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Have a Beautiful Wedding on a Tight Budget

by Emily Guy Birken

When my husband and I were planning our wedding three years ago, he claimed that we could easily get married for under $2,000. After I got over my fit of laughter, I got online and started showing him the kinds of prices we could expect for our wedding. We ended up having a beautiful wedding that was totally us—we had a moon bounce and had a first bounce as husband and wife—without straining our $10,000 budget. However, we probably could have cut costs even more. Here are some ideas for brides and grooms on very tight budgets.

1. Location. The venue for your wedding can often be one of the most expensive components of your budget. Why not book your wedding for a weekday? One of the most fun and beautiful weddings I’ve ever attended was held on a non-holiday Monday at an historic house in Boston. The bride confided that the rental cost was 1/5th the price if she held her wedding on any day other than Friday, Saturday or Sunday. In addition, the guest list was understandably much shorter since not everyone could come to a wedding on a weekday. All of the people closest to the bridal couple were there, and the entire wedding had no more 60 guests, saving the bride and groom on food and alcohol costs.

2. Food and drinks. Speaking of food and alcohol, this is another huge expense when planning a wedding. Some ways to save on food is to serve a meal other than dinner. A brunch reception held early in the day could be a great way to save on food costs, as fruit, eggs, pastries and juice are going to be a great deal cheaper than a prime rib dinner. Similarly, a cold lunch reception with sandwiches, salads and fruit will make a lovely spread without being a huge budget drain. Even if you’re having your wedding ceremony later in the day, you can still have a lovely afternoon tea with sandwiches and salads.

Another positive aspect to serving an early meal is that it can save you on alcohol costs. I would personally prefer not to have a cash bar at a wedding, but I know that the alcohol costs can often overwhelm a wedding budget. Having an early reception and meal means that offering only beer and wine—and possibly a signature cocktail, like a mimosa with brunch—will be much more in keeping with the style of the reception.

wedding cake3. Wedding cake. Especially with the recent popularity in art cakes on television, wedding cakes are a very important part of the reception. Unfortunately, all that sugary beauty comes at a cost. There are several ways to cut costs on your wedding cake. One popular option is to order a small display cake, and get matching sheet cake to serve to your guests. Similarly, you can create a Styrofoam cake yourself and serve sheet cakes. Finally, if you have a friend or family member who likes to bake, enlist their help in making your own cake. Ice it with simple white frosting and decorate it with real flowers, candy or even heirloom pearls.

4. Invitations. Just because the wedding magazines suggest you have engraved invitations doesn’t mean you have to have them. When I got married, my husband and I designed our invitation on our home computer and took the design to Kinko’s to create. The postage for our beautiful invitations was the most expensive part of inviting our friends and family to the wedding. To save even more money, print your own invitations at home, or even use Evite to invite your guests. That will save money (it’s free!) and is environmentally friendly.

5. Dresses. Wedding dresses (and bridesmaids dresses) do not have to cost a mint. The bride who got married on a Monday wore a white dress she found in a J. Crew catalogue—and she looked absolutely lovely. Love your mom or grandmother’s dress? Have it altered to fit you and continue a lovely tradition. If your wedding or your tastes run a little more modern, why not buy used? You can find designer dresses in your size that have literally only been worn once—for a fraction of the price. Check out www.preownedweddingdresses.com or www.oncewed.com to find dresses (some of them never worn!) that will make you look beautiful on your special day.

As for bridesmaids dresses, remember that it is not necessary for all of your friends to match. Weddings where brides ask their bridesmaids to wear a specific color but choose any dress they like within that color are just as lovely as the matchy nuptials. And it helps your friends to save money as they can actually re-wear their dresses at other occasions.

The thing to remember about wedding planning is that many of the “traditional” elements that you think you must have were introduced by the wedding industry. All you have to have on your wedding day is the opportunity to marry your best friend in front of the people you both love best. Everything after that is simply fondant on the cake.

Photo credit: misscreativecakes.


Published or updated June 8, 2011.
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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 krantcents

It is amazing how much you can spend on a wedding! Starting off with a reasonable budget helps make reasonable decisions. If you only have a budget of $2,000, then you have to make choices. If you focus on the purpose of getting married rather than outdoing everybody, it can be done for very little money.

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2 Newlywed Bliss

We had our wedding for about $1,000. Courthouse ceremony with only 22 people, a $149 dress, a cake, dinner nearby. There’s quite a few people upset they weren’t part of that 22 so we still may have a big reception. Maybe in a year.

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