10 Tips on Planning a Wedding on a Budget

By Chelsea Lensing

While there is definitely a time-money trade-off for a lot of these tips, my goal was to plan our wedding with as much cost savings as possible. Although this did mean I spent a lot more time doing things myself, I enjoyed the planning and so it was a win-win! A lot of these tips can still be helpful if you don’t consider yourself a DIY-er if you have friends or family that enjoy these types of activities and are wanting to help you plan your big day.

  1. Create a “To Do” List
    • You can find more wedding planning checklists online than you would know what to do with. Some of them are shorter and more general, some of them are for when you’re planning a wedding with a short timeline, and some of them are full extensive packets with checklists down to every boutonniere you’ll need to buy. I suggest starting from one of these pre-made (and free) launch points and decided which checklist items apply to you. (Some examples are: June Bug Weddings, Visualistan, Botanical Paper Works, and the Corridor Wedding Guide.) After looking through these example checklists, make your own master “To Do” list so that you know what your planning goals are for your timeline up to the wedding.
  2. Create a Spreadsheet
    • No matter what your budget or guest list look like, a well-organized spreadsheet can do wonders for your sanity during the planning process. The guest-list spreadsheet can help you keep track of who you are inviting, how many guests you’re expecting, if you have sent out the invites, if they gave you a gift, if you have sent a thank you, etc. The budget spreadsheet can help you estimate how much moolah you’ll need for the celebration, and which items you have already paid for. If you plan to have an open bar or pay for any part of the beverages during the night, it can be helpful to estimate how much you’ll be spending on alcohol and an estimate of how many drinks that will buy your guests. You can download the budget and guest spreadsheet that I used here. This spreadsheet also contains national averages on estimated costs which is helpful for getting an idea of the cost of the wedding you are planning.
  3. Find venues where you can bring your own food and/or alcohol
    • Some brides may prefer an all-inclusive venue where they do not have to worry about searching for a caterer or coordinating bringing their own alcohol. But, if you don’t have a strong preference on this aspect, finding a venue that allows you to choose the caterer and bring your own alcohol can save you a lot of money. Most venues that provide their own cater and alcohol have huge up-charges from the price you would pay bringing in your own.
  4. Purchase Online Templates to Create Your Own Invite
    • There are a ton of different online templates that you can pay to download once, and then edit to your own needs. Etsy has a beautiful variety and most downloads include templates for the invite, the RSVP card, the reception card, etc. After using the template to create your invite, you can print and cut them at home or send them off to get printed at your local office supply store or craft store. Invitations can cost upwards of $1,000 for 150 guests to get them printed by a stationer, so this is a great way to save money.
  5. Look for Online Deals through Photo Websites or Groupon
    • If you don’t want to create your own Save the Dates or Invites and are wanting to purchase your Save the Dates or invites through a photo card website (we ordered Save the Dates through Vistaprint and made our own invites through an online Etsy template), wait for a sale to pull the trigger. Many photo card websites (Vistaprint, Shutterfly, Printerpix, Minted) will run large sales frequently. Another great resource for purchasing cards online is Groupon. Groupon almost always has at least one online company running a sale on photo cards.
    • Another sneaky workaround for those who are willing to go the extra step is to use your purchased online template to create exactly the Save the Date or Invitation card you want, and then upload that as a photo to an online photo card website. This way you have created exactly the card/invite that you want, and it will get printed on the paper you want and mailed to you directly with envelopes already included.
  6. Print Envelopes at Home Through Mail Merge
    • Whether you order your invites from a photo card website or print them yourselves, you’ll need to address the envelopes. Even adding your return address to the envelopes from one of these sites can cost you a lot of extra $$. If you are using an Excel spreadsheet for your guest list, you can easily set up a mail mere with Word and print your envelopes (with return address and guest’s mailing address) with your home computer. Instructions can be found here. If you are addressing your own envelopes this will save you a ton of time!
  7. Order bridesmaid’s dresses online
    • Whether you are paying for the bridesmaids dresses or they are, it will save money all around to order the dresses from an online boutique. There are many online stores that have free shipping and returns so that your gals can order a couple different dresses or a couple sizes if they are worried about the fit. For the most part dresses online can be much less expensive than ordering through a boutique. Start ordering color swatches from different sites to find your color(s)! These sites will also run sales, so let your bridesmaids know what color or dress and then they can watch for a good deal.
  8. Consider using fake flowers
    • There are many benefits to using fake flowers for the bouquets or centerpieces (or both). First, they are MUCH cheaper. They last longer, they don’t wilt, and you can use them again or sell them. The average couple spends over $2,000 on floral between the centerpieces and personal flowers. There are many online DIY tutorials for how to put together beautiful silk flower bouquets. (This can be a fun way for a mom, aunt, or grandma who likes to craft to help get involved too!) We used a combination of silk floral/greenery and dried greenery like eucalyptus. Craft stores like Michael’s and Hobby Lobby will have large sales on all floral and you can stock up on supplies for relatively very little money.
  9. Utilize Online Stores
    • Anything that is labeled “wedding” is going to have a huge markup. General online retailers like Amazon have a lot of items that can be used for a wedding that are much cheaper than getting them in the wedding section of a retail store or from a specialized wedding website. A few examples of items that I bought very cheap online were tea lights, wedding veil, wedding party gifts, jewelry, shoes, craft lights, thank you cards, and the list goes on. We also waited until Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales and bought some other things like our koozies and gift cards for the salon that was doing hair for the bridesmaids.
  10. Negotiate With Vendors
    • Do your research on different vendors in the area so that you have an idea of what is a reasonable price. And then use that to your advantage to negotiate! I recommend using Chloe’s guide to negotiating for all vendors from the venue to caterer. The worst they can say is no!

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