as a wedding celebration and that a wedding is whatever you want it to be. Yes, we are toasting in front of a tombstone. One of my ancestors is buried on the site of the courthouse and I thought it would be interesting to commemorate our marriage with her. We technically couldn’t bring the alcohol into the courthouse, but the security guard told me to go back outside and hide it in the bushes.”
Elizabeth said, “Both sets of parents generously offered their backyards, so we had a perfect choice of venues. (It poured, but fortunately we chose the backyard with a roof.) I rented my dress because I didn’t see the point of having to maintain a garment I’d wear once in my life. We kept our guest list to about 30 people and told folks no need for gifts — just to bring themselves. Our activities literally included (a) the ceremony (b) eating and drinking and talking. Our only real expenses were an officiant, renting chairs, buying alcohol and getting catering (because nobody wanted to cook that day). And our marriage license.
The best part of this arrangement was the simplicity. Family offered to pitch in (and did so) but compared to many weddings, there was little for us to worry about. Friends said to me in the days before the wedding, “You must be so frantic.” I said, “No. That’s the point.” This meant I only pulled the difficult-bride card once. Somebody asked me why I was only offering the guests chocolate for dessert, pointing out that somebody may not like chocolate. My polite answer? “Bridezilla. It’s my favourite dessert, and the guests will be well-fed beforehand with vegetarian options, too.” 🙂
… it’s been several years and we’re still happily married. That’s the real point, but what I think is cute is that my parents were so impressed with our wedding that they keep bringing it up every few months.”
Danielle said, “For us it started with conversations about what it meant to have a wedding and a successful marriage. We decided it was more important to set ourselves up for success beyond our wedding day (and limit stress beforehand). Therefore we spent the months leading up to our wedding having serious conversations about finances, family, etc. by working through this workbook (affiliate link). We ultimately ended up being married on a small local beach that we frequent often each summer, with only our immediate families present. We followed that up months later with a large, casual celebration where we were able to invite everyone we wanted to see, and treat them to good food, drinks, and fun! The total cost for both days was under $10k, and we were able to use savings to cover it fully. For rings, check Amazon. We got ours for 1/2 the price of a local jeweler. Also check etsy for veils – the same one from the bridal shop was $25 on etsy. Watch Vistaprint, snapfish, etc. for deals – I got my invitations for 1/2 off on Cyber Monday. Negotiate with a photographer for only the hours you need (not a package) – I personally didn’t care for getting ready photos – this saved us hundreds (that’s an affiliate link)! We saved a lot by not having a bridal party, no favors, no save the dates, and no professional services except for a photographer for 2 hours.”
Paula said, “I was married 20 years ago in Weathersfield, Vermont. We rented the Weathersfield Center Church. My fiance and I were in graduate school in New Mexico; my family was in North Carolina; his family was in Vermont. Friends were scattered. I bought my dress for $100 from a small bridal shop in NM: It was the undyed (i.e., white) sample for a bridesmaid’s dress. Bridesmaids and groomsmen were housed in relatives houses; family members got hotel rooms (cheap, at the time, in Southern Vermont). Flowers were cut wildflowers (abundant in July in Vermont). We had a simple cake and punch reception at the church, then adjourned to a family member’s home for a potluck party: burgers and hot dogs, sides brought by the attendees, a keg of beer, music from a CD player, volleyball, bonfire. My friends still remember it as the best wedding they ever attended.”
Judith shared, “Bought white(ish) trouser set with reduction as had stain at back of neck (£8) rings £50, and licence (£9). 6 guests, went to pub afterwards, they brought us free food when they heard we’d just got married. Still here after 40 years.”
Skip The Wedding!
Jessica said, “I eloped! And got married in a football jersey. Not for everyone but the cost savings landed me in Antigua in a private villa on the beach for a week— worth it! ❤️”
Lois wrote, “Eloped a week before graduating grad school. 16 close friends, bought flowers around the corner, wore a dress i’d worn to many weddings as a guest, married in a small chapel, celebration brunch plus 2 small wedding cakes at the Fairmont. Whole thing cost < $500 including 1 night stay at the ocean. His aunt and uncle flew up from SoCal to NoCal to be our best man and woman. Would do it the same all over again. No stress over logistics going perfectly.”
Have A Very DIY Wedding
Kristy wrote, “I got married in my church in April 2017. There were about 250 guests. Our last name is Everheart so the day after Valentines Day I went to target and bought decorations like these wooden hearts for 80% off and then hot glued fake flowers I bought from silk flowers factory online. Because I got super cheap flowers online I could get all my decorations made months ahead of time. The church was free since we were members, the pianist was a talented friend and free, our wedding arch was built for free for us by some friends.
I told my bridesmaids to wear a pink dress of any shade. I made tulle skirts out of cheap tulle ribbon for my flower girl for $2 a kid. I saved a lot of money and headache by just saying pink and burgundy were my colors so when making things I could buy whatever shade of craft supplies were on sale. Our arch was just stained 2×4’s with cheap silk flowers and a bridesmaid loaned me their curtain. One of my flower girls wearing her tulle skirt I made and her flower crown. I’m a Sunday school teacher and I had built the giant connect four for a children’s festival a couple years before so we used it again as part of the reception since it was just sitting in the storage room at church. DIY projects made my wedding really special.”
Jess wrote, “Our wedding was a family effort. We had 300 people in a family member’s backyard. We used family member skills to make the wedding happen and the skill was a gift. For example a family friend made my dress as my wedding gift, my husband’s cousin who owns a bakery made the cake. The food was done potluck style. The only out of pocket expenses we had was the minister and the band.”
Chelsea did a “1) backyard wedding (in the country)
2) bought bulk flowers and succulents at the local farmers market the morning of (talk to the vendors a month or so before so they bring extra in the colors you want)
3) have a potluck. Everyone raved about the food at our wedding because my aunts and extended family are great cooks!
4) bought the beer at Costco
5) got a basic wedding cake from market of choice with no decoration and added succulents and flowers ourselves.”
Dieta said “1. We got married in a church and had the reception in the church basement. Very cheap.
2. Bonus was that the church didn’t allow alcohol…which saved us a ton of money.
3. We got married at 11 and had a lunch reception…cost less than supper. And it was prepared by a bunch of wonderful church ladies.
4. My mom made my dress and all the bridesmaid dresses. My aunt did my hair and I did my own make up.
5. We got married in May and picked all the flowers from friends gardens.
6. My cousin offered to do the photography for free.
7. Since it was a lunch reception…no dance was expected so no DJ or sound equipment needed.
8. My other cousin made the cake for free.
9. All costs included, we were able to have 150 guests and it cost under $2,000 And it was so amazing, everyone loved the DIY feel and personal touches.”
Siera wrote, “My husband and I got married in 2015 and spent about $5,000, which was not as frugal as it could have been, but we did save a lot in a number of areas. Having ‘everyone’ there was important to us, so we invited about 230; around 180 attended.
- Ceremony venue: our church ($1,000 for our pastor, wedding coordinator, sound and video guy, janitorial staff, use of bridal rooms, building, chairs, etc. etc.)
- Reception venue: a family member’s backyard on their farm (we rented tables & chairs)
- My dress: I made it myself with about $60 worth of cotton lace fabric from Joann’s. (I also did my hair and makeup myself)
- Flowers: I grew them on the farm where I worked at the time; my bridesmaids, aunts, mom and I made all the bouquets and centerpieces
- Other décor: we bought vintage-looking globe lights, but borrowed or made everything else (lanterns, wooden signs, etc.)
- Food: friends and family helped us put together a pretty simple backyard picnic-style reception
- Our cake: I made it! (The original plan was to have a friend make it, but that fell through. I love how it turned out though!)
- Where we spent extra: live music at the reception (fiddle players for dancing) and a good professional photographer
The moral of the story: Know your priorities and make your wedding your own – don’t feel pressured to copy all the bridal magazines and Pinterest boards you see that tell us we must spend thousands, or tens of thousands on this day! Focus on what the day is really about, and enjoy it.”
Erin said she, “Made my own invitations. Mom made my dress. No flowers. No cake. Friends were photographers. Ceremony at church. Reception at a brand new restaurant with ornate decor so we didn’t even use centerpieces. Beer and wine only, buffet style dinner. No party favors. Sister did my hair and makeup. Plain bands for rings, no diamonds. Went to Yosemite for honeymoon, stayed at bed n breakfast and went hiking. Bachelorette party was at my friend’s house, did a scavenger hunt. No gift registry. Picked out our favorite charities to accept donations in lieu of gifts. Total cost of wedding, soup to nuts, including all I just listed for 105 guests: $7,000. Ten years going strong!”
PHOTO Katherine wrote, “We are fortunate to have some acreage and a pond, so we hosted our wedding at home. In order to DIY a lot of it, we limited the guest list to about 60 people. I knew from a previous holiday party that 60 was about the limit on what our septic/water system could handle in one day, so any more than that would have required renting port-a-lets, which are either gross or pricy if you want the nice ones. I did rent a tent because September weather in NY can be unpredictable and I didn’t want that many people in my house if it rained. I also rented a dance floor, tables, chairs, and dishes. This was surprisingly affordable. (Less than $2k all in.)
I ordered my flowers from Costco.com They offer both pre-arranged bouquets as well as loose bulk flowers. I went with loose flowers and made my own arrangements as that was the cheapest option and I enjoy flower arranging. I made three bouquets, three corsages, five boutonnières, six table arrangements, the arrangement that hung over the structure we stood in front of for the ceremony, and several other miscellaneous decorations with about $400 worth of roses and calla lilies. (Supplemented with a few bouquets of sunflowers from the grocery store.) A local florist quoted us five times that much for lower quality flowers. The caveat is that it was a *lot* of last minute work, so you need to be organized if you’re going to do it. Plenty of tutorials online on how to assemble bouquets and store them overnight. Costco provides info on when to schedule delivery for an event. I received mine the morning of the day before the wedding and was prepared with buckets and coolers of water standing by and a couple of tools (floral shears, tape, wire, pins, floral foam bouquet holders) that I picked up at Joann’s. The quality was great.
For music, we purchased a Bluetooth speaker with a microphone on Amazon for less than $200 (it was called Tailgater but I don’t think they make the exact one anymore) and I created a series of playlists in iTunes (carefully labeled so that my friend who acted as MC would know when to play them.). We had a brunch reception, one benefit of which is that a lot of the food could be served cold. (Fruits, cheese, veggies with hummus, an assortment of pastries purchased from a bakery.) We supplemented that with a roast beef, a ham, and roasted potatoes that my mom made. We served bottled beer, sparkling wine (picked up a case at $3/bottle from Trader Joe’s), and an assortment of juices and coffee. We paid two of my teenaged cousin’s friends $20/hr to work the buffet table and clear away dishes. We served pie (purchased from bakery) instead of a fancy cake for dessert.
For other decorations and party favors, spray paint and a hot glue gun were my friends. I took a bunch of old, cheap vases from floral bouquets past and used mirror spray paint to make them look like mercury glass. I did the same with cheap votive candle holders (my MIL had a huge box of them but a thrift shop would be a good source otherwise) some of which I further decorated with bits of lace and ribbon, some I left plain. Dollar store picture frames were spray painted gold and held printed out table numbers. I did splurge on lanterns for each table but I picked ones I like and I still use them around the house today. For a sign at the road to direct guests to the wedding, I spray painted a piece of scrap plywood with chalkboard paint and had my artistic sister write on it with regular school chalk. It was so beautiful that we preserved it (hairspray!) and it hangs on the wall in my office.”
Bec wrote, “We got married at the courthouse and then a year later had a reception in our backyard after we purchased our home. We rented a tent and were able to have it Friday – Monday, which allowed us to have a welcome reception on Friday, party on Saturday, and brunch on Sunday. Many of our guests had traveled a long way, so it was wonderful to be able to help bring down some of their costs as well. We DIYed nearly everything. A friend put together arrangements from Costco flowers. I cooked our food (PNW BBQ + mac & cheese in crock pots + more make ahead appetizers + local brews iced down in a wheelbarrow) and my aunt was in charge of keeping it organized.
I bought a lot of things on sale and with coupons from JoAnn fabric. Nice platters and serving ware came from Salvation Army’s half off days. We used bamboo disposables to make cleanup easier and eco friendly-ish even though it was slightly more expensive than regular disposables. My dress was purchased online during a sale and with coupons and my husband wore clothing he already owned. We made a DIY Photo Booth in our garage using an iPad, an app, and a tripod. I took cake photos from Pinterest to our local Safeway store to see if they could make them, and we got so many compliments on the desserts that cost less than $15 apiece. We splurged on a good photographer and I paid someone to do my hair and makeup. If you do decide to DIY, be sure to give yourself about twice the amount of time that you think it will take and be ok with things not going exactly as planned. I have never felt more beautiful or loved as I did on this day even though so many things went hilariously wrong.”
Kimberly wrote, “Ours was also a DIY wedding. I made everything except the cake, even the centerpieces, my bouquet, and corsages etc.
We held ours in the middle of the day in the early spring (off season here in Canada). I found a space at a historic building – since it wasn’t a typical wedding space it was really cheap!
