How to Plan a Beautiful Wedding on a Budget

The average cost of a wedding in 2013 (the year I got engaged) was $29,858 according to The Knot. It has now surpassed $30,000.  This figure was staggering to me.  Even if my fiancé and I, and our parents, had been able to spend that we wouldn’t have.  We wanted to save some money back to be able to take a nice honeymoon, and we thought spending that kind of money for a wedding was ridiculous for us.

With the money that our parents spent, along with our own expenses, the total cost for our wedding was approximately $7,000.00 for 150 guests. Through that journey I have accumulated quite a few tips on how to plan a budget wedding.

Let me add, however, that when I say “budget wedding” I do not mean a plain wedding. I worked in the wedding industry for almost five years, so let’s just say that I had pretty high standards about what I wanted my special day to look like.  There are tons of ways that you can cut the budget without compromising elegance and style.

I am not a wedding planner, but just an average bride sharing her ideas on how to feel like a princess without going broke.


Build your team with the right people – Specifically, you need two right hand people… a creative, artistic person that is also reliable, and a Type A, organized mastermind.  Both of these people will be ESSENTIAL for a DIY wedding.  That Creative Brain may be you and that is ok… my maid of honor made her own wedding dress!  But in my case, my mom filled that role and helped design all those details that would have cost a fortune without her.  My maid of honor was a huge help as well.  The Organized Mastermind must not be you!  This person will step in and run the show when you cannot be there, so they must not cut corners and should be able to execute your vision exactly as you describe it.  My aunt was this person, and I knew with her in charge I did not have to worry.  Choose these people carefully!  Do not ask your flakey friends and drama queen bridesmaids… even if they offer.  Let them handle the bachelorette party and showers.  Only entrust the details of your special day to those that will NOT let you down.

Be flexible with your dates – My fiancé and I had different visions for our wedding.  He wanted a destination wedding and I wanted to be surrounded by all our friends and family.  As a compromise, we decided on a local winery situated on a bluff overlooking a river so it would feel “destination” and still be close to home.  However, the rental fee for a Saturday wedding was more than our whole budget!

Rental fees are considerably cheaper on non-Saturday days. We were married on a beautiful Sunday morning at 11:00, overlooking the river, and the cost was almost half what we would have spent on a Saturday.  This cost included our food, drinks, and table service as well.  If you can be flexible with your schedule, this is a great way to save!


Do not be afraid to ask for discounts – Pretending that you have an endless budget when you don’t will get your nowhere.  I began almost every conversation with a vendor by telling them I was on a budget, and I found that almost all of them were willing to work with me.  Some discounts I asked for and some were offered, but it definitely paid off!

The best example of this was my photographer. I had the most trouble finding a photographer out of all my vendors… I wanted beautiful pictures, but spending thousands of dollars for them was out of the question.  I spent hours searching the internet and reached out to the only photographer whose pictures I liked with a cost under $1500.00.  After talking to her, explaining our budget, and telling her that we had a small wedding party we were able to book her for a six hour session for only $600.00 dollars!  Which brings me to another tip… be realistic and stick to your budget, if you are persistent you will find deals.


Be sure to get the copyright to your pictures – This is a huge money saver!  If you are on a budget, make sure you hire a photographer who will give you your edited images on a flash drive and will allow you to use them however you wish.  Ordering prints from your photographer is extremely costly, and you can save lots of money by ordering your prints yourself.

Buy wholesale flowers – One of the priorities for my wedding was lots of fresh flowers.  Florists charge hundreds of dollars per arrangement/bouquet, which was unaffordable for us.  Artificial flowers can also be costly even at sale prices.  I have a relative who could get us access to wholesale fresh flowers and we were able to buy enough to make our bouquets, boutonnieres, arrangements for every table, flowers to top our cake, and two large arrangements for the bridal party table for less than $400.00!

Of course, this is where you will need your Creative Brain. We spent the day before the wedding assembling the flowers (of course, you must set aside time to deal with fresh flowers at the last minute), and my mom turned them into a masterpiece!

If you do not have access to a local wholesale market, there are online floral wholesalers that will ship the flowers to your door.


My mom did a fabulous job on these stunning centerpieces


ThomaChipley (565)

My bouquet – roses, hydrangeas, lamb’s ear, fern and stock



We ordered a simple cake with minimal decoration, and then added the flowers ourselves.



My mom made these adorable bird cake toppers!



Be prepared to DIY – Not only did we DIY all our flowers, but almost all of our decorations.  Along with flowers on each table, we had vases of sticks that we had covered in glitter.  This takes nothing more than sticks from your yard, spray glue, glitter and a messy afternoon.  My mom also used her Cricut machine to create intricate thank-you notes for each guest, table number cards, and velum sleeves for the candle holders… little touches like these go a long way.


Inside each vase of glitter sticks were different wedding photos of our parents & grandparents.



Inside each of the paper birdcages were handmade thank-you notes.



Each table was numbered with pictures of us at that age.


Try to borrow as much as you can – Once you begin planning a wedding you will discover that you know lots of people who have items from their own weddings they will be happy to let you use.  We needed a lot of vases for our flower arrangements, and we bought very few of them!  Don’t worry if they don’t match… people pay a lot for that “mismatched” look these days!  We also borrowed a table and a chandelier that we used to transform the arbor that we were married under.



What a view!


Don’t be afraid to hire new companies or students – Since we weren’t having a dance and were creating our own playlist for the reception (another great tip), we really wanted to have some live music for the ceremony.  Live musicians are expensive and we saved a lot by hiring a string trio of students from a local college.  Live music can change the whole atmosphere of a wedding and hiring students is a great option.

And lastly, decide what is important to you – Be sure you take a few minutes at the beginning of your wedding planning to decide which aspects are the most important to you.  I could have skipped the flowers and gone for simple centerpieces, but I knew our day would not feel the same without those beautiful blooms everywhere.  I made that a focus and was able to accomplish that on our budget.  I also felt like beautiful invitations set the tone for a wedding, so I ordered the invitations I wanted, then we printed and designed the rest of the stationary ourselves.

Know what you want, be persistent, surround yourself with helpful people, and work hard and you really can have the wedding of your dreams without sacrificing your nest egg.

ThomaChipley (869)

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