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How To Plan a Beautiful But Inexpensive Wedding for Under $4,000

18 Simple Money-Saving Tips

According to the 2019 Knot Real Weddings Study, the average cost for a wedding and reception is $28,000. 2019 was pre-COVID, which is the latest data available. When you compare this figure with the median American household income of $69,000, it means that an average wedding in the United States takes up almost half a year’s income.

A wedding is one of the most important days in a person’s life, and as such, many couples want everything to be perfect. However, the cost of a wedding can quickly spiral out of control, leaving the newlyweds with a hefty bill – and sometimes even debt. The $28,000 figure mentioned above includes the venue, catering, wedding dress, cake, flowers, and other expenses. But that’s not taking into account the cost of the honeymoon! 

For many couples, the financial aftermath of their wedding is anything but romantic. If you’re planning your own wedding it’s important to be mindful of your budget and to avoid going into debt for your big day. Otherwise, you may find yourself still paying for your wedding long after the confetti has been swept away.

We suggest looking very closely at all the expenses involved with planning the perfect, romantic wedding, then looking for inexpensive options, ones that won’t have any effect on the magic of your special day.

The strategies we’ve mentioned below can potentially reduce your $28,000 expense down to a very manageable $3,950 with a guest list of 50 people. Now that’s a manageable figure for most couples! (According to the Knot Real Study, a typical wedding has 131 guests).

Of course, every couple has different wants, needs, and dreams for their wedding, so the idea is to check out our list below and select the ones that could work well for you.

No. 1: Start Planning For Your Wedding As Soon As Possible

One of the most important things you can do when planning your wedding is to start early. There are a lot of factors that go into planning a wedding, and if you give yourself enough time you’ll be able to avoid wedding costs creeping up on you. By starting early, you’ll also have a better chance of booking your dream venue and vendors, as well as getting discounts for booking well in advance. 

Plan: Start planning your wedding as soon as possible. It’s never too early to start.

Savings: Nothing at this point in time, but this will provide enough time to implement the strategies listed below.

No. 2: Select A Location Near Your Guests

If you’re planning a wedding on a budget, one of the best ways to save money is to choose a location that’s close to where most of your guests live. This way, you won’t have to pay for transportation or lodging for your guests, and they won’t have to travel far to attend your wedding. Not only will this save you money, it will also make it easier for your guests to attend your wedding. In addition, choosing a local location will also allow you to take advantage of any discounts that may be available to residents.

The Plan: Select a location that’s convenient to most of your guests.

Savings: Nothing at this point in time, but it enables some of the strategies below.

No. 3: Request Wedding Assistance Instead Of Wedding Gifts

For many couples, wedding costs can be a major source of stress. From the venue and catering to the dress and flowers, there are so many things to pay for. And while wedding gifts can be a nice way to help offset some of those costs, asking for help instead of gifts can be an even better option. Whether it’s help with the wedding planning itself or simply having friends and family pitch in on specific tasks on the big day, their assistance can be truly invaluable. Not only will it take some of the burden off you and your partner, it can also save you money in the long run. Plus, it’s a great way to get everyone involved in your special day.

This idea can be especially productive if you have a guest, or guests, on your list who have a particular talent! They may be able to provide MC services, assist with photography, tend the bar during the reception, or carry out any of the numerous tasks involved in a wedding. Of course, some guests won’t be interested in participating, but others will jump at the opportunity. There may even be someone prepared to provide supplies in lieu of a wedding gift.

The Plan: Request assistance from family and friends in lieu of wedding gifts.

Potential Savings: $1,400

No. 4: Have The Ceremony Conducted At Home, Or Outdoors

Venue costs are one area where couples can really start to add up the bills. The average cost of a wedding venue is $10,500, which can quickly eat into the wedding budget. However, there are ways to save on venue costs. One option is to choose an off-peak date for the wedding. December and January are typically the cheapest months to get married, and venues often offer discounts for these dates. Another option is to choose a less traditional venue, such as a restaurant or community center. These venues can often be rented for a fraction of the cost of a more traditional wedding venue. 

Alternatively, consider hosting your wedding at your home, or someone else’s home, especially if they have a beautiful garden or lots of space. Unless you have a huge guest list, this makes for the perfect wedding venue.

The Plan: Hold your wedding reception at your own home, or at a family member or friend’s home.

