12 Wedding Ideas to Fit Your Budget

My husband asked me to marry him in November and we planned a February wedding. My younger sister, however, had already been engaged for over a year with a June wedding planned. I was accused of trying to upstage her wedding, steal her guests, and use up Daddy’s money. Of all things, I better not use up Daddy’s money.

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Whatever your reasons for needing wedding ideas on a budget, I have the ideas for you. From the dress to the dip to the daffodils, I did it to save Daddy’s money.

The Gown

Wedding gowns can cost as much as a new car; and you don’t get near 100,000 miles out of them. My mother made mine. But even brides without seamstress mothers can save big on this expense.

  • Borrow a gown. Has your older sister, or a friend, already tied the knot? If you are close in size, that could be an option. As a courtesy, have it cleaned and boxed before returning it.
  • Purchase a used gown. You can purchase wedding gowns in thrift stores for as little as $25. Check consignment shops or the newspaper. One week our paper listed 14 gowns for sale. The prices ranged from $80 to $500 and the sizes from 2 to 22. If you find one you like but it doesn’t quite fit, ask a seamstress if it could be altered. Also, remember that embellishments like beads, sequins, etc. can be changed or added.
  • If you know how, sew your own; or find someone to make your dress. Provide pictures of what you want and get an estimate. I guarantee the price will beat the one in the magazine.
  • Finally, go non-conventional. Anything that does not look like a wedding gown costs considerably less. Plan a themed wedding and dress accordingly, e.g.: a western outfit for a cowboy wedding. Or, if you never wear dresses, wear a nice pants suit and stylish hat.

The Flowers

Every girl likes flowers; but fresh flowers cost a lot of money. Here are a few ideas to save on this wedding essential.

  • Make your own arrangements using silk flowers. If you don’t feel confident enough to do this, enlist the help of your crafty friends.
  • Raid the gardens of family and friends. Several years ago, when my neighbor’s niece married, she came the day before the wedding and gathered arm loads of English Ivy from my neighbor’s garden. Ask everyone you know to donate a vase full of flowers and you will have plenty.
  • Think outside the box. For an evening wedding, carry candles.
  • Grow your own. Another friend’s daughter planned an August wedding. That spring she planted a big bed of Black-eyed Susans. Her attendants carried little nosegays of them, she set vases of them along the aisle of the church, made boutonnières for the men, and used them to decorate the reception hall. Her cost? A few seed packets, ribbons and vases.

Invitations on A Budget

My father owned a print shop. He printed our invitations free of charge. I never realized how much they cost until my son got engaged. With home computers and paper choices at the mega craft supply houses, you can drastically cut invitation costs.

My daughter-in-law bought a package of parchment card stock, another package of vellum, some rolls of ribbon and a box of envelopes. My daughter designed the wedding invitations on our home computer. They printed them on the vellum, punched holes at the top through the vellum piece and the parchment piece and attached the two with a length of ribbon tied into a bow. They used a decorative corner punch on the vellum to dress it up. Under the vellum piece they tucked their engagement photo. Also in the envelope was a card with response and reception information. To save on postage, they had responses come to an email address.

You can also purchase ready-made invitation cardstock for printing on your home computer, but my daughter-in-law found her way to be less expensive.

The Menu

Food cuts another big chunk out of any wedding budget. If you want more than cake and punch at your reception, here are a few ideas to keep it simple.

  • Do it yourself. A young lady in our church married in September. She and her mother spent several weeks prior to the ceremony cooking and freezing for the reception. What you cannot freeze ahead, purchase already prepared at your local warehouse store, e.g.: vegetable platters, fruit platters, dips and salads. Enlist a helper to do the last minute preparations.
  • Order what you need from your favorite grocery store’s deli. My mother picked up the food for my wedding, already arranged on trays and platters, on her way to the church. The preparer? Publix supermarket. They made my cake, too, for a fraction of the cost.
  • Make it a covered dish. This works great for informal ceremonies. For instance, you provide the barbeque ribs and lemonade. Your guests bring the potato salad, coleslaw and baked beans.

The Pictures

To save on photography, ask a friend skilled with a camera to take your pictures. After the wedding, he need only give you the memory card. You can then sort through all the pictures on your computer, add any special effects you want, save them on a CD, and have them printed at the shop of your choice.

I hope these tips help you get going. After all, no girl’s wedding should use up all of Daddy’s money.


