Plan Your Dream Budget Wedding: 15 Costs to Cut

Couple walking through field that just got married with text "15 expenses to cut"

Planning a dream wedding doesn’t have to drain your bank account. With a little creativity and savvy decision-making, you can plan a budget wedding without sacrificing style or elegance. As a budget bride, knowing which expenses to cut can make all the difference. So, let’s dive into how to save money on a wedding by cutting back on these 15 expenses.


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To start, let’s look at the average wedding budget allocations couples spent in key elements of their wedding, as surveyed by The Knot. You’ll note that the percentages do not add up to 100%, this is merely the average percentages couples spent on that particular item, for their particular budget. This is also not a comprehensive list, but covers the essentials to give you a rough idea of potential budget expenditures for YOUR budget.

  • Venue: 37%
  • Catering: 29%
  • Photography: 9%
  • Alcohol/Liquor: 8%
  • Flowers: 8%
  • Videography: 7%
  • Couples Attire (Dress & Suit): 7%
  • Wedding Planner: 6%
  • Event Rentals: 6%
  • Lighting & Decor: 6%
  • DJ or Band: 5 -13%
  • Transportation: 3%
  • Stationery: 2%
  • Cake/Desserts: 2%
  • Hair & Makeup: 1%
  • Wedding Favors & Gifts: 1%
  • Officiant: 1%
top 5 wedding expenses

Now, we won’t tackle ALL of these elements in this article, but we will focus on some of the biggest ticket items (your venue, catering, photography/videography, alcohol, and flowers), as well as some of the low-hanging fruit that are easy to eliminate completely. 

So, let’s get started, shall we?!

1. Extravagant Venue. Go with a Budget Wedding Venue.

First things first, your venue. Choosing an extravagant venue can eat up a significant portion of your budget. Consider a budget wedding venue, such as a park lodge, a community center, or even your friend’s backyard. By opting for a more budget-friendly location, you can allocate those savings towards other aspects of your special day. Plus, DIY wedding venues give you complete flexibility over the vendors you bring in, allowing you to shop around for a vendor roster that fits your vision and budget. This one is HUGE, for all you budget brides. 

For more on this topic, check out the article “Affordable Wedding Venues: Tips for the Budget-Conscious Couple.”

And, if you’re up for the challenge, you can also check out my complete guide on planning a DIY backyard wedding.

2. Unnecessary Guests. Trim Your Guestlist for a Budget Wedding.

Trimming down your guest list is a powerful way to reduce costs if you’re a bride on a budget. Think about it. Each person is potentially TWO people if you’re giving them a Plus 1, and that means two more place settings, two more dinners, two more desserts, and two more bar tabs, amongst other things… So, with that in mind,  invite only your closest family members and friends, ensuring an intimate gathering filled with loved ones.

Having trouble with this? Maybe you, or your family members feel social obligations to invite so and so…  

Try to institute this rule at the outset and stick to it: If they can’t tell a story about you or your significant other on queue, then they gotta go, “sorry second cousin twice removed, Helga, you’re not making the cut.” Remember, it’s about quality, not quantity.

3. New Wedding Decorations. Opt for DIY or Second-Hand Decorations.

You could go CRAZY spending money on brand new fancy decorations. Practically every retailer, whether online or brick and mortar, has a wedding aisle these days. These are ripe for impulse buy traps! Resist the impulse if you’re planning a budget wedding and instead, get those creative juices flowing. Either tackle the decorations yourself, or find a bride selling their decorations second-hand. 

budget wedding decorations

From centerpieces to table settings, there are countless online marketplaces to shop secondhand. And if you’re crafty, there are plenty of resources and tutorials to guide you in creating DIY wedding decorations. So, embrace your inner DIY guru and transform simple materials into stunning decorations that will wow your guests.

Find ideas and inspiration for budget-friendly wedding decorations at the following links:

Planning a Wedding on A Budget? Get The Guide.

As a former bride on a budget, I found the wedding planning tips and tricks in the Budget Savvy Wedding Planner and Organizer so, so helpful. It was the best combination that I found out there of organization meets real planning advice for couples looking to plan an affordable wedding.

