According to Zola’s wedding planner guide, the average wedding in 2023 cost couples $29,000. If you live in higher cost-of-living cities such as New York or DC, you can expect that price to hover closer to $45,000.
But the good news is that there are still ways to plan a budget-friendly wedding. We’ve come up with over 70 wedding ideas to help you plan your dream wedding while keeping your financial health intact.
Table of Contents
- Wedding Ideas to Help You Stay Within Your Budget
- 1. Focus on Planning a Beautiful And Affordable Wedding
- 2. Create a Budget and Stick With It
- 3. Know Where The Money Is Coming From
- 4. Scale Down
- 5. Choose Your Guest List Wisely
- 6. Set Your Wedding Date In The “Off-Season”
- 7. Get Married On A Friday Or A Sunday
- 8. Choose The Right Photographer
- 9. Make Your Own Wedding Invites
- 10. Create Your Own Wedding Programs
- 11. Stick with a Small Wedding Party
- 12. Get a New Rewards Card
- 13. Have a Friend or Family Member Officiate
- 14. Skip The Wedding Planner
- 15. Pay For Your Honeymoon With Travel Points
- 16. Offer a Honeymoon Fund as a Gift Option
- Wedding Food On A Budget
- 17. Shop Extensively For Caterers
- 18. Choose a Restaurant Instead of a Caterer
- 19. Serve Appetizers Instead of A Meal
- 20. Expand Your Vegetable Offerings
- 21. Choose Low-Cost Proteins
- 22. Get Your Cake At Sam’s Or Costco
- 23. Offer a Dessert Buffet Instead of a Wedding Cake
- 24. Choose a Simple Menu
- 25. Use a Venue That Allows You to Bring in Your Own Alcohol
- 26. Minimize The Drink Options
- 27. Close the Bar an Hour Early
- 28. Ask Friends and Family to Help
- 29. Skip the Alcohol
- 30. Have a Cash Bar
- 31. Ask a Friend to Tend the Bar
- Wedding Locations On A Budget
- 32. Choose a Backyard Wedding
- 33. Have Your Reception at a Local Hall
- 34. Choose a Cheap Getaway Destination
- 35. Use the Church Basement
- 36. Rent a Local Park
- Wedding Attire On A Budget
- 37. Shop at Discount Bridal Stores
- 38. Buy Your Dress Online
- 39. Wear Suits Instead of Tuxedos
- 40. Go Casual
- 41. Shop at a Thrift Store
- 42. Borrow From Friends
- 43. Skip the Spendy Shoes
- 44. Make Your Own
- 45. Rent Wedding Attire
- 46. Have a Friend Do Hair and Makeup
- Wedding Decor On a Budget
- 47. Look for Discounted Artificial Flowers
- 48. Choose In-Season Wildflowers
- 49. Choose Low-Cost Flowers and Greens
- 50. Use Mason Jars as Centerpieces
- 51. Use Photographs as Centerpieces
- 52. Decorate With Ribbons and Lace
- 53. Decorate Tables With Candy and Confetti
- 54. Buy Used Decor on Facebook Marketplace
- 55. Use Mismatched China
- 56. Buy Dinnerware in Bulk
- 57. Borrow What You Can
- 58. Rent Wedding Decor
- 59. Use Items You Can Resell
- 60. Use Natural Accents
- 61. Buy Decor Items on Clearance
- Wedding Entertainment On A Budget
- 62. Use a Portable Speaker
- 63. Ask a Friend to Play DJ
- 64. Skip the Limo Rental
- 65. Choose a Photographer With Ala Carte Options
- 66. Ask a Friend or Family Member
- 67. Hire an Up and Coming Photographer
- 68. Limit the Hours Your Photographer Works
- 69. Hire Up and Coming Musicians
- 70. Do What Is Right For You
- Bonus Idea for Saving Money on Your Wedding
- Final Thoughts
Wedding Ideas to Help You Stay Within Your Budget
Knowing where to save and where to splurge can help make your wedding everything you’ve dreamt of –and help you get your marriage off to a financially sound start at the same time.
