How Do You Arrange A Cheap Wedding?


To make a budget, you'll need to tally up your savings, maintain a detailed spreadsheet, don't go over it during the planning process, prepare for unexpected costs, and make meaningful cuts if you exceed your total budget. It's hard work, we know, but putting in the time and energy now ensures you'll live happily ever after (wedding-debt free). Here's how to set a wedding budget you can stick to.

  • Limit your guest list.
  • Host the ceremony or reception at home or outside. 
  • Ask friends and family to exchange skills for presents. 
  • Do-it-yourself whenever possible. 
  • Use a dummy wedding cake. 
  • Time your wedding wisely. 
  • Scout out vendors.
  • Hire a wedding planner/day-of coordinator.
  • Pick a venue or setting that looks great au naturel. 
  • Get married and have your reception in the same place! 
  • Embrace "All-Inclusive".
  • Give your bridal party fashion freedom. 
  • Shorten the timeline!
  • The courthouse. The courthouse has long been a go-to choice for affordable ceremonies — and a good reason. 
  • At home. 
  • An Airbnb or hotel rental. 
  • Parks and beaches. 
  • In the street.
  • Libraries and museums. 
  • Aquariums and zoos. 
  • Cafes, restaurants and bars.
  • Set a realistic budget. 
  • Ask family and friends to chip in (when appropriate) 
  • Save during your engagement. 
  • Pick up a temporary side hustle. 
  • Cut costs on lower-priority items. 
  • Take advantage of credit card rewards. 
  • Consider a personal loan.

Elopement refers to a marriage conducted in a sudden and secretive fashion, usually involving a hurried flight away from one's place of residence together with one's beloved to get married without parental approval.


Step 1: Count Your Cash


How much you have to spend on the wedding is directly proportional to three sources of money:

You and your fiancé's individual savings: This isn't as simple as checking your bank account. Ideally, you and your partner have three months of living expenses set aside in case of a job loss or health setback (separate from retirement funds). Subtract that in-case-of-emergency amount from your total balance in the bank, and that's how much you could put toward wedding costs.

The amount you can set aside from your current income: After making payments for existing debts, like student loans, set aside up to 10 per cent of your earnings each month. "Establish direct deposits into a separate account for wedding expenses, so it isn't just leftovers that get saved," says Erin Lowry, a personal finance expert and the author of "Broke Millennial: Stop Scraping By and Get Your Financial Life Together".

Any contributions from parents or loved ones: "Never assume your parents or other loved ones are willing and able to help cover the cost of a wedding," says Lowry. "But it certainly doesn't hurt to ask."

Step 2: Track Your Spending

Create a spreadsheet with three expense columns: Estimated, Modified, and Actual. Amounts under Estimated will be driven by researching costs in your area, proposals from the vendors you choose will go in Modified, and the final amount you pay them will go in Actual.

Adjust your estimates after calling in vendors' costs. Please start with the venue because it's the biggest piece of the wedding pie and a major factor in determining guest count. When vendors give you estimates, verify if tax is included. If not, do the maths yourself with state and local tax rates to adjust the proposal.

Add a column for the estimated tip. Write "included" if gratuity is factored into the vendor's price. (For example, caterers automatically tack on 15 to 20 per cent of the total, which you pay in advance.)

Add a line item called Extras that equals 15 per cent of your total budget to cushion for things you'll likely forget (invitation postage, parking valets) or won't anticipate in advance (corkage and plating fees). But, again, never spend this money upfront; you'll need it throughout the planning process as incidentals arise. Trust us.

Step 3: Prepare For Surprises

Before you sign on the dotted line of vendor contracts or start buying gift bag items, read the fine print because expenses that seem small early on could add up quickly. If the total of the line item isn't in your overall budget, cut it.

Vendor Transportation

Hiring an out-of-town band or photographer? You might need to pay for a rental van or plane tickets. Double-check the contract to see what exactly is covered.

Setup And Breakdown Fees

Cleanup isn't always included, and you may have to pay overtime rates depending on what time your reception ends.

Digital Access

Some photographers charge as much as $1,200 to view and share your photos online.

Envelope Stuffing

Some stationers charge as much as $7 per invite. To save, call your bridesmaids over, drink some wine, and DIY instead.


A full-service event designer can charge as much as $25,000 or even 20 per cent of the total budget for a Kardashian-scale affair, but a day-of coordinator costs an average of $1,000. So before enlisting a pro, know what you have to spend and factor in that rate. In addition, many venues require you to contract their in-house wedding coordinator or bring in your outside wedding coordinator.

Step 4: Charge Responsibly

Don't go overboard, no matter how tempted you are to boost your cash flow with credit cards. "Never charge anything that you can't pay off in 30 days," says financial expert Farnoosh Torabi, the So Money podcast host, unless you qualify for a card with a zero per cent purchase APR, which lets you skirt interest payments as long as you pay your entire balance within a certain time frame (usually 12 to 15 months).

