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Planning a Frugal Wedding

Category Planning
Money is tight for many people and wedding costs can easily get out of hand. There are many ways to keep the costs down and still have a nice wedding. This is a guide about planning a frugal wedding.


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By 6 found this helpful
November 25, 2011

My husband and I were single until we were thirty, so we agreed that a "full blown" wedding was not what we wanted. Instead we opted to save our money for a honeymoon trip to England, and to put together a more economical wedding. We planned a small invitation list, about 50, that included a few friends and relatives.

Were we ever surprised when many of our friends and co-workers "invited" themselves to our wedding with comments like "We thought you two would NEVER get married", and "This we gotta see! When's the date?" The guest list grew to almost 200! Well, we couldn't afford hurt feelings OR a big wedding so this is how we solved it.

We made a list of all the components : location, food, flowers, music, decorations, invitations, cake, dress, beverages, etc. Then one by one we decided what we could scale back. As we were doing this my best friend, (who was going through a nasty divorce at the time) called in tears and said she could not afford to give me a gift or even attend the wedding. Of course I was crushed, by her absence, NOT the gift! LOL. A solution came to me and it also provided the solution to our ever-expanding guest list.


My friend is an excellent seamstress and the dress I had purchased from a vintage shop needed repair. I suggested that as her gift she fit it for me and I would pay her a token sum as well so she could attend. She was thrilled, and so was I!

Next I approached other friends and made like suggestions. In place of the usual gifts or money, would they be interested in pooling together for the wine? The cake? The flowers? The response was tremendous!

One friend, a florist, supplied the flowers at wholesale and donated her talents as designer. Another did my hair. Several others bought the cake and champagne. We had opted for a champagne and dessert reception to keep food costs down and had chosen 8 p.m. for our June date.

Another close friend, who lived on a lake,very generously donated her garden for the ceremony and reception and relatives rented the tent. We got the chairs from the local Fire Auxiliary at 50 cents each, with the understanding that we would pick them up and return them ourselves.

My colors were pale yellow and white, so we covered the tables with snow white sheets that we pinned under and put wide yellow florists ribbons criss-crossing and cascading down to the grass. In the middle of the tables, to hold the ribbons and the bottles of champange, we put small Styrofoam coolers, covered in pale yellow satin and filled with ice cubes. These were surrounded by wine glasses from the dollar store. Flowers finished the festive wine tables. The dessert table was buffet style, the goodies made by a young woman starting her own catering business. She gave us a great price because we let her put cards on the tables.


Our photos were taken by my new brother-in-law, mostly candid shots, which really were so much fun to look at later. No video! The music was a student string quartet that played waltzes and hymns throughout the evening and our wedding song, The Sleeping Beauty Waltz, whenever my new husband gave me a kiss.

There were no disappointed guests, no "rubber" chicken dinner and no tacky jokes. There was a very happy party, a delicious reception and a fabulous honeymoon in England.

One of the guests had taken her own photos and sent them to a local paper with the story about our wedding. The paper ran it on a full page!

Today, 30 years later, many of our former guests still say it was the best wedding they ever attended. (Me too!) Oh, and by the way, my total cost for my dress, husband's new suit and 200 guests was 2500.00!

By PlumCottage

Do you have a frugal story to share with the ThriftyFun community? Submit your essay here:

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December 10, 20110 found this helpful

What a beautiful story! I'm totally in love with the idea :D

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By 5 found this helpful
November 2, 2010

When planning a wedding, there are ways you can be frugal. One of them is to make your invitations instead of getting them made. Buy pretty printer paper, type them up, and decorate them with your personality. People never notice the difference and it's so much cheaper.

Another thing you can do is have family members help with setting up. Your nieces and nephews think they are playing when making paper mache flowers and folding napkins.

Although these ideas may seems a little too cheap, no one notices that there is anything different and studies have shown that people like when the bride and groom use their own creativity in a wedding!

