How To Plan An Awesome (And Cheap!) Wedding On A Budget

The average cost of a wedding in 2018 was $33,391. This is not including rings or the honeymoon, this is just the DAY OF. This number honestly blows me away. It’s so. much. money!!!

When we got married, my husband and I planned our wedding in just 2 months. He was getting deployed and we wanted to get married before he left, that’s why we did it so quickly! We figure that our wedding cost us about $7,000 for everything. We had a little over 100 people. And it was great! There were some things that we totally skimped by on, but honestly, I don’t think anyone really cared about that. Looking back I wouldn’t change a thing.

Since we weren’t completely financially prepared for our wedding (and it all happened so fast) we wanted to do it in the cheapest way possible. We got pretty good at finding deals. That’s why I wanted to create this post and share what we found out about how to have a wedding on a budget.

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On our wedding day!

What People Seem To Regret

It’s interesting when doing a lot of reading on wedding blogs and different threads online from brides, about half said they regret spending a ton of money and about half do not (you have to wonder where the funds truly came from with the different answers). There were some specific items mentioned that people wish they had spent less on.

What Brides Wish They Had Spent Less On

  1. Flowers – were a big one, this I saw multiple times! Since flowers don’t last forever, and they’re pretty but not exactly the center of attention, a lot of brides wish they had gotten the less expensive flowers.
  2. Invitations – another big one. People put your invite up on the fridge and think “oh, this is cute.” It’s not a huge deal for most people. They don’t need to be earth shattering expensive – your grandma probably wouldn’t notice if they were anyway.
  3. The Dress – Now I know that a lot of brides want their absolute perfect dress, I get it, me too. You wanna look bomb. In 2018, wedding dresses on average were $1,631 including alterations. A lot of brides regretted spending so much because there are ways to look amazing with a more affordable gown! We will explore more affordable dress options later in this post.

What They Were Happy About Spending Money On

  1. The Photographer – Pictures last forever! It’s the one thing you have from your big day to look back on. With pictures, you’re able to actually savor all the moments that flew by so quickly. People really value spending a little more on a great photographer.
  2. The Venue – The more amazing the venue the fewer costs for decoration!! If you have a great place, you don’t really need to dress it up – it’ll be great as is!
  3. The Honeymoon – This is super important to most couples. The honeymoon is when you really get to spend your first days of marriage together, and you definitely won’t regret spending a little more than usual to have an amazing honeymoon.

Know What You Want

After all, it is YOUR day!! Your wedding should be exactly what you want. Want a ridiculous huge reception with your gigantic family and everyone you’ve ever met? Or do you want a cute backyard wedding with your nearest and dearest?

This day is yours. This is the most important thing to remember. Once you figure out exactly what you want as a couple, you can plan accordingly to properly budget everything out. It’s possible to create the wedding that you want on a smaller budget as long as you prioritize your wants.

Start Budgeting

If you want a ton of people at your wedding, you may have to find more affordable food options and limit the open bar to a certain amount of wine and beer. On the flip side, if you want a really small amount of people, you can probably afford to get some fancy food and alcohol.

First, find a dollar amount that you’re okay with spending. Make sure it’s reasonable compared to the things you want. You likely can’t invite 200 people and only spend $500. Get some quotes from places and start to piece together the range of what things will cost. Then, go from there!

Also, it helps (once you’ve found out who and how many people you’re inviting) to know your audience. You obviously want people to have a great time. Does the cake matter more to these people, or is it the bumpin’ music? Is free alcohol more important than a pretty place? Take into consideration your guests when planning your wedding. Obviously make sure these are things you want as well (because, again, it’s your day), but it’ll be a much better time all around if you’re spending more on things that people enjoy and less on what they truly don’t care about.

Tips For Saving Money

The Dress

Now the dress is important, I know! But you don’t have to spend an entire paycheck or more on a dress because you think that’s the only way to get a gorgeous one.

  • Go to a consignment store consignment stores have a really wide range of dresses – you can find some that are even brand new, designer dresses. Generally, these dresses are half or even less than half off. It may take you some time and you’ll have to do a little digging, but it’d be worth saving $1,000 or more on a dress!
  • Find a dress online – I know what you’re thinking. This is crazy. But seriously, I got my wedding dress on It was originally around $100 and I had a coupon, so I got it for $80. I had it altered (minor alterations) as a wedding gift, I added a belt from Joann Fabrics and it turned out amazing. I liked it way better than any dress I found at the bridal shops.
  • Thrift it, or alter a family member’s- There was a woman online I found who totally altered her grandmother’s dress – it turned out absolutely gorgeous!! She spent a decent amount of money on alterations, but overall it was way cheaper than buying a dress full price. Way more unique, too! You never know what you’ll find thrifting, and you never know what an amazing tailor is capable of.

The Venue

Ahhh, the venue. The venue makes a huge difference! If you find a venue that’s beautiful on its own, you can save a LOT of money not decorating because it probably won’t need it!

A great way to save on a venue is to get married in the off-season. “Peak season” for weddings is late spring through early fall, so try to avoid having your wedding between those times if you want to save some cash.

This is also a good time to think about how many people you really want. If it’s a really small, intimate wedding, you could rent a small, yet beautiful place. It could be in the backyard, a cabin, a fancy restaurant, a rooftop of a library (we have one around here that’s GORGEOUS), the beach, or anywhere else you can think of! It doesn’t have to be what everyone else is doing. Get creative with where your wedding could be and you’ll find there are a lot of opportunities for great deals and beautiful spaces!

