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

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.

PLANNING

  • 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.

VENDORS

  • 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!

CEREMONY

RECEPTION

  • 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?

  1. Don't forget to check your local freecycle lists! Sometimes it might take a while, so start hunting early, but freecycle totally helped multiple weddings in my family. :)

    12 agree
    • Also, look for ethnic bakeries. When I got married in 2005, I bought my plain frosted wedding cake from a little mexican bakery for some ridiculously low price like $45, and they threw in a chocolate groom's cake for free. All we did was put flowers on top and it was perfect. I just priced a wedding cake from a chinese bakery recently and their price was similarly awesome (adjusted for inflation.)

      12 agree
    • Thank you so much for this suggestion! Awesome!

      0 agree
  2. Great tips, lets see if I can add more.

    Locate those "hobby-job" professionals for catering, photography, flowers, cake, DJ, etc. If you find someone that isn't making their bread and butter from your wedding, you're likely to get a lower price.

    If you cant find a hobby-job florist (I found a lady that grew all the flowers on her property!) then check out SAM's Club or BJ's for flowers. Making your own bouquets and centerpieces is a simple task. Bouts and corsages are harder, but definitely doable.

    If you don't brew your own beer at least check on stocking your own bar. This is a double whammy, you won't get stuck with the worst line up of wine/beer/liquor know to man (that often plague's wedding receptions) and it's often way cheaper than what a caterer will charge you (there is a catch, watch out for corking fees).

    If you're somewhat handy, do your own alterations. It's actually pretty easy to remove crinoline, put in a bustle, or take up straps/hems.

    If you don't want to hire someone to play the electric slide even though you asked them not to, put together a play list and let your ipod be the DJ. Sounds systems rent cheaper than DJ's.

    Borrow Christmas lights. We strung 14,000 lights on the house we rented for the wedding. It looked amazing and cost us nothing. We just borrowed our friends' Christmas lights.

    I have more but I Should probably leave it at that!

    Oh, one last thing! Think outside the box. If it's not a common thing at a wedding, it's probably cheaper.

    20 agree
      • My future S-I-L's wedding party in her mother's back garden had a similar setup: a laptop and good quality speakers.
        I will say, if you're going for this then make sure one person is in charge of music. Nothing infuriates me more at a party than a decent song cutting out halfway through to be replaced by some crappy bubblegum-boy band crap…

        0 agree
    • I absolutely agree. All my wedding vendors are sort of scoffing when they find out we're using an iPod for the dance (I keep hearing: "oh, you're doing the ipod thing?") but all the weddings I've been to with iPods have had better music!

      5 agree
    • Agree completely about 'hobby-job' vendors. Our photographer is a pro but makes most his living from landscape photography with wedding photography on the side because he likes shooting people too, but random people on the street don't tend to like it!

      Because he doesn't rely on weddings he doesn't have to do things like charge extra to cover his living expenses in the non-wedding season or the full cost of all his equipment, so we're just paying for the work we get from him, which is still amazing.

      3 agree
  3. One of the BIGGEST mistakes I almost made was ordering my wedding invitations from a professional! Seriously people, printing them urselves is easier than it sounds and its actually kinda fun! I got a box of 50 invitations and response cards for 20 bucks when originally I was going to have to spend over 150 by not doing it myself!

    6 agree
    • A friend volunteered to do our invitations when we got engaged. She's a wonderful scribe and illumination artist within our SCA group, and she knows the sort of style I like. And she's willing to do a SFW version for my 82-year-old grandfather, who may not be into medieval grotesques eating people whole… :p

      1 agrees
  4. There's also the option of just not doing wedding favors. In the wise words of Miss Manners:

    "Who told you that you had to give out wedding favors? Etiquette has never thought of weddings as comparable to children's birthday parties, where the guests might need consolation for not being the center of attention. You owe them only the hospitality of the occasion."

    47 agree
    • Children's party bags are where it's at!
      We're self catering, and I always buy too much food, so our guests will get goody bags/trays/paper napkins at the end of the night to help themselves to a 'doggy bag favor'. Fill-up'n'go clears the plates and what could be better than knowing your next meal or three is covered?

      8 agree
    • They're generally not done in Ireland. Thank-you cards a few weeks after the wedding, yes, but tokens on the day are a relatively new concept here.

      0 agree
  5. also, for cute centerpieces we are doing pink votive holders hot glued to the center of a yellow gerber daisy..at ur local craft store they should have the flowers in vertually any color! i had even found some that were zebra print

    anyother center piece idea but old high heels painted ur color of choice with flowers hanging out of it…sounds strange but looks great!

    4 agree
  6. Our friends are throwing us an engagement party. Instead of the guests bringing gifts (because we REALLY don't need any more towels!!!), they'll be asked to bring a bottle of booze which will be saved for the bar at the reception. I think it's brilliant! We were concerned about having a lame bar, but, can't afford to go all out.

    Now to decide if we want to have signature cocktails or not. The pro is that we won't end up with 5 bottles of cheap vodka that won't get used if everyone brings the specific ingredients. The con is that people like what they like and may not care for our fruity concoction. Of course, if they don't like it, it's more to save for ourselves. ;)

    (I like this as much as the diapers & wipes baby shower idea.)

    15 agree
    • For our wedding we provided champagne, but (quietly) informed guests that if they wanted something harder they were welcome to bring a flask. Several of our friends did, everyone had a blast, and no one complained.

      3 agree
  7. This list is pretty much a list of my upcoming wedding! Everyone's asking me how I'm handling the stress of planning it all, and I'm like, "What stress?" Everything is easy-peasy and laid-back when it's all a fun, DIY affair! We're doing it on the cheap not to save money (though that certainly helps!), but the homegrown feel to it just fits our style. But my soon-to-be hubs and I are very lucky to have a wide range of friends that can help us cover pretty much everything we need. One friend is ordained to marry, another designed our postcard wedding invitations (and RSVP is simply via email). Hubs and friends are homebrewing the beer, designer friends are creating the epic custom labels, hairstylist friend will make me pretty, baking goddess friend is doing INCREDIBLE boozy cupcakes (and a cake too… of the Holy Hand Grenade!), and as a photographer myself, I have no shortage of talented friends to document the day for us. A crafty friend is sewing some fabric flags to hang between trees (we're getting hitched at a campsite in the mountains… yes, our guests will be sleeping just a few tents away on our wedding night). The only costs we'll really have to cover (aside from the campsite fee) is renting a generator so we can string up a few lights and play an iPod stereo off of! We were thinking of getting some catering (through friends too) but decided we'd rather have more of a potluck, or at least some homemade deliciousness from a few good cooks in the family. I think in the end, we will probably spend less than $500 on everything (including my $80 dress!). Now, our honeymoon on the other hand…

    10 agree
  8. Having a wedding in the off-season, on a weeknight, or early in the day are all obvious ideas too. (Early in the day can also get you out of an expensive alcohol bill if you wouldn't have a dry wedding anyways).

    As for favors, one of my cousins had mix CDs as favors. I assume she made them herself, and blank CDs are pretty cheap. As a plus, my family discovered some awesome new songs we'd never heard of before!

