How to Have an Inexpensive Wedding

The average couple in the United States spends about $26,000 on their wedding. That’s enough money for a down payment on a decent home, to fully fund a 12 month emergency fund, or to buy a family sedan brand new with cash. But not every wedding needs to cost tens of thousands of dollars. It can be easy to be swept up in the emotion of the event, especially as you go from one wedding service provider to the next. What’s $500 here and $1,200 there? Over time it adds up and can lead to starting your marriage off severely in debt.

Photo by Laura Dye via Flickr

Plan an Inexpensive Wedding

How can you avoid this fate? Here are a few tips to getting your marriage off on the right financial foot.

Use a Plan and Budget

This may sound like basic advice, but going from shop to shop swiping your credit card with no real plan is a fast track to overspending on your wedding. Do your research and plan out all of the various items you want in your wedding. Create a list and set a budget for each item. If having a swing band isn’t high on your priority list you could downgrade to an iPod of carefully selected music to save money. If you plan to leave the church in your own vehicle you could save the cost of a limo.

The main idea is to consider all of your options and what those options are going to cost. If something really isn’t important to you (not your family, your friends, or what you think people expect) then don’t buy it. Stick with what matters to you, and come up with a total cost for the whole wedding. If that number still shocks you, trim back as necessary.

Trim Your Guest List

One of the driving factors in high wedding costs are all of the “per guest” costs. Food is charged per guest. Drinks are charged per guest. The size of the venue is determined by the number of people attending. The list goes on and on. Consider having a smaller more intimate wedding instead of one in a gym full of your friends and acquaintences.

Consider Alternatives For Everything

Alternative options can let you have the type of item you want at a reduced price. If you don’t want to cut something completely from the budget you can come up with creative ways to include it without breaking the bank. This is one of the keys to having a nice and inexpensive wedding. If you want an inexpensive wedding alone you can go to the courthouse during the middle of the week. If you want to have a nice celebration with your friends while not going broke, alternatives will help out tremendously.

Here are a few examples:

  • Use an iPod full of music instead of live musicians.
  • Make your own invitations instead of buying pricey designer invitations.
  • Change up the dress code. Have the wedding party wear something they already have (like jeans and a similarly colored shirt) instead of renting. Have the bride wear a dress not purchased specifically at a wedding dress boutique.
  • Get creative with table arrangements. A colored plate with glass beads and some candles can do the trick for well under $100 for a decent sized venue.
  • Instead of a fancy guest book, set up an online guest book and leave a computer sitting out for your friends to use.

There are some things worth spending money on, but what I considered important (photography) might not be important to you. That’s why planning out your wedding well ahead of time is so critical. Not only will it help you save money, but it focuses your efforts in on the things that you really value.

About the Author

By , on Apr 17, 2012
Kevin Mulligan
Kevin Mulligan is a debt reduction champion with a passion for teaching people how to budget and stay out of debt. He's building a personal finance freelance writing career and has written for, Discover Bank, and many others.

Leave Your Comment (10 Comments)

  1. Steven says:

    The hardest thing for me was trimming the guest list, when you have a big family (on both sides) and plenty of friends it is difficult to not ask people.

  2. Stephen Reynolds says:

    Another option is to do what my wife and I did. After trying to find an inexpensive venue without going to the courthouse, we ended up getting married where we were going to honeymoon. We got married at sunset on a beach in Maui with a nice reception dinner after and then a two week honeymoon at an inexpensive bed and breakfast. I bought a used tux and refitted, wife bought a wedding dress online and had it fitted. Total cost including honeymoon was $2500. Best money I ever spent.

  3. Norm says:

    It beats me why people feel the need to spend so much on a wedding. I can understand why a bride in particular wants it to be a day to remember, but the money paid out on a lavish wedding could be better spent on the first home.

  4. Harold says:

    One common reason many couple will say that their wedding is the most important day of their lives and hence they want to ensure it happen to be memorable and don’t want to go cheap on it! But, couples shall remember and be careful that you don’t spend too much and stuck spending far more than you can afford.

  5. j says:

    Are you aware that the photo you are using to illustrate this article belongs to a professional photographer?

  6. Lulu says:

    Another way is to shop around for vendors for various things. a bridal vendor may charge more for flowers than a party vendor would.

    You might try a vendor who is not a ‘wedding’ vendor but still have food customized to fit your wedding theme.

  7. Jenna says:

    Consider having your wedding and reception at the same place to cut down on transportation and rental costs.

    Also, hit up your friends for services instead of gifts, DJ, photographic, cake friends…

  8. Great post, I think the most insightful comment was “If something really isn’t important to you (not your family, your friends, or what you think people expect) then don’t buy it” Amen to that!!

  9. Nick says:

    YES! I lost the inexpensive wedding argument, but fortunately our share of the bill was very small… But if it were up to me, my wedding would have been in the back yard of my parents’ house with simple invitations, casual dress, no videos or expensive photographer or any of that junk… 🙂

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