How to have a frugal wedding without looking cheap

A Frugal Wedding

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Planning a Frugal Wedding

We have set a date for when we will marry. It's January 1. Here are some of the ideas that I like and would appreciate any feedback/suggestions.

  • There will be about 60 people invited.
  • The church is already arranged.
  • We have a singer.
  • The colors and my attendants are chosen. We are going with earthy tones, so they can choose a dress that can be worn later.
  • We have selected some of the food. We are going with BBQ (buns), noodle salad of some sort, veggie and cheese trays.
  • We are thinking that we should fit in the church. We decided against sit down tables, but we are not worried about that now. We just don't want to spend money on a hall.
  • The flower girl will not be dropping rose petals. Instead, she'll drop dried leaves that will be collected in the fall.
  • I want a real wedding dress. I didn't have one in my first wedding, which was at a courthouse. However, I don't have a lot of money to spend on a dress.
  • We both agree that we don't want to skimp on the photography and cake. We are still not sure about the cost of each of these. A friend's daughter might make our cake, so it would be cheaper.


Wedding Beauty at Half the Cost

We did this for our wedding about five years ago. Instead of hiring a professional photographer, we went to the local technical college and talked to the visual arts professor. We gave him our information and he asked his class if anyone would like to have the job. We interviewed a few applicants to see their portfolio and ended up using a pair of students as our wedding photographers. We saved about 50% off the cost of the professional, helped the students practice their career, and received beautiful photos. The students were given permission to use our photos in their portfolio and we received a disk of all the pictures taken that day.
Glen in Edmonton, Alberta

Save with Your Frugal Wedding Gown

You said that you didn't want to cut back on the photography. This is just a thought. Get a really nice portrait done of the two of you in your wedding attire by a photographer. This will be the one you frame. Have a friend or two with a good camera and eye for taking pictures do the rest. Decide what shots you want in advance. Honestly, the best pictures of our wedding were taken by friends.

Also, I got my wedding gown at David's Bridal Warehouse. It was about $450 new in 1993. If you don't mind a used dress, there are consignment shops that have beautiful dresses. Bridal shops are a racket and create a lot of stress.

Reconsider Dried Leaves Idea

I would definitely nix the dried leaves. They may end up a crumpled mess. I would talk to someone in the floral department at the grocery store about getting some roses that no longer look "pretty" but would be fine as petals to scatter. You may even be able to get them for free.

I see pretty wedding gowns all the time at thrift stores in the Seattle area. You might want to check the thrift stores in your area to see what's available. The dresses can always be altered if needed and you can pick up a beautiful dress for under $100.

Take Care of DIY Glamour

It sounds like you have a good start. Here are some of my frugal wedding suggestions that I implemented in my wedding six months ago:

  • Do your own hair, make-up and nails. I wanted to look like a better version of myself on my wedding day, not a glamour queen that I didn't recognize.
  • My husband and I opted for silver rings instead of gold. We found a beautifully designed set that we both loved and spent $100 instead of $800 for two gold rings.
  • Since my husband and I are not big drinkers, we decided not to have alcohol at our reception, which probably saved us several hundred dollars. We used sparkling lemonade for our toast.
  • I used fake flowers for my bouquet, altar flowers, corsages, and boutonnieres. My mother-in-law made my bouquet, but I bought the rest of the flower arrangements from (a site were people can sell their homemade items) for a fraction of the cost of real flowers and they were beautiful.
  • I didn't want a tiered cake, so we ordered two wedding cakes and a groom's cake from Costco for about $60. We did have limited decoration choices, but the cake tasted fantastic. We could have spent up to $300 for one wedding cake!
  • If you are going to have your reception at your church, do they have linens that you can borrow? My church did and it saved us $100-$200.

I hope this helps and congratulations!

Advice from an Event Planner

Congratulations on your pending marriage! I am an Event Planner in Cleveland, Ohio and I recommend the following to have the best wedding as possible.

First, you need to determine how much you are budgeting for this wedding. It is important to have the budget before you even begin shopping.

Wedding Dress - I recommend using or I have seen people get a wedding dress for as little as $20. In addition, many places on eBay will custom-make the dress to fit you. My sister got her wedding dress made for her body size and shape. She simply emailed them her measurements. Her dress including alterations and shipping from eBay cost $100.

Decoration - Look on these same websites because many people spend hundreds of dollars on tulle and flowers, etc. After the wedding, they no longer need these items. This could be very helpful to make your wedding spectacular for very little money. In addition, if you need to buy material, I recommend signing up at Michaels and Joann Fabrics because they send out coupons for 40% off a single item or cut of fabric at least weekly.

Dinner - If you are going to have a full dinner, then you need a place for your guests to eat, and tables and chairs would be needed. If there is just no way you can afford this, then you should think about having appetizers instead. If you have your wedding in the afternoon between 2pm and 4pm, you would eliminate having to feed people an entire meal. Or if you have a large family (church or otherwise), you may be able to ask them to help "provide a dish."

Cake - Walmart/Sam's Club offers a wedding cake for $99, and for a little bit extra, they will provide you with the stands, white satin, and greenery for decoration. They can make your flowers whatever color you choose. This is a less expensive alternative compared to a traditional wedding cake. You can expect to pay between $150-$2000+ depending on the type of cake and look you are going for.

Photographer - The average going rate is about $1500 so finding someone that does this for a hobby and would like to make extra cash may be helpful and more budget-friendly. Again you can look on Craigslist. Just make sure you have seen a variety of their photos before agreeing to anything. Ask around to family and friends and see if anyone does this as a hobby.

Look into a Custom Made Dress

Acquaint yourself with the local fabric stores, consignment stores and even thrift shops in your area. For the wedding dress, an experienced alteration/seamstress is your answer! She can help you select the material, all the accessories, and the pattern, of course! You might find a local designer who can help you as well.

Sometimes more than one seamstress will sew certain garments to save time. You may want a seamstress just for your dress. For a wedding, I made the flower girl's dresses, the attendants purchased their own, and another seamstress made the wedding dress. Check out the business card wall in a grocery or check with a dry cleaner. They usually have a seamstress who does their alterations.
J. Anderson in Indianapolis, IN

Creative Reception Idea

Check into thrift stores and secondhand stores for your wedding gown. I got a $1600 gown for $400. When I finished with it, I gave it to Salvation Army. It did not stay in the front window long.

Also to save money on the reception, we had two receptions. I know that does not sound like it would save money, but we had a "tea reception" where we cut the cake, had tea and coffee, and all the gifts were left on the table. Then after that, we went back to the in-laws and had a private party with our 10 best friends.

If you cannot afford a pro to do your photography, do not have a friend do the pictures. Disposable cameras will get a lot of great shots. Just leave them on the tables.

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