How to Plan a Wedding on a Small Budget

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How to plan a wedding on a small budget


As you have probably already noticed, we live in a truly challenging time where everything has a price increase. It is becoming more challenging to spend money on special occasions such as birthday parties and weddings. And on that note, suppliers jump at the opportunity once they hear something is for a wedding – and while they’re at it, they might put a nasty markup on an already expensive item or service!


But people are becoming more challenged when having to plan a decent wedding with only limited money available, so we have come up with some guidelines and tips to help you plan a wedding on a small budget.


How to Plan a Wedding on a Small Budget


Defining a small budget

So, what exactly do we mean when we say “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?


Setting up your budget

Before you go ahead and buy, order and make appointments, it is very important that you set up a budget beforehand. Once you have a final amount, then you need to scope prices for different goods and services.


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


But before we go into detail of how you should break down the different sections of your budget, we recommend the Wedding Budget Planner Kit. It is extremely useful in planning each aspect of your wedding budget, and includes 20 pages. You also get exclusive access to our list of wedding expenses which most couples normally miss…


Budget Breakdown

According to some research which we have conducted, we came up with the following numbers. This is the percentages which you need to spend from the budget.


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


Take note that this is purely a suggestion. 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 that, etc.


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Tips for Cutting Wedding Costs

Saving money on your wedding is the inspiration behind this post. We thought that it is exactly what brides need. You need a way to cut wedding wedding costs, so here are a few.


Hire a day coördinator

 Instead of hiring a full on wedding planner, which can turn out to be expensive, rather consider someone to coördinate your wedding day. Yes, you will have to plan and organize everything for your wedding. But a day coördinator 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 coördination option. If you choose a day coördination package, you will have to meet up with the wedding planner 2-4 weeks before the wedding to give them all the details.


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 some help with your budget expense report, have a look at our Wedding Budget Planner!


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 – we promise!


“But what about the cake cutting?”, 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.


The other 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 flavours available for guests to choose from? Eliminate the pudding by replacing it with your special wedding cake!


A final option to consider here 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. A word of warning here: They are not the cheapest option, so you cannot have the candy buffet + a cake + dessert!



Eliminate the Wedding Favors

We know this might be a tough decision, because there are so many gorgeous favor ideas that you like. But think about it this way: You spend how much money on special wedding invitations and postage fees FOR YOUR GUESTS. You make sure that there is enough space, seating, ventilation, etc. FOR YOUR GUESTS. You provide food (top quality, delicious catering style food) and also a fully stocked bar FOR YOUR GUESTS.


You make sure that there is a decent DJ, photographer and videographer, and maybe some entertainment FOR YOUR GUESTS. We could go on with the shouting, but you get the idea. Why should you fork out even more money on wedding favors, of which half will be left behind on the table, no matter how special you think it is?


Consider cheaper favors

If we couldn’t convince you to eliminate the wedding favors completely (see above) 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 us 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? Just search online and you will find plenty of amazing ideas!


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 – no matter where on the globe the people you hope to invite live.  If they live in another country, phone them! Send an e-mail, Facebook them! Whatever it takes. And face it, you probably have to catch up anyway, so why not make the effort and make contact.


Ditch ALL stationery

Yup, you’ve read that correctly. Why not go paperless like the rest of the world are trying to do, and create a wedding website where your guests ca 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 place.


We have written this post on useful tools to plan your wedding, including some wedding websites.


These are not all of them, but the ones listed are all mostly free. There are in fact more than 39 million results on Google, after we’ve searched for ‘wedding websites’. Also, there are many other beautiful websites to use to create your own wedding website, but you have to pay a monthly or annual fee, which can add up if you have a small budget.


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. We have been to a ton of 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 drama…


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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 a box underneath the car – not sexy!


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 us 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 to Pinterest 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 having a DIY party with their girls, in stead of a bridal shower or wedding bash. It works like this: The bride and maid of honor invites all of the bridesmaids and some friends. Order some food, champagne for mimosas and some snacks.


Everyone sits around a massive table or on the floor even and create stuff for the wedding that can be handmade. Think decorations, wedding favors, the guest book, more decorations, faux flowers, backdrops, even more decorations, etc. 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, we think this can be a fun way to host your shower. Why not make it a weekend thing? There’s 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 we get that you have a small budget, so why not get rid of those over the top, unaffordable centerpieces and replace it with something unique and affordable?


We have been to many weddings where the centerpieces consisted of greenery and fairy lights, or stacked books with candles. We even saw one where there was a wooden box one each table, filled with sand and a few pebbles with succulents. That was so rustic!


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 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!


Pick your venue according to their vendor list

As you probably have already noticed, most venues require you to use their vendors on the vendor list. This is because they either made a deal with these vendors in terms of commission and exposure, or they vendors pay a monthly fee to be on their list. Their prices are increased 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 catalogues and directories on the internet, we’re sure you will manage in no time!


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. 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 is a much affordable option, you still get your wedding cake – everyone wins!


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 organise 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” is Pantone’s color of the year for 2017. And this is not just about the color – everything is greenery nowadays. Think vines and leaves instead of expensive décor and flowers. We have just been to a great 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).


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


We have heard of a bride who bought many cakes covered in only white frosting, which she then decorated with 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 $$$.


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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 that they owned to get married in. And you can too!


New trends in wedding dresses are rising on the horizon. We 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 any princess (or bride!).


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


These are some of our best ideas for planning a wedding on a small budget. We will add more ideas here regularly – so make sure to bookmark this page!


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



If you need some help with your budget expense report, have a look at our Wedding Budget Planner!


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