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How I Planned a Beautiful Wedding on a Small Budget

Updated on February 28, 2018

Daydreams and Wishes

Like any little girl, I had a dream of a big wedding ceremony, beautiful big dress, and my prince charming waiting for me at the end of the aisle. Dreams of a great reception, with lots of food, dancing, drinking and having fun. Then, the time came in my life that it was actually happening and my big dreams and ideas flew out the window. I didn't have a lot of money and had no one else to help pay for it, just me and my future husband. So we sat down and decided to use our tax money and whatever money we had extra for each month to begin our wedding dreams. I still wanted a fairy tale wedding, just ideally had to give up on a few of the dreams. You can write down your wishes for your wedding, some may come true, but you will have to be very flexible on a budget. Our budget totaled approximately $5,000, which is not bad for a wedding and reception!

Yummy Cake!

Our wedding cake made by my cousin.
Our wedding cake made by my cousin.

Get to Thinking!

The earlier you start your planning the better. Time tends to creep up on you when you least expect it. To get your planning started I would recommend a notebook or two and the Internet. Start with the day you would like to get married and write down a few other dates you would consider as well. Start jotting down ideas for other things like colors, flowers, food, invitations, dress styles, tuxedo styles, etc.This is where the Internet will come in handy, search for wedding planning and make a list of what needs planned. Then, write your notes beside. You may want a wedding planner, but I had 3 and used them rarely. If you don't want to waste money on one, call your local department stores and ask what gift they give with wedding registry. Some will give you a wedding planner for free, just register a few items and you can take your future hubby back to do the rest.

As you are brainstorming your ideas, jot down a few alternatives or ideas of maybe how you or someone you know could make it. Making and decorating things yourself will be a big way to save money! Do you know someone who knows how to bake? Our wedding cake was made by my cousin and was delicious! Do you know people who can take pictures? We asked 2 people with really good cameras to take the photos and video record, other pictures we had were just taken by the people attending. Some of those photos are the best ones! If you know someone that knows how to sew and you have enough time, ask them to sew some of your dresses for you! We had a few people offer to do things for us, so we did not pay for some materials for things, like the invitations or cake.

Who's Coming?!

This is something I would recommend doing before you start purchasing and holding sites. Start by making a list of everyone you would like to invite. Your guest list will have a lot to do with how much you spend. Ceremony and reception sites, invitations, and food will add up the more people you have attending. If this starts getting you out of your budget, you will have to re-evaluate your list. We invited only our closest family and friends. Friends from high school or cousins, aunts and uncles you haven't seen in years for example should probably be cut from your list. Or some people we invited to our ceremony because there was still ample space, but did not invite to the reception. Really think about who you are inviting and why. This will help greatly with your budget.

Invitations are inexpensive to make. Craft stores have templates already made or I used my computer to make my own. I wrote up something meaningful to me and my husband and the information needed. Printed on a heavy cardstock and printed inserts for any additional information our guests needed. Craft stores have a whole wall of different colors and prints for cards. A way I saved money was by printing 3 invitation inserts per card stock. Take a look at what you want and your ideas will come to you! We looked at pricing for having them made and it was $200-$600!

The finished product of my Bouquets.
The finished product of my Bouquets.

"I Do" Want to Save on My Ceremony

A big way to save on your ceremony is get married during off season. Wedding season is typically June. If you would like to get married in June, like myself, get married on a weekday. A weekend wedding would've been convenient for our guests, yes, but when paying for your own wedding it is hard to think about these things. We chose to get married on a Thursday in the afternoon. This step alone saved us $1150.00!!! As you can see in the picture below, it was a beautiful chapel that we were married in and for only $350! Do research on the Internet before committing to one location! Also remember to ask about their policies, clean up, etc. You will have to put a deposit down on your sites, if you make sure to follow and clean up, you should have no problem getting it back.

The chapel itself was beautiful, so I didn't want to over decorate it. I purchased some fake roses, green floral tape and ribbon to match the flowers. I made bouquets by cutting the flowers down, arranging them and wrapping them first with the tape and then with the ribbon. I arranged 6 other flowers laying flat and wrapped ribbon stiffly around the stems. Creating almost a flower baton, this with our unity sand vases lay across the unity table. I purchased some fake red rose petals on clearance for $.50 months ahead and used those on the ground. It is a good idea to start shopping in advance. Sometimes you can find the perfect thing for your wedding on clearance or discount months before!