    I'm a bit worried about the photographer costs when I get married. Most packages seem to start close to what I want my entire budget to be! I'm considering giving guests who have cameras and want to take pictures priority seating near the front and the aisle, and asking them to take pictures through the whole event.

    3 agree
    • Totally agree to the off-day! I'm getting hitched in the PRIME of June wedding season, but I'm doing it on a Friday. A good friend of mine has another wedding to attend the next day, but because we did ours that day earlier, she can make both. I'd call that a scheduling WIN.

      4 agree
    • Consider making a "Group Room" in Snapfish and everyone can upload their photos from the wedding to it. We put the web address and encouraged this in our program.

      7 agree
    • My cousin hired a photographer, but only for the ceremony. For the reception, she put a couple cheap disposable cameras on all the tables and had a drop box for them on the way out the door. Some of the neatest pictures were from the reception!

      5 agree
  9. for photography try craigslist! i posted an ad specifically listing my budget amount for photos and what kind of package i wanted and i got over 50 responses in 24 hours! if you get anywhere near that many i'm sure you'll find one you like the look of.

    3 agree
    • Yes! I actually just did this too and heard from a bunch of newer photographers and folks new to the area who have experience but are looking to build their business, and so were able to offer a seriously reduced rate. I am planning on doing the same for DJs and florists (if I don't decide to DIY music and flowers!).

      0 agree
      • I did this, but was looking for free photographers, and got over 20 responses and actually had to let people down. It was…amazing and wonderful. It's the best thing.

        0 agree
  10. Grow our own centrepieces! We plan to reuse food tins and plant flowers from seed into them. Timing them to be in flower for the wedding. Same goes for buying simple house plants and using them. If guest like them they can take them as favours if not your garden will thank you for what's left.

    8 agree
    • We did this and just picked wildflowers, which works well if you're somewhere very wild-flowery (like Central TX!). It was gorgeous and the wildflowers were totally free!

      1 agrees
    • We're doing this too! We're getting little pots of herbs, the kind you can pick up in Tesco, and growing them for a few weeks so they're nice and lush-looking. That way our guests can take them home. And they're tasty!

      2 agree
  11. this is all what i already thought of and am planning for our wedding, but now in my hunt for a venue i'm stumbling. there doesn't seem to be any venues at all that are willing to host your wedding while still letting you handle your own food/drinks, and i'm going crazy. the packages of the cheaper ones (that include the venue, food, drinks, chairs and all) are still about what i wanted our whole budget to be.
    i'm trying to think a bit outside the box, but it's hard while still sticking to our dream of a stockholm forest wedding :(

    anyone having ideas for this problem?

    2 agree
    • What kind of venues have you looked at so far?

      0 agree
      • mostly hotels, hostels and conference centers in or near the woods. since just about everyone of our guests has to travel (my family&friends from germany, my girl's family&friends from northern sweden) i'd prefer the venue to be someplace where our guests can stay the night as well..

        but since all those prices are pretty astronomical, we might have to resettle into just a pretty place that can be decorated like a forest and is near cheap hostels in town, and have our ceremony in the woods and then the reception there. it's not ideal at all, but in-town locations do at least have the bring-your-own option..

        1 agrees
        • Are you opposed to an outdoor wedding and reception? There's nothing more woods than "the woods." Where I live, there are so many parks where one could get married and rent a tent if necessary. Some of the state parks near me also have really cute pavillions,

          1 agrees
    • I don't know about the forest part of it, but… A good bet is to aim for the types of places that aren't typically wedding venues and that don't have their own catering services – that way the only way you can do it is by bringing your own. AND they're usually cheaper because weddings aren't their main source of income. Venues like art galleries, schools, boutiques, libraries, photography studios, theatres, smaller museums, parks, private nature conservatories, campgrounds…

      1 agrees
        • We used a VFW hall for our reception, and did our own decorating. They provided the bar & sodas which we were ok paying for because they could monitor the drinking for us, plus it was fairly inexpensive. We had the catering done by someone else and they didn't have a problem with it. We also brought in our own champagne for the wedding party with no problems. They had the room set up the way we asked, with a cake table, dance floor, the everyone tables, and then the wedding party table. My parents and my husband's parents went in the day before & decorated. Thought maybe you could try a hall similar. It was relatively inexpensive & it benefitted the Veterans who served our country. I wish you the best of luck in your wedding planning!! :)

          1 agrees
    • We are having the same problem with venues, and unfortunately I have no real advice. We ended up biting the bullet and just booking the place in the Blue Mountains (in Australia) that we loved, even though they need us to use their catering (which is a lot more than I wanted, like you, it's what I'd wanted the entire wedding budget to be!) and their bar. My parents have stepped in to the rescue by saying they will pay for the reception, and his parents will foot the bar tab.

      If the parents hadn't stepped in, I think we would have had to search for a friend with a big backyard (a rarety in my circle) or a school or art gallery or something, as suggested by Mandy above.

      It just means we are now on a strict budget for the rest of the wedding. I am making origami flowers from scrap paper lying around at home for a bouquet and for table decorations. It is actually a lot of fun, and it's a great use of those old water and electricity bills lying around! I also kind of like the symbolism of using the debris from the home we have built together in our wedding.

      My brother offered to bake cupcakes for the reception, and we are hoping to save money on the catering (for my parents sake!)by not having a separate dessert course and using our own cakes instead.

      3 agree
      • I live around Cincinnati, OH & noticed Kroger Grocery stores sell platters of different food items. I don't know if the prices are better or comparable to catering companies, but it's a though. Maybe you have a local grocery store that would do the same. I know they do deli meat, cheese, (you could buy bread) condiments, pre-made sandwiches, finger sandwiches, fruit trays, fruit & cheese trays, bone -in & boneless chicken wings(with & without sauce)(they had BBQ sauce & regular buffalo sauce) on large platters, they even had dessert trays. Just some ideas to save money & time(if it's cheaper than catering company). Another thing I've seen done is a friend of mine bought the serving platters from the deli for like $3.00 & then bought the different lunch meats & cheeses themselves, bought loaves of bread, toppings(lettuce tomato) & condiments, & her family took the time and made up the trays. It saved them lots of money. If you ask the deli, they may offer you a discount if you tell them you're buying a lot(they got a 10% discount). If they ask what it's for, just tell them it's for a get together you're having(not a lie!), most are happy to help, and won't charge extra fees for "wedding" things. We did this for my school graduation party. They tend to add extra prices, or tack on fees if you tell them it's a specific type of party. Like in my case graduation party. I called & asked prices over the phone & made the mistake of saying it was for a graduation party, & the prices were higher than when I showed up later at the store & just told them I was having a get together with some friends(not a lie). I never gave my name over the phone so they had no idea I was the person that had called earlier. I guess since it was the time for all the graduation parties, they thought they could make some extra money off of people. I learned my lesson, & try to share the info with others to help save them money. Always ask if there's any discounts on things, the worst they can do is say no, but you might get lucky & get one!! I do this all the time for regular things, most of the time they offer me something, sometimes I get nothing, but it didn't hurt to ask. Best of luck to all, and I wish you all the best!! :)

        0 agree
      • Where abouts in the blue mountains was it. I am so stuck for venue ideas. there either too expensive, or aren't willing to cull things I don't need. i love the mountains, there so beautiful, and romantic.

