How to Plan a Wedding on a Small Budget

How to plan a wedding on a small budget


After 2020, the wedding industry has never been the same. It took a big knock, with hundreds, even thousands of businesses closing their doors, and along with that many brides had to wave goodbye to their dream wedding, deposits and keynote suppliers.


Still, weddings are a part of our lifestyle and planning a wedding on a small budget has become the new norm.


But how? Where to start?


With millions of Pinterest ideas and #alltheshinythings, it’s so challenging to plan a wedding on a tiny budget, let alone stick to it! So let’s have a look at how you can do exactly that, plus a few extra tips and ideas for you.





How to Plan a Wedding on a Small Budget


Exactly how small is a ‘small budget’?

A small budget can mean a different price tag to different people. It can be $1000 to someone and $10,000 to someone else.


Let’s just say that a small budget means that you only have the bare minimum to plan your wedding with – without excessive budget cutting and leaving important things out. You still want a dream wedding, right?


On average, a wedding can cost anything from $15,000 upwards, which makes it one of the more expensive things you need to save up money for. However, there are brides who get it right for way under that amount — it takes careful planning, good budget management skills and simply just getting rid of the things no one will even miss at your wedding.


You see, most of us can quickly forget what a wedding is really about once we jump onto Pinterest and Instagram and slam into a wall of pretty flowers, sparkly dresses and gorgeous wedding venues. The wedding industry is highly commercialized, and that is essentially want you need to work against to avoid excessive spending and wedding debt.


You need to think about what is really important to you. What do you really want to remember after your wedding? Which memories and special moments do you want to capture and cherish forever?


The one thing you HAVE to do before planning your wedding


Before planning the actual event, booking suppliers and buying stuff, you need to set up a wedding budget.




Well, the number one reason why couples overspend on their wedding day is because they didn’t have a proper wedding budget set up to begin with. If you’re simply just going to ‘wing’ it, you will most certainly end up with financial regret…


A good wedding budget has an overview of what you have available to spend, a breakdown of all those expenditures and sheets to manage your budget and payments. I searched and couldn’t find one that includes everything needed for efficient wedding budget planning — so I’ve created one for you which you can find over here. (find the editable version here.)


The Wedding Budget Planner & Tracker includes expense record sheets, payment calendar, supplier record worksheets and hidden costs at your wedding — everything needed to create your budget and get to the actual, fun part of planning your wedding!


Next, we need to do a breakdown of what percentages of your budget should be spent at each aspect…



Budget Breakdown


I have done a bit of research and came up with the following numbers. Bare in mind that these numbers are suggestive — in the end, you have to decide which areas are more important to spend money on than others…


15% = Ceremony (Location, Pastor, Marriage License, Wedding Planner, etc.)

35% = Reception (venue, food, beverages, rentals, cake, favors, guest book, etc.)

20% = Photography & Videography

5% = Music, Lighting & Entertainment

10% = Flowers & Décor

10% = Dress & Attire

3% = Contingencies

2% = Other (bridal party gifts, etc)


How to plan a wedding on a small budget - budget breakdown


You should decide which budget allocation will work better for you, or for the type of wedding that you’re going to plan. For instance, If you’re going to have an outdoor ceremony, certain things may cost more, such as shading and bottled water for guests. If you’re planning on having a plated dinner in stead of a buffet, then it might cost more and you will need to allocate more money towards catering, etc.


Also Read:


Cutting down on wedding costs


You need to ask yourself the question: “Can I really afford that?”


A bride can quickly fall into the trap of buying something she really likes, but the item takes a huge chunk out of the budget… It is then justified by a chorus of bridesmaids cheering her on with “you only get married once” and “but it’s sooo very you“!


I don’t want to sound harsh, but the glitter wears off. Yes, you will look unimaginably stunning in that $4,000 dress, and yes, those pure white roses imported from Ecuador will look breathtaking. But how will you feel a few months after your wedding? Will you still feel that it was all worth it?



I can tell you tons of stories about brides who regret the things they spent money on, and some of those items include the pretty roses as well!


In one of the local Facebook groups which I frequent, a discussion took place about exactly this topic — What do you regret spending money on on your wedding day?

The top 10 things were these:

  1. The flowers
  2. Wedding cake
  3. Wedding expos, fairs and books
  4. Guests who didn’t show up even though they RSVP’d ‘yes’, including those who let the bride know the day before the wedding that they can’t make it anymore…
  5. Hidden costs at wedding venues
  6. Expensive wedding invitations
  7. A cheap photographer
  8. Table menus and wedding programs
  9. Wedding favors
  10. Buying a wedding dress instead of renting one


The next question you need to ask yourself is “Is it important to have it at my wedding?”


