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How to Plan a Wedding on a Budget: 7 Money-Saving Ideas

Are you recently engaged and ready to start wedding planning? It can be a stressful task, but starting with a budget and figuring out where you can save will make the planning process more of what it should be: fun and exciting!

Rachel Velez • May 13, 2022

So you’re newly engaged, and it’s time to start planning for your big day! A good first step is to start with a wedding budget breakdown to help you understand how much everything will cost. It’s no secret that weddings can be expensive, and you may already have a picture of your dream wedding in your mind. However, it’s important that you set a realistic wedding budget to ensure you don’t derail your long-term financial goals.

Your wedding is an important day and life event, so you may feel pressure to plan an elaborate celebration. But, there’s no need to go into debt to make that happen. A substantial number of engaged couples take on debt to pay for their wedding, but it’s possible to avoid that and still have a wedding on a budget that’s fun and elegant.

Figuring out your wedding budget can be confusing if you’ve never planned a large event. However, doing your research ahead of time on what things cost will make you feel more prepared when it’s time to hire vendors and make purchases. 

In This Article

  1. Wedding Cost Breakdown
  2. Wedding Ideas on a Budget: 7 Money-Saving Options
  3. FAQs
  4. Final Thoughts: How to Save for a Wedding

Wedding Cost Breakdown

As you start to think about your wedding budget, it’s a good idea to first sit down with your significant other to discuss your long-term financial goals and what amount makes the most sense for your budget. Having this conversation will allow you both to set realistic expectations and avoid unnecessary disagreements down the line. 

When creating your wedding budget, it can also be helpful to visualize the different expenses as percentages. This will give you a better idea of how much to set aside for each expense. Once you have the lump sum of your budget figured out, you can divide it up based on how much specific vendors cost and how you prioritize different aspects of your wedding. 

A wedding budget breakdown will also help you decide what to do with any money you might receive from a family member who is willing to put some funds toward your big day! That extra money can be used for your general wedding expenses, or allow you to splurge on something you thought you weren’t able to originally afford.

Average Wedding Cost Breakdown

An average wedding cost breakdown can ultimately help you decide what to include in your own budget, though it will look different for every couple. The wedding budget breakdown chart below is simply a starting point to help give you a general understanding of how to allocate your funds. Here are the top expenses to include in your budget breakdown. 

ExpenseBudget Percentage (%)
Venue30%
Catering23%
Entertainment & Music 13%
Photography & Videography10%
Flowers 7%
Wedding Rings6%
Wedding Attire5%
Transportation4%
Invitations & Stationery 2%

Wedding Ideas on a Budget: 7 Money-Saving Options

Even with your wedding budget set and planned out, there are some creative ways you can save more money on your special day. A lot of people are opting for less traditional wedding day aspects for a sense of individuality, to spend less money, and to have a day that they and their guests will never forget.

Here are 7 wedding ideas to consider for your own celebration that will make your event stand out while also saving some funds! 

1. Choose a Nontraditional Venue

Traditional reception venues and banquet halls get the job done, but selecting a location that isn’t typically used as a wedding venue is unique and can lower the reception price tag. You can consider a restaurant, museum, park, library, or even a boat — all spots that aren’t traditionally thought of as wedding venues, but can help you save money and give your event a unique feel. 

Another popular option is renting an Airbnb as a venue and holding all your wedding events at that location. You can search for listings that allow you to host events — just make sure it’s equipped to handle your number of guests, and don’t forget to factor in rental fees for things such as tents, tables, or chairs, if necessary.

2. Have a Small and Intimate Celebration

Cut the guest list down, and keep your wedding day celebration super close-knit and intimate by having a smaller gathering. A big part of your wedding budget is the food and drinks for guests, so having a huge wedding can increase that amount pretty fast. 

Although it can be difficult to keep your guest list small (especially if you have lots of friends and big families), it can ultimately make the day more special by only having the people you’re closest with there for your big day, and it will help your budget.

3. Look Into Bridal Consignment 

You can rent your dream wedding dress instead of dropping thousands of dollars to buy it and wear it once. If your dream dress is out of your budget, you can see if it’s available online through second-hand wedding dress sites such as OnceWed.com or StillWhite.com. You can save up to half off a dress that has been pre-loved, dry cleaned, and preserved by its first owner.

