10 Tips for Planning a Wedding Under $10,000

Do you know that the average cost of a wedding in America is just over $35,000? Ask Google if you don't believe me. That sounds absolutely bonkers, right? You could use $35k as a solid down payment on a house, to fund a luxurious month-long European excursion, or to buy a brand new Audi A3. Thirty-five thousand dollars is enough to cover the cost of one Diet Coke per day for EIGHTY-EIGHT YEARS. That's how much $35,000 is!

If you can afford to drop that much money on a wedding and not have to worry about the aftermath of your financial situation, that's fantastic for you. However, I personally am not in that position at this point in my life, and I know many of you might be able to relate to having a more restrictive budget than you'd like.

If you're a bride-to-be ( or groom-to-be ) trying to plan a wedding on a budget, I'm here to tell you that I planned my wedding and spent less than $10,000 on the entire thing—and you can do it too! It was hard and took a lot of time and research, but I promise it's possible. After reflecting on the planning process, I have 10 tips for anyone facing the slightly daunting task of planning a wedding on a budget.

Tip 1: Do your research 

This is an exhausting task, but it's so necessary if you're trying to adhere to a budget. It took me a lot of digging to find venues, DJs, officiants, bridal shops, etc. that were affordable but still nice. In my experience, it was difficult to find options that fit the aesthetic I wanted AND the budget I needed to stick to. If it fit the aesthetic, it was thousands—literally thousands—of dollars over our budget. If it was within budget, it tended to be a little dumpy and not at all the look I wanted to go for.

With many hours of web and book research, I was able to find an affordable option for everything I needed to book or buy while still maintaining the aesthetic / vibe I was aiming for. It's tedious, exhausting, and aggravating work, but it's well worth it in the end.

Tip 2: Accept that you'll have to compromise

You'll figure this out very quickly when you begin your research, but everything that goes into a wedding is stupid expensive. Venues are typically thousands of dollars to rent, and that's before you even factor in food and drinks. Photography packages are well into the thousands, and videographers charge just the same. Before you even nail down the bare minimum of what you need to make the day happen, you're already looking at $15,000-$20,000. It's  i n s a n e.

That being said, accept that you'll have to compromise on what you had originally envisioned in your mind for your wedding. It's a hard pill to swallow, but when you're working with a budget, you can't have that Instagram-perfect wedding you see on all of your favorite bloggers' feeds. Your wedding is still going to be absolutely amazing; you just won't be able to pull off all of the ornate table settings and incredible floral arrangements that you were dreaming of. You'll simply have to reign in how big you were thinking and pull off the same effect on a smaller, more budget-friendly scale.

Tip 3: Get creative

This is probably the second-most significant tip I have for you. We'll get to the most important tip in a minute. But for now, we're focusing on getting your creative juices flowing. It's really, really, REALLY easy to become deterred and depressed by all of the top Google search results, as those are seemingly all the most expensive options available. I went through a month-to-two-month period where I absolutely threw in the towel on wedding planning just because of this. However, the options you're looking for are out there, I promise! You just have to get creative.

Try to brainstorm venues that may seem unconventional or unpopular for hosting a wedding, how to pull off the decorations you want without spending a fortune on them, people in your life who can help you with services like photography, videography, and day-of tasks. Will it be as high-caliber as if you had spent thousands of dollars on each of these things? No. But it will still be beautiful, and you'll feel a sense of accomplishment for having figured out a way to make it all happen without going into debt.

Tip 4: Think local

This tip goes hand-in-hand with the previous tip. Thinking outside of the box AND local is how I ended up with both of our venues, our meal for the night, and our cupcakes! Move beyond simply thinking about wedding venues in your area—think about significant landmarks, your favorite restaurants, and amazing local bakeries. When I adopted the "think local" mindset, everything started to fall in place.

For our ceremony, we ended up booking the Rose Well House, a gazebo on my alma matter's campus that's actually relatively popular for weddings. We decided to have our reception at one of our favorite restaurants in town, Upland Brewing Co., because their food  s m a c k s  and they have a banquet hall for private events. We also decided to forgo a cake ( didn't want to make someone cut cake all night ) and went with cupcakes from Rainbow Bakery, a vegan bakery in town.

Maybe it was just the way I was thinking, but in my initial search, I was trying to find wedding-specific options for everything. When I abandoned that mindset, I started to find options that not only fit our budget but were also really unique. Our wedding definitely isn't going to be conventional, but that's one of my favorite things about it.

Tip 5: Cut corners where you don't mind cutting corners

When you're on a budget, you have to let go of some of the more minute details. Would it be nice to have elaborate fresh floral arrangements? Yeah, but silk flowers are cheaper and still look great. Would it look cute if the bridesmaids walked down the aisle with bouquets and the groomsmen wore matching boutonnières? Yeah, but it'll look just as cute if they walk down the aisle arm-in-arm.

Once you nail down all of your big details—venues, food, music, officiant—then you'll begin to realize that there are an obscene amount of small details that you never even thought of before planning your own wedding. As you think about these details, determine whether or not the absence of them will really impact your big day.