You don’t have to include everything in your wedding just because the wedding industry tells you to do so. There are many things you can cut from your wedding that will give you more money in your budget to spend elsewhere, even on your honeymoon!


I have made a list of 23+ wedding stuff that will DESTROY your bank account. This post will give you some ideas for making those budget cuts and saving money on your wedding… 🙂


Finally, ask yourself “How can I do my wedding differently?”


You will notice that certain wedding trends pop up each year, and that creates ample opportunity for “cookie cutter” weddings. We’ve seen the rose gold wedding. We’ve seen the succulent wedding. All the rustic, floral and sea foam…


The great thing about trends is that suppliers follow them as well. That makes it easier to get your hands on items you really want, and to explain to your wedding stylist what your reception should look like.


The downside is that your wedding will look like someone else’s. It’s not such a bad thing, but if you want to have a unique event (which I definitely would want), you need to add something different into the mix.


A great way of saving money on your wedding budget is by applying a few ‘hacks’ (it’s an icky word, but you get the idea)…


Luckily, I have made list for you of 84 wedding hacks to help you save money on your wedding. Hopefully you’ll find some of the ideas useful! 🙂



Tips for cutting wedding costs

Saving money on your wedding is the inspiration behind this post. You need a way to cut wedding budget costs, so here are a few…


Hire a day coordinator

Instead of hiring a wedding planner, which can turn out to be expensive, rather consider someone to coordinate your wedding day. Yes, you will have to plan and organize everything for your wedding. But a day coordinator will be the one who makes sure everything comes together, so you can relax on your wedding day and not worry about the details.


Many wedding planners have different packages to choose from, and most of them have a day coordination option. If you choose a day coordination package, you will have to meet up with the planner 2-4 weeks before the wedding to give them all the details about suppliers, decor and special requests.


They make the effort to check that everything is in place for your big day and that everything runs smoothly. It is a much affordable option.


If you need help with setting up your wedding budget, or you simply don’t have the time to create one from scratch, have a look at the Wedding Budget Planner & Tracker I’ve created, with print-out-and-fill-in sheets for budget expenses, payments and hidden costs. (find the editable version here.)


Wedding Cake vs. Wedding desserts

Another clever way to save money on your wedding budget, is by either having a wedding cake or wedding dessert, but not both. You can make it really creative by replacing the traditional wedding cake with delicious comebacks such as doughnuts, gelato or even a s’mores bar. No one will even miss the gigantic 5 tier wedding cake in the corner…


“But what about the cake cutting tradition?”, you ask. Have a small cake especially for this moment, then ask one of the bridesmaids to put the cake at the back or in the kitchen for later.


Another option is to have just a wedding cake, or smaller cake with cupcakes for guests. We are moving away from the traditional fruitcake, so you can choose delicious flavors such as red velvet, chocolate or coffee. Or why not spice it up and have many flavors available for guests to choose from? Eliminate the pudding by replacing it with your favorites!


Pro Tip: Make sure you arrange with the venue’s kitchen staff to cut the cake for wedding guests to enjoy after you and your groom did the traditional cake-cutting moment. If a wedding cake isn’t sliced into helpful pieces for guests to help themselves, chances are they will most likely not eat any and the whole cake will go to waste. There might be a ‘cake cutting fee’ involved, so double-check with your venue about this.


A final thing to consider is to replace both the wedding cake and the dessert with a candy buffet. The nice thing about candy buffets is that you can match them to your wedding style and color scheme. And there are so many different candies and sweets to choose from. Also, the candy buffet sweets can double as wedding favors


A word of warning here: A candy buffet is not the cheapest option, consider choosing between this and a wedding cake, but not both.



On Wedding Favors…

If you really have the extra money to spend on wedding favors, I suggest you include them because this is how you say “thank you” to your wedding guests.


However, it should be one of the last expenses that gets calculated into the budget, and if there isn’t really any money left for it you can simply leave it out. I know this might be a tough decision, because there are so many gorgeous favor ideas that you like.


Pro Tip: Make sure that your wedding favors are actually useful. It’s even worse if you spent so much money on them only for guests to leave them on the tables or throw them away at home. Have a look at this list of 23+ Thoughtful wedding favors your guests will actually take home.