By Claire Bear from Columbus, OH

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November 3, 20100 found this helpful
Top Comment

I can't vouch for the frugality of my daughter's wedding, but I do know it seemed to be a "neighborhood affair." One neighbor's wedding present was the whole hog for the pulled pork, which they served on large croissants. The rest of the food was mostly various chips, cheese cubes and a couple of kinds of hummus (which I think was the most expensive food served, except maybe for the croissants.)

Another group of friends, a classical quintet, provided the wedding music. The reception music was simply a CD player or something of the sort, I think. They designed their own invitations, and I believe they got a deal from the printer who duplicated them.

The party favors were the unique thing I remember best. My daughter and son-in-law found origami patterns online and printed enough of them to allow each of the 150 or so guests to take home their own creation. They cut off the excess paper, rolled each printed page into a small scroll and tied it with a thin ribbon.

Last but not least, the wedding and reception were in my son-in-law's parents' back yard, so there were no rental costs for the venue.

My oldest son took the super-frugal route this past August: they almost eloped, lol! The wedding was at the county courthouse, with a post-wedding lunch at a local Mexican restaurant. Everyone paid their own way. My youngest son's wedding was also in his in-laws' backyard, too, but the reception was in a local party room that used to be a roller skating rink. Subway sandwiches and fruit punch were served. Too bad he forgot his sister's pineapple allergy; she had to request bottled water. Sigh, "pobody's nerfect," I guess. Anyway, I hope this gives you some ideas!

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By 5 found this helpful
November 15, 2010

wedding flowers

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In 2008, a series of events were brought to our family. Our oldest daughter decided she wanted to get married in October (the month and day they met). So, that was one wedding. Then, the next wedding was for my step-daughter in May.


December 3, 20040 found this helpful

Our daughter is getting married in June of '05 and we need to be careful about the amount we spend on the wedding.

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September 10, 2008

Tips for a $300 Wedding

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When my husband and I got married, we only spent $300 out of our pockets for the entire wedding. That included the flowers, my dress, invitations and programs. You can have a great wedding for a lower price as well.


October 24, 2007

Frugal Wedding

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You can have a large beautiful wedding if you limit your shopping to thrift stores, Walmart, and Dollar Tree. This wedding cost under $600.


By 0 found this helpful
November 16, 2013

When planning your wedding, ask the groom's family to be in charge of, and pay for any alcohol beverages served. If you aren't serving alcohol, the groom's parents can pay for another part of the reception.

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By 0 found this helpful
April 5, 2010

I got married in October so I used the flowers in season. This was very cost effective. I also did a small round two layer cake to cut, and did a sheet cake in the kitchen to serve to the guests.

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Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

By 0 found this helpful
December 15, 2010

We have a small budget for our wedding and catering is so expensive. If we do it ourselves with frozen lasagna, salad and bread will it look cheap? How can we have a nice meal on a tight budget?

By Sarah from Sacramento, CA

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December 16, 20100 found this helpful
Best Answer

I went to a wedding once where they served deviled ham sandwiches. That being said, I thought no less of the happy couple. They were staying within their budget and that is commendable. If your friends and relatives are that narrow minded, then fooey on them. I say go ahead with your lasagna idea, salad and rolls. Sounds very nice and remember presentation is everything. Set the table with a flower in a look alike crystal vase, add baloons, and of course a wedding cake. That should do it and Happy Everafter. Blessings.....

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December 16, 20100 found this helpful
Best Answer

Sarah, it's your day. I say do what works best for you. My oldest son got married at the courthouse, with just a handfull of us attending. Then we all gathered at a local Mexican restaurant and paid for our own meals. That in no way detracted from our joy in the union!

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December 16, 20100 found this helpful
Best Answer

What we did was, prepare a menu together, cook for 3 days together and we enlisted parents for the cake and we provided beer on tap, coffee and tea, also a lovely punch and kept our expenses low. Our reception was in our rented home and we fed 50. It was fabulous and we knew that our love would last. It has for 30 years. We still cook together too.

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By 0 found this helpful
November 2, 2010

I'm interested in any suggestions on how to contain the cost of a wedding. For example, I need help with dresses, flowers, food, venues, etc.

