Short answer: yes. Long answer: being budget friendly also means lots of DIY work or a few compromises.
In this post you’ll find the best tips to keep your wedding budget friendly, but still beautiful without making too many sacrifices.
Did you know the average wedding costs almost 30 grand?! I cannot imagine spending that much money on one day of my life; but I also wanted that day of my life to be the BEST it could possibly be and spend the night partying away with all my closest family and friends. This blog comes to you from someone who was in your shoes and understands your dilemma – I wanted a large, traditional wedding during which I would get to celebrate my new marriage with all my favorite people, but I had a budget of only about $8,000-10,000. We made it work & now I am sharing my secrets (and a few of my couples’ secrets) with you so you can have a beautiful, but budget friendly wedding. Even if you don’t have a small budget, these tips and tricks and help you save some money for the things that are your top priorities (like photography, venue, experiences, etc.)
Although my husband and I had a very traditional wedding, we also did a few things non-traditional that ended up saving us a huge portion of our wedding budget. Disclaimer: these ideas fit me and my husband and our families extremely well, but they aren’t for everyone. That’s what I love about weddings – they are supposed to represent you and your spouse, and that means doing your own thing. Alright, let’s dive in!
Idea #1: Have a late ceremony & no dinner meal.
This one stems from my own wedding. We got married at 7:30pm outdoors just as the sun was going down. Budget-wise this was a huge money saver. Instead of a dinner meal, we had a bunch of snacks like a popcorn bar, chex mix, and smores, as well as cupcakes and cake. I think all together we spent less than $3/guest for all the food. However, we didn’t make this decision based solely on budget saving tactics; we knew there would be other benefits as well.
Our ceremony was absolutely stunning during sunset which made for gorgeous, soft lighting for our photos. We also had many guests that had to travel up to 6 hours to get to our wedding, so a late ceremony gave them plenty of travel time during the day. I also am NOT a morning person, so I really enjoyed not having to wake up extremely early to get ready. We didn’t start getting ready until 2pm and then didn’t start photos until 4pm. As a photographer now, I absolutely love this timeline because it means that I am capturing memories pretty much the whole time I am there instead of having some major breaks in the day with a normal timeline. Our photographer was only there for 5 hours instead of 8+. We also had tons of time in the morning to set up at our venue and just relax. My husband and I got to spend lots of time together on our wedding day because of that.
The one drawback to this idea is that you can’t really do a traditional aisle first look. We already had decided to do a modern first look well before we decided to do a late ceremony, so for us, this wasn’t really a drawback at all.
Idea #2: DIY some decor and then check with your vendors to see if they would purchase any of it.
This idea comes from one of my favorite couples, Shelby & Jake. They had a backyard wedding and most of their decor was DIY, but she hired a florist that also does rentals for their flowers. Shelby asked what all the florist/rental vendor could use for their business, and she ended up being able to sell all of her DIY projects and used the sale funds towards her flowers. Below are some of the DIY decor items that they made!
Things she did DIY were the arch behind the head table, her vases that were part of her centerpieces, and some picture frames, and all of that was sold to her rental vendor/florist.
Now, not every rental vendor will want to purchase your materials, but it never hurts to ask nicely!
Idea #3: Join wedding for sale groups on Facebook & search for deals from past brides.
This one has become a pretty popular idea in the past few years – there are over 25,000 weddings each year in Washington state alone, and about 2.5 million weddings each year in the United States. A majority of those couples will purchase something for their wedding that they will have no use for in the future, so they turn to selling it!
Not only will this save on your budget, but it is much more earth-friendly and sustainable than every couple purchasing brand new decor and wedding items. Another huge benefit of being part of these groups is that there is always more couples looking for second-hand wedding items. Here’s the link to the Tri-Cities, WA area buy, sell, & trade group, a Washington wedding buy, sell, & trade group, and a PNW-wide budget wedding group.
A couple things to be aware of in these groups: when purchasing from people you don’t know, it’s best not to send money via Venmo or other online sources until you have the item or until you meet the person. There have been a lot of scams going around these groups involving a down payment for something you’ll never end up getting. Also, a ton of vendors post in these groups with discounts and deals, which can seem amazing! If you do want to hire someone that posted in a budget Facebook group, make sure you vet them well to figure out if you’ll actually get your money’s worth.
Idea #4: Get married on any day of the week besides Saturday.
