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You want to plan a cheap wedding that stays within your budget, but you want it to at least look expensive. I get it. When I got engaged and started planning, I was completely blown away by how crazy expensive things were. It seemed as though if I put “wedding” in front of anything, the price tripled!
Luckily, you don’t need to spend tens of thousands of dollars to have an amazing budget wedding day.
I was able to plan our 125 person wedding for under $10,000 – about $8,700 to be exact. I planned this in 6 months and honestly never felt rushed or stressed about it.
How To Plan A Cheap Wedding (In 6 Months)
Table of Contents
My budget was to spend under $10,000. Here’s the breakdown of our budget for about 125 people:
Related Link: 57 Unique and Cheap Wedding Ideas To Save Thousands
Trying to plan a wedding on a budget (that doesn’t look cheap) really boils down to two questions you need to ask yourself before every purchase. Every time you’re about to make a decision about buying something for your wedding, ask yourself:
- Will this be noticed?
- Is it worth it?
Here’s an example. I really wanted chair covers for my reception. The chairs the vendor included were (in my opinion) ugly, and I wanted something that looked nicer.
How would chair covers fit into the two questions?
Will this be noticed? Yes and no.
Yes because it would drastically help with the look of the reception room, making it look more elegant than the original ugly chairs.
No because people wouldn’t know what the original chairs looked like… and people don’t notice chair covers (nor do they notice ugly chairs, if we’re being honest).
Is it worth it? No.
I found chair covers averaging around $3 a chair. For 125 people, this added an extra cost of $375. Paying almost $400 just to make chairs look slightly nicer was not an expense that made sense.
Answering the two questions lead me to the conclusion that chair covers would NOT be worth the cost, since it was more important to me to maintain a cheap wedding that didn’t go over my budget.
If you ask those two questions before any wedding related purchase, you’ll realize the vast majority of weddings expenses aren’t necessary.
Find A Wedding Venue
The first thing that needs to be done is finding a wedding venue.
This is done first because choosing the correct wedding venue is one of the most important factors of a budget wedding!
Even if you are on a time crunch, TAKE YOUR TIME. We planned our wedding in six months, with two of those months spent choosing the perfect location.
Why is the right wedding venue so important?
1. It will probably be one of your biggest expenses
In my wedding budget breakdown, the ceremony and reception venue alone took up about 25% of my budget (second only to food).
If you make other wedding expenses before knowing the cost of the wedding venue, you may end up over your budget when it comes time to choosing the location.
It’s easy to want to skimp on the wedding venue. You can choose to have the ceremony in a park for $200 instead of paying $1,000 to rent a space in a building. But imagine the hidden costs to having it in a park:
- Finding a vendor to supply chairs
- Planning for a backup in case of bad weather (getting a tent, having a separate location, umbrellas for guests, etc)
- Spending more money (and time) on decorations (renting a trellis, getting an aisle runner, flowers, ribbons… the list goes on)
In the end, once you add in all the extras, the park location might end up being similar in price, but it definitely doesn’t save time and stress.
Related Link: 30 Memorable Wedding Ceremony Ideas
2. Guests notice a nice venue first
What do you remember about past weddings?
I’ll tell you what I remember: location.
A good venue is the easiest way to have a budget wedding that doesn’t look cheap. Guests won’t notice your centerpieces or whether you used real or fake flowers. I don’t even remember anyone’s dress.
It’s easy to give guests the “wow” factor if you pick a nice (not necessarily extravagant) venue. Don’t be afraid to spend money on location: it should be one of the biggest expenses of your budget.
3. It determines what decorations to buy
Picking a beautiful location saves so much time and headache on decorations. I purposely picked a ceremony and reception location that didn’t require any decorations except for the centerpieces. This saves you time and money on decorations or having to attempt DIY.
4. It determines the date of your wedding
Some wedding venues book up months or years in advanced. If you have a specific date or season that you want the wedding to be, venue availability matters.
Food (and alcohol) will be your biggest expense. Of course, you can cut costs by not providing food and having it be a cocktail or dessert reception only.
But lets assume you want to provide a meal for your guests. There are three options for food:
- Choosing a wedding reception venue that includes catering
- Hiring an outside caterer
- Cooking it yourself, or having friends and family bring something
In general, all three of these options work for a cheap wedding, as all of them have their pros and cons.
Choosing a wedding reception venue that includes catering
- Vendors may provide a cheap location fee in exchange for using their catering company
- Not having to coordinate with two different vendors on the logistics (when the caterers could come and set up, what they will clean up and what the building will clean up, etc)
- Potentially increased cost depending on the cost of the location and caterer
- Not as many options since you have to choose the food provided by the venue
Hiring an outside caterer
- You can pick and choose the caterer and type of food you want, at the price you want
- Having to coordinate with setting up an outside caterer with the reception location rules
- Potentially increased cost depending on the cost of renting the reception venue
Cooking it yourself, or having friends and family bring something
- Would be the cheapest option since you could buy the ingredients yourself, or have other people bring food
- Time consuming and stressful. You don’t want to be in charge of cooking for 100+ people on the day of your wedding
- You can’t verify the safety of food you cook yourself, or food that other people bring
- People don’t expect to be bringing food for a wedding
For me, I found the choosing a reception venue that did both location and catering to be the easiest option. I didn’t want to deal with the logistics of an outside caterer, and honestly I didn’t find much that were cheaper than what the reception’s catering price anyway.
