10 Tips for Wedding Planning on a Budget

Updated: Sep 13, 2020

When my husband proposed in May of 2019, we didn't have a lot of money to spare, and yet knew that we wanted to start our lives together soon. Even though many couples nowadays save up for years for that big day, we didn't see the point in spending tens of thousands of dollars on just one day. Yes, it would be an important and memorable day for us that we would look back on for the rest of our lives, but we knew that our commitment to one another was the important part, not how much money we'd spend. We were planning on moving me out of my apartment, buying our first house, and getting married all in the same summer, so we had to get the best bang for our buck in every aspect of wedding planning. Here are 10 tips that helped us plan the best day of our lives, for as little as possible.

1. Skip the Shower

The average cost of a bridal shower in the U.S. is around $1400. And yes, this cost is typically covered by the bridesmaids and/or family of the bride, but it's still a lot of money even when split amongst a few people. Our cost was $0, as I decided that a bridal shower wasn't really necessary. Everyone would have the chance to shower us with gifts at our actual wedding, after all. Why not just wait til then? A few of my aunts did end up throwing me a mini "bridal shower" a few weeks before the wedding, and that was plenty!

Don't have a bridal shower just because it's the "thing to do." If it's not important to you, skip it.

2. Inexpensive Invites

On average, wedding invites cost about $500. That doesn't even count the postage you need to put with them to actually send out the invites, or the "Save the Dates." We spent about $100 for our invites. We decided Save the Dates weren't really all that essential. After all, if someone thinks your wedding is worth going to, they will probably make that possible regardless of if they know a month in advance or a year in advance. (Also, we had a short engagement so we couldn't have sent out Save the Dates a year in advance even if we had wanted to.) Anyway, I created our invites as a word doc and printed them out on cardstock. We cut them the size of postcards so that we could send them out with cheaper postage. (It may not seem like a lot to spend 50 cents on a stamp, but 250 of them adds up! Postcard stamps are 15 cents cheaper.)

Will anyone really care how much you spent on your wedding invites? I don't think so. If they want to attend your wedding, they will, regardless of if your invites are DIYed or cost you an arm and a leg.

3. Reasonable Rehearsal

The average cost of a rehearsal dinner is about $50 per person, times the 30 people we had at ours, and that would be $1500. Our cost was about $7 per person, again times 30 to bring us to about $210. This isn't something we actually paid for, as my husband's family took care of it. Still, rehearsal dinners can be a big expense, so we decided to have pizza and soda for ours. Our wedding was outdoor anyway, which meant rehearsing outside, and pizza was an easy meal to eat picnic-style. Yes, it did end up pouring during our entire rehearsal, but our family and wedding party were pretty good sports.

So if you're planning a wedding, I'd say choose an easy and more affordable meal for your rehearsal dinner. The conversation and laughs with friends will be just as great!

4. Venue Value

The average cost for renting a venue is around $400, not including food. Our cost was $0 (well, along with many hours of hard work.) We got married at a ballpark, where my husband and I had grown up playing baseball. We had connections to using this park for our wedding, even though it had never been used as a wedding venue before. In fact, it hadn't been used for much of anything in several years and was in bad shape when we first decided that it would be our venue. We spent many weekends pulling weeds, painting the bathrooms, and restoring the ballpark to its original beauty. The result was a unique wedding venue and memorable day! Don't be afraid to think outside the box!

5. DIY Food

Food is one of the biggest expenses at most weddings. On average, wedding food costs about $12,000 in total. Thankfully, my mom offered to do the food for our wedding. We decided on sloppy joes, hot dogs, chips, and other ballpark-themed foods. Our cost came to about $600.

Choose foods that are unique to your wedding theme. You don't have to have that famous all-you-can-eat chicken buffet, or fancy plated meals for your guests to enjoy their meal.

6. Up-and-coming-photographer

The average cost of a wedding photographer is about $2,000. Rather than hire an expensive professional photographer, we chose an up-and-coming photographer friend-of-a-friend. She charged $200, and did great work! We were very happy with our choice.

If you know someone who likes to take pictures and wants to build their profile, ask them to be your photographer. You'll most likely get great results, while helping them build their business.

7. Thrifty Florals

Wedding flowers can get expensive! On average, they cost about $700, once you add up the costs of the bride's bouquet, bridesmaids' bouquets, corsages, and boutonnieres. Our cost came to about $100. My mom again helped me out here, but scouting out a farmer who grew beautiful flowers for a farmers market, but would sell them to us directly for a discounted price. A great family friend and former florist offered to arrange the flowers as our wedding gift.

Before you spend hundreds on wedding flowers, consider buying them directly from the source.

8. Cake Connections

The average cost for a wedding cake is about $500. Rather than getting one big wedding cake, we opted for cupcakes, along with a smaller centerpiece wedding cake. Our cost came to about $250, which included delivery and use of the cupcake trees. This great deal came about through yet another friend-of-a-friend connection, that led us to an up-and-coming baker.

You may have noticed a theme here - see who knows who and may have a helpful connection when seeking out wedding vendors. You may find someone amazing!

9. Self Style

Hair and makeup can get quite expensive for the bride, not to mention the bridesmaids. The average cost for just the bride to get her hair and makeup done for the big day is $180. Our cost came to $0, as all the girls chipped in and did each other's hair and makeup.

10. Affordable Attire

Once you add the average cost of the bride's dress, bridesmaids' dresses, flower girls' dresses, and tux rentals, wedding attire typically costs about $2800. Many brides and grooms ask their wedding party to foot the bill for their own attire, but we decided to gift the clothes to our wedding party as their gift for being a part of our big day. Our total attire cost came to about $860, as we bargain hunted at department stores and online to find the best deals possible. (My wedding dress was gifted to me, but even that is included in the $860. David's Bridal has great affordable options!) Our wedding was outdoors and casual, so that also saved us from having to spend too much on fancy clothing items.

With so many discount clothing options today, you don't have to break the bank on wedding attire. Plus, your wedding party will probably appreciate having something that they can actually wear again sometime!


If you add up the average costs listed above for each wedding item, you'll see that the sum is about $22,000. And that doesn't even include everything that goes into a wedding! There are also shoes, other decor items, wedding party favors, and various odds and ends. When you take into account everything that goes into a wedding from the beginning planning stages to the actual day, the average U.S. wedding costs $30,00 total. Our wedding cost about $2,500 for the items listed above, plus about $500 for other costs along the way.

It baffles me that the average U.S. wedding costs 10 times more than ours did! If I could do it all over again, I would still choose the affordable route. I don't regret any of the choices we made to cut costs. I'm so glad we could put that money towards our future, rather than on little details that few would remember anyway.

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