Weddings on a budget don’t need to be cheap. You just need to think smart about each element of the day and really ask yourself “If I’m marrying the person I love, does it really matter if I don’t have the monogram napkins?” Chances are that your guests won’t care and will be none the wiser as they dab the corners of their mouths with inexpensive and just as useful paper serviettes.
Your first job is to make a list – spend on the most important things to you and your partner and scrimp on the things that won’t make a difference. Having said that the one thing that I feel is worth spending that little bit extra on is professional photos. The day will come and go and it will feel like it’s gone in the toss of a garter, so having beautiful photographs to look back on is a must.
Here are some handy tips for you to consider:
1. Try to avoid inviting everyone you’ve ever met – ever
Your wedding will possibly be one of the biggest days in your life and it’s tempting to want every person you’ve ever met there to share it with you, but sometimes this isn’t feasible when you’re trying to save the dollars.
The trick is to not feel obligated, even if people are asking for an invitation. If your budget is set, then stick to it. If you have parents who are insistent that they invite their friends, then give each set of parents a magic number that can’t be broken or you could try to suggest that because it’s your wedding and not theirs, that you don’t want people that you don’t know there – This will be fine with some families and not so fine with others – that will be up to you to navigate.
2. Ask for wedding help instead of gifts
If you are lucky enough to have friends with special wedding day skills, don’t be afraid to ask for some help. I know I said don’t scrimp on the photos, but you might have an amateur photographer in your posse who is trying to build their portfolio and wouldn’t mind doing the job for a little bit cheaper. Perhaps you are besties with a potential Masterchef caterer? Or how about your cousin who plays guitar and sings?
These jobs take up a LOT of time and effort for your friends and may attract some costs, especially the catering, so I’m certainly not suggesting that you ask for these services for free. However, you could come to a mutual arrangement so that your very generous friends are not left too much out of pocket.
Another idea is to contact your local university who might have art students – musicians or photographers who might be willing to take on the job at a discounted price.
3. Hold the ceremony in the park or in your back yard
Hiring a function centre for your ceremony and reception can be very expensive. Instead, consider using your own home (or the home of a parent) for your ceremony, or perhaps a park with a beautiful view.
If you go the outdoor route make sure you have a back-up plan in case of bad weather. That might mean hiring a marquee if the forecast is predicting rain, or a few industrial fans if it’s an extremely hot day — or if you’ve got time on your hands, simply get everyone inside the house to wait out a storm.
4. Fire up the barby
This seems like a fairly low key type of affair, but a small intimate party can be just as much fun and more meaningful as you are surrounded by only your closest family and friends. In lieu of gifts, you could ask guests to bring nibbles, a salad or a dessert.
You can still make a backyard do into a stylish event. If it’s your thing – think shabby chic flowers in jars; flowers that you’ve grown in your own garden; country style bunting strung between trees; vintage plates and tea cups; antique linens on trestle tables – all these ideas can be sourced for very little or less.
5. Stop and smell the flowers
Think about it – bridal bouquets are beautiful, but they can be super expensive and they last for a day. What about making your own bouquet with flowers from your own garden? Or get creative and make a bouquet out of something else – buttons, brooches or seashells?
Another idea is fake flowers. You can get some pretty realistic looking flowers and they would last a bit lot longer on groomsmen too.
6. Bridesmaids and Groomsmen
First of all – do you need to have bridesmaids and groomsmen? If that’s a firm yes, read on… While in some circles it’s considered customary to give gifts to your wedding party, however it isn’t always necessary. In fact, you could save everyone a bit of money here.
Rather than asking your bridesmaids to buy or have dresses made – dresses that, let’s be honest, they’re never going to wear again – maybe give them a colour palette or a particular fabric and let them choose something that they will wear again, then they’ll probably be happier to pay for it themselves or maybe they already have something perfect in their wardrobe. After all their hard work, perhaps you could shout a round of drinks or giving a simple card with a heartfelt thanks is enough of a gesture and if your friends know that you’re trying to stick to a budget, they’ll appreciate it.
