Updated on 10.20.17

20 Ideas for a Frugal (Not Cheap) Wedding on a Budget

Trent Hamm
bride and groom kissing outdoors

Why pay money to rent a function hall when the great outdoors is free? Photo: William J. Sisti

“Angela” writes in:

What advice do you have for a frugal wedding? We’re getting married this fall and want to explore as many cheap wedding ideas as we can. Since we are both in our early twenties and don’t have a lot to spend, we were hoping to keep our wedding as small as possible. We were thinking no more than six to eight people including ourselves.

Glad you asked. My wife and I were married in the summer of 2003. Although our wedding was actually quite frugal, we recognized afterwards that there was plenty more we could have done to make it even less expensive. Hindsight is always 20/20, so here are 20 tactics you could try to cut down your costs without diminishing your experience or that of your guests.

20 Tips to Plan Your Wedding on a Budget

1. Avoid guest list bloat.

Although you might be tempted to throw everyone you know on your guest list, that isn’t always a great idea. With each addition you make, you’re adding additional costs while also making your wedding less intimate.

To a degree, this was a trap we fell into with our own wedding – our guest list grew and grew to the point where we invited people that we didn’t know well simply because we felt obligated.

To save as much as you can, try inviting fewer people and making the event more intimate. Start by whittling your list down by 20%, then another 20%. Then see if you’re happy with it.

2. Ask for wedding help instead of wedding gifts.

We were lucky that several of our friends and family had musical talent, so they were able to provide musical accompaniment for our ceremony. We also have a close friend who’s an extremely skilled amateur photographer, and he was willing to photograph our ceremony as our wedding gift. Then, after the ceremony, he provided high-quality digital images of everything.

Asking family and friends to offer help or services that align with their talents in lieu of a gift is a great way to keep your wedding on a budget.

3. Hold the ceremony at home, or outdoors.

Renting a building or function hall for your ceremony and reception can be very expensive. Instead, consider using your own home (or the home of a parent) for your ceremony, or perhaps a public park with a beautiful view.

In each case, you can also have your reception outdoors, creating a picturesque, memorable ceremony while eliminating the cost of renting a venue.

If you go the outdoor route, however, it’s best to have a back-up plan in case of bad weather; you don’t want to get married in a downpour that leaves all your friends and family soaked. That might mean renting a sturdy tent if rain is forecast, or a few industrial fans if it’s an extremely hot day — or simply stuffing everyone inside the house to wait out a storm.

4. Do the catering yourself, or hire a family-owned restaurant.

For our wedding, we handled our own food preparation and catering with a lot of help from my wife’s family. This drastically reduced the food costs for the ceremony.

If this isn’t your forte, look around your community for a family-owned restaurant and ask the owners directly to cater your wedding. Family-owned restaurants are always the first place to check – they will almost always go the extra mile to make your wedding special and are generally more understanding of your particular budget needs.

5. Go minimal with the flowers.

Instead of spending boatloads of money on flowers that will die shortly after the reception, keep it simple but elegant — for instance, a single rose for each bridesmaid and a very small bouquet for the bride. If you know someone with a rose bush, you can actually make your own bouquets the day before the ceremony by cutting the roses yourself and trimming away the thorns.

Another cheap wedding idea – go with fake flowers instead. It’s likely that no one will even notice, and you could save a bundle by making the arrangements yourself well ahead of time.

6. Skip the groomsmen and bridesmaid gifts.

While it’s considered customary to give gifts to your groomsmen and bridesmaids in some circles, it isn’t always necessary. Instead of buying gifts they may not even want or enjoy, consider writing them a special note to say “thanks” instead. If your friends know that you’re trying to have a frugal wedding, they will understand.

7. Make your own invitations.

With a quality home printer and some time, you can make very classy invitations on your own. My wife and I picked up a simple blank invitation kit on sale at Staples and made our own invitations to our wedding. No pictures or anything – just a very classic font and simple text. It looked stylish and didn’t cost us much at all.

Sites like VistaPrint.com also offer cheap wedding invitations you can order from the comfort of your home. Their options aren’t fancy, but they will do the trick.

8. Borrow stereo equipment or use yours from home.

Rather than hiring a DJ, just use your own home stereo equipment, or equipment you borrow from a friend. Put speakers around the dance floor area – there’s no need to spread them around the reception room. Create a playlist on your iPod that features a few hours’ worth of your favorite songs – or see if you have a friend who might want to make a playlist for you. Choosing your own songs is a great way to personalize your entire experience.

9. Stock the bar yourself.

Alcohol is a big expense when it comes to a lot of weddings, and it’s also a big variable you can play around with to cut costs. Instead of opting for a full open bar, for instance, you can save money offering just beer and wine, or a free cocktail hour followed by a cash bar.

If you do rent a function hall, ask if they’ll let you supply your own alcohol instead of using the venue’s, which can be a big money-saver. Look for a discount liquor store in your area, and stock up on the basics: red and white wine and a few types of beer at the very least. If you want to offer a full bar, pick up the standard liquors like vodka, gin, rum, and whiskey, plus a few mixers and soft drinks like sodas and juice.

Keep in mind that while it’s more cost-efficient to buy a keg of beer instead of cases, any leftover beer will go to waste, whereas you can store excess bottles for months. And that’s helpful, since it’s a good idea to overestimate — you don’t want to run out drinks halfway through the reception.

10. Display ‘vendor cards’ in exchange for reduced rates.

If you’re hiring people to provide services for your reception (musicians, a DJ, florists, caterers, photographers, etc.), offer to advertise for them in exchange for reduced rates.

At the reception, put a small card by each person’s place setting that lists the businesses responsible for each service at the wedding, along with their contact information. Since this tends to be very effective advertising, many businesses will happily provide services at reduced rates in exchange for this opportunity.

11. Contact the local university.

If you’d like live musical accompaniment for the ceremony (and perhaps for the reception), one place to look for lower-cost musicians is your local university’s music department.

Contact them and ask if there are any students who are studying a particular instrument or vocal work and see if they’re available to provide music for a wedding. It can help them develop their resume and save you on this typically pricey part of your wedding.

This goes for photographers as well — if there’s an art school or photography program at your local college, see if there are any talented students or recent grads who would be willing to photograph your wedding at a discount for the portfolio-building experience and exposure they’d receive.

12. Price shop for decorations – and consider buying used.

Michael’s, Paper Warehouse, and Hobby Lobby all have sales throughout the year. If you know what you’re looking for ahead of time, you can simply wait until it goes on sale and “pounce” when the time is right.

Meanwhile, you can also consider buying used centerpieces and decorations. Recent brides often sell their decorations on sites like craigslist.org, and you can save a bundle of money — and effort — going that route.

13. If you’re getting married in your own church, ask the ladies’ auxiliary for help.

Most churches have a women’s organization that is very happy to help with wedding preparation in exchange for a small donation. Get them involved – they can take a lot of worry off your shoulders for a relatively low price.

At our wedding, the “church ladies” were a great help with church decoration and other helpful things on the day of the ceremony.

14. Buy dresses off the rack – and on sale.

If you want to save on bridesmaid dresses, try to avoid ordering custom dresses altogether. Instead, head to a few stores with dresses on sale and see if you can all find something “off the rack.”

This works best if your colors are chosen ahead of time and if the store you’re shopping at carries plenty of sizes. To minimize spats within your wedding party, you can also shop ahead of time and only have them try on dresses you already approve of.

Another cheap wedding idea: Instead of buying new dresses, have every bridesmaid wear a particular color dress they already own.

15. Rent tuxedos as a group.

Unless you have a specific reason for owning a tuxedo (and few people do), you should rent one. It’s often useful to rent the tuxedos as a group through the same business, as you’ll often get a group rate. If you don’t want to go the tuxedo route, you can also have all of your groomsmen wear a black suit from home or other matching formalwear.

16. Plan a simple honeymoon, not an ostentatious one.

A huge, over-the-top honeymoon might sound fun, but it’s far, far cheaper (and often more enjoyable) to stay closer to home.

Instead of planning a big, expensive trip, focus on what matters: Unwinding after those hectic weeks leading up to your wedding, and savoring some time alone with your new spouse. An 18-hour flight across the world with multiple connections isn’t going to help in that regard.

You could even just hop in the car and spend a week or two seeing all of the local sights you’ve never had time to see until now. Whatever you do, just enjoy this time together.

Bonus idea: If you’re set on a more distant honeymoon, try paying for most of your wedding expenses with a credit card that offers great travel rewards or a sign-up bonus, which could help cover the cost of your flight (but pay off the balance before it accrues any interest).

17. Involve your closest friends and family in the preparations.

As you’re brainstorming cheap wedding ideas, you should get your closest friends and family involved with the details. Quite often, they’ll have surprisingly good ideas that can save you money and effort.

For example, they might know a vendor that would offer you a deal, or have something you could borrow for your special day. Good friends and family are always there to help, and they’ll be especially happy to contribute to such a joyful occasion — so you might as well take advantage of their generosity.

18. Try not to mention the ‘w-word’ at first when hiring a vendor.

Many florists, bakeries, photographers, and musicians mark up their services — sometimes by a lot — just for weddings. Formal gowns are often far more expensive in white. The same cover band that plays at a bar downtown on a Saturday night for $1,000 might charge $5,000 for a wedding. This is partly because of the added pressure and preparation that a wedding involves, but it’s also partly just because they can.

When shopping around, try and get straightforward quotes for the services you need — without mentioning the wedding part at first. You need a tasteful cake for 100 people. (It could be a corporate event or retirement party.) You need someone to photograph an outdoor event for about five hours. (What would they charge to take photos of a high school track meet?)

At some point, you’ll need to come clean and explain that it’s for your wedding, especially before signing a contract. But if you can get a ballpark estimate for the services you need before revealing that it’s actually for your big day, you might have better negotiating leverage when they suddenly try to apply a hefty wedding markup for the exact same service.

19. Plan, plan, plan.

When you’re trying to have a wedding on a budget, it’s important to plan ahead. List everything you can think of and walk through these items step by step.

The earlier you get started – and the more things you think about early on – the less “last-minute stress” you’ll have, and the more time you’ll have to find sales and discounts and research other good ideas.

20. Don’t stress.

Something will probably go wrong at the last minute – a little detail of some sort won’t work out. For example, our pastor almost missed our rehearsal dinner, so we barely rehearsed.

Don’t worry about it. Just assume something little is going to go wrong and avoid the urge to throw money at the problem. Most likely, no one will even notice the little issue, and quite often someone in your wedding party (or someone helping out) will come up with a pretty good solution to fix things.

Good luck (and congratulations)!

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  1. Gretchen says:

    There are a lot of blogs and personal websites talking about planning a frugal wedding. My personal favorite is http://www.apracticalwedding.com; she goes over what she’s doing to keep wedding costs down and quality up, and she highlights other couples’ weddings and what they do to keep their special day special, stress-free and inexpensive. She also has links to other frugal wedding bloggers, so it’s a treasure-trove of information.

  2. Linda says:

    totally agree that weddings shouldn’t put the bride and groom in debt, or the parents, for that matter.
    The “Platinum Wedding” mentality is so warped and wrong.

  3. Curtis says:

    I got married last year and want to share my opinion on item #3: Have the ceremony at home, or outdoors. Our wedding was in a “public park with a beautiful view.” We found that there were many unexpected expenses associated with having the wedding outside: our local parks and rec dept nickled and dimed us for the permit, hiring a mandatory park attendant, and a separate permit for having amplified sound, plus a big deposit (which we did get back but we had to have the money up front). Then there were non-city related expenses: chair rental, including a set-up fee from the rental company (you could ask your friends to set up chairs but this is a arduous work) and sound system rental. My advice for a cheap wedding venue? A church. There you have everything you need: chairs, sound system (or no need for a sound system), probably a piano or organ for music if you need it, and you often will save on decorations too if the sanctuary is nice. A lot of churches charge only a small fee for the rental too since they are not a for-profit operation, and many churches have attractive grounds or courtyards where you can have a modest reception. I wouldn’t be surprised if many churches would allow you to bring in your own officiant too. Of course many people are opposed to having a wedding in a church but if you’re not I think it’s worth considering.

  4. Liz says:

    Additional suggestions:
    Have cupcakes instead of a wedding cake. For my daugther’s wedding we served cupcakes and had a small wedding cake for them to cut. I got the cupcakes at Walmart and paid $43 for 105 cupcakes. I had so many people comment on how nice it was.
    For my son’s wedding the bridesmaids dresses came from a department store and were bought at the end of the prom season. The dresses were $29/each.
    Instead of a formal dinner have a buffet and serve appetizers. They are usually less expensive and you can have a great variation of food.
    With some thought and ingenuity a wedding can be economical and beautiful.

  5. Chelsey says:

    My fiance and I are getting married in April 2009, and our budget is $5,000. We feel that’s incredibly reasonable. My parents are giving us $3,500 and we’re using $1,500 of our own money. It is difficult, though, because of the wedding industrial complex, to find frugal ways to save. This article was especially timely!

  6. SteveJ says:

    These are great tips. We definitely saved a bundle on food by going with the family-owned restaurant and the food was fabulous. They even set aside nice meals for us to enjoy after the wedding, since many couples don’t have time to eat at the reception.

    The best advice I can give is that you won’t remember much of the wedding itself. It’s a blur of smiling and camera flashing. I know I only had eyes for my bride. With that in mind, it’s silly to go all out on anything. So far brides always ignore this advice but two years later they agree, you just don’t remember what the table settings looked like at the reception, how many flowers were in the bridesmaid’s boquet, etc.

  7. Lisa says:

    When my daughter got married I found that if something was labeled for a “wedding”, it cost more. I found white and silver decorations, and found things at the Dollar Tree, Oriental Trading Company, places like that that were really nice. I don’t like cheap looking stuff, and you couldn’t tell it was inexpensive.
    I also bought some silk floral arrangements from a friend who had recently married and was selling her wedding decorations.

  8. Char says:

    I have been married to the most wonderful man on earth for 20 years and we did so many of the things you suggest. It was about the only smart financial decision we made in the first 10 years of marriage but we are told all these years later that our wedding was one of the very best. My husband was a musician (quite well known at the time) and so our(no, his) circle of friends expanded WAAAAY out, so we made a deal. We could only put a person on the list that we could actually say “I love you” to their face. It was obviously different kinds of love but it meant the aunts and uncles who had been active in our lives were invited and the ones who weren’t, were not. We made sure that our parents understood this decision and were okay with it and that everyone clearly understood so that we didn’t hurt anyone. Honestly, the people who are related but hadn’t seen us (or written to us or sent a Christmas card) in 20 years had to be thankful that they didn’t waste a day and money on gifts and the people that were there loved us so much that they would have been no where on earth but there with us. It was the most lovely day, with only 50 adult guests and their children, all were asked to stand around the alter, encircling us and holding hands as we exchanged vows,there was not a dry eye in the church. We had planned the reception outside but the weather was horrible so the owners of our apartment building cleaned and decorated the building’s “party room” which only worked because our group was so small. The other blessing about such a small group was that my husband and I were able to get to each and every person and really “be” with our guests. I have been to many weddings were a wink as they passed by was my only connection to the bride and the groom. We also used my sister the journalist for pictures, they were much more personal than most pro photograghers. Each of us only had one sibling as a witness so they were able to pick out what they wanted to wear, my sister picked out a dress that looked beautiful on her figure and shape and that she continued to wear for years later and my husband and brother in law rented tuxes that looked wonderful for the tall slim frames that run in their family. It turned out wonderful and inexpensive and was truly the most special day to start a lifetime with the person you love supported by the people who you truly love.