        0 agree
    • Yes! I am having this exact problem. The two themes/ideas I had for the wedding was either getting married at an Asian art museum in Dallas (My future husband loves Asian art. Our whole apartment is decorated in it, and I took him to that museum for his first birthday that we celebrated together so it is special to us.) or getting married in a garden. I feel like every place I look into is thousands of dollars just to rent the place. I only moved to Texas a few years ago, so I don't know anyone with a backyard to have it in. I'm amazed how many people are able to have gorgeous weddings for not a lot of money, but I'm having trouble trying to make that happen.

      5 agree
      • If you have so much Asian art, perhaps you can find a "blank slate" venue like a warehouse or community space and decorate it with the Asian art from your home?

        3 agree
      • I'm from the dfw area, the ft worth botanical gardens are very pretty. The japanese garden is super expensive though. I went to a wedding there, but at the english rose garden at the top of the hill-it was beautiful!! I think it was $700? Sorry if I'm wrong, I've looked at a million venues.
        My fiance and I found a hibachi place that we just love that has a private room we are going to rent for the reception. We both love all kinds of ethnic food so it seems like a good fit. We miss out on the first dance but you get entertainment and amazing food where there is no clean up! I know that's kind of out of the question if you have a large wedding. Just thought, it'd be a good way to incorporate both themes. Good Luck though!

        1 agrees
      • I just booked the art gallery for my wedding and reception at South Side of Lamar in Dallas. This is my apartment complex.

        I believe it is $500 for residents and now my future hubby and I don't have to worry about driving from the venue to our apartment. :)

        1 agrees
    • Have you tried your parks & rec dept? Many of the parks & rec venues in our area rent for less than $100 an hour, no restrictions on vendors and a lot of them include chairs & tables.

      4 agree
    • Definitely look for unusual places as venues. They are much more flexible for caterers and other vendors. For example: We are getting married in a gardening store, but they have used their materials to make a gardens area behind the store as a way to show what you can do if you buy their stuff. The gardens are so pretty they allow weddings there as well.

      3 agree
    • I'm having the same problems with finding a venue. Even if budget weren't a concern, I'd prefer having our party in an off-beat location, but so far, even the places I've checked out are too pricey! Our wedding is scheduled for the middle of January 2013, in Portland, so outdoors is out–nobody wants to get rained on! I've only begun looking, but if anyone has ideas, I'd love to hear them!

      0 agree
    • We are having our wedding at a 4H campground. It has hotel rooms and camp/dorm type rooms, a beautiful lake, a fire pit and lots of woods. It's cheap and they are letting us bring in our own catering. You might try someplace like that or a boy or girl scout camp.

      1 agrees
  12. If you buy a dress, consider getting a bridesmaid dress but ordered in white/ivory (or whatever color you like). Several friends and I found affordable dresses that we really liked this way.

    I love my now husband for saying "Why do we need cake?" We ended up doing a ice cream sundae bar and desserts.

    If you want to snail mail invites or thank yous, do post cards. You'll save a little. Have folks RSVP online.

    Ask yourself "Why" a lot.

    8 agree
  13. 1) get married at the reception site
    2) design your own invites and order prints from Sutterfly or the like. They often give new customers good deals.
    3) If you want some professional photographs, just hire them for 1 or 2 hours to do some posed shots and the ceremony, then rely on friends for the rest.
    4) get married in a place that doesn't need decoration
    5) don't rent a tux. Buy a suit to wear again and again. someone is always getting married or dying and a nice suit will still be in fashion for years.

    7 agree
  14. We did our own invitations in Publisher. We got free vintage clip art from The Graphics Fairy blog, and free fonts from dafont.com. We played around with it until we got it to look good, then took the files to FedEx office to be printed. Neither one of us is a graphic designer (special ed teacher and mechanical engineer) but it went surprisingly smooth. We were way under budget for our invitations, which is giving us more money for other stuff (like bills. Nothing too exciting).

    3 agree
  15. Here's what we did to save!

    -Destination wedding, the decor is nature! saving on travel for honeymoon, we're already there!
    -friends officiating!
    -all clothes purchased were meant to be worn other than on that day
    -wedding party/east coast legal ceremony in parents backyard
    -fascinator was a gift when i was a bridesmaid in another bestie's wedding
    -emailed invites!

    2 agree
  16. I'm not too big on "cut your guestlist" – not because small weddings aren't awesome too (they are!) but because if you have a big list of people you love dearly, a big family, have a lot of friends you want there, I don't think cutting them is the best way to save money. Sure, it will save money (usually) but I'd say "do what you can to save money and plan your budget around the guests you want – don't plan your guests around your budget". (A Practical Wedding says the same thing. I'm not alone in this).

    The other advice is great! Not always applicable (we, for example, could not possibly have brewed our own beer, used our own items to decorate or had a backyard or park wedding due to certain constraints) but then no advice is going to be completely applicable to everyone, so that's fine.

    2 agree
  17. I would recommend "pick a pretty ceremony location that requires no decoration" – Mom wanted us to decorate the ceremony site and it would have cost a few hundred dollars for what she was suggesting. We picked a site in front of a garden that required not one lick of decor and saved that money. If you can, pick a reception site that is pretty with minimal decor or can be nicied up with inexpensive lanterns and fairy lights.

    3 agree
    • That's why we're considering having our reception at one of our favorite restaurants. The place looks so awesome by itself that we won't have to decorate at all if we don't want to. Which not only saves us money but also means no set up or take down. Yay!

      0 agree
    • I am totally with you on the picking a venue not needing decor.Our venue is an event space inside an antique shop. Any decor we add would look absurd as it is decorated to look like a turn of the century cabaret.

      1 agrees
  18. shop around at vintage stores or thrift stores- i found my dress for $20 at goodwill :)
    besides hand making the invitations the boy and I are planning on hand delivering most of our invitations- saves postage and gives us some quality time with the people we love- and this way we can say helpful hints like "wear comfy shoes" deflect negative comments early on and help people get psyched for a very unusual event :D
    basically DIY as much as you can, and enlist fellow friends for things like photographer, cupcake maker, potluckers, face painters, musicians, decorators..so on and so forth if there's a task that someone can get paid big bucks for you most likely have a friend or family member who does it for fun or would do it for free!!

    2 agree
  19. I love the "Don't mention your wedding". Worked like a charm for us.
    Also, think about unique food options. You don't always need chicken and beef. We did pizza! We used a local pizza place and ordered salad, bread knots, pasta, and pizza. Plus, they had a bartender :)
    And do a morning or early afternoon ceremony. Way cheaper!
    And if your serving booze, bring your own. Kegs go far!
    A small budget isn't the end of the world. You just need to be a little bit more creative.

    2 agree
    • I didn't even think about pizza! We've been struggling to find a restaurant to do our vegetarian reception, but there is a local place that does vegan pizza…

      1 agrees
      • We're having vegetarian pizza and salad at our reception at a local restaurant, followed by cupcakes. The real money is being spent on seriously good wine :)

        0 agree
    • I'm totally doing pizza,pasta, garlic bread at my wedding! Hopefully on the beach around a campfire. :-)

      1 agrees
    • And keep in mind, you don't HAVE to have a meal at your reception. A good friend of mine had a cake-and-mead reception in the early afternoon, and it was GREAT!