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55 Comments
  1. Aaron

    Great ideas Carol. So many times weddings become a burden, as the bride/groom are the ones that end up being the most stressed out and have the least fun! Believe it should be more focused on the promise than the overall pageantry. My wife and I were married for under $1k and don’t regret it.

  2. Donna Palmer

    Awesome job Carol…..as your little sister that is written about in this article it is funny how 25 years put things into a new perspective. I love the article. I am planning my 2nd wedding now- having found myself divorced after 21 years of marriage 4 years ago. I am older and much wiser and although Daddy has gone to be with the Lord, I am saving pennies as if he is still here!!! Great advise for all Brides….it can be done…..I have put together beautiful invitations….look like they were ordered from a printer….only $38.00 for 100 because I did them myself. Love you! Donna

  3. Adam Simon

    Excellent article, Carol! What I found the most fascinating is that it drew me back to our wedding plans and, coming from a groom’s perspective, made perfect sense on a budget. I cam honestly say that we hit every area you mentioned during our wedding! The wedding was a blast and not a soul knew we got a deal in every area that they enjoyed that night. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Kathy

    Totally agree that a wedding should be kept as simple as possible! We cut all the corners we could think of; and the church fellowship of our son-in-law was a wonderful blessing and help during that time, as well. You’re less likely to have regrets afterwards, if a wedding is simplified as much as possible. Thanks, Carol!

  5. Carol J. Alexander

    Thank you all for your kind words.
    @Aaron–The word pageantry definitely describes what we see most of the time, doesn’t it?
    @Donna–25 years definitely puts a new spin on life.
    @Monica–God’s blessing on your family as you join with two more.
    @Adam–Without my frugal groom, I’m afraid I might have been sucked into a lot more expense.
    @Kathy–The help of a church family is one of the biggest assets a couple has when planning their special day.
    Bless you all.

  6. 20 and Engaged

    We saved a lot of money by buying a non-conventional dress, having dinner at a nearby restaurant, and having such a small ceremony we didn’t even need invitations! We’ll probably renew our vows and consider all of these things when we have a bigger ceremony.

  7. lisa mikitarian

    Great Post! Loved these ideas.

  8. Danielle

    Great tips. I followed many of these for my own wedding 18 years ago. I have a huge family so everyone pulled together…my sis and I made the centerpieces from silk flowers. My dad did the programs and place cards. I found a bargain dress….which my sister then wore in her wedding. I didn’t mind scrimping on a thing….but….the photography . We went really low budget on that and altho I do have a beautiful album we dont have any formal portraits or a video. Memories of the wedding fade and that is the one thing I really regret not having invested a litle more in . With photography…once the event is over you can’t go back and capture it again!

  9. Donna

    getting married shouldn’t be a burden, financial or otherwise

    these are some great tips to alleviate those potential burdens

    well worth passing along …. thanks!

  10. Carol J. Alexander

    Thanks for your comments.
    @20andengaged–sounds like what I’d do if I had it to do over.
    @Lisa–I think you’re one of my greatest cheerleaders!
    @Danielle–I have to agree. Memories cannot be scrimped over. However, when we married video was out of the question so we opted for an audio recording.
    @Donna–Burdening our parents or our newly married selves with such debt is unthinkable for me.
    @Jan–I’m glad your daughters also got the wedding of their dreams without breaking the bank.
    Blessings to you.

  11. The flowers can be as much as 20% of the entire wedding cost. Staggering. We asked for discount, and the florist gave us 50% off for pretty much the same product and service. All you have to do is ask.

  12. Karen Lange

    These are great tips, Carol! I think I need to bookmark this site for future reference. Thanks for the info!

  13. Laury

    My mom did almost everything for my wedding: made my dress, the bridesmaid dresses, the flowers, made the food for the wedding reception. A friend made the cake. It’s amazing how much everything costs now. You have great ideas here. Thank you for sharing!

  14. kerry

    Very good idea, and great examples to run with. For my second wedding we had about 15 people come over to our house for the wedding and subsequent potluck dinner. Invites were word of mouth, we made the cake (it looked awful but tasted great :>), a florist friend donated the flowers, and a photographer friend donated the pics. We had a great time, new clothes included, for about $800. Very simple – as a second wedding I thought it was just right. If it’d been my first, I might have gone a little splashier, but for sure use your tips. Getting other people involved in your wedding is a great idea – use their talents and energies!

  15. Lisa S.

    Thanks for sharing your ideas, Carol. Simple is always better.