  9. china says:

    i got married last easter at a local summer camp. it was seriously on the cheap, we did it like a family reunion potluck so instead of gifts people brought food and paper plates and soda. it was even cheaper because my dad’s a jewler and he made the rings, my mom is a seamstress and she made the dress and suit, my mother in law took care of the decorations.
    i think the whole thing may have cost $1000 if you don’t count the gold for the rings.

  10. Anastasia says:

    My husband and I had an intimate wedding almost 5 years ago. It worked out for us financially, but it also turned the day into a wonderful event with our closest friends and family.

    My husband and I did not want a circus for a wedding. We wanted to get married and to celebrate with the people who meant the most to us. And that’s what we got :)

  11. BM says:

    I made the mistake of going crazy with wedding expenses. I paid for all the wedding expense and honeymoon from my savings and then some from credit cards. My biggest mistake was refusing financial help from my father and father-in-law out of pride. Two weeks later, I got laid-off from my job. It took me another 8 months to get a job with decent pay. In between, I did odd jobs, educated myself , did volunteer work to gain experience . My wife had her own financial difficulties that i was not aware of before the wedding . The only silver lining was that this experience changed me in many ways and made me the frugal person that I am today

  12. beloml says:

    Another good idea is to get married on a day other than Saturday. Most event venues and vendors charge much less for off-peak times.

  13. femmeknitzi says:

    My fiance and I got engaged over Thanksgiving this year and we’re also looking at Spring 2010 for our wedding.

    Knowing how quickly locations book up, I’ve been starting to plan already (much to his chagrin!).

    He wants to have the wedding at his grandmother’s house in the country so my first stop was to price rentals. So far, it looks like the cost of renting chairs and tables, let alone a tent (one tent can often cost more than our total budget!) is going to be far more expensive than simply choosing a location that has everything included.

    So I’m not sure that having the event at home is always going to be cheaper. I guess it just depends on the type of event you want to have. I wonder if anyone else has experienced with this?

  14. robyn says:

    some other ways to save?

    * if you have to provide your own place settings/linens, head to the thrift store. you can pick stuff up very cheaply, add a bohemian flair to the day, and save a ton!

    * buy a dress that’s not a “wedding” dress. stores have white dresses for sale all the time that are super cheap, much less expensive than an actual “wedding” dress.

    * make your own flowers. i’m actually doing this one myself! i found a simple crochet pattern, and am using yarn in our wedding colors to make flowers. it’ll cost me less than $100, and the bouquets will be totally personal. bonus? when the day’s done, we’re going to donate all the bouquets.

    * have your reception be cocktails only, and at a non-dinner hour. this will cut your reception costs almost in half to not provide a full meal for guests. you can also do more of it yourself this way.

    also? there’s tons of great blogs out there, written by brides who planned their weddings on budgets from 10k to even 2k. do a simple google search to find the mother-load!

  15. Meg says:

    Calling the local university is a great way to get musicians. It also really helps out the students. My boyfriend is a piano student in our college’s conservatory. He’s always happy to play gigs for people’s events because it pays better than the minimum wage he can make on campus jobs.

  16. Scotty says:

    I agree, these are all good points, to add some thoughts:

    – I recently got married. Venues/Receptions are pretty much then biggest expense. Hotel-based venues are widly overpriced. We found a nice little modern and trendy art gallery cafe that was just awesome, served extremely high quality food, and was way cheaper than a basic hotel reception. You might not necessarily want to do a backyard thing, but definately look beyond a hotel. Plus, it was finger food that was served by the time the guests arrived at the venue. Pretty much every guest personally thanked us for not having to wait hours upon hours (see below) to eat. People could eat, come and go at their pace.

    – We made our own invitations. For about $80 in stationary and $20 in toner, we did the exact same thing that a printing company wanted $500 for. Unless you really need/want raised ink and other fancy stuff, modern printers (even basic little home ones) are plenty sufficient. You can buy yourself a color laser PLUS a full set of spare toner for under $500.

    – I put out an ad for a photographer. We knew a true pro who does good work, but charged an arm and a leg (packages ‘starting’ at $2500, without prints). We found some good guys who were ‘professional amatuers’ who did an amazing job for $800, and gave us a DVD of all the originals. Costco and WalMart want about $1 per 8×10, whereas the ‘pros’ will charge you anywhere between $40 and $100 per print. There’s a lot of these ‘professional amatuers’ or ‘amatuer professionals’ who do good work for very little compared to a full-on pro. They even had all the proper equipment, not just a DSLR and a tripod.

    – There’s nothing worse than making your guests wait, and wait, and wait. My one pet peeve with weddings is all the waiting. Ceremony – wait 2 hours. Get to the reception. Wait an hour. Start drinks. Wait an hour. Bridal party arrives. Wait. Speeches. Wait. Wait. Finally eat. Wait. More speeches (which usually dont mean that much to 90% of your guests). Wait. Wait some more. Party a bit. Wait some more. Finally leave.

  17. Marsha says:

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned just to get married at city hall – or a micro-wedding with only a minister and witnesses.

    I’ve been married twice, and both times were before the “wedding industrial complex” (as Chelsey so aptly called it) developed. 1st wedding was in a public park with about 10 people – then we had a potluck reception at our home. All our friends were broke college students, so they were fine with potluck — and not dressing up.

    2nd wedding was at a church, maybe 25 people attended – then we had a low-key reception at our home.

    Both times, I sewed my own dress – each time the cost of the dress was less than $80.

  18. Stacey says:

    Try a brunch or lunch. We were able to host 120 guests at a nice sitdown lunch for less than $1,000 – with the stipulation that we were gone by 4 p.m., so they could set up for a second reception. My family is very large, and it was important to us that we invite the entire family. I think the entire event, including food, dress, flowers, was about $1,600 in 2007.

    Think of what is important to you – music, flowers, reception. If the music isn’t important, use an mp3 player. If you could care less about the cake, have cupcakes. Focus on what is most important to you, and spend the bulk of your budget on those items.

    I’m just a bit concerned that you want to invite 6-8 people. If that’s what you really want, go for it! But sit down with your husband and families to discuss this – you may hurt a lot of people, who want to wish you good luck as you start your new life together. Ultimately it’s your decision though, and you have to do what’s best for you. If it’s just 10 people, why not get married in a public park (free) and then have a nice lunch or dinner afterwards? Skip the frills ($1,000 dress, centerpieces) and focus on being yourself.

  19. Our wedding was fairly low budget. My wife and I agreed that we wouldn’t get ourselves into serious debt for one special day. Now that I look back on it I am glad we did. Our wedding was a hit with our friends, and we didn’t start off our lives together in debt. Here are some other tips:

    1. Student or Friend photographer, and put disposable cameras on the tables. Some of our favorite pictures were taken by our guests.

    2. Ipod DJ

    3. Supply beer and wine only, cocktail can be purchased at the bar.

    4. Have a family member or friend become an ordained minister to preform the ceremony.

    5. Have an assortment of different flavored cheese cakes or pies instead of a wedding cake.

    -Dan Malone-

  20. K says:

    If you are really inviting only 4-6 people and follow these tips, your wedding will be very inexpensive, less than $1000. I would encourage you to choose an outdoor venue that is meaningful to you (woods, beach) or a family home. If you have some more money to spend, you may want to take the opportunity to do something really special. Several years after we got married, we visited a resort in the caribbean and found out that if you spend a week there, they will include a wedding for free. Our trip was less than $2500 for the 2 of us including all meals, entertainment, and airfare. Your family may be willing to pay for their own “vacation” to attend the wedding, or you can add that to the budget and have a very memorable time.

    If you want a traditional bigger wedding, you can still do it very inexpensively. We spent about $2000 on ours for 200 people. We held it at a fire hall and got a family owned restaraunt for the catering which helped a lot ($300 for hall plus $6 per person).

  21. Sarah says:

    Tip #9 seems tacky. I think it would look nicer if you placed the vendor cards outside the reception area possibly near the guestbook. At the receptions I’ve been to the tables were always amazingly decorated. I think a list of vendors at the table would have taken away from the beauty of the decorations.

  22. matt @ Thrive says:

    A friend of mine always used to recommend a book on how to get things cheaper called The Bargaining Bride. Very funny, an easy read, and written by two psychologists who are experts at negotiation.


  23. MsEllenT says:

    Way to have a tacky wedding.

    If you’re having less than 10 guests, these cost-cutting measures really make no difference. Reserve a table or room at a nice restaurant and have your “reception” there; for such a small group renting a venue is a big waste of money and space.

    For larger groups, however, I like how Trent suggests that family and friends be involved in planning (read: decorate the hall, play chauffer, shell out for wedding wear even if it is on sale), and then give them … a book. Sure, give them something hard they can knock the bride and groom over the head with. The best gift for family and friends from an engaged couple is to NOT involve them. Ask them not to lift a finger. Ask them to wear a nice outfit from their closet rather than spend hundreds on something new they will only wear once. Ask them to just show up the day of and have a good time. That’s a priceless, stress-free gift that can’t be beat.

    As for the DJ, as the wife of a wedding DJ I can tell you if your group is large enough for a dance, DO NOT USE YOUR HOME STEREO SYSTEM AND COUSIN CODY. No one will dance ’cause the music will be undanceable. DJs do more than just play various CDs. They play MC, they read the crowd, they know how to properly mix sets of songs to keep the dance floor filled. I’ve been to weddings where a “family friend” has rented second-rate equipment and tried to play DJ. Everyone leaves early when this happens, for multiple reasons (as multiple things are wrong with using an amateur).

    Other lessons learned:

    – Do not skimp on what is most important to you. If amazing photos are number one for you, spend the money on a professional, not someone studying to be a professional (personal lesson learned). If food is most important, forget the small family restaurant and approach places whose menus suit you and your guests.

    – Hold as much of your wedding in one venue as possible; this will cut way down on costs. We had our ceremony, photos, dinner and reception in the same large room of an upscale hotel and saved a bundle. Plus we didn’t have to inconvenience our guests by asking them to shuttle from venue to venue, and no four-hour wait between events.

    – You don’t have to wear a big, poofy, strapless white gown to be a “bride.” Look in upscale dress shops or even consignment shops with formal/dressy wear. You’d be surprised what you can find, and guests will remember how smashing you looked (as opposed to resembling every other bride in the western world).

  24. Sean says:

    My wife and I did not have a small wedding, but we managed to limit the numbers and the cost a couple of ways:

    1. We got married in a location that was limited to 125 people max. Not our decision, that was the venues decision. This sounds like a lot of people but our list, due to parental requests, was much larger before we told them that we were limited by the venue.

    2. We had a breakfast wedding as we both love breakfast and it was much cheaper. The cost per plate was half, the cost of the restaurant was $8000 cheaper than a dinner, and there was no alcohol needed.

    3. My wife had a wedding dress, but we skipped all the tuxedos and bridesmaid dresses. Instead my best men wore dress pants and shirts, and the bridesmaids wore capris and dressy tank tops. Because it was all clothing they could wear again they split the cost with us 50/50.

    4. We had cupcakes instead of wedding cake, and instead of going to a fancy baker we tested out various grocery store bakeries and found excellent cupcakes at one of them for a fraction of the cost.

    5. We designed and ordered our invitations online which was way cheaper than doing it from the local stores.

    6. We allowed our wedding photographer to try out some new technology when making our wedding album so got it at cost without paying any creative fees. We also got a discount by allowing him to use our wedding album as a sample to show other couples.

    7. My wife wore flip flops instead of fancy shoes. Most wedding dresses are so long you cannot see the footwear, so we didn’t understand why people spent so much money on the shoes.

    8. We had both a registry (for traditional people who insisted) but we also just opened an account at a store where we needed a big ticket item. Instead of gifts people had the option of putting money towards this big ticket item. This wasn’t a direct savings on the wedding, but instead of getting a bunch of stuff we didn’t need, we ended up getting one thing we really did need.

    Weddings can be done frugally, without being cheap. Most of our friends still talk about how unique and interesting our wedding was.

  25. Adrienne says:

    My husband and I followed almost all of these tips when we were married seven years ago.

    I totally agree with the cheap, but meaningful honeymoon. We were scheduled to leave on our honeymoon on September 15, 2001 (4 days after 9/11). Because the airports were just reopening and flights were unreliable, we decided to drive. For $1500, we had an amazing two-week roadtrip from California to British Columbia (where we stayed for four days). The Canadian-U.S. exchange rate was very favorable. We stayed in a four-star hotel and ate like kings. We stayed in clean, cheap motels in places we didn’t care about seeing and stayed in nicer hotels in places we were interested in. It was great!

    Another tip: If you’re wedding is on the cusp of a new season, buy an off-season dress. My husband and I were married on Sept. 1st. The fall and winter dresses were $800-1200, but my dress from the spring collection was less than $200.

  26. Julie says:

    Elope at City Hall. Bring the 6-8 people if you want. Wear nice outfits. Bring your camera.

    Have a reception/dinner/party later. Bring your camera.

    It’s only a production if that’s what you want.

  27. liv says:

    everything sounds good, but the gift for your bridesmaids/groomsmen may very well depend on how much they had to spend to be a part of your wedding. spending up to several hundred dollars to rent a tux (or buy a dress) and possibly have to travel (like by plane) should somewhat be a factor in what you give them. spending like $20 bucks on a sentimental book is nice, but i think that if they spent like $500 to fly and be a part of your wedding, throw your shower, and your bachelor/ette party, then a book doesn’t solely cut it.

    that sounds materialistic, but i would feel horrible asking friends to spend all their money and then give them just a book, no matter how sentimental it is. i mean, they’d probably accept it, but i’m more than sure it’d be in the back of all their (and my) minds.

    if they are in town though, then maybe a book. it really is to scale personally and can be subjective…

    maybe if you eliminate the bridal party participants, you could scratch the gift altogether and save that way! :P

  28. Beth says:

    Don’t buy a “wedding” dress. I went department store shopping in May (go during spring/summer when the stores will have lots of white dresses) and got a beautiful dress for $230. I love it, it’s totally my style, it has straps (try finding that at a bridal boutique) and I can wear it again.