Photo And Video
Next is choosing a photographer and videographer.
Prices can fluctuate drastically for photo and video. You could find someone just starting out who may be willing to do it for a few hundred, or you could spend thousands of dollars on an expert.
When setting a budget for this, determine how important pictures will be to you.
Some things to keep in mind:
- This will be one of your biggest expenses, up there with location and catering
- Not spending money on a good photographer (or not wanting to get a videographer) is one of the biggest regrets brides have about their wedding day
- Besides your own memory, you won’t have any other method of reliving your wedding day
- Make sure you have some ideas of poses and types of photos you want captured
When choosing someone, you want to make sure it is a good fit for you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and look at their portfolio!
Some questions to ask would be:
- How many hours are you providing?
- How many photographers will there be?
- Is an engagement shoot included in the price?
Also, don’t forget that you have to include meals for your vendors. That means an extra couple plates of food.
Attire And Jewelry
This is another area that can make or break wedding costs. Here are some tips to keep a cheap wedding within budget:
Buy your dress online
I know this is hotly debated but I bought my wedding dress from a warehouse in China. Risky? Probably. But by doing this, I was able to get a very cheap wedding dress that didn’t require a bunch of alterations.
It wasn’t a big risk for me because I know what to look for. Just make sure to keep a few tips in mind:
- When buying online (especially from China), it can take 1-2 months for the dress to get to you. Don’t be in a last minute panic waiting for the dress to arrive
- Reviews, reviews, reviews. Don’t buy anything that doesn’t have hundreds of orders and many raving reviews
- Enter in your measurements that are slightly larger than what you actually are. It’s easier to tailor it down but not as easy to make it larger if it’s too tight
- You might also want to buy a dress that doesn’t have a zipper, and instead uses ribbons. That way it can easily be tightened or loosened without having to worry about it not fitting
You don’t need new accessories or shoes
There’s no need to buy new things – just use what you already own. Besides, I’d rather wear shoes that I knew were comfortable for me to stand in all day than get a new pair that I couldn’t stand in for more than 30 minutes.
Get fake jewelry
The day of the wedding, my wedding band was made of cubic zirconia and my husband’s was made of Tungsten. We just didn’t have the money at the time!
As long as we didn’t care, no one else would care.
In other news, my husband still has the sturdy Tungsten ring and could care less.
Having a cheap wedding doesn’t mean it needs to look cheap! It just means being purposeful in your spending and getting things that serve a purpose.
The amount of decorations you need rests in the type of venue you go with. I purposely picked a location that already looked elegant without needing any decorations. This helped me save time, money, and headache on figuring out how to decorate.
Because I didn’t need many decorations, I was purposeful in what I wanted to buy. The few decorations I bought were:
- Mirror plates (that I later resold on Craigslist)
- Candles from Craigslist
- Vases from the dollar store or any craft store
- Fake flower petals
- Table tents
- Cute favor boxes
- Candy to put in the boxes
Remember, focus on the big things first. There are many decorations that will go unnoticed by guests, so there’s no reason to spend the money on that in the first place.
You know more people than you think you do who can help cut costs
During the planning stage, I read so many brides saying things like:
“We got a $10,000 venue for free because my dad knows the owner!” or “My best friend is a photographer!”
I remember thinking: how unfair! That’s not me at all. I don’t know anyone who has connections like that.
However, once people know you’re planning a wedding, you’ll be surprised at who knows who. For instance, we were able to save money because:
- Our officiant was my dad, who is a pastor = $0 spent on an officiant
- Our videographer was my bridesmaid’s coworker, just starting out in the industry = $500 for videographer
- My mother-in-law’s friend’s daughter (who I’ve never met) just got married and had leftover bouquets. I borrowed these for my bouquets and centerpieces = $0 spent on flowers
Of course it’s different for everyone. But ask around and you might be surprised and what you can borrow or get for cheap.
You’re going to have to make sacrifices
If you’re trying to plan a cheap wedding, there’s no avoiding the fact that you’ll have to cut corners. I mulled over for months whether I wanted to provide alcohol. I ultimately decided at the last minute that we just didn’t have the money for it.
I also wanted a caricaturist or our college mascot to visit (yes, you can do that) but couldn’t justify those either.
Think about what’s important to you on your wedding day. Everyone says that it’s only one day, and that’s true – but it”s still going to be a day you’ll remember forever! You don’t want to think back on it with regrets on how you planned it.
What do you want to remember about your wedding?
I enjoy looking at family photos and seeing such a beautiful backdrop. I still have friends that say that it was a best food they’ve had at a wedding. I think back on the feeling of seeing friends and family gather together to celebrate with us. I don’t think “wow I wish I had included an aisle runner” or “I wish my centerpieces were bigger”.
Planning a wedding doesn’t have to be stressful and you don’t have to spend a lot of time on it either. It’s true what they say you won’t care about the little things on your wedding day. There were some mishaps but I didn’t care. It goes by so quickly so just enjoy it!
Let me know other tips that worked for you in planning a cheap wedding!