Throwing a Wedding (Or Fancy Party) on a Budget

Staci S. Wright
My friend Stephany got married and did it on a budget. I asked her if she could share with you how she did so, and she decided to share her expertise. She may not think she is an expert, but I definitely disagree.

I’m no expert, but as someone who recently threw one of these shindigs, let me tell you, wedding prices can range from the unbelievably expensive to the absolutely frugal, and some of the most frugal weddings are the most beautiful. Here are some tips to help lower your costs while still not sacrificing on your special day.

First, set your budget. Your absolute max budget. This is always useful for big purchases and helps you keep yourself on track. Open up a Google Sheets with it and record every single item there. Use multiple tabs to track price quotes for every vendor, and then use another tab to add it all up and make sure you aren’t going over. This is super useful.

Now let’s do the big wedding expenses:

The location:

Beautiful weddings don’t have to be in a destination venue. Check out if your city parks allow weddings for free. Ask a local church, temple, synagogue, or event center. Maybe if you bring all the catering etc, a beautiful building will allow a one time event. Investigate if you can make the wedding outdoors at a comfortable time of year. Consider a friend’s house, backyard, or local forest. Just make sure to check with the park district or authorities regarding playing music on loudspeakers and the timing of that. Decorations can be done with fake flowers, or with real flowers that aren’t as expensive as roses for example. Use small amounts artistically and see if you can get the effect you are looking for.

The photography:

We all want beautiful memories. Consider providing your guests with cheap cameras and letting them take some of your photos. Hire a student who can give you a cheaper price. Investigate people via their social media or Instagram- maybe a young design student or someone who wants it for the beginning of their photography business. If needed, and you are nervous about entrusting all your memories to someone less experienced- have a professional for a shorter part of the time and a newer student for most of the time, saving you the hourly fee for all the time under the professional, and you get double the views and double the shots. Make sure to ask your friends for photos afterwards that they might have caught on their phones or cameras to add to an ad-hoc album.

The gown:

Look for sale prices, David’s Bridal, ASOS, or even AliExpress or Amazon. Check out thrift shops, eBay, or Poshmark. Many people only use their gown once, so buying a used gown for a fraction of the price can be easy to get. In addition, some places rent gowns cheaply- which might be a good way to get a gorgeous gown at a fraction of the price. Some salons rent their designer gowns as good exposure. Think out of the box and look around- you might find a real bargain in many places. And don’t be discouraged, if one place doesn’t work, try a different one. The gown has to fit you, not the other way around.

The food:

Consider a potluck meal and ask your friends. Get a quote for a buffet from a caterer instead of a sit-down meal. Maybe tell your wedding party that you will just serve small appetizers, and only have a full meal for just a smaller amount of close friends and family. Or separate the ceremony without food from a meal with food for a smaller amount of people.

The music:

Borrow speakers from a friend, get an electrical outlet, and make several Spotify playlists. Appoint a friend to run it and you’ve got a homemade DJ with everything you could want, music made to order. Ask a friend or two who plays an instrument, or a local music school if their students want to join for an orchestra for some live music part of the time, and you’ve got yourself dulcet tones at a fraction of the price.

The makeup and hair: 

MAC (and some Bobbi Brown, maybe other makeup companies as well) has a deal that if they make up your face up, you pay a flat fee which also includes the product! This means you’ll get your face perfectly done and the makeup to boot- worth it! Otherwise, ask a cosmetology school- students are usually excellent at this. Hair- ask a friend or get it done by a student- if you know what you want, it can come out beautifully. Show photos as examples of the look you are going for.

Remember, it doesn’t have to be the most luxurious or fancy wedding to be truly memorable. Do it your way and save the money for a down payment on a house, schooling, or something you truly want.

Did you have a frugal wedding? Do you know how to throw a frugal party? What did you do to celebrate frugally?

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