Check out the ideas listed here and decide where you can save money while still having the perfect wedding for you and your partner.
1. Focus on Planning a Beautiful And Affordable Wedding
We’re kicking off our list with an important reminder. The key to an affordable and beautiful wedding is knowing that you can accomplish both. You can create a memorable wedding event while still keeping your bank account in check. It just takes a little ingenuity.
2. Create a Budget and Stick With It
Decide on a budget amount and make the decision to stick with that amount. If you’re concerned that staying on a budget may be difficult, add 10% for that unexpected emergency.
Hint: Consider using digital cash envelopes to help you manage your wedding budget.
3. Know Where The Money Is Coming From
Knowing where your wedding money is going to come from will help you stick to your budget. Will you and your partner raise all of the funds on your own? Will parents or others be contributing?
Once you know, decide how you’re going to save the amount you’re responsible for and create a savings plan if you don’t already have the money set aside. Consider picking up a weekend side hustle if it will help you save money faster.
4. Scale Down
If you’re going to create a wedding on a budget, you’ll likely need to make some sacrifices. But how do you scale down your plans while still having an amazing wedding? By deciding what is important to you.
Perhaps it means shrinking the guest list or reconsidering your choice of wedding venue. Can you really afford that band you want to book? Choose the one or two things you’re not willing to compromise on and commit to more frugal options elsewhere.
5. Choose Your Guest List Wisely
It’s tempting to have a big guest list for your wedding. After all, you want to celebrate your special day with everyone you know.
However, you can save thousands of dollars by being more thoughtful with your list of wedding guests. For example, you could make an “A” list and a “B” list, using the “B” list to add to the “A” list if possible.
Also, send out invitations well in advance so that if you end up adding “B” list people, they won’t get their invitations at the last minute.
6. Set Your Wedding Date In The “Off-Season”
One great way to save money on your wedding is to have it in an off-peak season. January, February, March, and November are months when everything from venues to musicians may be less expensive.
7. Get Married On A Friday Or A Sunday
Having a wedding on a Saturday is most common and usually more expensive. Choose to have your wedding on a Friday, a Sunday, or even on a Thursday evening in order to save money on venues, caterers, and more.
8. Choose The Right Photographer
Your photographer has one job that, if done incorrectly, will frustrate you for years to come. When choosing a photographer, be sure to ask to see samples of their work to verify their work.
9. Make Your Own Wedding Invites
You can design your own wedding invitations using websites such as Shutterfly. You can have them printed by Shutterfly or print your invitations at home. You can also use Etsy, Paperless Post, or Greenvelope to create your own digital wedding invitations.
10. Create Your Own Wedding Programs
If you’re making your own wedding invitations, you may as well DIY your programs as well. Choose a pretty font, buy the perfect paper at a nearby office supply store, and practice until you design the perfect program for you and your beloved.
11. Stick with a Small Wedding Party
If you can, choose to have a small wedding party. Even if the members of your wedding party are paying for their own attire, you’ll still save money on gifts, accommodations, and more.
12. Get a New Rewards Card
A rewards credit card can help you earn money as you pay for your wedding. Consider a good cash back card to pay for everything, pay it off monthly, and reap the benefits of earning cash back in the process.
Not a fan of credit cards? Sign up for one of the best cash back debit cards.
13. Have a Friend or Family Member Officiate
Wedding officiants can cost several hundred dollars to hire. Why not consider having a family member or friend officiate your wedding?
Most states make it super easy to become a wedding officiant.
14. Skip The Wedding Planner
Wedding planning can cost anywhere from several hundred dollars to thousands of dollars. Save money by planning your wedding yourself, or ask a talented friend or family member if they’ll be your wedding planner. It can be their gift to you and your spouse-to-be.