Another alternative is renting formal wear, such as the suit for the groom. It’s a great way to cut costs on something that’s not going to be used for very long. After all, there’s really no need to splurge on attire that’s most likely going to be worn for only a day.

4. Don’t Go Wild With Vendors 

A lot of wedding planners, online resources, and even friends and family members will say you need a bunch of different vendors to make your wedding day perfect. A florist, videographer, photographer, live band, DJ — the list goes on and on. It can be overwhelming and, more importantly, costly to work with so many different vendors in one day.

If you’re working with a tight budget, pick your top 2 or 3 vendors that are a must and book those for your wedding day. You can also try to negotiate with the vendors you do use to make sure you’re getting the best price possible!

5. Book a Weekday Wedding

Saturday is a popular day for weddings, but it’s also generally the most expensive day to get married. You can likely reserve your venue at a lower price if you hold your wedding on a Sunday or even a weeknight. And if you choose a date that falls during the off-peak wedding season (like in the winter or early spring), you might be able to save even more.

Opting for a cheaper day to get married is one of the best ways to plan a wedding on a budget, without all the effort. You should also inquire about any unbooked dates your desired wedding venue may be trying to fill.

6. Skip Some of the Smaller Details

The smaller details of your wedding day are always a nice touch, but most of the time, no one remembers them except for you. If those details are super important to you, and you can’t live without the name cards, menus, or wedding favors, then, of course, include them in your budget. But, if the big-ticket items mean more, like your entertainment and photographer, use the funds there instead. 

Some of the smaller items, like custom cocktail napkins and elaborate centerpieces, can get expensive and may even get thrown away at the end of the night by your guests. Save that money and focus on the non-negotiables instead. You might not need custom drink stirrers, but you probably want great food and drinks on your big day.

7. Elope!

If all this still sounds like too much, there’s an even better budget-friendly solution: elope! Elopements have become more common, especially during the pandemic when large events weren’t an option. You and your significant other can get married at city hall, which usually only costs a couple hundred dollars, and then have a celebratory dinner with close friends and family. It skips the stress of all the wedding planning, but still lets you have a special day with your soon-to-be partner.

FAQs

Is hiring a wedding planner worth it?

A wedding planner can actually reduce your stress when it comes to the planning process, and they can help you secure exclusive deals and better pricing from vendors. The largest drawback is the cost. Hiring a wedding planner can make sense for couples that can afford it, plan on having an extravagant wedding, or just don’t have the time (or interest) to plan it themselves. 

However, a wedding planner might not be worth it for couples who book an all-inclusive venue, are comfortable doing DIY projects, have family and friends who are willing to help, or plan on having a smaller wedding celebration. 

Can you finance the cost of a wedding?

Personal loans can be used to finance any of life’s big events, including covering the cost of a wedding. A loan could cover costs such as the venue, decor, attire, or whatever else you need to pay for. As personal loans can be helpful when you don’t currently have the funds, you should weigh all of your options before considering financing your wedding costs.

Using a loan or credit card can set you back financially, especially if they have high interest rates, and you are borrowing a big amount. It’s ultimately a personal decision, but be sure to consult with your significant other or a financial advisor before taking on a big debt to pay for your wedding.

How much does a small wedding usually cost?

According to The Knot, the average cost of a wedding in 2021 was $28,000. Let’s say a small wedding will cost a quarter of that amount. You’re still looking at around $7,000 for the event, unless, of course, you cut out a lot of the traditional expenses. There’s no set-in-stone number for how much a small wedding would cost, but a lower guest count will ultimately be more budget-friendly and save you money.

Final Thoughts: How to Save for a Wedding

Once you know what things will cost and you have your wedding budget checklist squared away, it’s time to start saving. Build a line item into your existing budget to start putting money aside for your wedding. Keep in mind that this is just a temporary budget line, and you may need to move things around for the time being to make it work. If you choose to put your long-term savings on hold while you put aside money for your wedding, be sure to keep your emergency fund intact in case of an unexpected expense during this time.

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