      0 agree
  20. One thing you can also do is maybe hire students to do some stuff such as photography or invitations. You save money, they get experience, and a job reference if they do a good job.

    3 agree
    • This is a great idea! Maybe try contacting a local high school, or a college with an art program. Students can always use an extra buck or two, their teachers will be good references if you want to know how reliable they are, and you might even give the student(s) that first step to push them into a career they'll love :)

      1 agrees
  21. Once when my mom was sick, my dad's boss sent her a bouquet made out of chocolate dipped fruit. They even made daisies out of pineapples and melon balls! It was so cute, and I always thought using something like that for a centerpiece does great double duty – it looks pretty like flowers, plus people can eat it. I think there are other posts on OBB about edible centerpieces, too.

    http://offbeatbride.com/2010/04/non-floral-centerpieces-2

    2 agree
  22. If you want to have wedding cars, use your own or see if anyone you know has one they are willing to lend, and then decorate with some ribbons stretching down the front, and some (silk?) flowers in the back windshield. That's what we did and it was awesome! The prices for hiring "wedding" cars would have been astronomical!

    Also if you want to have bridesmaids' dresses – see if your gang already have pretty outfits they want to wear, you can tie it together with accessories/headgear if you want some coordination :)

    Saving money on weddings rocks!

    1 agrees
  23. my bff is in flower school right now and would LOVE to do a casual wedding for some references, experience, and cash! stake out your local flower school and rush the nearest offbeatiest student you see!

    1 agrees
  24. For all paper products, keep in mind that they don't all have to be the same (or be a totally matching "suite"). I saw ty cards at Target today, really cute trifold cards, 50 for 5 bucks. I'm going to buy cute stationary on sale, but if different guests get different style invites, nobody will know! Of course you may put more effort into printing different styles, but it could be worth it.

    1 agrees
  25. CHEAP BOOZE: If you're buying champagne for toasting, a good way to get it discounted is if you buy right after New Year's. If you're willing to do some legwork, you can probably locate liquor stores selling for much cheaper than before, as the demand sharply decreases afterwards. As far as I know… liquor doesn't 'expire' so if you're getting married next year, then you have plenty of time to hit the liquor sales!

    7 agree
    • Also, some places (like Costco) allow you to return any unopened cases of beer/wine. Which means you can over-buy and return what you don't use, so you don't have to worry about running out, or getting stuck with a lifetime supply of alcohol.

      0 agree
  26. For less than it would cost to rent:
    Dishes, thrift store, then re-sell
    Tablecloths: Linentablecloths.com, then re-sell
    Napkins: CV Linens (Austin), then re-sell
    Table runners: Made from fabric and kept fabric for projects (my messenger bag!)
    Rented tables and chairs from Austin Musical Chairs: previously only a music event supplier, they have $5 tables (ANY size or shape) and cheap chairs, just no linens (so I did the above). So cheap!!! Highly recommend.

    3 agree
    • Often that is cheaper, but where we were, thrift store dishes were more expensive, and for the color we wanted (dark purple) linenstablecloths.com was actually *more* expensive than renting!

      We actually didn't get married at home because chair, table, tent and port-a-potty rentals (necessary with the size of our guest list and my parents antique septic system) brought the price up beyond venues that included all those things.

      0 agree
      • But when you re-sell the dishes/linens after you are done, you can recoup that cost!

        1 agrees
        • True for most (so I don't disagree!), but we live abroad and had our wedding near my hometown on a different continent from where we actually reside (wedding in the USA, we live in Asia). So reselling was not an option for us…we couldn't bring anything back, and if we left it in the USA it'd fall to my parents to ship off what we re-sold. I didn't want to stick them with that job.

          It can be great, though, if you are reasonably local to where you have your wedding!

          0 agree
  27. Some more advice I found useful:

    – Unless flowers are really important to you, don't hire a florist. Find a cheaper alternative for centerpieces, bouquets and corsages/bouts. A pro florist will often cost $2000+ for these items, and really you shouldn't have to pay more than a few hundred bucks for the lot of it (like I said, unless flowers are something you are passionate about).

    – No favors. No excuses.

    – No Save the dates, or e-mail them

    – Don't rent "wedding cars" – either don't rent a car at all, or rent a nice, normal sedan if you really need a rental

    – Don't buy a wedding dress in a pricey bridal salon (not including less expensive options such as David's) – try Etsy, department stores and local non-bridal boutiques

    – Get catering by a restaurant or self-set-up buffet where you pick up the food and draft a few friends to help set it up

    – Rent tablecloths if you want to (not necessary, but can be hard to cut depending on venue/tables) but use color-coordinated paper napkins. Instead of trying to coordinate exactly, choose contrasting tablecloth/napkin colors so that if the color is "wrong", nobody will know.

    – Find a venue/caterer that allows you to supply your own booze, go to the discount liquor store/BJ's/Costco and get it there. Supply disposable cups (eco-friendly is great if you can) for the bar so you don't have to rent hundreds of bar glasses

    – Consider not offering fancy drinks that require several ingredients (Long Island Iced Teas, for example) or ones that require a dedicated mix (margaritas, for example) unless you find it in your budget or it's your signature drink. You don't need to offer alcohol at all, but if you do, if you offer standard gin, vodka, rum, whiskey, wine, beer and standard soft drink and juice mixers, trust me: it will be enough.

    – Beware of cheap venues that require tent/chair/table rental, which often jacks the price from "cheap" to "expensive" (this happened to us at many venues we looked at: great prices until we factored in all the necessary rentals

    – If you are serving a meal that requires heat or prep, use a venue that already has a prep area. Otherwise you may be charged to rent prep kitchen items so the caterers can get your food hot on-site.

    – If you are having a simple wedding and the cost of inclusive service is high, price it against hiring some local college kids to set up/take down. It saves your family and friends trouble and *might* save money

    – Do your own hair (OK, I didn't – I couldn't) and makeup (I did)

    – Scale back photographers' packages unless it's really important to you: if you're passionate about photography then by all means have an engagement session, First Look, getting ready and all the other stuff. If you just want a few nice pro shots, four hours of service for a few couple, family and attendant shots, some ceremony shots and a few early before-we're-too-drunk-to-look-good reception candids are really all you need.

    – If you are good at this sort of thing, doing your own album is almost always cheaper than paying to have it done through a photographer

    – You really don't need a "stationery suite" (or as one book called it, a "stationery trousseau" – argh)…you can generally get a much better deal for some basic invitations and RSVP cards on Etsy or somewhere similar

    – If you do have your wedding at home or in a park, consider the needs of your guests: does your home have a good enough septic system and enough bathrooms for all? Is that park easy for Grandma to deal with? Will you need to rent Port-a-Potties? If you do, consider this cost early on, not later when it's an unpleasant surprise.

    – Unless you are a terrible planner, planning from a great distance or have no time, you probably don't need a coordinator (though they have their advantages) – consider not hiring one unless you have a good reason to (and there are some very good reasons).

