Getting married doesn't have to mean spending tons of money and blowing your budget. Whether you decided to get married quickly or you just don't find it practical to spend thousands of dollars on one day, small-budget weddings still can be festive and memorable. Save money by doing much of the work yourself or by asking friends to chip in their time.
Ask your friends and family to help you find a free location. This could be your parents' backyard or a secluded area at a public park. Plan to keep the ceremony short to eliminate the need to rent seating for an outdoor ceremony. If the thought of possible bad weather leads you to an indoor ceremony, ask your church if you can borrow the sanctuary for an hour for free, and offer a service in return; you might offer to clean the sanctuary after services for a month, help design the weekly bulletin or stuff mailers. You also could go to the courthouse to get married and skip the need to find a location. Save your money and spend it on the reception instead.
Some preachers offer wedding services for a small fee, and many counties allow their probate judges to travel to your location on weekends for an affordable fee. You also can ask if any of your friends are interested in becoming ordained as a minister online. This process usually is inexpensive and gives that person the authority to perform wedding ceremonies in most states.
Decorations for the wedding and reception can be simple, which often can be a more elegant solution than large, busy decorations. For an outdoor wedding, use plants to define the wedding area or build a simple arbor frame with 2-by-4 lumber. Hide the frame with several lengths of tulle or gauze fabric; look for some on clearance. Plan the backdrop of your ceremony with care, using existing trees or other outdoor elements to their best advantage. Hang paper lanterns to add a festive element to the ceremony and reception. If you have the ceremony and reception at the same location, you can save money on seating, decorations and any venue costs. Stick with candles for centerpieces or use photos of the bride and groom. Print stickers with your photo on them and place them on seed packets, then put the packets in a bowl in the middle of the table. These double as wedding favors and centerpieces.
Scale your wedding party back to just a maid of honor and a best man. Let your other friends help in the planning process, decorating and preparing food. Let your maid of honor and best man wear clothes they already have, such as a dress that matches your wedding color and a suit instead of a tuxedo. Use the same idea for your dress and tux as well; if you have clothes that reflect your personality, wear those instead of traditional wedding gear. Alternatively, you can look online at auction sites or other used-item sales sites for wedding clothes that previously have been worn; chances are, they were worn only once and still are in excellent condition. Keep the flowers simple as well. The bride can carry a single rose, Gerbera daisy or calla lily tied with a simple ribbon, and a single rose can be pinned onto the groom's lapel.
Whether the reception is immediately after the wedding or several days after you got married at the courthouse, keep it within budget by preparing the food yourself or with the help of friends. For a backyard wedding, ask guests to bring a covered dish. Plan to cook out and create a buffet line with simple side dishes such as potato salad, lettuce and salad dressing, or coleslaw. Keep the drink choices simple and inexpensive as well, such as tea and water. A sandwich or pasta buffet can offer selections to please everyone on your guest list, serving many people without spending much money.
Based outside Atlanta, Ga., Shala Munroe has been writing and copy editing since 1995. Beginning her career at newspapers such as the "Marietta Daily Journal" and the "Atlanta Business Chronicle," she most recently worked in communications and management for several nonprofit organizations before purchasing a flower shop in 2006. She earned a BA in communications from Jacksonville State University.