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5 Simple and Creative Ways to Keep Your Wedding Under $10K: Tips and Pictures

Updated on October 10, 2014
Cake from our local bakery with wholesale flowers arranged by a friend of the family.
Cake from our local bakery with wholesale flowers arranged by a friend of the family. | Source

Decide What's Important to YOU

Like so many women, I had an image of what I wanted my wedding to be like. I also had an image of what I wanted my bank account to look like after the wedding was done (not empty). I wasn't sure if we could pull it off, but looking back, I had everything I wanted and more. The beauty of it was, many of the things that we did to save money actually made the wedding much more special and personal. I hope the ideas below will help you do the same.

Obviously my values will come through in my suggestions - to be honest, they probably won't appeal to someone who wants a very fancy wedding. But I imagine that if you're trying to figure out ways to have a wedding under $10K, you have probably already let go of the idea of having a personal attendant for each guest.

#1: Fire the DJ

Better yet, don't hire him in the first place. All you have to do is rent speakers and hook up your ipod. You can put someone in charge of pressing play for the ceremony music, then for the walking out music, to start the cocktail hour, and to start the dancing. You can also get a microphone along with the speakers (all part of the same rental) and use it for your ceremony and toasts, if needed.

For the music itself, this is one of those areas where I think being forced to find ways to save money ended up making our wedding more fun and more special to us. My husband took on the job of creating the perfect play lists for the cocktail hour and dinner and for dancing.

Tips for making your own play list:

  • For dancing, you have to front load with the best, high energy dance songs.
  • You also want to mix in a number of songs from the 1950s and 1960s if you will have any older guests - the family members tend to dance earlier so get them on the floor with songs they know, then mix in newer songs. It is a blast to see your great aunt getting down with your best friend from college to "Monie Monie" and it makes everyone feel like they belong.

Cost savings: $300ish to rent speakers versus easily over $1,000 on a professional DJ.

Flowers arranged by a friend of the family on a regular cake from our favorite bakery.
Flowers arranged by a friend of the family on a regular cake from our favorite bakery. | Source

#2: A Cake is a Cake is a Cake

If you are trying to keep your wedding under $10K, do not buy a "wedding" cake. It mystifies me how much money bakeries are willing to charge (and people are willing to pay) for the exact same cake, just dressed up all fancy. Bakeries use the exact same cake for their wedding cakes and their regular cakes. And you don't have to worry about transporting the tiered cake, or some drunkle (drunk uncle) knocking over the cake before it's time to cut it. We bought the biggest circular cakes that our favorite local bakery had, and had a family friend with an artistic eye arrange some flowers on top of it. It turned out gorgeous, and was at least a third of the price.

Cost savings: depends on quantities, but generally a regular cake will cost around $2-3 a slice, while a wedding cake will be closer to $6 or more. So for a 150 person wedding, you are probably saving at least $500.

We did white roses and yellow crocuses - very simple to arrange and looked beautiful.
We did white roses and yellow crocuses - very simple to arrange and looked beautiful. | Source

#3: Do Your Own Flowers

Professional flowers are another huge expense. This one also blows my mind, because the flowers themselves are really what is beautiful. Yes, a nice arrangement makes it look extra nice, but you can do it yourself, or even better, you probably have a friend or family member who has an artistic eye. Enlist their help! People generally like to feel involved, and there are lots of helpful on-line instructions for arranging flowers, as well as books you can check out from the library, or books and dvd guides you can buy (if you could go in on something like this with other friends having weddings in the same year, that could definitely make it worth the price, especially if you don't have friends who already know how to work with flowers).

There are a number of logistics to deal with for flowers - here are the basics:

  • Buy them wholesale from a florist. I got married in a relatively small town and there were still multiple options. Pick a few simple flowers that look great together. We also got rose petals that were surprisingly inexpensive and were great for the flower girls. Friends can arrange them in vases right at the wedding site ideally, and then put them out on tables and where ever else you want them.
  • For the vases or other holders, you can get really cheap glassware at IKEA. We sent home arrangements with people who wanted them, and they got a complementary vase to go with it! We also borrowed large vases from friends to use for the larger arrangements.
  • For the corsages and other flowers for people to wear - it's really not that hard to do it yourself. We were again lucky enough to have a family friend who was willing to do this. As I mentioned above, there are lots of great online resources to walk you through this, or books and dvd guides to check out from the library or buy.

Cost savings: Again, depends on quantities, but professional flowers are incredibly expensive. I think you can count on saving at least $1,000 if not much more.

#4: Beer and Wine are Just Fine

This was a hard one for us at first, but we ended up getting married at a county park that only allowed beer and wine, so we were forced into this choice. We had always had an image of having a great open bar for all our friends, but honestly, it was a huge blessing that we were forced to limit our options. Everyone had a fantastic time and nobody missed the open bar at all. Cost-wise, it was huge. Not only do you save on the alcohol itself, but you also save on costs of bartenders. We still had one bartender (who came with the caterer) to pour beer and wine for guests, but we were also able to put wine bottles out on the tables, and beer in tubs. We invested in a few nice looking tubs that we kept as wedding gifts to ourselves, and they worked very well for nice presentation of the beer, so it didn't just feel like we were tailgating.