Another useful post I have created is this list of 42+ adorable wedding favors for the kitchen, which I can guarantee your guests will appreciate. 🙂


Consider cheaper favors

If you’re not going to eliminate the wedding favors completely then this is another route. Consider cheaper options in term of wedding favors. Either buy it for cheaper or make them yourself. And don’t get me wrong – there are lovely ideas for cheap wedding favors out there.


Some top affordable ones include tea leaves, or tea bags in a jar. Or some matchboxes with a nice quote? How about some chocolates in a cute little gift box? You can also make edible wedding favors such as fudge, coconut ice or nougat.



Ditch the Save-the-dates

Do you realize how many people will still forget to “save the date” or RSVP to your wedding, after you have sent all of your stationery in beautiful boxes to them? A lot. You will still need to follow up with more than half of your guests because people get busy, and they forget things…


A major way to cut costs on wedding stationery is by not creating and sending out save the dates. Or, you can only send out save the dates to long distance and international guests.


Pro Tip: If you don’t want to cut out save-the-dates completely, opt for a digital one when you can send out via email.


Ditch ALL stationery

Yup, you’ve read that correctly. Why not go paperless and create a wedding website where your guests can RSVP, list their dietary requirements, send photo’s, etc. You might think it’s a difficult way to do this – but we’ve just been to a wedding where the bride used this method. She WhatsApp-ed and e-mailed the link to everyone and voilá! Everything you need to know in one convenient place.


I highly recommend that your go through my list of recommended wedding planning tools and resources, where I have also mentioned quite a few services to host your wedding website.


Ditch the programs

Since we’re going paperless, why not eliminate the programs / order of service at your wedding ceremony as well. Not many people are interested in the program and only a handful of guests will keep them (unless it is a useful hand fan in mid-summer).


If you really have to showcase the who’s who and what’s what at your ceremony, make one copy for each row of seats. That way, people can pass it along if they want to. Another way is to create a sign (an affordable one) and put it at the entrance, so that guests can read it if they’re interested.


Bridesmaid Dresses

This might be a controversial suggestion, but you can go two ways about this. The first way is to expect the bridesmaids to pay for their own dresses and attire (many brides buy the dresses as a gift for their bridesmaids).


The other way is to eliminate the bridal party completely. I have been to a few weddings where there is no bridal party. Only the bride and groom, and guess what? No one died. This will save you a lot of money and possibly drama…


Also Read:


Fancy Transport

This includes hiring a limousine as your means of transport to get to the church. The funny thing about this is, unless you have hired it out for the entire day, no one will even see you arrive in it. Limousines and fancy vintage cars can become so expensive if you hire them.


Plus, if you decide on hiring that extremely old, vintage Ford, the chances are good that it is going to leak oil or something and the driver will have to constantly put cardboard underneath the car when parked – not sexy, and yes, I’ve seen this happen as well!


Rather ask a friend or family member to drive you to the church in their car. Surely, you know someone, even if it’s a friend of a friend, who drives something attractive like a new BMW?


Real Flowers vs. Silk Flowers

Don’t get me wrong, faux flowers can be more expensive than the real thing if you buy them. We are referring to the crepe paper flowers which you can totally DIY. Crepe paper, florist wire and some tape in different colors is all you’re going to need to create floral arrangements for the tables. You can even create a stunning backdrop using only these flowers.


Just jump onto Pinterest real quick for a crazy collection of pins about tutorials and flower DIY projects. Also, this could be a fun thing to do at your “DIY party” with your bridesmaids and friends (see below).



The DIY Party

More and more brides insist on rather having a DIY party with their girls, in stead of a bridal shower. It works like this: The bride and maid of honor invites all of the bridesmaids and some friends (or potentially everyone you’d invite to your shower). Order some food, champagne and juice for mimosas, and some snacks.


Everyone sits around a massive table or on the floor and create stuff for the wedding that can be handmade. Think decorations, wedding favors, the guest book, more decorations, faux flowers, backdrops, stationery, and even more decorations! If you plan correctly, and only buy the stuff you need for these projects at affordable places, you might be able to cut some costs.


Although there are much debate around DIY vs. hiring, I think this is a really fun way to host your shower. Why not make it a weekend thing? There are just so many options and ideas for this type of party… 🙂


Replace the floral centerpieces

Floral centerpieces have been a tradition for so many decades. And yes, they will still be around for many more. But I get that you have a small budget, so why not get rid of those over the top, expensive centerpieces and replace it with something unique and affordable?


You can create centerpieces that consists of greenery and fairy lights, or stacked books with candles. Adding something unique and memorable to your tables might just save money on your wedding budget, when it comes to décor for your reception.