    Note: I know that in a lot of these, I say things like "really all you need" or "you shouldn't have to pay more than…" or "do this for alcohol". I realize that plenty of couples don't have these things at all and might read this and think "I don't even need that!", "Well, I can't pay that!" or "But we're not having alcohol at all". You don't actually NEED pro photography, centerpieces, alcohol etc. – I'm basing this on what most people with a budget to throw a party seem to want, from my experience. No, you don't need any of it, but if you want it, this is my advice for getting it without breaking the bank or shortchanging vendors who deserve to get paid a living wage for the services they provide.

    6 agree
  28. This is one I didn't see when I skimmed the thread: don't forget groupon and it's ton of copycats. My mother and I maxed out a groupon deal together, allowing me to fund the rehersal catering (which I originally wasn't going to do for fear of cost) for thirty bucks per twenty people. I also frequently see things like engagement photo sessions, chocolates, maids (really, if you're going to borrow someones house, I bet they'd love you forever if you paid for a pro cleaning as a thank you), salon service, and even flowers. Those pay $10 for $20 worth of goods at that random craft place offers make me swoon right now, too.

    Just my thoughts!
    D

    7 agree
  29. Needless to say, though, watch out for expiation dates and don't go buying a lot of things you weren't planning on in the first place. But groupon is a nice way to get that thing you really wanted but didn't have the budget for.

    D

    0 agree
  30. I would just like to point out that in Canada (at least Ontario) you cannot use internet ordained ministers to have legal wedding's. And to get 'er done at the courthouse will often cost you $260+ not including the $150 marriage license. I know most OBB'ers are our southern counterparts, but there have been multiple discussions on the tribe of confused canucks looking for how to ordain your friends for cheap, only to find out it is not a legal option!

    4 agree
    • yes i totally agree. I was living in the states and just moving up to Quebec to be with my Canadian partner (now husband). We got married in the courthouse which cost us about 300 for the license and legal stuff- I wish we had just done it where I was living in the states for 30-50 bucks. Oh well- at least the court house in Quebec City was decorated beautifully and it made our elopement feel super special. That was also the entire cost of the wedding since we wore clothes we already had and then just went out for pizza afterwards- then went hiking!!!

      0 agree
  31. I saved a bundle on my wedding dress by buying it off the rack. If you're like me and do want a white dress, but not a big fussy princess gown, J Crew has some really nice, elegant, simple offerings. My dress is cotton and has pockets (the pockets were the big selling point), and didn't need alterations beyond a simple hemming. It cost $600, which for some budgets may be a lot, but is still way less than the average $1500 designer gown. I've known many brides who buy an affordable dress but then spend hundreds of dollars getting it altered to fit.

    0 agree
  32. My boyfriend is a professional brewer for Dogfish Head and a mead-maker and we're already planning on brewing/making all of our own alcohol. It is a really fun process, but it's a lot of work too – don't assume you can just mix some yeast into a beer kit and have good beer it doesn't happen that way. Do some test batches first and make sure you have the process down or you could end up serving infected home brew to friends and family and that is just no good.

    3 agree
    • I was surprised to see brewing your own listed as a money-saving endeavor. Is brewing your own cheaper for newbies than just getting a keg? (Assuming it's a keg of nice domestic beer)

      I usually find that buying the materials to make a dress is more expensive than buying a dress–and I already own all the re-usable tools for dressmaking!

      2 agree
      • To be honest, I don't think it really is. You need to figure the cost of bottles (between $13.00 – $20.00 per 24 12oz bottles), of the basic beer kits which use malt extract because all-grain beer is STRICTLY for more advanced brewers ($30-$50 a kit usually you get about 2 cases = 48 12oz bottles), then you need the actual brewing equipment which you can usually get a basic kit for about $100. BUT making beer, wine, or mead is also time intensive. You have to check and make sure your yeast are healthy, the gravity is correct, and the alcohol isn't being exposed to oxygen or other goodies which can infect it. Basically, if you or your significant other or a friend is into brewing beer, or making mead or wine(you do NOT brew mead or wine) it can be cost effective. However, if this is something you think you'll only do once – I'd skip it and buy the keg, preferably from a local brewery, sometimes they'll even cut you deals. Brewing beer really isn't something you can just mix, put in a dark corner and forget about until it's time to bottle and serve.

        3 agree
  33. COUPONS!!!!!!!!!!

    all of my wedding craft items have been bought from Michaels or Joanns and I haven't bought anything without using at least a 40% off coupon.
    the craft stores all accept each others coupons at the moment and I just do a google search and print off the coupons before I go shopping!

    2 agree
  34. The ceremony is usually the cheapest part – even if you're getting married in a church they normally charge something like $50 (that isn't likely to break any budget!) And the great thing is that they probably have a lot of decorations stowed away for the different seasons that you might be able to use. I just walked by several faux dogwood flower trees in a storage room in my church this weekend. I'm totally going to use those instead of buying expensive flower decorations from a florist!!

    0 agree
  35. These is an awesome piece full of great ideas and suggestions, but as a former super-budget Offbeat Bride and someone who is around a lot of budget weddings, I would caution against the instinct to cut costs at ALL costs. (Which I totally suffered from as saving money is addictive!) Obviously priorities are different for everybody, but talking to friends who have done this sort of thing already may prove enlightening on the pros and cons of each individual cut, and help to both save wisely and avoid pitfalls.

    Things I would totally do again:

    Get married in a bar (or other non-wedding venue) We worked a deal with the owner of a small bar to use the facilities in exchange for the cost of booze. So we paid for the open bar for 50 guests and in exchange received the venue and staff (including house DJ) for free. The bar was thrilled to have a banner night, and we got the deal of the century (even after tipping the staff lavishly!).

    Serve pizza (or any other unconventional food)

    Wear an off the rack cocktail dress and/or suit (who needs a gown and a tux in a bar?!)

    DIY décor, no floral (again…it was a bar…who needs flowers in a bar?)

    Keep the guest list small

    Email STD and use non-wedding invitations

    HOWEVER – if I could do it again, I would have…

    …hired a pro photographer. I think Ariel also mentioned this at some point in the past, but if I had any idea at the time the unbelievable cool stuff that some photogs can do, I would have definitely budgeted for that vendor. Our pictures are fine, but I would love to see what they could have been with an awesome pro.

    ….hired a Day Of Coordinator. I looked into it but our wedding was so small, the prices didn’t match our budget. But I found out after the fact that the girlfriend I thought I had given a simple list to (put out pizza, move gifts, arrange cupcakes, etc.) worked so hard to make everything perfect for us that she missed the festivities entirely. I was super-grateful but felt kind of bad about that so, in retrospect, I might have made a few more calls or used Craigslist to find an up-and-comer.

    And finally, a note about omitting the word “wedding” when vendor shopping. One thing a good wedding vendor knows is the absolute un-re-doable-ness of a wedding day. In a perfect world, no one would drop the ball on you regardless of what type of party you’re throwing, but I think if people know it’s for a wedding they place a higher priority on the service. For me, it was important that both the traditional and non-traditional vendors know this was an unbreakable deal, so no omitting here.

    This concludes yet another long comment from me. :)

    5 agree
  36. - Consider Quinceanera dresses, if you want something that looks "Weddingy" (embroidery, fancy designs, big skirts, sparkles) on a budget. They tend to run $2-500 in my area for custom-fit in the color of your choice, and make great wedding dresses.

