How To Plan a Beautiful Wedding on a Tight Budget

wedding on a tight budget

Weddings are too expensive. True, there's no way to put a price on a momentous occasion in your life, but do you really have to spend a fortune just to make sure you have a happy and memorable wedding day?

Psychotherapist Fredric Neuman believes that this insistence on elaborate weddings is unnecessary, given that the strength of a marriage doesn't rely on how much the wedding gown cost, or how big the diamond on the engagement ring was.

What's worse, most of the time, the couple goes through so much trouble planning everything -- every little detail -- to make their wedding "perfect" but it doesn't make them happy. In fact, it makes them tired and even angry. If you've ever seen an episode of Bridezillas then you know just how intense the act of choosing the flowers for the bouquet can be.

So why put yourself through these difficulties? A wedding should be the culmination of a relationship -- the final step in sealing a lifetime of commitment to each other.

It's supposed to be a beautiful ceremony, one you would share with the people who truly love and care about you. Now that's something money can't buy.

Here Are A Few Tips For Planning A Beautiful Wedding Without Breaking The Bank

keep guest list small

Keep The Guest List Small

This is one of the easiest ways to minimize the cost of your wedding, but it's also one of the most complicated. Why? Certainly, deciding who you want to invite and who gets left off the list can be a spark for a bigger battle.

Sometimes, parents step in and insist on inviting Aunt So-and-So, whom you don't even remember seeing in the last ten years.

It's tricky, but a good rule of thumb is to invite only your closest friends (people you are in contact with regularly and truly care about your relationship) and immediate family members. That should quash any conflicts. 

Something Borrowed For Your Gown

Instead of buying a new wedding gown, there are a few options you can try.

Maybe your mom has kept her own gown, and it looks just appropriately vintage to still be beautiful today. A few alterations are all you need and it will look good as new, plus there's the emotional attachment and the connection to the dress because of its history. 

Do Your Own Makeup

Really, this is something you ought to at least consider. Of course if you've never applied makeup on yourself then this isn't a good idea. However, if you've been applying your own makeup for years now, chances are you know your face better than any makeup artist will.

Don't hire someone else, just do it on your own. After all, brides aren't expected to wear makeup like fashion models; you're supposed to look fresh and vibrant -- easy since it's your wedding day. Plus, you can practice the look months before your big day, so you're sure you can get the look you want down pat. 

Skip the DJ!

A lot of weddings these days no longer have to hire DJs, thanks to technology.

Just create a playlist and set things up.

You can get all the songs you want and there's no extra expense on your part.

Or, if you're lucky enough to know friends who are in a band, you could invite them to perform at the wedding for a low price -- or free, even, if they're willing. 

Always Negotiate

Never settle for the first price. A lot of companies tend to jack up the prices when you mention the word "wedding", mostly because they know a lot of couples are willing to pay top prices for their big day.

Make sure you haggle -- but don't antagonize the seller. You're trying to find a great price, not put off potential suppliers. 

Remember Your Priorities

When it comes to weddings, there are some things you can forgo and some things you just can't skimp on. Spend money on photography, because memories of your wedding will last forever.

Save on things like wedding favors because people don't like them anyway.

Keep track of your priorities and you'll be sure to have a wedding you can cherish forever, minus the expensive price tag. 


    • DC @ Young Adult Money

      DC @ Young Adult Money 04/22/2013 7:09 a.m. #

      When it comes to weddings, it really does come down to priorities. For example, you said to skip the DJ, but the dance portion of our wedding was extremely important to my wife. Keeping the guest list small is probably the single easiest way to cut down costs, since each person means an additional x $ spent on food, rentals, etc.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 04/22/2013 12:51 p.m. #

        Exactly. Everyone has different priorities. You can have music without a DJ these days, but if you want it well organized and want a DJ that spices up the evening then go for it.

      • Marissa @ Thirty Six Months

        Marissa @ Thirty Six Months 04/22/2013 7:46 p.m. #

        I agree. Having a bad DJ ruins the flow of the wedding for me.

    • John S @ Frugal Rules

      John S @ Frugal Rules 04/22/2013 8:43 a.m. #

      Great tips Sicorra! We used many of these for our wedding. We had a budget set and that helped us a lot. One other thing we did was get our flowers done by one of the grocery stores in town. They were great and over half less than the cheapest quote we had received.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 04/22/2013 12:52 p.m. #

        That is an excellent point John! Grocery stores do charge way less for flowers and they look just as nice as the flower shops. Thanks for adding that suggestion!

