holding hands bride and groom at a wedding

I get a lot of mail on the subject of weddings. I get stories of joy and tales of woe; great ideas and even a blooper from time to time.

In 27 years, I cannot recall a single time I’ve heard from a bride or groom saying who wished they’d spent more money on their wedding.

The best wedding mail comes from frugal brides and grooms who are anxious to share their fabulous frugal ideas with future couples!


holding hands bride and groom at a wedding

Lean guest list

Our first guest list included everyone we knew. As the list (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 got the list down to 25%. Best decision ever. Our wedding was manageable, affordable, and exactly what we wanted—an intimate celebration of joy. Debbie

Firey 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 our wedding 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 came out to about $200 on food. Rochelle

Go 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. This would also make a great gift to the couple from a family member who wants to contribute. Diane


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Biblio bride

The local library has lots of books on weddings, 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

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Balloons instead of flowers

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

White brides (maid) dress

My wedding dress was actually a bridesmaid dress in ivory. It was a beautiful designer gown and it only cost $250 including alterations. My guests were surprised when I said it was a bridesmaid dress, not a true wedding dress. 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

Make heartfelt thanks the gift

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

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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 generously and still saved a ton of money on our reception music. Jonette

Were you a frugal bride? Will you be ringing wedding bells on a budget? Share your best tips and ideas in the comments below!

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