Wedding on a Budget

Living With Less

So many people asked us why Austin and Larisa’s wedding was on a Thursday evening. Granted it’s a little unconventional, but quite honestly it came down to their budget. They found the place where they wanted their wedding and reception but the Friday or Saturday night price was way out of reach. However, the cost during the week was 50% less…and that’s how a Thursday evening wedding was born!

Weddings are expensive events. However, there are many ways to cut costs and stay within your budget. Austin and Larisa’s wedding was the fourth for our family. They were all planned with a budget in mind, but I can’t even imagine how they could have been any better even if more money had been spent.  

We’ve lived most of our married life with a limited income. We have shopped at Aldi, practiced “delayed gratification,” and limited our kids’ activities simply because we often couldn’t afford registration fees or lesson tuition. When it came time to plan weddings–particularly for our girls where we carried the most financial responsibility–we proceeded in the same manner. It took some extra effort, but we determined that we had more time than money so we used our time to comparison shop and consider all possible ways to accomplish whatever task was before us. In the process, we found that there are many ways to have a beautiful celebration on a limited budget. Here are some tips we can now share:

  • Shop clearance racks: A full price wedding gown was out of our budget, but we found many beautiful gowns on the bridal shop clearance racks. Our oldest daughter eventually chose a beautiful $1200 gown that we found on the clearance rack for $279.  Erica chose to wear my wedding dress (which was my mother’s wedding dress, too!) and alterations were less than $200.  I did the same for my dress for Austin and Larisa’s wedding. I’ve had so many compliments on my dress and I spent all of $39 on it at a Ross–Dress For Less store!
  • Shop outside of bridal stores: The average tiara in a bridal store is around $100, but stores in the mall carry tiaras, too. We found Anne’s for less than $10 and it was beautiful! Jewelry can be purchased in the same manner. Even the Dollar Store has a wide range of wedding supplies that don’t look at all like they came from a “discount” store—the throw away garter is a perfect example of what can be purchased at the Dollar Store. For their wedding, Larisa found the flower girl dresses at an online store for just $35.
  • Take advantage of tux store offers: Many tux rental stores offer free invitations with tux rental. This saves hundreds of dollars.  Erica and Kendall chose to forgo the tuxes.  They did dress shirts, ties, and pants that the guys bought themselves and could keep and wear again. Austin and Larisa also created their own wedding invitations and had them printed at minted.com which also came with free envelope addressing with an order of invitations.

Borrow what you can: Rather than renting a limo for the drive from the church to the reception, we asked family friends if we could borrow their convertible for one of our daughter’s wedding. Another friend offered decorations she still had from her daughter’s wedding. The church had silk greenery we were able to use and candle stands and white pillars were also borrowed for another daughter’s wedding. For Larisa and Austin’s wedding, Anne put out a need on Facebook for a 5T tux or suit for Landon as the ringbearer. Thankfully a friend had one to borrow.

  • Serve appetizers at the reception: Rather than a meal, if you time the wedding just right, you can serve appetizers or simply cake and punch.  One wedding we went to served donuts rather than cake!
  • Limit invitation numbers: This is a hard decision to make for sure, but it also controls costs. Larisa and Austin limited their invite list to a little over 100 guests. Because there were so many of their friends and family, this meant Mark and I couldn’t invite some of our own friends who we would have loved to have there. That was hard, but understandable and important for staying within the budget.
  • Make anything you can: The wedding party can be more than just pretty faces on the wedding day. Let them help address invitations, make bouquets and bows or table centerpieces.  Three of my friends spent just a few hours helping me make the hot chocolate favors at Larisa and Austin’s wedding.
  • Think outside the box. Rather than paying for an elaborate wedding cake, Austin and Larisa had a pie bar for guests. They had a small cake that Larisa made herself for just the two of them to cut and eat.
  • Purchase flowers yourself: Some florists will use your silk flowers and charge an hourly rate for assembling corsages, boutonnieres, and bouquets. We found silk stems for half price at Hobby Lobby and purchased the remaining flowers online at wholesale prices for our girls’ weddings. This reduced cost significantly.
  • Attend Bridal Shows: Not only do you garner ideas for your wedding, but you can sign up for giveaways as well. After one bridal show, we won $70 off tux rental.

  • Ask friends to be a part of your day: Rather than paying musicians, you might ask musician friends to be a part of your special day.  Ask friends to help decorate the church or set up the tables for the reception.
  • Do without: What items that are considered “traditional” do you really not need or even care about? Anne determined that she didn’t really care if she had an aisle runner at the church. That was one less thing to purchase.
  • Plan in advance: Erica and Kendall had a three month engagement. From a planning perspective, we loved just getting things done and not fretting over too many details.  Larisa and Austin had a two year engagement.  While that allowed for a lot of time for fretting over details, it also netted them some great financial deals. For instance, their videographers were fellow Moody students Austin booked two years ago when they were inexperienced and just starting their business. By the time they actually did Austin and Larisa’s wedding, their prices and experience had greatly increased. As they told me at the wedding, “These two got an incredible deal because our prices now are not even close to what Austin booked us for two years ago!” (Below is the six minute highlight video if you’d like to see it.  Click here to see it if you’re reading this in email and the video doesn’t show up.)

The most important part of planning a wedding is letting the bride and groom create a day that is their very own. With a little bit of effort and creativity, a very special day can be created on any budget!

What about you? Do you have any tips you would pass on for planning a wedding on a budget? 

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5 thoughts on “Wedding on a Budget

  1. I planned an outdoor wedding in May at a local state park. The ceremony would be held at the amphitheater with reception following at the lodge. 50 degrees and rain called for plan B, with both ceremony and reception in same room at lodge. All the wedding guests helped move tables back, set up chairs, and make an aisle. Everyone pulling together like that made for lovely memories still talked about today by family and lodge employees (20 years later).

  2. Jill,
    Thank you for sharing the video! It as so fun to see highlights of their day. I especially loved when they stood on opposite sides of the wood pile and he sang to her. Wish I could have heard it, but I could definitely see how special it was. And I loved the idea of the picture of them holding hands, but not seeing each other yet. So clever! I hope Jody sees this and uses that idea. Congrats to you and Mark on your new member of the family!
    Love ya, Tammy

  3. Jill,
    Love your suggestions- for my oldest daughter we learned floral techniques and made all the flowers. I learned some jewelry making skills and made necklaces for all the girls to wear that matched. We are planning my oldest son’s right now still looking for new ideas! Thanks!