There are so many great beers and wines, and you can get them at great wholesale prices. Costco or other warehouse stores are a great place to start. Tubs are pretty easy to find anywhere - online you may be able to find bigger savings if you keep an eye out for sales. Personally, I think the metal ones look a lot nicer than the plastic ones, and you can keep them for yourselves, or give them away as thank you gifts to people who helped.

Cost savings: also depends on quantities, but an open bar can get incredibly expensive. I would honestly say you will save at least $1,000, if not much more.

Do you think it's ok to have a wedding without favors?

See results

#5: Do Yourself a Favor - No Favors

This one was the hardest for me to give up, but I am really glad we did. No one seemed to notice, and the thing that pushed me over the edge was the fact that we had an after-party at a bar, so it wasn't going to make logistical sense to give people something they were going to have to keep track of. And we had plenty of beer, wine, and cake, so it didn't really make sense to give them another treat to eat. Along with favors, I would also recommend forgoing the cameras on tables - I don't know anyone who got memorable photos from them, and most got lost or thrown away. There's also the environmental argument that you don't need to provide people with more "stuff" that may just get lost or thrown away.

Cost savings: It's hard to think of a favor that would run less than $3 a person, so for a 150 person wedding, you're saving almost $500.

Conservative Estimate of Savings

Skip the D.J. (do your own music)
Buy a regular cake
Do your own flowers
No hard alcohol (beer/wine only)
No favors

Do What Works for You

These five choices saved us easily $4,000 (and probably much more) and many of them actually made our wedding nicer and more special than if we had paid 'full price.' A wedding is a wonderful time to get your family and friends involved, and some of my favorite moments from the wedding weekend were my friends from different circles laughing together as they put the flowers together, or our uncles, cousins, and friends from college all dancing together to the play list we had created.

I'd love to hear if others have ideas about how to save costs and still have a beautiful wedding!


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    • twoseven profile image

      twoseven 5 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      ComputerCareClnc - Thanks so much for sharing your experience! I think saving on the DJ is one of the best ways to save money - glad it worked so well for you too!

    • ComputerCareClnc profile image

      ComputerCareClnc 5 years ago from Melbourne, FL

      Great ideas! I DJ'd my own wedding with a couple of pre-programmed CDs and everything went perfectly. I hosted everything myself, and no one knew until well into the reception! Check out this hub on wedding photographers:

    • twoseven profile image

      twoseven 5 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      Greekgeek - thank you so much for sharing all of these details! This will certainly help other people come up with even more ideas about how to keep their wedding inexpensive. I love the idea of the cupcakes and creative arrangement. A $2000 wedding is very impressive!

    • Greekgeek profile image

      Ellen 5 years ago from California

      My college roommate had a wonderful inexpensive wedding. We got medieval costumers from the SCA to make our clothes (just bride and bridesmaid; everyone else wore whatever they wanted). We had our friends sing instead of church music during the processions, because we had a pretty good singing group in college -- obviously this wouldn't work for just anyone.

      The flowers were culled from every grocery store flower locker between her apartment and the UU retreat up in the mountains that she'd rented for the event. I and all my friends put together corsages, bouquets and decorations from the flowers we'd picked up the night before the wedding.

      And the best part was the wedding cake. Instead of getting a wedding cake which never tastes great, she'd gotten her favorite local bakery to make REALLY good chocolate cupcakes, each in a silvery wrapper. For the "cake", she took glass disks used for plant stands and some small plaster Greek columns, again probably meant for plant stands, and made a stacked structure of glass disks, 4 columns, smaller glass disk, 4 columns, in the shape of a layer cake. Then we arranged all the cupcakes on that and added flower petals. I don't know if I'm describing it well, but it looked fantastic. The guests loved it because there was no mess, no fussing with cutting the cake -- just walk up and grab a yummy mini-cake!

      For music, we had canned 80s and swing music alternating for us and for the parents and grandparents.

      The location was a church retreat camp up in the mountains which didn't cost too much to rent. The view was spectacular enough that we really didn't need decorations.

      I think that whole wedding cost $2000, nearly all of it the cost of renting the space and paying the chaplain. It remains the best wedding I've ever attended.

    • twoseven profile image

      twoseven 5 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      Brainy Bunny - thanks so much for the comment and voting up! Great ideas of having a lunch buffet and student musicians. I wish I would have thought of student musicians - what a nice way to have live music without spending a fortune!

      Evie Jones - thank you so much for sharing your story of a great low cost wedding - sounds like a wonderful day!

    • profile image

      Evie Jones 5 years ago

      My husband and I attended a small outdoor wedding yesterday in the country. The bride and groom were from Colorado, but wanted to be married close to their family in Georgia. The sun was shining, and the day was beautiful. They did not have to pay to rent a building or even for parking! The groomsmen wore vests over their white shirts and slacks. There were no tuxedos! There was one maid of honor and one bridesmaid. They wore simple dresses, but not alike. The atmosphere was casual and comfortable. A friend played music from CD's at the appropriate times. Other friends provided a simple buffet dinner following the ceremony in a recreational building. Everyone had a lovely time. There were maybe 40 guests. It was simple and affordable for the bride and groom. Everyone had a marvelous time! The groom was my former first grade student from many years ago!

    • Brainy Bunny profile image

      Brainy Bunny 5 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      My wedding was more than 10 years ago already, but we also did it on a tight budget. We didn't miss the extras at all, and everyone had a great time. We had a lunch buffet instead of a sit-down dinner for huge cost savings. We also hired student musicians to play for the ceremony instead of professionals. Voted up.