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How to Plan a Wedding on a Tight Budget

Updated on November 26, 2017

Anyone planning their big day is excited, nervous and wants everything to be just perfect. Well, there's no reason it shouldn't be perfect, but one thing every woman should know before planning her wedding is:

The more things you plan, the more things can go wrong.

Keeping things simple is the key. Here are a few of the things I 100% DID NOT do on my wedding day which made it so much better.

Wedding Dress

Do you really need it?

DON'T Spend a Fortune

This is the single biggest thing that people feel pressured to do when it is simply not necessary. Many people put off their wedding for years because they 'can't afford it'. OK, so let's break down the costs of a wedding.

1) Marriage license - can't get out of this one. Depending where you live it will cost a different amount. Ours cost $75.

2) Wedding clothes - that means dress, tux and shoes. Well, my mother-in-law paid for all these things for us, but my dress cost $45 and my husband's new shirt and bow tie (we went non-traditional and forewent a tux) cost about $60.

3) Venue - there is no need to hire a fairytale castle. A beautiful back garden is a perfectly fine venue; we got married in the local courthouse which actually looks like a fairytale castle from the outside... although the inside was less picturesque. The cost was $0.

4) Food - I think it's necessary for the bride and groom to cover food costs. We held our reception in a local gourmet cafe - it was totally delicious; they designed our very own set menu for us and let us bring in cake and champagne. Cost: $12/head.

That literally is all we spent on our wedding.

I agree that most people want something a bit fancier than what we did (not that I consider our wedding any less than perfect) but there is a balance which can be struck. Forget the insanely high average cost of a wedding and spend sensibly, only on the essentials.

Who can argue with this as a free venue?


Don't invite this lot!


DON'T Invite Hundreds of Guests

The only part of my wedding where I might have been a bit of a diva is where it came to guests. I was heartless. I wanted my wedding day to be about enjoying time with close friends and family, not about making small talk with Great Uncle Eddie. We had a total of 20 guests, all of whom I knew and loved and couldn't have got married without.

Inviting extra guests because it is polite means

a) You need a bigger venue

b) You need to worry about extra parking/ transportation etc.

c) You need to provide more food

d) You have to talk to people you neither know nor particularly like.

Only invite people you actually want to have, and you'll save yourself a lot of stress. Don't invite people just because you went to their wedding or because they are your second cousin's best friend. Be ruthless and enjoy an intimate wedding. It will be so much easier to organise - not to mention more fun.

How much would you spend on a wedding dress?

See results

DON'T Buy a $5,000 Meringue

I've already talked a little bit about needless expense - I'd definitely define a thousand dollar wedding dress as a needless expense. It's a special day - you should wear a special dress, but don't spend thousands on it!

There are many places where you can get awesome wedding dresses for hundreds rather than thousands. David's Bridal has lots of amazing gowns for $100 or less. I have to admit, though (ssh!) mine came from J.C. Penney and wasn't a real bridal gown at all.

But eBay, thrift stores and even relatives are great potential sources of wedding dresses. Wear something classic but don't waste money.

Wedding dress: $45

DON'T Have an Open Bar

This has only ever been messy when I've experienced it at weddings. You've hired a fancy place for the reception and you want everyone to enjoy themselves... but open bars mean that people will inevitably drink more than they normally would.

At our wedding, we had champagne at the reception, and we took the afterparty back to our house, where people were free to get as drunk as they wanted without destroying anything too valuable or needing to be hauled back home.

Maybe other people have more cultured guests than we did... but it's safest to limit alcohol at a wedding if you don't want to worry about cleaning deposits and designated drivers.

DON'T Hire a Wedding Planner

Seriously, why would you? Planning a wedding is something that it is fun to do together as a couple. It's your day - you should choose what you want yourself. Book a venue (or don't), organize a marriage certificate, some food and some booze... why do more? Wedding planners are a needless expense, and frankly, it takes the fun out of it.

It is true that larger weddings can be stressful to plan. If you absolutely refuse to go small, then get family and friends to help out. My sister-in-law did the photography and helped to provide afterparty snacks, my mother-in-law insisted on making the party favours, we got the booze in a few days beforehand, and we confirmed with the reception venue a week in advance to make sure everything was good to go. Before our wedding all we had to do was

1) Book a date and get an officiant

2) Find a venue for the reception and organize a menu

3) Invite the guests and get yays or nays

4) Get our outfits together.

Simple, easy, low stress. Why hire someone when you can do it yourself?

DON'T Panic!

Planning a wedding doesn't have to be stressful. Ours was so relaxed and laid back, completely unconventional, yet everyone who went had a thoroughly good time. Why? Because we were all good friends, nobody was judging us and there was no stress or panic involved.

My husband and I married at very short notice (did you guess that already?) but I really wouldn't choose a 18 month wait and a complex plan. I wouldn't choose to worry about whether the flower arrangements matched the chinaware. A wedding is about celebrating love, not about the seating plan.

The simpler your plan, the more time you can relax and enjoy your wedding, the party, the company of good friends and eating delicious cake. So don't stress about the small details. Have a ball on a low budget, with a little bit of DIY which makes it all the more intimate.

What about you? How did your wedding day go? Was there a lot of planning involved or did you wing it? Leave a comment!


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