  29. Alisha says:

    A few other ideas–

    I made my own wedding dress. Some of my friends had theirs made by a local seamstress for WAY less than anything at David’s Bridal, and they got to have it designed especially for them.

    One other tip is that state parks will rent you a little cabin for cheap. That’s what my husband and I did for our vacation. Since it was in the spring, when schools were still in session, we had the whole place to ourselves. It was great!

    Don’t pick “wedding colors” if you can help it. Having a multicolored wedding gives you way more flexibility in terms of flowers and decorations. Plus, it looks less like every other wedding ever.

    My husband and I had our parents stand up with us instead of having a bevy of attendants. We did this because it meant a lot to us to have them there with us, but we realized later that we probably saved money by doing that.

    Lastly, my parents’ friends all brought flowers from their gardens. My husband’s sisters helped me arrange all of them.

  30. Caitlan says:

    I think #9 is a little tacky.

  31. Johanna says:

    I just got married last week (11/29) and we used a lot of these tips ourselves. Here are a few things we did to attempt to be frugal and keep the cost down:

    -We used Christmas ornaments in the centerpieces (instead of flowers) and asked guests to take them home as favors. I bought all of the ornaments the day after Christmas last year for 50-75% off from stores like Michaels, Target, etc. That saved a ton and was really pretty. Our colors were gold, brown and copper so all of the ornaments were those colors (some decorated, some not).

    -We used a lot of candles, which are much cheaper than flowers and add a romantic feel. We bought all of the candles and vases we used at IKEA.

    -We bought our flowers online at fiftyflowers.com and assembled the bouquets and everything else ourselves. This company sent beautiful flowers and had great service but there are many other online flower companies so shop around for the type of flowers you want.

    -We had a few people chip in and hire our ceremony musicians for us, which was really sweet and saved us a few hundred dollars.

    -We had a long engagement and saved up for 2 years. We now have no debt from the wedding and even have a $500 surplus from our wedding savings. If you can, give yourselves time to save.

    -We did all of the paper things ourselves. We designed and printed the invitations, programs and all of the other little things we had around. Michaels and Target have great templates too!

    -We really shopped around for vendors and tried to find people who we would be happy with but could also afford. If you can do any of it yourself that’s really where you’ll save the most in my opinion!

    -Someone offered their backyard to us but by the time you rent everything you need the cost really gets up there. We found a really nice community center in a beautiful part of town and used it. If you go to the places that specialize in weddings you’ll really end up paying a lot. You’ll save a lot if you avoid these places.

    Set a budget early and be creative! This will help you determine what you can afford and keep you from getting your hopes up if you fall in love with something and decide you must have it.

    Good luck!

    ~ Johanna

  32. ClayLuvGod says:

    Great advice. There is no reason to go crazy with spending. I recently attended a wedding that put so much effort into decor, it lacked substance and coordination, which in my opinion is way more important. Here is how we saved a fortune on our wedding:
    – We only invited close friends and family; not every acquaintance and their dog.
    – We got lots of help from friends: my sunday school teacher was our Wedding Planner, because she had done it before and was unbelievable sweet; my best friend performed the ceremony and since he had just gotten his certificate of ministry, he was happy to get started; a friend was happy to play and sing a song during the ceremony; another friend worked sound.
    – After searching for a church with a middle aisle and finding no luck reserving one, we settled on my home church with no middle aisle. Fortunately, it didn’t effect the ceremony one bit and the church offered the building for two nights for $25.
    – We had a very casual and fun rehersal dinner at the church: hot dogs. My best friend’s father owns a fantastic hot dog restaurant and we asked him to cater for us. He agreed and, on top of that, offered the food as a wedding present free of charge. We asked another family-owned restaurant to cater the reception and they gave us a huge discount and even sent someone over to help us out.
    – We made our own invitations and programs. I never saw the point in spending hundreds of dollars on invitations to even more expensive events.
    – This was beyond our control, because the church did not allow dancing, but our reception was music-free. That saved a bit of money and frustration.
    – We also borrowed a lot of table decorations from friends who had gotten married and wasn’t going to use them. We also used the large salad as makeshift centerpieces, which saved space and money.
    – My wife spent a lot on her dress, but us guys got our tuxs from Men’s Warehouse Tux, which gave a 20% discount when they signed up for a Tux Card and I got mine free after 4 groomsmen got their tux from there too.
    – We honeymooned at my Aunt and Uncle’s Florida home while they were in North Carolina. It was tucked into a retirement community, but it was quiet and had a pool… couldn’t have been better.

    The best advice I would have for people is: Include people who are close to you to do things as favors instead of giving gifts and be minimal and fancy. You don’t need thousands of dollars worth of things to make it memorable, sometimes that will just add clutter and frustration.

  33. Jessica says:

    When I got married we had a total of 25 people (all immediate family and very close friends). We got married and had the reception in my parents backyard. My husband baked our cake, my mother-in-law arranged the flowers and everyone helped decorate with inexpensive white Christmas lights (bought on sale after the previous Christmas).

    I was a lovely homemade wedding. The only thing I spent any money on was the photography. We were lucky to have a friend who used to be a professional photographer take the pictures for free and give us the film. The biggest expense was getting them developed and retouched (this was before the digital age).

  34. Matt says:

    I made the mistake of going crazy with wedding expenses. I paid for all the wedding expense and honeymoon from my savings and then some from credit cards. My biggest mistake was refusing financial help from my father and father-in-law out of pride. Two weeks later, I got laid-off from my job. It took me another 8 months to get a job with decent pay. In between, I did odd jobs, educated myself , did volunteer work to gain experience . My wife had her own financial difficulties that i was not aware of before the wedding . The only silver lining was that this experience changed me in many ways and made me the frugal person that I am today

  35. Shannon says:

    Here are some things we did to cut down on wedding costs:

    1. We didn’t hire any photographer. Everyone has a digital camera these days, most of which take fantastic photos. We asked all of our friends/family with cameras to please snap as many as they wanted and send them to us. We ended up with a dozen discs of formal and, more fun, candid shots, for free! As I was too busy playing bride, this is the way I got to see how much fun the wedding was! Then we put them all up on Flickr.

    2. I went to http://www.indiebride.com for frugal planning tips. Check it out.

    3. We had about 75 guests but decided to not serve a dinner to save on cost. We had nothing but appetizers. Our guests snacked for an hour or so, then we had the ceremony, then they kept snacking & drinking for as long as they wanted to stay afterwards. No table placement hassle, no fuss, enjoyed by all!

    4. Since our wedding was so informal tradition-wise, we had no rehearsal dinner. We tried to cut out as much of the industry “mainstays” as we could. Then again, we are lucky to have family that did not expect anything formal or traditional from us. This may not work for everyone.

  36. sbt says:

    I just want to throw in a caution about outdoor ceremonies and receptions. That might work fine in Southern California, but here in the Midwest, where I live, you can never count on the weather. My sister’s outdoor reception in June was ruined by high winds that blew over tables, blew paper plates with food on them everywhere, and generally created a disaster area. Most people went home. And as someone else pointed out, by the time you rent tables, chairs, a tent and all that, you may as well have planned an indoor venue.

    While many churches have reverted to “members only” policies on weddings, many will still allow non-members to be married there for a very reasonable fee. Just don’t expect them to simply rent you the building. No responsible minister allows a wedding without their oversight, generally performing or participating in the ceremony, and doing some pre-marital counseling with the couple. This is to ensure that the couple understands the religious significance of a church wedding, and to try to give them some tools that will help them in the marriage. The wedding is only a day. The marriage is a lifetime.

  37. roscoe says:

    Timing the wedding is also important. If you have a 3 p.m. ceremony and a 7 p.m. dance, the guests have a right to expect that you will provide them dinner between those two things. This is VERY EXPENSIVE. My friend’s daughter recently had a lovely and frugal wedding. In addition to many of the things you suggested, they planned the wedding for 7 p.m. with a reception and dance following. They had a nice selection of hors devours, hot and cold, but not the expense of a full blown dinner.

  38. DivaJean says:

    Trent, our weddings sounds very similar in their frugality. From the get go, the main thing is to keep focused on the plan of starting a life together– not just a one day party.

    My wedding was 15 years ago- and we did many things just as you and yours. My partner proposed on Christmas and we wanted to be married by the following August. Back then, lesbian weddings were a rarity.

    Cutting down on guests was not the easiest thing for us. Ultimately, we did not invite family members who we knew would not honor us or would have difficult issues with any aspects of it. This meant that my right wing father- whom I haven’t been all that close with for MANY years- wasn’t invited– but my mom & stepfather who were thrilled to see me celebrate with my partner– were. However, we also had many MANY supportive friends and co-workers who wanted to be involved. The grand tally was over 150.

    We only had our own money to pay for the wedding. ALthough our families were supportive, on some level, they didn’t want to shell out money for a wedding that didn’t “mean something.” (Since then, regrets abound- and we got cold hard cash from both sides– equal to what they paid out to siblings weddings). I made my dress w/ the help of my mom. A friend who completed the Wilton cake courses gave us our wedding cake instead of a gift. Another friend played the church organ for the ceremony.

    I definately agree that a professional DJ is a must if you really think you want to have dancing and all that. We hired one and made sure the music was OUR music– not canned wedding chestnuts that everyone is sick to death of. (One of my best memories is me, my friends, and family grooving to “I Am What I Am” sung by Gloria Gaynor)

    We took months gathering all the doodads on sale- the silk flowers, the candles, table runners, etc for the church reception hall. We were able to obtain lots of great stuff from another couple who used the same color theme as us (lavendar and dark purple). (True story- I saved all the cloth table runners, silk flower arrangements, etc. Recently on Freecycle, another couple with the same colors was looking for anything in their color theme for weddings— so I passed it all on. It made more sense for the stuff to see the light of day once more, rather than languish in a plastic bin coffin in my basement. SO- Consider putting the call out on Freecycle for wedding chotchkes too- the couple I passed my stuff on to said they were getting plenty to work with!)

    We planned to make all the food ourselves- and did. We took the Thursday before our wedding and spent all day cooking- wonderful Italian insalates (non lettucey salads), meat trays for sandwiches, desserts, pickle trays– you name it. We had all summery foods and it was fabulous!

    The day before, we spent the afternoon decorating the church and the reception hall. We had local friends helping us. Our rehearsal dinner was just close family and the pastor at a nice restaurant.

    All told, we spent a whisker under $3000- all cash as we went along- including a week long reservation in Provincetown (but not our out of pocket on the honeymoon).

  39. roscoe says:

    I almost hate to mention this, but if you are willing to forgo the alcohol, there are advantages:
    1. Uncle Louie will not get drunk and pick a fight with Uncle Bob, again.
    2. No bar, no huge liquor expense, without looking cheap because you went with a cash bar. They might think you are a recovering alcoholic with a mission, but oh well.
    3. You will remember more of the reception if you’re not blotto.
    4. No hangovers in the morning.
    5. You can have the reception in the church basement. Sometimes even dancing, just no booze.

  40. Angela says:

    A few things that have not been mentioned. Historical sites… They usually cater to weddings and when I got married they were the cheapest option. Also the guest could come early and get in free and get to look around. Also consider not having alcohol, you can cut a lot of cost that way.

  41. Carrie says:

    Combine the wedding and the honeymoon and get married on the beach in Hawaii! The whole thing cost us $3000, and we have beautiful pictures. Our reception was at a Luau and it was the least stressful wedding I’ve ever been a part of. My family was more than happy to buy their plane tickets for a vacation instead of spending thousands on a single stressful day. If you want tons of people to share the event, plan a low-key barbeque for your return.

  42. Sharon says:

    I would be careful about limiting the size of your wedding so severely. If you are at least 500 miles away from most of your family, you might get away with that without hurt feelings, but not necessarily.

    I was not invited to my own brother’s wedding. It was a second wedding for both, and I understood they wanted to keep it small. I just never imagined that “only the immediate family” did not include any of the siblings! My mother was very embarrassed, because she had made a point very early of making sure we had the date open, and then had to call us to tell us we weren’t welcome. The only bright spot is that I didn’t have to buy a gift, and I have never felt obligated to send an anniversary card.

    I love my brother, and I haven’t let this destroy our relationship, but I was very hurt, and it still bothers me after years.

  43. darin says:

    People want to celebrate the wedding. That often means alcohol. Venue or not, the liquor tab is deadly.

    Sunday lunch is a good time to keep the liquor tab down. People have to work the next day, some people feel weird about getting sauced while its still light out, and anyone who drove up that extended drive won’t be able to drink.

    Also, the venue may force you to buy alcohol through them. You may be saving money by doing a lunch venue instead of dinner, but then lose that money through alcohol purchase. Find a personal venue that’s… personal – and won’t charge you for alcohol.

  44. Ro says:

    Number is tacky, as mentioned by prevoius posters. Also, I would make sure that the photographer knew his or her stuff, and would be willing to pay more for it, but that’s just me and my preferences.

  45. Ro says:

    I meant number 9…sorry!

  46. KC says:

    One way to save on booze is to only serve beer and wine. We also put a cap on what was spent. My parents paid for the wedding, but they capped the beer/wine at $1500 (10 years ago). I think only $800 was spent and that was for a large wedding with a reception that lasted 4 hours. Of course, this was in the bible belt south, so you could argue not as many people would drink as might in other areas of the country.

  47. TUXEDO ideas —

    When I was going to my high school prom, I was shocked that I would have to spend $100 to rent a “tuxedo” that looked just like the suit I wore to church (minus fancy tie). So I just rented a vest and tie to match my date’s dress for $20 and called it good.

    When I got married, I did a similar thing. It was time to buy a new suit anyway, so I got a nice (but relatively cheap) black suit and bought a tuxedo shirt and tie. Not every guy needs a tuxedo, but many of us need suits, and if you like black suits, you can make it look like a tuxedo for a much lower price than even renting one. And especially since we had a second reception in my hometown, owning everything made it easy.

  48. Ct says:

    I attended an outdoor, summer wedding, where the bridesmaids and groomsmen were not in formal wear, and they still looked great! The bridesmaids all had (matcching) light blue, simple linen dresses, and I think hats. These dresses could easily be worn at any future summer party, etc. The groomsmen were in khaki pants and light blue oxford-type shirts. Again, a wardrobe staple. This cuts down on the expenses for the wedding party, and in the right setting, still looks planned and coordinated.

    Another idea I wish I had thought of, and had the nerve to do it: Have a simple, small wedding at church or city hall, etc. Go out to eat or home for a meal afterwards with your (maybe 10?) guests/close family. Leave for your honeymoon and have a relaxing time.

    Then, about 6 weeks later, have the big party, the reception. Invite anyone who you want to celebrate this event with you and your spouse. Make it potluck, even. No need to dress formal, or, you could wear your wedding gear all over again, if you want a “second-use” out of it.