7. Get creative with homemade invites
With a quality home printer, a pair of scissors, a glue stick and some time, you can make very classy invitations on your own. My friends had a beautiful beach wedding and they printed out their invitations, tea-stained the paper and burnt the edges like a treasure map.
They sprinkled sand and shells into empty Corona bottles that they’d been collecting for weeks months and rolled up the invitation and slotted it in. The invitations had to be hand-delivered, but it was totally worth it.
8. Be your own DJ
Rather than hiring a DJ, or a band just use your own equipment. Spotify, Apple Music, Google…. there are so many to choose from now – just create your own playlist and let it play.
Create a playlist on your phone that features a few hours’ worth of your favourite songs. You could also ask guests to suggest their favourite songs that they’d like to hear at the wedding. Choosing your own songs is a great way to personalise the entire experience.
9. Stock the bar yourself
Alcohol is a big expense when it comes to a lot of weddings, and it’s also a big variable you can play around with to cut costs. Instead of opting for a full open bar, for instance, you can save money offering just beer and wine, or a free cocktail hour followed by a cash bar.
If you do hire a function centre, ask if they’ll let you supply your own alcohol instead of using the venue’s, which can be a big money-saver. Look for a discount bottle shop in your area, and stock up on the basics: red and white wine and two types of beer. If you want to offer a full bar, pick up the standard spirits plus a few mixers, soft drinks, water and juice.
Keep in mind that while it’s more cost-efficient to buy a keg of beer instead of cases, any leftover beer will go to waste (maybe?), whereas you can store excess bottles for months. And that’s helpful since it’s a good idea to overestimate — you don’t want to run out drinks halfway through the reception.
10. Beg, borrow and …
A great way to save some dosh is sourcing second had decorations.
You could contact people who have just had their wedding and see ifthey want to sell give you their only slightly used decorations. If they’re free you might not mind too much about the style or colour. If there are no freebies around, you might try sites like Gumtree.
11. The dress/outfits
This is maybe another area where you will be tempted to spend a quid. Keep in mind though that even though it’s your special big day, you will probably only wear this dress once so think about some ways to save. If you’re choosing a suit of different outfit that you might wear again, maybe investing a few more dollars wouldn’t be so bad.
You can generally be pretty sure that second hand dresses have probably only been worn once. What about choosing something that isn’t a traditional white gown? Do you know a seamstress that could run you up something gorgeous for a fraction of the price?
12. The honeymoon
This is another part that I personally wouldn’t scrimp on, but that’s me. Honeymoon holidays can be as big or as small as you feel you can afford.
You could have a couple of days in a hotel in your own city, exploring it like you were a tourist; A weekend away down south; Broome in the winter when the weather is glorious, you could stay in the caravan park; what about picking a landmark that neither of you has ever seen and going on an adventure? Bali is always cheap and cheerful or you could go camping glamping in the bush… or you could save on every other element of the day and head to Europe for a month!
13. Plan, plan, plan
When you’re trying to have a wedding on a budget, it’s important to plan ahead. List everything you can think of and walk through these items step by step.
The earlier you get started – and the more things you think about early on – the less “last-minute stress” you’ll have, and the more time you’ll have to find sales and discounts and research other good ideas. This will also give time to the lovely friends you’ve delegated jobs to get them done.
14. Don’t stress
Something will probably go wrong and it will probably go wrong at the last minute when it’s too late to do anything about it. So the best way to deal with it is… Don’t worry about it – and have a few umbrellas for your guests and some wellies on standby from The Welly Shop
If you prepare yourself for a situation where something doesn’t happen the way you planned, then it’s not a drama. That way you won’t feel the need to throw money at the problem; you can just accept it and move on with your glorious special day… and if nothing goes wrong – bonus!
Remember – the reason you’re here…… to marry the one you love.