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14 Readers Share Their Best Frugal Wedding Tips for How to Say “I Do” on a Dime

I, your humble blogger, get a lot of mail on the subject of weddings—stories of joy and tales of woe; great ideas, and even an occasional blooper. In nearly 32 years, I cannot recall a single time I’ve heard from a bride or groom who wished they’d spent more money on their wedding. The best wedding mail comes from brides who are so happy with their frugal choices they want to share their ideas with others. 

 

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Lean Guest List

Our first guest list included everyone we knew. As the list grew (and grew), we realized that would be a really bad idea. Without intending to do so, we got very close to inviting people who would then feel obligated to attend a wedding for people they didn’t really know that well. We decided to whittle that list, seeing our wedding as a more intimate event rather than a big everyone-we-know blowout.

From where we started, we cut the list by 75%. That was the best decision ever. Our wedding was manageable, affordable, and exactly what we wanted—an intimate celebration of joy. Debbie

Wedding Bargains

When I worked in a bridal shop in Florida, we bought all of our jewelry, gloves, veils, and most headpieces wholesale from Accessory Wholesale in New Orleans. The company’s website is open to the public. For my own wedding, I bought all my bridesmaid’s jewelry sets, bracelets, my headpieces my gloves, and jewelry—all for about $100 including shipping. That site rocks! And I swear, this is the same stuff we bought, displayed in our lighted cases on black velvet, and sold for 5 to 8 times the wholesale price. All salons do this. Accessories offer their greatest profit margin. Be aware that because this is a wholesale company, there is a minimum order requirement of $75. Kelly

Fiery Reception

For a wedding reception that is out of the ordinary, have a bonfire rather than a sit-down meal. My husband and I did this, and people still talk about how much fun it was. We changed clothes after pictures and started a big fire at my grandmother’s house. We roasted hot dogs and marshmallows and had side dishes brought by family members. It was the best potluck ever because we requested our favorite family dishes. By shopping in bulk for hot dogs and buns, we spent only about $200 on food. Rochelle

Bachelor and Bachelorette Parties (Nope!)

We decided to get real about a perceived requirement to go all out on bachelorette and bachelor parties. We looked at it honestly and decided the whole idea has gotten way out of control. Weekends in Vegas, going to Mexico, and week-long vacation for everyone involved is becoming the norm. We boldly skipped the expensive parties (for everyone’s sake, and trust me, we got many looks of thanks and relief from those who would have been invited). We saved what we would have spent for our honeymoon instead. Riley

Frugal on Photos

I had my guests take pictures at the event, and we sprang for a professional portrait session before the wedding. Instead of spending $1,200 to $5,000 on a wedding photographer, it cost us $200 to go to a park to have professional portraits taken in our wedding attire. Diane

Biblio Bride

The local library has many wedding books, from making your own dress and accessories to wedding cakes, invitations and writing your own vows. Not only that, but libraries can make beautiful and inexpensive venues for a ceremony celebrating any literature-loving couple. Mary Clare


  • READ: Even Small Households Can Save Big at Warehouse Club Stores

Wholesale Flowers

We saved a lot of money on wedding flowers by purchasing them in bulk at wholesale prices from Sam’s Club. They offer a wide variety of beautiful premade wedding flowers and bulk options at incredibly affordable prices. We went with the bulk option, then arranged the “growers bunch” flowers ourselves in country-style, rustic bouquets. They were so fresh, so beautiful! Plus, Sam’s will even deliver the flowers to you two days before your wedding! Sheila

Balloons Instead of Flowers

We skipped decorating with flowers at our wedding and decorated with balloons instead. This allowed me to get creative with shapes, sizes, and colors, saving us a bundle of cash. Kids had a ball with them at the reception. Jean

Simplify the Cake

I must have spent six months combing through bridal sites and Instagram to come up with ideas for the most beautiful wedding cake ever. And what I found was amazing. I set up an appointment with a local cake designer (an artist would be a better way to describe him), asking that he recreate a cake in the style of several of my favorite photos.

You could have knocked me over with a feather when he estimated several thousand dollars for what I thought I wanted. That meeting jerked me back to reality. In the end, we chose a simple, chic cake design from our local supermarket bakery. Not only was it beautiful and definitely designer quality, it was also delicious! Shelby 

 

Borrow, Borrow, Borrow

Don’t be afraid of asking to borrow. If you know of someone who recently had a wedding, inquire about borrowing some of their stuff. And if you are on the other side of a wedding, offer to lend.

On a personal note, I borrowed my wedding dress from my best and still longest friend. We met in fifth grade in Spokane, Wash. We went through adolescence together, became college roommates in California. And, we married college roommates! Remarkably these days, we are both still married to our original husbands. How fun to look at our wedding photos now and to see the same dress in both. Thanks again, Judy. 

 

Creative Decisions

My wedding dress was actually an ivory bridesmaid dress. It was a beautiful designer gown and only cost $250, including alterations. When I was shopping for it, I found a wider variety of choices for high-end bridesmaid dresses than wedding gowns, and they were all a fraction of the price. Elizabeth

Heartfelt Thanks

Sure, it’s become customary to give gifts to the couple’s attendants. And that can get very pricey! Groomsmen and bridesmaids’ gifts are not mandatory. Consider handwritten, heartfelt thank-you notes. We did and have no regrets at all. Our attendants were tearfully grateful, too! Janis

Perfect Timing

We saved by holding our wedding ceremony and reception at lunchtime on a Friday. We rented out a small restaurant for 40 close friends and family. We arranged to bring in wine, and the restaurant made a batch of sangria to serve with the meal. The total cost of the wedding and reception was about $2,500, far less than it would have been during primetime on a Saturday night. Liz

University Musicians

Rather than fork out a large sum for professional musicians, consider the music department of a local university. Find out if the school has a student ensemble available to perform music for a wedding. We did this and had the most amazing group of young ladies on stringed instruments. We loved them and their music! They played during the entire reception, and it was awesome. While they didn’t come with a set fee, we tipped each member very generously and still saved a ton of money on our reception music. Jonette

 

Question: Do you have a frugal wedding tip to share? We would love for ou to do that in the comments below!