My favourite part of the day, besides marrying my husband, was an hour before the ceremony. I went out in my dress (which I scored for $100, last season off the rack sale), and asked if anyone wanted to help decorate. Everyone jumped in to help, and it was so much fun. 🙂 <3 Been married almost 9 years now! Altogether ours was $3,000.”
Karla said, “We had a summer mountain wedding in Colorado with 60 guests. Rehearsal dinner: pizza and grocery store veggie trays/snacks on a back patio at the rec center with a beautiful mountain sunset. Wedding: rented a combination venue from YMCA of the Rockies, wedding was on a Thursday. No bridal party. Reception: Trader Joe’s $3 wine, Costco sheet cake, Spotify playlist, barbecue caterer, cheap throw away plastic table clothes. I donated my $250 new, consignment shop dress to a bridal shop for another frugal bride (manufactured 6 years earlier, it was too old to consign). We did free electronic invitations/RSVP’s. Both our rings were from Amazon; mine was moissanite (cheaper, more fire, and harder than a diamond!) and his was $20.
We did hire a photographer, but we chose a single shooter (much cheaper), and only hired her for a number of hours (end of getting ready through the first dance), rather than through the entire reception. We also had a send-off brunch at a town meeting room, and I brought all the food from Costco and grocery store deli trays. Grand total for our Colorado wedding was $7,817, which included the Colorado rehearsal dinner, wedding/reception, and send-off brunch with about 60 guests at each event. Since it was a destination wedding, we invited everyone to each of the three events.
Biggest single expenditures were photographer ($1,700), catering ($1,473), and venue ($1,313). We also spent a separate $960 to have a reception in Ohio with elderly grandparents and 60 other family members, that included flights/rental car/food/cake. I had a 6 year-old consignment dress with tags ($250) and my wedding bouquet was made by a friend. Costco half sheet “wedding cake” ($18!). Cheap throw-away plastic tablecloth in blue gingham to match our Colorado mountain wedding. ”
Codi wrote, “My husband and I got married at city hall, my Dad bought my dress. Costco for my flowers, no wedding party, just our close family was invited, used a friend photographer for about a hour and a half: 2 at most to get our ceremony and after pictures. And my last boss from work made my cake. I also encouraged guests to take pictures as well. City hall provided decorations and music. We then held a lunch at our house with chicken and hamburgers. From food, photography, city hall, dress, flowers we spent $3,500.”
Jill shared, “We got married in a family home backyard. We borrowed chairs and tables from a church that was a couple doors down (we made a donation to them but it was such a wonderful deal that it felt ‘free’). We borrowed white Christmas lights from all our friends and my father-in-law strung them up all over the yard and barn. We bargained with local fishermen to get a good deal on lobster, borrowed two BBQs to add to our own and served lobster, burgers, sausages, hot dogs, baked beans, and a whack of other sides, and had pies for dessert, from a local bakery.
The alcohol was homemade wine from one of our friends, and store-bought beer that we picked up a couple days before the wedding. We used an ipod hooked up to a borrowed sound system for the dancing, and had a big bonfire with s’mores later in the evening. We asked my family’s minister to do the ceremony, and paid for her hotel room and gas. We had purchased tents for the event, and rented a portapotty. The tents ended up being recalled weeks later so we were reimbursed (they worked fine for our event!), and the day after the wedding, the family home toilets stopped working (150 year old house) and everyone was THRILLED to have a portapotty in the yard. I think we came in around $6,000 for the whole event, thanks to the generosity of family and friends loaning us stuff.”
Cadence suggests, “Have it at a place where you can BYOB and just pay a bartender. Have it in a local place – I had mine in a historic house in my hometown and it was $700 for 6 hours (much more if you live out of that town). Don’t worry too much about the food. Buy flowers at a warehouse and have someone you know made the centerpieces.”
Carrie said, “We did Facebook invites and got married at the courthouse in Santa Ana, CA (gorgeous venue with seating for 100ish) on a Thursday afternoon. Had a taco man cater our reception. Big spend was on our photographer who captured every bit of glamour and joy in the day. My dress was under $40, wore shoes I already owned.”
Laurie wrote, “We were married at a local ski resort that did weddings during the off season for a great price. We were married at the base of the mountain and had the reception inside. I bought my wedding dress on Black Friday. We also had a local baker who made everything out of her house make our cake. I think back now and we could have even made it cheaper. Friends of ours were married at city hall and had dinner with good friends and family at a local restaurant. So beautiful!”
Lisa suggests getting married in the, “OFF SEASON! We had an off season daytime wedding and it saved us 30% on food and drink and $5,000 on the hall. You heard that right. The same hall during June is $5,000 to rent and during off season it’s free.”
Kelee shared, “Our wedding cost $6k (AU) & there was no DIY in sight. In fact, besides organising our outfits, rings, vows, invites, song to dance down the aisle to & booking a restaurant for lunch – I did nothing!
We signed up to for a ‘pop up’ wedding – they booked the venue, bouquet, flower pin, celebrant and photographer (and we booked a time slot, sharing the cost with other couples across the day). There were a lot of things we didn’t bother with (cars, favours, bridesmaids, groomsmen, wedding cake). All we did was turn up & get hitched! We had 20 guests & enjoyed a 3 course al la Carte lunch with local beer & wine. Great conversation & lots of laughs! It was simple, elegant, stress free & didn’t break us financially! Here are the 4 of us (me, hubby & our daughters) dancing down the ‘aisle’ towards our guests 😊”
The Guest List
Kelsey said, “I think a large part of the reason we were able to have such a frugal wedding was that we kept our guest list very low. My rule was, “Do they have to be there for me to get married?” If I could imagine getting married without them there – they didn’t get an invite. The low numbers allowed us to self-cater which saved us a lot of money.
We didn’t send out save the dates, our invites were on old postcards, I altered my mother’s dress, groom’s suit was bought from Vietnam (online), I made my flowers from crepe paper, and we bought alcohol from Aldi (no one could tell). We used VRBO and rented a large cabin in the mountains which housed all our out of town guests and served as our venue/reception. It worked perfectly for an outdoor wedding and I fully recommend that as a non-traditional venue option. We rented the cabin for four days which meant we got to spend real time with our guests and that was by far the best part.”
Katie suggests, “Keep it simple. Guest list was under 30 friends and family. I did my own hair and makeup, my brother took photos, a friend preformed the ceremony. We were married in a park and did not need flowers or decorations. We went to a BBQ joint after for food and dancing sharing the venue with patrons.”
Frugal Boss Weddings That Cost $600 and UNDER
Madelyn wrote, “Our wedding cost us around $600. Things we did included:
- I got my “wedding dress” on clearance at JC Penney for $16. So a big tip is to not buy an actual wedding dress. You can find really nice white and off white dresses just about anywhere. (Especially during spring!)
- Another thing we did was get married in my grandmother’s backyard. No cost for the venue, and we were able to cut the guest list down to just immediate family. If anyone else asked why they weren’t invited, we just explained there wasn’t room! It cut down on hurt feelings, and cut down the costs! (And drama!)
- We bought our rings for cheap! My set was $70 from Walmart, and my husband’s was $14 from online. Skip the diamonds. We went for cubic zirconia and opal for my ring. White sapphires are a good middle of the line as far as budget goes.”
Lisa shared, “My husband and I had a simple wedding that cost under $200, even though almost a hundred people attended. My mom and I collected acorns and pressed autumn leaves for decorations, and used her marigolds (heirloom seeds from my maternal grandma) for the flowers. My best friend’s mom made a dress for me and I wore my other grandma’s veil, and my husband bought a nice shirt and pants at a thrift store for ten bucks. Our bridesmaids and groomsmen wore black, clothes they either owned or thrifted. We had a ceremony at our church and a potluck reception in the gym. My brother played piano, a friend took the photos, and we all danced to an iPod shuffle playlist and ate homemade cake. It was fun, meaningful, and very “us,” and I often look back feeling happy that we didn’t get caught up in the pressure of what you “have to do” for a wedding. Even the “fun stuff”– like buying presents for your bridesmaids or making goodie basket for out of town family– can turn stressful very quickly, so I’m glad we kept things as simple as possible. (Incidentally, with the money we saved, we were able to take a six-month backpacking trip on the Pacific Crest Trail a year later!)”
Amanda said, “We got married at a park we rented the lodge within the park for reception for $135. My brother in law married us. My dress was borrowed. We made our wedding bands from coins. All of flowers were artificial. My grandmother is a florist so she did all for free. The rest of wedding decor bought from 2nd hand on Facebook $100 total. Reception was potluck. My niece was the photographer for free.We had a 150 guest total. My wedding cost less than $500.”
Julia wrote, “We had a civil ceremony followed by a tea-and-cake party at our house. I got my dress for £19 in a sale and even with some simple flowers and all the cakes the whole thing came in at under £200. One of my VERY rich friends always says it was the nicest wedding he has ever been to. Because it was Friday the 13th we were the only couple to marry that day at the registry office and got as much time as we wanted in the gardens afterwards.”
Crystal said, “No more then $500 spent…no reception, summer dress no wedding dress, no tux for him just simple clean clothes, small direct family ceremony, cake and sister took candid photos, includes simple wedding bands, no engagement ring! Our wedding was not about a party, gifts or celebration. We’d been together/lived together and didn’t want to spend the money on ONE day!”
Katie said, “We got married in our front yard. 3 dresses and 3 shirts were bought at consignment or goodwill, 1 adult shirt was bought on clearance at Walmart. Spent about $50 on snack foods, borrowed extra crockpots. 2 guests brought canopies in case of rain. My best friend officiated. Made bouquets using assorted fake flowers from Hobby Lobby. We bought rings at the flea market (but replaced them with silicon rings, $60 for the pair). Used cash received as gifts to spend a night away from home and a gift card we received for dinner. We had about 30 guests. It was beautiful and cost about $150.”
Kay advises, “My best wedding tip is to remember that the wedding is NOT the important thing, it is the marriage! I wore a creamy-white wool dress I got for $2 at a thrift shop, we had only a few close family members attending, and my future mother-in-law baked the two-layer cake. The “honeymoon” was one night at a local motel (we had to be back at work on Monday). And here we are, nearly 50 years later, happily married and recently returned to the city where it all began for retirement. Plenty of those acquaintances of ours who spent fortunes on fancy weddings with long lines of bridesmaids, many-tiered cakes, dancing, etc. ended up divorced. Make the wedding about you and the person you’re marrying, ’cause that’s what it’s all about in the end. There will be plenty of other celebrations over the years; I’ve had many days I could describe as the “happiest day of my life,” and some of them were just simple, homey, ordinary days!”
Rebecca wrote, “I’m a musician who has played countless expensive, over-the-top weddings — and just as many frugal celebrations (cold cuts in their original packaging!). They are all joyous events. The most memorable reflect the couple’s values and personal style. I can’t quite recall the weddings I’ve played in fancy hotels, but I never forget the quiet wedding by the lake, the backyard barbecue or the wedding of the daughter of a regional burger baron — where everyone ate burgers from the food truck (before food trucks were a thing)! The most memorable weren’t the most expensive at ALL.”
JT suggests, “Before you even start budgeting forget everything a wedding is “supposed” to have and consider what exactly is important to you as a couple. Don’t let people pressure you into doing things you do not want to do. We had a semi-private event at a local brewery, made our decorations (table runners, lanterns, bought flowers and vases), hired a food truck to provide the main course, purchased additional sides and snacks to supplement the truck, and bought our cake from Whole Foods (Berry Chantilly cake forever). We also leveraged credit card rewards (about $2,250 cash back, mostly through sign up bonuses) and bought all of our disposable items from an online restaurant supply store using only store credit earned through reviewing their products so it was all free.”
Erin shared “I used to be a professional wedding photographer in Orange County, CA so I photographed many weddings that were over the top. Like a six figure wedding! Usually those brides and grooms were more stressed out bc they wanted everything to be perfect and they didn’t seem to really enjoy the day very much. Then I photographed simple backyard weddings on a small budget and the couples seemed genuinely happy and enjoying themselves. When I got married I’d already decided I didn’t need the over the top princess wedding to be married. We scheduled our wedding in the off season and on a Monday for a deep discount. Since it was on a Monday the people who really wanted to support us made the effort to be there on a weekday. We enjoyed our day with 48 people so we were actually able to visit with everyone, give them a nice dinner, and host an open bar. We also didn’t have a wedding party to reduce stress and costs. Overall I loved our intentional choices for our wedding day and wouldn’t change a thing!”
Melinda wrote, “My only advice: Remember that people who truly love and support you and who you want to have in your life in the first place will be thrilled to be at your wedding whether it’s in Buckingham Palace or a county park.”
Spend On What Matters MOST To You
Hazel said, “My overall tip is to prioritise what’s important to you and go cheap on everything else. I would also add, though, to beware of cost shifting (i.e. putting the burden on your guests). For example, having a weekday wedding is cheaper for you, but the overall ‘cost’ if 60 guests each have to take a day off work to attend is astronomical. Or if a photographer friend takes your photos for ‘free’, that represents thousands of dollars in opportunity cost to them. Not to say these ideas don’t have merit, just to bear in mind the hidden costs!”