15. Pay For Your Honeymoon With Travel Points
Some credit cards are great for earning travel rewards. Check out the benefits of different premium travel credit cards and see if it makes sense to use one to save money on your honeymoon or a destination wedding.
16. Offer a Honeymoon Fund as a Gift Option
Another way to save big on your honeymoon is by creating a honeymoon fund as a wedding gift option. Open an account on Honeyfund or a similar site and direct guests to give directly to your honeymoon fund.
Here are some ways to save money on food for your wedding without looking cheap.
17. Shop Extensively For Caterers
Do your homework and shop around for caterers. Get an idea of what each one offers and what they charge, and ask for a sampling appointment.
That way, you can find the best food and the best price.
18. Choose a Restaurant Instead of a Caterer
Ordering from a restaurant instead of hiring a catering company can be a huge money saver. Have your favorite restaurant bring the food and set it up, serving buffet style.
19. Serve Appetizers Instead of A Meal
Serving appetizers instead of a full meal can be a great way to save money on your wedding as well. Just be sure there’s plenty for all to eat and a wide selection to accommodate all taste buds, food allergies, and aversions.
20. Expand Your Vegetable Offerings
Having more veggie dishes as sides can be a great way to save money on wedding food. Choose your protein and one “heavy” side, such as potatoes or mac-and-cheese.
Then offer two or three veggie choices for guests to load up on.
21. Choose Low-Cost Proteins
Choose chicken or pork instead of beef as your protein choice on your menu. Or, forego the meat altogether if a large portion of your guest list is vegetarian or vegan.
22. Get Your Cake At Sam’s Or Costco
Warehouse clubs such as Sam’s Club and Costco bake fantastic cakes for a fraction of the cost you’ll pay at a traditional bakery.
Another option is to make your own wedding cake or have a talented baking family member or friend bake the cake as their gift to you.
23. Offer a Dessert Buffet Instead of a Wedding Cake
Another way to save money is to avoid a traditional wedding cake altogether and opt for a dessert buffet. Bake cookies, cupcakes, and bars to serve to guests.
Or have a baking friend help you whip up some desserts.
Save money on your dinner menu by going simple. Choose a low-cost protein, mashed potatoes, a lettuce salad, and dinner rolls.
Or do a pasta dish with a salad and dinner rolls. A simple menu will be well-received by your guests as long as there’s plenty to eat.
25. Use a Venue That Allows You to Bring in Your Own Alcohol
Bringing your own alcohol is cheaper than having your venue supply it for you. Shop at a local warehouse club in order to save even more money on alcoholic beverages.
26. Minimize The Drink Options
There’s no need to offer a full bar at your wedding. Instead, offer sodas, bottled water, a low-cost but well-rated wine or champagne, and one beer brand.
27. Close the Bar an Hour Early
Another way to save money on beverages is to close the bar an hour before your event ends. Not only will this save you money, but it’ll give loved ones who might like to indulge some time to let the alcohol wear off before they head home.
28. Ask Friends and Family to Help
Asking friends and family to help can be a great way to ensure you stick to your wedding budget. There are many ways you can do this.
For example, you can ask for help in making and serving food, overseeing the wedding and reception, and more. Don’t be concerned about imposing on people; just let them know they have the right to decline with no hard feelings.
29. Skip the Alcohol
The cost of alcohol for a wedding reception can be expensive, so why not buck the system and skip serving alcohol altogether? This is a great idea for non-drinkers, and you can always let people know they can BYOB if you’d prefer that option.
30. Have a Cash Bar
If you want to serve alcohol but avoid the expense, you could always choose a cash bar option for your wedding reception. Be sure to print that on the reception invitation so guests are prepared.
31. Ask a Friend to Tend the Bar
Hiring bartender staff for your reception can cost several hundred dollars. Save money by asking a friend or family member to tend the bar. You can ask them to bartend as their gift to you, pay them a small amount of money, or just put out a tip jar, which can serve as their pay.
If you’re worried about them having a lack of bartending experience, keep the menu simple and offer soda, beer and wine.
