11 Steps to a Frugal Wedding

The two most important strategies when getting your wedding game plan together are “organize” and “prioritize.” Once that ring goes on your or your fiancée’s hand, it’s easy for your daydreaming to turn into a dysfunctional mess of details. 

1. The first order of business is to talk about is dates (if you’re wanting to plan this thing within a year). What season of the year do you want to get married? Keep in mind the height of the wedding season also brings higher prices with wedding vendors. How many months do you want to allot to wedding planning? You don’t need the national average of 11 months. You can do it in three months, but if you don’t want to stress yourself out, six months is a comfortable period. When discussing specific dates with your new fiancé, talk to your friends and family who will play an integral part of the wedding about what dates are workable for them.

2. Next, discuss exactly that — who should make up the wedding party? How many attendants will you have? Remember the more people in your wedding party, the higher the costs will be. Make a separate list of people you’d like to include in your wedding, but not as a traditional attendant, usher, etc. There are many ways to include a host of friends and family in your celebration.

3. Get an organizer (clean out one you haven’t used since college instead of buying a new one) to house all your thoughts and ideas. Use it to keep magazine clippings, brainstorms written on napkins, photographs and swatches. Make sure you keep these for later use in a scrapbook (if you’re the scrapbooking kind. And if not, ask a friend to create one as wedding gift if they’re looking for ideas.) Later your organizer will become more, um, organized, as scraps of paper turn into spreadsheets and typed notes.

But in the beginning, let your imagination run wild and find ideas in magazines, photos and catalogs for all elements of your wedding day. It’s easy at this point to spend half your wedding budget on expensive bridal magazines. Resist the urge. They’re full of ads anyway, not actual content. Find one or two magazines that you absolutely love and feel like have some useful content or pictures that you’ll want to keep. Ask around for friends and family members to see if anyone has a stack of wedding magazines from their wedding planning days within the last two years. You’ll be amazed at what comes out of the woodwork.

Once you’ve clipped pictures of bouquets, dresses, cakes and grooms you like (oh, wait, you already have that last item), you’ll probably begin to see a theme or color scheme emerge.

4. Now’s the time to infuse fantasy with reality. Set a budget. Talk with anyone who might be helping out financially with the wedding (bride’s or groom’s parents) and decide who is willing to pay for what.

My book, Cheap Ways to Tie the Knot, suggests a budget of $5,000. It’s best for you to plan below your means to leave room for last-minute purchases or unforeseen expenses. It’s highly possible to plan a wedding well under $5,000 — and as many unsuspecting brides and their families find out each year, it’s really easy to go far past the budget you have in mind. Preparation is your only protection.

5. Order your wedding rings. You have many options here but the wise choice is to buy from a reputable (reputable doesn’t have to equal expensive) dealer that you can come back to if you have any problems. We got a simple white gold band from a national chain that went perfectly with my new solitaire for under $50. Many wholesale warehouse chains like Sam’s Club and Costco offer very affordable, quality jewelry.

6. Request the wedding date from the church where you plan to have the wedding. Meet with the minister who will officiate your wedding. The church administrator will probably assign a wedding coordinator to you who will be your liaison throughout the process and explain any rules or restrictions the church might have for its weddings.  

7. Chances are you’ve been dreaming about your wedding gown before you were even aware boys existed. Now’s the time to start looking for your dream gown and the attire for the rest of your wedding party. Remember the theme you’ve chosen and get out those clippings of dresses that have caught your eye. Write down the four or five consistent characteristics and limit your search to dresses that fall within those. No use browsing through 150 dresses online with a drop waist if you’re sold on an empire waist.

8. Make your guest list. The number of guests will definitely affect your overall budget — especially if you’re serving food. But it’s not impossible to have a good-sized wedding on a small budget. If you’re apart of a church family, it may be customary to have an open invitation to the church as well as your private list of family and friends.

9. Start planning your pre-wedding parties, ceremony, reception and honeymoon. My fiancé took over all honeymoon-planning details to free me up to focus on the ceremony and reception. His mother volunteered to put together the wedding rehearsal dinner and friends took over the shower planning responsibilities. If there’s ever a time in your life when you allow others to give you a hand, now is it.

10. Start interviewing and hiring vendors from the wedding coordinator (if you don’t have one yet and want one) to the photographer, florist and caterer.

11. Legalize it. Check state requirements for obtaining a marriage license and find out how long it’s valid (normally 30 days).

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Thanks for the tips. I will print it out and make it as my guide as we are planning to get married next year.
Posted by Betty

Thanks for the post! These are all great points and I am sure that you have helped bring down quite a few people's blood pressure by clearly defining that not all weddings need be out of hand financially and it is still very much possible to get by on a smaller budget. Thanks again! Chris

Posted by Chris
Wedding planning on a small budget of around $5000 was a big challenge for me, especially as I also had to organize it all long distance as we lived a couple of thousand miles from where we chose to get married. Our wedding was held at a wedding reception center that also provided accommodation. The ceremony was held in the gardens while the reception was indoors. I saved money by making a lot of elements myself, such as the veil, invitations, placecards, favors etc. I got a local dressmaker to make the wedding outfits and a local craft lady to do all the floral bouquets using silk flowers. In the end, it didn't matter that I compromised on the theme because we had a perfect wedding. I think the most important resource that every bride needs to plan a successful wedding, is a good wedding planning guide. Most of us don't have any previous experience with planning such an important event so it's important to know what you're doing and to keep track of everything as you go. There is a lot of planning involved in organizing a wedding and it is easy to become overwhelmed by it all. The beauty of a good wedding guide is that it divides up the planning process into small segments so that you don't have to do everything all at once and therefore reduce the stress levels that come with all weddings, whether you do your own planning or get someone else to do it for you.
Posted by Marieanne Hodson: The Wedding Fairy Planner
I like the idea of the $5000 budget. I think so many people would hear that and think it is ridiculous, but I think it's reality. A lot of people blow that on the wedding rings alone, but there are a lot of good alternatives out there.
Posted by Wade The Tungsten Ring Guy