Julie wrote, “We paid for what was important for us; a nice meal and cake and a lovely venue. No photographer; a couple of friends and family took pictures. I made all of the favors and table covers. A friend did our invitations with calligraphy on paper from Staples. My dress was purchased from black and white market for $80. We did have nice flowers. We had 80 people and it cost around $4,000 and it was lovely. This included the cost of the rental tuxes for my sons to walk me down the aisle since they didn’t own suits and matching dresses for my daughter in-law and flower girl granddaughter and tux for my grandson as the ring bearer. You may share the photo.”
Rebecca said, “I highly recommend the book A Practical Wedding. It’s all about thinking about what you value and want out of a wedding and about what doesn’t matter to you. That way you can make sure you’re spending time and money on what’s important to you and not do things just because you think that’s what is done.” (that’s an affiliate link)
Rebecca shared, “We got married last year and, like everyone else in these comments, tried our best to figure out what was most important to us and save money where we could. We ended up with a Sunday brunch wedding for 80 guests, outside Baltimore, for ~$15k. We could have spent less, for sure, but we loved our wedding and don’t regret any of it. Here are a few things off the top of my head:
- We figured out which date our venue switched from the cheaper winter rate to the more expensive spring/summer rate, and picked the last weekend before that (end of March).
- We got cupcakes instead of a tiered cake, and we got them from the bakery at Whole Foods – delicious and affordable!
- We ordered flowers from Costco and put the bouquets and centerpieces together ourselves. This was a pretty big DIY project but it saved us a lot of money.
- I got my dress for $150 on eBay from someone who bought it and then changed her mind and got a different one.
- For bridesmaid gifts, instead of buying expensive matching robes or jewelry, I gave each one a handwritten letter about all the reasons I love her and am glad to have her as a friend.”
Hope shared “A few tips:
1) I actually work in the wedding industry, so I thought it would easy to plan, and I was wrong. So if planning seems kind of stressful, no worries it’s not just you! Turns out coordinating a party for 100 people just isn’t all that simple.
2) Costco flowers are amazing. Also we bought our booze from Costco. And we had a very casual rehearsal dinner with about 70 people and served them the finest Costco pizza, salad, cake, beer, and wine. Also, we did Costco pies and ice cream instead of cake. Highly recommend.
3) Pick a few things that are important to you, and put your budget there. For us that was: food, drinks, and hospitality. We wanted people to have a good time, be comfortable, and be well fed. That meant we paid extra to have a tent in case of rain, for everyone to have chairs, and to have plenty of food that none of the guests had to prepare. We did not have a professional photographer though, or favors, or bridesmaids bouquets, or a cake, or a DJ.
4) It’s ok to spend money on your wedding if you have the money and it’s important to you! I hate when people imply that it’s a foolish use of money. We considered skipping the wedding, but decided it felt important to have our union recognized publicly, formally, with all of our families and friends, and that we wanted to throw a great party. Of course we could have used the money for other things, but it felt more important than those other things. We have no regrets about prioritizing it.”
Kirsty said she’s, “Less than a month married 🙂 Early in our planning process we identified what was important to us on our big day. Everyone having a great time was key, so we decided that location, food and drinks held the highest value. We managed to save thousands on ways similar to what everyone else has said. Our general frugality in life meant we were willing and able to spend money on what we valued. On reflection this really highlighted the value v. cost discussion. We firmly belief that frugality is not simply spending as little as possible but spending on the things that are most important to us. We loved our day, it was worth every penny and we owe our frugality in other aspects of our lives for being able to spend money on the things we care about without having to worry about finances.”
Karlee wrote, “#1 Do what makes you happy and don’t go into debt for what others want for your wedding or what is the norm. (My MIL wanted food and I honestly could’ve gotten married a little later and had finger foods to save $… my husband was starving and frustrated by the end of the night that he didn’t even get to sit and eat)
#2 all of the little details you see in gorgeous social media pictures can add up to and expensive cost and no one notices them.
#3 We sold all of our decor afterwards to a cousin for her wedding and then it was sold again to a friend… it’s nice to see things repurposed!”
Stephanie shared, “We held our wedding in a state park in VT and kept guest list limited to friends and immediate family. We catered some of the food but decided to make much of it ourselves (with the help of family). We bought our wedding rings off etsy and I bought my dress online from a normal retailer (not a wedding dress shop).
We kept the decorations to a minimum and made many of them ourselves because we knew that we had picked a venue that was perfectly scenic. I chose not to buy any flowers because it seemed unnecessary. I think the biggest lesson I learned through the process of planning and paying for a frugal wedding is that every wedding is different and you shouldn’t pay for anything unless you think it will actually add something of value to the wedding. The list of things that we chose not to do or include was enormous and we walked away from our wedding thinking that it was a perfect representation of our values. Everything that was important to us got done and the rest wasn’t needed.”
After The Wedding
Liz said, “A frugal woman who donates her dress will help another frugal woman. Don’t let it hang in your closet forever. Bless someone with it, and anything else accumulated for the wedding. Select a small keepsake box and what does not fit in box, donate.”
This was a whopper of a post, but I just had to include all of these wonderfully frugal ideas and fabulous photos! I am deeply grateful to everyone who shared their advice and invited us into their lives with their photos. Thank you. I’ve tried to summarize a few high points that came up repeatedly in the collective wisdom above:
- Limit your guest list. Fewer guests = fewer expenses.
- Get married in the off-season or on a weekday.
- Get married at a non-traditional wedding venue. Frugalwoods readers have gotten hitched everywhere from at a senior center to their backyard to city hall!
- Use something other than real flowers: crocheted, artificial, wood, book pages, or something other than flowers altogether!
- Buy a dress that’s not a wedding dress. Or buy a used dress!
- Buy your own food, alcohol, flowers and more at Costco or a similar warehouse/discount store.
- Buy used vases/candle holders/picture frames, etc at a thrift store and decorate them yourself.
- Barter and trade for wedding services.
- Recruit your family and friends to help plan and execute the big day.
- Have a potluck! We recently attended a potluck wedding and I thought it was GENIUS. This is totally what I’d do if Mr. FW and I decide to marry each other again ;).
- If you’re not interested in the DIY aspect, sign up for a pre-paid “wedding package” that includes everything you need and then limit your spending (and guest list) to what’s included in the package.
And finally, the theme we so often come back to in our conversations about crafting a thoughtful, frugal lifestyle: spend on what matters most to you. Prioritize what you want on your wedding day and only spend in service of those priorities.
Did you have a frugal wedding? What are your tips for celebrating the day without breaking the bank?
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All great tips! My mom took my two bridesmaids and I to one of the makeup counters at a department store to get our makeup done on the morning of my very-frugal wedding. She bought a few products for us (including the lipstick I wore, which I promptly lost), so all 4 of us had great-looking makeup for about $150. Much cheaper than hiring a makeup artist and much better than I could have done myself.
I think at the end of the day, marrying the person you love and want to spend the rest of your life with is the important thing to keep in mind. I’ve been married 10 years and, while no one probably remembers my Salvation Army dress or county-park location, I still get to be married to my best friend.
Yes! I did this too! It’s a great tip. You get a few new bits of makeup and have your makeup beautifully done for a fraction of the cost of what it would be to have it done on site.
One thing to note that I highly, highly recommend is to coordinate with the makeup artist ahead of time and do a trial run. I did this and was SO very glad that I did because the first gal was terrible. Crooked liquid liner and lip pencil outside my lip line. Not cool. Went to a different high end store and did a trial with a different beauty brand (Tom Ford- not frugal but super gorgeous) and ended up looking waaaaay better than I expected. They treated me really well and I really felt like a bride. They also didn’t pressure me into buying anything and I still enjoy using the makeup I bought from them months after my wedding.
So many great ideas!! For me, the photos were SO important. I wanted to have beautiful, professional photos that I could print and hang and look at over the decades as we aged 🙂 BUT I didn’t want to spend $2,000 on photos, or have a ton of photos of people dancing at my wedding/random photos I’d never print and rarely look at. So I found a photographer who agreed to do 2 hours of shooting – the most important shots of me and my husband, us and our families, and the ceremony, and charged us only the amount of an engagement shoot. $300 for some of the most beautiful photos.
We did a couple of things to really cut the cost of our wedding – which were also fabulous and made it much more personal at the end of the day. The biggest thing was that we had a ceremony with only our closest family (parents, siblings, grandparents and wedding party) followed by a brunch for this crew of about 25 people.
After brunch though, we opened up the party (outdoor yard party at my in-laws) to everyone else – aunts, uncles, cousins, friends etc. It was in the afternoon, so even though there were +100 people, we only needed finger goods, wine (which we made at a DIY place), and beer.
My bridesmaids wore gorgeous lace dresses that came from the clearance rack (about 50$ each) at a store that was going out of business., I decided not to wear a white dress — I picked out a dress in dark grey from the evening gown section of a department store which meant I got the gorgeous giant mermaid dress of my dreams for less than $400.
Lastly – one of our close friends is a photographer who agreed to do some pre-wedding and ceremony photos for us instead of a gift. For the afterparty, we just set up a camera in front of a great backdrop and let out family take their own selfies.
How wonderful :)!!!!
I was so happy to see this blog post! Twenty-seven years ago, my late husband and I had a formal church wedding followed by a country club reception that my parents paid for. Now my daughter is engaged. I would like to give her a lovely wedding, but I am on a tight budget. These tips are invaluable.
Some things my family did to save money:
We called the local university and asked if they could recommend a photography student for the photographer. She was wonderful, very professional, and I am so grateful for all the photos.
The florist was a member of our church. We paid her the going rate for her labor, but she charged as the wholesale price for the flowers. We were married just before Christmas, so the church was already decorated with beautiful poinsettias and evergreens.
I bought my dress at David’s Bridal. You didn’t get the “wedding dress buying experience” but they had a terrific selection.
My husband and groomsmen rented their formal cutaway suits from a rental company. I found out they also rented bridesmaid dresses, so we rented those too!
I second David’s Bridal! I got my dress there. Mine dress was more expensive than some of these dresses, but it was still WELL under “Say Yes to the Dress” prices! 🙂 Also, check out Etsy for accessories. My mom insisted she buy the belt that David’s put with my simple dress, so I didn’t argue. But if I were purchasing it myself, I could have gotten something just a gorgeous for about half the price. I’m not wearing a veil and borrowing my sister’s hair piece from her wedding.
Thirding David’s Bridal! They were super nice and did not push me on accessories or alterations. I ordered a veil off of Ebay.
Thank you for featuring my tips on your blog! We’re celebrating our 5th wedding anniversary this February, so it brought back fond memories. PS: My wooden bouquet still looks almost as good as new!
Thank you for offering your advice :)!!! Happy anniversary!
I am dying over Mr. FW’s hair! You look gorgeous 🙂
I knew we couldn’t afford to get married in Boston, so we married in a smaller town in Florida where my mom lived. This was more convenient anyway since all of our family lived nearby (including my husband’s grandparents. We got married on their 62nd anniversary!). The cost of everything was so much cheaper than it would have been had we married in Boston. This kept our guest list at 60. We got married in a country club that included linens, chairs, etc with the venue. The biggest expense was our photographer. She was worth every penny. My MIL made our centerpieces with books about love (we got engaged in front of the Boston Public LIbrary, so this was fitting). My friend married us. My mom made our cake since she was a retired cake decorator. My in laws were generous with paying for the rehearsal dinner and gifting us a check that we saved.
It was a perfect day.
Sounds absolutely divine!! I know, Mr. FW had long hair for a long time–I’d actually forgotten about it until I looked up these photos :)!
Because the laws around same-sex marriage kept changing before 2014, my wife and I got married three times – to each other! (We have no idea how we would even go about getting a divorce.) The first time, we had a ceremony in our kitchen with a justice of the peace and our immediate family. Cost: $0 because my mom made the cake and her mom bought take-out for lunch. The second time, we had the ceremony and party in the field behind our house. Cost $5000 for 80 guests. (This included a pizza/beer dance party the night before the wedding and a rented tent, planned potluck party after the ceremony.) . The third time, we drove to MA and met a justice of the peace in a beautiful botanical garden where he declared us married… which seemed a bit redundant but was lovely none the less. Cost:$75 for the marriage license.
Happy weddings!!! Sounds wonderful! I’m sorry that our ridiculous laws meant you had to get married three times, but hey, three anniversaries to celebrate :)! Love is love and everyone should be able to marry the person they love. I’m so glad that you and your wife were able to do just that–thrice!
There is a great website called TheFreeWedding.com with A TON of great ideas for planning a budget wedding. Definitely worth checking out.
One of my favorite reader suggestions so far! While my husband and I weren’t officially on the FI train at the time, we had limited resources which forced us to only spend on what mattered most (#1 advice for both weddings and life!). We had our dream wedding on the beach with some thoughtful decisions (and a lot of help) for around $5.000. Our biggest wins were:
– Choosing a public beach for the ceremony & a community center for our reception (beach was free, community center was $216!)
– Skipping alcohol (most guests were nondrinkers), programs (introduced everyone @ reception), a DJ (playlist on phone), and RSVP cards (had folks respond on our website, called the non-techie ones)
– Having a local bakery make different specialty cakes that we used as centerpieces (fraction of the price for a “big” cake, guests were way happier)
– Had amazing family and friends to officiate, do music for the ceremony, and help with the reception setup & tear down
– Using a “bridesmaid” dress as the wedding dress ($200 w/ alterations!)