Wedding Locations On A Budget
A wedding location or venue is a big part of a wedding for most couples. Here are some ideas to keep the venue affordable.
32. Choose a Backyard Wedding
Use your backyard or a friend/family member’s backyard as your wedding venue. There’s likely someone in your circle with a yard large enough to host the event.
You can offer to pay them a bit of cash if you’d like.
33. Have Your Reception at a Local Hall
Local halls such as American Legions, VFW halls, and town hall buildings are often much cheaper than traditional venues.
Check for options near you and see if anything fits your desires. Remember, too, that you can decorate to glam up a space. Tulle, flowers, and fairy lights can go a long way!
34. Choose a Cheap Getaway Destination
Interested in a getaway destination for your wedding? Talk to a local travel agent about options for cheap destinations and upcoming deals.
35. Use the Church Basement
Use a church with a basement reception hall so you can go right from the wedding ceremony to the reception and save money in the process.
36. Rent a Local Park
Renting a local park can be another way to host a wedding on the cheap. Talk to your city or county parks and recs department for information on cost and availability.
Wedding Attire On A Budget
Wedding attire is another costly part of having a wedding. Consider the following ideas to save big cash.
37. Shop at Discount Bridal Stores
Visit discount bridal stores to see what kind of deals you can score on your wedding dress and your bridesmaid dresses. Shop the clearance section first.
38. Buy Your Dress Online
Online stores such as The Dress Warehouse and June Bridals are great places to start if you want to purchase an affordable wedding dress. There are several other online stores where you can shop as well.
39. Wear Suits Instead of Tuxedos
Have your groomsmen purchase suits at a local department store or wear suits they already own in order to save on attire. Consider stores like Men’s Warehouse to save money on suits, whether you’re buying or renting.
40. Go Casual
Years ago, I went to a backyard wedding where the guys wore matching jeans, white button-up shirts, black ties, and cowboy hats.
41. Shop at a Thrift Store
Don’t be afraid to visit nearby thrift stores for wedding dresses, bridesmaid dresses, and more. You might be surprised at what you can find.
42. Borrow From Friends
You can always ask friends if they have dresses or other wedding accessories you can borrow. Be sure to have the item(s) cleaned before you bring them back.
43. Skip the Spendy Shoes
Avoid spending hundreds on shoes and shop at discount shoe stores. Or, buy a pair of white tennis shoes and glitter them up.
44. Make Your Own
Why not make your own wedding dress or bridesmaid dresses? If you’ve got a flair for sewing, you can make the entire dress or glam up an existing dress.
45. Rent Wedding Attire
Companies like Rent the Runway can help you rent wedding dresses and more. Curbside pickup if you live in New York or nearby or have the items shipped.
46. Have a Friend Do Hair and Makeup
Getting your hair and makeup done is another lofty wedding expense. Have a talented friend do your hair and makeup instead, or hire a cosmetology student for cheaper rates.
Wedding Decor On a Budget
Wedding ceremony and reception decor can also be found at a discount if you know where to look.
47. Look for Discounted Artificial Flowers
Buy discounted artificial flowers for your event, either at a craft store such as Michael’s or online at Amazon. Check out Balsam Hill or similar sites for more unique choices.
48. Choose In-Season Wildflowers
In-season wildflowers (or any in-season flower) will be cheaper to buy. Check with floral shops or visit the home of a friend or family member who grows wildflowers.
49. Choose Low-Cost Flowers and Greens
Talk to local florists to get tips on low-cost flowers and greens such as carnations and baby’s breath.
50. Use Mason Jars as Centerpieces
Mason jars filled with candy, artificial flowers, or in-season greenery can make for great centerpieces. Ask friends and family members about borrowing the jars.
51. Use Photographs as Centerpieces
Why not use photographs as centerpieces on your dinner tables? You can share photos of the happy couple throughout their relationship, helping guests share fun memories along the way.