    • krantcents

      krantcents 04/22/2013 8:47 a.m. #

      Two of the expensive items for a wedding are flowers and alcohol. You can limit both by location for flowers and a day wedding to limit alcohol.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 04/22/2013 12:53 p.m. #

        Yes, those can add up quickly. Some weddings ask guests to pay for their drinks nowadays, which at first I thought was unreasonable, but it may cut down on the number of people that drink too much.

    • Siesta Weddings

      Siesta Weddings 04/22/2013 9:47 a.m. #

      Great list here! Another option for the dress is a consignment shop. Not only did we keep our wedding party small to stay within budget, but we found the wedding dress and bridesmaids dresses there for considerably less than buying new.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 04/22/2013 12:55 p.m. #

        That is a wonderful idea. Many people have no use for their dress once the wedding day is over so I bet a person would find beautiful dresses there for a fraction of the price. Thanks!!

    • Shannon @ The Heavy Purse

      Shannon @ The Heavy Purse 04/22/2013 10:55 a.m. #

      Great tips, Sicorra! "A wedding should be the culmination of a relationship -- the final step in sealing a lifetime of commitment to each other." So true! I certainly understand the desire to have a fairy tale wedding, but starting your marriage significantly in debt because of it - is an incredibly high price to pay. There seems to be a growing trend to have the more intimate weddings you described, with just a handful of close friends and family than have a large reception. Those are some of my favorite weddings because it's about the couple and not everything else.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 04/22/2013 12:58 p.m. #

        Yes, Shannon, the smaller weddings are my favorite as well. I've been to quite a few very large weddings where hardly anyone knew anyone else. And everything felt so crowded. As well, by the time the bride and groom walked around the room to say hello to everyone they were exhausted and barely had a minute to really spend some time with those closest to them.

    • Corina Ramos

      Corina Ramos 04/22/2013 5:48 p.m. #

      Great advice Sicorra!

      I never imagined a huge wedding. I prefer an intimate ceremony with my family and closest friends. I would nix the DJ and just plug in the ole iPod too :)

      Alcohol is certainly expensive and I've been to weddings who have an open bar, I'd hate to be the one having to pay that bill :)

      I'll be making some notes for when we tie the knot :)

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 04/22/2013 7:06 p.m. #

        Thanks Corina! I've been to many weddings with open bars and it can really add up. And often times you see people leave half finished drinks all over the room because they didn't pay for them so they don't really care.

    • KK @ Student Debt Survivor

      KK @ Student Debt Survivor 04/22/2013 8:20 p.m. #

      Food and drink are the more important parts for me. When we have a wedding (if we have a reception), I don't care much about the dress or the music (ipod with speakers would be just fine).

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 05/16/2013 10:48 a.m. #

        I think an ipod with speakers is a great idea as well, and good food is always nice.

    • Justin

      Justin 04/22/2013 8:23 p.m. #

      If you have a friend who is a professional photographer, ask them. They usually love being behind a camera and will get better pictures than some over priced stranger.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 05/16/2013 10:49 a.m. #

        Yes, if a person has friends in any of these industries, such as photography or catering, it is always nice to ask them first.

    • Laurie @thefrugalfarmer

      Laurie @thefrugalfarmer 04/23/2013 6:12 a.m. #

      Great tips, Sicorra. If we had it to do over again, we would spend SO much less. We'd use a friend as a photographer, stuff like that. A smaller, cheaper wedding often makes for a happier wedding due to no money stresses!

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 05/16/2013 10:50 a.m. #

        I prefer smaller wedding as well Laurie. It allows you to actually spend time with those most important to you.

    • Catherine

      Catherine 04/23/2013 12:58 p.m. #

      We saved a ton of money DIYing stuff too. We were able to negotiate a lot because my best friend was getting married a few months later and signed up to use the same vendors (dj's decorator etc) if we both benefited.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 05/16/2013 10:51 a.m. #

        That is very cool that you were able to partner up and save money with the individual vendors.

    • Addi

      Addi 05/15/2013 2:22 p.m. #

      These are some great tips, thanks for sharing! Weddings can be very stressful so anything helps!

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 05/16/2013 10:51 a.m. #

        Yes, they can be stressful, and the bigger they get the more difficult they can be to manage.

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