20 Ways to Have Your Dream Wedding on a Budget | Idaho Wedding Photographer

December 4, 2018

I am the oldest of eight and got married in college when I was 23 years old. To put it simply, money was tight- really, really tight. I had recently attended a family member’s wedding at a dreamy venue (we’re talking waterfalls, cascading stairs, large open dance floor, string lights outside) that was catered with a beautiful 3 course meal and ice-cream bar from one of my favorite companies. Her dress was from Alta Moda and naturally, it was STUNNING. There were large arrangements of fresh cut roses on every chair, table, stand, and in the flower girl’s hair. Each bridesmaid had her makeup flawlessly done by the bride’s chosen makeup artist and they had the classic pinterest perfect floor length dresses I had dreamt about.

I knew that I could never have a wedding exactly like that. Although I would have loved an intimate wedding with my immediate family and closest best friend, as the oldest on both sides of my family, this would be an event everyone would expect to come to. I was okay with that because family is important to me, but knowing potentially 64 younger cousins would show up with 28 uncles and aunts- not to mention my friends and husband’s family, it meant I’d have to sacrifice a few things I’d dreamed of. I know first hand what it’s like to have a frugal wedding. But my wedding turned out to be a stress free day and absolutely beautiful. Although a tight budget means some sacrifices, it doesn’t mean you have to go through the drive-in church in Vegas to save some money. One of the main benefits of a frugal wedding is that most if not everything, can be used again. It takes time and communication and a lot of research. I spent hours and hours and hours researching and want to share what I found and how to make the process easier.

  1. Google Sheets Budget: Step numero uno- set a budget. Whoever is involved with helping pay for your wedding should be sent a budget that you have outlined so that they can stay up to date with where all the money is going. Google Sheets already has a great template that works for this. https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1o0bu2oJa8iDOe5oo1FLHzu3dEJTn7Iahv_f1H-uS_f4/edit#gid=0

I organized the first tab for the general budgeting and a second tab for ideas we were finding in a comparison chart with prices and short summaries on what they were (specifically for food, venues, flowers, and the cake.) A third tab was made for the transactions by all of us and the date they were bought. This was especially helpful because my parents live five hours away from me and we weren’t able to meet together before the wedding.

  1. 2 Main Things: Decide on the top 2 things that mean the most to you. These 2 things will be what you spend the most money on. For me, I chose my dress and a really good photographer. I knew I wanted the photos to be amazing because they are the only part that lasts from your wedding day (other than your husband of course!;) I also knew the cost of wedding dresses and wanted something special. So if you want a dance party- hire a highly rated DJ. If you  you care most about a cascading floral backdrop, hire the best local floral designer. Everything else will take less priority and more work, but don’t worry! They’ll still turn out flawlessly.

  2. Who to Invite: As I mentioned before, I felt the need AND desire to invite my unusually large family. Knowing that a lot were coming, I had to budget in more people which also meant taking money away from other areas. Consider the benefits of an intimate wedding. Do not invite people because you simply feel obligated to. Who do you and your spouse want to be there? This is your guys’ special day and not the time to “people please.”

  3. Trendy yet Timeless: Yes, this sounds like an oxymoron. When I was working in the clothing industry, we would get frustrated mothers and bridesmaids coming in looking for dresses that weren’t in style at the time. They (or the bride) usually ended up paying a lot more for their dresses because these dresses weren’t high in demand and insanely hard to find. I suggest that in order to save money on dresses and decorations, to choose colors that are trendy, in season, and in all of the stores. For example, if you want to save money, stay away from yellow in the winter. However, I also understand that there is something special about being unique and not having 2018’s popular burgundy, blush, and navy wedding. Instead of picking colors that aren’t easily accessible, pick timeless colors. There is something to be said about a classic all white wedding with hints of green that will never scream “2018 wedding” fifty years down the road and yet, are still popular and forever will be.