Potential Savings: Approximately $10,500.

No. 5: Consider a Public Park

Utilizing a public park for a wedding can save on wedding costs, and you could use any structures the parks and recreation department may have for a reception. This would be ideal for a couple that wants a more intimate wedding with close family and friends. The wedding would still have all the special touches without costing as much as a wedding held in a private venue. If the weather is nice, the ceremony can be held outdoors with the reception following in one of the park’s structures. The park would provide a beautiful backdrop for photographs as well. 

The Plan: Hold your wedding and reception at a public park.

Potential Savings: $6,500

No. 6: Catering: Do It Yourself, Or Hire The Services Of A Family-Owned Restaurant.

Trimming your guest list can save a lot on catering, but you can also save by choosing a low-cost catering solution. The Knot Real Weddings Study states that the average cost for each catered plate is $51, which means that even with a reduced guest list, meal costs for 50 guests come to $2,550. Do you have a friend or relative who is prepared to cater and serve a meal in lieu of a wedding gift?

The Plan: Use family and/or friends to provide catering in lieu of a gift.

Potential Savings: $2,550

Alternatively, consider discussing wedding catering with your local family-owned restaurant. A large event may be outside their capabilities, but a small guest list could be a great project for them and a big money saver for you. At a 25% savings per plate, having your wedding catered by a family-owned restaurant can definitely be worthwhile.

The Plan: Use a local family-owned restaurant to cater your wedding.

Potential Savings: $638

No. 7: Purchase a Cake (or even cupcakes) From A Grocery Store

Wedding cakes can be very expensive, especially if you order them from a specialty bakery. According to Brides Magazine, the average cost of a wedding cake is $350. However, there are ways to save money on your wedding cake without sacrificing quality or style. One option is to purchase a cake from a grocery store. While the selection may be more limited than at a dedicated bakery, you can often find beautifully decorated cakes at a fraction of the price. Alternatively, choose a simpler design. Wedding cakes with multiple tiers and elaborate decorations can cost hundreds of dollars, so opting for a single-tier cake or one with minimal icing and decorations can help you stay within your budget. 

Alternatively, consider buying cupcakes! When purchased in large quantities you can get a cupcake for as little as $1 each. Allow 70 cupcakes, add a $30 cake stand, and you could create a beautiful wedding arrangement for around $100.

The Plan: Check out your grocery store for wedding cake options.

Potential Savings: $250

No. 8: Reduce The Amount Of Flowers

Did you know that the typical cost of wedding flowers is a whopping $1,500? 

Wedding flowers can be one of the most expensive items on your big day, but there are a few ways you can keep the cost down. First, take a look at the seasonality of your flowers. In general, flowers that are in season will be less expensive than those that are out of season. Second, consider your wedding location. If you’re getting married outdoors, you may be able to take advantage of the natural surroundings and use fewer flowers. Third, think about using alternative materials such as greenery or fabric for your flower arrangements. And finally, don’t be afraid to DIY. With a little time and effort, you can create beautiful bouquets and centerpieces that will save you money without sacrificing style.

The Plan: Reducing the amount, or type, of wedding flowers.

Potential Savings: $900

No. 9: Design Your Own Wedding Invitations

The average cost for wedding invitations, according to The Knot, is $590. One easy way to save money is to be mindful of your wedding invitations. Wedding invitations can be costly, but there are ways to trim the cost. One way is to choose a simple design – elegance doesn’t have to be expensive. Another way to save money is to print your own wedding invitations. You can find wedding invitation kits at most craft stores, and they come with everything you need to print your own invitations. Finally, don’t forget to use Wedding Coupons! Look for stores that offer discounts on wedding invitations and take good advantage of them.

The Plan: Design and Print Your Own Wedding Invitations.

Potential Savings: $390

No. 10: Reduce Your Number Of Attendants

Couples planning their wedding may be wondering if they can save money by reducing the number of attendants. While it’s true that fewer attendants mean fewer bouquets, boutonnieres, and corsages, there are other factors to consider. The cost of the actual reception won’t be reduced simply by having fewer attendees. In addition, attendants usually play an important role in helping to plan and execute the wedding ceremony and reception, like decorating the venue, setting up the buffet, and coordinating transportation. They also typically serve as witnesses during the ceremony. 