  16. Susan

    Carol,

    I always enjoy reading your frugal ideas. They are inspiring and helpful. Thanks for another great article.

  17. Troy

    Good ideas. I’ll probably write a post about this sometime. I feel that weddings, funerals, graduations and births can be such a ripoff because vendors know they have you where they want you.

    I was much more involved than most grooms, but the MOST important thing we did was set a budget and didn’t budge from it. That budget forced some tradeoffs. We rented a professional video camera and gave it to aspiring youth who did a good job. We chose in season flowers and bought them wholesale locally. We negotiated hard on the reception.

    However, other than setting the budget, the best thing was getting friends and family to participate in the event making it even more intimate and special and saving thousands and getting folks who cared more about the outcome.

  18. Carol J. Alexander

    @Hunter–It broke my heart to see the amount of flowers and greenery that went into the trash after my son’s wedding. We sent home what we could with those that would take, but otherwise to me it was like throwing money away.
    @Karen–Let me know when you can put them to use!
    @Laury–I think when you attach the word ‘wedding’ to something the price automatically goes up.
    @Kerry–A friend’s son only had a picnic reception. Ceremony was private at a marriage officiant’s. Saved a great deal that way.
    @Lisa S–Thanks for reminding us to stay simple in whatever we do.
    Enjoying the conversations.
    C.

  19. Grand wedding is not important, what important in it is the fact that you will be in one with your wife or husband. You can plan your own wedding with a low budget, it would not be practical if you have a grand wedding and after that you will start thinking on how to pay your debts. Plan well so that you can save more money.

  20. Verna Cole Mitchell

    You have some great ideas here. Some of them are about 53 years too late for me, but several of them I actually used then.;-)

  21. Becky

    Great ideas Carol. For my niece’s recent wedding, friends and family all pitched in to “cater” the reception, guys setting up tables and chairs, the ladies prepping the food and decorating. They saved $ on the cake by having a smaller tiered cake and had sheet cakes to cut and serve the 300 or more guests.

  22. Rita Garcia

    Saving money and keeping the fun in the process are both big challenges! Thanks for posting this terrific article! Fantastic ideas!

  23. Gary

    I’m all for non-conventional weddings (and non-conventional living for that matter). I wish people weren’t so stuck in their ways when it comes to weddings etc. The best wedding I’ve been to was in my aunt’s backyard. My cousin was getting married and it was so relaxed and the garden was so beautiful. Very much my kind of event.

  24. Emma C.

    I guess, if God so blesses, my wedding will be simple and all the money saving tips will be applied. Why? 🙂 Great article Mom!

    Emma

  25. Shea Alexander

    Great stuff. It amazing what can be done with a little creativity.

  26. Dee Yoder

    Great tips! I love the idea about carrying candles at an evening wedding. That would be so elegant. I wish I had a daughter waiting to be married so I could use that idea!

  27. Sheri

    Great article,Carol. As always… lots of great ideas.

  28. Stacey

    Very creative ideas. You are just as married, have more fun and money left over for a down payment on a house.

  29. KIMBERLY ALEXANDER

    GREAT JOB! EVERYBODY NEEDS HELPFUL HINTS IN THIS ECONOMY…… 🙂

  30. Carol J. Alexander

    I’m overwhelmed with these comments so much so I don’t think I can keep up with the individual responses! Blessed to see my son from Haiti comment here, and friends, and friends of friends. I am also enjoying the ideas that you guys are adding to the list.

  31. Tammy C.

    Great ideas, Carol! I wish you had written this three years earlier when both of my girls chose to get married the same summer–3 months apart! )

  32. Robin

    Carol,

    All great ideas! I remember mixing punch “concentrates” on the morning of my wedding 25 years ago. I grew up in a large family and all we knew was “diy”

  33. Nita

    Great ideas to print out and save for when our time comes to plan weddings.

  34. Delia

    Dear Carol, what a great time for us to post these ideas! We started this year to think of a wedding, since my daughter started her sweet relationship with a certain young man. I know – because she said it :-)) that she does not want a small and simple wedding, but one to be very special and nice – and we are thinking about the cost!!! Great ideas, Carol, thank you! I am printing them out and keep them in a folder for that “special” day soon to come (although I hope not very soon…).
    Blessings, Delia

  35. LeAnn

    Thank you for all these wonderful tips. I passed your article on today to a friend who is getting married 11/11/11. She already wrote me back to tell me how helpful your ideas are.

  36. Jerry

    All the goodness – at a fraction of the cost!

    Well done!

