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How to Plan a Budget Wedding

Updated on May 8, 2011
Working with an expert can be helpful when start to plan your budget wedding
Working with an expert can be helpful when start to plan your budget wedding

Tips on Where to Spend and Where to Save Money on Your Wedding

Very few people have unlimited funds, and even fewer have the financial experience that teaches them how to plan a budget wedding that is realistic and achievable. If you cannot keep your wedding budget under control from the start, then you are already on the path towards greater stress and financial strain. You certainly don't want to start your married life with arguments over money. To help put you on a realistic path, I have put together some tips and guidelines for planning a wedding on a budget that will still result in the day of your dreams.

Make a list of your priorities first
Make a list of your priorities first

What are your priorities?

Start by deciding with your partner what your priorities are. The major elements that impact your wedding budget will be:

  • People - The more people you have, the higher the cost of the wedding. This is one of the biggest trade-offs you have to make when it comes to budget. Think carefully about who it is important to share your day with.
  • Food - Dinner is usually the most expensive, especially a sit-down one. Gourmet food will certainly cost more than casual fare. If your budget is very tight, consider alternatives such as brunch, vegetarian, or dessert-only.
  • Entertainment - The more, the merrier. However, you will have to think this one through carefully. If you really want to have a rockin' party where everyone is dancing the night away, you have to spend the money to get a good DJ or band.
  • Decorations - Budgets for decorations can range from miniscule to out-of-this-world, and can still look amazing.
  • Invitations - Invitations can range from an evite (online only), do-it-yourself, or outrageous statement pieces that belong in a museum.
  • Location - You can have your wedding anywhere from a free location (like your backyard) to a fancy castle in the country or an exotic destination. Most people fall somewhere in between.
  • Dress - The fancier the gown, the more expensive it will be. And, if you want to have more than one dress, such as a special one for the party, it will cost even more.
  • Photography/video - A good photographer is not cheap and they usually charge by the hour and by what you want in terms of photos, albums and editing.
  • Cake - An amazing wedding cake can cost $3,000 or more.

Try to pick out the top three priorities and then try to put the rest in order.

The ones that impact budget the most are number of people and food. Since caterers charge on a per person basis, the two are related. Also, a larger number of people requires a larger location, and vice versa.

Fill pretty wedding favor boxes with candy for a diy favor.
Fill pretty wedding favor boxes with candy for a diy favor. | Source

Do it yourself wedding opportunities

If you are capable, have the time, or are willing to learn, the easiest areas to do it yourself are:

  • Invitations - There are many options to print invitations yourself or order online and assemble yourself.
  • Decorations - You can make many details yourself and even order your own flowers in bulk. Just make sure there is someone who can put it all together on the day. You will be busy.
  • Food - Main courses are difficult, but some people do their own desserts and bring them. Others have a potluck, which is about as cheap as you can get.
  • Music - You can put together playlists on an ipod for the reception, but will need someone to be in control of it - especially when it's time for speeches, time for quiet during the main meal, time to pump it up, and time to wind down.
  • Photography  - This is particularly difficult to do yourself unless you have a good friend who takes great photos, but it's been done before.

Sample DIY Project: How to Make a Nylon Flower

DIY Rose-Piped Wedding Cake
DIY Rose-Piped Wedding Cake | Source

Best opportunities to save money

Here are some of the best places you can save money in your wedding budget:

  • Time of year. Off-season or middle of the week are great times to get a phenomenal deal.
  • Location - If you're doing your own catering, or have a caterer, get a place that is either cheap or costs nothing, such as a local park. Check licenses required.
  • Dress - If you are a standard size you can either buy a second-hand dress online or pick up a gorgeous one in a sale or sample sale.
  • Flowers - Use a cheaper beautiful flower or use fewer large ones. You can also decorate with an alternative, such as fruit or other greenery. If the location is beautiful, just use some candles and a few colorful accents for decor.
  • Food. Skip the traditional luncheon or dinner and do something simple, such as dessert only or brunch.
  • Drink. Forget the open bar and just have wine and soft drinks, and possibly one signature drink such as a mojito. 
  • Invitations. You can really create some amazing ones online.
  • Number of people. Stick to close friends and family and you have probably cut your budget by a tremendous amount right there.  
  • Cake. Either do a simple one yourself or create an alternative, such as a cupcake tier that is then decorated with lots of other colorful or themed desserts around it to make it look fancy. You can also do a smaller version of your dream cake, and have sheet cake for the rest. No one will know!
  • Wedding favors - There are myriad ways to put together your own very inexpensive wedding favors. Candy or chocolate is easiest, everyone loves it, and you can dress it up any way you want.

When considering spending more, think about what is most important

It is essential to set your priorities when planning a wedding on a tight budget. Some important areas to consider spending more are:

  • Photography - Great photos require a true professional, unless you have a friend who is very good and is willing to do it. These are your lasting memories and you don't want them messed up by an amateur
  • Your rings - Again, these are a lasting memory. You may say to yourselves that you'll upgrade eventually, but most people keep having more and more financial responsibilities that get in the way
  • Your honeymoon - This is another memory that lasts much longer than the one day of your wedding.

It is most important to remember that your wedding is personal and should reflect the two of you. Nobody really cares how lavish it is (if they do, then tough luck). Just make sure you set your budget about 10% under what you can afford since most people go over budget. It's just too difficult to think of every eventuality or emergency that might come up. Finally, don't let anyone talk you into spending more than you can afford. Divide up your budget among all the major areas and make it clear to vendors what your limit is. If they can't work within it, then you need to find a different vendor.

Try to plan your wedding budget and stick to it!


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