Don’t get married on a Saturday

Saturday is the most expensive day to get married at a venue (and they know this!). Instead, why not choose another day, such as a Friday or Sunday, to get married on? The venue will be much cheaper and you won’t have to spend most of your money from your small budget on a wedding venue!


Just take note of the following important information: Many venues still expect you to invite a certain amount of guests, even if you choose a Sunday or any other day. Normally, if you don’t meet the guest count quota, you will actually have to PAY IN money for catering per person, for those missing guests!


Pro Tip: Make sure you shop around for a good wedding venue! Don’t book a venue immediately, just to find out they have many hidden costs, aren’t very accessible to older guests or their food isn’t that great. I have created the Bride’s Wedding Venue Workbook to help you with choosing your perfect wedding venue, which includes comparison sheets, venue budget, accommodation, rental items and so on…


Pick your venue according to their supplier list

As you probably have already noticed, plenty of venues require you to use their suppliers. This is because they either made a deal with these suppliers in terms of commission and exposure, or they pay a monthly fee to be on the list. Their prices are inflated because of this…


You need to find a venue where you can hire any vendors that you want to.


Why? Because it will be so much cheaper!



You can find so many more affordable and decent caterers, florists, stylists, accommodation, cakes, etc. if you allocate a few months for research.


Sure, it will take more time and effort from your side, but we are trying to save money on your budget, right? And will the wide variety of wedding websites with catalogs and directories on the internet, you will manage in no time!


Key things to keep in mind when searching for your ideal wedding venue, are the rental items, the budget you’ve worked out for the venue, their coordinator and accommodation, among other things. I have created worksheets for all of these, as well as sheets for comparing venues and some extra tips, which I have included in my Bride’s Venue Workbook.


Faux Wedding Cake?

The what now? Yep. This really is a thing. You hire your baker to create a cake out of cardboard or polystyrene, and decorate it with fondant. Then have a smallish cake just for the cake cutting…


The magic will be at the back where the caterers can cut up sheet cakes which will be served to your wedding guests. It might be a little sneaky, but is a much affordable option, and you still get your wedding cake with amazing photos!


The nice thing about this is that you can still have your favorite flavors of cake and icing, plus, you get so many delicious recipes such as poke cakes, upside down cakes and cheesecakes. Simply organize this with your baker and caterers and you will save so much money on your budget!


Go garden hopping for greenery

If you have been to Pinterest lately, you might have noticed that “greenery” was Pantone’s color of the year for 2017 — and somehow it has never left. It’s not just about the color: everything is greenery nowadays. Think vines and leaves instead of expensive décor and flowers. I’ve done a wedding where there were only flowers in the bridal bouquet (a massive King Protea in the middle, surrounded by Baby’s Breath and some greenery for the filler). The rest of the decor were just greenery on the tables with pure white candles. It was quite minimalist and modern, but still very gorgeous.


Now, you can save a ton of money by scouting your own garden or other people’s gardens (with permission of course) for some greenery to use as fillers or on your tables. Greenery is also much cheaper to buy at florists than flowers are, so you might still save a lot if you don’t want to go “garden hopping”.


Grocery Store bought wedding cake

No way! Yes way… And here’s what works.


If you decide on rather buying your cake at a grocery store (which will save you from breaking the bank), you can order a few cakes and decorate them yourself.


I’ve heard about this brilliant bride who bought many cakes covered in only white frosting, which she then decorated with real edible flowers. She then placed them at different heights on cake stands and boxes on her cake table. How about that! She saved at least a few hundred $$$.


Also Read:


Wear any dress you like!

Did you know that Queen Victoria introduced the white wedding dress in the 1800’s. She started the trend when she got married to Prince Alfred and white wedding dresses became all the rage back then already! Before that, brides simply wore the best dress they owned.


And you can too!


New trends in wedding dresses are popping up everywhere. Recently I saw the most beautiful dip dyed wedding dresses, dresses made in floral prints, and different types of materials used to create gorgeous dresses fit for a princess (or bride!).


Be creative and choose a dress that really matches your personality. You can even wear a plain white dress, which is not labeled as a ‘wedding dress’. Why not go shop at vintage stores and flea markets for unique finds, and give the expensive bridal boutiques a rest?


I really wish you will in your wedding planning journey and may the big day be a huge success!



As this post was all about wedding budgets and all that jazz, I would like to remind you that I have created one to put your mind at ease so that you can focus on what’s important to you. The wedding budget I have created includes sheets for breaking down your budget, expenses overview and other useful sheets you’ll need. Take a look at it over here… 

(find the editable version here.)