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Wedding on a Budget: How to Plan an Inexpensive Wedding

Angela Mae Updated: July 13, 2023 • 4 min read
How plan a wedding on a budget

Planning a wedding, whether an intimate affair or a grand celebration, can be daunting. However, the average cost of weddings ranges from $20,000 to $40,000 in 2023. Dreaming of a wedding day that doesn't break the bank? Here’s how to create a realistic budget and some strategies to lower costs.

How to Set a Realistic Wedding Budget

Setting a realistic wedding budget is an important first step in planning a successful celebration. By carefully considering your needs and wants, you can create a budget that allows you to have the wedding of your dreams without breaking the bank.

With careful planning and smart decisions, you can avoid debt, reduce stress, and make your big day truly unforgettable.

While there are many ways to plan a budget wedding, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do it right:

  1. Start saving early: Even before making a wedding budget, start saving money. See if you can cut back on any monthly expenses in your household. Try to save a percentage of your income each month. Also, consider taking on an additional income stream.
  2. Talk to your partner about your budget goals: How much money do you have saved? How much money do you expect to save in the next few months? How much debt are you willing to take on? Once you clearly understand your financial situation, you can start setting some realistic budget goals.
  3. Decide on your essentials: Discuss with your partner what's non-negotiable - such as the venue, date, number of guests, or theme of your wedding. Determine the essentials together, then prioritize them. As you approach your wedding date, one or two of these may not be as important as you thought, saving you money.
  4. Create a budget breakdown by major buckets: Wedding planning comes with many associated costs. Make a list of everything you think you’ll need – separated into categories or buckets –then get an estimate of costs. Add up the cost of each bucket to help determine how much you’ll need to save. 
  5. Research vendors: Vendors for weddings include photographers, musicians, wedding planners, florists, caterers, and more. Check locally and get estimates from several vendors of each type to see which ones best fit your budget. 
  6. Be flexible: A budget wedding requires flexibility, patience, and time. You may need to adjust your plan or reevaluate your non-negotiables. Or you may need to switch to a cheaper option – like a DJ instead of live music. Be patient and work with your partner on this.

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Wedding Budget Tips

As you plan your wedding on a budget, here are some tips and strategies to cut costs:

  • Find an affordable venue: The average wedding venue cost is $6,000, but you could save money by having your wedding at a relative's home or a park.
  • DIY whenever possible: Use affordable materials to create your own invitations, decorations, and floral arrangements. Compared to hiring professionals, bridal bouquets typically cost $250, and bridesmaid bouquets around $80.
  • Dress for less: Wedding dresses usually range from $1,800 to $2,500, excluding alterations and embellishments. Look for affordable options like David's Bridal, where dresses with sleeves start at $27 online. Alternatively, consider renting a mid-range tuxedo for around $150. 
  • Streamline the guest list: With an average cost of $256 per guest, opt for inviting only your closest friends and family members to reduce costs. Create a master guest list and remove names if it becomes too large or complicated. Alternatively, consider inviting a smaller group to the main event and hosting a larger reception afterward.
  • Get friends involved: Save on music and photography by asking talented friends. DJs cost $1,500, live bands $3,900, but a friend curating the playlist is free. Professional photographers average $2,600, while a friend's help is low-cost or free. Ask the family to cook instead of hiring caterers ($400 to $7,000). Lastly, have a friend officiate ($200+ for a pro, $100 or less online).
  • Ask for cash gifts: Instead of traditional registries, ask for cash gifts to support your budget-friendly wedding. Guests typically give around $100 to $150, providing flexibility to offset costs.

Wedding Financing Alternatives

There are a number of wedding financing options available, so couples can find a solution that fits their needs and budget. Some common options include:

  1. Financial help from family and friends: This can be a great way to offset the cost of the wedding, especially if you have generous loved ones.
  2. Credit cards: These can be a convenient way to finance a wedding, but it's important to be sure you can afford the monthly payments.
  3. Wedding loans: An unsecured personal loan you can use for your wedding. These loans usually come with lower rates than credit cards, especially if you have a good credit score, a steady income, and a low debt-to-income ratio. You can also cosign with your partner for better rates and terms.
  4. Savings: If you have the time and the discipline, saving up for your wedding is a good way to finance the wedding of your dreams.

Take it one step at a time so you don’t get overwhelmed and, if possible, try to start planning well in advance.

Bottom Line: Planning Your Wedding on a Budget

Figuring out how to plan a cheap wedding can be tricky initially, so patience’s important. Take it one step at a time so you don’t get overwhelmed, and, if possible, try to start planning well in advance.

Remember, this is a wedding for both you and your partner. Be transparent about what you want and need, and be willing to listen to their preferences and desires. Then, make a list of everything you both dream of and talk about ways to cut costs without feeling like either of you are missing out.

It’s also vital to discuss your finances with your partner. Doing this can make it much easier to plan a wedding on a budget, prevent unneeded financial stress, and ensure you both start off your lives together as a married couple right.

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Written by Angela Mae

Angela Mae is a personal finance writer specializing in loans, debt management, investing, retirement planning, and financial literacy. She comes from a journalistic background and pulls from hands-on experience and deep-dive research to breathe life into her stories. Her goal is to help others achieve financial stability and independence. When not writing, she can be found traveling, honing her yoga skills, hiking, or exploring new means of healthy, sustainable living.