    This would eliminate much of the stress of the whole event – the wedding takes place, and then later, you have the opportunity for a party, where you are more likely to remember who was there, etc.

    No one I have ever mentioned this to has thought it was a good idea, though. ;) You never know…

  49. Kirsten C says:

    For my wedding, we ordered flowers online in bulk for a really good deal, and had some family members come over the day before and the morning of and cut and trim them for bouquets and such. It’s 6 months post-wedding, and while most of the day was a happy blur, one of my favorite lasting memories was watching my aunt and sisters quibble over making the boutonnieres look just right. (they were beautiful) Anyway, a great way to combine #5 and #16. :)

    My main advice would be if you do have a bit of money to spend then decide what’s REALLY important to you, “splurge” on that, and stay frugal everywhere else. For us we really wanted a loose party atmosphere at the reception, so we paid for a full bar. But then we went the ipod-DJ route, which honestly works great if the people who are really enjoying the music are a bit tipsy anyway. :) We put a spot for song recommendations on our RSVP cards, so everyone’s favorites got played.

  50. Brenda says:

    When my daughter got married a few years ago, we rented a bldg at the county fairgrounds for $75. We were able to hold both the wedding and reception there. We had a “desserts only” reception which kept our costs down.

  51. Camille says:

    Regarding the honeymoon, I totally agree that laid back and inexpensive is the way to go. My husband and I were married in late October last year, and we went to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. We rented a beachfront cottage, and because it was the off season, it cost a third of what it would have cost in the summer. It was too cold for swimming, but just fine for walking on the beach (and watching dolphins swim by)! We spent the week visiting parks and lighthouses and historical sites, and had a great time just being together.

  52. Johanna says:

    I think that 6-8 people might refer to the size of the wedding party, not the guest list.

  53. Kim says:

    We might win the prize for cheapest wedding. City Hall, Friday afternoon, a few close friends and family. Cost: $10 tip to the judge. Return On Investment: 25 years of happiness.

  54. Carrie says:

    There are lots of ways to save if you’re willing to let go of a traditional wedding.

    My husband and I were married 6 years ago, and spent less than $1500, clothes included.

    We had only close family and a few friends (our families are large, though – 13 sibilings between us, not including their spouses or children) for a total of about 40 people at our wedding. We opted for an afternoon wedding, had the reception at the same church where we had the ceremony, and did cake/punch/appetizers. My husband bought a suit instead of renting a tux, and we didn’t have any attendants in formal, purchased-only-for-the-occasion clothes.

    We have experienced photographers in our family who donated their skills, and friends who wanted to share their gifts of music. Family helped with the reception, but only because they volunteered, not because we asked.

    The best thing about our non-traditional wedding is that we both remember it very well – none of the wedding day blur many people talk about. We attribute it to cutting down on the extra stress from a more traditional wedding.

    Our style of wedding won’t work for everyone, but it’s at least worth exploring the possibilities!

    We spent about the same on our honeymoon trip – we hopped in the car, and spent 3 weeks driving around the country visiting places we’d never been.

    I wouldn’t trade our experience for anything!

  55. Jim says:

    Remember its YOUR wedding and you don’t have to do all the things that some people expect. If you choose you could do without things like serving alcohol, serving dinner, wearing a formal tux, music and dancing altogether. We had no alcohol at our wedding and the marriage contract is still legal.

    I’d recommend to decide for yourselves what is most important. If venue or food are important then spend more on those, but if photos are important then put your money there.

  56. Char says:

    2 people mention #9 as tacky – why? did the #9 change?

  57. Chris Clark says:

    I have been married about 6 months and we were able to spend about half of the “average” wedding cost on an engagement ring, ceremony, reception AND honeymoon in Costa Rica.

    Some major savings… we hired a family restaurant for catering – $5.95 per plate (and he supplied the plates!).
    We bought our cake, bouquets and corsages, some appetizers and champagne from a grocery store and then asked for a discount and delivery (and got both).
    We had the wedding at home in the backyard. We had to rent chairs but it was cheaper than a hall. We set up the chairs for the ceremony and then people carried them over to the tables to eat.
    We limited our wedding party to only one attendant each, which also allowed us to buy them relatively nice gifts – I got my maid of honor a nice charm bracelet with a few charms that she can add to later.
    My husband purchased a new suit that he can use for work and his best man wore a suit he already owned with a tie we purchased for him.
    I asked my mother and Aunts to contribute to the wedding by bringing tulle and decorations for the gazebo we built in our yard for the wedding (metal with a canvas roof bought on sale at Big Lots). This was ok as my parents were not already paying for the wedding so Mom was more than happy to chip in.
    We bought premade bouquets but bulk flowers for decorating tables. Costco and Sam’s have good options. We spent a few hundred dollars on flowers and our reception was covered in flowers – but that was important to me.
    Our reception decorations consisted of 6ft. rectangular tables covered with a long white tablecloth. Then, topped with vintage floral table cloths borrowed from friends and relatives (from the 40s and 50s) in all shades of red, white and blue. Lined along the center of the tables were flowers in tin cans saved by myself, my Grandma and my Aunt, tied with a blue bow.

    We got married at 11am and had lunch directly afterwards, so though we had beer available, people did not drink as much as they might have in the evening.

  58. Michael says:

    Your wedding guests are there to remember your wedding vows, not to share an intimate moment with you. That’s why cultures with some spirit left in them still invite the whole town, like Europeans/Americans used to do.

  59. Nancy says:

    Be careful when purchasing decorations etc ahead of time and be sure to check the stores return policy. Some will only except returns for the first 60 days after purchace so, if you are too far ahead make sure not to buy more than you need. If the bride goes a different direction you could also end up with lovely items going unused and the sale price becomes a big expense.

  60. Michelle says:

    Thanks for this list! My fiance and I are getting married in 2010 and being frugal is a huge part of this. We’re getting very little parental support and so being able to pay for all of it is integral. Also integral is being able to have a couple pricey aspects of it — we both really want to have it at a certain venue that requires us to have a food minimum, for example.

    There are lots of great tips in here. One thing we’ll be doing is having a ceremony and a separate reception at the same venue — since the spouse-elect is from PDX and I am not, the ceremony will be heavy on his extended family and friends, while our casual reception will feature a lot of our friends.

    The venue we want is just one of many owned by the same company. So we’ll be getting price quotes from a few of them so we can bargain effectively.

    We have a friend who is an amazing photographer, and there’s an online printing service I love.

    My coworker, who is a graphic designer for my company, has volunteered to design our save-the-date and wedding cards.

    The designer of my wedding dress is local and all of her creations are less than $200.

    Our rings are custom made from etsy and $200 for the set.

    One of our good mutual friends manages a wine bar; my housemate is going to make enough pate and mousse for 50 people.

    My sister is an ordained universal life church minister and has officiated multiple weddings — including mine!

    We still have almost two years of planning to go, and it’s so exciting to think of how every loved person in our shared life can contribute!

    One of the greatest things about getting married is seeing how well your lives mesh and how shared values can come together. I’m very excited about it.

    By the way — check out this amazing checklist from offbeatbride.com.

  61. SteveJ says:

    I remember a couple other ideas:

    My wife had her dress made by a Chinese seamstress (sent measurements got dress), for maybe $70 including shipping. So if you can’t sew it’s something to look at. She was sure to do it well in advance so if the dress was lousy she still could go to a plan B, but it was excellent.

    Friend as DJ is just fine in my book, either these people like you enough to enjoy your wedding or they’re showing up to judge you. Don’t invite the latter. One word of warning though, you might have someone glance over the playlist, apparently (again, I can’t remember anything, camera flashes, smiling, hugs, that’s it) Garth Brooks “Thunder Rolls” (a song about a cheating husband) was played, so our DJ was promptly fired and replaced by a savvy friend.

    I can’t believe people are bashing the book idea. I’ve been in a few weddings, I’ve gotten 3 money clips (woo), a flask (woo), and a reclining outdoor chair (by far my favorite). I’d love a meaningful book over some random engraved metal gift. I imagine it now: All your groomsmen will someday pull out that money clip at the same time as we go to pay the tab and stop to reminiscence about your wedding. Right.

  62. Jesse says:

    I don’t know how much they’re planning on spending, or even who the 6-8 people will be, but when WE (hubby and I) only had about that many people, we only had family. My sister was my bridesmaid, my hubby’s grandfather was his best man. Everyone wore suits (no renting tuxes here!), I wore my mom’s wedding dress, my sis wore a dress she had around, I had a small bouquet of flowers (and my sis had NONE, hubby had none either!), we didn’t cater or anything – just had some cake (homemade sheet cake) and some soda (and a bottle of champagne for us adults!). We played music out of a cd player that my MIL had (and two CDs that she had as well!), my aunt and hubby’s aunt both took pictures and video, and since I was deploying overseas at the time (national guard to kosovo), we only spent one night in the nearest city. Later, when we could afford it (and after I’d gotten back), we went to Disney World.

    Weddings (especially small ones) don’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Be creative! Have fun, and remember that the most important thing in the years to come will be the fact that you both stood up there and WANTED to be with the other forever. That is what you remember, whether it be a $1 million wedding, or a small justice-of-the-peace style in a suit and day dress. If you read this, good luck on your day, and I hope the best for you both!

  63. Battra92 says:

    #8 is technically illegal.

    Never skimp on the photographer if photos are at all important. I’ve had photos hung in an art gallery and I won’t take wedding photos for any price.

    Best way to save money: have a dry wedding. Seriously. You do not need alcohol and it only means someone will get tipsy and do something stupid and run up your bill.

    I’m most likely never getting married but if I did I would have a rather frugal one with almost no one there.

  64. kz says:

    One thing that I’m surprised wasn’t mentioned because (IMO) it seems like the most important way to keep costs down: draw up a budget.

    When the first thing my then-fiance and I did after the proposal was sit down and figure out approximately when we wanted to get married. When we had that, we figured out how much money per month we were willing to put toward the wedding and that determined our wedding budget. Though you couldn’t exactly call our wedding ‘frugal’ at $10k, it was money we were willing to spend and had in cash by the time we had to spend it. And knowing we only had that set amount meant we really paid attention to what things were important and what things were not important.

  65. The Other Michael says:

    I don’t get weddings (even after partly working my way through college as a caterer).

    *Brides/bridesmaids generally look ridiculous — like an 8-year-old dressed up for Halloween as a fairy princess (complete with taira!)
    *The concept of a “wedding party” is pointless, other than to encourage more spending. Why are some of your friends more important than others?
    *I don’t wear a tux to the opera or symphony or to funerals, why would I wear one to my wedding? Why would I demand that others do, too?
    *Expensive rings are pointless — does the type of metal somehow strengthen your bond?
    *Imagine how much better the world would be if every couple took the money they planned on spending on their wedding, and instead put it into their child’s education, or a down payment on their home.
    *Having attended dozens of weddings, I’ve never seen a DJ add anything of value. They can only hurt, especially now that good stereo equipment is trivial to borrow and operate.

    And on top of all this foolishness in the name a “tradition” that was manufactured by the wedding industry, you have about a 50% chance of someone puking or getting into a fistfight anyway, thus ruining your ‘special’ day.

    BTW- I got married on the beach in Belize for $300, including all paperwork and great food. Couldn’t have been more beautiful or special.

    I will agree with one previous poster — if you really feel the need to spend money in any area, make it the photographer (or 2!) Can’t tell you how many couples I’ve known who went the hire-a-friend route and were very, very sorry.

  66. Marcia says:

    A lot of good tips. I agree that you just have to decide what’s important to you. We didn’t have a particularly “frugal” wedding, but it was much less expensive than the typical wedding of the day (’96).

    We had our reception in a hotel. They can be reasonably priced. It depends on where you live. My friend recently got married here in So. Cal, and the cost of the rental and food for a hotel was MORE than going someplace else. And the rental fee for the location was $3500, then probably $7000 for the catering (food only, no alcohol). That’s more than my whole wedding!

    But I got married in DC, which is a very business-centric town. Back then, at least, hotels were giving a lot of deals for weekends – hotel stays, weddings, etc. There was no rental fee, food was reasonable, and they had a beautiful room with decorations free of charge (chandeliers were nice, and they put candles, holders, and mirrored circles on the tables).

    I can’t really speak for the DJ. Ours was good, but it really depends on how much your guests want to dance, if at all. Same with photography. Some amateurs take very good photos.

    And as far as compensating your bridal party…seriously. It’s not about that. Just as it’s not about having a gift be the same price as the price per person. I was recently a bridesmaid. I spent about $700, and it was IN TOWN. By the time you add in dress, alterations, shoes, hair, makeup, etc. I did it because it was one of my very best friends in the world (and I can afford it). Bare bones, I could have gotten by with $160 for the dress and shoes, and altered the dress myself.

    I’ve certainly spend more than that a few times when traveling to out-of-town ceremonies.

    It helps to be flexible too. My DJ went to the wrong hotel (no, it’s the Hilton at NATIONAL airport, not Dulles!) so I got an extra hour out of him at the end.

  67. Lisa I says:

    We had a small wedding on the order of what Angela is talking about. Ten people, total. We were married in a public botanical garden–during an orchid show! They did not charge us at all (we did give them a small donation). My “dress” was a lovely Easter suit I picked up after Easter and my husband wore his military uniform. My photography was done by my parents and the Maid of Honor and was given to us as a wedding gift. The reception was held at a local restaurant our friend managed. Total cost–less than $500 including the reception and cake!

    We always thought we would go back and renew our vows some day with a big lavish affair but 11 years on, we are happier that we did it the way we did. It was very special and hassle-free.

  68. leslie says:

    I kind of have an issue with #9 too. Mostly because it seems kind of “this wedding brought to you by…”. Also, I find it highly unlikely that most vendors would actually be willing to do a discount for mention on a vendor card except on very rare occasions.

  69. Carrie says:

    If you are looking to have an alcohol free wedding go for the city park option. We were married at a “Heritage Village” city park with old buildings and a beautiful little country church. Since it was city property no alcohol allowed. The 11am start time helped with any possible weirdness at no champagne.

  70. Robin says:

    Amazing post, thank you! I’m in the same case as “Angela” – my fiance and I want a great frugal wedding, and I’m willing to be a little off beat, but its so hard with the “wedding industrial complex”! Thanks for another terrific and timely post. :-D

  71. Hey Trent:

    Trent here.

    There’s a couple people whose comments amount to: Choose what is important, and don’t skimp on them. Battra92 (who is currently the comment above me, but there are bound to be more by the time I finish) says “Never skimp on the photographer if photos are at all important to you.”

    I made this mistake; I look back on my wedding pictures, which were taken by brother in law and cringe. While they capture what happened that day, they are pretty bland. Boring. Nothing in there that I’d put on my wall. It was partially because of that experience that I got into wedding photography myself.

    I’m not going to say that everyone needs to hire a professional wedding photographer (though it would be nice, and I know a few I could recommend….) But for people it is important to, be willing to invest in that.