We live in the D.C. Metro area, and you can officiate your own wedding in the District! You pay for the license (nominal) and can get married anywhere, anytime. No need to rent a space or hire an officiant. We had our ceremony on a gorgeous Thursday afternoon in front of the AMOR sculpture in the NMA Sculpture Garden. We followed with lunch at the Metropolitan Cafe (where I tossed my DIY bouquet to cafe worker who took it home to his wife) and a stroll on The Mall. We took our own pictures with our cell phones, either ourselves or by kind strangers who offered. Some even took pictures for themselves! We had pizza delivery and a Whole Foods cake for dinner at home. Our wedding day was absolutely perfect (for us) and super frugal. It set the tone for how we wanted to live our life together. <3
That’s wonderful, Cindy! Sounds like a light and lovely day.
It will be our 40th Wedding Anniversary in November.
We married at the Parish Church and paid for the bells to be rung and the choir. The lovely flowers were from the earlier wedding.
Mum made my dress and the two bridesmaid dresses and the cake. My friends made fondant icing roses to decorate it before we went out for a drink together.
Mum and my aunt and sisters made sponge cakes and sandwiches and sausage rolls for the wedding tea at home. There was a toast but no speeches. It was lovely.
It cost about £200. The 9 carat gold wedding rings were £20 and £30. Our first house cost £12,000. I was earning about £3,000 a year as a newly qualified nurse.
I just want to chime in to echo all the folks who have suggested knowing yourselves as a couple, and doing what’s important to you and your families. My husband and I got married at Chicago’s City Hall, with our two sets of parents, two close friends, and his brother as an audience. That weekend we hosted a big reception. We got some stink-eye from relatives, but splitting the ceremony–which neither of us put much stock in–from the party–which mattered to us and to our parents–saved us a lot of money, sidestepped difficult questions of religion and ritual, and meant that I didn’t have to participate in a ritual that made us feel uncomfortable. Plus, our memories of the goofy judge with a toupee who married us, plus the walk from city hall to the bar in the Hancock building, and then talking by the lake afterwards with our two best friends in the city where we fell in love are so much more meaningful than all the pricey party nonsense. I’d do it all again today, with one change: I’d skip hiring a photographer for the reception. 10 years later, I still haven’t looked at the wedding photos, because I hate photos of myself and am terribly unphotogenic! Plus, it was the dawn of the digital camera, and a number of our relatives turned out to be really into capturing the event; if we’d coordinated with them, we could have satisfied our family’s desire for keepsakes without spending a mint.
We got married in Boston for around 10k for 80 people. Not the cheapest but for in the city we thought we did pretty well and managed to have an open bar included in that cost and of course everything was paid for upfront. No need to go into debt for a wedding. We cut out a few things to save money. No DJ. I had a friend MC and literally just press play on my ipod. I used spotify and created a playlist. It worked out fine. Since we got married in a restaurant we decided to not do centerpieces at the tables. The restaurant provided candles and all the table cloths which we thought looked nice on its own. I ordered my flowers on the internet (eep!!!) from a place called Global Roses. My flowers arrived exactly on time and were beautiful and most of all not crazy expensive. We skipped a videographer but did hire a professional for photos. I ubered to the venue (uber black). No limo or anything like that. I had two bridesmaids and I let them pick their own dresses as long as it was purple. They were thrilled because they both already had dresses that worked. What people remember the most was the food. There’s a whole photo album on facebook dedicated to people posing with the gigantic cheese plate. No regrets going with a restaurant wedding.
I’m loving all these beautiful wedding photos in this post.
Love the gigantic cheese plate photos–hah! Sounds like it was a blast 🙂
We spent very little on our wedding. Tbh, I let my parents do a lot, but my dad is a minister and my mother is active in the church, so they knew a lot of people that helped out. We held the wedding in our community park and paid for the pavillion with a deposit that we got back. My dad did the ceremony, the church loaned us chairs, family friends did the music for the ceremony, the pictures and the cake. I rented the sound equipment for $40, a few decorations from the dollar tree and my dress was from jcp for $89. My bridesmaids wore $35 dresses from deb and silver shoes from the clearance rack at Walmart. Our flowers were painted daisies from the grocery store and I made my own playlist for the reception. My parents did decide to order invitations from a local place and they brought in food from Walmart, but tbh we spent next to nothing on our wedding. Looking back the only thing I’m glad we did it this way because it gave us the ability to focus on each other and not stress about the details. It was our day and no one else’s. 🙂
We had a non frugal wedding that I still grimace over…My dress had cost over $1500.00 (what a waste) and I had it heirloomed. My daughter took it out of the ‘sealed’ packaging for her wedding and it looked like something from Dicken’s character, Miss Havisham. Horrible, it crumbled when she picked it up and most of it had turned brown!
Both of our married daughters purchased their beautiful wedding dresses over ebay from China. We found reasonable seamstresses and the slight alterations were around $25 for one and perhaps $75. for the other. The original price for the dresses was under $50 dollars for each. We made sure and found ebay vendors with very good reviews and good, prompt communication when answering our questions. Both dresses were gorgeous. The veils were also purchased from ebay as well along with beautiful hair clips. Our second daughter to marry, her groom chose beautiful black suits from J.C. Penneys for the groomsmen for around $75.00 worn with white dress shirts. He wore a silver grey suit he already owned. He purchased matching ties and handkerchief squares from ebay for the groomsmen. It looked great and no one had to deal with the over priced tuxedo rentals and ill fitting tuxes at the last minute plus having to return them the next day.
The party food for one of the weddings was done by a friend who enjoys doing things like that . We paid her a fair price for her services and we bought the ingredients from Sam’s wholesale. Dried cranberry covered goat cheese logs, things like that with crackers. Just make sure the friend has utmost integrity and a good track record. The wedding cakes were done by a lady who makes delicious cakes but works out of her home. The guests complimented that the cake was the best they had ever had.
No save the dates were sent, we sent the wedding invitations out in time for the guests to receive them several weeks before the wedding and many people are invited to a shower and have a good understanding of the wedding date just through word of mouth. The invitations were purchased and printed online and we made sure to buy a one stamp invitation.
The florist was from a nearby smalltown where the cost of living is much lower. She even used some of the vases we had on hand and is a pleasure to work with.
We did not do wedding favors, we used little bells to send our first daughter off and our second daughter to marry used little bottles of bubbles and that was that! : )
My husband and I have been married for almost 39 years and I see so many things that are just not necessary for these weddings such as food being expected, favors, save the dates and more. I’m half Italian, my husband is entirely Italian, trust me we have to break the mold in some areas when our daughters marry and not follow the naked emperor! lol We decided that when our daughters marry we were not going to go into debt to impress or keep up with people. : ) We wanted things nice but not excessive, just a sweet old fashioned, pretty wedding with fond memories.
most of this advice also applies to other party/large event hosting occasions, like graduations, births, deaths, family reunions, etc. No sense enriching those industrial complexes if much of what they offer is not important to you.
I had a friend in college who was one of four daughters in her family. Her dad was a farmer and so was her fiance. Her dad told her that he could spend $5000 on a wedding for her (or her sisters) or they could use the $5000 towards what they needed, such as land to farm. She eloped to the small chapel at our university wearing a regular dress with one friend each to stand up for them, (he told his family he was going to the feed and seed store and she was already at college) and used the money towards a down payment on a house. A year later they had a reception at their house that she and her husband did all the work for.the party. I never did hear if her sisters took their dad up on the plan though.
I had a destination wedding where the original plan was just to have a couple of witnesses. When I told people we were getting married, though, there was some “can I come?”; we ended up with about twenty people. My dress was about $400 including alterations–it was considered an “informal” gown because it didn’t have a train, but it was still pretty fancy to me! We got married in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, a resort town in the Smoky Mountains with a lot of wedding chapels; the chapel we chose offered packages with decorations, (fake) flowers and photography, including video. The ceremony was at eleven a.m., and afterwards we had a lunch buffet with sandwiches and salads at the hotel where we were staying. We spent maybe $1500. The next day, we and the guests still in town went to Dollywood (local amusement park owned by Dolly Parton) for the day, then out to dinner. It’s been over twenty years and those who were there still talk about how much fun they had at my wedding!
Thanks for the wedding post! I married my husband 2 years ago at 23, and the first thing we agreed on is that we wanted a frugal wedding, but since I come from a different cultural background, we had to have 2 weddings and lots of guests, so I set 6 months aside to plan how we could do a wedding for 350 people on a budget of $10,000 or less. Most people here don’t have two weddings, but for those from collectivist cultures who have wedding traditions (Chinese, Nigerian, Korean, Thai,etc) these tips apply to you.
1) I talked to my parents about who would be in charge of my traditional wedding vs my church wedding. We wanted to be on the same page since our cultural wedding ceremonies mean so much. This really helped. My parents took charge of the traditional wedding, and since we come from a collectivist culture, they were able to source many things from friends and family who they had helped over the years with their kids’ weddings. So, the women I like to call “The League of Nigerian Aunties”, several women who had been there when I was growing up, provided the food. The traditional wedding happened in a family friend’s church, so the venue cost nothing, and my auntie made my husband’s and my traditional attire from hand spun fabric. Needless to say, it was touching, and lovely. It also helped my husband who is of a different ethnic background to feel connected to my culture. Gifts are not given to guests during this ceremony, so we didn’t have to worry about favours, and we grabbed all the necessary cutlery from Costco and skipped the cake since it wasn’t necessary.
2) For my English church wedding, I set 6 months aside to plan things. I successfully planned our wedding for 350 people (some of whom were travelling from abroad to see us) and honeymoon for $10k.
–First, my husband and I would have preferred 100 people or less (we are introverts), but since weddings are a big cultural event, we talked to my parents and tried to understand where they were coming from with wanting to invite so many people. We chose to accommodate them even though we were paying for this part of the wedding, because it was important to us to honour them.
-Venue cost: $0. We talked to a friend who had a ranch out in Texas country, and asked if we could use it in exchange for cleaning up around the place and some manual labour.
-Weather Planning: $3,000. This was the most expensive bit of our wedding, but it was necessary. We needed to have a tent because we married in the middle of December and it was freezing. Little did we know that we had the most gorgeous day in all of December, but there was a cold front that blew over some of our things that evening (during our first dance), so the tent was a good investment. The company initially offered it to me for $5,000 without lighting, tables, etc, but since I had already done my research and knew what I wanted and where they were inflating costs, I negotiated and got rid of all the trappings, and secured the tent for $3K.
-Dress: I bought my dress for $800 at a sample sale and I loved it. Perhaps I would have done something cheaper if I had to do it again, but I really loved my dress, so I was okay with this.
-Flowers: $250 for 15 buckets of poinsettias, 4 buckets of lavender, 9 boutonnieres, 9 corsages and 2 woven wreaths. How? I hit up a flower farm and told them I wanted seasonal flowers that wouldn’t clash with our colours of powder blue, leaf green, and yellow. They delivered.
-Tables/Linen: I went to a linen supply store and got lovely linen at a wholesale price. So our tables looked fancy with silken covers that each cost $3 or less, which is the typical price for plastic tablecloths. I also rented tables after checking several different places, and looking for the best deal.
-Alcohol: We don’t drink, but we wanted people to have the option to since it was going to be a chilly day and we had so many guests. I hit up Costco and HEB and got 70 1L bottles of wine (2 kinds of whites and reds), for $354.01. I think this is what made me proudest. I had gotten a quote for 1/2 this amount of wine at Spec’s for $1K, but I kept looking.
Food/Beverages: We decided to do a snack/tea and hot cocoa bar since it was in December. I bought 5 small coffee machines on Sale at Sam’s Club for $50 total, then bought hot cocoa and tea at a wholesale price and set this up. At the end of the night, we gave away the machines to those who wanted it, and it was fabulous.
-Rings: Our rings were custom made of palladium since I’m allergic to several kinds of metals, and I designed them myself and sent the designs to a pal on Etsy. He did a fabulous job and the rings cost less than $50. He also did a resizing for my husband for free.
-My only regret was the food we got for $1.5K. We went with a barbecue buffet since catering was super expensive, and just asked a local company to do it. The company’s food was actually disappointing, but thankfully LONA (The League of Nigerian Aunties) showed up with even more food and tables to set up, and they saved the day, so our guests could have both American and Nigerian style food. Spoiler, they loved the Nigerian food more. People still ask me about it to this day.
A honeymoon was super important to us, and we wanted to spend 2 weeks in countries that meant a lot to us, and it was my husband’s first time traveling abroad, so we saved a large part of our budget to go to South Korea and Japan. I had fun showing my husband around Korea (He called me his personal translator and tour company) and in Japan, we met up with two of my childhood friends and had them to go out and do fun things with since I hadn’t been to Japan in a while. It was amazing.
Many people don’t have multicultural weddings in the US, but if you ever do, don’t think it can’t be frugal and amazing. Talk to your relatives, try to in source as much as you can, shop around for good prices (don’t mention it’s for a wedding), make use of wholesale bargains and be honest with yourself about what you want. It goes a long way!
How wonderful!! Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom!
