Photo by the talented Luke Mazurek Photography
We pulled off our dream frugal wedding for $7,000 with just 9 months of planning time. Here are some of the most helpful tips we realized along the way!
Strategy 1: Book & Buy Early!
I know you’ve heard this one before, but hear me out.
Early booking can mean big savings on vendors!
Getting a jumpstart on booking our wedding photographer saved us big time – it might have even been the smartest thing we did.
We found a local photographer with a beautiful portfolio and scooped him up early — just two months after we put our deposit down, his rates doubled!
Engagement shoot + Full Day of Wedding Photography (no time limit) + Final Photos all delivered via Google Drive = $637!
I just peeked at his rates and the same package today (2 months after our wedding) would cost us $2,000 (and rightfully so, he rocks!) – Wedding Budget WIN!
Strategy 2: Shop Clearance
All of that super cute decor at Michael’s in the wedding aisle? It goes on clearance annually – as low as 90% Off! I stocked up on everything from table numbers to light-up signs and adorable banners during this end-of-wedding-season clearance event the last 2 years!
Pro tip: Target marks down tons of “holiday” decor at 90% off after each major holiday (Valentine’s Day, Christmas, 4th of July, etc) — keep your eyes peeled for gold-mine multi-purpose items like string lights, chalk markers, vases and more!
Strategy 3: Ditch the Traditions You Can Live Without
Cut out the traditional-tiered cake and opt for a decadent donut display!
A giant-tiered wedding cake might be your thing, but what if you could have adorable donuts as your wedding dessert? We priced out cake, cupcakes, and donuts — the donuts won hands down and were a huge hit with our guests.
Champagne toasts are lovely, but most people will be happy to toast with what they’re already sipping on. Skip the champagne toast for an easy savings of a few hundred dollars (Use it to buy more donuts!)
Pass on the standard overcooked chicken & fish!
Have fun with your food choice! Go with a local staple that everyone will enjoy and you could cut your food bill significantly. We recommend barbeque — just search for a food truck or a restaurant nearby that offers catering — your guests and your budget will thank you!
Savings Example: $25+ per plate traditional wedding dinner vs. $16.95 per plate for catered BBQ with 2 meats, 4 sides, and non-alcoholic beverages!
Choose a non-traditional venue to save THOUSANDS!
Think about a non-traditional frugal wedding venue idea to save some money. Maybe you know somebody who has a lot of land, or maybe you can find a beautiful non-traditional venue for a lot less than an expensive event hall. We chose a state park!
Once we started browsing through all of the Virginia State Park wedding venues, we honestly had a hard time choosing one — there are so many gorgeous spots! Alternatively you could check with local parks, arboretums, or any other beautiful natural spaces in your area.
We ended up choosing Claytor Lake State Park in Dublin, VA: just a few hours south, close to my Alma Mater (Virginia Tech) and set with a gazebo right on the lake! Our total cost for the outdoor wedding space and reception was just $702 – it was an added bonus for us that our money would be going to the state park system!
Strategy 4: Re-Purpose
Chances are that you have some items in your home or your parents’ homes that would look great at your wedding or reception!
We used an antique frame that my mom had to make a sign that would take the place of printed wedding programs (eco-friendly + budget-friendly!) We removed the mirror and added a large piece of cardboard sprayed with chalk paint for a blank canvas.
Take a look at your wall decor – is there something special that represents you as a couple? Even simple framed photos make a lovely touch to venue decor for a reception.
Strategy 5: Ask for Help
Put out a request on social media or through friends & family to see if anyone around you might be happy to help out with your special day. We landed our officiant who was a friend of the family and wanted to offer his services as a gift to us.
Maybe you have a friend or family member who would like to get into wedding planning, or someone who loves to craft or bake. When we needed a DJ, a good friend connected me with someone I had known years ago who was now a student at a nearby college and loved to DJ. He didn’t have his equipment at school, but through the same social channels I re-connected with someone else I knew who worked for a sound equipment company in the same area we were getting married in.
Between two kind acquaintances, I got our entire DJ setup for a fraction of the price we would have paid anyone else!
Another idea is to put out a request on social media or through the old-fashioned grapevine for any wedding decor you could borrow.
Several people we knew were willing to let us come over and comb through their wedding stash in their basements and garages. We landed some cute signs & an awesome stand to display donuts on this way!
