Frugal Wedding – How to Plan a Great Wedding on a Budget

frugal weddings

If you’ve recently said ‘Yes’ and are starting to plan your special day, you’re bound to be excited. But have you started saving?

The average US wedding costs a whopping $33,900 including the engagement ring, ceremony and reception according to The Knot’s 2019 Real Weddings Study.

This cost varies dramatically from state to state, with the average being as much as $53,400 for New Jersey couples. 

Frugal wedding

If you’re looking at these figures with dread, then don’t panic. A frugal wedding can cost a fraction of these average costs and can feel a lot more personal than a traditional big day too.

Where are couples spending their money?

Before learning the best money-saving wedding tips, it’s useful to know where other couples are spending their hard-earned cash.

Here are some of the average payments received by wedding vendors during 2019, according to The Knot’s internal survey of 27,000 couples.

  • Reception venue – $10,500
  • Photographer – $2,400
  • Wedding coordinator or planner – $1,500
  • Reception band – $3,700
  • Reception DJ – $1,200
  • Florists – $2,000
  • Videographer – $1,800
  • Wedding dress – $1,600
  • Wedding cake – $500
  • Catering – $70 per guest
  • Transportation – $800
  • Wedding favours – $400
  • Rehearsal dinner – $1,900
  • Engagement ring – $5,900
  • Invitations – $590
  • Hair and makeup stylists – $210

The cost of the honeymoon isn’t listed here, but if you’re looking forward to some well-deserved downtime as newlyweds, then this could set you back a further $5000 on average.

Saving for your frugal wedding

The first step when planning your big day is to work out how much you’re willing to spend on it. If you’re lucky enough to receive a donation from your family, then how much input will they expect to have in your big day? 

If you’re unwilling to have your father-in-law’s business partner attend your wedding or your mom’s old best friend from college, then make sure that this is understood before you’ve accepted their money.

This can prevent some awkward conversations occurring further down the line. 

Once you’ve come up with a potential figure for your wedding, then identify how much you’ll need to save up to pay for it.

You might choose to take on a side gig, skip your vacation this year or make significant cutbacks to your monthly spend in the lead-up to your nuptials.

Choosing your wedding date

It’s understandable that you might be desperate to get hitched as soon as possible, but the longer the engagement, the more time you’ll have to save up. It’s also wise to consider getting married off-season to save heaps of cash. 

With summer weddings between May and August being the most popular, you can benefit from massive discounts if you’re able to set the date outside of this period. 

Choose to get married mid-week or on a Sunday for extra frugal wedding savings. This approach will usually help your guests to save money too on the cost of travel or hotel accommodation.

The only question to consider here is whether your guests would find it easy to book time off work and attend your celebrations if you get married at an unusual time?

Single wedding venue  

Unless you’ve been dreaming of a church wedding with a separate reception elsewhere, it can often be more cost-effective to hold your entire celebrations at a single wedding venue.

By doing so, you won’t need to fork out for the cost of transporting your guests from one place to the other.

You can also cut down on the cost of flowers and other decorations which can eat into your budget.

Evening guests

One of the greatest costs associated with a wedding can be the rate attached to each individual guest, in terms of catering, alcohol, favors, invitations and transportation as a minimum. 

If you’re committed to a frugal wedding, then you might choose to opt for a smaller ceremony and reception with a select few guests during the day.

You can then throw open the doors to your evening guest list and get the party started later on. 

This will dramatically cut your costs as there is far less pressure to serve food in the evening, which could save you a few thousand dollars.

You can even offer a cash bar which many evening guests would expect.

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Frugal wedding food

For those guests, you will be catering for, feel free to steer away from the traditional three-course meal where the costs can quickly add up.

You might choose a buffet, BBQ, hog roast or even street food to satisfy your guests.

An ice-cream van or chocolate fountain both work well for a dessert substitute and will be remembered by your guests for all the right reasons.

If you’re longing for a multi-tiered wedding cake, but can’t quite afford the average $500 price tag, then a clever hack is to fake it.

Ask your cake designer to cover styrofoam bases in decorative icing for the bottom few tiers of your creation, and then include your delicious edible cake at the top.

Another option is to choose a stunning cupcake tower, or if you’re not huge cake-eaters then you could just omit this cost from your budget entirely.

Don’t go broke over wedding booze

If you’re nervous about the cost of your booze bill, then there are plenty of ways to keep this trim.

If you’re offering alcohol at your wedding, then feel free to stick to wine and beer, along with soft drinks to ensure that expensive spirits aren’t being consumed all through the evening. 

You might choose to serve champagne for toasts or cocktails during a cocktail hour, but be aware that these can really eat into your budget.

Sparkling wine is an affordable alternative that is guaranteed to keep everyone in the mood while the photos are being taken. 

Some couples even encourage guests to BYOB by sending out a signature cocktail recipe for guests to pre-mix before the big day.

This is a real talking point and adds a fantastic personal touch to your event as your guests compare their mixing skills.

Always remember to check with your wedding venue beforehand to see if they charge corkage.

As corkage isn’t mandated by US law, you may be able to negotiate the price down if you feel it’s unreasonably high.

Better yet, seek out a venue which doesn’t charge corkage at all!

Making use of your crafts skills

If you’re creative, or have members of the bridal party who are, then you can save hundreds from your wedding bill by putting those crafting skills to good use.

From designing and printing your own frugal wedding invitations to arranging your own flowers and creating your own bespoke frugal wedding centerpieces, there’s no need to rely on a wedding vendor for these details. 

You can watch YouTube tutorials, read wedding magazines or visit online wedding resources for a wealth of design ideas.

Decorations such as mason jars filled with fairy lights on a twig are incredibly charming and easy to make too. 

You might choose to hold a wedding crafting party with your nearest and dearest beforehand to make favors or paint giant letters saying ‘Eat, Drink and Be Merry’ to hang at your reception venue.

A beautiful dress at a fraction of the cost

If you’ve got your eye on a Vera Wang or a Maggie Sottero creation, but can’t afford the phenomenal price tag, then it might be wise to rethink your approach to wedding dress shopping. 

One of our top money-saving wedding tips is to have a think about how long you’ll be wearing your gown for.

From here, you can decide whether it’s worth spending thousands of dollars on a garment you’ll be in for less than 12 hours of your life – or whether you can find a wedding dress bargain. 

Pre-loved wedding dress stores, either in your neighbourhood or online, offer gowns at a fraction of the cost. In fact, Elle magazine estimates that you can save up to 70% of the cost of a brand-new dress.

This means you can try on gowns by designers you wouldn’t previously have dared to look at and then easily alter the garment so that it becomes the dress of your dreams.

Pre-loved dresses are also a fantastic way to support the environment through recycling. Remember you can always sell your dress after you’ve finished with it too to gain some dollars back.

Time to get started

Now you know some of the best money saving wedding tips, it’s time to start planning your celebrations.

So long as you’re willing to do your research, embrace your creative spirit and be flexible about the idea of a traditional wedding, then there are infinite ways that you can dramatically slash the costs and pay as little as $5,000 to $15,000 for your big day.

A frugal wedding can absolutely be the wedding of your dreams, and best of all, you’ll avoid starting off married life in debt.

For more tips on personal finance and how to enjoy a frugal lifestyle, The Finances Hub has a wealth of guidance for you to explore. Check out our informative blog articles today.

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