“The League of Nigerian Aunties”–I love this so much! How wonderful they pitched in and saved the day with food for the English traditional wedding!
I am one of the people who pestered Mrs. Frugalwoods for this! So thank you very much for all the thoughtful advice and tips. I am engaged and my future husband is set on a big wedding while I’d be happy to hit city hall and go for an elegant lunch afterwards. Hopefully we will be able to use the advice here to meet in the middle and have everyone we want to attend AND not spend money that we don’t have.
My sweetheart and I were going to be living in Austria, so the first thing we requested was NO GIFTS. ( too expensive to transport…tho we did get a cast iron frying pan…which I took!)However, my Fathe was pastor of a lovely church in New England, and fiancé and
I were broke music students, so here’s what we did…as a Preacher’s kid does not get to have a small wedding without offending many.
We did have to buy my fella a suit. I wore my mothers exquisite wedding gown from the 1930s ($35 to clean) and she made veil and cap. Rather than give us ‘things’ the folks from the church gave us the wedding..one lady brought a coffee service, three ladies arranged the cake, a string quartet played at the reception in the church hall, another brought sandwiches and goodies from a local catering school. We had three hundred folks there.
This was well over 40 years ago; the hubby and I are still chugging along, with wonderful memories of a funny, wonderful, snowy sleety New England wedding.
The total cost of my wedding was close to $2000 for 70+ people with 100 on the invite list. I bought my dress of ebay for $45 and with minor alterations it was perfect. I did my own makeup and nails and did have my hair professionally done. My shoes were slightly more expensive since I bought them to not alter the dress. It did rain before my wedding and I had to rent a tent for close to 800 dollars…most expensive part but the next day it was a welcome relief from the sun. We were married in our back yard and the set up was on hay bales and old doors. Hay bales that still live at our house for our composting pile.
. We bought our house two years before the wedding when we were engaged and grew all the vegetables and some of the fruit for the wedding. Family brought food ie local grass feed cattle for hamburgers, salads, etc. We made our own sangria and beer was donated by some other family friends. I had a cupcake party instead of a bridal shower and we made close to 120 cupcakes for the wedding instead of a formal cake. I did hire a local organizer with some local students who helped run the event. In the end, my husband and I had the best gift of all…a home to live in with a beautiful urban farm that continues to feed us. I was also able to thank so many people that helped us in our less forunate times by bringing them into my home and feeding their families amazing food. Love doesn’t have to be expensive.
I’m in the midst of planning a June 2019 wedding and I’m so happy to see that I’M ON TRACK!!! 😀
My fiancee and I discussed what mattered to us when marrying well before we got engaged. We purchased a vintage ring together. We will likely go vintage for wedding bands as well…
We prioritized a fun party with lots of food and beverages for our friends. We are getting married at Winter Island in Salem, MA. Its a city/ state/ federally owned park that’s part RV park and part marina and has a covered event pavilion and tent camping. We rented the pavilion and adjacent tent spaces for just under $600. The tent spaces can be used for storage of the wedding decor after our caterer breaks down and can be used for a s’more bar (YUM) at the end of the evening. Our food is the most expensive, coming in at about $3,000. But we both agreed that this food will be amazing and that was important to us. We’re using a local restaurateur who also caters and brings his own smoker. For the money we’re serving about 75 people high end tacos and guacamole made on site. The caterer will be bringing compost-able plates made of palm fond drops and wooden sporks. He said he throws rolls of paper towels out on the tables for the food; I’m trusting him that it’ll look cool! 😉 A friend is going to get a JP for a day license and marry us.
My fiancee really wanted a specific type of cake which is not cheap. So we’re doing a cutting cake and then cupcakes. This did save, mostly on having to pay someone to cut the cake or for one of us to do it. I’m going to start experimenting with doing my own flowers and order from Costco. I learned here that Costco does bridal bouquets as well (YEAH!!!). I am insistent that we have table cloths (it matters to me for some unknown reason), so I’m ordering from an online discounter and donating them when we’re done. We’re purchasing alcohol at a retailer that has prices that rival Costco but lets you return unopened bottles. As long as we stick to beer and wine we don’t need a bar tender. We’re purchasing glasses with our names on it as both favors and for our guests to drink out of. When we broke down the cost, it was about the same as rental, without the hassle of worrying about breakage on the concrete floor and returning them the next day.
We’re getting married at 3; we need to be out of the event space by 9. I’ve told my fiancee I want to go to the local dive in my gown and he’s happy to oblige. 😉
I would have probably been happy to have something smaller than 75 but he’s a gregarious guy who loves people. Getting him down to 75 was a battle, but I think we settled on the right compromise for both of us.
A few thoughts as I’m going through this: 1) Know when to throw money at the problem. My sister (a professional event planner who is helping me) told me this and I’m taking her word for it. Its costing us about $100 for cupcake delivery and setup and another $80 for the stand. Could we have done it ourselves? Sure. But not worrying about cupcakes getting bugs in them outdoors and/or melting all morning was worth about $200 to me. I’d rather work a little extra at job #2 (aka the wedding job) to pay for that and not worry about it wedding morning. We’re already doing most of the setup and decor ourselves. I want to relax after about 11 and enjoy getting ready. If we were in an indoor space I’d probably feel differently about it. 2) Bargains are to be had even on traditional(ish) vendors. One person mentioned asking a photographer for an hourly rate. We’re using a friend’s employee/ acquaintance to take our pictures. He’s charging by the hour and we agreed to have a frank discussion about budget at our meeting. Let people know your budget and tell them your limitations. I can’t think of many vendors who would walk away without negotiating first. 3) I’d like to plug the Bargain Weddings for under $5,000 group on Facebook. Yes, there’s drama. (It is Facebook after all!!) But there are also some great ideas. Ditto for A Practical wedding and Offbeat Bride web sites. I love looking at what other people have done and getting great ideas.
All in we were hoping to stay around $5,000. It may creep to about $6,500 all in, but I’m still fine with that. I’ve employed many of the strategies here (Vistaprint has our invite designs all done and waiting for me to click order! My sister’s bridesmaid dress and the flower girls are coming from Amazon Prime! Ties are coming from eBay! etc.) Greater Boston is an expensive place to get married. So I feel good that we’re having the day we wanted while still staying in a (very reasonable for Greater Boston) budget that we feel comfortable with.
Good luck to all those planning! Its a stressful time but a good one!
Well timed! I’m getting married this year to my fiance. I really wanted to elope with family attending (so a tiny wedding), and he just wanted to make sure I wasn’t missing out on the wedding experience. To me, a big wedding would just drag up a lot of anxiety and guilt and perfectionism, so the mutual decision to go small worked perfectly for us. The planned guest list is under 10 people, with one of those being a friend we’re going to ask to officiate.
I’m a seamstress, so it was important to me to sew my own dress, in a style that I could wear to cocktail party like events and anniversaries. I’ve spent $100 on materials, so beat that cost! I’m skipping the veil, and plan to buy shoes that I can rewear in other contexts.
The biggest relief is all the things I don’t need to care about or can reasonably DIY with that small of a guest list. Centerpieces? Whatever is at the brewery we hold the reception at. Catering? Ditto. DJ? Whatever is playing. Photographer? Let people take pictures with their cell phones and upload it to a group album. No trying to control what the bridesmaids wear. Just focusing on family, friends, good food, good drink, and each other. 🙂
With all the focus on over-the-top, outrageously expensive weddings, it’s nice to see a post that focuses on reigning in the costs of a wedding. It’s great to read all the ideas on simplicity and creativity. I used to work weddings and always felt they were all the same boring, cookie cutter event, so I LOVED reading all these ideas. One of my best friends is planning a backyard wedding – she and her fiancé have created the most incredible property – and her fiancé and his band will play during part of it. I seriously think this DIY, no frills wedding will be the best one I ever attend. So looking forward to it!
I’m currently planning my wedding…second marriage for us both…I love this article! I have grown to be pretty frugal over the years so reading all the great tips really hits home! My mission statement for this wedding is “just have fun, enjoy the day, and make it about the marriage”; that is what it really us about, after all. With that said, I have found my gown at JCPenn on the clearance rack for $39.97. My invitations were clearances for $2.50 per 25 (after decided to dress them up with vellum and ribbon) I’m all in for $10! Our local Bed, Bath, and Beyond was closing down so I was able to get all the sheer drapery need for my wedding AND reception decor for $4.70 (I had a $30 gift card as well). Just a few of my proud planning moments so far!
The key to a frugal wedding experience is:
1. Be open to alternative ideas. If you are set in exactly what you will have, then you will pay alot more for…this concept works in every facet of the wedding from dress to decor.
2. The whole “matchy-match” concept is really expensive. It is much cheaper to just have a common thread to tie it all together. For example, my bridesmaids were given a color range and they have all found dresses they love (and will utilize again and again) for far less than what I have paid in the past for matching bridesmaid’s dresses.
3. Most importantly: it is about the MARRIAGE!!! The wedding is just the day to seal the deal, it shouldn’t consume your life or finances. It shouldn’t cause stress or drama! It is just a day. The marriage, on the other hand, is what really matters.
My husband and I had a 100 person wedding for about $1000. We had help, and were very grateful for it, but here is how it went down:
Our venue was at an arboretum that my father runs, so we were able to use that area and the building associated with it to get ready and store the food, etc. This was a huge cost savings.
My mother grows her own flowers and sells them at a farmers market, and therefore was able to do our wedding flowers for us. They were perfect, beautiful, and so meaningful.
My husband sold pumpkins at the farmers market, so since we got married on a Saturday, he brought the left over pumpkins to decorate with, and then was able to sell them the next week! Score!
My bridesmaids were told to pick a dress they liked that was a shade of coral and came to around their knees. That was the only requirement, and they looked so good! It ended up being a pretty ombre look at the wedding, and most dresses cost around $15.
We did purchase the groomsmen’s shirts, which cost us about $100 total, but did not like the idea of asking them to be in the wedding, and then requiring they pay for it if it was more than $20 or so.
My husband’s uncle made our main dish for dinner – BBQ! It was fantastic. My mother, sister, and grandmother made the rest of the food. We had a homemade cheesecake for dessert. This worked out so well, mostly because it was cheesecake (YUM) and secondly because my husband does not eat regular cake.
We had a live band for our wedding, which was led by my cousins father, so we got a discount and had wonderful music.
Our photographer was a friend from high school who was starting out building her business, and she did a wonderful job!
For our honeymoon, we took a tent and went camping near the beach in Tybee Island, GA for 9 days. It was wonderful.
Our wedding favors were tulip bulbs wrapped in a little bag with the phrase “From our two lips to yours.”
All in all, it was the most amazing day, not only because I got to marry the love of my life, but also because I could feel the love that my friends and family put into the wedding. It made it very special. We are so thankful for all of the help that we had, and we definitely tried to keep the costs down for everyone that chipped in. It was wonderful.
Unfortunately, another family member is getting married in a little bit, and we have already spent more to be in their wedding as we spent on our whole wedding. It has been tough, because we really don’t want to be snobby or rude, but our budget for their wedding has exceeded our wedding budget. And its not something we can gracefully bow out of, since it is a wedding, and we are both in it. So we are just biting our tongues, thankful that our wedding memories will be shrouded in a cloud of love and togetherness, not a painful memory of all that we cost ourselves and our family.
It never ceases to amaze me how similar our backgrounds are! My parents pitched in $10k, my husband’s parents pitched in $10k, and we saved our own $5k. At the time we thought our $25k 70 guest wedding and honeymoon were pretty darn thrifty! My dress was $800 off a clearance rack with no alterations, I did my own hair and make up, and I bought grocery store flowers and made my own bouquets, boutonnieres, and center pieces for around $200, and we drove our old Nissan to the chapel. My bridesmaids and flower girls were all told to wear shades of purple and maroon and we did mismatched dresses that went with the flowers. The venues, catering, DJ, and photographer were our big expenses, and we did go all out! I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but I could never see spending that kind of cash on one day now. Like you we are privileged and eternally grateful for our magical wedding and gorgeous photos!
Hoo boy, does this post ever strike close to home! My fiance and I are in the midst of planning our wedding #2 and we’re adopting many of the suggestions above. I call it wedding #2 because a year ago when we were still in early days of engagement – innocent, bright-eyed, and not at all aware of expectations of the wedding industry and the money that was spent at friend’s weddings. Surely we “deserved” the same? The more traditional wedding #1 involved open bar, Saturday, summertime, good food, etc. you know the drill. How much could that possibly cost? But as frugal/ DIY as we tried, and slashing many things that we wanted or thought we “had” to have, my budgeting spreadsheets were still estimating the costs at minimum $17-20k for a pretty simple wedding of 80 guests in our very expensive major city. (Catering, rentals, and booze are EXPENSIVE in Canada.) We realized that we would have to do almost everything ourselves and still be spending upwards of 20k, and we just weren’t willing to spend that for something that sounded so stressful and like so much work. So after many angsty conversations about why we were actually doing this, we decided to say **** IT! and do a destination wedding in Mexico instead. Sounds very unfrugal but it is actually costing about 1/3 of what wedding #1 was going to cost. And since we had a lot of people that would be travelling already to attend, it made sense for us. (We’re very frugal in every aspect of our lives so that we can afford to travel while we’re young. And we do so frugally – hostels, street food, etc.) So don’t discount the possibility of a destination wedding if that is more you and your family’s style!
