Love is all you need, according to The Beatles. Based on research from Zola.com, couples also need $33,000 to seal the deal. That’s right: the average wedding cost increased nearly four thousand dollars in 2024, largely thanks to inflation. Surely, that makes wedding planning on a budget a bit more challenging, but not impossible.
While vendor costs have increased, couples are keeping a close eye on their wallets these days. Check out our top tips for wedding planning on a budget and learn how to say “I do” on a dime.
Ranging from $6,500 to $12,000, the venue is typically your largest wedding expense. Some venues charge a flat fee that includes everything from space rental to set up and tear down, while others offer different packages to accommodate smaller and larger parties. Here are a few ways to find a venue that won’t break the bank:
Choose a day of the week that’s less popular. Weekday weddings have grown in popularity since COVID rescheduled so many nuptials. Many venues will offer a lower price for a weekday or off-peak ceremony. Roxana T., a 2023 bride from Cleveland, OH, received a large discount from her venue when she chose a Friday ceremony over a Saturday.
Get creative. Wedding venues are no longer limited to churches and fancy banquet halls. Couples are finding unique places to celebrate their love — breweries, museums, even zoos! These creative venues are not only fun, but typically cheaper than popular wedding venues.
Victoria Q., a 2023 bride from Beverly, MA chose a flower farm as the backdrop to her special day. She got married under a pergola and danced the night away in a greenhouse, the perfect way for any plant lady to tie the knot!
Do your research. A venue directory like Eventective can help you find the perfect venue within your budget. Simply search by location and filter by pricing to see what’s available in your location and price range. Restricting your search to budget-friendly venues will speed up the process and make sure you don’t fall in love with an unrealistic option.
Flowers and Decor
Floral arrangements are another top wedding expense, averaging $2,500 to $6,000. The price of your wedding flowers largely depends on how many you want and whether or not they are in season. Some brides will deck the halls with flowers (literally) while others keep it simple with just bouquets and boutonnieres. Here are a few ways to trim costs on your wedding day florals and decor:
Do it yourself. While it might seem intimidating, DIY-ing your floral arrangements can be a lot of fun. Retail stores like Trader Joe’s have a great selection of flowers and stems at low prices. Scour the stores and make it a relaxing activity for you and your bridesmaids to do together. Who knows, you might even pick up a new skill!
Opt for paper or wooden flowers. Fresh flowers aren’t the only option anymore. Roxana, our Cleveland bride, purchased wooden bouquets and boutonnieres from Sola Wood Flowers. She painted the flowers herself and spent a mere $249 on floral accessories. Bonus: compared to fresh flowers, wooden flowers don’t wither and can be displayed for years to come in their fullest form.
Limit the decorations. Your wedding doesn’t need to be dripping in flowers to be beautiful. Prioritize the decor that people will notice, like your bridal party bouquets and reception centerpieces.
“We spent a fair bit of money on a flower ceremony piece that hung on the arbor [during our ceremony],” says Victoria. “Looking back I didn’t even really see it the day of the wedding. Hopefully guests enjoyed it!”
From save the dates to invitations, ceremony programs, dinner menus and thank you notes, you can spend a lot of money on wedding stationery alone.
Roxana and her husband opted for the paperless route and sent all invitations and event reminders on their own. “We limited any type of object that would end up in the trash can,” she says. Digital invitations are not only cost-effective, but a great way to prioritize sustainability in your wedding planning.
If paper invitations are non-negotiable for you, there are cost-effective ways to make it happen. Victoria and her husband chose to design and print their save the dates and thank you notes using Canva. With user-friendly templates and low-cost printing rates, Canva is a great option for creating beautiful print invitations on a budget.
“While we would like to think people would save these papers forever, we know they eventually end up in the recycling bin, so why spend a lot of money to get them designed and printed,” says Victoria.
Food and Favors
Good food guarantees a good time. But between the rehearsal dinner, cocktail hour, reception, and late-night party snacks, food expenses add up quickly. Try these money-saving hacks instead:
Ditch the wedding cake. Sometimes it’s okay to break tradition — especially when the average wedding cake costs upwards of $600. Consider a dessert table instead and offer your guests a variety of cookies, candies, and other sweet treats. Getting married in the summer? Hire an ice cream truck or offer Popsicles as a palate cleanser.
Use your connections. Does your cousin love to cook? Do you know the owner of your favorite bakery? Consider asking them to contribute to your wedding day at a discounted rate (or maybe even as your wedding gift, if it’s a close connection).
Be intentional with favors. Wedding favors are a fun way to thank your guests for participating in your special day. But, like food, they can add up quickly! Even a seemingly small favor can cost you hundreds of dollars by the time you get one for each guest.
“If you’re thinking of doing wedding favors, think about how you can get a dual purpose out of them,” says Victoria. Propagated plants, for example, can double as wedding favors and venue decorations. Don’t spend money on wedding favors just to have them; get as much use out of them as you can.
The Perks of Wedding Planning on a Budget
While it might seem intimidating at first, planning a wedding on a budget is not only doable, but rewarding. It challenges you and your spouse to focus on what truly matters and tune out the rest. As you begin to evaluate your budget and plan your dream day, keep these tips in mind for a wedding that’s both frugal and fruitful.
Rachel Kauffman is a Detroit-based content writer, bookworm, and cat mom to two feisty felines.