Nearly everyone has a budget when they plan a wedding, and here is an area where size doesn’t matter: You can create a beautiful – and most important – a memorable wedding even when the tab remains relatively small.

You have options for everything, from dress to cake to venue. And even if you choose a couple of pricey must-have items, you can still cut back on the cost of other purchases in order to keep the overall bill affordable.

Here are some ideas to consider as you decide how to make your wedding reflect your style and personality as inexpensively as possible.

The venue

  1. Schedule the ceremony on any day of the week except Saturday. That’s the day the cash register rings for traditional wedding sites, which charge less for Friday and Saturday and slash prices on Monday through Thursday.
  2. Rent a non-traditional hall. A beach can work during the summer, and a hillside in summer or fall might be beautiful. The reception can be in a tent nearby.
  3. Save on chairs by asking guests to stand during the ceremony (with a few chairs for the parents and older guests.)
  4. If you met at school, plan to say your vows on the quad and inquire about renting the cafeteria or other large room for the party. The school’s contract may require you to work with the campus food service provider to provide your banquet.
  5. One couple we know had the reception in a friend’s barn. It was quaint, and it had a wood stove that they fired up for the afternoon reception in October. Also, the friend’s band provided the music.
  6. Get married at City Hall and invite everyone to a party at home. If you have a favorite restaurant, ask them to cater.

The guest list

Some of the options above require decisions about who to invite. If you are marrying on the hillside, you have plenty of space. If you are partying at home (where you can have the ceremony, too) someone will have to be left off the list.

  1. Your parent’s friends, unless they regularly changed your diapers, can be left off the list.
  2. Relatives beyond brothers and sisters and their guests are also reasonably excluded, in most cases. If you explain that you didn’t invite any of the aunts and uncles, or cousins — not even your favorites — that will smooth feelings.
  3. The fewer guests, the less you have to pay for food, rentals, decorations and related costs. But you’re not just saving money. Think of it as carving out more time for people you really want to spend time with during your big day.


A menu can be imaginative and delicious, and still save you money.

  1. Especially if you are preparing for a smaller crowd, very nice family and friends may be happy to bake a ham or a turkey – and then carve them – for your reception. People like to participate and help out, and this is a significant contribution.
  2. A fancy wedding cake may cost hundreds of dollars. Some couples apparently ask their baker to put together a cardboard representation of several cake tiers, and then top it with a small, but real, cake for the cutting ceremony. Guests are served pieces of sheet cake back-up.
  3. If fake cake is going too far for you, consider a dessert that doesn’t involve cake at all. We attended a reception recently at which a serve-yourself ice cream bar satisfied the crowd. We went back for seconds.

And drink

A full bar is not a necessity.

  1. Don’t buy the wine, beer and liquor from the reception venue. They tack on large mark-ups that are in addition to bill for serving.
  2. Instead, work out a deal so that you can buy the wine and beer you like best and bring it yourself to the venue. Skip the hard liquor.
  3. Bring home what’s not drunk. (That’s why kegs aren’t good. The left-over is wasted.)
  4. Don’t put a wine bottle on each table. Hiring waitstaff to pour when glasses are empty will save money because your guests won’t waste half-filled glases.


  1. You know about shopping for bargains. But have you considered buying a used dress and having it altered?
  2. Your mother will love it if you repurpose her wedding dress and wear it down the aisle.
  3. The groom and groomsmen can wear suits, even ones they own already.

The honeymoon

  1. There’s Italy, or the Outer Banks. If you have enough money left and want to go to Europe, great! If you put enough away only for the road trip, great! You’re beginning the rest of your life together. Enjoy it, no matter how much you spend on your wedding.

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