  37. These are wonderful idea’s Carol. I made my own wedding invites, had my mom make the dresses, and we did a potluck dinner, for our wedding 13 years ago! Frugal is blessed!!! 😀

  38. Suzy

    Thanks for the helpful suggestions! Just today I was having this very same conversation with a friend. Seven years ago I purchased my brand new $1,000 wedding ensemble for $30 at a Goodwill. It fit me like it was made for my body. Our reception was a pot luck dinner with a fixed menu. As two 21 year olds, this is what we could afford. The good news is that it worked and we’re still married today. 🙂 I think I need to go blog about this.

  39. Samirian @MoneyWisdoms

    Great ideas that I’ll share and bookmark for later. Simple is better. Many spend more time planning a wedding than planning a marriage (or their finances, for that matter).

  40. Donna Palmer

    Holy cow Carol- the comments keep pouring in. I am so very proud of you and your writing accomplishments!!!!

    I love you Big Sis!
    Donna

  41. Sheryl Hackworth

    Great ideas for saving on the wedding. Hopefully, the lucky couple will also prepare for their future much in the same way.

  42. Donna Gagyi

    Carol, you have done it again – created a practical, well-written, and easy to follow article to save us time or money or frustration. I especially liked the idea of growing your own flowers for the wedding decorations. I’ll have to remember these tips for our Jane!

  43. Tracey

    Great article. Some things we did at the last 6 of our children’s weddings… ordered wedding dresses online (great fit, less than 200 with shipping) went with pretty canning jars instead of vases (reusable!) We bartered services for the photographer, and asked close friends to bring a large dish to the reception rather than a gift.

  44. Monica

    Great ideas Carol! I think that some of these ideas could be used for other events too like graduations, birthday parties, and anniversaries so thanks for the help with my planning.

  45. Karen

    Great ideas – creative and tasteful.

    I am planning on printing and filing this for when our teenage daughters find their man (if that is what God has in store for them).

  46. Tanya

    Great ideas. Very helpful. Thanks!

  47. Larry Jones

    My sister in law recently sang in a wedding that cost between $25,000 – $30,000. The bride’s family footed the bill in fulfillment of their daughter’s “dream wedding”. This family is by no means wealthy. They had literally saved for this wedding all of their daughter’s life. Looking at today’s economy and the difficulty it presents to new couples, I believe the majority of the expense could have been saved and routed to a new home or other needs. I can’t see how a wedding of this nature fulfills anything but vanity. Great article.

  48. Diane Horner

    Really enjoyed reading this post!! Had a lot of wonderful info in it that might come in handy for me some day!

  49. Great list! I love many of these ideas, especially growing your own flowers … that will give the flowers more meaning, more of a personal touch, than just buying them would.

    I’ve also heard the ideas of using potted flowers as centerpieces on the tables (you can grow them yourself or buy them from Home Depot for $3-$4 each) or using a decorative bowl of colorful mini-fruits (clementine oranges, lemons, limes) as centerpieces.

  50. PATRICIA ALEXNDER

    Great writing, Carol. The Lord has blessed you with such talent. Your writing has just come so natural for you and I’ve always said you should write a book. I’am so proud of you. Love, Mom in law. 🙂

  51. Annie Kate

    We got married on a Tuesday so hubby’s Daddy wouldn’t have to close his store on Saturday, the best day of the week. It made everything else easier to arrange as well, since no one gets married on a Tuesday!

    Annie Kate

    PS We, both students, paid for our own wedding; it was very simple.

  52. Vermont Country Wedding

    Perfect ideas. My friend will tie the knot this coming September 3,2011, since they consider the budget of the ceremony instead of making her own gown with her desired design, she come up with the idea of renting one. I will tell my friend about your post.

  53. Camille

    My fiance and I budget is 2,500 for 50 people including our rings, honeymoon, venue, reception, flowers and apparel. We are not high maintenance but I am a female who dreams about her wedding . I found a sample gown for 200 dollars, bought silk flowers arranged myself and picked an outdoor location at the park where we got engaged that we didnt need a licence to have the event. We are having our own catering and cakes done at the local grocery store. Instead of a dj we have made our own playlist and our playing it out of a stereo at the park. Our honeymoon is in San Francisco and just what we wanted. If you want to get married and you are willing to compromise you can acheive your goal without breaking the bank.

  54. Leah

    Gowns and flowers are really expensive aside from the reception with the foods. Need really to be strict on your budget or else you will end up short on budget.