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Monday, February 11, 2013

How to Have A Beautiful Wedding (Without Breaking the Bank)

Getting married can be an expensive event, and not just for the bride and groom--for their parents and even their guests.  Ceremonies are elaborate, receptions are lavish, and wedding registries are often at pricey, upscale stores.

You might know this already, but there is a way to have a beautiful, memorable wedding day without breaking the bank!  If you can save money, time and stress in planning your wedding, you can put more energy into planning for your marriage, which is so much more important.  A wedding is one day--your marriage is for life!

That said, I know most girls dream about having a beautiful, fairy-tale day.  I hope these suggestions can help you do that while keeping to a modest budget!

Simplicity is a good thing.
If you're getting married in a pretty church, you shouldn't need many decorations.  We just had candles and tulle bows on the ends of the pews, and a bouquet of flowers on the altar.  We didn't have our reception at a fancy hotel or reception hall (see "Think outside the box").  You don't need to have ribeye steak and a big open bar.  People are at your wedding to celebrate your marriage--if they want to go out later for a five-course-dinner, they can.

Do it yourself.
There are SO many things you could do yourself!  I have a friend who made her own wedding dress.  If you know someone with sewing skills, this would be an option even if you aren't a seamstress (for more on that, see "Enlist friends and family to help").

We didn't hire a wedding planner.  I decided where things would happen, when, and who our vendors were.  Unless you're planning on having your wedding at a venue that requires you to have a planner (which if you're trying to save money, I don't really suggest), you don't need one.

You could ask a friend with excellent amateur photography skills to take your pictures (pay them, of course) instead of hiring a professional whose fees will be higher.

Instead of a DJ, I made a CD with our favorite songs that we played over the PA system for the dance. A live band or DJ aren't necessary unless that's one of your priorities.

Enlist friends and family to help.
We had friends do the decorating for the ceremony and reception.  A friend of my mom's came over to do all the girls' hair, partly because our wedding was on a Sunday and our usual stylist couldn't come.  Two of my bridesmaids did my makeup.  My mom practiced doing French tip manicures for weeks and did them beautifully on all the girls.  (We saved a ton of money this way!)

We paid the lady who did flowers for us, but she wasn't a florist, just someone we knew with a knack for flower-arranging who does it a lot.  She was able to find a lot of things that were blooming in season, so we didn't have to order out-of-season flowers.

Instead of hiring caterers, we ordered food from the deli at our local grocery store (broasted chicken, cheesy potatoes, and rolls), bought fruit and vegetables to be made into salads, and had four dear couples from our church take care of all the food pick-up, prep, and serving (they had volunteered to serve at my wedding when I was in high school!).  Ask around--between both of your families, and the congregation of your church, you can definitely find people willing to help you out.

Look for bargains.
The place we had the reception had a much lower rate on Sundays, and after talking with the manager, we were able to have our "decorators" go in on Saturday to decorate without getting charged for the extra day.

Joshua and the groomsmen wore suits instead of renting tuxes--a better investment in the long run, because Joshua still wears his suit.

I wore my mom's wedding dress, and all it needed was $40 worth of alterations.  I wore her veil, too, and bought a tiara off Amazon to wear with it instead of the original cap.  Some second-hand stores will have really great wedding dresses that you can get cleaned and fixed up for a fraction of the price you would pay for buying a new one.

Instead of renting expensive dishes and glassware, since the reception site didn't have that available, we used high-quality, color-coordinating paper plates and napkins and plastic silverware and cups.  Oriental Trading is a great source for these things.  We even found plastic flatware that was colored silver so it really looked metal.  You can get these things personalized (we still have napkins with our names and the date!) for a fraction of the cost of linens and dishes.  Plus, there's a lot less clean-up!

Borrow things you won't use much again.
Like the wedding dress, for example.  We also borrowed a lot of our decorations--mirrors, vases, lights, fake greenery, table cloths.  A friend had two children who had gotten married a couple years previously, and she saved all their decorations.

Think outside the box (or reception hall, or cake).
We had our reception at our city's arts center.  It's not a huge place, but we had room for our reception of about 75 people.  I had been in plays there in high school so I knew the manager personally, which meant they were willing to negotiate with us.  It ended up costing only about $75 to rent the place for the weekend. It was just a couple blocks from the church and half a mile from the grocery store where we got the food, so it worked out perfectly.

