22 recession-friendly, money-saving wedding ways to stretch your budget as far as it'll go

By on Apr. 6th
Michelle Hayes Wedding Photography New York City

That was an amazing wedding, too bad we're broke now. Photo by Michelle Hayes.

No bullshit — planning a wedding is MURDER on your wallet. From vendors that try to up-sell you at every turn, to venues that cost more than your entire budget (and that's JUST for the venue — nothing else), and then there's the dress, the accessories, and maybe favors and wedding party gifts. And do your vendors expect to be tipped on top of all that? And aren't we in a recession? And… and… and… Are you breaking out into hives, yet?

This shit is truly ridiculous, I feel you. I also want to help you! So here are a few ideas on how you can stretch your wedding budget as far as it'll go.


  • Make up a game to save money. So far this is the best money saving advice I've ever read.
  • Repurpose stuff. This is where your grandma's ring and your mother's wedding dress comes into play. You could also use stuff from your own home as party decorations and centerpieces.
  • Small guest list. The fewer people you invite, the fewer people you have to feed, the fewer chairs you need to rent, the fewer invitations you need to buy, etc, etc. Small weddings can be awesome too!
  • Email your invitations. No postage due. No paying for stationery, envelopes, RSVP cards, plus the RSVP card postage.


  • Ask friends to donate their time instead of gifts. Do you have photographer friends who'd shoot your wedding for free or for a discounted rate? (I say this as a pro photog who's shot several weddings for friends) Do you have a designer friend who could help you DIY or donate an outfit? A bossy friend who can play day-of wedding coordinator?
  • Get your decor from the dollar store. Dollar stores often have paper goods like lanterns and balls to hang around the venue.
  • Don't mention the wedding. When you go make an appointment to get your hair done on your wedding day, don't mention that it's for a "bridal do." Similarly, when you ask for floral centerpieces, don't tell them it's for a wedding. More on that whole concept over here.
  • Rent your outfits or buy used. There are services that will even let you rent a wedding dress. And if you buy your outfits, make sure to get clothes that you can wear again.
  • Hand pick the fruit you serve from your local U-pick farm. I did this for my birthday once, it was a ton of fun.
  • Craigslist! Craigslist is your friend for finding deals on so many different things. Get this: Tribe member Mari purchased her dance floor on Craigslist for $90, when renting a dance floor for the reception was going to cost around $300 to $800!



  • DIY desserts. Make your own wedding cake or cupcakes. Bake your own pies or cookies. Or find a friend or family member who's a wiz at making delicious treats and beg them to make the dessert as their wedding gift to you.
  • Brew your own beer. Open bars are expensive and if you brew your own "I DO Brew" you can give them away as wedding favors, too. One Tribe member said that brewing their own wedding beer cost them only $30 for five gallons of beer!
  • BBQ cookout. Have a down-home-style barbeque reception with hot dogs and hamburgers… mmm, I'm making myself hungry.
  • Turn your wedding reception into a fundraiser where, instead of gifts, your guests can donate to an organization of your choice, and get organizations to help out by donating their services instead of hiring vendors.
  • Candy favors. Set up a candy bar using several different kinds of penny candy to keep costs down.

Of course, most of these ideas came from previous Offbeat Brides — you guys are nothing if not resourceful. So tell me: what are some of your favorite budget-stretching tips?

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About Megan Finley

Megan Finley is the Associate Publisher for the Offbeat Empire. When she's not slaving away for the Empire, she's sharing her dork side on her own blog, Twitter @meganfinley, and Instagram @meggyfin.