Great tip! Thank you!!
We bought our invites at Vista print too! And made our own programs. 🙂
Our wedding was one of our first frugal acts. Largely thanks to my mom, who is very active in the local community and worked in a local college alongside a lot of highly skilled folks. The dressmaking tutor made my dress; (cost £50 as she knew me since I was a baby and won’t take any payment). The flower-arranging class did the flowers as there terms project! My best friend sister made the bridesmaids dresses and myself and the other bridesmaids stayed at her house to help with them; so that doubled as a hen-weekend away.
I made my own invitations, veil, favours and table plan. The groom and groomsmen just wore their own suits. My mum made and iced the cake and did a booze-cruise to France with one of her good friends (as tax on alcohol is a lot lower across the water).
Our big expenses were hiring a BYOB venue (which doubled as accommodation for many of the guests) and the catering as we really wanted a sit down meal. And the evening before the wedding we took everyone who was about to a beach cafe for fish n chips.
We were just finishing grad-school when we got married and were flat broke, so my parents kindly paid for most of it and I am so glad now that no one spent too much on it. But I take no credit for that at all. It was all down to my mums good sense! 12 years and 2 kids on… it was the best wedding I could ever wish for but the marriage itself is what I treasure.
I love this line up. Made me nostalgic for our wedding. We had a destination wedding in Vegas, with few guests. The whole thing plus a 10 day honeymoon cost around $4500. We were paying for it ourselves, so we had to stick to a budget.
If I had it to do over again, I’d elope… but I’m a different person now than I was then.
One thing that didn’t come up here is the engagement process. That’s fitting, because this article is about weddings. BUT, I absolutely HAVE to say things about engagement jewelry. What’s horrific about the process is that many (mostly) men feel that they need to do the whole “go into debt to save X months to buy X amount of pricey diamonds” business. However, that is actually *in no way* a prerequisite to being married!
And, what’s more, tradition is finally changing to allow variety and personal style in types of jewelry people wear to signify engagement/marriage/commitment. A few ways this can be done are: embrace simple bands instead of pricey center stones, choose alternative stones to diamonds (moissanite, colored stones, etc.), choose re-used or antique jewelry (this is the route I went. I am not superstitious about such things and it was a beautiful ring at a great price), do “wedding band tattoos” if you’re less of a square than me, and so many other ways to make a truly unique gesture of commitment. I even know couples who each wear an alternative engagement band or ring that they choose together – very egalitarian and lovely, in my opinion!
I think it’s interesting and a little sad that the way that we signify the most personal, unique, and special commitment in many of our lives is with an often un-affordable, stressful, not-even-really-wanted diamond. Lots of people I know, in hindsight, wish they’d paid less, and chosen something more unique or practical. It’s the marriage, not the ring, after all!
I seriously think this is my favorite post! It’s so fun to read about everyone’s fun and frugal day!
I can honestly say it was the FIRE community that inspired my wedding day. I’m not super frugal in my everyday life but reading posts like this is what gave me clarity for my big day a few years ago. We got married for $1,500 for the day and I think $3,000 all in, including the rings and a couple nights in Waikiki (we are local). We got married under my grandma’s mango tree in her back yard with string lights (with Edison bulbs from Amazon) decorating the roof line. No flowers and a local pastor friend officiated. We kept the guest list to immediate family only and one friend who took our photos. I think we gifted the pastor $200 and friend who took our photos $300 since it was super last minute and they pulled through for us. Dress was an Ann Taylor lace dress on clearance for $50 and make up was done at a high end counter for the cost of the products I picked up. Also got a haircut that morning so my hair was already styled. Dinner was at a nice restaurant where I pre-ordered all the food- appetizers and entrees shared family style. The restaurant was super accommodating and since it was at a 5* hotel, the service was excellent. Total bill, including alcohol and gratuity was $600. No cake or favors. Just super simple evening with both sides of the family together at one table. It was super special and it felt very luxe and ultimately very us-simple and filled with family and good food.
We got married at a beautiful college campus for a venue cost of $300, think outside of the box in terms of spaces(if you want an outdoor wedding). We had 12 people total and it was perfect. We also had an open house style reception about 2 months after our wedding, which was lovely and we could take our time seeing and talking to each of our friends without the pressures of time constraints or not getting to enjoy our first day being married! Our total cost for our wedding, rehearsal dinner, reception, and honeymoon was around $5k and we loved it. We were very blessed to have parents that paid for our wedding and who donated points for us to use for our honeymoon at a resort. However, if you have less money, there is always room to cut back expense-wise. You are so right in saying that weddings are about the promise you make to each other than any sort of party or celebration. We could’ve spent $10k more on it, and we wouldn’t have been any happier.
I….have a lot of opinions on this topic for someone who isn’t married. But I went to 5 weddings in 2017 (was in 2) and 4 in 2018 (was in 1). I feel like a huge caveat for the DIY wedding is the set up/clean up is entirely on you. I went to a wedding years ago where the couple did it in a state park and brought everything in. Most of the families, and the groomsmen, spent the morning of the wedding setting up the reception space outside in 95 degree weather. I barely had enough time to shower and get dressed and get back for the actual wedding. My friends and I tried to leave a little early to not have to repeat the whole thing at the end, but they called us and asked us to come back and help because there weren’t enough people to clear everything out. I’m sure it was cheap, but personally that’s not what I want my parents doing on the day I get married.
My sister just got married in October, and the wedding was at a hotel that came with an event planner. While I know it wasn’t my money paying for it, I feel like it was totally worth it that no one related to me did any set up or clean up. We dropped off a ton of stuff the day before (all DIY centerpieces, etc.) but Jenna (my favorite person of the weekend, tbh) set it all up. At the end of the night, we could just leave. All I had to do was take the card box, and let them but the luggage cart full of all the rest of the stuff in my hotel room. They cut costs in other ways, like having a morning wedding and afternoon reception, limiting flower, DIY centerpieces, etc.
I think everyone needs to do what’s right for them, but I feel like the “oh just DIY it” is a not nearly as simple as people make it out to be.
My thoughts exactly. Just because it’s DIY doesn’t mean its cheap in terms of time, money, and energy. We entertained the DIY wedding idea, but after realizing the amount I work I told my fiancé “I do NOT want to stage-manage my own wedding.” I think he was finally open to new plans when he realized the grimace/glare I probably would have had in all our wedding photos lol
We saved in two categories that weren’t as important to us: cake and flowers. I ordered the bridal party bouquets and centerpiece flowers from Whole Foods. I provided them some upcycled vases and ribbon, and they did the rest, including free delivery and set up because the venue was in the same city!
For the cake, we asked 8 or 9 of our local friends to bake a simple cake with white plain frosting. Upon arrival, I plopped flowers on top of their cakes, and voila, a cake buffet!
This is great! Like y’all, hubs and I hadn’t yet grown into our frugality. We still spent a heap of money on our wedding. I think it was, like $6,000 total? Which is surprisingly under the $20k average for the U.S. Yikes!
I also bought my wedding dress from a bridal outlet. I even scored a 10% off coupon (which is a ton of money when you buy a $900 dress…). We did pay for everything in cash, which was awesome. We had zero debt from the wedding, which was great.
It was a fun day, but I really do wish I could have just had a city hall wedding. So much less fuss!
Ahhh! Mr. FW’s long hair. I love it! It totally threw me for a loop.
It was so fun reading through all of the great suggestions and seeing a few of my photos. I really hope that this climbs to the top of the google because I think it would have been so nice to have this resource out there when we were trying to plan our celebration a few years back.
Have you done a reader suggestion for attending college frugally? I’m long past that, but I imagine it would be good for those with kiddos or for frugal teens (freens? trugals?) to bring some of that cost down.
Your photos are beyond gorgeous :)! Thank you so much for contributing your wisdom to this post! I have a few posts on college, which are below, but I LOVE your idea of doing it as a Reader Suggestions!!!
Our Guide To A Very Frugal (Yet Still Awesome) College Experience
That Time I Went To Grad School For Free*
Reader Suggestions: How To Save Money While Raising Teenagers And Teach Them Financial Lessons In The Process
Frugal Advice For New College Graduates
Back when dinosaurs ruled the earth (1980), my first wedding was in my VERY small hometown with a VERY large family and an EXTREMELY FRUGAL mother. My wedding dress was a whopping $250 w/veil. We marched down the aisle in my hometown church and held the reception at the hometown country club (teeny tiny little place that smelled like antiques and old perfume and had a scenic pool with green water, all conveniently located within all the sights and sounds of I-95). I scored my three bridesmaid dresses on the clearance rack at JC Penney ($12.00 a piece) and had silk flowers so I could save them. Moooovvve way forward to the year 2005 and my SECOND wedding was in the Wake County courthouse in Raleigh, N.C. in a tiny little office as we stood together gazing lovingly at one another under a sign that said “WORTHLESS CHECKS”. Probably the most fun was riding in the elevator with all the prisoners heading to their court dates. They all wished us happy nuptials. Cost us $75 that day. The next day, we had our families to dinner at the best restaurant in town (our dime) and really enjoyed the whole experience.
We had a very small wedding but spent major $$, but only on the things we wanted because it was important to us. We had a very fancy, fabulous sit-down dinner at a restaurant we love and got married on its waterfront patio. We also used the computer playlist method instead of a DJ, had family take the pictures, had a friend marry us, and the only decoration we had to do was add potted orchid centerpieces to the tables (we gave them to our mothers and then kept one for ourselves!). One fun thing we had was a designated area with a digital camera and instant picture printer – folks made their pictures and added them to a book we had ready, complete with notes and advice and other wedding well-wishes. That book is now one of our most treasured possessions!
My husband and I had a ~$500 wedding and I still tell people that the best wedding gift our parents gave us was never pressuring us to have a big wedding so that they could invite their friends and extended family. Our wedding was intimate, beautiful, and inexpensive because we only invited our parents and siblings plus one friend each (one to officiate and one to do a reading), got married in my SIL’s back yard (plus a lovely court house ceremony the next day in NYC), had cupcakes from the local bakery, and had a taco bar for dinner! I got my dress two hours before the wedding at Target for $20 (I call this the great wedding dress miracle of 2016) and flowers from Trader Joe’s and I still get compliments on both when people see the pictures. NONE of this would have been possible if our parents had said, “it won’t be a wedding without Aunt Hilda and her kids!” or whatever. Sometimes I’m sad that our extended families and friends weren’t there to celebrate with us, but it would have cost THEM all so much money to come to the wedding and we did a worldwide post-wedding tour to visit our friends and family which was perfect. We got to spend time with our loved ones and celebrate being married without making anyone travel far or get lost in the shuffle of tons of guests. I totally agree that you need to sit down and decide what your wedding priorities are and that they should reflect what your marriage goals are. The wedding is one day but the marriage is every day after.
Hee, this topic is near and dear to my heart. I avoided the whole wedding thing until I realized one day that I didn’t actually have to have one, if all we really wanted was to be married. So we didn’t, and it was perfect.
All in, at 19 hrs notice, including all fees, both rings, marriage licence, dinner, flowers, a new plaid shirt for myself and for husband…we were around $800 CAD.
We happened to have the next day off work, got the recommendation for a Justice of the Peace who laughed heartily and said, “sure I can make it tomorrow” (he’s from Newfoundland), got dressed in our new plaid finery (which we still wear regularly 2 yrs later) and jeans, and picked up our best man and Maid of Honour after they were done work. My mother was away visiting her brother and sister in law..at the time, and they skypesd in on my Maid of Honour’s cell phone, wearing fancy hats and plaid shirts they had borrowed from her brother’s closet.
We treated our maid of Honour and Best man (our closest friends, was are also a married couple) to dinner at the local pub, where the Justice of the Peace arrived in all his glory, on a motorcycle, wearing the most befringed leather jacket you ever did see. After our drinks were served at the very noisy restaurent, he stood up and thundered to the room at large that they were about to be uexpected witesses to a wedding; he went through the most beautiful and heartfelt vows I could possibly imagine, we signed the paperwork , and then all 5 of us sat down for our steaks to be served, our treat, of course. 🙂
Then we went home early because we both had to work the next morning.
It was perfection.
Oh yes, and once he heard of this plan, our magnificent Justice of the Peace insisted I bring a bouquet of some kind ($7 at the grocery store), so I could whip it across a room full of strangers. Who could say no to that?
AMAZING. I am in awe! The plaid shirts! The Justice! The pub! I love everything about this!
I always love reading these wedding posts and see how couples spend on them. We had our wedding about seven and a half years ago and remembered every moment of that day. In terms of the expenses, we spent just over $15K for a 200 guest wedding which is not too bad for one in San Francisco. My wife made DIY flowers out of felt, bought my wedding band on eBay for $10, didn’t spend a whole lot for our wedding attire and the wedding/reception was at the same outdoor location. If you want, you can check out my wedding expenses in more detail:
We got married August 11th and I would not change a thing! We personally spent approximately $4000 out of pocket for about 120 people (mostly my husband’s family). I was able to live with my husband’s parents after the lease on my apartment ran out for about 6 weeks and they wouldn’t take any money for rent so we were able to cash flow most of it and used a little bit from savings. It was important to us to have a fairly traditional wedding, and he is an only child so I know his mom would have been really disappointed if we’d eloped (though the idea was tossed around a few times in the 4 months we were planning).
