Getting Married on a Budget? How to Throw a Wedding for Under $6k

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getting married on a budgetYou’re getting married! Congrats! And since you are here, it’s likely you are getting married on a budget as well.  However, if you’re not the one planning the wedding and you still clicked on this article, you may be the one paying for the upcoming nuptials. Welcome to this safe space.

Getting Married on a Budget? How to Throw a Wedding for Under $6k

This post was written by our staff writer, Kerah Kemmerer.

Considering that the average cost of a wedding was about $30k in the U.S. last year –  with the NYC area hosting the most pricey of affairs up to $75k – it’s safe to assume you would rather not be included in those averages.

Consider this post a guide of sorts as we take a look at average wedding costs and find ways to approach them from a more frugal, yet still classy perspective. Here is how to get married on a budget (and how it can be done for less than 6k!).

Let’s begin!

A wedding isn’t much fun without a few friends and family, right? Maybe just not a few hundred. So long as you aren’t part of the royal family, you should have a little more flexibility on the guest list.

Even when getting married on a budget, the bride and groom should decide which friends and family they would like to invite, but expect that mom and dad may have a few requests of their own. Even so, to save on costs, it’s a good idea to keep the list around 100-120 or so, if possible. For larger families, this may be difficult, however, draw the line somewhere (maybe don’t branch out to great aunts and uncles if there are too many) and stick to it

Invitations

Once you have the list made, it’s time for the invites. Did you know it can cost as much as $245 for just the invites and response cards? Once you include save-the-dates, menu cards, programs, thank you cards and place cards, you could be looking at an average total of $750 before postage!

Most of these items are going to end up in your guests’ trashcans within a few weeks anyway. In fact, you likely don’t even need anything other than the invites, anyway (place settings can be written on a chalkboard, etc.)

Here are a few alternative cost effective ideas.

  • Create a free wedding website. You can include all the relevant information + update it with any last minute changes. Just email or Facebook message the link to guests. Invite your grandparents personally though, and be sure to add it to their calendar!
  • Create DIY invites with stamps, stencils and card stock. These items can be found for a reasonable price at your local craft store, or maybe you have a friend who already has a collection of items on hand that you can borrow.
  • Design invites on your computer and print.
  • Check out pre-made designs from Staples or search for other online printing companies. One hundred 5×7 flat lay invites from Staples costs under $80.

Each of these above options should cost under $100 before postage.

Now that you know you’ll have a few guests, it’s time to decide where the festivities will take place.

Locating a venue can be tough. Not only will many places be booked up to a year in advance, they can cost you a pretty penny as well. While barns and smaller venues tend toward the lower end of the spectrum ($3-$7k), banquet halls and wineries can cost as much as $10-$20k. Many times this price will include the cake and caterer as well, but locks you in to whatever the location requires. Some only provide the building and tables/chairs in the price.

getting married on a budget - barn weddingVenue

Unless you had your heart set on a specific venue, there are actually quite a few low cost options available. Obviously, some of these will be best in milder weather, but there are a few indoor options for winter weddings as well.

  • Host an outdoor affair on a family or friend’s property. Huge plus if they have a barn space you can use.
  • Have a picnic-style reception in a park. Many have pavilions in the potential event of rain. Check out local, state and national parks.
  • Rent a space at your local fire hall. Prices DO vary quite a bit here, so be on the lookout for ways to negotiate. Ranges from $150 to $500.
  • Check out newer, local restaurants to see if they have a banquet room they would be willing to rent out. Since you will likely be among the first clients for them, ask if they can work with you on catering pricing and you will help spread the word about their venue.
  • Get married in a church and use their fellowship hall or gymnasium for the reception area.
  • Check with your local YMCA or other community building to see if can rent an indoor space or the outside grounds for a reasonable price (under $1k).

Any one of these options should cost no more than $1000-$1500 factoring in potential table, chair and tent rentals. 

Food

Of course you will need good food and drink to keep your guest’s happy, but it’s not always easy when you’re getting married on a budget! This is where things can get a little pricey with catering costs averaging around $4k for around a 100 guests.

However, with a little creativity, you can keep guests AND your bank account happy.

