How to Save Money Planning a Beautiful Wedding

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Planning a wedding is expensive. I’ve always known that. But it wasn’t until Garrett and I started planning our own that I realized how quickly things begin to add up. We are fortunate that we have financial support from our families. With that said, we agreed that we didn’t want to blow a ton of money on one day. No matter how much or how little we spend, it’s going to be the best day of our lives.

Neither of us thought it made sense to max out our budget when we could do some things for cheaper by getting creative. With that said, we didn’t want the wedding to come off as cheap or like a compilation of a bunch of poorly executed Pinterest projects. We really thought through what was worth splurging on and where we wanted to save.

If you’re looking to save money on your wedding but still throw a beautiful, well-thought out wedding these tips are a good place to start. 

The first tip I have? Plan a long engagement

This doesn’t work for everybody. For us, we already live together and aren’t in a rush to have kids, so a long engagement made sense. It gave us more time to plan and allowed us to pay vendors without going into debt. 

Most of our wedding vendors take payments in 2 or 3 installments. Our year and a half engagement means that we’re paying a smaller sum every 6-9 months rather than paying for our wedding in full in under a year.

How to Save Money While Wedding Planning

Luckily, I’m not the first of my friends to get married. I’ve been able to get some good advice on where to spend and where to save. I have also poured over blogs, YouTube videos, and TikTok (I’ve been sharing my planning journey there if you want to follow along!). Here are the tips we are planning to use for our wedding.

Quick disclaimer: I know planning your wedding is such a personal thing. I don’t want anyone to think I’m saying that you have to follow these tips, or that these are the “right” things to do. There is no right or wrong way to plan your wedding. If you’re trying to cut costs these are the tips that we thought were the most logical for our day.

Have a dessert table instead of a big wedding cake

A graphic created with funky shapes featuring wedding cake.

Garrett and I are both bigger fans of other desserts than we are of cake. Instead of ordering a wedding cake to feed 100+ people, we’re having a cutting cake made for the two of us. For the rest of the guests, we’ll have an array of desserts from Sam’s Club. We are thinking brownies, cupcakes, and strawberry pretzel salad.

Wedding cakes are expensive. If you aren’t a huge cake enthusiast it might not make sense for you to spend a large sum of money on your cake.

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If you have family members who love to bake you can consider asking for their help. Ask a few aunts, for example, to each make a batch of cookies, a tray of brownies, a pie, or some other sweet dessert to set out. I had a friend whose grandmas insisted on making her desserts and it was a sweet way for them to contribute.

Shop your dessert table accessories

Skip sending save the dates

Save the dates are a fun first step in getting your guests excited, but they also aren’t necessary. 

We sent them because our guest list was small enough that the cost was negligible. We dropped off over half of them ourselves to save money, too. If we had to send hundreds and pay for postage this would have been one of the first things we skipped.

The only people I think need save the dates are guests who are going to have to fly in. In that case, you could even consider a texted: “Hey, this is our wedding date and here are the closest hotels!” your save the date and call it a day. Or if you’re having a destination wedding and everybody will have to arrange travel. 

Nobody else will really need a year notice for one evening.

If you’re not sending a save the date, consider sending your wedding invites a month earlier than you had otherwise planned. This will give your guests a bit of extra notice to make arrangements.

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If you’re balling on a budget, make your wedding invites 100% digital. You can make a private Facebook page for free, or spend ~$20 on a wedding website with a form for RSVP’s. 

This requires a bit of technological savviness from both you and your guests. If you’re up for it, it can save you hundreds of dollars. Elderly or otherwise non tech savvy guests might prefer a formal invitation. In that case you can print off just a few and allow them to send RSVP’s the old fashioned way.

Shop DIY wedding stationary bundles

Thrift your wedding decor

So far my favorite part of the planning process has been looking for treasures at the thrift stores. I’ve brought home around 50 brass candlestick holders (paying anywhere from 44 cents to 3 dollars) and an array of other beautiful pieces.

We are going for a whimsical vibe and we aren’t concerned with the tables being perfectly symmetrical or having all of the decor match perfectly and that’s helped us save a lot. 

You can join wedding swap sites in your area if Covid has made thrifting unsafe, or even keep an eye out on ebay or Poshmark.

Here is a video I filmed early on, my stash has since doubled so expect an updated haul soon!

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Pinterest is a great place to find wedding decor inspiration for things you already have in your own home. For example search “House Plant Wedding” or “Book Wedding Decor” and find ways to incorporate the decor you already love and use. 

Additionally, if you have a friend or relative who was recently married, consider asking if you can borrow or rent some of their leftover decor such as table linens or candlesticks. 

Buy your flowers wholesale and arrange them yourself

A graphic created with funky shapes featuring wedding florals.

From what I’ve read: this isn’t for the faint of heart. Garrett and I are doing this instead of going through a florist, but I’m going in well aware that it’s going to cause a bit of stress during wedding week. 

Florists are expensive because they are truly artists and they’ve spent years perfecting their craft and they’ll spend hours on your wedding arrangements. 