Strategy 6: Look for Easy Discounts
Don’t be shy — ask anyone and everyone for discounts! If you or your spouse are a veteran, fire and rescue, a teacher, or any other kind of awesome person who works to better the world, check to see if you can get a discount from your photographer, florist, venue, etc. We got a discount from our wedding photographer for my husband’s service in the U.S. Army. It never hurts to ask!
You could also try specifically searching for wedding vendors who offer those discounts (in my opinion, they tend to be kind people who aren’t just in the profession for the cash + supporting those who appreciate our veterans is always a win!)
Did you know that you can buy gift cards online for 10%, 20%, even 50% off? There are great gift card websites like Raise.com and Cardpool.com that we use regularly to save on dinner dates, camping gear, clothing, and more — check for discounted gift cards to Michaels.com, Target.com, even David’s Bridal and Men’s Wearhouse or a wedding dress retailer of your choice!
I got CRAZY lucky with this strategy… I found an eBay listing for two David’s Bridal Gift Cards at 50% Off! Total spent = $500 for $1,000 worth of David’s Bridal gift cards – YES! Although I purchased my dress before they arrived, I used these to pay for my sister’s bridesmaid dress, my bridal accessories (veil, sash, and headband), my mother-in-law’s dress, a pair of sparkly flats for after the ceremony, PLUS some adorable swag to advertise my newlywed status on the honeymoon. HUGE BUDGET WIN!
Back to my dress — at the time I was ready to purchase it I did a bit of research and found that if you added something to your cart and created an account, but didn’t check out, they would email you a 10% off coupon code. I did this AND started tracking their online promotions, finding that on Monday morning’s they would typically have some kind of flash sale for a percentage or dollar amount off.
When the timing was right, I added the dress to my cart, used the flash sale promo code, and added my 10% off promo code from my email — VOILA! Over $140 in savings!
Flowers were a bit trickier to find a deal on. You could always check to see if you might know someone who likes to arrange flowers, or do the DIY method with beautiful baby’s breath bouquets for your bridesmaids and something more complex just for the bridal bouquet.
When wedding planning began to take over our lives (and believe me, it really does) we made the call to save some money and time by ordering beautiful arranged bouquets from Sam’s Club – yes, really! They have amazing color choices available for any wedding style. I chose some classic looking white rose arrangements, but they have so many options! Here’s a handy link to view the wedding bouquet packages.
These packages even come with corsages, boutonnieres, flower petals for your flower girl, and a toss-away bouquet for the bouquet toss!
If you’re looking to save even more and don’t mind doing just a bit of work, they have these amazing Farm Fresh Bunch Flower packages — be sure to browse through the reviews to see how other brides used these – it’s pretty amazing! You could take care of all of your flowers for about $100 with this route!
Strategy 7: Get Creative
If you have a basic printer and a functioning computer, the world of wedding printables is your playground!
I purchased DIY invitation kits at 70% Off from Target and designed my own invites in Photoshop, but you could easily do the same in Microsoft Publisher, Word, OR Powerpoint (Just set your dimensions to the paper size in Power Point and go for it!). Use Google Doc options like Google Slides if you don’t have access to Microsoft, or sign up for a Free 30 Day Trial of Photoshop.
I use a $10 a month Photoshop plan for work, so I decided to go with this for my invites, rehearsal dinner invites, “Find Your Seat” print outs, favors, donut to-go bags, and more.
Strategy 8: Make a List
When you get wrapped up in all of the pre-wedding activities, it’s easy to lose sight of what matters to you. An hour on Etsy will drain your bank account. An evening on Pinterest will de-rail all of your budget hopes and dreams. A quick glance at someone else’s wedding video or album on Facebook will leave you with dreams of the most elaborate decor and maybe even a video of your own.
Sitting down with your partner right at the beginning of the planning process and making a list of what really matters to you will help you to keep your focus later on.
Think about what would make your day… Do you imagine a video to relive the day at the end of it all (hey, it’s ok if you do! Put it on your list!) or would you be happy with a great photographer? Do you envision purchasing a beaded designer gown, or could you rent something or find a great sale at David’s Bridal? Are you looking for a big dance party, or could you DIY your reception playlist or ask a friend for help and get the party going on your own?
Make a list of what matters the most to you as a couple, and just do your best with the rest. Try to remind yourself of this at every step of the process: It’s your day and the start of your future — don’t let anyone else’s expectations or opinions come into play and drag you into debt!
Let us know if you have any questions or if you found anything we listed to be helpful. We plan to do some more in-depth posts based on specific parts of our frugal wedding budget and would love your suggestions! If you have any other tips, we’d love to hear those too!