  • Host a picnic style meal! Provide staples like sandwiches, burgers, finger foods, potato and pasta salads, sauerkraut, fresh fruit and veggies. Don’t forget the drinks! Include soda, water, juice for kids and you can even throw in a keg or two for guests that enjoy a bit of beer with their kraut.
  • Create a taco bar! One of my friends set up a taco bar for her wedding reception and it was a huge hit! Just prepare all the fixings before hand and send guests through the build-your-own-burrito line. Everyone can customize to his or her needs and you can take the leftovers home!
  • Order from your local grocery store. Most grocery stores will prep large platters of items for you at a fraction of the cost of catering companies.
  • Don’t rule out caterers though. Some will not only provide the food, but also help with decor, set up, linens, clean-up and more. Determine how much you are willing to spend ahead of time and ask them if they would be willing to put together a custom-plan for your event budget.
  • Host a cocktail hour wedding. Provide desserts, hors d’oeuvres and coffee rather than a whole meal. My husband and I planned an evening wedding after the holidays and the lighter fare fit the bill. The best part? We did our shopping at Sams’s Club and only spent around $400 on food for about 110 guests.  Even if you throw in some wine, you could keep this as an option for getting married on a budget.

Again, the amount of guests will determine final costs, but plan to stay under $1k here.

Flowers

Flowers are definitely a staple at a wedding. Unless you are the type of bride who prefers to hand-craft her own paper pinwheels in place of flowers, of course.

Flowers are not cheap because florists put in a TON of hours. They begin by working with a client’s specific request, ordering and storing flowers, prepping the bouquets and centerpieces, delivering the morning of and oftentimes coming back to the event at the end of the night to collect their vases and other items. According to Wedding Wire, $1400 is the average cost for wedding day flowers. While this is certainly not a high price for the value you are receiving, it may not be the most viable option for getting married on a budget.

Here are some other cost-effective options:

  • Seek out places like Produce Junction or a farmer’s market to get flowers at a reduced rate. Assemble your own bouquets, centerpieces and boutonnieres. You can find many a tutorial on Youtube should you feel ill-prepared to take on this task. (Check out thrift stores for glass vases and fun decor pieces.)
  • Another option for assembling your own bouquet is to look for silk or faux flowers. You’ll have plenty of time to make the everything ahead with no fear of anything dying before the big day.
  • Visit a U-Pick or Pick-Your-Own flower farm. Google to find one closest to you.
  • Order whole-sale from FiftyFlowers.com or BloomsBytheBox.

While exact pricing is a bit tough to nail down depending on how many flowers you need, you should be able to easily keep this cost under $500.

getting married on a budget - cakeCake

Practically the main event at the wedding reception, this signature piece averages around $500 from a professional baker. Of course, costs will vary depending on how many guests need to be served, but when getting married on a budget, there are some definite alternative options.

  • Order a small cutting cake and buy sheet cakes from your local grocery store to serve to guests.
  • Order the whole cake from your local grocery or big box store.
  • Buy the ingredients and ask a a trusted friend or family member to make a few dozen cupcakes for a cupcake display. Make sure they are known for their baking capabilities AND that you give them a nice thank you gift in return.
  • Skip the cake completely. My husband and I served pie at our wedding and no one complained (to our faces anyway).
  • Provide a dessert or candy buffet by loading up on treats from Costco, Sam’s Club or BJS.

These alternatives should keep costs under $300.

Her Dress/His Suit

Just because you are getting married on a budget does not mean the attire has to suffer. While the average cost for a groom’s suit is around $350 to buy, (or $150 to rent), the bridal gown is a bit of a different story.

A gown can cost anywhere from several hundred to several thousand, with the overall average coming in just over $1k. 

Sure, the groom could keep his tux or suit for some future event or even sell it, but he could also go a little cheaper with a suit and tie he already owns. The wedding dress, however, is more of a once-and-done sort of fashion statement.

So what’s a gal to do? There are a few options actually:

  • Rent a wedding dress. Sites like Rent the Runway have an array of options to choose from at a fraction of the cost of owning.
  • Buy second-hand. Thrift stores often have vintage-style wedding dresses that just need a little TLC and maybe some alterations. Many are priced under $100!
  • Or, you can also check online for pre-owned wedding dresses. (If you already have a dress you no longer need, you can even sell it through that site!)
  • Choose another type of dress. For my own wedding, I went with a simple dress off the rack at JCPenney’s. It was the perfect style for an evening, winter wedding and only cost $45. No alterations needed.
  • If you have a family member or friend known for their sewing capabilities, you could always go the route of having your wedding dress hand-made. 

Depending on how intricate of a dress you choose, you can have wedding dress for less than $500!

Hair/Makeup

It’s no secret that brides want to look and feel their best on their wedding day, so hair and makeup is not an area to gloss over. Costs can vary quite a bit here and range from $150 to $600, with the average sliding in around $300.