Torabi advises mapping out a plan for how you intend to do that before swiping the plastic. For example, register for cash gifts that you can put toward a portion of the wedding and create a savings plan to cover the rest. Then, choose one with a generous cash back program if you use a credit card.

Step 5: Find Ways To Save

three flower bouquets on table photo – free weddin

Over budget? These ideas will slash your spending in a meaningful way.

Change The Venue.

Raw spaces like barns and lofts seem like a steal, but you could spend a lot making their wedding beautiful. "You may have to bring in tables, chairs, china, glassware, silverware, kitchen equipment for the caterer, even restrooms and AC or heat," cautions Sara Fay Egan, a partner at Jackson Durham Floral and Event Design in Dallas. So before you commit, estimate the total price of a wedding in that space versus one that includes all the basics.

Edit The Guest List.

Each attendee costs far more than their meal when considering the invitation, welcome bag, transportation, slice of cake, and favour. "Never have a B-list, and be ruthless with your A-list," says Clark. For the average 135-person reception, shrinking the guest list by 15 people saves you approximately $1,300.

Go Off-Peak.

Have a winter wedding. Choose a Friday or Sunday. Or celebrate with mimosas over brunch instead of hosting a four-course, wine-paired dinner.

Build-In Time.

Fifty-seven per cent of brides said they were willing to prolong their engagement. "Negotiating is more difficult when vendors know you're in a time crunch," says Torabi.

Host The Ceremony And Reception In The Same Place.

Doing so could save as much as $4,000 on transportation for the wedding party and guests.

Forgo A Live Band.

The big-name ones can charge upwards of $30,000, while a DJ will cost a few thousand bucks.

Order All Of Your Paper Items Yourself.

It means ordering or creating your wedding invitations and appropriate inserts. Later, you'll be ordering place cards, table numbers, and maybe programs. Technology has made it easy to do this stuff at home. The newlyweds-to-be choose the appropriate paper (most companies online will send free samples) and print them on their printer, then assemble, stuff, and mail them. Even if you choose to order printed materials through a stationer, be sure to do it yourself. It will cost you more when you have your wedding planner assist or do it for you, whether through her markup or because she'll likely be getting a thank you commission from the shop.

Don't be afraid to have her proofread them; do the creating, ordering, and assembling yourself.

Address Your Invitations.

Paying for calligraphy is not cheap. If you must have calligraphy on your invites, consider buying a calligraphy pen and practising until you get it right. It's not that difficult. And only an expert would notice it wasn't done by a professional. As a starting point, there are tons of tutorials online.

Say No To Upgrades.

Another key strategy for budgeting for a wedding is saying no to unnecessary upgrades. Instead, take what comes with the package or the least expensive option you can stand. Couples sometimes add thousands of dollars to their budgets because they don't like the design of the white-on-white tablecloths, for example. Or they can't stand the chairs provided for the ceremony.

Use Fewer Vendors.

If your DJ also offers lighting services for your venue or your cake lady offers edible wedding favours, consider hiring that vendor to provide more than one service for your big day. You'll always get a better rate if you're getting more from one vendor, plus you won't be paying multiple setups or delivery fees the way you would be if you had hired separate vendors for each task.

Determine The Kind Of Wedding You Want.

When you picture your wedding, what do you see? A swanky reception at a downtown loft? A backyard barbecue with all your friends and family? A classic hotel ballroom reception?

If you need a little more inspiration, think about all the weddings you've been to, seen on TV, or scrolled through Pinterest. What did you like—or not like—about them?

Don't get hung up on the little details just yet. Instead, think about the overall feeling you want your wedding to have.

Have The Wedding Budget Talk.

Everyone paying for the event (bride, groom and parents) needs to sit down and look at the total wedding budget. It might be your first experience budgeting with your future spouse as a team. What a priceless experience! Learning to talk openly and honestly about how much you can spend—and how much you're willing to spend—on your wedding will lay the groundwork for wonderful budget date nights once you're married!

As uncomfortable as this budget talk might be, remember—it's a heck of a lot easier than still paying for your wedding day on your fifth anniversary!

When I say budget here, I'm not just talking about how much money you can spend in total—I'm talking about how much you should spend in each area.

I suggest breaking the total wedding budget into categories and figuring out what percentage to devote to each:

Reception: 55%

Ceremony: 12%

Photography: 10%

Wedding Planner: 10%

Dress and Tux: 8%

Miscellaneous/Cushion: 5%

These aren't set numbers; that's just the ratio Winston, and I used. You should set your ratios based on what's important to you. For example, maybe you're willing to splurge on photos, but flowers don't matter to you. If you care more about one area than another, change the percentages.

Decide What Is Non-Negotiable.