By Lucy

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November 3, 20100 found this helpful

If you need ideas for a frugal wedding, just plain go and get married. It is the thought between the two of you that counts, not a showy affair. Have a couple friends or relatives stand up with you and go out for a meal after the ceremony. Otherwise have the ceremony in somebody's house with just immediate family attending. Have it during a time of day that you won't be expected to serve a meal and just have a small wedding cake with coffee, tea, and punch. Have a couple relatives do the serving. As far as dresses, flowers, etc. you know better than anyone what you like.

When I got married we got married in the pastor's study, and I wore a white brocade street length dress that I had made with a white hat and shoes and a red carnation corsage. My sister wore a red dress that was a hand me down from me a couple years before and a white hat and shoes. That was it. The men wore dark suits and had boutonnieres. Back then if I had bought my dress it probably would have cost at least $100.00, ready made. I can't remember what the fabric cost but it was pricey for the early 60s. However, even now you can find really nice looking street length dresses or even really dressy suits that can be worn for other occasions.

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November 3, 20100 found this helpful

Just look up "wedding" here & you will find lots of frugal ideas. It can be done, I have done 2 weddings for very little (Under $1,000).

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November 4, 20100 found this helpful

My first wedding was ultra-frugal. My wedding dress came from a consignment shop, as did the groom's suit. The only people in attendance were the pastor, the best man, matron of honor, and the groom and me. I typed announcements after the fact. We bought some semi-fancy plain cards that I typed on a borrowed typewriter (this was in 1982.) His family gave us a pot-luck reception at their church's fellowship hall a couple of days later.

My current hubby and lifemate and I also had a very small wedding, although my dress was new and from Sears or Penney's. Again it was the attendants, the pastor and us. We went to a local Chinese buffet afterwards.

Our oldest son got married at the county courthouse, with a handful of folks other than hubby and me, and we went to a local Mexican restaurant afterward. I'm not sure where my daughter-in-law and her maid of honor got their outfits, but the rest of us just wore nice church clothes.

These three weddings are the most frugal I can think of. Best to you and your new spouse!

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By 0 found this helpful
January 11, 2014

We want a super small wedding! Either just the two of us, or very few people. We live in Washington state and need some help with ideas. We don't know if we should travel somewhere to get married or just do it around home? Help!

By Ashley

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January 16, 20140 found this helpful

This was exactly what hubby and I wanted 20 years ago. We were married at the Wedding Chapel in Hamilton, ON and had two of our best friends with their spouses share the special day with us. After the ceremony, the six of us went to Shakespeare's Steak House for a fine dinner. No muss, no fuss but everything done with a touch of class.

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December 10, 20120 found this helpful

I would like some ideas for planning a wedding with the theme, soul food. Please provide thrifty ideas. Thank you.

By Tawana

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December 12, 20120 found this helpful

My nephew got married in May of this year. He and his bride to be didn't have a lot of money, so she wanted to get married at her moms house, and they asked each guest to bring a covered dish. We live down south, so he asked his relatives to bring their soul food, like they have around the Holidays. They did, and it was just wonderful!

Also, my hubby & I just did finger foods at our wedding that pulled it off nicely and it was a small get together because we didn't want a huge expensive wedding. I really liked my nephew & niece's (yeap she's family now!) Idea of covered dish! Wish I'd thought of that! Hope this helps!

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ThriftyFun is one of the longest running frugal living communities on the Internet. These are archives of older discussions.

November 2, 20100 found this helpful

We are getting married on February 20th, 2010. I have almost no budget. Our colors are burgundy, champagne, and ivory. We will be doing all of the decorations, food, etc. ourselves. Please help.

By Katie from MN


Ideas for a Frugal Wedding

I had a frugal wedding. It was at a University in front of a memorial water fountain (with the University's permission of course). We borrowed chairs from the music department; friends and family set them up. We used a boom box for the music and had made a CD with the music we wanted to play in the order we wanted it played (can't mess that up).
The pastor was a friend of the bride's family and did the service for a small donation to the church.