Here’s what you can do:

  • If you happen to be pretty good at hair or makeup, do one part on your own and pay someone to do the other one. Or do it all on your own.
  • Ask a friend or family member if they would be willing to do it as a gift to you or for a discounted rate.
  • Go to the mall and get a free makeover done at one of the makeup counters before the wedding. It’s a bit of risk since you may not end up liking it, but it’s free!
  • Ask a makeup rep (think Mary Kay, Avon, etc.) if they would be willing to teach you how to apply makeup in exchange for buying one of their products.
  • Ask your bridal party to plan on doing there own hair and makeup ahead of meeting to get ready.

Looking at a pretty significant savings here if you already have all of your makeup on hand. Estimated cost – less than $50, and most likely free.

DJ

The cost of a great DJ can run from as low as $300 to over $1000 and so much of it depends on his or her years of experience, level of equipment and how many hours are needed. This may be an area you want to invest in a bit more if you are looking for someone to manage the flow of the reception and create a sweet party vibe. However, if you are okay with just having some music in the background and want to keep it a bit more casual to stick to getting married on a budget…

Here’s what you can do instead…

  • Make your own playlist and plug your device into an existing on-location sound system. If there isn’t one available, borrow or a rent a few portable or bluetooth speakers.
  • Ask a friend with some sound equipment if he or she would be your DJ for the night in for a small fee.

Your options here are free, DIY or splurge a few hundred for a pro. Maybe you know someone just getting started that can cut you a deal. Don’t hesitate to shop around for quotes.

Officiant

Now it’s time to think about the actual getting married part and having someone there to perform the ceremony! The average cost for a professional minister is around $300. If you know this person well, they may be willing to work with you on the cost, but don’t forget to honor their time with a gift if they do. They are still putting in their time and are a fairly required element to the whole day.

If you are still looking to save costs in this area, however, you have a few options:

  • Ask a friend or family member to hop online and become an ordained minister.  Be sure to check your specific state’s requirements on the legality of this option.
  • Get married in a civil ceremony at a courthouse city hall. Cost is around $50-$100.
  • See if your state allows for a self-uniting marriage license. You only need two witnesses to sign the license you then you are legally married. Even though we still had a wedding, my husband and I went with this option and had our dads sign as witnesses.

While you may not be able to save a ton of money here, the overall coast shouldn’t break your budget at this point – not with all the extra savings you’ve been finding!

getting married on a budget - photographerPhotographer

Finally, after all this work you are going to want to capture every detail of your day! Wedding photography is not cheap. Nor should it be since these professionals are going to be on their feet for 10-12 hours capturing some of your most treasured memories.

They have the gear, the lighting and the expertise to artfully capture your memories and will spend many hours post-ceremony hand-picking and fine-tuning these images. It’s no wonder a pro can cost anywhere from of $2-$10k per wedding.

Don’t freak out though!

While professional photography is truly a luxury, not everyone has room for it in their budget. My suggestion would be to cut costs in other areas and allow this to be your greatest expense. There are a few ways you can reduce the costs here without having to sacrifice quality.

Here are a few ideas.

  • Know someone who is newer to photography, but you like what you’ve seen of their work?  They will be looking to build their portfolio, but will still be providing a valuable service. Sit down with them to discuss what it would take to shoot your wedding and agree on a fair price together.
  • Reach out to a photographer you want and ask them if they could work with you on the amount of coverage they provide. For example, many photogs offer 8-hour packages at a set cost. However, ask them if they would be willing to provide coverage for 5 hours instead, and just have them skip the getting ready photos or leave after the main events of a reception are finished. You can save several hundred dollars this way.
  • This is a great area to trade event services if you have something you can offer. Can you do marketing? Offer to run Facebook ads in exchange for a photography discount. Bake cakes, clean houses, provide nanny services? Get creative and see if there is a way you can trade services for your wedding day photo coverage.
  • Maybe you have a few friends that are pretty good photographers. See if they would be willing to split up the day and take shifts on photo coverage as a gift to you. It wouldn’t hurt to send them all a thank you gift afterwards as they will be putting in plenty of hours after the wedding.

It would be safe to estimate costs here could still range from $1,000 – $1500. 

And one more idea:

  • If you don’t mind taking a risk and not having professional photos, ask guests to take photos and videos in lieu of a designated photographer and upload them to Instagram or sites like WedPics.

Getting Married on a Budget – That Covers Most of It!

BOOM! There’s a quite comprehensive list for getting married on a budget.

Granted, I didn’t discuss bridal party gifts or other odds and ends that you may crop up, but overall, these tips and ideas should get the ball rolling on some pretty significant savings. In fact, you may even have a bit of fun getting married on a budget!

Tell us about your ideas for getting married on a budget so we can add them to the list! Let us know in the comments below!

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