Based on your percentages, take a moment with your fiancé to decide your top three must-haves for your big day. They can be practical or frivolous: an outdoor reception, a plated surf and turf dinner, loads of flowers, a live jazz band—whatever is most important to you.

You can come up with your wish lists separately or together, but make sure you sit down and determine what you both want. Then, let that vision dictate your budget.

The Wedding Budget Breakdown

First things first: Give your budget a little breathing room. Unexpected expenses will arise, so know that your budget will evolve throughout the planning. Take those surprises into consideration by putting in a little bit of cushion. That way, you have the flexibility to handle any surprise expense.

A wedding is a huge event to plan, so it's helpful to know what you can get for a certain dollar amount. What does $5,000 get you? $10,000? $15,000?

Here are some budget breakdown examples for weddings ranging from $100 to $30,000 and some suggestions for making them happen.

Trim The Guest List.

You want to share your happiness with your friends and family – that's understandable! But each guest invited to your day will need food, drinks, and seating, which can add up quickly. So, if you keep your guest list short and sweet, you'll benefit from having a more manageable number of seats to fill, mouths to feed, and hugs to share. You won't need to settle searching for venues for weddings on the cheap side. Plus, you can indulge in quality over quantity when fewer guests. Adding something like a raw bar, a custom seating chart, or personalised favours might be fun to consider with extra cash!

Location, Location, Location.

Planning an intimate wedding can allow you to choose a meaningful, beautiful, and often less expensive location than a larger, more traditional wedding. With a lower guest count, the length of the ceremony is much quicker, meaning you won't have to rent your ceremony site for several hours, which will save you more on the rental fee. Another way to have a cheap wedding ceremony is to have it in a place that may cost you less or even nothing. Remember that gorgeous waterfall hike where you first said, "I love you"? Or the park where you strolled hand-in-hand after your first date? You can likely get married there! Destination weddings for low prices are also possible. Decide with your partner about the places you both love to visit, and then make some calls to figure out some of your best options. So long, venues that charge an arm and a leg!

Two For The Price Of One.

Consider having your wedding in the same location as your honeymoon. Why not? You can skip the time and cost of travelling for your ceremony and honeymoon by heading straight to wherever you and your honey call paradise to tie the knot! Plus, a destination celebration is the cheapest way to have a wedding because, typically, it has a shorter list of confirmed RSVPs, so this might help you save some cash in more ways than one. Hello, intimate beach soirée in Hawaii!

Choose An Intimate Reception.

When you plan a cheap wedding, having a ceremony location that might not suit your reception may sound like an additional expense, but that's not necessarily the case. You can save more by considering hosting dinner at your favourite restaurant or hanging some string lights gathering in your backyard. You'll gain the freedom of affordable food options and be able to spend more quality time with your guests. A personalised reception is even more intimate and meaningful for you and your guests. To have one less space to rent and decorate means one more step towards a more affordable wedding.

Simplify Your Scheme.

How to have an affordable wedding without giving up the idea of a beautiful celebration? Choose simplicity. From flowers to decor to dress code, clean, simple details can make your wedding day cheaper and more personal while giving you more freedom to focus on what is essential for you. Also, minimalist ceremonies are popular nowadays if you're looking for cheap ways to get married.

Something Borrowed, Something Used.

Borrow items from a friend or a family member, like your BFF's gorgeous sequin handbag or your grandmother's vintage pearl necklace. Bring items from your home to decorate the space, like picture frames filled with memories of you and your partner or favourite souvenirs from all the places you've travelled together. If you're in a location with a breathtaking background, you won't need to spend much time or money on added elements like aisle decor or an ornate altar. Instead, you can incorporate small cheap wedding ideas into your planning. A good rule of thumb? Hold off on purchasing something brand new if you won't find a use for it after the ceremony.

Dress For The Occasion.

Smaller weddings can open up your options for attire as well. For instance, a ceremony on the beach means you don't need to spend hundreds on fancy heels. Perhaps you can skip the veil when saying you're I do's on a mountaintop. But if your heart is set on those pretty little details, there are plenty of sites where you can rent bridal attire — even your wedding dress, if you were hoping to save some cash!

A Bundle Of Love.

Shameless plug: at Simply Eloped, we're all about making things more affordable for our couples. We help make cheap weddings look expensive because we want you to feel nothing but love and happiness, not under the crushing weight of debt. With our customisable elopement bundles to choose from, you get to have three cheap ways to get married without letting go of your lifelong dream wedding. So contact us to get started planning your ceremony the simple way.


Congratulations on your engagement! Now it's time to start planning the wedding. It can be a very exciting but also daunting task. So how do you make sure that your wedding is special without breaking the bank? Here are some tips for arranging a cheap wedding. By following these simple guidelines, you can have the wedding of your dreams without going into debt. We wish you all the best as you begin planning your big day!

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