 


 

 

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  1. Lori Cole says:

    With my son’s wedding. MIL insisted on a particular photographer and we got no pics of our side of the family.
    For our daughter’s wedding, we bought the Sam’s club flowers. Dresses and suits were ordered online from TJMaxx and Banana Republic. Both stylish and easy to be incorporated into their lives after the wedding. The venue included decor and food which was beautiful and delicious. We provided alcohol and licensed bartender. The only disappointment was the photographers. They were preferred by the groom’s family and friends of the groom’s brother plus out of our budget. So they hired by them. They enjoyed taking pics of the brother. But I had an idea that helped. We made a wall with framed family photos and portraits and two empty spots that we set up by the guest book. You could duck behind the wall and stick your head through the framed holes and have your pic taken with an iPad set up in front of it. We got so many fun and candid photos.

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  2. Jill says:

    We borrowed and bought large ferns in baskets and pots for the main Floral decor, adding some artificial and real flowers. After the wedding we gave the purchased ones as thank yous instead of money or other gifts. Also, bolts of tulle come in a huge variety of colors. We draped tulle along banisters and from low on standing candelabras to borrowed columns (topped with ferns of course). Everyone commented on how stunning it looked.

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  3. Carol Berry says:

    My husband and I got married in 1989. We did a very low cost, fun wedding that is still the highlight of my uncle’s career (he married us). We had it at the picnic shelter at Cloudland Canyon State Park in Georgia which had restrooms and a kitchen. I made the dresses, my husband got a tux from Junkman’s Daughter (in Little Five Points, Atlanta), our reception was pot luck and afterwards we all went hiking. What fun. Most of the wedding party camped out there, too. I still think is was the best wedding ever! And we are still married so it worked!

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  4. Deb says:

    My two daughters were very frugal with their weddings, for which I am forever grateful. Now their own children are nearing the age when weddings may be in the not-too-distant future. I love the tip about hiring university musicians. And that brought to mind something we did.

    One wedding was held at a state park (the port-a-potty we rented for the guests cost more than the park’s pavilion rental). Food (and plates / cups / utentsils etc.) was provided by the nearby college campus’ special events department. They made a spread on several tables of appetizers, fruits, cheeses, and small sandwiches. (I provided the wedding cupcakes, not a “thing” back in the early 2000s like it is now.) The array was beautifully done, very professional, but didn’t cost us nearly what it would have elsewhere.

    And that brings one more thing to mind — the photographer. They hired a friend to do the photos (even though the groom’s father was a professional photographer, they didn’t want him behind the camera all day). They consider that to be their biggest mistake in that they only ended up with a few good photos. My son made the same mistake twelve years later. Both regret not using a photographer with the right equipment and skills.

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  5. Heather Pauli says:

    Ice molds are reasonably priced and can be made in your chosen color scheme. If used as the centerpiece of a buffet, it can be a showstopper photo opportunity at a fraction of the cost of flowers. You can then resell it to recoup some of your cost!

    Reply
  6. Ann says:

    I made my daughter’s wedding dress, using a pattern for a formal, not a wedding dress. It turned out beautiful, if I do say so myself. The material was ivory jersey and the hardest part was keeping it clean!

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  7. Bob Wismer says:

    First, thank you for your constant source of inspiration! More than a decade ago our three children got married within a two-year span (generating “financial” condolences from our friends). We gave each couple $5K toward a house and $5K toward wedding (+ reception and honeymoon). The oldest two couples spent more than $5K each. The youngest was frugal and went to Maui for a honeymoon trip. Some of their savings: (1) a second-hand wedding dress that she remodeled; (2) our back yard for their reception, under a rented tent, and catered by the local university’s food service where she had worked several summers; (3) libations from a brewery where he had worked; (4) a modest wedding cake locally-designed and baked, with cupcakes for the guests; and (5) service and reception music by a upcoming professional pianist, the son of one of my best friends. I conveyed the financing in a letter to Kiplinger’s magazine, who printed it to our son-in-law’s surprise and pride.

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  8. linda says:

    i didn’t want a wedding at all, but we yielded to the demands of my dad and his mother. my bridesmaid and my maid of honor had never met but when they did, they hated each other. i nearly got married wearing referee’s stripes! naturally agreeing on an attendent’s gown was difficult and could have been costly. finally, we were cutting through lingerie to dresses, and i noticed some of the nightgowns could actually pass for dresses. on a whim i suggested with a full slip underneath and a sash and afterward, you have a lovely nightgown. they cost, if i remember correctly [it was nearly 50 years ago] $15. my dress cost $20 to make.

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  9. Elizabeth Harris says:

    Get married at holiday time. All venues and churches are already beautifully decorated and your pictures will be wonderful. Also, don’t discount a cruise wedding – one of the short, inexpensive ones of only 3 days. We have seen many weddings on cruise ships. Each guest pays his or her own way, the Captain does the ceremony, the kitchen prepares the wedding cake (usually at little to no extra costs), and the buffet and dancing is already part of the cruise ticket. Gives everyone an opportunity for an excuse for a short vacation, too! For those who can’t go, have a second inexpensive reception at home using some of the ideas above. I LOVE the bonfire one!

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