    For some people, photography isn’t important. That’s okay. But you need to determine what is important to you. If having a puffy white dress is important, be willing to spend money on that. But if it isn’t, don’t be afraid to do something different. I had friends get married; she in a simple frock, he in a purple suit. At my wedding, we didn’t have a dance, because I don’t dance. But I am a musician, and we had a concert featuring some of my friend’s bands, just for fun.

    A great site to go for ideas and inspiration is www,offbeatbride.com. Not necessarily frugal wedding tips (though there are some), but it is a good site for people who are looking for their wedding to be an extension of their own personality.

    I, too, have issues with point #9 as being tacky, and that is speaking as a wedding photographer.

    Besides, I don’t know how many photographers at least would take you up on it. Most people who are looking for a photographer or a DJ or a videoographer will usually approach that person directly. It might work for cake makers and florists, though. I can’t see a lot of photogs taking you up on that deal.

    However, what *I* do as a photographer (and I am may be unique in the industry doing this) is I honour word of mouth advertising. 10% of my income is earmarked for promotion and advertising. So if you, the bride-to-be, tell someone about what an awesome photographer I am (Greatest Living Photographer, according to Google…), and they book me for their wedding, I will give that 10% to you. Find five friends who are getting married, you’ll save about 50% on your wedding photos. Find 10 friends who are getting married…well, you get the picture.

    Ultimately, the wedding shouldn’t be about the pomp and ceremony, about the fancy dress and pretty flowers. While these are nice, they are just trappings. At the heart of it all is a public declaration of love between two people. As long as that is always front and centre, how you dress it up doesn’t really matter.

    …as long as you have some great pictures…

  72. J says:

    I want more explanation as to why #8 is “technically illegal” …

    Anyway, another way to reduce expenses is to NOT have your wedding in a big metro area if at all possible. NYC, Boston, LA, San Fran — they see you coming with dollar signs on your face.

    Also, making up a list of priorities with your future spouse can be a great way to figure out the spending.

    But overall, have the wedding YOU want, don’t buy into the crap advice from the wedding industry, that “an average wedding will run $XXK”.

  73. Catherine says:

    I would recommend having a mid-afternoon wedding to cut the costs of providing food, which my husband and I did at our wedding in October. We spent several hundred dollars on ingredients for dishes we prepared ourselves (sandwich wraps, fruit salad, prosciutto-melon balls, etc) and the guests loved the casual, buffet-style setup. We also opted for 4 kinds of locally made ice cream with toppings for a make-your-own sundae instead of expensive cake. We also had an “after party” at a bar several hours after the reception ended. Not only was it an almost-free gathering, it gave us a chance to socialize with people. I barely remember the reception (it was such a whirlwind!) so I’m especially grateful for the laid-back after party.

  74. momof4 says:

    I’ve worked many bridal shows as a vendor and EVERYONE wants a discount! Large numbers of people present sob stories about how they have no money and so they want everyone to sponsor the wedding in exchange for advertising.

    The big wedding industry type weddings are completely overrated. Some of the best weddings I’ve been to had homemade food, made in advance and stored and served with the help of friends. I thought that potted geraniums were the prettiest wedding table decor I’ve seen and those we’re done by the bride and her sister.

    I took my bridesmaids to the mall, told them to find a calf length dress in a dark color that they could agree on. They were thrilled and purchased a dress that looked good on all of them that was under $80, no alterations. i wore my mom’s dress.

    get married in a church a christmas time or right after easter and you will not need to decorate the church.

  75. Jade says:

    Years ago I watched my aunt stress out when she was a bridesmaid for her best friend’s wedding. All of the bridesmaids got into big ol fights, my aunt almost didn’t go to the wedding, and while the bride still comes to visit every Christmas and/or Thanksgiving I dunno if my aunt still talks to any of the other bridesmaids.

    Then there was the wedding of one of my childhood friends. Our parents have been close for decades, so even though I hate weddings I kinda had to go. $30,000 wedding, and I barely had time to say hi to the bride or meet the groom. I had a lot more fun and got to spend a lot more time with the couple 2 years later on a $200 camping trip. We would have gone camping 2 months after the wedding rather than 2 years later, but they couldn’t afford the camping trip then because they were still paying for the wedding. I really hope my friend’s sister does not have a big wedding… I hate weddings…

    I’m not even sure I’ll ever get married, but if I do I’m going to do it like my aunt and uncle did, or like my boyfriend’s parents did. Wedding at City Hall. No big fancy dress (I don’t even want to wear a dress, a nice top and pants would be fine for me). Wedding will either be in Vegas or Reno or in my hometown with a few close friends and family coming along to City Hall and then dinner at a nice but not too fancy restaurant.

    The only thing I would do differently… Bachelorette party in Vegas with my 2 closest friends! I’m thinking of flying to Vegas and spending a night in a penthouse suite at the Bellagio… My bachelorette party will probably cost more than the wedding! But I’d rather spend the money having a great time living like queens for a night or two with my 2 best friends than on some big ol’ wedding when I hate weddings and my family will probably insist on inviting some people that I really don’t want to see on MY special day (or on any day for that matter!).

  76. Tara says:

    I totally agree on buying a nice black suit for the groom. Actually, we found a Bill Blass tuxedo at the Nordstrom’s Rack discount store for $250. It was a great lifetime investment for my husband since a rental runs $150-$175. Rent one twice in your lifetime and you’ve already come out ahead by buying one at a discount store.

  77. Jade says:

    Oh wait, I almost forgot. I would consent to a small wedding and invite any of my close friends or family who would be willing to pay their own way to Vegas if the wedding would be at the Star Trek Experience.

    Unfortunately, they closed the Star Trek Experience in September… But there is some talk of it reopening downtown. So yes, I would consent to a small wedding at a place other than City Hall, if it were at the Star Trek Experience and officiated by a Klingon or something like that. Now *that* is a wedding I would skip the bachelorette party and pay $5,000 for!

    But my boyfriend isn’t a Star Trek fan, so he’ll just show up and ask “Where’s the Wookie?”. I wonder if I could convince him to do a drive thru wedding…

    Okay, so I’ll do a wedding at someplace besides City Hall, it just has to be weird and cheap (but I’ll pay a bit more if it’s really weird).

  78. Jen says:

    I am also planning a wedding and trying to incorporate frugal choices. There are lots of great bride-to-bride resale websites out there, including Bravo Bride, Once Wed, Wore it Once, etc where you can find pre-owned wedding dresses, bridesmaid dresses, and other wedding items. And I second the recommendation for Indiebride.com! (I’m an addict myself…)

  79. Ann Marie says:

    Forget Michael’s, totally overpriced and a limited selection. Hobby Lobby is cheaper already, plus they have regular 50% off sales! They may not have coupons in the paper every week, but they have them online, 40%, almost every week. So you can print as many as you want–they won’t let you use them all in the same transaction, but you can just keep going in every day (drag your fiancee along with you, you can each use one!) and get what you need for far less than M’s or Jo’s. I ::heart:: HL. :-) Don’t know Paper Warehouse.

  80. imelda says:

    Excuse my ignorance, but how are weddings at city parks free? Bryant Park? Central Park? I don’t think so.

    Can anyone clarify?

  81. pam munro says:

    Having gone through 2 frugal weddings – I agree with the above comments – mine were mostly DIY weddings but especially, at the 2nd one at home, I could have used HELP. Especially if you doi your own flowers, etc. The bride shouldn’t be the most stressed person there! If you aren’t artistic but have artistic friends, get their aid – as being artistic and ingenious is the key to a wedding on a budget. Look at the conventional options, see how many of those appeal to you, and then see how you can do it on the cheap. For example, I love those big bottles of champagne they have at French weddings – so we found a couple of big bottles at a discount wine store – but of sparking blanc de blanc – which is a lot less expensive (& anywhere else but France is considered to be champagne!)We also discovered a family cache of champagne flutes, so we didn’t have to use plastic glasses.

  82. MO says:

    We have 3 daughters!!! YIKES
    We did 2 $2,000 weddings so far.
    That’s 2,000 for EVERYTHING!
    We had about 220 guests at one wedding and 150 at another.
    It’s possible!!

  83. Vanessa says:

    I love all these great comments!

    – it’s a great idea to have the ‘ladies committee’ at your place of worship help out, if applicable. For a donation of $200, they did a beautiful tea, complete with squares, sandwiches, sweets, drinks,for about 50 ++ guests while were were having photos done.

    – decorating the ceremony site with flowers my mom arranged was great and free!

    – cupcakes and icecream took the place of a wedding cake AND dessert.

    There are a ton of great tips out there, and lots of amazing and crafty things you can do. The wedding industry is heavily laden with guilt trips, judgmental comments, and overpriced, low quality wares delivered with awful customer service. Frugal or not, it’s nice to avoid the wedding crowd.

  84. Tim says:

    get married at the courthouse. have said 5-6 be witnesses and have a picnic or meal at your house or restaurant. you can always have a large(r) reception to renew vows down the road.

  85. Kelly says:

    Another take on #3 is to rent out a vacation house for the wedding or reception. Rent a giant place with a view and have the ceremony in the backyard. After the wedding you can put people up there instead of having them stay in a hotel.

    Check out http://www.apracticalwedding.com/ Lots of great ideas!

  86. Anna says:

    A few people have mentioned the Wedding Industrial Complex. My name for it is the Great American Wedding Machine.

    Somehow, the very prospect of a wedding seems to put people into a trance in which they must do everything “right” and either follow certain customs, or find a way to imitate them.

    This whole discussion is a distillation of a constant theme of The Simple Dollar — the notion that you have to spend the way everyone else does, and buy what other people have or seem to want you to buy.

    But at bottom, weddings are no different from any other expense. You have to decide what is truly important to you, and what expense matches your values.

  87. John says:

    While I agree with a lot of this, there is one very important thing to consider. The wedding day is all about that one special day, right? What do you have AFTER that day to remember it by? The music is over. The food is eaten. The tux is returned. Photos. Video.

    Do you really want to trust one of the top two or three events in your life to uncle bob with his brand new digital rebel on program mode? Hire a pro for the photography. Not a student. Not a “good amateur”. A pro who has shot a couple dozen weddings. My wife and I have not looked at our wedding photos in eight years because we didn’t take that advice. We got a friend who was a “good amateur” to do our wedding photos, and they’re horrible. My wife wanted to remember that day more than any other in her life, and we’ve got a bunch of dark photos with bad shadows and red-eye and no creativity from our “official” photographer. :-(

  88. Sharon says:


    You’re obviously a city girl. Small town city parks are free. Maybe $20 to reserve a picnic shelter in some places.

  89. Cecily says:

    When I did my daughter’s wedding, we planned it outdoors at a place that supplied the chairs and tables, a romantic pond with a bridge over it, and catered the food. This came all for one price. They even did a special additon to the meal with a bit of negotiation for the price of that. The dresses we got on sale, and the flowers were supplied by a friend of the family that no longer worked as a florest, but had contacts in the industry. The cake was made by the local “cake” lady. The groom’s mother decorated the tables and I bought and made the center arrangments. All in all, we probably could have cut more costs, but it was worth every penny, and not terribly expensive.

  90. Jackie says:

    There are so many good tips here, but here are some I wanted to chime in:

    * get married “off-season”. everything was a lot cheaper for our wedding because we got married in early February.

    * make your own favors. my husband and I made mix CDs of our favorite love songs and burned them all ourselves– so many of our guests tell us that they still listen to that CD years later!

    * have the rehearsal dinner at a family member’s house. Ours was at my father’s, buffet style, and my stepmother cooked the whole thing!

  91. Faith says:

    We split the wedding in half! We ran away and got married privately on the beach. Two months later we had a reception at our favorite restaurant. It so happened to cut down on the cost, but it REALLY cut the stress.

    I wore a Jessica McClintock ($250) informal gown for both events, and we had a photography student shoot the ceremony on the beach.

  92. Anne says:

    This is a little self serving because I sort of work in the industry but don’t forget supermarkets and warehouse clubs.

    Don’t assume they will be the cheapest but price as much as possible based on your local store’s deli, bakery, and prepared food options. Even if they don’t have larger options advertised, just go in during a slow period and ask the deli manager. Some of it may be quite cheap and can help offset potlucks or family prepared meals.

    Also, if cake isn’t important but you still want to have a large wedding I have 2 words for you: Sheet Cakes. One modest, beautifully decorated 6-8 in. cake for pictures and freezing (if that’s your thing). Large sheet cakes with either just frosting or a single decoration (rose, dot, etc.) that can be served from the kitchen. Not using any catering? Ask your supermarket or bakery to pre-cut your sheet cakes so you KNOW you have enough slices (wedding cake slices are traditionally much smaller than “regular” cake slices). That takes all the stress off your volunteer servers.

    Me? I’m planning on a nice, guest-free courthouse event should Mr. Right ever appear. But I enjoy the theory of larger weddings.

  93. Lisa says:

    The Rings:

    Not seeing much discussion on rings. A lot of money can be saved there by shopping with the eyes on the rings rather than the price tags. Who even needs an engagement ring? And “3 months salary” is part of the industry’s guilt trip. Now, I’ve even heard of the man getting an engagement ring too. To each their own.

  94. Ilah says:

    My daughter’s wedding was a cheapo-
    bride’s dress $75.00 at JC Penneys outlet-I did a little remodeling, ripped off sleeves, bows, etc and it was gorgeous, I then used the ripped off lace etc for the bodices of the flower girl dresses
    bridesmaid dresses $50 each at TJ Maxx–sheath dresses in a batik-like print (they all wore them again), straw hats with matching ribbons
    flowers–small boquet for bride, boutonnieres for the men and a single rose for the bridesmaids. Table flowers/centerpieces were 99 cent mums from Walmart in $1 baskets from an outlet store with ribbon trim from the same outlet store.
    I made the invitations and programs and my sister and I made most of the food.
    They used their own system with the groom’s 15 yo neice as DJ–she did a great job, better than some weddings I’ve gone to with big bucks DJs.
    We all decorated – minimal decorations, but a lot classier than some of the gauche, ostentatious displays I’ve seen
    They were gifted the ham, cake and photographer services by friends who ran a restaurant, a bakery and was a photographer
    Why spend the equivilent of a down payment on a house or a full house of quality furniture for one day? — Not to mention that most weddings are boring!

  95. IFMom says:

    I can understand most couples thinking they “need a wedding” as we’re bombarded with advertising that tries to convince us that if we don’t spend ourselves into debt, we must not love each other enough. I jokingly tell people that my husband didn’t love me enough to buy me an engagement ring. The truth is, we can easily afford one but I don’t want or need thousands of dollars sitting on my finger. A simple gold band is the perfect symbol of our marriage.

    My husband and I were focused on our marriage, not on a “wedding”.