Let's Get Dressed!

There is not a lot you can do to save money on a tuxedo for your groom and groomsmen. Some places have specials to get grooms tux for free, but normally its if you rent 6 others! The easiest way is to ask the groomsmen if they can rent their own tuxedos. This is also the easiest thing to do to save money on your bridesmaids dresses. This is not an uncommon practice in weddings, so don't be afraid to ask! This is a good practice if you are not wanting one specific style, just color in a dress! Let's them choose what they want to wear. If you are wanting to purchase the dresses, I went to a Quinceanera shop. I purchased each dress for approximately $30. Flower girl dresses are the same way! These shops have great deals on dresses. I purchased my flower girl dresses at JCPenney after Easter. They were on sale for $20. For your ring bearers, I would not recommend renting a tux. The Quinceanera shops have small tuxes or suits, but we opted for the dress pants and dress shirt with tie.

My dress was a little more difficult. I waited too long to order the one I wanted from the Internet. Ebay has some beautiful cheap dresses, but make sure you email to ask when the dress will be delievered!!! My sister-in-law purchased her dress from Ebay and it looked great on her! I had only a couple of months until my wedding and very little time to dress shop. Do not put this off if you are wanting a cheap dress! We ended up at David's Bridal trying on dresses, I had a budget and told the lady helping us that. But as she kept bringing me the dresses in that budget I was hopeless, I couldn't find one dress I liked! Then, the girl next to us had one on that caught our eye! I tried it on and it was pretty, but I needed more. I asked for another dress in that style and she brought me over the perfect dress. It was less than $400, but still over my budget for my dress. So I could make sure all other wedding things were paid for I went ahead and applied for their store credit card and got the no interest plan. I don't recommend putting things on credit, but as soon as everything else was paid for we paid it off.

I did pay to have my nails done, but we painted the other ladies. If you have someone that can do hair, ask them to help. Otherwise, do it yourself. A wedding in the summer should have light make up and simple updos. My bridesmaids had their hair french braided with the ends pinned under. The under side of my hair was french braided and I pinned and curled the top half. If you must have your hair done, plan it into your budget and only yours. The bridesmaids don't have to be as done up as you, it is your wedding!

Simple accessories, undergarments needed or little things we just picked up a little at a time.

Time to celebrate!

If you can find a place that will do your ceremony and reception, that would be ideal. Or chapel did not hold receptions, so we had to find a different location. Searching through many places, we decided to have ours at Hampton Inn. They had a meeting room big enough for our guests, they set up the tables, chairs, and table clothes. Only $250 to rent the room for the whole day. All we had to do was decorate. We threw a few rose petals on the tables and used a simple floating candle glass bowl, red gems and floating candles as our center pieces. All these items are inexpensive at Walmart or Hobby Lobby. Be sure to check on the items you need, if they do not have enough, ask them to order and when that order will be in.

You can do a simple deserts, beverages and cake, a candy theme with cake, or you can provide food and drinks for your guests. We decided we wanted to provide dinner, due to the fact many of our guests were from out of town. We couldn't afford to cater, so we asked a friend to provide us with a few pans of her spaghetti bake. We purchased a few of the Steno burning pans and materials to make it, she cooked it for us the night before. We provided a simple salad and a few drink choices. The hotel we went with just happened to have open drink night as well, so our guests got to enjoy beer and wine until a certain time. We opted to stay the night in the same hotel because they gave a discount to our wedding group for choosing them.

One of my favorite photos, taken by a friend.
One of my favorite photos, taken by a friend.

Happily Ever After

Our wedding may not have been this extravagant fairy tale, but it was still a dream come true. We didn't want to put ourselves in debt planning it and we didn't. Putting yourself and future husband into debt before you are even married can drastically change the tune of your marriage. Many husbands don't see the same ideas and dreams as their wives and will think its foolish to spend this extravagantly for one day.

The last thing I will recommend is enlist in people you can rely on!!! I had a great deal of stress the day of my wedding because I was the wedding planner. Trying to get ready and get everyone else situated is not a good thing to try to do. Give someone or a few people a list of what you want done and that way all you have to do is relax and get ready! Make a task a game for the children attending. For example, we had to have everything cleaned up before leaving, so we gave a prize to the child who picked up the most rose petals.

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    • Amber Colleen profile image

      Amber Colleen 

      7 years ago

      Wonderful tips! This is great!

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