  4. Be the Makeup Artist- There is nothing wrong about becoming a makeup artist yourself for your big day. YouTube, YouTube, YouTube. There is every style imaginable for both makeup and hair tutorials and of course, recruit your friends and sisters to help! Not only does this make the day memorable by spending extra time talking with the girls, but you can learn a new skill and save! I would suggest fake eyelashes over extensions for 2 reasons as well: money and not having to go through the crazy phase of them falling out. Splurging on a good setting spray would also be in your best interest if possible. I would suggest Urban Decay’s All Nighter setting spray. A travel size has lasted me 2 years and is only $11 at Ulta and Sephora.  https://www.urbandecay.com/all-nighter-travel-spray-by-urban-decay/ud819.html

  5. Faux Flowers: Don’t turn your back to this idea quite yet! Yes, the smell and classiness of real flowers is hard to turn away from. But, hear me out. For my wedding, we used faux flowers for all the bridesmaids, floral crowns, boutonnieres, corsages, and my bouquet. We spent $147. The average bride’s bouquet in the Salt Lake City, UT area goes for $200. That’s only one bouquet and $50 more than what we spent on everything! The other problem with buying real flowers is that they die. I’ve even seen them go bad the day of and look droopy in pictures because of the heat. With fake flowers, you can reuse them to decorate your home or sell crafts made with them on etsy. See “Leftover Wedding Flowers” to see some ideas. The way to buy faux flowers though, is not to go to Walmart. Wait for a sale or look for coupons that can save you 75% off on all floral items at Michaels and Hobby Lobby. Their flowers look natural and are higher quality. Everyone was shocked to find out that my bouquet was faux. If you are still leaning towards buying real flowers, I’d suggest keeping your bouquet real and all the other’s faux. For tips on how to make corsages, boutonnieres, and bouquet arrangements, look on Pinterest and YouTube for ideas! Spend a girls night making them or ask your mom and mother in law to help! Check out of favorite faux flower ideas here

  6. Potluck Treats: Instead of hiring a professional caterer for your dessert or snack bar, recruit family members and friends to help in baking cookies, brownies, and cupcakes. If cheesecake and chocolate dipped strawberries are more your style, then spend some extra time making those, but just keep in mind- it is almost always cheaper to make the food than buy it.

  7. Skip the Gifts: There is something to be said about a handwritten “thank you” card. It can be kept and reread forever and the time it takes to write one means a lot to the receiver. Instead of spending more money on fancy gifts for your bridesmaids and groomsmen, consider “thank you” cards or other homemade gift.

  8. Skip the Dinner: (and cocktail hour) To help save money for our wedding day, we decided to skip serving a dinner for all of our guests. Instead, we got together with our immediate family the night before at my in-laws home for a family dinner of Costco lasagna, salad, and Olive Garden breadsticks. It was simple enough and yet really memorable and fun to spend an intimate evening joining our families together. Of course consideration needs to be taken for all those who came out of town and will need dinner the day of. But if there isn’t money in the budget for this, boxes of Domino’s pizza have never been a bad idea. Another cheaper option is soup and grilled cheese or spaghetti that can be made by family members.

  9. Spotify DJ: Creating a playlist of you and your fiance’s favorite music will not only be cheaper than hiring a DJ, but also more sentimental. My hubby and I love re-listening to the playlists we made for our special day and dancing to them in our kitchen. Equipment is the hardest part of not hiring a DJ. Most venue’s will have the speaker systems needed though and most cities have equipment that can be rented. Check out KOP’s wedding dance playlist for some song ideas! “Wedding Dance Playlist”

  10. Frugal Exits: Sparklers can often be hard to find and quite expensive any other time of the year than July. However, there are family owned businesses that sell them for a pretty good deal! 12, 20 inch gold sparklers can be bought for $5 through Utah Sparklers https://utahsparklers.com/order-now?olsPage=products Other budget friendly option include faux flower petals, lavender seeds, bubbles, rice, and waving streamers. Just don’t forget to clean up the mess! See Kylee’s blog post for more inspiration! “Wedding Exit Ideas”

  11. Bridesmaid Dresses: Check out a list of well-priced dresses that they will be sure to wear again and thank you for it! “Bridesmaid Dresses Under $100”

  12. Lingerie: Everyone wants to look AND feel their best and studies have proven that when you have underwear that fits and you love, your confidence is boosted! This does not mean you have to spend $65 on a bra at Victoria’s Secret though. (As much as we love that store…) AdoreMe.com is a website that was made by a Victoria’s Secret designer and has all the same sizing (and quality)… for half the cost. It is a “members” website with monthly fees, BUT as long as you buy what you need and then cancel your membership, you can get a brand new bra and pantie set or bodysuit/lingerie for $25 or less!

  13. The Dress: Dress shopping takes time. Try not to leave this for last because you will want to go to as many stores and try on as many styles to find what you love without breaking the bank. Consider renting from postings on KSL and social media or local stores. Check KSL for dresses that have been worn once or twice and are being sold at half price. Ask friends to borrow their dress. Ask grandparents as their generation had timeless styles. Consider a two piece outfit from etsy or local wedding boutiques and ask photographers from styled shoots where they got their top and skirt combos. For a list of gorgeous, budget friendly dresses, see “Wedding Dresses Under $500.”