The reception afterward was in the University cafeteria. They didn't charge much since all they had to make was the punch and they had to clean up afterward. Paper plates and plastic ware rule, especially when you can buy them in bulk off the internet in whatever color you want.

My mother made the cake. She actually made two cakes, cut them down into the shape of bells, put their tops next to each other like wedding bells and frosted them up. They looked and tasted good.

Just be creative on the location, it doesn't have to be a church. Of course being your wedding is in February unless you're in Florida or Southern Cally you need to be indoors.

Oh yeah, we bought invitations in bulk and wrote in every one to personalize them for the family they were sent to. We didn't pay for personalizing the cards with our names and the wedding details. But on wedding details you could order up some mail return labels to stick on the inside of the invitation with the date and location. The wedding dress was rented and the bridesmaids were coordinated with off the shelf dresses. I don't remember the details about the flowers. (11/14/2009)

By Suntydt

Ideas for a Frugal Wedding

Let a J P marry you all then have the reception at home. Good luck. (11/14/2009)

By kffrmw88

Ideas for a Frugal Wedding

My nephew got married at sunset, on the beach, by the Hermosa Beach pier. There were a couple of small flower arrangements on top of posts. She had a beautiful white dress and he was in black; both were classy, but not crazy fancy. Most guests had cameras so no photographer fees. Not sure where the minister was from, but she was more unique, less whistles and bells. Then we all went to a decent restaurant (probably the most expensive part of the whole thing). They timed it just right and it was awesome. (11/14/2009)

By totally frustrated

Ideas for a Frugal Wedding

Congratulations on a winter wedding and on getting married! These are some ideas as a wedding is intensely personal some of these you may find unusable. Here goes:


  • Buy wedding dress and tux online/thrift store.
  • Rent wedding dress and tux at store.
  • If you are handy with the sewing machine buy white dress and embellish/alter yourself.
  • Buy a pant or skirt suit that you can wear for other special occasions after the wedding (white suit can be a wardrobe staple).

Pick color/length of dress to coordinate with wedding and let the bridesmaids dress themselves (eliminates expenses for them = better gifts for you:)

Bridesmaids/Best Men:
Provide same color boutonnieres to further coordinate the look of your wedding party for pictures and such.

Use carnations they come in all sorts of colors = easy to coordinate and baby's breath (bridal white...) OR use fake flowers that color coordinate.
Look online for easy instructions on how to make your own boutonnieres if so inclined.

Get married by a justice of the peace (inside, do not have to rent church or hall saves $$$) and just have reception afterward. Pass the word around to your friends/relatives that you are looking for a minister (we have a friend whose father is a minister and he can marry people) who can marry people.

Having wedding in your home can save a lot of money just have the person marrying you come to the house.
To save money on a reception hall just have the wedding and reception in same place. Have people come in and seat themselves at the already set up tables and get married on the platform by the minister who came to location already. (saves people some travel time, etc) Festivities start right after.

Having wedding at your church's hall can save you money or even be free (you can try volunteering for some church activities in exchange for some/all money off the hall rental price).

Have wedding at a friends/relatives whose house is bigger than yours tell him/her that could be his/ her wedding gift to you. (If it is cheaper than a hall pay for a cleaning service to come after the party or have people in your bridal party clean up and let them keep the decorations.)

Rent (borrow from friends) fold out card tables as long as they are trimmed in the same color shape of table will not matter (white is always easy to find and then you can have the trim color be fabric dyed or etc. below)
Buy dollar store tablecloths.
Rent table cloths.
Buy lengths of canvas/cotton (sometimes 99cents/yd or below) in white/ tan (tan and champagne go well together because yellow base). You can also tea dye white cotton to antique it (awesome for romantic wedding lace).

If the card tables are long and rectangular and same height they can be covered in bedsheets (cheap white bedsheets) and the seams covered with lace.
Paper is cheap and can be found in huge rolls at a significant discount (buy tan/white and use red as accent- colored paper is more expensive).

In the case above tables may be made into two big long ones (saves materials).

