The average wedding cost is $29,000. Reading that figure can cause many brides to hyperventilate. When I first started budgeting for my wedding, I nearly had a panic attack. In my wedding planning process, I learned a lot about catering options, florists, and venues. I also learned that a beautiful wedding does not have to cost nearly thirty thousand dollars. Of course, if you want to have a gala affair and you can afford it, that is great. Whether you want a sweet, budget wedding or an upscale formal wedding, your first step is to determine your budget. In most areas of the country a modest but enjoyable wedding can be held for about $12,000. Food, liquor, reception venue rental, and photographer are usually the biggest wedding expenses, aside from the honeymoon.

Figuring Out Your Wedding Budget

There are two ways to determine your budget. The first is to look at how much money you already have saved up for your wedding or are willing to spend on the event. If you are getting help from a parent, their contribution might determine your budget. If you already know how much you can spend, you will then have to choose your options wisely so that you can stay within your pre-determined budget.

If you do not know how much you are going to spend already, start by making a list of services and items that you will need. Here are nineteen of the main wedding expenses: rings, officiant, reception venue, save the date cards, invitations, caterer, wedding cake, flowers, wedding dress, tuxedo, travel expenses, photographer, videographer, DJ, honeymoon, limo rental, decorations, thank you cards, and wedding day pampering or salon services. This is by no means a comprehensive list. As you start putting your wedding together, you will undoubtedly discover other little items you need. When you make your budget, set aside a certain amount of money for unexpected expenses. This will give you a little bit of a cushion.

Once you have your list of wedding expenditures, start doing your research. Wedding costs vary a great deal depending on your location. Call local caterers and other wedding service providers and get estimates. Once you get estimates from your main wedding service providers, total them up. If this figure is too high to be a feasible budget for you and your fiancé, you will have to use some creative methods to cut costs. This is a good starting point if you do not know how much to expect to pay. You might want to call several area caterers, florists, etc, so that you can get an idea on the average cost.

Cutting Back Expenses

Consider a different day of the week for your wedding. A mid-week wedding can be much cheaper than a weekend affair. Of course, it might be harder for your friends and family to take time off in the middle of the work week.

Cutting back on the guest list is one of the easiest ways to save money. Most catering companies charge per person, so a smaller guest list means a smaller expenditure on food.

If you have a very small budget, do not be afraid to self-cater. If either you or your fiancé have any cooking skills, you will be able to find delicious dishes that can be prepared in advance. Another option, if cooking simply is not your arena of expertise, is to have a potluck. Your friends and family can bring their favorite dishes to share. This works well if you have a lot of friends and relatives that live in the town where the wedding will be held. Do not ask out of town guests to provide a dish, as this is difficult for travelers.

Another way to avoid blowing your budget on food is to skip the full meal. Have a cocktail reception instead of a dinner reception and just serve appetizers. Your guests will enjoy trying all the little offerings and you will save money. A cocktail reception is a great option if you are self-catering. It is much less stressful than trying to prepare a full meal.

For a budget wedding, you will undoubtedly have to use plenty of creativity to make sure you come in at or under budget. This is a positive, because it ensures that your wedding reflects the personality of you and your future spouse.

The Memorable Budget Wedding

My wedding was a cheap, but fun outdoor affair. I had mine at a shelter at a state park, and friends and family brought potluck dishes to share. Outdoor weddings can become expensive if you rent tents, but park shelters are generally quite cheap. Additionally, having your reception at an outdoor venue can save you money on decorations. Because of the natural beauty, you will not need to spend a fortune on flowers or other embellishments. Make sure that you have a backup plan in case of bad weather. Many parks have indoor halls that you can rent. For beverages, we had a keg of beer and pitchers of margaritas. Limiting your guests to beer and wine and a single cocktail is much cheaper than having an open bar. We spent about three thousand dollars total, not including rings. We decided against a professional photographer, and had a friend snap shots instead.

If you are on a very tight budget, it might help you to think about your reception as a party. As long as you have friends, family, food, and music, everyone will have a good time. No matter how much money you spend on your wedding, you and your friends and family will remember your special day forever.

An Upscale Wedding Event

If you are planning an upscale wedding, make sure that it has some personal touches. Do not let your wedding planner or venue consultant make all your decisions for you. Some of my friends who were married in a grand fashion felt like they were left out by the florists, caterers, and decorators in the decision making process. Make sure that you dedicate your financial resources to having a wedding that really tells your story. Consider having the wedding at a place that is meaningful to you, or use your venue to enhance and emphasize the overall theme of your wedding.

An upscale option that I find delightful is the period wedding. Pick your favorite era and theme your wedding so that it matches the overall aesthetic of that period. Even within one decade, there are plenty of stylistic options.
Browse old magazines to get a feel for the period of your choice. Cut out or print pictures of dresses that you particularly like. A seamstress or wedding dress boutique stylist can help you find a modern dress that incorporates some of the stylistic elements of your favorite decade. If you want to go all out with your theme, look for a vintage wedding dress and then have it tailored to fit you. Look at historic properties in your area. An upscale venue with both style and history would be perfect for a period reception. Instead of a limo you could have a vintage automobile pick you up. The theme possibilities are endless.