At the end of the day, my guests aren't going to remember that I used silk flowers instead of fresh flowers, and they're probably not going to care anyway. No one is going to look back and remember that our bridesmaids walked without bouquets because they'll instead remember how beautiful they looked. Think about the tiny things and decide if they really matter or not, because at the end of the day, every little detail adds up.

Tip 6: Use Minted Weddings for your stationary

Minted Weddings is such a cool website. Not spon; I wish. They're really just that good of a service. Minted is the website I used to design our save-the-dates, invitations, and wedding website. That's right, I created a wedding website. Should I plug it after the big day? Let me know in the comments if you want to see it.

I digress, big time.

Minted makes the entire process of choosing and customizing wedding stationary super easy. Basically, you choose a design that you like out of their catalog, then customize it with your names, wedding details, and photos ( if applicable. ) It's affordable, and as an added bonus, they usually always have a promotion going on that saves you an extra 15-20%. And if you're wondering about the quality, I can assure you that it's great. They'll even print your guest's addresses on the envelopes for you! All you have to do is slap a stamp on each invite and throw it in the mail. Boom bam.

Tip 7: DIY your decor

In most cases, doing things yourself saves a lot of money. At the very least, you're saving the cost of labor when you opt for DIYs. Spend some time searching "wedding decor DIY" and "wedding decoration DIY" on both Google and Pinterest, choose your favorite projects ( make sure they'll all look nice together! ), and buy what you need to make them come to life. Amazon and Hobby Lobby are your DIY BFFS.

Recruit your friends to help you assemble the more complicated and time-consuming crafts, and do what you can yourself. If you find yourself getting annoyed and frustrated in the middle of a DIY project, just think about how relieved you'll feel when you finish it! Plus, your guests will be impressed that you created your decor rather than simply purchasing pre-made arrangements. Saving money + creating conversation pieces = a win / win.

Tip 8: Amazon is your best friend

I bought the bulk of our wedding decorations / supplies for DIY decorations on Amazon for $300. The rest of my decor was borrowed from my work ( I'm the Digital Media Specialist in the marketing department at my local YMCA ) because we do a fundraising gala every year, so we have a whole storage area full of decorations from galas-past.

Anyways, Amazon.

I bought:
  • my wedding bouquet
  • the silk flowers for table arrangements
  • silk floral garlands to wrap around the arches of the Rose Well House
  • faux LED melting wax candles for the tables
  • DIY balloon garland kits to decorate the banquet hall

    All from Amazon. Efficient, easy, affordable. Check, check, check.

    Tip 9: Use the help of your friends and family

    It's more than likely that some of your friends and family will offer to help out with anything you need involving the wedding. Always say yes to this offer. You already have so much on your plate with planning the wedding sans the help of a professional planner or coordinator, and there are going to be things on the day-of that you cannot take care of because you'll be getting ready ( and having the time of your life; it's not the best day ever for nothing! )

    To give you an idea of what I'm talking about, I gratefully tasked others with picking up our cupcakes the morning-of, decorating the ceremony and reception venues the day-of, and chair-sitting ( I owe my wonderful, beautiful friend Daniela the world and more for this ) at our ceremony venue so no one on campus would try to be funny and steal an unmonitored chair. The things you have to figure out as a bride. Sigh.

    You should also use your friends and family as a resource based on their skills. For example, my aunt and one of my amazing bridesmaids, Kayleigh, both do photography on the side. Instead of taking out a loan to book a $4,000 photographer, they're both shooting photos for us on the day. Kayleigh also shot our engagement photos, which she did an  a m a z i n g  job with. ( You can find those on my Instagram. ) Have your loved ones help with whatever they can and are willing to help with, because for us, it meant saving literally thousands of dollars.

    Tip 10: Remember that a wedding is nothing more than a party at the end of the day

    This is my most important tip for you in planning your wedding on a budget. Beyond being about two people joining into an everlasting union, a wedding is just a glorified party. Remember that this day is supposed to be about you, your fiancé, and the love that you have for one another. That's really all that matters when the whole thing is said and done.

    Please don't put yourself into debt for a party; that's not the way you want to begin your marriage anyway. Save the money for your first house, your honeymoon, a new car, your retirement fund, your future babies, something that will improve your life. I hate to say it, but I don't think dropping $35k that you don't have to fund your wedding is going to improve your life in the grand scheme of things. Just food for thought.

    I hope you find at least one of these tips helpful in planning your own wedding! I'd love to share more about my wedding with you guys, so let me know if you'd like to see more posts about it. I can post about our engagement story, the "unpopular" decisions we made concerning our wedding, my wedding dress and the alteration process, a cost breakdown of our entire wedding along with a list of vendors ( I don't mind sharing this at all if it will help you guys! ), and what I've learned now that I'm basically done planning at this point. Just let me know what you want to see!

    If you have any questions about wedding planning, feel free to drop a comment below! I'd be happy to help out or just to talk.

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