Instead of a regular cake, we ordered cupcakes!  We were able to have three different varieties, and it was less messy (and required less serving ware) than regular cake.  We also had a cake reception at the church, right after the ceremony, for all the guests, and then had a smaller group (family, close friends, and out-of-town guests) for the dinner later.

We asked an acquaintance who also happens to be a Christian contemporary singer to sing for our wedding.  I didn't think he would be able to, but he said he was glad to, and then hardly charged us a thing!  It was so much more meaningful than just hiring a string quartet or something.  If you know someone with really great musical talent, see if they'd be willing to provide special music for the ceremony and/or reception.

Do things your way.
You don't have to have organ music, get married at a church (although that I do recommend, but parks are lovely), have a big, fancy reception at a hotel or country club, have 500 guests, put them up at the most expensive hotel in town, etc, etc.

You don't have to order all your bridesmaids' dresses from David's Bridal (although I did, and they were great).  I have a friend getting hers from Modcloth.  You could even have your bridesmaids wear dresses they already own, and just pick a common color.

My point is, it's YOUR wedding.  As long as Christ is central, the sky is the limit!  Be creative, let your wedding reflect you, and remember what's important.

Put more money toward lasting, important things.
The photos, for example.  Your wedding pictures will last decades past the actual day, and that's something that can't be said for the flowers, cake or decorations.

Put aside money for a honeymoon, but remember that you don't have to go all-out for that if you don't want to, either.  I know a lot of people go to Hawaii or on a cruise or to Italy or whatever, but we went to a bed and breakfast (a really nice one!) in the same town where we got married, which happens to be where my parents live.  We stayed there for two nights, flew home, and spent another night in a nice hotel suite because Joshua's parents paid for it for us.  Then we had a week together getting used to sharing an apartment before Joshua went back to work.  And it was great!  Someday I'd love to go on a big trip together, but it wasn't the distance that mattered--it was being together, having a great time (which we did), and getting to know each other as husband and wife.

Remember to plan for your marriage as you're planning for your wedding.  I highly recommend seeing your pastor for pre-marital counseling.  You can work through a lot of things on your own, but it's very helpful to have someone who's trained to be a counselor and spiritual leader help you look at things you might not have thought about.  It was a very helpful process for us, and enjoyable, too.

Now it's your turn: What tips do you have for low-budget wedding planning?  Talk with me! :)

Linking with The Alabaster Jar, Countrified Hicks, The Better Mom, The Modest Mom, Exceptionalistic, Growing Home, Fancy Little Things


  1. This is such a great post, with wonderful suggestions. Our wedding was very simple. It was outdoors on our farm. My mom did a lot of wedding coordinating, and cake decorating when she was younger, and she did most of the planning. Looking back now, things could have been even more simple than they were! My advice for couples would be to have a wedding that reflects their personality (have fun with it!), and it's not going to be perfect and that is totally ok!

    1. I agree absolutely! Sounds like you had great help with your wedding. :)

  2. I love all your ideas. I always felt it was a bit crazy to sons so much money on one day whenbit was the rest of your life you should be considering. Mom made my wedding dress. My mil made our cake, she has made false to years, so it was beautiful. We had our wedding in the middle of the afternoon and served snacks instead of a meal. We had a beautiful wedding and it didn't cost an arm and a leg. :)

    1. That's a great idea to time your wedding so only snacks are necessary! The point is the celebration, after all, not the food. :)

  3. I have a few friends getting married soon so I'll pass this along :)


  4. Great tips Jaimie . . . thank you. My brother is getting married this summer, so I am going to enlist myself to help!

    1. Thanks Angie; of course! I hope these ideas are useful!

  5. Wow! You've given some great tips here, Jaimie. My husband and I had a fairly low-cost wedding, opting to spend our money on our "marriage" and home rather than the two or three hours that kick it off! So I totally agree that you can have a beautiful day even on a budget. Love your creative and helpful suggestions! Thanks so much!

    1. Thanks, Beth! I agree that the best way to go is to put most of your money to starting your marriage off right, and not to the wedding. It's totally fine to have a beautiful wedding as long as your focus is on the point of the wedding itself: the marriage! :)

  6. We had a fairly large wedding (about 230 people) so we had to rent a pretty big place and we had lots of people to feed. I wouldn't say our wedding was inexpensive, but we were able to save as much as we could by doing a few simple things:

    We had a decorator that did all the major lighting and fancy stuff, but we decorated our own tables with vases from a friend ($2 a piece!) and fake flowers from hobby lobby and square mirrors that we got from a decorating place going out of business for a very small price.

