According to a recent survey by The Knot, the average wedding costs $27,800 as of 2011. You can plan a successful wedding on a much smaller budget, though, and still get most of the essentials of a more expensive wedding, minus unnecessary bells and whistles. You can have the wedding of your dreams on a shoestring budget when you employ a well-executed plan, a commitment to stay on budget and creative do-it-yourself touches.
Venues and Vendors
Select an inexpensive or free wedding reception site. The reception equals about 50 percent of your total wedding budget, so it offers the largest amount of potential savings. Some options for your reception site include a beach, park, friend's house or botanical garden. These options also help you save money because you can hire your own vendors or make your own food.
Become a member of a church if you plan to have a religious ceremony and if you aren't a current member of a church. Many churches do not charge for a wedding ceremony at the church, and some churches will refuse to marry nonmembers.
Reserve more money for the vendors that are most important to you. Don't skimp. For example, if you want beautiful wedding photographs, don't risk giving an amateur this position. Instead, opt for cheaper alternatives for other vendors, such as hiring a high school band or choir singer to perform the music for your wedding ceremony or reception.
Food and Drink
Serve alternatives to a main course. Only 42 percent of weddings offer sit-down meals. More affordable options include passing around trays of finger food that you and family members prepare before the wedding or having a buffet to save on the cost of a caterer and waitstaff. You can also opt for a wine and cheese event, informal barbecue or dessert stations.
Order a small decorative cake for photo ops. Purchase a more affordable sheet cake that will be used to cut for guests. The cake can be in the same color and design as the wedding cake, but it will be much cheaper in a flat sheet cake.
Skip the alcohol. Weddings and alcohol don't always mix, and skipping the booze can save you the cost of alcohol, more serving glasses, a bartender and any liability from a person driving after drinking too much at your event. If you must serve alcohol, stick with beer and wine.
Prepare drinks in bulk. Tea, lemonade and punch are cheap options that can serve multiple guests with only a few dollars of expense.
Other Ways to Save
Use digital invitations to cut your invitation cost. This method can be inexpensive or even free. You can also create a free wedding website to keep track of responses to your invitations instead of having to pay for response cards and postage.
Invite fewer people. Each guest represents an incremental increase in the price for food, decorations, favors, invitations and rental items.
Get married on a weekday or Sunday. The most popular day to get married is on a Saturday. Getting married on a different day can save you as much as 10 percent of the total budget. Changing the time to a morning or early afternoon wedding can also help you save money.
Make your wedding decorations. Use artificial flowers and candles to decorate guests' tables. If you use fresh flowers, stick with flowers that are in season.
- Ask talented members in your network of friends, family and acquaintances to offer their services free of charge in lieu of giving you a wedding present. You might be able to acquire a caterer, entertainment, a flower arranger and a baker in this manner.
- Don't mention that you are ordering items for a wedding when you are shopping. Some vendors automatically increase the price on "wedding" items.
- The Knot: Wedding Money: What Does the Average Wedding Cost
- She Knows: Planning a Beautiful Wedding on a Shoestring Budget
- Pittsburgh Wedding: Planning the Perfect Wedding on a Shoestring Budget
- ABC News: Brides Tighten Garters: Average Wedding Cost Drops to $26,501
- Komonews.com: Planning a Wedding on a Budget
- Money Crashers: 23 Cheap Wedding Reception Food & Drink Menu Ideas on a Budget
- Forbes: How Much Should A Wedding Cost? Here's How To Lower It
- Smart Money: 8 Ways to Reduce the Average Cost of a Wedding
- Martha Stewart Weddings: Wedding Budget Planner
- The Knot: Wedding Budget 101
- Martin Poole/Photodisc/Getty Images
- The Average Cost of Wedding Furniture Rentals
- Ideas for Beautiful Wedding Decorations & Gifts on a Small Budget
- How to Get Married With Little Money
- Wedding Centerpiece Ideas on a Budget Using Silk Flowers
- The Time of the Year When Weddings Are Cheaper
- Really Cheap Ideas for Blue and Silver Wedding Decorations