  14. Venue Tips and Tricks: To save money on venue costs, don’t spend money at all and have it in a family member’s backyard. For a low budget venue, find a local park with a pretty view and rent a space for the day. If it’s a winter wedding, ask a local church for availability or find a less spendy venue. The key to finding venues for cheap is to use venues that are in a strange location or that our in their “off season.” For example, downtown Salt Lake City has some sketchier areas that are more run down, but still have random, beautiful wedding venues. These are still gorgeous, but less expensive because of their location. For our wedding, we got a venue for about $1,000 that had a huge dance floor, floor to ceiling windows, decor options and centerpieces, a large open bride’s room, grand staircase, grand piano, indoor balcony, gorgeous outdoor garden with gazebo, overhead speaker system, covered driveway entrance, and wonderful service. A similar place goes for about $2500, but because it was in an unexpected location, it wasn’t so expensive. Same goes for venues that are a bit out of the way. Boise brides often drive 45 minutes to a venue in Parma (aka the middle of nowhere) to use their beautiful lakeside venue. Another option are venues in their off season. For example, Salt Lake has a greenhouse that serves as an event center and is cheaper during the winter months, but still has greenery that makes it beautiful. Get creative!

  15. Rent for the Boys: The easiest way to save money with the boys is to have them just match pants. They don’t even have to be the same brand, but black is the easiest to match if that is the case. They can also be rented, but there is no need to get everyone a matching suit-coat as these can add up fast and also be a hassle most guys don’t want to deal with anyways. If the groom has a jacket and the groomsmen don’t, this also makes the groom stand out, which is something that should be strived for anyways. If you want to have them dress up their top half with more than a tie and boutonniere, opt for suspenders which can also be rented at most suit shops for a third the price of suit coats or check out Amazon to buy them for cheap in bulk. Here are some trendy leather ones for $15 https://www.amazon.com/dp/B074V1DZV3?aaxitk=NKOf7Xzy4PfKcordPFjEiA&pd_rd_i=B074V1DZV3&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_p=54dc821a-0937-4e6f-9da9-f8dd5443145d&pf_rd_s=desktop-sx-top-slot&pf_rd_t=301&pf_rd_i=men%27s+suspenders+amazon&hsa_cr_id=5136649480601&sb-ci-n=asinImage&sb-ci-v=https%3A%2F%2Fimages-na.ssl-images-amazon.com%2Fimages%2FI%2F51ZNmnsYQaL.jpg&sb-ci-a=B074V1DZV3

  16. Home Decorations: Does your family have any white picture frames? Potted succulents? Furry throw pillows? String lights? Gold accent pieces? Burlap ribbon? Lace? Candlesticks? Lanterns? Floor length sheer curtains? Candles? Wall mirrors? Really the list is endless, but all of these can be used for backdrops, centerpieces, and other wedding decor. Another idea that may not save money up front, but in the long term is to get decor you and your fiance want in your home and use those for your wedding.

  17. Cake Coniussours: Start up businesses that are usually found only on Facebook and Instagram often have well-priced cakes that are just as beautiful as the $400 cake, but is only $100. Simply search in the search bars for local cake designers and post that you are looking for recommendations. Another option is to have a cake decorating contest for date night with you and your spouse- who knows, maybe you have a gift! 🙂

  18. Homemade Party Favors: I had my flower girl and ring bearer pass out scented pinecones that were dipped in wax and that I now put in our Christmas tree for decoration and an extra cinnamon/nutmeg smell in our home. They were made to be firestarters and car freshners. Honestly, who knows if anyone ever used them, but there were cheap and easy to make and the gesture of thanking those who come to support you and bring thoughtful gifts is always an important courtesy. Check out Kylee’s post for “Unique Wedding Favor Ideas” to find some inspiration!

  19. Invites: Yep, you guessed it! Make your own. This doesn’t need to take tons of time, but just means invites that are more simple. All you need is cardstock, printing equipment, and software such as PrintMaster. An alternative option is hiring a freelance designer to design your invites. Fiverr.com is a website and app that has designers that create invites, table settings, RSVP, and thank you cards from $5-40 as PDFs for you to print out.

BONUS Tip!  Ask vendors if there’s a discounted rate for displaying their businesses small signs around the venue.








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