Food and Cake

This is, again, a point where you have to consider how many guests are coming! You may get to spend a little more on fancier food if you have a small number of guests. If you have a larger number, make sure you shop around for the most affordable but tasty option!


We got a lot of our snacks/appetizers for in between the ceremony and reception from Costco! Now some venues will allow this and some won’t, but it saved us literally hundreds of dollars. People got to munch on something so they weren’t starving before dinner started and we didn’t have to spend all our money on fancy hors d’oeuvres.

Main Dish

It is very easy to get carried away with food and it is definitely one of the highest costs of a wedding. The food vendor we went with had awesome BBQ sandwiches. We had a variety of side dishes as well. The meal was good and it was not fancy by any means! We were happy with it and as far as we know, everybody liked it.

Where we *almost* got carried away

While we were doing our pre-wedding tasting for our main meal, the caterer also brought out some amazing looking cupcakes that we weren’t expecting. This beautiful blindside was so tempting for us. We actually got an estimated cost for appetizers, main dish and sides, and the cupcakes and cake together. When all was said and done, let’s just say that my husband-to-be *almost* exploded when he laid eyes on the cost of it all. The cupcakes/cake alone was estimated to be an extra $1,200. And you KNOW we weren’t about to pay that!!

Needless to say, we didn’t get the fancy cakes. If you don’t care too much about a fancy cake but you still want it to be delicious, go to Costco or Sam’s Club!! I’m pretty sure we spent about $100 for 100 cupcakes and then we got a small cake for us. Would I do that again? Definitely. The cupcakes honestly looked nice and, again, I’m pretty sure no one really cared that they weren’t super fancy because they still tasted amazing.


There are a lot of alternatives to flowers nowadays! People are DIYing all over the place – and with Pinterest, the possibilities are endless. You can make paper flowers, use fake flowers, dried flowers, or have no flowers at all!

We ended up using dried flowers from Sam’s Club, some dried leaves from Micheal’s Craft Store, and for the rest, my mom literally scoured fields on the side of the ROAD!!! It was sooooo funny. But all this hard work by my mom resulted in all of our bouquets and boutonnieres, along with all of the centerpieces being extremely cheap! We probably spent about $150ish(?) total on flowers. I was glad we didn’t spend a ton of money on the flowers, and my mom made them all perfectly!

Other Ways To Save

  • Bridesmaid dresses – This is also a great time to choose an online option! You can mix and match colors, styles, prints… you name it, because that’s the trend! Take advantage! is a great resource where you can find beautiful bridesmaid-worthy dresses in all different colors and prints for $50-$100.
  • The Veil – Do not, I repeat, do NOT buy your veil at the wedding shop!! At a wedding shop, veils well over $100 for a literal piece of fabric. This is the easiest thing to DIY or go to a craft store. You can also find one online for at least 75% cheaper! They also have really cute hairpins online that are inexpensive and add a little sparkle to your hair – again, for much lower cost than at a wedding shop.
  • Shoes – First of all, you’re gonna want some shoes that are comfortable. I got these ones from Amazon, and they were absolutely perfect and amazing AND affordable! But then I realized I can’t walk in heels. Make sure you take that into consideration! I ended up buying these ballerina slippers instead. They were really comfortable, and no one sees your feet anyway. Another good idea is to buy some nice shoes in nude or gold so you can at least wear them again!
  • DJ – Now you can actually provide the mixtape yourself or hire a friend to DJ. We did the “hire a friend” option. Other than “Be Our Guest” from Beauty and the Beast absolutely blaring as soon as dinner started (which we still die laughing about)… it worked out great and was way cheap!
  • Photographer – Our photographer was a know-someone-who-knows-someone situation. She was extremely talented and much more affordable than “full-time” photographers. She actually did my makeup as well! Bottom line is, find as many resources as you can! You never know who you may find until you ask.
  • Get a lot of things from craft stores – Craft stores such as Michael’s and Joann Fabrics have so many wedding things! From the belt of my dress to the flower girl’s basket, we got all of it for a fraction of what an actual bridal boutique would cost.
  • DIY anything you can – A lot of wedding stuff can be done yourself and it’s not as hard as it seems. Pinterest is your BFF for this. Some things that are really easy to DIY are the centerpieces, decorations, and invitations. But really you can do it yourself with most aspects of the wedding! This is totally worth a little time and effort if you’re working with a small budget.
  • You don’t have to spend a ton of money on a honeymoon, either – We went to Las Vegas which was completely affordable. We had the luxury of lazing by the pool along with a crazy fun nightlife AND day tours and hikes through the parks nearby. This post has some tips for traveling on a budget. You don’t have to spend a ton of money on your honeymoon for it to be super special. Remember to save up for your honeymoon, too, and not just the wedding!

Remember – This Is YOUR Day!

A lot of people like to give their opinions when it comes to weddings. Please, please remember that this is your day. You don’t have to have a wedding like everyone else. You can literally get married in the middle of a cornfield by yourselves if that’s really what you want (I mean… you’ll need someone to marry you, but, other than that…). Whether it’s super huge, super low key, or right in between, you can have an affordable wedding on a budget. Just be smart and patient about the things you buy. Make sure to shop around. Get quotes, estimates, negotiate your prices! Find out what all your options are. Don’t get sucked in by all the wedding craze before you’ve considered your options.

Or you could just elope and disregard most of this. 😉

I hope you have a very awesome, amazing, everything you’ve always dreamed of, wedding day.

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