    We were married in the presence of only our very closest family and friends. There were no gifts, money trees, bands, photographers, limos, “venues” etc. In our opinion, none of that has anything to do with a marriage, and is probably one of the reason why so many marriages have so many problems. People aren’t getting “married”, they’re having “weddings”.

    I wore a dress costing $120 that I can wear again. My husband wore his suit. We printed announcements using a photo of our hands with our wedding bands. We took photos in a rose garden.
    Wedding debt = $0! Sanity = priceless!

  96. Buffalo says:

    Our wedding was planned as an outdoor affair in southcentral Wisconsin. We were promised that the first weekend in October was always great weather by someone who had been married on the same weekend five years before. Needless to say it was cold and slightly rainy on our wedding day. But it was still wonderful and affordable. If your planning on having kids soon after your married like we did, I’d invest in a decent honeymoon. Memories of our to Hawaii got use through the exhausting years when the kids were little.

  97. Christine O'Meally says:

    Our decision on who to invite was simple: People we would want to have dinner with. And my parents. (No, they weren’t paying.) That plus the fact that the space only could accommodate about 60 people made the decision pretty easy.

    We flew in a gourmet cook friend to supervise the cooking. She had two of my students (I teach voice) assist her (in exchange for free lessons). We bought the food at Sam’s Club. We served homebrew beer and homemade mead as well as a case of our favorite red wine. I think we did the whole wedding for about $6000, all told.

    This was a 2nd wedding for me, and the first wedding was much more elaborate. But we had a much better time.

  98. Christine O'Meally says:

    I will also say that if I were to do anything over it would be:

    1. Bag the bagpiper. He played the absolute minimum he could for the maximum he could charge. I should’ve shopped around or used a recording.

    2. Buy flowers from the supermarket or Sam’s Club. I held my bouquet for about 20 mins and then it sat on a radiator in the corner for the rest of the night.

  99. TwoWishes says:

    For Angela, for such a small wedding, I’d recommend dinner (or brunch!) at a restaurant where you can reserve a private or semi-private space. The ceremony could be either City Hall or a pretty spot like a park. If you go the park route and want to save even more, you could have a picnic reception and either rent a single table or sit on tablecloths/blankets.

    On a broader level, I agree with those who warn that “party rentals” can turn a home or outdoor space into something pricier than you might expect! Restaurants can be a great choice because they already have everything you need and rarely charge a “site fee” in addition to your food and drink. Our own reception was held at a beautiful restaurant that was willing to close completely in return for a $2,500 food and drink commitment. In our area, the site fees for even city-owned sites can run that high, so to get our catering/supplies/dance space for that price was phenomenal.

    On another note, you can save a bundle on your wedding dress if you look for pretty white dresses that aren’t necessarily labeled “wedding” (think bridesmaid dresses, prom, or department store dress sections). Ebay is also a great source, as long as you’re careful about matching your measurements against the listed dresses.

  100. Jillian says:

    There are many things I’d do differently if I were to do it again (which I hope I’ll never need to!) and there are some great ideas here.

    I agree with those who say that having a DJ is more important than you might think. We have a lot of friends who dance ceroc/rock’n’roll and we thought it’d be a great idea to hire a jukebox so they could pick their own dance music. Well, all of a sudden everyone turned shy and hung back in their seats. The dancing at our reception lasted around 10 minutes, and the jukebox sat in the corner and was ignored for the rest of the evening.

    I also agree wholeheartedly with tip #12 – never, never underestimate the abilities and the helpfulness of church ladies!

  101. Nicole says:

    #8 is technically illegal as it involves copying music which is against copyright laws. (As is the suggestion one person made about making a copy of their favorite love songs to give to guests.)

    I find #9 tacky, and I would be considered one of the “vendors” as I have a photography business. I certainly wouldn’t lower my rate for a wedding just to have the opportunity to put my biz cards everywhere.

    As other people have said, find the one thing you will value most about your wedding and spend your money there. I’ve been in the photography industry in one way or another for many years (from working in photo labs and as a photographer) and cannot even begin to count the number of new brides I have talked to who have brought me their horrible negatives and digital files begging me to fix them somehow. They all said that they were trying to cut costs and pros were “too expensive”. How much value do you place on your memories? There is a reason a pro (whether it is a photographer, a dj, or what have you) costs more. They know what they are doing, and will do it right.

    I will add in a few tips I used on my own wedding. I rented the bridesmaid dresses and split the cost. (For the 3 bridesmaids, my total was $60, they paid $20 each.)I found my dress at a second hand shop, and once I had it cleaned, it was more beautiful than any other new dress I’d seen. Cost? $200.

    We also did the appetisers instead of a full meal and did not offer any alcohol. Our wedding was an evening wedding so if anyone wanted a meal before hand, they could feed themselves.

    Above all, have fun! This is something to enjoy, not spend several months stressing about!

  102. Another Elizabeth says:

    My brother got married last August. My dad married them at home and my mom and grandmother were the witnesses. After the vows, we met up with them at a local restaurant for lunch. (They had requested only 2 witnesses.) They had both seen enough politics and shenanigans with previous weddings that they just wanted to be officially married without any hoopla.
    For myself, that’s a bit too extreme. But my older sister and I got married for about $2000 each and we had beautiful weddings! We got almost all the food at Sam’s. A lady at church made the cake, my aunt (an excellent seamstress) made my dress and my mom made the bridesmaid dresses and bought all the decorations and fake flowers over the course of the previous year by carefully watching the Michael’s/Joann’s/Hobby Lobby ads. She did a fabulous job making all the bouquets look real, and the decorations were easy to make ahead and store. My family is extremely musical so that was easy. In the area where I grew up weddings are always finger foods only, so there was no pressure to put on a whole catered meal, and dancing and alcohol are taboo in the church I grew up in, so that was a non-issue too. We also got an excellent deal from a friend who was a “professional ameteur” photographer. It took her a year and a day (almost literally) to get us the pictures, but we aren’t really picture people anyway. I barely even know where the pictures are, 4.5 years later. Anyway, I’d say plan carefully and solicit advice from the ladies at church who regularly “do” the weddings. Good luck!

  103. Nick says:

    Great ideas, we used some variation of a lot of them for our wedding 6 months ago.
    4 – A family owned restaurant that had done weddings for several of my wife’s family memebers (she has a huge family) was amazing at getting everything set up and was very reasonable. We were unable to avoid the guest list bloat because of the size of her family, but feeding 300+ guests/renting the banquet hall/open bar until supper and everything related to the reception for under $5000 was a deal in my book.
    5 – Can’t agree enough on this, the flowers will look good for maybe a week, but then they die. Unless you make arrangements with silk flowers, it’s not worth it to go over the top.
    7 – We made our our programs, which even including the brand new printer we bought, cost under $250. Lot of folding though…
    8 & 16 – We were at another wedding with a couple friends of ours about a year before our wedding and the husband of the couple was commenting about how bad the DJ (that they probably paid a lot of money for) was, and that he could have done a way better job for cheaper. So we asked him to do ours :) We still get comments about how awesome the reception dance was, and all we paid him was $150 and his bar tab for the night. By far the best money we spent for the wedding.
    14 – For sure. Dont’ buy a tux. I do have a co-worker who bought a suit at Salvation Army for less than $10 and had it altered to fit him. Total of $40 for a suit for his daughter’s wedding and that he could reasonably wear again.
    17 – We were making plans constantly for a year, so by the time the big day came around, we had accounted for everything imaginable.

  104. Troy says:

    I have not read any other comments, so I’m sorry if this has already been written.

    WeddingMoons!!!! This is what my girl and I are planning. For around $5000-$7000, you can go to a resort and get hitched and immediately begin the honeymoon. This is only for those that want a real small wedding with no guest actually being invited. Just you and your girl. When you return, you can have a samll reception 50-60 guest, finger foods, kegs of beer, limited wine, etc for about $2000.

    Also, I am a big fan for not creating clutter, so instead of wdeding gifts, have your guests donate money to local charities/non-profits.

  105. K says:

    #8 is not illegal if it is a mix of CD’s that you already own.

  106. Battra92 says:

    As far as those asking about #8, Public Performance playback technically requires a license. The venue you host the wedding at may have one, though.

    Burning mix CDs of your favorite love songs to give as favors is definitely illegal.

    FWIW, I too dislike the RIAA and think their reach is a bit farbut on the other hand I am for being legal with this sort of thing.

  107. David Tate says:

    One word about the friend photographing the wedding… as a wedding photographer I have spoken to far too many people who had a friend/relative take photos at the wedding. and the photos turned out badly.

    Too many cringe inducing stories of missed shots, bad quality, working slowly or without confidence, out-of focus/blurry images, broken or forgotten equipment, and just sloppy images. Far too frequently the photographer was a competent photographer of landscapes, or portraits, or still-life, but when it came to weddings they just did not know what they were doing, and the photos suffered greatly.

    I am all for doing things affordably, and I pinch pennies with the best of them, but one thing to bear in mind is that other than the rings and your spouse, years later the only thing you will have from your wedding is probably the photos and/or video. If you just want snapshots and don’t mind if they might turn out poorly, have a friend take the photos.

    However, if you really care about the way the photos look, please understand that unless your friend is a wedding photographer WITH experience, the photos may not turn out very well. There are no second chances to capture the once in a lifetime moment properly.

    If a friend takes your engagement portraits and they don’t turn out very well, you can just retake them, but if your wedding photos don’t turn out well you are stuck with them.

    Now, this is not to say you need to spend thousands of dollars to hire a photographer. A full-time wedding photographer is VERY expensive, as they can only work maybe 4 days a month, and it takes a lot of time and skill to design and produce high-end albums (thus the $2500 and greater cost).

    But if you get someone who does wedding photography as a second job, they have already have a full-time job to pay their bills, and only do weddings for extra money. This is where you can save a lot of money on photos and still get a talented and experienced photographer.

    And if you get someone who offers a digital-only package, you can have prints or an album made when you want or are able. At least you still have high-quality photos to work with.

    Not trying to pitch my services, just wanting to put in my 2 cents.

  108. Madelaine says:

    I got my dress on ebay for 50$. Another 50$ for alterations and it was beautiful and fit me very well.

    For food, we contacted the local university animal and food science people, who run a catering service. We had the most awesome ribeye steaks for a really great price.

    I think it’s important to determine your priorities going in and aim to focus on quality on the parts that are really important to you and save on the things that aren’t.

    One thing we could’ve saved more on was the cake – we got a smallish, decorated cake for pictures and some big supermarket sheet cakes to eat. The supermarket cakes actually tasted better and were a lot cheaper.

  109. Gilora says:

    Generally, these are good suggestions, but the vendor-card advertising is definitely tacky and a big turn-off. I am glad you did not suggest a cash bar. In my view, either serve alcohol or don’t but asking your guests to pay for it is extremely rude.

  110. katy says:

    Get married at City Hall! My husband and I did and it was the best day of our lives.

  111. sbt says:

    Think about timing as well. If the wedding’s at 11, you can serve light hors d’ouvres and cake. If the wedding is at 3 and the reception is at 7, your guests will probably expect a dinner. If you start at 7, it’s back to hors d’ouvres and refreshments again. Many guests will appreciate not being expected to make a whole day of the wedding.

  112. Catherine says:

    The nicest wedding I ever attended was held at about 11 a.m. and followed by a wedding breakfast. No dancing, which wasn’t missed at that hour, and people seemed to drink far less than they would in the evening.

    Another lovely wedding was held in the afternoon and followed by a cake-and-punch reception at the church. It probably cost less than $800 for everything and was one of the most tasteful I’ve seen because there was no commercial frou-frou obscuring the ceremony or the hospitality shown to the guests.

    If I did my own wedding over again, one thing I would change is to not have the photographer there for the whole time. In retrospect, all I or anyone else really wanted was a portrait of me and my husband and a group portrait with close friends and family. Having an entire album full of photos diminished the value of having one or two special ones. And at many weddings I have attended, the photography has gotten in the way of the actual experience, and especially in the way of the hosts paying adequate attention to their guests.

    It may help you to determine what’s really important by considering what would be important if there were to be no photos. Would you still ask the wedding party to wear matching outfits?* A couple centuries ago, guests simply clustered around the bridal party and the officiant (often in a private home). I think that if you are not being wed as part of a mass, such as unstaged ceremony could well be more intimate and more fun.

    *Don’t people normally trust their friends to dress themselves, and why should weddings be different? I know some couples who actually HAVEN’T trusted their friends to dress in the appropriate formality to their wedding, but I think that that opens the further question of whether the bridal couple are trying to fake a level of formality and opulence that is outside their normal social life. I’m still not sure why it’s not a first clue for most people when no one in the wedding party owns a tuxedo already.

  113. Sean says:

    My question is:: who made the rule that cash bars are rude? Why is it that so many people believe this to be true?

    I have heard this from so many people, and when I ask why they think it is rude the answer is always something along the lines of “they say it is”

    Who are they?

    If I had friends and family that got upset because I wouldn’t pay for them to get drunk, I wouldn’t consider them very good friends and family.

  114. Eli says:

    My wife and I just got married October 26th. It was a Sunday afternoon. We planned and pulled off the wedding in 2 weeks. Here is how we cut the costs:

    1) We got married in the restaurant that we got engaged at, in the same spot, actually. Since it was a Sunday afternoon, it was his slowest time of the week/day. He hadn’t do ne a wedding there before (and won’t again), but it went off without a hitch. He didn’t even charge us for the place, just food and drinks.

    2) I paid for 1 drink (wine) and 3 plates of appetizers for the guests (75 invited, about 70 showed up). Some may say I was being cheap, but we wanted a toast, and to keep people comfortable. Everyone had lunch before they came, so they didn’t need a lot of food. Those who wanted to, stayed for dinner.

    3) We stayed for dinner, and paid for ourselves. Anyone else who wanted to stay (most did) paid for themselves. Since it was small, we could mingle and talk to all the guests.

    4) We bought all the little items we needed at “no-wedding/party” places, or borrowed them.

    5) A friend who is a crafting genius (everyone knows one, or is one), made the bouquet. We did buy live flowers for the boutonnieres and corsages, but it would be easy and cheaper to have those fake as well.

    As was previously mentioned, everyone owns a digital camera these days. Everyone took pictures and sent them to us by e-mail. We have a photo printer, so we can print and frame whatever we want.

    What did we skimp on? No wedding rehearsal, no “formal wedding dress”, no big reception diners or the like, no invitations (no time, and no need, we called everyone), and we didn’t rent tuxedos. What we didn’t skimp on? Atmosphere and family. But, isn’t that the real point?

    All in all, we got compliments on our wedding, mainly because of the service itself, and were told that if they could re-do their wedding, most of our guests would have done something similar.

    All in all, less than $1000 for everything (I guess, my wife knows the exact figure I’m sure). The most expensive part was the person who married us, but my mother wanted someone specific so she paid for that.

