People are always trying to get married on a tight budget. Honestly, it's hard. I often hear "Were having a small wedding, maybe 75-100 people?" Let me just say, that is not small. That's traditional. 20-50 is small and 150-250 is large.
In doing some research looking for ways to cut back on expenses for my own wedding, I found several articles encouraging couples to lie about the type of event to vendors, because "everything with WEDDING in it is instantly more expensive!". I. Just. Can't. First, if you lie to a vendor and they find out... because they will.. you do risk the contract being void and that vendor cancelling your agreement. Second, Not only is it rude, but there is actually more work involved in weddings.
Traditional weddings are difficult and require a step up in perfection. Not to mention that we have to put up with a lot when it comes to weddings. Bridezillas, snarky family members, drunk people... etc. Yes, it costs more to put up with your salty asses. We love what we do, as wedding vendors, but hiring someone that is able to handle situations with grace is important. This wedding business is not for the faint of heart.
Weddings are more expensive for a reason, all us vendors need a lot more time and preparation. Furthermore, at your once (or maybe twice or three times) in a lifetime event, you don't want to hire amateurs. You'll live with that "Our wedding was great, but...." forever.
That said, lets get to the fun stuff.
1. The Guest List
Obviously, in order to have a budget wedding, you need to trim down that list! Try to keep it under 70. I personally love this infographic from The Overwhelmed Bride.
This is your day and you and your partner are building this list. Not your parents, not your friends or distant relatives. YOU. Trim it down!
2. The Venue
For an outdoor wedding, there are loads of places you can have a gorgeous wedding. Many city parks don't require permits or if they do the fee is nominal. At city parks, you could comfortably have 50-60 people there. Or, go to a gorgeous outdoor location at a state park. If you're only having a handful in attendance, a state park is great option. In my own area of Tulsa, OK, there are a few places that lost the state park title and are now overseen by the Corps of Engineers. This is beneficial because it means you can go have a wedding out there without bothering anyone. Also, the areas are still usually kept up. I do, however, encourage you to look into the state of the restrooms.
For indoor weddings, search beyond city limits. Sometimes, in rural areas, landowners have started small home businesses with offering to rent out buildings on their property. In city limits, and only if you're having a micro wedding, sometimes places that clearly don't typically offer weddings... might at a small cost. Also, those unique places may be excited to have you get married in their store. Again though, I'd keep that option for micro weddings. But, consider vintage shops, bookstores, oddities, comic book shops, record stores, etc.
3. The Photographer
You need a good photographer for your day and there's just no way around that. I can't even tell you how many people I've heard say "Here's my wedding pictures and they suck." and they do. Even some taken recently where its full of selective color and awkward prom poses. They suck and these shitty photos are your lifelong memory of your day. When working within a budget, this is again where trimming that list will come into play. I know many photographers, including myself, who have elopement packages that start at 950.00. But, having that larger guest list ups the ante. My 950.00 package goes to the next tier after 30 guests. Others may be different. When planning your own wedding, the photographer may very well be your largest cost, and I can't mansplain enough why it is what it is.
4. The Officiant
Get a good friend to help out! Anyone can be ordained online for free, you pay 25.00 (Ish) to have your certificate mailed to you, then you file with your county. Some states or counties do not require filing, but some do. There are loads of resources online to help write a ceremony script, google is your friend.
5. The Flowers
I strongly encourage sourcing a lot of dried flowers. You can find them online for super cheap, usually. Depending on the type of decor florals you want, you may pay more than fresh. Recently, I bought quiet a bit of dried and paid significantly more than fresh floral, but I needed them. On the other hand, if you look for out of season from retailers online - you have a better chance. For fresh florals, Sams Club and Costco! No really.... they usually have a decent selection.
My advice would be, if you want flowers - only do a bouquet. You don't really need flowers everywhere. Maybe a single stem at each table? It is completely possible to spend 75.00-150.00 on flowers, then you'll just need to spend some time arranging them yourself.
6. Chairs and an Arch
Rent them. Or don't get chairs at all and do standing room only. Not having chairs will save you from feeling obligated to decorate them, and save you some money in the long run. Obviously if you have some older guests, chairs would be nice. So, call around. Sometimes you can find great deals from .75-2.00 per chair! Now the arch, you can rent one. Or, you can build one for very cheap.
Looking at a few of these, I know I can pull it off for under 50.00. Which is already cheaper than renting an arch. Remember! Stack those coupons at Michael's and Joann! Sign up for their mailing lists, download the apps and screen shot the coupons from the website. You can stack coupons from all medias!
7. The Reception
There is NO SHAME in the potluck game. I've seen it down several times and its great. Also, TACO TRUCKS!!! Ask how much it would be to have them post up at your event, and have a be a cash truck. But, if you want to make all the food yourself, have a later morning or early evening event. Prepare some tapas, easy finger foods and simple punches. Get nicer paper or plastic plates and flatware. No china needed. Although, having place settings with a ton of mismatched china to SO FREAKING ADORABLE! Obviously, I need to touch on WHERE to have the reception. So, this is where is gets difficult.
If you have your wedding at an aforementioned park, you can have a sweet post nuptial BBQ. Get some games for the guests like horse shoes or corn hole (I still to this day hate saying the name of that game.). Do it all there! Or, if you or someone you know has a good sized house, ask them.
This can be done, and you don't have to lower yourself the a cheap tacky chapel to do it. You can have a lot of what you want, once you learn how to leverage a little. I've been doing this for a few years now, so I have a little practice if planning and providing budget weddings. But, it doesn't take a degree to pull it off! Just some basic couponing skills, some degree of craftyness and a little bit of patience.