    – Custom! No, seriously, custom *can* be astonishingly cheap, if you find an up-and-coming seamstress, and are willing to buy your own fabric (so you can get it on sale when the time is right). Renfaires turned out to be a surprisingly good choice for making those connections. Plus, custom stuff makes reusability *way* more likely if you play your cards right. (For example, don't dictate styles for your attendants, let them pick things they love and will wear again.)

    – Think outside the box for bouquets, boutionnieres, and decor. Seriously, you can do a surprisingly elegant job with whatever you collect and have on hand; shells, legos, you name it. We used stuffed animals, and finger puppets for the guys, and decorated the reception entrance with lego sculpture. Result: Awesome and perfectly reflective of our interests. Cost: Three safety pins.

    – Seriously look into a restaurant for reception hosting. They have better food than many caterers, don't have the overhead costs for delivering the food and keeping it hot somewhere else, and if you're willing to set your schedule based on their prices, you can get some spectacular deals. Some of them even do let you do dancing; ours (a faculty club) did if we rented a floor.

    – Rubber stamps for a "united" wedding look & "custom" stationery. Even custom stamps can be acquired for <$15 apiece on the internet; use them + good ink (<$5, for enough to get you through 150+ invitations) and optional heat-embossing ($25ish or so, including the powder and a cheap embossing heat gun) and you can now use ordinary plain cardstock or craft-store blank cards and a printer to make lovely fancy-looking invitations, matching thank you cards, etc.

    – For cheap-but-fancy custom favors, look into the business world! Lots of places do custom-printed bulk stuff aimed at large businesses doing recruiting events or mass marketing. Just make sure you allow lots of time for production and shipping.

    1 agrees
  37. I also am doing things at home on the cheap and wanted to give some insight on things. If you do it at home, it isn't always cheaper. You will want to do repairs, landscaping, ect. But you do have a kitchen, your house is probably already decorated to your tastes, and it feels homey. It is easy to self-cater, your dogs can come, and the kids can play Wii. But you must limit your guests, you will want to hire a cleaner before/after to stay sane (it's not expensive and worth your sanity), and you may have to compromise some privacy and expect your pictures to be…. well, of you in your house.
    I know some people mentioned they don't have a house to do it in, and wish they could have it at a house. Check your local classifieds and see what rentals are available. Chances are, if you told the landlords it would only be a weekend or something, they would cut you a deal (they make nothing while it sits empty). Then bring chairs and tables in for each room. There are also mansions to rent online for rich people to stay in like hotels. They have a kitchen (sometimes more than one), you don't have to clean it, they are furnished, but they are expensive ($1,000+). They usually have great lawns, and sleep several people (40+), have a pool, ect, so maybe you could ask your out of town guests to stay there to recoup some venue cost.
    Also, I'll bet you put dishes on your registry, no? If you need dishes to serve people, ask around who is willing to buy you a platter, or dinner plates, and serve them on their own gift.
    Decor can be cheap. World Market has rotating deals and good coupons. Try to get things you can use in your life after. We got champagne flutes for $1 a piece after New Year's and silverware they were discontinuing for $1. Serving platters for $7, paper lanterns, fairy lights, candles (90% after Christmas), candle sticks and linens. You can order online if you don't have one close.
    Costco has food that is easy and delicious. Also flowers and gazebos. Costco also does honeymoons. No joke; you can book online. And have you priced their rings?!
    Try the farmers market or local import shop/trading company and get creative.
    Chances are, your friends would rather not have a plant, candy bag, soap, ect. Mine actually specifically told me to screw the favours and get better liquor. Ask people what they want. Maybe grandma wants an updated picture of you.
    Ask for student/military/government/teacher/senior citizen/employee/buying in bulk discounts. Tons of places have them and won't tell you. Lowes and Home Depot both have discounts to ask for. This also helps on honeymoons.
    Our landlord actually docked our rent a couple months because we have done so much work on the place. They also paid for our supplies to do it. It never hurts to ask.
    Happy hunting!

    2 agree
  38. I know this statement is basically sacrelige for a lot of people but : You do not "need" a professional photographer. If it's not in your budget, or you just aren't inclined to hire any of the photogs in your area, it's ok.
    My Auntie and a good friend of my husband are both totally untrained but had really good cameras, and the pictures they took for us were actually better than the semi-pro photographer's portfolios we looked at.

    2 agree
  39. Just be careful with going with a venue like a park or backyard. These places usually don't come with seats/chairs like a church or hotel venue might. So they might need to be rented or someone needs to pile up the dining room into Uncle Earl's pickup.

    0 agree
  40. A great tip I got was to look outside my area for caterers. Within the city, catering is really pricey, but I was able to find a much cheaper caterer further away that doesn't charge extra for delivery within 200 miles.

    1 agrees
  41. The dollar store is where it's at!!! My mom and I are making our centerpieces ourselves, and she found out that you can order stuff from the dollar store in bulk, which I didn't know! We got 85 tiny square vases for I think about 24 dollars – each one is going to have one huge fake rose in it. Sounds weird, but each table will have 3 of those on it. So, moral of the story, the dollar store is awesome sauce. We are also having lots of little candles instead of real flowers – way cheaper! Real flowers will really eat away at your budget, and who will really remember whether you had fake or not, as long as they look good?

    0 agree
  42. Custom jewellery is a big one because it's a much nicer experience (our jeweller made us cups of herbal tea and taught us how to maintain the finish on our gold and my emerald), you get exactly what you want, and it's also cheaper than buying something from a chain store. People don't believe that custom could really be cheaper (it probably only applies to jewellers with low overheads) so the jewellers have suffered in the reception.
    Some of the other big highlights of our wedding were also budget options: quirky bar, vegetarian catering, recycled home made decorations, people made sweets as gifts for dessert and we lolly painted bags so that people could take cake or lollies for bonbonierre.

    0 agree
  43. I also want to add – I'm all for asking people if they'd like to donate a service instead of a gift (if they happen to be good at that service, love you lots, and enjoy doing it and it wouldn't suck up their time too much).

    But be careful with this. If someone does something professionally, they may not want to do it for free (even for you) – people can choose whatever gift they like (or no gift at all – it's not mandatory) and their choice of gift may not have been the time and effort to provide whatever thing you need for your wedding.

    That person may just want to enjoy it as a guest and not view their loved one's wedding as "work" or a "gig", which is entirely fair.

    If you do ask, give the person leeway to say "no, sorry" without feeling bad, and accept that "no" immediately and without rancor. Just 'cause your friend is a baker, florist or photographer doesn't mean you're entitled to their services for free.

    It's also a good idea to offer to pay them for their service (if you're friends you know you'll get a fair price and *maybe* a discount, so you're still saving money over other vendors who are likely to upcharge). If they want to give it to you as a gift they will wave off that offer.

    Try not to ask for anything too time-intensive. If your best friend is a photographer and you want all-day event photography, that friend is going to miss everything, or see it all through a camera lens like she does with weddings of people she doesn't know who are paying her. Is that how you want your friend to enjoy your party? (Seeing if she'll take a few nice snaps of the wedding party but not expecting her to take candids of the full event would be more down-to-earth in my opinion).

