Tie the Knot for Less: Frugal Ideas for the Recessionista Bride

Wedding trends these days lean minimalistic. For an engaged couple on a tight budget, this is good news. Simple and elegant styles are leading the way. From ring designs to cakes and bouquets, less is more, and with the right planning, your bank account can reflect the savings. 

It’s best 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.

Here are some ways to save on the main elements of wedding planning.

Discount Dressing
The first line of thinking for a bargain bride should be to find a dress you could borrow from a friend who is the same size. Or maybe your mom is hoping you’ll wear her wedding gown — if it’s anywhere near your size, don’t write it off. Take it to a seamstress who can suggest some alterations to make it fit your personality or feel like a more modern dress (with your mother’s permission, of course).

Visit local consignment shops to find used wedding dresses. You can find new and used gowns online at sites like your local craigslist.org and eBay.com.

A bride looking for a little more bling can rent a designer gown for around $100 a night. It’s not a bad way to get the expensive look you want for a fraction of the cost. And if you’re dead set on owning a designer gown, let me introduce you to the “sample sale.” These sales happen in New York City and Los Angeles a few times a year when designers unload the gowns they made to experiment with a new style. You can find these about 80 percent off.

Frugal Flowers

  • Have your wedding scheduled during a season when the church is decorated already (perhaps after Mother’s Day or during Christmas or Easter).
  • Avoid February when flower prices skyrocket. Paying too much for flowers is not romantic.
  • Use in season and easy accessible flowers. Your florist can fill you in on what in season flowers will complement each other (like roses and carnations).
  • Mix fake greenery in with real flowers. It will save time and the greenery won’t wilt before the flowers do.
  • Mix silk flowers with real flowers—especially in large arrangements. This will save time and money.
  • If you choose to make your own arrangements, consult a seasonal flower guide that will give you insight into which flowers will work best for a wedding. Visit www.classyweddingfavors.com for a detailed list of good flower choices for each month.

Invitation to Save
A budget bride can design the invitation herself (or have a friend design it for her) and bring the digital file (make sure you copy the fonts used if you’re not creating a PDF) to a local print shop, which can print it on the paper and process of your choice.

A simple way to cut down on the cost of postage on your invitations is to keep the size between 3 1/2 by 5 to 6 1/8 by 11 1/2 inches and the paper weight within USPS specification.

Program Pazaaz
Create a folded wedding booklet using a word processing program (or desktop publishing program if you have one on your computer). Stick to two fonts (one serif like a script font and one sans serif like a gothic font) to give it a clean, elegant look (go to www.dafont.com for free, cool fonts). In addition to the order of events during your ceremony, include thank-yous, bridal party participants, love poems or quotes, a story of how the two of you met, and pictures. If your reception site is not where the ceremony takes place, you could include directions.

Decorating Deals

Choose three focal points and really make a statement. Go overboard with the few places you decorate. (And whatever you end up buying, try to make them pieces you can reuse later in your home—then your decorations are investments and visual reminders of your wedding.)

Focus on what’s already at your disposal. Use any plant, silk arrangement, or decorative element that your site already has. Rearrange plants or trees from other places in the church from their common places to create a framed area around the entrance.

If you have steps leading to the front door, place inexpensive pots of flowers on the outside alternating steps. Or, place potted trees on either side of the entrance. Decorate each one with small white lights. Consider renting plants if your site doesn’t have any that will work.

Decorate any banisters, railings, or columns with garlands of ivy or white lights if you’re having an evening wedding. If you are using a theme, find a large item (like a Christmas tree if you’re having a Christmassy wedding in December) to set the tone for what’s to come.

Picture Perfect
Wedding photography is quite possibly the most important part of your wedding, but it’s one in which you will feel the least control over because you can’t actually do it yourself. If there’s any one area to splurge for during your wedding, this is it.

But just because you’re going for quality in this area doesn’t mean you have to pay top dollar. As with any area of your wedding, start your hunt for a photographer by asking around. Recent brides can give you an objective assessment of what they liked about their photographer and how fair they felt the prices were.

An easy way to cut costs is to hire a professional photographer for just the ceremony and formal portraits. Have friends who know their way around a camera to cover before-the-wedding candid shots and the reception fun.

Real Receptions
This biggest factor in reception costs is the amount of guests who will be attending. To calculate how many will actually attend, take the total number of guests you have invited and multiply by .66. Multiply that number by 1.15. Example: 300 invited x .66 = 198 x 1.15 = 228 people expected. This website claims that the formula has a 90 percent accuracy rate and could save you from overspending on food and materials for the reception.

Have a dessert or finger-foods reception buffet-style. Instead of having serving tables for the food, consider placing a portion of the food on the center of each guest table. This will eliminate the need for centerpieces and keep your guests happily munching throughout the night. The only drawback is having enough tables and chairs for all your guests.

If you do a dessert or punch reception, you can have a few tables scattered through the site and line chairs up along the wall to encourage your guests to stand and mingle. This will prevent your guests from staying all night long and will promote socialization.

Additional Resources

Lastly, enjoy this season and don’t dwell on money. Think about making good choices. Plan your dream wedding wisely and you’ll have a wedding that you’ll remember only good things about (instead of regretting each month as you pay your credit card bill).

For even more in-depth ways to save money on your wedding, check out Cheap Ways to Tie the Knot. The book includes more than 200 tips from real wedding couples, plus DIY crafts and projects that will make your day personal and unique.

Add a Comment

Your Name:

Your Email:



You can also save a lot on wedding favors and still give very thoughtful favors. As a designer of wedding bookmarks, I've received a lot of compliments and several different ideas on how bookmarks can be used for favors and at the same time giving each place setting a little extra color.
Posted by Karen
As a wedding photographer, I have a couple of tips that may save you money. First, do you really need a wedding photographer the whole day! Most people only really need one for the period around the actual ceremony, which is only a couple of hours. The rest of the day can be covered in a far more casual way. A trick I've seen one or two people use, is to give a couple of reasonable quality digital cameras to guests who have a flair for photography. Teenagers, who can get a little bored sometimes at weddings are ideal. Give them the job of unofficial wedding photographer and you'll be amazed at the quality of the pictures they take. P
Posted by pat-brighton photographer