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How to Plan a Wedding on a Small Budget

With millions of Pinterest ideas and #alltheshinythings, it's so challenging to plan a wedding on a tiny budget, let alone stick to it!
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 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?

Let’s have a look at how you can get away with a small wedding budget, plus a few extra tips and ideas for you.

Table of Contents

How to Plan a Wedding on a Small Budget

So, exactly how small is a “small wedding 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 what you need to work against to avoid excessive spending and wedding debt.

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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?


It's all in the planning...

Here at The Wedding Club, I always preach about the importance of a good wedding budget before you start anything else. And that is important, yes.

But throughout the years, another aspect of this whole wedding planning process has come to light and is equally as important: Planning every detail you want to incorporate into your wedding.


Well, because you can set up a budget as thoroughly as you like, but as soon as the planning starts, you’ll realize that changes should be made to the budget – whether it is cutting costs, allocating more money elsewhere, or increasing the budget. 

Also, you don’t really want to skimp on key suppliers, as this can cost you dearly in the end. And once you research suppliers, you might find that your budget needs some more tweaking…

So, recently, I have launched something I’ve been working on for the past 6 months and it is extremely thorough: The Ultimate Wedding Planner. 536 Sheets, fully editable in the free version of Canva and contains everything you need to plan your dream wedding. This will help you with the massive planning aspect of your wedding, as well as the budget.

The Editable Wedding Planner templates are fully customizable in the free version of Canva, and include everything you need – from the wedding budget, guest list, and catering, to planning a bridal shower, engagement party, and more!

Set the next thing up...

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

The number one reason why couples overspend on their wedding day is that 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 as part of the editable Wedding Planner. 🙂

The wedding budget includes expense record sheets, a 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! See the full wedding planner here >

After having your budget laid out in front of you, you need to do a breakdown of what percentages of your budget should be spent at each aspect…

The budget breakdown...

I have done a bit of research and came up with the following numbers. Bear 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)

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 instead of a buffet, then it might cost more and you will need to allocate more money towards catering, waiters, etc.

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 your wedding day?

The top 10 things brides regret spending money on:

  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 seafoam…

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 not only will your wedding “look” be more expensive due to demand, but 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 a list of 84 wedding hacks to help you save money on your wedding. Hopefully, you’ll find some of the ideas useful! 🙂

The Editable Wedding Planner templates are fully customizable in the free version of Canva, and include everything you need – from the wedding budget, guest list, and catering, to planning a bridal shower, engagement party, and more!

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…

1. 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 need 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.

2. 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 may ask. Have a small cake especially for this moment, then ask one of the bridesmaids to put the cake somewhere out of sight or in the kitchen for later.

Another option is to have just a wedding cake or a 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.


3. 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 get 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 might 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 42+ adorable wedding favors and gifts for the kitchen…

4. Consider cheaper favors

If you’re not going to eliminate the wedding favors completely then this is another route. Consider cheaper options in terms of wedding favors. Either buy them 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.

5. 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 we 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 that you can send it out via email.

6. 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 photos, etc. You might think it’s a difficult way to do this – but simply WhatsApp and e-mail the link to everyone and voilá! Everything your guests need to know in one convenient place.

I highly recommend that you 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.

7. 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.

Let’s recap real quick:

  • Planning is everything! And there is so much that goes into planning a wedding from A-Z that I have created a massive editable wedding planner for your convenience…
  • Setting up a proper wedding budget is also essential to successful wedding planning
  • When doing your budget, use a breakdown of percentages as a guideline to how much you want to spend where
  • Ask yourself these 3 important questions when deciding to spend a part of your small wedding budget on something:
    • “Can I really afford that?”
    • “Is it important to have it at my wedding?”
    • “How can I do my wedding differently?” (moving away from trends and applying a few “hacks” to be different will help you save on your budget)

The Editable Wedding Planner templates are fully customizable in the free version of Canva, and include everything you need – from the wedding budget, guest list, and catering, to planning a bridal shower, engagement party, and more!

how to plan a wedding on a small budget - The Wedding Club

by Tanya Guilfoyle

Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, Tanya has been an active contributor and planner in the wedding industry since 2016. When not writing useful content for brides and wedding professionals, she can be found designing templates for her Etsy shop, TWCprintables