    I got my dress from David's Bridal, but I found a lady in our area who did wedding dress alterations and it only cost $75 for all my alterations (there were quite a few since it was shortened, taken in, and a bustle was put in)

    We splurged on pictures - even though it was one of the most reasonable rates in Lincoln. I'm PICKY about pictures so I wanted a pro photographer and I wanted full digital rights to all my photos. We (with God's help and after several interviews) found the PERFECT photographer and our pictures turned out stunning.I'm making my own album with the pics.

    I really wanted pew bows, but they were like $8 a bow online. I bought some tulle, satin ribbon, fake white flowers, and some silver mesh ribbon I got at a garage sale and made 20 bows for about $40. I actually sold them on Craiglist for the same amount and the lady said they were the most beautiful bows she had seen :)

    Since I actually bought most of my decorations, I put them up on craigslist afterwards and have gotten rid of most of those items and made some of that money back and was able to pass on great savings to people.

    It's important to seek advice from family and friends and the web though. At first some things seemed so important and when it got closer to the time, I said "I don't need that" and vice versa. And if you decide ahead of time what you are willing to and not to splurge on, it helps. Don't be afraid to ask for help.

    1. These are some great ideas, Jacquelyn! I agree, it's important to spend more on important things like pictures. Our photographer was one of the least expensive in the area but still pretty pricey, but it was worth it, because in addition to the time we got full rights to the photos, CDs with all the photos on them, and a beautiful album.

      That's a fantastic idea to sell things back on Craigslist! I don't even know what happened to most of the decorations after we used them, haha. Most of them were borrowed or rented so they went back to the owners. But what a great way to get back the money you spend on things!

  7. Great tips! We had a fairly large wedding with over 200 guests, but did it relatively inexpensively. We spent a little less than $4000 for everything. We had the wedding and reception at our church, so the location cost us nothing. We decorated the sanctuary and fellowship hall all on our own, using decorations for the fellowship hall that were passed down from other brides in the church. We had a late evening wedding and served dessert at the reception. We bought our flowers wholesale and put the simple bouquets together ourselves. There are definitely things I would do differently to save even more money if I could go back, but I stayed within the budget my parents gave us, so I am pleased with that.

  8. Thanks for the great tips! We also did our wedding very inexpensively, at least considering the cost of an average wedding these days. We had our reception in the fellowship hall of our church and the wedding in the sanctuary right across the hall, so we paid nothing for the location. There are definitely things that I would do differently if I could go back, but we stayed within the budget my parents gave us, so I am pleased with that!

  9. I love all these tips!

    I have some "different" ideas on my wedding. ;) I really don't want it to be "my day" and centered on me. I want it to be a celebration! I want to be involved during the whole thing, and not hidden away like most brides. I would like it to involve some Jewish marriage traditions, just because I think they have some great ideas! lol

    I have actually bought a wedding dress; beautiful, and modest, all for 16 dollars. Granted, I may never wear it; I may not marry, may give it away, etc. But I felt the Lord led me to get it, so I did.

    Thank you for the post!

    Many Blessings,
    Moriah Jordan Miller

    1. I love a lot of Jewish wedding traditions. :) I'll tell you--I didn't want my wedding centered on me, but as the bride, we're the representative of the Church, the Bride of Christ. When people are looking at us, they're looking at a beautiful picture of how God loves us, and how we appear before him--perfect and holy, pure and spotless. Being the center of attention is okay for our wedding day. :)

      That's an amazing deal on a wedding dress! Congratulations! I hope you get to wear it someday. :)

  10. We were engaged for 3 months and had a DIY wedding to save ourselves money. We bought a bunch of roses from a flower shop but had our friend put the arrangements together, my Mom made the wedding cake, and another family friend was the behind-the-scenes gal making sure everything came together on the day of (kind of like a wedding planner). Friends also did the music, and a lady from our church catered a very nice supper for a fantastic price. My only regret (which admittedly is a big one) was my wedding dress. It was inexpensive but certainly not as modest as I would choose now. I wish my 18 year old self had shown a little more discretion when choosing my dress.

  11. Going DIY can definitely help with money saving, but I also think avoiding Pinterest and bridal magazine fever can help. The more pretty things I saw out there, the more convinced I became that I absolutely needed them! My blog, Captive the Heart, is actually written with Catholic brides in mind, and has tags for posts on having your wedding on a budget =)


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