Here’s how we did it:
Engagement ring: we actually both had an engagement ring we’d inherited from our grandmothers. I also had a wedding band from my grandmother. It was important to my husband to use his grandmother’s engagement ring so we went that route, and only had to pay for a new setting for the 1/4 carat emerald cut diamond (I do not like huge diamonds). $400
Wedding bands:my grandmother’s band fits me perfectly so we just had it dipped to change from yellow gold to white gold: $50 A new simple white gold wedding band for my husband was $400
I LOVE wearing rings that have so much sentimental value
Dress & undergarments: $600 from David’s bridal (the dress was on sale for about $450)
Shoes: I wore a pair I bought for a wedding last October
Alterations: $60 – thankfully I just needed a bustle and a couple snaps added, no hem
Venue: FREE (family farm)
Save the Dates: we skipped these because our engagement was less than 4 months and I wanted to save the $$. We just picked a date that worked for our must have guests (immediate family and wedding party)
Invitations: I bought 60 invitation sets (2 boxes of 30) from Michaels with a coupon. They were pre-printed with a design, and there was a template we downloaded to put our information into and print at home
Catering: This was a gift from his aunts so I don’t know the exactly cost, but we used a small family catering business and based on the prices on their website it was probably about $20/per person. She also bought the cups and plates.
Appetizers: My MIL, mom, and aunts made some appetizers, I’m not sure what the cost was
Cakes: 2 decorated sheet cakes and a small, 2 tier cake for us to cut from a local grocery store bakery: $150
Additional dessert were supplied by family
Beverages: my husband’s cousin works for Coke so were were able to get a discount, I think this came out to be a few hundred and we had a lot of leftover pop
Tent, chair, table rental (130 chairs, 10 tables then we used tables from the family): about $1000 though most of that was a gift from his mom, we just paid for the sides which were about $150
Additional side tents: 2 10′ x 30′ tents that his aunt bought for church use but let us use for free, plus another small tent that someone in the family already had
Golf cart rental to transport older guests from parking to ceremony site and back: also paid for by his mom, I’m so glad we did this
Horsedrawn carriage for me to come down from the house to the ceremony site: this was a complete surprise for me from my husband and his mom, they knew a neighbor who had a surrey and two farm horses, his mom and my mom gave him some Cracker Barrel gift cards as a thank you
Alcohol: $0 (my husband doesn’t drink, I rarely drink, and many of our guests don’t drink so this was an easy thing to nix)
Flowers: $350 – this included loose flowers for 5 bouquets and 18 centerpieces that my bridesmaids and I put together, and 9 boutonnieres that were assembled and ready to go
Photography: $500 (travel costs for a friend with a DSLR to come from out of state and photograph for us, plus a little for her time)
Reception DJ: his cousin had speakers, a phone, and Spotify premium so this was FREE
Artificial flowers to decorate arch and pavilion: $200
Additional decor/napkins/dessert and appetizer plates: I’m not sure of the exact cost but I think less than $300
Jewelry for bridesmaids: $130
Shirts for groomsmen: $150ish
I’m probably forgetting a few things but this gives you an idea. We were extremely blessed to have help from family, and the day was everything I could have ever hoped for, it was absolutely perfect. I think the best weddings are those that reflect who the couple is, whether they cost $1000 or $20,000
This is a great post. There are some many cheery but frugal things in this post. it has been a while since I married, but I a free with your assertion about your mom planning your wedding. If you are a young bride or at least not married before and your parents pay for it, it is their party. they are the hosts. Enjoy it while it lasts! My sister and I were able to wear the same dress. but any way about not being frugal, My family was in Dallas, and my husband from from Arkansas, where the people are nice and Dallas apparently holds some allure, because they all came. it cost my ‘rents a bundle . anyway, my favorite was” My best wedding tip is to remember that the wedding is NOT the important thing, it is the marriage!”
Wow, what a lot of ideas! My favorite were the wedding bands made of coins(!) and getting married on Friday 13th. I also misread the one about commemorating at the court house at first and thought it said, “consummating”!
We got married during the height of a recession (25% unemployment in our area). My Dad gave me $1200. If I spent less, I got to keep the cash. If I spent more, out of my pocket. Bought a “used” dress. Rented a wedding chapel at a local college, no limo to the reception. Reception (beer only, cash bar otherwise) with food and cake , nothing fancy but no one went hungry. Plus we had leftovers which we shared. Probably close to 100 people. Honeymoon was an overnight stay in a local hotel. My in-laws had the rehearsal dinner at their house. A low-key and pretty much low-stress affair.
These are great ideas! Here’s some things we’ve done or seen done:
If marrying in the winter,when flowers can be very expensive, don’t use any. Get creative, like some of the brides here have done. I’ve seen weddings with just candles and greenery as decor.
Don’t have a meal. Time the wedding for afternoon, when cake, punch, tea, wine, cookies, etc., are suitable. One bride, married in the evening, served breakfast for her dinner — the guests loved it and she saved a lot of money with the caterers.
We have English ivy growing in our yard. It’s been used as decoration, including running down the centers of tables, in at least 3 weddings. Most people who have ivy growing would be only TOO happy to have you take some!
One bride I know timed her wedding to when the native phlox is blooming. She had tons of it as her flowers.
If you know someone good at arranging, or can do it yourself, just ordering flowers is a lot cheaper than getting arrangements and bouquets made.
Publix makes darn good wedding cakes and they are better priced than most bakeries.
Cupcakes are popular, and family can make them instead of a bakery.
Where I grew up, I NEVER attended a wedding with a meal or alcohol served, yet they were very nice weddings anyway. In my home area, people would have been quite puzzled to be offered a meal or booze. I grew up in a very frugal-mindset area, but still, a wedding doesn’t REQUIRE a full meal and booze.
I’ve known more than one bride who wore a prom or special occasion dress, and many bridesmaids have done so, too.
Instead of a veil, each of my daughters wore a very pretty comb in their hair.
At one wedding I attended, the bride didn’t have a bouquet. Her best friends each brought a single, long-stemmed flower of their choice to the wedding, and handed them to her as she walked down the aisle. At the altar, her mother stood up and wrapped the stems together in a ribbon and handed it to her, and that was the bride’s bouquet. This group of friends did this in each wedding from their group. It was very sweet.
I so agree with the sentiment here — it’s the marriage, more than the wedding, that counts! Don’t go into debt for a wedding — it’s just one day out of many, many more to come.
My husband moved to Seattle, for 3 months, about 6 months after we met. As soon as he got there he exclaimed that we should get married while he was there. So we eloped after knowing eachother 6 months! We rented an antique boat and got married at sunset on Lake Union in late October. It was beautiful!! The captain of the boat was ordained. The owner of the boat was a chef and cooked us a beautiful meal and cheesecake for our wedding cake. I believe it cost $500 for the boat and dinner. At the last minute we hired a photography student from a local college for $100. My dress cost $80. My husband just wore a black suit. My bouquet cost $5 from the beautiful Pike Place Market. We spent about $400 on rings. We rented a suite in a downtown hotel for our honeymoon, which I believe cost $200 nightly. We spent 3 days in downtown Seattle, for our honeymoon, just sightseeing. One night we even dressed up as pandas for Halloween and went to a few parties! Total it cost about $2000 for our wedding and honeymoon. Almost 9 years and 2 kids later we are still going strong!! So glad we saved that money and did something unique and special to express our love to each other.
All great tips! I would add (or emphasize, if these were there and I missed them):
– MORNING wedding and brunch meal made both my venue and my food costs way lower
– also made ALCOHOL costs lower because while we did have some wine, no one is really boozing it up at 11am. If you can minimize or skip the alcohol you can save a bundle
– and for emphasis: DIY or DIF(riends)–my mom made my dress and my bridesmaids dresses, my best friend is a potter and made flower pots for centerpieces (live plants cheaper than cut flowers and last longer), I made the favors (packets of flower seeds in cute little envelopes), my aunt made the cake, etc
Our entire wedding cost $120 including our marriage license. We went to the court house and then took our witnesses out for the kind of expensive beer I would never otherwise splurge on (it was perfect). We had $25,000 in the bank and could have spent as much as we liked, and always planned to throw a big party eventually, but 8 months later we had an early baby and I was so glad we had the cushion so I could feel safe quitting to be home with him. That cushion then became the materials fund for the house we built with our hands. I did not expect that over time I would grow more and more grateful for my courthouse wedding, but I have. We had a wedding day that was perfect for us, and now we live in a house that’s perfect for us too. We both feel like we use every dollar to build our marriage and our life.
Such wonderful stories!
I overheard my sister-in-law say at a particularly raucous moment during her huge reception: “These people will never all be together again until my funeral, and we’re going to party!” Plan a ceremony that reflects what is important to you-two, and celebrate it with one of the best parties you will ever throw, whatever that means to you-two, (or more, if you are blending families with children).
Here are some interesting vendors I’ve found, if you are looking for a microwedding and don’t want to do a whole lot of work:
Creativo Loft (chicago)
Pop the Knot (multi-city)
Flora Pop (multi-city)
my tiny wedding (northern KY and who I believe we’ll be going with)
If you google “elopement package” there are many, many options these days. They are NOT just for the bride and groom only–some options do allow a small guest list.
I think we’re going to do the cheapest My Tiny Wedding option, unsure if we’re inviting parents at this point, unsure of when we’ll do it.
The honest truth? I would be fine going to city hall and then going home afterwards, I couldn’t care less. I do worry I’ll regret this down the road, like, what if I want pictures to look at someday (despite the fact I hate pictures of myself and avoid them at all costs?) And I’m also afraid my parents will be angry if they aren’t present, but the idea of telling someone I love them in front of my parents seems kind of weird. We are NOT a touchy feely family.
Spouse & I got married at 26 & 27 almost 11 years ago. We decided to skip the engagement ring in favor of a 3 month engagement. We had plans to head to the courthouse on a Friday afternoon in August, but my parents would hear nothing of the sort. They wanted a full church wedding with all of our extended family & their friends in attendance, along with a longer 6 month engagement. We said, “no thanks” & after much disagreement with them, we had an immediate family only ceremony at a local park. We had a judge, who was a family friend, officiate. We had a lovely dinner at a local restaurant afterwards. Including spouse & myself, there were 10 people at our wedding. My parents wanted us to have professional photos, a string quartet, professionally arranged flowers & they wanted me to have a custom made wedding dress. They got all of that & we got our small guest list. We took a driving honeymoon to a nearby large city. The total cost for ceremony, attire, rings, reception & honeymoon was $5,000 (almost 11 years ago). We had a wonderful wedding & I wouldn’t change a thing. 7 years after our wedding, my sister got married. She & her spouse had a very different wedding. My parents got to throw the fancy, mountain destination wedding, invite all the extended family & friends for a gorgeous church ceremony. I have no clue what the total cost was, but I do know that their photographer cost more than our entire wedding & honeymoon. To each their own. My sister really wanted that kind of wedding & I’m glad that she got what she & my parents wanted.
I planned out my dream wedding with my now ex for just $3000 (Australian). People told me it couldnt be done but the thing was alot of things they were telling me i needed i didnt want or i didnt see the point of it. Why send a save the date, why not just send out the invitation? I dont need or want a designer gown and there are beautiful ones for under $500 i found while shopping with my sister (she had two a $300 formal one then a $50 online one for her second event). DJs are a waste of money when we have Ipods and phones these days just make a play list before the day. Food will be a buffet with a roast. and alchahol will be minimal as i wanted it to be at my family farm so most people will have to drive back to the hotel. That also makes the venue free and i only want immediate family so max 50ppl. No wedding favors, i know no one who keeps theirs after the wedding and they are usually really weird and not something i would want in the first place. The only thing i might splurge on is a photographer but i have several family members who can take pics at the reception to reduce the time we hire the professional for. Frankly my metaphor is think about what you are actually going to remember. Is it what the flowers and chair dresses looked like or how much fun you had eating and celebrating with your loved ones?
I’m an eldest daughter of a traditional Asian family and my parents wanted my wedding (7 years ago) to be grand (meaning inviting all their friends and their cats, LOL) and I valued my relationship with my family so much I didn’t have the heart to let them down. Afterall, in our culture the parents pay (and plan!) for their daughters’ weddings so my parents never paid and planned their own wedding that I wanted to give them once a lifetime experience that is planning my wedding. However, I insisted to pay (it is common in our culture for family to go beyond their means and go into debt in order to have a grand wedding for their kids and I didn’t want that).
So… my parents invited (gasp!) 2500 people to our wedding. However I managed to trim our cost with:
1. Husband and I rented my wedding reception gown and suit. We did buy a more simple white lace dress and a blazer for the ceremony, and those were dirty cheap (plus we got a thousand wear of those later!)
2. Since the guests were A LOT, and my mother was extra picky about food, we COOKED all of the wedding feasts. 20 of my mother’s friends and neighbor did help and I am forever grateful. The food were amazing and the portion were generous, and they made 5 course meal. 5 course, y’all! But it cost us only about 20% from what a professional caterer would cost for 3 course meal.
