How to Plan a Wedding on a Budget
Figuring out your wedding budget can be SO HARD especially if you’ve never planned a large event before. But it doesn’t have to be!
We’ve put together this guide to help nail down a dollar amount you and your fiance (and even your families) will be comfortable with. After all, we really don’t think you should go broke while trying to plan the wedding of your dreams. Unsure how much bang you can get for your buck? Read on for our suggestions on how to align your wedding dreams with what you can realistically afford to spend on your wedding day.
Have the talk.
No, not the one with the birds and the bees - hopefully we’re all past that. The one with dollars and cents.
While it can be uncomfortable sometimes, it’s super important to discuss your budget with those involved with footing the bill. If that’s just you and your fiance - cool. If it’s you two + your parents + your fiance’s parents that’s all good, too. Everyone paying for the event needs to sit down and crunch the numbers.
This might be the first time you and your fiance have discussed a joint budget for something. Just keep this in mind, as uncomfortable as talking about money might be, it’s much, much easier than still paying for your wedding on your third anniversary!
Don’t move on to booking your venue or buying your dream dress until you nail down your budget. I always caution my couples of this and it’s SUPER important. So, I’ll repeat it again - DO NOT START PLANNING YOUR DREAM DAY UNTIL YOU KNOW YOUR BUDGET.
Beyond setting a strict dollar amount for what the whole wedding will cost, we suggest breaking that down even further by determining the budget percentage you’re open to spending in each area. (Food/Beverage, Entertainment, Dress, Venue, etc.) This breakdown, or ratio, should be set based on the areas that are most important to the two of you! Maybe you’re willing to dedicate more of your budget to a photographer or videographer but having a live band isn’t as important to you. If you care about one area more than another area, make sure you change the percentages to reflect that.
Be sure to give your budget a little breathing room. Cushion your budget a little bit so you don’t allocate every cent. Unexpected expenses will come up, so be sure your budget is ready for those by adding in a little cushion so you have the flexibility to handle any surprises.
Another important aspect of prioritizing is deciding on what’s nonnegotiable for your wedding day. Deciding on your top priorities (whether they’re practical or frivolous) will help you define your budget even more.
Narrow down that guest list.
Even weddings for 400 people will require your guest list to be combed through diligently. Our suggestion? Invite whoever you want, but make sure you plan for that number. Don’t invite certain extended family members thinking “they’ll never come” if you wouldn’t have the room in your budget, or your venue, to accommodate them.
Don’t be shy to DIY (or buy second hand).
Ok, I’m NOT saying to DIY everything so please please please don’t go nuts on this one. But, if there’s something in the realm of your level of craftiness that’s out of budget to rent/buy, consider doing it yourself. There are also such great resources like bride-to-bride Facebook groups that you can scour for deals on. You don’t need to buy everything brand new.
Be smart about it and only take on projects that you know you can realistically accomplish by yourself. Don’t drive yourself batty by trying to learn calligraphy overnight or becoming a seamstress while planning a wedding and working your 9-5.
Here are some suggestions of areas to DIY: guest favors, table numbers, signage and programs.
Select in season blooms.
Even if you’re limiting the number of fresh flowers in your wedding decor you can save additional money by selecting flowers that are in season.
Certain blooms tend to grow during specific seasons, meaning they’re more readily available (and budget friendly) during that time of year. While this isn’t the case for every type of flower, it’s important to consider the season when selecting your wedding flowers.
Ask your florist for flowers that are in season which have a similar style to the designs you’re drawn to. If you love love love peonies but are balling on a budget, your florist can recommend similar blooms that will evoke the same style while not blowing through your floral budget.
That's because flowers are seasonal, meaning that they tend to bloom during a certain season and therefore are more readily available during those time of the year. This guide is a great free resource!
Go off season. Get down on a Friday or Sunday.
If you live in the Midwest you might be surprised to find out that some venues offer discounts for events held outside of peak wedding season. While the exact months may differ to get the discount, you’re probably looking at from October to April/May. More popular months like June and July get booked faster and are in higher demand with couples, so many local venues charge less money for dates outside of peak wedding season.
Another bonus for going off season? The vendors you have your heart set on might have more open availability outside of peak wedding season!
Not sure you want to give up your June wedding? Consider a Friday or Sunday. If you're looking for a way to cut costs for your wedding, consider getting married on another day of the week besides Saturday. Since Saturdays are peak wedding days, you can often get a deal just for selecting a different day of the week for you nuptials.
Cut the favors.
As a wedding planner, I can truly get behind a well thought out and executed favor. I love when they have a personal touch and I especially love when they’re treats for the guests to take with them.
However, it pains me when guests leave them behind because I know how much they cost and how much thought couples put in to them. If your budget is tight and you can’t think of favors your guests would love that fit within your budget - skip it!
Let your venue pull double duty.
Paying one price for a venue that will hold your ceremony in one location and your reception in another location on-premise can be a good way to save a little dough. By selecting one location that can accommodate both aspects of your wedding day, you'll save room in your budget from not having to pay two different venue fees.
Cut the cocktails.
I’m going to preface this one by saying that it’s not everyone’s favorite suggestion. In fact, I’ve been laughed at for even suggesting it before. Trust me, I GET IT. I love a good cocktail just as much as the next wedding guest (vodka soda with a splash of cranberry and a lime, plz), but if you’re open to it, it can be a good way to scale back your food and beverage budget.
Hire a planner.
It might seem a little counterintuitive at first, but hiring a wedding planner is a great way to save some dough during wedding planning.
Wedding planning is uncharted territory for couples, which is why working with a wedding planner who is a professional, knows the industry and has done this many, many, many times before makes things easier and more cost effective for couples.
When we work with our couples, we start the planning process by taking a look at their budgets and allocating funds for each element of their wedding day based on their top priorities (see tip 2). Since we’ve done this before, we can offer reasonable budget ranges for things like flowers, decor, food and beverage, entertainment and rentals. By starting out with a realistic budget, you’ll avoid confusion and frustration later on in the planning process.
Also, we know exactly what couples can do to cut costs and we share these juicy tidbits with our clients.