There are plenty of vendors and venues that will have lower prices for other days of the week (think Friday or Sunday) because it’s not a “peak time” for them. Not only will this give you better chances of lowering your budget, but it also means there will likely be more availability for you to still book your favorite vendors and your dream venue!
Idea #5: Wholesale your flowers and design your bouquets yourself.
This idea stems from my sister’s COVID wedding in December of 2020. Instead of hiring a florist, we bought all her flowers at a wholesale price from the local flower shop and designed all her flowers herself. The ONLY reason we did this is because at the time I was teaching a floriculture class and could borrow all the supplies needed from the school I was teaching at, and I had all the skills necessary to construct her vision. We spent only $600 for her bouquet, 4 bridesmaids bouquets, all the corsages and some decor in the church.
This is one tip that I would not recommend unless you have someone in your family that can help you design, and has some of the supplies necessary. Here is a Pin from her wedding flowers that explains all the things necessary and shows the final product and here’s some of the photos from her wedding florals.
Idea #6: Cut your guest count.
Cutting your guest count can feel pretty daunting, especially if you want a large party, but doing so can save you money in almost every aspect of your wedding day, making catering cheaper, giving you more venue options, even down to making save the dates and invites cheaper. I also think that cutting your guest count gives you more time to be intentional with your interactions with your guests that you do invite. One of my favorite things about capturing wedding days is making sure that every hug and every conversation is remembered as part of your day, and I can do that easier with a smaller number of people.
In order to cut our guest count, my husband and I decided not to invite very much extended family, especially if we hadn’t met them before or hadn’t spent much time with them. That left us more time to spend talking to those who are really special with us. Remember that your wedding day is about celebrating your marriage with the people who are going to be supporting you in that journey, not so that your grandparents can see all their siblings in one place again.
Idea #7: Have a firm dress budget
The wedding dress industry is absolutely crazy, and there are SO many options for where to buy, designers, and styles. Going into dress shopping with a firm budget can help keep your stylist from putting you in too expensive of dresses to try on so that you aren’t even tempted to spend over your comfort zone here.
Other Budget Cuts
Now, if none of these ideas seem to fit your and your partner, you might be thinking about other ways that you can cut your budget, and since the majority of a wedding budget is for vendors, that’s what we’ll talk about next! Since vendor cuts is such a common way to cut your budget down, I wanted to give you a few ideas and tips for doing so that will still allow you to have the beautiful and romantic wedding you deserve.
Remember when reading this portion, that you should prioritize which vendors are most important to you, and invest the most in those vendors. For example, if your photographer is very important to you, invest in your dream photographer (and if your dream photographer is still too expensive, book them for a smaller package vs. going with someone cheaper – you can have 12 hours with a cheap photographer and still hate your photos or have 5 hours with a dream photographer and LOVE every single photo they took while they were there).
A little educational bit first:
Just like with everything else in life that you spend money on, with wedding vendors, you get what you pay for. When you choose a cheaper vendor, you are likely to get a cheaper product, service, or experience, which is why not a single one of my tips will be just to hire someone cheaper. Instead, these tips will be based on you having your dream vendor and getting the most out of your investment in a smaller package.
While talking to vendors about budget, remember to value them as a person and a service – being kind and showing that you care about them goes a long way, even if you don’t book them. If you don’t have the budget to work with them, just tell them that, and thank them for the time they gave you, but please don’t leave your vendors wondering whether you are still interested or not, and especially don’t make them feel bad about their prices. Often times, expensive vendors have so much experience and extra value for couples besides their main service that will help make your wedding day stress-free and amazing!
With that said, let’s dive in!
One easy way to cut your photography budget is to lower the number of hours in your package. Most photographers offer an hourly rate as well as their main packages, or they can create a custom package for you that fits your needs. My packages range from 6 hours to 10 hours, but I am always happy to chat more about your wedding day and your specific needs and go with an hourly rate or custom package for couples who don’t feel like they fit within those hours.
Planning a wedding can be stressful, so I can completely understand wanting a wedding planner & having them do all the things for you so you can just relax and enjoy being a bride, however, if you want to cut your budget here, consider doing a partial-planning package, just day of coordination, or even invest in this Simple Wedding Planning course by Emerald Lotus Events instead of a wedding planner at all. This course has all the information that a wedding planner would go over with you, so you know you’re on the right path to have a stress free wedding!