With that said, if we went through a florist and got as many flowers as I want, we’d be spending nearly  20% of our budget on flowers. I plan on ordering flowers in bulk through Flower Moxie and spending a fraction of the price as we would on a local florist.

We justified this for a few reasons: 1. Our venue rental begins Friday at noon so we can spend time there before the rehearsal dinner arranging flowers. 2. I have a great team of bridesmaids and aunts who will enjoy putting bouquets and centerpieces together, I won’t be alone in the endeavor. 3. I’m not too picky about the arrangements so nobody has to stress over “perfection” I’m going for an organic and whimsical vibe so I’m not too worried about symmetry or uniformity. 4. I love projects like this, so I don’t think I’ll be overly stressed.

I plan on doing a whole post on the experience next fall after the wedding because I’m sure I’ll have an entire list of pros and cons. 

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Thrift stores always have a ton of fake bouquets for sale. While most of the bouquets that I see locally are a little dated, you can take those bouquets apart and reassemble them into more modern arrangements. This approach will be better if you’re planning a long engagement and can be dedicated to checking out the thrift store regularly.

You also don’t want to be too married to the idea of a strict color scheme or flower type. The bouquets you find thrifting will be unpredictable. 

You can also check out Hobby Lobby on their 50% off floral days. They have great options to fill in the gaps of what you’re able to thrift.

Shop fake flowers online

Get married at a non-traditional wedding venue

A lot of venues charge a ton for weddings because they know that someone somewhere is willing to pay it. Venues like hotels and casinos often (not always!) have high rental prices and require you to use their caterers. This works for some couples, but if you want to shop around for the best price it’s not ideal.

Those venues can be great one-stop-shops for streamlining your wedding planning. If you’re trying to get the most bang for your buck, though, oftentimes those options aren’t the best.

Try looking at places such as:

  • Sprawling Airbnbs (sort these by clicking “more filters”-> “house rules” -> suitable for guests. Not all rentals will allow you to host your wedding there, be sure to check!
  • College campuses often have beautiful historic buildings that you can rent for a great price. Even better if the college is your alma mater!
  • Summer Camps are on gorgeous properties and usually have big lodges for you reception. I might be biased because this is the option we chose. They’re great because your guests can camp, there are beautiful trails and gardens, and you may be able to reserve the venue for the entire weekend.

When we were choosing our venue one of our biggest deal breakers was the rental time. We wanted the venue Friday-Sunday so we could have time to prep have our rehearsal dinner there. With that in mind, most of the “traditional” wedding venues were out. They book weddings on Friday and Saturday nights. Locally our dedicated wedding venues are astronomically expensive to rent for the entire weekend. The summer camp, on the other hand, is a fraction of the cost. Plus! 48 guests can stay overnight in the cabins Friday and Saturday night instead of getting a hotel.

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One of the most beautiful weddings I’ve ever been to was at the groom’s aunt’s home out in the country. They rented a tent to put out in a pasture on her acreage. His aunt was gracious enough to allow them to use her property for free. They only had to hire a rental company for things like the tent, tables, chair, and fancy portable bathrooms. (They were nothing like the porta potties we all know and loathe.)

If you have family or close friends with property like this, it’s worth asking how they’d feel about hosting a small wedding there. Of course, this only works for somebody you have a very close relationship with.

Only send “fancy” invites to your most special guests

A graphic created with funky shapes featuring wedding invitations.

I have such mixed feelings about wedding invitations. I’ve received truly beautiful wedding suites that hang on my fridge for a month until the wedding, then they’re so pretty that I can’t just throw it away so it goes into a drawer. As soon as I inevitably clean out the junk drawer, though, the invite goes into the trash. 

We are ordering the “fancy” invites for our parents, siblings, grandma, the bridal party. We are doing a simpler (but still beautiful!) invitation for everybody else. At the end of the day, invites are super special to the couple, but a minor detail for everyone else. I know very well that Garrett’s college friends and my army of cousins couldn’t care less about paper weight or gold foiling. With that in mind, it doesn’t seem like a huge sacrifice sending more plain invites.

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And don’t feel pressured to send the “fancy” invitations at all! The invites are such a tiny detail, yet sometimes they can cost hundreds of dollars. A simple postcard style can be super fun, or a DIY one page print out.

We didn’t allocate any of our budget to hire a designer for our wedding invitations. I’m designing them myself using Photoshop, but there are free programs, too.

Invitations can be completely DIY’d and completely beautiful. If you’re going the DIY route a few websites we found helpful were: 

  • Canva for designing your invites 
  • Etsy has predesigned invitations for a good price if Canva doesn’t feel like the right choice for you
  • Fiverr, we had a vector image of our venue drawn to use on our invites and paid $12 for it through Fiverr.
  • Cards and Pockets (check out their clearance section!)

How did you save money on your wedding?

Garrett and I are still in the thick of things and could appreciate any tips we can get on saving money planning our wedding. If you’re planning to use a money saving hack, or have in the past, please share it in the comments!