  115. Jessica says:

    As far as needing a dj, think about how much dancing you enjoy doing in your life. If you love it, hire somebody to keep the party hopping. If you don’t, I say don’t even have a dance floor, just some atmosphere music and some good conversation. This may cut down on your liquor budget too as people often get drunk so they can have fun dancing and not feel left out. the coolest wedding I went to was kid friendly, so as opposed to crazy chicken dances full of drunken bafoons, they had board games as center pieces and a crafts table. The were games from their own collection so it was cheap, and everyone thought it was incredibly creative.

    Also, as foodie wannabe pastry chef, our kind would kill to bake a wedding cake that is way better than then that dry, fondant covered flowery nonsense (you know no one likes fondant, yech). If you don’t mind simple decoration such as plain butter cream with simple flowers or fruit for garnish, you could get a really great tasting tiered cake that people will remember.

  116. Laura says:

    As a wedding planner I thought I would drop my 2 cents. Much of what has been suggested are good ideas. One more however is to hire a professional! I know most people feel like they cant afford one but any good planner will save the couple 2x what they charge. Having contacts in this industry can save the bride and groom tons and tons of money. Most wedding planners are willing to charge both an hourly rate or for the job itself. If you are upfront about your budget you will be hard pressed to find someone that will not find a way to help.

  117. tinybird says:

    If you have your reception at the church where the ceremony is, they may not allow alcohol. That way you don’t have to serve any.

  118. Tyler K says:

    When my little sister got married a few months a go she tried to keep it simple and frugal. I designed and printed the invitations, we had a cousin do the photography. The service was at our home church, and we had the church’s youth group provide the catering. They decided to have some time after the reception for people to socialize instead of having a dance. The decorations were minimal and got her dress on a sale.

  119. Allison says:

    While I think these are great tips, though I do disagree with #9. It’s my opinion that weddings shouldn’t be “sponsored.”

    I believe cash bars are rude because you are hosting a party for your friends and family. If you invited them into your home, you wouldn’t charge a cover charge. They are already shelling out money for gifts and possibly travel, and to ask them to pay for drinks is just really tacky! I have been to a few weddings where it was cash bar and I was offended.

    A few more things we did to save money on our wedding:

    You can reduce the cost of alcohol by just serving wine and beer, or add in a few signature cocktails with one liquor, or Soju, a Korean liquor that is similar to vodka. We did that and named the cocktails after places we’d lived or gone to school. People loved it.

    Have a cupcakes instead of a wedding cake. Set them up on a tiered cake stand and decorate with rose petals (often available from florists for just a few dollars a bag.) Cupcakes cost way less than a wedding cake, at just 75 cents a piece at our local Los Angeles bakery, they were a huge hit.

    Forgo bridesmaids and groomsman, or if you do have them, just ask them to all wear the same color dress or suit. It looks just as nice!

    Instead of favors, give a small donation to your favorite charity and put a placecard on each table. It will cost less and is better than a little trinket they’ll never use.

  120. Anna says:

    IF Mom #95 — you’ve said it all in this one observation, nested in your excellent comment:

    …none of that has anything to do with a marriage, and is probably one of the reason why so many marriages have so many problems. People aren’t getting “married”, they’re having “weddings”.

    Yes, yes, yes. Think about it, all you prospective brides and grooms.

  121. Sandy says:

    We got married for about $2000 20 years ago. We did the state park, which had a lovely mansion, and 2 days cost $150 rental.
    Calla Lillies…I got a set of 3 and my bridesmaid had 2, we also had flowers on the cake.
    For my “color scheme” I asked my bridesmaid what her favorite dress was…the dress was peach, so that was my color.
    My dress was an off the rack cream color, likely a prom dress, about $100.
    We splurged on a great cake and nice hor d’eauvres,and as for alcohol, because it was a state park, there were limitations. They let us have a champagne toast (which we bought Freixnet from Spain) and made a punch of Sangria early on the wedding day. Everyone loved that!
    Bcause the wedding was outdoors in June, we went ahead and rented the tent, just in case. We didn’t need it, but it offered some extra room outside. We had 60 invited loved ones (also didn’t invite various relatives).
    Oh…we did all of this in less than 6 weeks…my hubby was assigned an overseas position…when he told his boss that he was pretty serious about someone, the VP told him…if you marry her before you go, she can go too! So…married we got!

  122. Laura says:

    I haven’t gotten to the bottom of all these great comments yet, so I hope this isn’t a repeat. I wanted to add that it was very valuable for my husband and I, in planning our own frugal wedding, to prioritize. We each chose one “splurge” that was meaningful for each of us, because we didn’t want to have regrets when looking back. My splurge was flowers (only $250 because we arranged them ourselves), because I love flowers and I thought they created such a wonderful festive mood. I have great memories of my parents’ backyard full of colorful flowers at our reception.

    We could have spent less than we did, but allowing ourselves to spend a little more than the “bare bones” in JUST one or two areas really added to the magic of the day and made it feel special. Wedding dresses, bouquets, and three-tiered cakes usually only come along once in a lifetime, so if you’re going to regret not having a gorgeous bouquet or that big cake, I say go for it. The catch is being honest with yourself about what your one big “dream” element is, and not allowing yourself to go overboard. For example, I spent a disproportionate amount on those flowers, but I avoided expensive varieties and filled out the arrangements with wildflowers. We also transported the flowers from the church to the reception site, so they did double duty. Sorry this is a bit long-winded–I guess we all like to talk about our weddings! :-)

  123. GigiB says:

    We had a wonderful wedding on a dinner cruise boat (3 1/2 hrs) for 50 guests. They provided a buffet dinner and non-alcoholic drinks (most everyone was family or from our church and none of them are alcohol drinkers…that save a fortune I’m sure!). We had a beautiful lighthouse as our backdrop for the ceremony (and they played the “Giligan’s Island” theme song on the way out there…that was good for a laugh!).
    We saved quite a bit of money because I do all kinds of crafts: I sewed my own wedding dress (material was on clearance & in my favorite color), made my bridesmaid dress, also the table toppers in my color scheme (white floor length tablecloths were provided by cruise) created my own silk flower arrangements (table, railing, bouquets, boutonnieres, corsages, etc) made our invitations, favors, and the music CD’s (they played for us-great sound system). We bought the cake at Von’s (Grocery store…it was beautiful & delicious). My brother is a professional photographer so his “services” were our wedding gift. Grand total for everything (including flying my best friend in) was just under $6k. We put the money into the wedding then went camping at our favorite campground for our honeymoon. We had been saving for the wedding, so we were able to pay cash for everything. It was a wonderful day that we’ll never forget (and I can still wear my dress whenever I want since I was able to alter it after the ceremony & it’s much more casual now). It saves a bunch to do as much as possible yourself, or enlist friends to do things for you! Best wishes to all those planning their special day!

  124. KoryO says:

    I’m surprised no one else has posted this, but….VEGAS, BABY!!!

    Me and my sweetie got married there 4 1/2 years ago at the Tropicana. (I still like what we put on our home-printed invitations that cost $50….”Join us as we bet it all on true love”).

    OK, I didn’t get to pick the decor. But I also didn’t waste weekends making flower arrangements and go all over town for the hundreds of other things that you are “supposed” to have for a wedding. I was able to handle all of the arrangements in one half hour phone call.

    For $600, I splurged and got a beautiful tropical flower arrangement for me to carry, professional photographer, and had the ceremony videotaped. They arranged for a limo to take us to the tux rental store the night before, and to get our marriage license. The hotel took care of returning the tux so we didn’t have to, and gave us nice rooms for our stay.

    We hosted our party (25, from all over the US) at a local Italian restaurant called Chicago Joe’s for the reception. Everybody got to order whatever they wanted from the menu, have alcohol and/or a dessert if they wished, and including tip it came to about $860. It was light-years beyond that horrible rubber chicken/dry as dirt cake combo that most weddings have, and it satisfied even the people with weird food rules.

    Also….as a side note….since we had friends coming from all over the country, a lot of them were able to score cheaper tickets to Vegas than they could have for either Phoenix (where I lived) or Seattle (where my sweetie was working and had friends), plus they got to entertain themselves cheaply with the people watching on the Strip/casinos.

    We couldn’t have scored a reception in either Phoenix or Seattle at the time for less than about $2500, and believe me, I looked everywhere. Sorry, we had better things to spend our cash on.

    The only thing I would have done differently is have Elvis stop by at the wedding over my sweetie’s objections….but he has promised me that when we renew our vows in Vegas again The King will be there.

  125. Kevin says:

    #35: “Everyone has a digital camera these days, most of which take fantastic photos.”

    Also, when you consider how modern word processing software is so superior to typewriters, it makes it easy to be a best-selling author.

    ::rolls eyes::

    An advanced camera is useless if the photographer doesn’t know how to use it. It’s not as easy as just putting it in “Auto” mode and snapping away. Cheap, plastic digital cameras and lenses will leak and die if it rains, and kit lenses are never fast enough to take sharp photos in the low-light of a church or reception hall. Pros have the proper gear, and know how to use it to give you actual, frameable photos, instead of the blurry, poorly-composed snapshots you’ll get from your drunk guests.

  126. Catherine says:

    “add in a few signature cocktails with one liquor, or Soju, a Korean liquor that is similar to vodka”

    Tell me that’s not the same thing as Japanese shochu, which is inexpensive grain alcohol mostly drunk by young men! Actually, on second thought, I wish I had been invited to this wedding–sounds fun.

    I posted earlier, but I thought of a couple book recommendations: All Dressed in White by Carol Wallace and the wedding sections of Miss Manners’ etiquette books. Both do a good job of discussing the history of American weddings and the theory or lack thereof behind many practices, and I think they can help quell that snowballing “everybody-has-this” feeling that develops during wedding planning. It can be helpful to see the difference between “traditional” and merely “popular.” For example, engagement rings are incredibly popular, but they’re not so traditional: they were largely introduced by DeBeers.

  127. Amanda says:

    My 1994 wedding was great. At the time, we planned to have a “real wedding” later, but never got around to it. The only guests were my parents, two of my best friends, and two of my parents’ friends. (The groom’s mom and sister were not there and I regret that, but other than that this list worked just fine.) I wore a beautiful white tea-length dress I had bought for a dance in high school, and my fiancee wore a nice shirt and pristine white jeans. On a sunny Friday morning, we drove over to the county courthouse in two cars, got the marriage license, and found a judge who could spare a few minutes. We were married in a courtroom with my dad videoing the ceremony and my parents’ friends taking pictures. The judge read all of those traditional statements out of a big red leather book, made us repeat all the vows, and seemed truly happy for us. It certainly felt like a “real” ceremony. The judge even posed for a few pictures with us before going back to his office. Next, we all went to Applebee’s and had BBQ riblets for lunch. I took the fact that not one fleck of sauce got on my white dress as a good omen, and sure enough, we are still married 14 years later. We then went back to my parents’ house, opened a few small gifts, and drank some champagne. My dad filmed this as well. We went hiking and camping in the Great Smokey Mountains for our honeymoon. I am sure the whole thing cost less than $500. It was fantastic and memorable and almost totally stress-free, and I am SO glad I didn’t do that whole traditional wedding scene.

  128. Kirsty says:

    Both my sister and I had reasonably frugal weddings. One of the things I picked up off her for my wedding was place markers. She went to a local beach and picked up a bag of pebbles and wrote peoples names on them. I still have mine. My husband and I were getting married at Christmas, so we went for cheap christmas crackers in red and gold, matching our colour scheme, and again just wrote peoples names on them. They were pretty popular – the tackier the gift the better, with crackers!!

  129. Karl says:

    I bought a tuxedo for my wedding, and i’ve actually gotten alot of use from it. It turned out that the holiday parties my company has are black tie. It’s also great for formal nights on cruises.

    I do agree with those who posted and recomended going with just wine/beer instead of mixed drinks. These days most people just drink wine or beer anyway, so I don’t think it’s as important to have mixed drinks as it was in the past. And it can save you alot of money, depending on the venue.

  130. Lemonhead says:

    I got married 22 years ago, and wish I had done it differently. It turned out well, but it was expensive and I don’t really remember much of it at all.

    I was in the middle of graduate school working three jobs and just didn’t have the time (or inclination) to schlep all over town to get what I needed. Plus I was getting in another town 200 miles away. So, regrettably, I gave carte blanche to my future mother-in-law and ended up with horrible food, a horrible venue (DH’s grandma’s house which was old and the AC didn’t work when it was 100 degrees). Plus my family came all the way from England where I am from to TX and that added enormously to the expenses. Plus my MIL didn’t inform me of the costs of anything and just spoke to my mum and dad and asked them for money for EVERYTHING.

    If I could do it over again, I would keep it very small, very simple and very cheap. It’s not worth the hassle to do it other ways. But then I am not one of those women who grow up “dreaming” of a white wedding and playing weddings with my Barbie. I just wanted to get hitched to the man I loved.

    Still, the marriage has been great and we just celebrated our 21st (I think) this year. I just wish I hadn’t burdened my parents with a wedding that I didn’t really like. But my fault – I gave up control to my MIL because I was just too busy to do it myself. Big error.

  131. Jessica says:

    Lots of good ideas here. Congratulations to all of the engaged couples who have posted.

    I think I have all of you beat when it comes to planning a frugal wedding. I got married Valentine’s Day 2007, and was able to pull off a beautiful, intimate wedding and reception for a grand total of (drum roll…..) $800! Let me explain how, since I’m guessing some of you have raised eyebrows! LOL

    *My husband’s aunt made our wedding invitations as her gift to us.

    *My wedding dress was a 2 piece outfit bought off the rack at Dress Barn. My husband wore a suit that he had in his closet.

    *We married on a Wednesday at 9 am. (Both my husband and I worked nights so we wanted our coworkers to be able to come. If they had to leave for work right after the ceremony that was fine with us.)

    *Our reception was a brunch buffet. My mother in law and I made all the food ourselves. My friend made the wedding cake, and I let him know how much I had in my budget for this ahead of time. Because I wanted a white chocolate wedding cake, I gave him my recipe.

    *My godsister made our music cd. I picked the songs and she burned them to the cd. I also picked a bunch of upbeat, fun songs (think “Celebrate Good Times” by Kool and the Gang or “Get This Party Started” by Pink) because to me a wedding is a celebration of two people joining their lives together. Too many times the songs that are chosen for a wedding sound more appropriate for a funeral, they are so sappy. The song “Trumpet Voluntary” (the same song that Princess Diana walked down the aisle to when she married Prince Charles) was our recessional and I had requested that it play until everyone had walked out of the church, so the people who attended would feel like they were part of the wedding party as well.

    *All of our flowers were artificial, as it’s nice to have something that lasts forever. We bought them at a craft store when they were having a sale. Because my maid of honor worked in a flower shop I asked her to make the bouquets and bouitonneres as well.