52. Decorate With Ribbons and Lace
Ribbons and lace can glam up just about any space. In addition, you can buy them on clearance or in bulk and save a pile of cash in the process.
53. Decorate Tables With Candy and Confetti
There’s nothing to add excitement to a party like candy and confetti. Sprinkle dinner tables with gold or silver confetti and your favorite candies to add fun and flavor to your reception.
54. Buy Used Decor on Facebook Marketplace
People use Facebook Marketplace and similar apps to sell stuff online in an effort to declutter unwanted items, including wedding decor items.
Check all of the popular sites to find what you’re searching for in wedding decor.
55. Use Mismatched China
Using mismatched china for serving food or as dinnerware at your reception can provide a quirky elegance to your event.
Shop online, at garage sales, or at thrift stores to get what you need, and then sell it when you’re done.
56. Buy Dinnerware in Bulk
Whether you’re using china and silverware or disposable dinnerware, buying in bulk can save you a lot of cash.
57. Borrow What You Can
Borrow dinnerware, servingware, or wedding decor from family, friends, and coworkers? Ask to see what the people in your circle have that can fit in with your vision.
58. Rent Wedding Decor
Sites such as Rent My Wedding will rent you everything from backdrops to linens to lighting. Search online to find rental options for the decor you need.
59. Use Items You Can Resell
Using decor items you can resell after your event will help you earn back some of the cash you spent to purchase them.
60. Use Natural Accents
Natural accents, such as pine cones, tree branches, and wildflowers, can make for delightful decor.
61. Buy Decor Items on Clearance
The clearance aisles are your friend when it comes to wedding decor. Search craft stores such as Joann etc., Michael’s, and Hobby Lobby.
Wedding Entertainment On A Budget
You’ll want your guests to be entertained. However, you don’t have to have an 8-piece band to do the job.
62. Use a Portable Speaker
Using a portable speaker with a custom Spotify playlist you and your partner designed is both cheap and memorable.
63. Ask a Friend to Play DJ
Do you have a friend or family member who loves to entertain? Why not ask them to perform DJ services at your reception?
64. Skip the Limo Rental
Skip the limo rental and glam up your vehicle or a friend/family member’s vehicle instead as you tool around from location to location.
65. Choose a Photographer With Ala Carte Options
Some photographers offer ala carte options along with entire package options. Choose the ala carte options to save some cash.
66. Ask a Friend or Family Member
Consider asking a gifted family member or friend to take photos at your wedding. Offer for them to perform this service as their gift to you.
67. Hire an Up and Coming Photographer
Using an amateur or up-and-coming photographer means you’ll pay a lot less for services than you would for a highly experienced photographer.
68. Limit the Hours Your Photographer Works
Instead of having your photographer stay throughout the entire wedding and reception, plan for them to be there for the wedding and the first hour or so of the reception.
69. Hire Up and Coming Musicians
Hire music students or up-and-coming musicians to pay less for your wedding and reception music.
70. Do What Is Right For You
Last but certainly not least, it’s important to do what is right for you and your partner when it comes to your wedding. Don’t worry about trends, and certainly don’t worry about what others think.
Instead, make your wedding day what you want it to be.
Bonus Idea for Saving Money on Your Wedding
While it’s not directly related to the wedding ceremony itself, one of the biggest expenses when getting married is the engagement ring. In fact, the average cost of an engagement ring was around $5,500 in 2023, according to The Knot’s 2023 Jewelry and Engagement Study.
But there are ways to find a beautiful engagement ring at a reasonable price. Consider buying an engagement ring online. Regardless of where you make your purchase, be mindful of your budget and consider how much you should spend on an engagement ring. Generally, diamond rings are the most expensive, but there are alternatives to diamond rings.
That’s it for our list of wedding ideas on a budget. If your big day is upcoming, keep our list handy so that you can stay within your budget while you celebrate with your friends and family.
With a little ingenuity, you can accomplish an affordable wedding and the perfect event for you and your beloved.