How to Have Your Fairy Tale Wedding on a Shoestring Budget

Pare down inessentials to focus on the main event: a new marriage.

Pare down inessentials to focus on the main event: a new marriage.

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.

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About the Author

Samantha Kemp is a lawyer for a general practice firm. She has been writing professionally since 2009. Her articles focus on legal issues, personal finance, business and education. Kemp acquired her JD from the University of Arkansas School of Law. She also has degrees in economics and business and teaching.

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