Just make sure you have enough attendants to fulfill various tasks on your special day. Other close family members and friends can help out in other ways, like doing a reading or singing during the ceremony,

The Plan: Reduce the number of wedding attendants

Potential Savings: Relatively small, but helpful for the next tip.

No. 11: Ensure Attendant Gifts Are Minimal, But Personal

Wedding attendants are typically close friends or family members who have helped the bride and groom with wedding planning. As a result, it’s traditional to give them a small gift as a gesture of appreciation. If you’re looking to save money on gifts for your attendants, there are a few options to consider. One way to cut costs is to choose practical gifts that can be used in their everyday lives. For instance, you could give them personalized water bottles or coffee mugs. Alternatively, you could opt for a more unique gift that ties into their hobbies or interests. If your maid of honor is an avid reader, for example, you could give her a book-themed gift basket. We suggest sticking to a budget of $50 or less per attendant gift. With a little creativity, you can show your appreciation without breaking the bank.

The Plan: Minimize gifts for attendants and make them personal.

Potential Savings: $200

No. 12: Use Your Own Stereo Equipment, Or Borrow From A Friend

The average cost of hiring a DJ for a wedding is around $1,000, but there’s no reason why you can’t reduce or eliminate that cost by setting up some good speakers attached to your computer. You can legally stream music from services like Spotify, but just check first to ensure you’re not violating their terms of service. As far as MC services, we all have that one outgoing friend who would love to be in charge of MCing a wedding!

The Plan: Do Your Own DJing

Potential Savings: $1,000

No. 13: Stock The Bar Yourself

You’ll typically pay $35/hour for a wedding bartender, but keep in mind that this is on top of the cost of alcohol. According to The Knot, the cost of alcohol will be around $2,300. The easy way to save money here is to hire a bartender and provide the alcohol yourself. You would have to check with the venue to ensure this is allowed, but you could potentially save 50% on alcohol costs.

The Plan: Ask a friend, or hire a bartender, and source your own alcohol.

Potential Savings: $1,150

No. 14: Contact Your Local University For Wedding Services

You still need a photographer, and maybe even some live music. Don’t forget about your local university. There are bound to be budding photographers or music students at your local Uni who would love the opportunity to get out there and do some paid work, plus get the experience onto their resume. Their prices would be very reasonable and they would welcome the opportunity to showcase their talents. Even if you saved 20% off the musician and 20% off the photographer, that’s still a great saving.

The Plan: Contact musicians and photographers through your local University.

Potential Savings: $800

No. 15: Split Decoration Costs, Or Consider Buying Used

You could easily spend $600 on non-floral wedding decorations, so this is an area where you can cut costs Do you know someone else who’s getting married? If so, this gives both parties the opportunity to split the cost of decorations. Perhaps you know of someone who was recently married. Why not contact them and ask what happened to their decorations? Alternatively, consider advertising locally to see if someone has used wedding decorations you can purchase.

The Plan: Share decoration costs, or buy used.

Potential Savings: $300

No. 16: Getting Married In A Church? Ask The Auxiliary For Help

If you’re planning on holding your wedding in the hall of a civic organization, or in a church, have a talk to the auxiliary club connected to that venue and see what suggestions they might have. The savings may not be huge, but they may have services on offer than can help you out. Better still, they probably have other ideas on how you can save a LOT of money.

The Plan: Ask the auxiliary club associated with the church or other organization where your wedding is being held for help.

Potential Savings: Small, but potentially big.

No. 17: Buy Your Wedding Dress Off The Rack, On Sale, Or Borrow And Alter

With a typical wedding dress costing $1,600, there’s a lot of scope here for saving some money. When you consider that a wedding dress is only worn once, it’s worth considering other avenues. Is there already a wedding dress in your family that could be altered? Have a look online and check out used wedding dresses. There must be many people out there who have a beautiful wedding dress hanging in their wardrobe who could put the money to good use.

The Plan: Borrow a wedding dress, or look for a second-hand one online

Potential Savings: $600-$1,400

No. 18: Choose Simple, Affordable Wedding Rings

According to a survey carried out by Brides American Wedding, an average pair of wedding rings cost $1,610. Have you considered plain wedding bands? They would look elegant, be low-cost, and go with anything. Going simple with your wedding bands could easily trim 25% off the cost of rings.

The Plan: Choose simple, plain wedding bands

Potential Savings: $400

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