How to Plan a Wedding on a Budget

by Traci K. on August 4, 2010

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Planning a wedding is one of the most exciting, frustrating, special, and expensive things that will ever happen in your life. If you’re on a tight budget, it can seem almost impossible! To be able to keep a tight wedding budget, you need to know where to splurge and where to cut costs. Before you make any other plans, you need to start by having a total budget. How much can you spend altogether? This is the all important number you simply must have firmly in mind. Now, to the first part:

Where to Splurge:

When you think about getting married, there are a few things that come to mind. When I think about cost, I think about the wedding dress. Although it doesn’t have to be a several thousand dollar dress, the dress usually takes up a good portion of your budget. I would suggest anywhere from 1/4-1/2 of your total budget, depending on other factors. Hand-me down wedding dresses are great, especially if you get them tailored to fit. Used dresses can be found from Goodwill and other thrift stores, and you often can’t tell they’ve been used. Personally, I found a steal by hunting online and got a custom-made to my measurements dress for about $250. You can find better deals by going for a non-traditional dress. The second place to splurge, is of course on the groom’s outfit. A decent tuxedo rental usually runs about $100 and a suit even less. If you own a nice suit, even better.

Where to Save:

Almost everything other than the clothing are places to look to cut costs. If you’re really on a tight budget, I suggest the following areas:

  • Location: There are a number of free or cheap locations you can have for your wedding. A family or friend’s yard, a public park, and rent a picnic area at the park for a rain area. It is really dependent on how many guests you have and who has a back yard available.
  • Guest List: If you’re really on a tight budget, I suggest keeping the guest list as small as you can. It gives you more flexibility in terms of locations, food, wedding favors and everything else really. If your budget is $500 or so, I suggest 15 people or less.
  • Food: There are great alternatives to having the very expensive catering. My husband and I had a guest list of about 12 people at our wedding, so his mother and sister and myself set up a menu of easily made home prepared food. We bought the food and they were kind enough to make the dinner (as the wedding was at his mother’s house). I think we spent $75 total for a complete dinner with several deserts. However, we opted out of a traditional wedding cake. You can save on a wedding cake by looking for non-commercial cake decorators like stay-at moms or small businesses. You can always go pot luck style and ask everyone to bring a dish.
  • Decorations: Wedding decorations and favors are used only once. If you’re really on a tight budget, go for the smallest amount of decorations you feel comfortable with, keep them simple and keep them classy. Decorations in black and white for other formal events are cheap to find and use, favors can be made at home, skip or skimp on fresh flowers except for the bride and groom, and the more simple you are willing to have the wedding the less you will need to spend. You’ll also save by doing your own wedding invitations. Don’t forget to shop discount stores like dollar stores, big lots, and wal-marts to look for these types of items.

Where you ultimately spend or splurge on your wedding budget depends on what is most important to you. If there’s a specific dress, a certain location, or you have to have the large wedding with lots of guests you can always rearrange your budget percentages to accommodate your area of splurge. The final percentages spent on my $500 or less wedding was 50% on the dress, 15% on my husband’s clothes, 15% on food, 10% on paying the minister, and 10% on flowers, decorations and invitations. The best part about a very simple, low budget, small guest list wedding? Almost no stress and lots of fun! And that was priceless.

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