4. Custom Printed Invitations. Go Digital or DIY Your Wedding Invites.

digital wedding invitations

Ditch the extravagant wedding invitations and opt for a budget-friendly alternative. Explore digital wedding invitations or consider printing your own DIY wedding invitations using affordable stationery. With both options, I highly recommend taking advantage of a wedding website to track your RSVPs. Not only will these save you on return postage for physical response cards, but it’ll also save you TIME. And honestly, that’s a valuable commodity when it comes to DIY wedding planning.

Whether you go digital or printed DIY wedding invitations, your guests will appreciate the personal touch. And, I’ve got great resources for you to guide you every step of the way:

5. Flower Centerpieces. Choose Greenery or Thrifted Décor.

Flowers can be a significant expense, but there’s no need to fret. Embrace a minimalist approach by choosing flowers that are in season and readily available. Alternatively, explore non-floral options like greenery or potted plants, which can add a touch of nature while keeping costs in check.

There are also so many wedding centerpiece ideas that don’t require a florist at all. A few examples to inspire you:

  • For my own vintage-inspired wedding, I made DIY greenery garlands and incorporated thrifted votives. 
  • A friend of mine created a beautiful tablescape for her boho wedding of thrifted bud vases. 
  • Another, used driftwood, vintage glassware and wood flowers to create stunning beachy centerpieces.

Whatever your style, there are so many options you can go with to keep wedding centerpiece costs in check and plan the budget wedding of your dreams.

6. Live Ceremony Music. Use a Curated Playlist for a Budget Wedding.

Next, let’s talk about music. You could really save here and go all in with a curated playlist from ceremony to reception, rather than hire a wedding DJ or band. Going this route will minimally save you about $1,000, which is an average cost of a DJ for the full day.

An alternative to this, is to only hire live music for your reception and go with a Spotify or Apple Music playlist for your wedding ceremony and cocktail hour. Curate a personalized selection of your favorite tunes that perfectly reflects your style as a couple, while saving on your wedding budget.

7. Wedding Cake. Instead, go with a Dessert Bar with All Your Faves.

donut wedding cake alternative

An extravagant multi-tiered wedding cake may look impressive, but it often comes with a hefty price tag. Skip this altogether for a budget wedding and instead, go with a dessert bar of you and your partner’s favorite sweet treats. Ideas you can consider include:

  • Donut Cake or Wall Display
  • Pie Buffet
  • Italian Pastry Buffet
  • Ice Cream Sundaes
  • Candy Buffet

If you’re a traditional bride on a budget, and really want the photo opp of a ceremonial cake cutting, then consider a smaller, beautifully decorated cake to cut, and have a budget-friendly sheet cake or cupcakes for your guests to enjoy.

small cake for cutting ceremony

8. Sit-Down Dinner. Opt for a Buffet, or Food Stations for a Budget Wedding.

Sit-down dinner wedding receptions can be PRICEY. And catering is going to be one of your biggest expenses. In addition to keeping your guest list tight, explore cost-effective catering options such as buffet-style or food stations instead of a formal sit-down dinner. Additionally, consider working with local restaurants or catering schools that offer quality service at a fraction of the cost.

One thing to keep in mind, is if you’re not going with a full-service catering vendor, you’ll want to think about staff to restock your buffet or stations and keep things tidy for your guests.

9. Wedding Favors. Don’t Waste Your Wedding Budget!

DIY Wedding favors

Wedding favors can be a thoughtful gesture, but sadly, for all the effort and money that goes into them, they often get left behind. So, I highly recommend considering ditching them altogether if you’re planning a budget wedding. A well-crafted thank you letter and/or a speech thanking your guests at the wedding is more than enough of a gesture.

That said, if you feel strongly about thanking your guests with a physical memento, consider DIY favors or practical items that guests can use, such as personalized mugs, candles, or homemade treats.

10. Full Bar. Go with a “Soft Bar” Instead.

soft bar with signature drinks for budget wedding

Ooof, the bar tab. Honestly, this is an area that I think many couples don’t fully consider until you’re getting quotes from your venue, or pricing our your DIY wedding bar. The price tag can be hefty.

