Reader Question: Wedding on a Shoestring Budget

Yesterday I got an email from reader Tanya asking for help and this is what the email said:

I am going to be getting married next month by the justice of the peace/judge and I want to have a

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  • kirstin & jordan

    My sister and I love weddings! However, after having planned and been in more than 20 weddings between the two of us, we know that they can be so very expensive.

    So this summer, we did a blog series on finding wedding materials on the cheap… just click on “budget” in the right sidebar of our blog!

  • Southerner

    I love simple weddings! Who says there are any rules? Make sure to be yourself for YOUR party. If you are an outdoors person bring that into your party. If you are romantic make simple but elegant arrangements and have a simple buffet of finger foods and cake. I love when people break the mold and have BBQ or something like that. You do not have to do anything other than a cake or even cupcakes now.

  • Karen

    I just got married four months ago on a tiny budget, and I have an entire series at my blog devoted to this very topic! I post new tips every Wednesday. She can access the archive with all the topics at this link:

    I hope she finds it helpful! 🙂

  • Shayleen Lunt

    The church that I belong to – the buildings are always free to reserve. (
    A big cultural hall is available near you! 😉
    Also – if it’s a reception, don’t do a full meal! Just do treats! Cookies, brownies, other goodies…

  • All in a Day

    We had our reception in a town hall years ago. I think it was $15.00.

  • Anonymous

    Try looking on Freecyle or Craiglist for wedding leftovers-most people have bunches of stuff leftover that they don’t know what to do with.

  • Dr. Mom

    I once saw a tip by a frugal mom saving for her daughter’s wedding. She bought gift cards at a local restaurant. It was during a time when they had a deal going, like buy $25 get another $5 gift card. If you are paying for a reception, find one of those deals and then pay with your gift cards. I thought it was a great idea. You could probably use the gift cards for just catering as well.

  • The Van

    My husband and I (both graduate students) were married in May with a very limited budget. We had the ceremony and reception at a summer camp (equipped with a kitchen). The family pitched in and we provided a “make your own burrito bar” with beans, guacamole, tortillas, meat, etc. We also limited guests to close friends and family.

    I think the easiest way to save money is to realize you don’t have to do all the things the books tell you to: limo, flowers, veil, etc. Making your own food also saves a tremendous amount of money.

  • Baba

    Even though a wedding is the couple’s special day you can share it with all your family and friend who would love to help out. Make the reception a pot luck! Have girlfriends do the decorating! Find a crafty friend to make silk flower boutineers and boquets. There is no need to spend thousands of dollars and it can turn out beautiful. Mind did.

  • Bethany

    Big back yard? Have a BBQ. As a previous poster mentioned, have a pot luck.
    DIY (do it yourself) is your best friend.
    Try a local restaurant. Most will only charge you for food.

  • Les@SpillingBuckets

    I agree with the BBQ ideas – that's what we were thinking about doing. Even if you go to a park and don't use a back yard it's still pretty cheap.

    As for possible honeymoon ideas, could you have the wedding at a small B&B and then stay there for a few nights afterwards to relax?

    I am sure you can find a lot of decent stuff to try if you search and use creativity.

  • Abbi

    I have had a lot of fun helping many brides save money on their weddings. Some of my main advice is do as much as you can yourself and don’t be afraid to ask friends for help.
    As far as reception areas church buildings often have space for a reception (just don’t plan on alcohol which will save you money too! Alcohol is a huge wedding expense which in my opinion is totally unnecassary.), Town halls can by quite economical as well. A park is very pretty (and generally cheap) if the weather is nice and of course your back yard would be free.
    For food you don’t have to serve a whole meal, you can have an evening wedding (like 7 pm) and have just cake, nuts, mints and maybe appetizers. You could have an afternoon wedding and do the same thing. Or I have heard that morning weddings with a brunch can be a great way to save money on food. If you do have a whole meal try chicken or some sort of dish where you don’t need big pieces of meat that cost a lot. Catering is very expensive so the more you and family and friends can do the better. You could also cater part and provide part yourself.

    For decorating think: what do I have, what is available to get from the woods or wherever (such as wild flowers or pine bows or cattails) and try to use that. Maybe think of a theme and work around that hopefully using some of what you already have. One friend of mine hung up wedding dresses of mothers and grandmothers and great grandmothers to go along with her vintage decorating. It was quite neat and it was free. Don’t be afraid to be ecclectic. Another idea is doing something rustic like wild flowers in canning jars with ribbons around them.
    I actually am in the middle of writing a post on how to save money on weddings (I am a wedding flower designer -I own my own business and I have been very involved with helping many friends in all areas of their weddings) I am planning on posting it on Friday, so feel free to come check it out!

  • HotMommy

    Costco has great prices on very nice quality rings (limited sizes though), but you can also find pretty and unique pieces at pawn shops. Don’t be scared to go in and look – most pawn shop dealers are very knowledgeable about their merchandise and use much less pressure selling to you than a typical jewelry store salesperson.

  • Zenobiah

    What we did:
    Rented a converted barn for the reception.
    Had the dinner for family and wedding party only at a restaurant
    Then we went to the barn for a potluck cake reception.
    I designed my own gown and my mom
    made it for me.
    We also had all our friends take turns as wedding photographers and we ended up getting a LOT of really good shots.
    We spent about 2500$ total on the wedding.

  • Mercedes

    Thank you so much for your great suggestions! When we got married we only had 25 people invited total to our wedding. My husband at the time worked for a checf who owned his own restaurant so we got free location and discounted delicious food. I had my dress made. We have always talked about having a greater celebration when we celebrate ten years of married. By then our kids will be older and they can be part of the celebration as well.

  • bloosgrl

    Our loca TV station just did a segment on thrift store shopping for party decorations, etc. You might find it helpful.

  • Monica

    For our wedding, my husband and I rented a facilty at a park. They had the cheapest rate available with everything we needed. For a total of 6 hours we rented the building for $150. Thinking out of the box helped us find this place and save money.

  • Gidget Cooper

    As a Newbie, I am always researching online for articles that can help me get further ahead. Thanks a million!