    *We borrowed as many decorations as we could for our reception. I actually had the idea to buy some dish garden containers from Walmart, fill the bottoms with colored glass stones, fill the containers with water and put floating candles on top. My friend (who also is my hairdresser) loaned me some large linen napkins and silver platters to set the dish garden containers on, which I then put artificial calla lilies around. Simple, elegant and cheap! (Yes I did put business cards for her shop next to the decorations; I’m a big believer in giving credit where it’s due.) The platters and napkins were returned to my friend after the reception.

    *My husband and I spent our honeymoon at home, just being together and enjoying our new lives as husband and wife. As we were expecting a baby and he had recently declared bankruptcy, we felt it made no sense to go on a vacation when we could put that money to better use.

    *Most importantly we paid cash as we went, so we could start our marriage debt free except for the mortgage. Again this was done mainly because of the baby on the way and my husband’s bankruptcy. Neither one of us wanted to start our marriage with any unsecured debt hanging over us. That was the smartest decision we ever made.

    I’m sorry this is so long, but I hope it gives you some ideas.

  132. Jessica says:

    Oh, one other thing I forgot to mention. We had our reception at my inlaws’ house. Our wedding was very small (probably not even 20 people attended) so the reception was held in their living room.

  133. Maddy says:

    I can’t stress enough how important the tip about small catering companies is! We found a lovely husband and wife caterer who really went all out to make sure our wedding feast was personal and even matched our colors! We found them through
    http://www.gatheringguide.com/ec/caterers.html, and searching for our particular city (which I don’t type for privacy reasons, but there’s a section for most cities). They were very reasonable and didn’t try to push any extra expensive frills on us at all– very down to earth and understanding of our budget.

  134. Elena says:

    Not going to echo other (really good!) comments.

    One word: eBay. I bought my wedding dress on eBay for $539 (included shipping). The dress is originally $2k. I just took my measurements and only looked at items which offered the measurements of the dress. I’m not anticipating too much additional costs for a seamstress, but if so, plan on finding a recommendation on Yelp.com.

    Centerpieces? We’re doing simple flowers from ProFlowers (whuich usually bloom on the 2nd/3rd day and tend to last a week or more) and a variety of pictures of us in pretty frames that we’ll “contest” off to guests as a take-home (buy Frames in Homegoods/TJ Maxx/online, etc. for deep discounts).

    Not sure if we’re doing it, but for another personal and inexpensive touch, if you have wine bottles on the table (Charles Shaw of Trader Joe’s is REALLY good and costs less than $5 a bottle!) … buy some “Full page labels” from Staples and print out the pictures of the two of you to slap over the wine label on the wedding bottles.

    Our budget is $8k for 75 people and with all of these little things, I think (hopefully) we’ll come in under budget.

  135. fathersez says:

    Gosh, I have not gone through all the comments, so perhaps someone else might have said this.

    My wife and I have set aside some money for the weddings of our two elder girls. They should be (God Willing) get married in the next 2 – 3 years. Our customs also do not allow them to have a common wedding that would save us quite a bit of money.

    The weddings I have attended lately all looked so expensive, till last week. My wife’s aunt and uncle had a wedding for their daughter and I am so glad that I have found a frugal example.

    And they followed most of your rules.

  136. Jade Walker says:

    Best idea I’ve ever heard? Destination wedding. It’s more affordable, romantic and intimate.

    The only rule we disagree with is the cheap honeymoon. My fiance and I are travelers, and nothing makes us more happy than exploring a new country. So, we’re having a very small wedding (practically eloping) and then using the majority of our budget on a tremendous honeymoon. The memories we’ll have from the trip wil far outweigh any obtained from pretty flowers or a kickin’ DJ. Best off all, we’ve been saving for trip for about a year now. By the time we get back — fully hitched and honeymoon’d — we won’t owe anything.

  137. April says:

    Just don’t cut back at the expense of your guests. I went to one wedding of a family member, and his wife-to-be bought an expensive gown, he bought an Armani tux, and they rented out this huge ballroom (really so big it wasn’t intimate at all), and then they charged guests for drinks, including $3 bottled water! They only provided champagne for themselves during the toast, and since I wasn’t about to pay $3 for water, I, and many others, didn’t even have a beverage with which to toast. To top it off, they didn’t send thank-you notes, and when we inquired if they received our gift, we got no response. Try to make sure people will have positive memories of your wedding…even if it is your day.

    I say keep it small if you can’t afford something bigger, and if you can’t afford bar service, don’t serve alcohol. I didn’t want my wedding to require any GUEST to open their wallet. They were our guests, after all.

  138. Lisa says:

    I’m getting married a week from today, and our entire budget is $6,000 with 150 guests. A couple of tips I found:

    1. Look for bargains with flowers. We found a wedding package for $100. It included flowers for the entire wedding party (bride, groom, bridesmaids, groomsmen, ushers, and parents).
    2. Avoid alcohol. We are having no alcohol at our receptions. We are providing a pop dispenser that we rented from our reception hall for less than $100 for the dispenser and all the pop. The guests can have as much to drink as they want, and it will be safer than alcohol.
    3. Have your bridesmaids dresses made. Material and labor cost the bridesmaids less than $100.
    4. If possible, recycle. I’m wearing my mother’s wedding dress. Only cost was the alterations, which were minimal.
    5. Skip the stylist. All of my bridesmaids are doing each other’s hair, and my maid of honor is doing my hair, make up, etc.
    6. Cupcakes are cheaper. A typical traditional wedding cake can cost over $2 per serving. We are doing a cupcake tower for $.75 per cupcake. Total cost is around $100 versus a traditional cake for over $300.
    7. Cheap and classy centerpieces. Small globe vases that you can find at the dollar store filled with water tinted your wedding color with a small tealight floating in each one is a wonderful centerpiece. They last longer than flowers, too, especially if you’re having a winter wedding.

    We made our own invitations out of a kit, and we’re making our own programs. It’s amazing how much can be done for cheap.

  139. JustinWang says:

    I haven’t got married yet, but I think the wedding should not put people into debt. It is a goog idea to have a special tour.

  140. JustinWang says:

    I haven’t got married yet, I think it is a goog idea to have a special tour.

  141. Leah Ingram says:

    I just posted today about frugal wedding tips:


    Also, in terms of shameless self promotion, I’m the author of the book “Tie the Knot on a Shoestring.”

    Good luck to all the brides- and grooms-to-be!


  142. Lacey says:

    Some thoughts from my recent, frugal wedding:
    We had the reception outside, at a public park. The city charges 250-500 for the permit and lots of fees, so we decided to go ‘guerilla’ (no permission beforehand). There were only about 20 of us, so everyone met at location, we had our short (wonderful) ceremony and pictures with no problems. As long as you are not causing a disturbance, I doubt anyone will ask for your permit! We didn’t put up decorations at the ceremony, just had guests blow bubbles! We brought a portable music player for the wedding song. We also chose 2 backup locations, in case there were any problems. But there were none – it was perfect!

    Reception was at a friend’s house who has a huge backyard. We borrowed tables and chairs, covered them with white and other decorations. The decorations came from the Dollar Store and WalMart, and they looked great, not cheap at all!

    We hired a photographer who had done professional work, but not a wedding. He did several hours of work, plus editing, for about $250. The pictures look wonderful.

    We used our computer and set up a wedding playlist for the reception music.

    We bought most of the food from Costco, some already prepared, some we prepared ourselves.

    My wedding dress came from the after-prom sales at Sears. We bought the guys matching shirts/ties and they wore whatever black dress pants/jackets they already had.

    We bought fresh flowers and made bouquets with those. Wrap the stems in rubber bands and ribbon, they will be perfect!

    A Mary Kay friend helped me with my makeup; I had my hair styled at Great Clips.

    The entire affair (including hotel suite for the mothers) cost less than $1000. It was fantastic, and several people said it was the best wedding they’d ever attended!

    Decide what is most important to you. Spend the money on that (for us, it was food, drinks, and decent photos). Choose inexpensive options for the things that are less important! I am SO glad we went low key, I had a great time and hardly stressed over anything.

    Good luck!

  143. Jihan says:

    I like your suggestions, this is really helpful. Although I am going to save a lot more money than a frugal wedding itself, surprisingly!

    Since I am an arts and crafts fan, I have no trouble at all making invitations and creating my own small gifts and decorations!

    As for the food, I am very sure I have a few friends and relatives who would love to help me prepare food. For the invites, for various religious reasons, we have no need to spend too much on a wedding (fortunately! lol) so inviting some close family and friends will actually do as our “banquet”

    We also don’t listen to music or dance, so we can save on that DJ, music, and dance hall :D

    As for the bride and grooms’ clothing, I have no problem doing that at all. I actually got the idea of doing a short Indian wedding, salwar kameez (the Indian traditional clothing) comes in a lot of great colors and patterns, and usually cost less than $100 to look nice on this day. For wedding dresses, there are a lot of Muslim stores in my city, and most of them will have a special occasion section for very inexpensive “wedding gowns” for about $50-100 at least. Since I am petite, the shorter and slimmer you are, the less the item costs.

    I don’t really expect a honeymoon, so not going to one wouldn’t get me upset.. I never like expecting too much anyways.

    I’m sure these suggestions would work for one of my friends, although I don’t know anyone as young as I planning to get married soon.

  144. I wanted to let you know about another cheap-chic wedding tip that would benefit your readers. The Wedding Lens (http://www.theweddinglens.com) allows couples to create an online wedding album, filled with photos from their guests. All guests upload their photos into one album which is only accessible by the couple and their guests. From there, everyone can download or print whichever photos they like (regardless of who uploads them).

    The Wedding Lens allows couples to get the same photos that they would get by having a disposable camera on each table — but without having to buy disposable cameras or print a ton of blurry photos. Couples see everything from their guests perspective but only print the best photos.

  145. cheeriogirl says:

    My husband and I got married in our own church, with just sixteen guests. Our minister married us for free as his wedding gift to us. A friend played the guitar and sang as his gift to us. We went out to dinner afterward at a local restaurant, where they put our wedding party into a private room, which they decorated. Did I mention we got married on a Monday evening? The restaurant staff was really excited, as it was a snowy January evening, so they pulled out all the stops and used some terrific decorations, again free of charge. We told them to use their creativity as they decorated the room, and believe me did they ever! The food was fabulous, most of us had prime rib as I recall. The cake was exceptional, and we had a champagne toast. Our wedding night was spent in a wonderfully expensive hotel, with a canopied bed and fireplace, complimentary bottle of wine. It cost us $99.00 for the night. Had we married on a Saturday, that same wedding suite would have cost us $379.00. They even gave us crystal wedding goblets labeled bride and groom! And we got to go back and stay in a hotel room for free the following year on our anniversary as part of our wedding package! On our first anniversary when we went in to register, they gave us matches with our names on them- It was twenty seven years ago. All told, I think our entire wedding budget was just over $1100. I would do it the same way again in a heartbeat.

    My daughter just got married this past May, and she followed in our footsteps, keeping her costs down to a minimum, despite having 100 guests. Her best deal by far was to buy her wedding dress directly from China. She fell in love with a dress here in town that was priced at $1400.00, and it needed $400.00 worth of alterations. That was simply out of the question. Instead, we sent off her measurements to the Cinderella Bridal Company in China, and three weeks later, her wedding gown arrived. The EXACT same gown of her dreams purchased from China cost us a grand total of $155.00 ( shipping inclusive). No alterations were necessary because the dress was made to her exact measurements. It was spectacularly beautiful. We took it to the bridal shop to get ironed, and they could not tell the difference between the one we purchased in China, and the one they had in the shop. Also, it only took three weeks from the day we emailed her measurements to them, until the dress arrived here in the US. Best deal from her wedding by far!

  146. The above post enlists eighteen very effective tactics worth trying to cut the costs of your wedding event without diving into cheapness.

  147. AndreaS says:

    My daughter didn’t want a wedding cake for her outdoor sort-of casual wedding. For a while we wondered about the cupcake-tree idea, but that meant I would have to decorate them at the last minute. Instead we did a “dessert bar.” In the weeks before the wedding I made up all my best dessert recipes, thinking about a variation of tastes and visual configurations… pies, bunt cakes, ladder coffee cake, pumpkin-nut roll and so on. I also selected recipes that used ingredients were cheap to me, such as our own frozen blueberries and strawberries. I froze all of these, double wrapping them. Then the night before the wedding I thawed everything. All I had to do was drizzle, frost, powder etc. I did do a simple strawberry trifle as well. The dessert bar was nice for the guests as they got to choose their own dessert.

    I haven’t made “fancy desserts” until the last couple years. Mostly I try recipes I find on cooks.com. I print them out, and keep the ones that my family especially enjoys.

  148. Nancy says:

    I’d like to stress the importance of a professional photographer. For my daughter’s wedding, we pulled out all of the thrifty stops; only 100 invitees, flowers from Sam’s Club, wedding dress from Craig’s List, only 2 bridesmaids (sisters), and using the groomsmen and the groom as ushers.
    BUT do not scrimp on the photograper! We had 4 flower girls, as no cousins could be left out (all under the age of 7). Two months after the wedding, our dear 5 year old niece died of a brain tumor. Those professional photos are the most important photos to many. You may go to Nadia’s CaringBridge website to see her precious photo.

  149. Rachel says:

    Even though this is an older post, I just read through the tips and comments for the first time today. Great ideas from Trent and readers. I hope that I can put some of these ideas into practice someday when I’m planning my own wedding.

  150. Carter says:

    My wife and I had a combined wedding/reception which cut down on alot of unneeded expenses for us. Everything else was done on a budget too because we had people flying in from out of state and out of country. We really focused on making the wedding a party to celebrate us getting married instead of a party making us celebrities. Everyone had fun and we got to splurge on what we wanted to spend money on – hotels for the out of town guests.

  151. katy says:

    As a professional musician, I can tell you that you won’t really be getting much of a deal by hiring college students. They generally charge as much as professional musicians. College is when most musicians start freelancing with professional groups. If you want a deal, my advice is to think smaller. Instead of hiring a string quartet, hire a single violinist or a harpist.

  152. valleycat1 says:

    I recently read a post by another blogger who had just gotten married. They spent about 6 hours planning the day & inviting a few close friends/family to the event. Married at city hall with a meal following at a favorite restaurant, with the group small enough that they just needed a reservation. She had already bought the dress, which was a pretty dress off the rack (not a wedding dress per se). No wedding flowers. They plan to throw a big party for a much larger group of friends/family later in the year in lieu of a reception.

    #151 Carter – my child’s wedding philosophy was exactly like yours & everyone had a blast, including the bride & groom!

  153. Sohbet says:

    Between me and my husband we’ve owned more MP3 players over the years than I can count, including Sansas, iRivers, iPods (classic & touch), the Ibiza Rhapsody, etc. But, the last few years I’ve settled down to one line of players. Why? Because I was happy to discover how well-designed and fun to use the underappreciated (and widely mocked) Zunes are.

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