So, instead of offering a full bar with a wide range of alcoholic beverages, consider a more budget-friendly option. Opt for a “soft bar” that includes non-alcoholic beverages, wine, and beer. This way, you can still provide some options for your guests to enjoy without the high cost of a fully stocked bar. You can always consider adding in a signature cocktail or two, if your budget allows.

11. Champagne Toast. Because You’ve Got a Beer Budget, My Friend.

Did you know a sip of champagne is more expensive than a glass of wine?! Rather than splurging on expensive champagne for a toast, consider offering a more affordable alternative. You can choose sparkling wine, hard cider, or even a non-alcoholic sparkling beverage to raise a toast to your special day.

wedding toast

12. Wedding Programs. 15 Minute Ceremonies Don’t Need a Schedule.

For short and sweet wedding ceremonies, there’s no need for detailed printed programs. Guests will appreciate the simplicity and focus on the ceremony itself. Save money by skipping the printed programs altogether. Plus, you’re considering the environment by printing less paper. Win-Win!

13. Professional Photography & Videography. You’ve Got Options!

Hiring a professional wedding photographer and videographer can be expensive. Consider hiring a talented student photographer or asking a friend who has a knack for capturing beautiful moments. You can also encourage guests to take and share their photos with a sign and a designated wedding hashtag or shareable Google Drive Folder.

capture the love sign

14. Professional Make-Up Artist. Because No One Knows You, Like You.

Hiring a professional makeup artist can be a luxury expense. And, to be honest, no one knows you quite like you. Unless you’ve gotten make-up professionally done before and know what looks good on you for the glammed up version of you… you might actually not feel quite yourself in going with a professional MUA. Instead, consider dedicating some time to practice and experiment with glam makeup styles that suit you best. With countless tutorials available online, you’ll be able to achieve a gorgeous bridal look that is uniquely you. Plus, it adds a personal touch to your special day! 

15. Luxury Transportation. Host Both Ceremony & Reception in One Locale.

While arriving in a fancy vintage car or sleek limousine is undeniably glamorous, it’s also a significant expense. Especially if you’re planning your wedding in the summer months when limos are in high demand. To skip this altogether, look for a wedding venue that can host both your ceremony and reception in one location. This cuts out the need for transportation altogether.

That said, if you’re having a religious ceremony, your wedding ceremony and reception are likely in two different locations. In this case, consider skipping the extravagant transportation and opt for more budget-friendly options like carpooling with close friends or using a decorated family vehicle. It’s a charming and practical way to make a memorable entrance!

BONUS: Affordable Wedding Dresses for Budget Savvy Brides

OK, this did not make the list of expenses to CUT, because… well… you have to wear SOMETHING for your wedding, right? But, if you’re a budget bride, there are so many great options to save on your wedding attire. 

From affordable wedding dress brands, to budget wedding dress marketplaces, and online second-hand retailers, the options are virtually endless to save on this big expense. Check out the article, “Affordable Wedding Dresses for Budget Savvy Brides.”

OK, Ready to Plan Your Budget Wedding?

Planning a budget wedding doesn’t mean sacrificing your dreams; it’s about making smart choices and prioritizing what truly matters. By slashing these 15 wedding expenses, you can save money without compromising the magic and joy of your special day. Embrace your inner budget bride and create a wedding that reflects your unique love story, all while staying within your means.

Remember, a budget-friendly wedding can be just as beautiful and memorable as its more extravagant counterparts. So, embrace your creativity, think outside the box, and enjoy the process of planning your dream wedding on a budget. By implementing these tips and being resourceful, you’ll not only save money but also add a personal touch to every aspect of your special day.

Planning a budget wedding is all about being intentional, prioritizing what truly matters, and finding joy in the journey. Now, it’s time to put these budget-saving ideas into action. Happy planning, and here’s to an unforgettable wedding day that perfectly captures your love story without leaving a dent in your wallet!

Keep calm, stay savvy, and plan on!


The Savvy Swaréy

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