Find a local catering company such as your local grocery store, restaurant, or church (if they have a catering option) and work with them. Often times, the larger, more popular catering companies are much more expensive for some of the same options. Along with finding a local company, a buffet is almost always cheaper than a plated meal. And for that matter, choose something that’s easy rather than extravagant. In 2021, I saw so many meals that were simple such as tacos or burgers, and I thought they were amazing!
If you choose not to hire a caterer, you can also save money, however, having family make your wedding meal can be super stressful for them and sometimes even for you. Choosing an easy meal to make and/or prep ahead such as pulled pork sandwiches and potato salad can make this a ton easier! Just load up the crock pots and you’re good to go!
Decor & Rentals
I have seen DIY weddings go both ways – either super cute and modern or very cheesy – so if you know that you can do DIY stuff and make it super cute, then by all means, go for it! If that isn’t you and you want a stunningly beautiful wedding, then I would absolutely recommend renting your decor rather than spending your money trying DIY and then realizing you want to rent or buy decor anyways. In either case, remember that less is more sometimes so let your spaces speak for themselves. Keeping your decor simple will give you just the right touch of beauty while also keeping your budget lower.
Hair and Makeup
If you want to save a little money here, you can always choose to do your own hair and makeup or just hire for one or the other. Practice makes perfect in this area and since you will have time before your wedding to practice a ton, you can always go this route. And if you don’t like it, you can always hire someone later!
Another way to save money here would be to ask your wedding party to pay for their own or do their own hair and makeup so that part of the bill is not on you.
If you have a venue you love, you can always ask them about their packages. If you are just looking for a budget friendly, but beautiful wedding venue, I usually find that most hotel ballrooms can be decorated & made to look just as good as any full wedding venue. Another option would be to host your wedding in your backyard or in an outdoor public space (think local park). If are considering the backyard option, head to this blog post for more info on a backyard wedding!
Giving your florist creative freedom to use cheaper flowers can be a huge save here. Another couple ways to help your budget is to use more greenery vs. flowers, have a smaller bouquet, do smaller centerpieces, and skip the corsages and boutonnières.
If you still want beautiful florals, but don’t want to spend the money on live flowers, you can also purchase a dried bouquet on Etsy or find a floral rental company that you can rent a bouquet from! If you are going with silk or fake flowers, just make sure they won’t look super plasticky or fabric-y. I have also seen very beautiful wood flower arrangements!
Music & Entertainment
If you are hiring a DJ, oftentimes they will have different packages that include different levels of lighting and whatnot. If you can stick to the base package and not do the add-ons, I would always recommend that.
The stationary for your wedding includes everything from save-the-dates to invites to programs and even the thank yous you send after. As a photographer, I LOVE a good invite suite that is personalized to you because I think it makes your detail photos just shine! However, I also know that stationary adds up (especially when you think about all the stamps you need). If you want to cut your budget here, I say skip the save-the-date, skip the RSVP card (which means one less stamp as well) and have people RSVP online, and write actual thank-you cards that you can purchase at the dollar store (they’re more personal anyways). As for programs, see if you can just create a template online and buy cardstock and have your local print shop print your programs (or skip them all-together)!
If you are looking to design your own invites, programs, or thank you’s, Canva.com is definitely the way to go! The free version should have everything you need to create a personalized set of stationary!
In summary, having a budget friendly wedding is absolutely possible.
While I was writing this post, I asked my instagram fam what they wish they could go back and do differently budget-wise & guess what?! Almost all answers were about how they would have spend MORE money on certain things such as their photographer, bridesmaids dresses, or catering. And I totally understand why, which is why I am giving tips for how to lower your budget that aren’t completely cutting vendors, and are definitely NOT just hiring someone cheaper. I personally think that hiring your dream vendor, but just a smaller package is the key to a budget-friendly but beautiful dream wedding that you deserve.
Feel free to use as many or as few of these tips as possible, but remember that it is YOUR wedding day & you should do everything to make YOU happy. If being happy means having all the extravagant things, then spend the money and invest in your wedding day, but if being happy means saving your money for use in your marriage (think buying a house, going on vacation, etc.), then take these tips and use them!
In the end, you are the only one who can make these decisions on where to compromise for a little savings, but making a priority list can help a ton if you have no idea where to start! And if you want a photographer that is on your side in making your dream wedding happen, you know where to find me!
If you have already had your wedding and you are happy you cut your budget where you did, leave a comment for future couples below! Are you a current bride or groom just looking for ideas? Leave a question & I will give you my two cents on your idea or question!