    All in all I generally think it's better if you offer a fair price to all vendors/people you ask for services or help or if you bring up the subject of "wedding help as gift", do it carefully and only with people whom you feel will be receptive.

    And you know, generally I've found that if people want to give you something like that as a gift, they will offer.

    We did ask a musician friend to play our processional and recessional – it didn't take too much time from the event for her and she was happy to do it (I also said that if she didn't want to, I'd like her to be a bridesmaid, and would she like either position?). We did not ask our photographer friend as it would have taken away from his enjoyment of the day longer-term. Our invitation designer offered his services.

    6 agree
  44. Couple of things my fiancee and I have done to cut out budget down are to go for a state park for our wedding site. Since it's not a "wedding" spot, it's about a tenth of the cost of the cheapest wedding venue we found.

    Also, I'm a web developer and I keep trading with companies for products. So far, I'm putting together the website for our wedding cake thereby getting my portfolio increased and getting the cake for free.

    For cheap booze, we have military friends. The Navy Exchange has alcohol tax-free. Basically, it becomes "Hey Bob, can you make this giant booze run?"

    1 agrees
  45. Unfortunately the venue I have my heart set on (it has importance to my family and is beautiful and is a good price for the area, i could go on and on) won't allow a pot-luck reception and requires that you chose one of their approved caterers (which is understandable considering that they are a historical site and are very concerned with making sure nothing on the property is damaged)
    But I discovered that by going with a buffet style dinner that includes lots of vegetarian options, I'll be paying half of what I would pay for a plated service with fancy steaks and seafood.

    0 agree
  46. I know seating issues have been mentioned as a potential cost, but I also know that there are brides out there who got married in parks and have done BYOC (bring your own chair), hay bale seating, and blanket seating. If you know a carpenter-y friend or relative, you could ask them to make you a couple of simple benches for the old folks and the young'uns could sit on the ground.

    Also, if you rent a park site, often they have covered eating areas with lots of picnic tables. You can do like one of my friends ended up doing and have the wedding in the reception area (there was unfortunately a lot of rain, so her outdoor ceremony had to be moved under cover). And it worked just fine.

    OR! If you're having a wedding outside, make it short and sweet and have everyone stand. Of course, bring some folding chairs for old folks or anyone else who needs one. But if your ceremony is like 15 minutes long? Most people can stand for that long without suffering any ill effects.

    I think we might end up going with blankets and folding chairs, but we'll see. Still scouting out places…

    Great ideas from everyone, though. Any chance we could get them all compiled into one fantastic list?

    1 agrees
  47. Our biggest cost savings was to pay for what people ACTUALLY DRANK – "one bill bar" is how our venue said it. I calculated the amount each guest was likely to drink with the cost per soda, mixed drink, beer, whatever at the venue, and compared it to the cost of a package. The actual bill was so much less than my best guess (and I had a High Guess and a Low Guess, too) that we took four friends out for a fancy-schmancy dinner without blinking. One-bill-bar and an afternoon reception were a great way to avoid cutting our guest list.

    1 agrees
  48. Being that I'm highly allergic to any kind of flower, the non-floral centerpieces are an awesome idea.

    Personally, I'm thinking of using mason jars filled with a dyed water and floating candles. The best part is, the mason jars can be re-used after the wedding (in our home) for country style drinking glasses. =)

    0 agree
  49. I had a very small budget too when I got married. just a suggestion to other brides to be and bridesmaids…something chic to include in your bridal emergency kit! I used this at my wedding, just thought you might like it! It's called

    'after flats' very cute! affordable! :)

    afterflats.com

    0 agree
  50. Thank you guys for the ideas – I'm going for a "Lord of the Rings" party atmosphere (not in decor or theme!) not only to save money but also because the best wedding I ever attended was the simplest… and all of the expensive weddings have been tiresome. Good luck to all.

    1 agrees
  51. I already have my rental wedding dress, veil, and head piece awaiting my wedding in MArch. Such a fantastic idea to rent it, save big bucks, and not have to clean and store it after!

    0 agree
  52. i know im a little late on the game here. But as far as stocking the bar goes.. one of the best ideas i heard and am going to use. Is a "stock the bar" wedding shower. We are doing this as co-ed one but it can be a guys only one, make it into a poker party or something fun for them and each person brings a bottle to stock the bar for the wedding. Its going to cut down costs ALOT and we are going to register at specs (if we can) for this bridal shower! Just thought i would share this. We are doing our wedding for just around 5 grand. so budget is key!

    0 agree
  53. Flowers: Utilizing more greenery is always a great way to save money. For my fathers 60th I used all flowers and greenery from my moms backyard. We took galvanized watering pitcher and fill it with overflowing grape vines with green grape delicately hanging and nasturtium thats grows all over their yard. It gave a nice natural feel since it was a backyard party.

    We also took mason jars and filled them with herbs and tied the top of the glass in a bow with garden twine.

    You could also make placecard marker with mini mason jars, herbs, twine, and a manilla gift tag tied with the guest names.

    For center pieces you can save money by using wheat grass and a couple flowers like they are growing out of the grass. if you dont have containers for the wheat grass you can always use burlap, ribbon or hot glue moss to the side of the existing container that the wheat grass comes in.

    As someone else suggested getting married at the reception site is a great way to save money. For my wedding they took my decor from my ceremony a incoorperated it into my cocktail hour and then moved all of the flowers from my ceremoney and cocktail hour to the reception area. I was lucky to have large private garden area in balboa park that had multiple different areas for the vendor to set up and break down with out bothering the guest.

    0 agree
  54. Don't buy your wedding dress new from a bridal boutique. If you are wanting a traditional type dress, try Craigslist, eBay, etc. Or go with a vintage-inspired dress from an antique store. OR if you are looking for a funky/ fun dress, try JC Penney or even Target or K-Mart right before/ right after the high school proms in your area. They have so many cute dresses for $30-100!

    0 agree
  55. What a fantastic post (and comment section)!

    I definitely agree with DIYing as much as you can reasonably do, but I'm surprised that no one mentioned bridal shows/expos. They can be overwhelmingly girly (so leave the men at home…I learned this the hard way) but it's nice to bring your MoH, Mom, MIL, etc. A lot of vendors will say that their promotion is only good if you book the day of the show, but most of them realize that a good decision is not made in a split second so they allow you to retain the discounted price weeks or even months later if you simply mention that you saw them at the show. It's easy to get ripped off if you don't pay attention/shop around but it's a great opportunity to get free stuff and discounts. At one of the smaller shows I went to, I scored 2 prizes from vendor drawings- both for $200 off any package I wanted from those vendors! (And they weren't that pricey to begin with.) Thanks to a bridal show, my FH and I are saving $400 on an already affordable DJ and our one splurge- a photo booth.

    0 agree
  56. If you have a yard with some space (or your friend or family member does), you can grow your own flowers. That's what I'm thinking of doing. Seeds and bulbs are cheap, plus your flowers will mean a little more to you because they were lovingly grown from your own garden. (or your mom's!) This is especially great if having seasonal or indigenous flowers is important to you.

