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10 Ways to Plan a Wedding on a Budget

By Melissa Green | Citizens Bank Staff

An expensive wedding is not necessarily a good wedding, and vice versa. It’s entirely possible to plan the wedding of your dreams without going broke. It all comes down to being smart with your decisions and knowing where to cut back. And that doesn’t mean cutting your guest list in half (although it would save you a considerable amount of money).  

If you’re looking at your budget and having sticker shock, these tips to planning your wedding on a budget may help curb your spending.

1. Cut the cake early – or not at all

Cutting the cake early in the reception is a money-saving hack most couples don’t think of. It allows the photographer and/or videographer to wrap up earlier and charge you less. Otherwise, they may be hanging around for an extra hour or two simply to document the last major event. If your photographer is charging you $200 per hour, you could save $200 to $400 just by cutting cake!

Alternatively, there’s no rule that says you have to have a cake at all. (Except maybe for your great Aunt Maureen.) The average wedding cake costs $1,125; compared to the average cupcake cost of $375, that’s a significant savings just by nixing the big cake.

Pro tip: Get creative with dessert. Think mini donuts or make your own candy bar — which could also double as a wedding favor.

2. Cut back on flowers

Experts say the cost of flowers is minimal — it’s the labor it takes to arrange them that costs so much. To save money, consider non-floral arrangements for centerpieces. Think candles, driftwood, lanterns, art…get creative! Put your money into the flowers for the bride, parents, bridesmaids, and other relatives.

Local, in-season flowers are the way to go. This will guarantee the freshest blooms and they’ll be less costly, too. Additionally, year-round blossoms like roses, calla lilies, and orchids tend to be less expensive. If you go local, you’ll save on transport costs too (tulips from Holland don’t come cheap).

3. Rethink your beverage strategy

Most wedding guests will expect some form of alcohol to help you celebrate at your reception. While some people view a cash bar as a breach in wedding etiquette, an open bar tab for your guests can quickly bust your budget. However, there are lots of bar options for every budget:

  • Serve wine and beer only, with or without a signature drink option
  • Skip the champagne toast, most people don’t drink it anyway
  • Have an open bar during cocktail hour, and serve wine and beer for dinner
  • Nix the top shelf, and opt for well liquors

Pro Tip: Check with your venue to see if you can bring your own alcohol. Buying your liquor wholesale could mean a significant savings.

4. Go paperless on invitations

According to the Knot, the average cost of printed wedding invitations is $386. If you’re looking to cut costs, your invitations may be just the place to do it. Go green and send digital invitations. Paperless invites will not only save you over $300, but they’ll make RSVPs easier — and they’re better for the environment. Everyone wins!

Pro tip: If you have a fairly straight-forward ceremony, consider nixing the wedding programs as well.

5. Hire a local band for entertainment

The conventional wisdom of the wedding world is that a live band costs more than a DJ. If your heart is set on live entertainment, consider hiring a local act. You may be able to negotiate lower costs from college students or local bands trying to make a name for themselves. If not, a DJ is a great option and typically ranges from $500 to $1,000 over a wedding band, which could charge anywhere from $2,500 to $6,000.

6. Use an online service to have vendors bid on jobs

Instead of approaching bands, photographers, and other wedding service providers and asking what they charge, you can save money by exploring options through sites like Thumbtack or GenTask. You can specify what you need and have vendors bid for your business. For example, a photographer may charge upwards of $2,000 to capture a wedding. Using Thumbtack, you could get bids for the job online and end up with someone who will do a great job for $800.

7. Consider a nontraditional wedding day and venue

Statistics say that your venue is the most expensive part of your wedding, so it’s also an opportunity to cut some costs. When shopping locations, inquire about rates for a Friday or Sunday; Saturday is the most expensive day to get married. Additionally, you can skip the ballroom and rent an Airbnb or VRBO to save on traditional hotel costs.

8. Skip the plated dinner

A plated dinner is the most expensive food option you can choose, but the good news is there are plenty of budget-friendly options that can work well for your special day. If your wedding is in the evening, consider a buffet over a served dinner to lower the meal cost. Or, a brunch reception on a Sunday will provide a wide variety of good food for a fraction of the price.

9. Nix the champagne toast

Wedding guests will definitely raise their champagne flutes when directed to at your reception. More often than not, many will take an obligatory sip, leave the rest on the table, and go back to sipping their drink of choice. Instead of a champagne toast, ask your guests to raise their glasses — and they will — with whatever they have. If you’re dead set on a bubbly toast, consider serving Prosecco, which costs less and more people prefer.

10. Use your credit card

A great way to help your budget and yourself is to use your credit card when making wedding purchases. Depending on your rewards, you could earn miles towards your honeymoon, or cash back to help pay for the ice sculpture you just had to have. It also provides a layer of protection from potential no-show vendors.

What to remember

It’s important to think about what you need versus what things are nice to have. After your day is over, you and your guests won’t be thinking about the lack of top-shelf tequila; you’ll remember an epic celebration of love.

More information

Your wedding is a moment you'll cherish for years to come. If you’re looking for ways to fund your dream wedding, consider a personal loan. Our colleagues are committed to helping you find the best way to save for your big day. To learn more, please call 1-800-922-9999, visit us online, or Ask a Citizen at your nearest Citizens Bank branch.

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