3. We got married in a community building where my parents were members FOR FREE! The building’s maximum capacity is 3000 people so that was a tremendous saving we made not have to pay for venue. We did pay for the cleaning service, but that was for a price of dinner for 4 person!
4. Our neighborhood have an EO service. In my neighborhood, teenegers and unmarried young adults obliged to help if a neighbor have a wedding or a funeral. It is something I am always grateful for, because they are very helpful, they know what to do (there’s a commitee that get them trained to do the job!) They helped us with the guests’ seat plan, wait the table, served all the food, cleaning up, and even decoration. We have to pay several amounts to the committee (they money will go to our community funding) but told ya that’s not that much of money for the help they provided. I used to be in that EO service too when I were younger. We helped in weddings and funerals (and we got no money, it’s kind of volunteering, but every teenager in my neighborhood is willing to do this) and in return, we’ll get helping hands too when we need them. The committe provided us with uniform, too, just like proffesional EO) I think that is a genius crowd sourced solution!
5. My sister designed our invitation cards and we printed them for the cheapest option possible (remember, 2500 people!) it sill cost us A LOT, but it was already a fraction of the price.
6. We decorated using my parents’ flower plants from their garden and plants from my neighbor’s garden. We put the pots around the centerpiece. We did rent a centerpiece and bought flowers (and that was quite expensive), but we tried to DIY as much as we possibly can
7. My bestfriend was the photographer. My parents hired a (rookie) photographer as a backup but his pictures were so dissapointing I regret ever paying. I should had only my friend from the begining. Another friend helped us with prewedding pictures, too.
8. We didn’t make registry since we already own almost everything we need for our home. So we stated NO GIFTS, PLEASE in our invitation. In Asian culture, people usually give money for the newlywed, and that was what we do, too. We ended up gifted so much money (twice the cost of our wedding), and eventough the money is supposed to be for us, my husband and I decided to gift it to my parents as our gift to them. I’m so glad we did.
9. Since my town is touristy (and for good reasons!) we decided that there’s no need go somewhere else for our honeymoon. My parents have a small house in another part of the town so we stayed there during our honeymood and exploring my town (even I was surprised with so many places I’d never been before!). We went to beaches, museums, and all the tourist attraction. And that was wonderful!
All in all, the wedding wasn’t my dream wedding (I’d choose a far more intimate party with only people I know and love, not a buch of mid age friend of my parents I barely know) but I’m glad it make my parents happy and didn’t cost us arm and leg (if any, we benefited from all the money gift).
2,500?! Wow…I think my brain just shut down for a second there, imagining all of the prep that must have taken. You sound so organized and thrifty! And, what a lovely gift to give your parents.
Love your idea to stay in your town and see all the sights for a honeymoon 🙂 We did something similar, going to a little vacation cottage that is shared by my husband’s family. Since he went there often growing up, he had so much fun showing me all the sights, and it’s so fun whenever we go back to remember our honeymoon there together 🙂
thank you, frenchmama… I’m sure your hubby really enjoyed being a tour guide in his own honeymoon (hey, thats another save of money right :D) and if you have kids you could go there on a vacation and tell them a beautiful story of your honeymoon too. I personally loved to hear those kind of stories from my parents 🙂
I love all the ideas in this post! I had a super-frugal wedding too—legally married at City Hall for $10 in our street clothes. Then we flew to Vegas to get a “storybook” wedding package with pictures and a wedding album, wearing a dress I got for free from a clothing designer friend, and my husband got his tux at a discount via the wedding package, AND we flew there free because I worked for United Airlines at the time. : Family paid for us to have a wedding dinner at Wolfgang Puck’s. All told for both weddings: $450. We have been married for 17 years!
People–not your readership–seem to think that the amount of money and fuss spent on the wedding is proportional to the longevity of the marriage!I wanted to go to a justice of the peace, but my husband wanted areligious ceremony for his dad. We learned at this early stage to compromise: we had no money and no desire to invite the world, so we were married by a rabbi inmy mom’s living room with only brothers, sister, and parents. We at out in a private room afterwards. My dress cost $40, but was just what I wanted. 49 years later, we are happy with our compromise. It’s the marriage, not the wedding ceremony and party that matters.
When my husband and I got married in 2003 it was very important to us that we were not spending a ton of money. I was in grad school and the eldest of three daughters, so I didn’t want my parents to feel as if we were going to go overboard. We did get married in a church (not the one I belonged to due to it being difficult to find for my husband’s out of town family, but I did get married in the church that my grandparents were married in–so that was pretty neat). My parents paid for that, I think it was $150 for the church, the priest, and the organist. We had our reception in my dad’s newly finished addition to the “tractor barn” (I grew up on a dairy farm). He didn’t park any tractors in it until after the wedding (he was afraid of getting the concrete floor dirty before the wedding). My sister ended up using this same area for her reception a few years later. We borrowed tables and chairs from our local fire department (free–we just had to pick them up and drop them back off). My mom made my dress, my two sister’s dresses, and the flowergirl’s dress (I know my fabric cost $100, which I paid for, my mom bought the rest of the fabric for the dresses–not sure how much that cost). We did artificial flowers for the bouquets and boutonnieres (got the flowers on sale or with coupons at the local craft store). A friend did the photography (weren’t the best quality, but we did get some great shots that we were able use)–paid $100 for the day, we developed the film. My mom made the cake (she does this as a side business, so I could request what I wanted based on past cakes she had made). We bought soda and beer on sale during the months leading up to the wedding (it was in July, so we caught Memorial day and Independence day sales). I made the invitations on the computer and mailed them out myself. We did a dish to pass reception (we called certain family members that we enjoyed certain dishes from and requested that they bring that to our wedding instead of a gift). My husband’s cousin roasted a pig for us overnight on site, so we had pulled pork. (My husband ended up doing this same thing for my sister who got married at home a few years later). My mom paid some of my sister’s teenage friends to come and be the wait staff. We did get a local DJ and family friend to come and do the music for us. My aunt and uncle were very generous in their gift to us…a weeklong honeymoon to Williamsburg, Virginia! All in all, we figured out shortly after the wedding that with my parents contributions, my husband’s parents contribution, and our contribution, we spent just under $2000. Oh, and I almost forgot the best part…after the reception we went to the movies with some of my husband’s friends from HS that came to the wedding…I can’t remember what we saw, but it was so funny for us all to be dressed up and headed to the movies that night! We’ve been married for just over 15 years…and still having a blast!
omg what a lovely wedding (and crowd source just like mine, haha, we should be soul sisters!) I hope my marriage will be as wonderful as yours 🙂
I think Cadence and I got married at the same small historical venue! Loved seeing there picture there. We actually had a Christmas wedding and used nearly all free or secondhand Christmas decor. We then donated it to a New Year’s Eve wedding at the same venue. Now, all the candles, lanterns, and seasonally nonspecific items are going to our friends for their wedding in May! Good for the soul and the wallet.
We spent all our money on a group honeymoon!! We had an itty bitty wedding (8 guests) that cost very very little. We told no one – other than the guests – until it was over, at which point our friends and extended family got an email that said “we just got married! Join us on our honeymoon: we’ve booked canoes and gear for ten people for a five day trip on our favorite river. First come first served”. So instead of our friends travelling to our wedding where we would have a had a short visit with everyone, we had a multi-day canoe trip with our 10 best friends. It was AMAZING. Truly the trip of a lifetime. We grin every time we even think about it.
What a great post! I’d surely have loved to read it back when I was planning a wedding. My biggest advice to the couple is: PAY FOR IT YOURSELVES!!!! We were in a position where my family and his couldn’t contribute equally, and we asked each to pay for something special(my side my dress/veil, his side the rehearsal dinner) so they felt like they were contributing. That said, soon after getting engaged I found out my then fiance had financed my engagement ring. Cash loan on a CC is like the worst decision ever. So my dream of getting married within a year turned into waiting a year and a half so he could pay off the e-ring, and save up for the wedding. Luckily we were both working and earning a good amount of money, but paying for a wedding ourselves was like a crash course in marital finance. Once we got married we both knew exactly who was the saver and spender in the relationship, we learned how to budget and make compromises. It was perfect. The wedding cost us over $20K, but there was a really bad heat wave that day and our venue lost power during the reception. The dinner was candlelit, everyone ate well and got pretty tipsy. The guests were taking advantage of the open bar to stay cool, and we had the happiest guests ever. We asked for our money back and we got it. That plus the wedding gift $ became the down payment for our first home. Over a decade later people still talk about how it was one of the best weddings they had ever been to. Some tips that saved money: My wedding venue was newly built, and they were trying to build up a wedding base so our reception was under budget. My wedding dress was a sample dress and the veil was ordered online. We made the programs and the favors ourselves. We saved on limos but splurged on a horse drawn carriage ride from the church to the reception. We went with independent photographer and videographers. Instead of having it in the city we had it in a suburb close to my husbands childhood church. We didn’t have a dime left over after budgeting for the wedding, but we soon realized, we could use CC points from his credit card to pay for a honeymoon. Looking back I don’t regret a thing, because we didn’t go into debt for our wedding. That was key!
Such fantastic ideas here.
We managed to keep our wedding and honeymoon to $5000aud 11 years ago.
We got married in our church, and had the afternoon tea style reception in the downstairs hall.
DH made all the cakes and tortes, and the wedding cake. Friends made cute little sandwiches and we had tea and coffee.
We also had Fresco sparkling honey drink for the toast.
Bought my dress from ebay, $300. Our rings totalled $500, including my engagement ring.
Flowers from my work (a supermarket), and we blew up balloons for decorating.
Chantal, I recognised Waterfall Gully before I read you were from Australia, how funny!
My bridesmaids were sisters – their mother made their dresses using fabric I bought at Spotlight and using a pattern she graciously let me pick out.
I did buy them some lovely shoes to match though!
My fiancé, Ethan, and I loved this post. We are living a life of “luxurious” frugality while currently planning a wedding. Our wedding is more expensive than we would like, but the only reason is due to the amount of people we are inviting. I come from a MASSIVE family, and it’s wonderful because despite the size of our brood, we are all so incredibly close. My cousins are my friends, so there was no question that everyone would be invited. We are very social people and have formed meaningful friendships with many many people in our lives. We determined that at the end of the day, it would mean more to have the people we care about present for our special day than to save money. That being said, even though our guest list increases the expenses, we have found lots of other ways to decrease the cost! For instance, we had a long engagement. By the time we get married, we will be engaged almost 2 years. This allowed us to book all our vendors early and get the best deals. Our photographer and band have tripled their popularly in the time since we booked them, and have increased their prices! Lucky for us, we are locked into our price from when they are still starting out! Also, with the amount of time we had to plan, we were able to save to pay for everything in cash. From day 1 we were very strict about creating a financial plan for the wedding and it worked! Every penny is accounted for so now when the day comes, no financial sweats! We picked a non- traditional venue and received a lot of decoration donations from friends and family from their weddings! We still may have a more expensive wedding, but we know the money is being spent where it means the most, having our friends and family there.
What a great collection of resources! We’re planning a frugal wedding and can certainly use some of the tips here. My favorite one is getting a cake from the grocery store and put a wedding cake topper on it!
Just celebrated 21 years on Feb 21!
Table decorations: My friend lived in the woods and donated fresh pine beaches which we put in my mother’s Ball quart canning jars, added some fake colored baby’s breath from the dollar store and tied a burgundy ribbon around each. Cost: about $3.00
Dress: My friend collected vintage dresses at garage sales and gave me one. I added sleeves and made a few other changes. I sewed for a dry cleaner who dry-cleaned the dress for free ($50savings), and also loaned us a tablecloth for the head table.
Food: We represented two different church families and had lots of college friends and wanted everyone to celebrate with us. We ended up with around 200 people at our dinner reception, held for free in our church gymnasium. Some were coming from out of town so we wanted to feed them well and allow children to attend too so no one had to get a babysitter. We gave a large aluminum foil turkey roaster and $10 to about 20 friends and told them to fill it up with their specialty. Another group of friends made their favorite cookie recipes. We didn’t have a cake. The only unfortunate thing was that my husband and I spent so much time e visiting during the meal that we barely ate any of that delicious food!
Absolutely LOVE Katherine’s at home wedding picture! I want my wedding to also be a celebration at home with friends and family all having a great time and dancing the night away 🙂
Thanks so much to everyone for their contributions to this important conversation! I’m reflecting on my wedding (which happened a couple of weeks ago) and reread the post and was amazed at how many of these ideas I took on board in ways that felt thoughful, practical and created the uniqueness of our wedding ceremony and reception. We had our ceremony on a weekday at a registry office with sisters as witnesses (we had special matching clothes made to measure by a local tailor and wore shoes we already owned) and took immediate family only for a fancy sit down meal (i didn’t want anyone me to have to cook or wash up that day) and followed up a few days later with a home made feast and drink up (bought at wholesale) in the garden with family, friends and neighbours which included song, dance and guitar playing, as well as games and stories for the children. This post really helped me remember throughout the planning process that it is down to the choices of the individuals in the marrying couples, not our relatives, friends, cultures or wedding industrial complex that should decide how we honour & celebrate our commitment to our loved ones.