    Also if you're not particularly picky about flower arrangements for bouquets and/or centerpieces; Costco, Whole Foods or any store that sells fresh flowers are good options to consider. You buy them the day of or day before and they look nice for your wedding without costing an arm and a leg.

    2 agree
  57. Brewing your own beer costs lots more than $30 if you don't have any equipment. Yes, the ingredients can cost you $30, but the stuff to brew it will cost well over $100 + all the time you put into it.

    0 agree
  58. I'm here in Georgia and like everyone else I'm having a hard time finding a venue. I'm starting to feel overwhelmed by the whole thing, if any one has suggestions about where to look here in GA that would be great, the weddibg is set for December so outside is not an option. Another question, has any one thought of getting the bouquet at their local grocer that does flowers? Like a Kroger or something? I'm sure it would be cheaper then a florist.

    0 agree
  59. Here are my money-saving tactics to add to this:

    -we initially planned to use my mom's farm as the venue because it was a free venue, BUT it ended up adding up to over $4000 more than our final plan to rent out a restaurant. That's because we would have needed to rent every fork, spoon, plate, tablecloth, chair, etc., which, even with paper plates and ikea cutlery (ideas give by other OBBs) can really, really add up. Literally everything that a professional venue would provide would have to be provided by you, even washrooms (at the very least you would need the manual labour to dig holes in the ground…). So for us, by renting a restaurant we got everything but the clothing, the officiant and licence, and the rings, for half the cost of bringing everything to our own private location.
    -The other cool thing about the restaurant is that they should only charge you as much as or slightly more than they have made historically on your wedding date – so if you can pick an off-season date this will also be beneficial for the restaurant rental plan. Unfortunately our wedding is in a university town in the fall, so peak season for this particular place. But remembering our wonderful vacation to Prince Edward Island in October, we felt like the only people on the island and could have had a restaurant reception for peanuts there!
    -Our chef/restaurant manager said that our event is an advertisement for him going out to 60 people who may not have known about the restaurant before. He wants to present the food and the atmosphere so all 60 of our guests become frequent diners. Also, he hopes to please us so we come back every year on our anniversary.

    -we did downsize the plan to a city hall ceremony, and this really only saved us money on guest seating.
    -we opted for no wedding party, as our closest friends and family will want to help us out even without a fancy title and a matchy dress. This saves money on things like bridal party attire and hair/makeup and gifts for the bridal party, if you were thinking of spoiling them in the traditional manner.

    -we are growing our own flowers and succulents

    -we found a professional pet photographer who is dappling in weddings and is very talented but new in the business (I wouldn't go with a new-in-the-business photographer unless s/he also had talent!) and because we are having a shorter even (ceremony at 6, cocktail reception at 7) and we don't need the photographer to stick around to watch our friends and family get sweaty and wasted, we only need him for 3 hours at a quote of $300. Also, anyone who loves animals enough to photograph them professionally will get us.

    -the one store-bought decoration we are doing is antiqued hurricane lanterns. I found them for $8 each at Bass Pro and I am receiving flyers to watch for them to go on sale. Then we will DIY antique them by scraping them down and rusting them.

    -As many people have mentioned, we cut our guest list down from 100 to 60. It was hard at first, but once you get yourself into a confident and self-assured mood, it gets easier!

    -We are asking for gift cards to Staples and to our local hair salon for birthdays and Christmases. We will design our own STDs and invitations and print them at Staples using the gift cards, and wedding day hair and make-up will also be pre-paid from gifts.

    -I am having a friend of a friend make my dress and I am buying the fabric on eBay.

    -Favours: we are tapping maple trees at my mom's farm this spring and making maple syrup, and in September we will pick apples at my mom's farm and make apple butter. We will can these farm-fresh delicacies in small (125ml) mason jars purchased in bulk and on sale from Canadian Tire for $5-$6/dz ( I love the sale notifications on websites). I initially planned to use old jars that we had bought with random stuff in them, but I have had several of these random jars break on me after re-using for canning. Maybe if you can be sure the glass thickness is right it would be safe to use recycled jars to can your favours.

    -Finally, we have an amazing Guiness cake recipe that stays ridiculously moist for days. An aunt has offered to take our recipe and bake the cake as her gift to us. She promises to practice working with fondant ahead of time. We also found a great Etsy vendor who makes little gum paste edible fall leaves for $10/24 leaves to put on the cake. Sugar art is much more pricey than gum paste.

    And these have been my most effective tactics for cropping the budget.

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  60. If you are doing a church wedding, consider the church hall. It may not be the prettiest, but there is a lot you can do when you think of it as a blank slate. A quick search of Pinterest turns up many interesting ideas.
    At my church, we are allowed to BYOB, so we'll be offering both hard and soft punches. And then, because we have a kitchen, we can do heavy appetizers. A friend of mine from work does banquets on the side, and said she would be willing to take care of heating the hot things, and keeping the platters (from the local awesome grocery chain) filled. I am premixing the punches, so only the fizzy elements need to be added when the punch bowls are refilled.

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  61. Please be aware that a public park is not necessarily a "free" park. for liability reasons, you are more than likely going to need to check with the city to see if you need to apply for a permit to have a wedding in the park – and that permit may have a cost. in addition, the city may also require, depending on the circumstances, that you have security – which may also come at a price. they may also have laws restricting what you can bring into the park, or what you can install, no matter how short term. Lastly, a public park is just that – public. no-one is under any obligation to not be playing baseball nearby, or to stay away from their favorite sunbathing spot…and so on. Check at your City Hall to make sure that what you want to do is on the right side of the law.

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    • Seconding this. We're doing ceremony + reception at a very nice public park in June 2014, and while they include tables, chairs and AV equipment and allow us to use any caterer we want, we had a bit of a surprise when we found out how much it was going to be to pay for the required off-duty police officer to patrol while we're serving alcohol and chairs for the ceremony (they provide chairs for the reception, but don't allow them to leave the building). Those two things alone added $1000 to our low-cost park wedding, and our total budget is still going to be pretty low, but they were expenses we definitely weren't expecting.

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  62. The one thing this article doesn't mention is to try to make a basic spreadsheet and compare what the TOTAL costs of things will be.
    (Much like when buying a house, you should be looking at the total amount you will have paid at the end of the mortgage including all interest and fees- not just the monthly price you pay).
    I found wild variation between venues in terms of what was included (chairs? tables? linens? plates? silverware? glasses?) and you can get really nickel'n'dimed on that stuff.

    So ideally a spreadsheet would include for each venue:
    -ceremony venue fee(s)
    -reception venue fee(s)
    -chairs or other seating for ceremony
    -ditto for reception
    -tables for reception
    -tablecloths
    -napkins
    -silverware
    -flatware
    -audio/visual equipment (is there a sound system for recorded music? microphones or sound system for toasts? or do you have to hire a DJ, etc.)
    -lighting equipment (one venue may have perfect mood lighting for each portion of the evening; another may require xmas lights, spot lamps, etc. for specific mood lighting)
    -transportation costs (how far away from a hotel or other guest lodging is it; will you be subsidizing a bus or other transportation?)

    Once I added that stuff up, I found out that some places that had a cheap price tag would be much more expensive than they appeared.

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