Chairs can be rented at significant discounts from schools/churches-see above.

Table decor:

Use white glass vases from the thrift store (white is not see through and you don't have to put anything in for color. It can also be spray painted champagne). With red carnations and baby's breath, ivy is also good trim as it fills space and stays green. (Find someone with an overgrown garden and it is free.)

If your heart is set on clear vases (thrift/dollar store) you can use food dye in the water to give color.

For flowers visit a flower shop and ask for day-old flowers/throwaways = significant discount/free.
Spray painted twigs (free from garden you can also use evergreen) white/gold with tissue paper flowers (or paper punched ones-real ones). Make a nice centerpiece around a mirror tile with a candle on it. The instructions with pictures are online to make all of this.

Glittered candles on top of a mirror (thrift store) also work with a champagne glow.
Pine cones are also free and you can spray paint them to match if a winter decor is desired.

Shop after Christmas sales to get all sorts of things for favors (red/white/gold are Christmas/New Year's colors) at significant discounts (including wine or champagne)

Some ideas:

  • candles (goes with candle centerpieces above)
  • candy treat bags
  • see through ornaments with glitter and ground Styrofoam inside with your names and the date handwritten with colored/metallic permanent marker on it
  • paperpunch butterflies/hearts/or favorite shapes out of paper and scatter like confetti between waxed paper sheets with wax sides facing each other and iron on low over a sheet = placemats (more details in Martha Stewart)
  • cupcakes
  • use favors as place markers write guest name on it

There is a great book called "Trash to Treasures Christmas" ISBN 1574860941. It has lots of tips on making decorations out of cardboard tubes, milk jugs, etc.

Use bulk plastic/paper dishes and cups.
If small wedding buy china a thrift store and make sure that it is white or coordinating color.
Use paper sheet as place mat (bonus, children can draw on it).

Guest book:
Use several spray painted twigs and provide guests with strips of paper and ornament hooks so they can write write wishes on it and hang on tree. Same as above only a white pillow (other item can be subbed here) people get to sign and then you display.
A pack of note cards "blank" used for wish and "lined" used for address = instant address book.


  • email invites = free
  • Postcards (2 invites printed on a piece of cardstock then cut in half w/guillotine) cheap + half the postage.
  • RSVP by phone/email = less paper used cheap+save time.
  • Use regular computer paper printed invites stuffed in envelopes. There is no extra postage for extra bulk.
  • Print/design your own invites on cardstock (or choice paper). This is still cheaper than store bought kits and customized.

Buffet style is cheap.


  • popcorn, white and can be drizzled for effect with food dyed white chocolate (easy recipe online)
  • pretzles with french onion dip
  • dollar store peanuts
  • tortilla chips and salsa
  • cherry tomatoes, green peppers, celery, and radishes for tray
  • cheap cheese bought in chunks, cubed by hand
  • mini microwaveable meatballs w/Alfredo and marinara sauces
  • mini sausages
  • buy cheap turkey/ham at Thanksgiving cook and cube it for meat tray before reception
  • deviled eggs


  • chicken tenders
  • Swiss steak
  • pasta

Use Boston lettuce instead of romaine, red vinegar and oil can be cheaply bought in bulk and mixed with herbs before for vinaigrette.

Rolls can be baked a few days before and frozen or bought at significant discount and frozen then refreshed the day of.

Chicken/ham/egg salad like someone suggested on here.

Soup or anything that can be made in a large crockpot is your friend (it saves time). Chili is red and coordinates. LOL


  • mini cupcakes
  • mini anything- cookies, cupcakes, strudels, pieces of cake
  • fruit tray with chocolate fondue

The Cake:

Get a small cake decorated with what you want (cake topper, too ). However you want, this is the showpiece.
Get an iced sheetcake with no decorations in the same flavor/icing as your wedding cake and keep in the back. This is the one distributed to guests after showpiece is cut into (this saves up to 85% off the traditional 3 tiered cake or more if someone makes both at home).
Use cupcakes instead of cake.

Okay, this is it. Sorry it is so long. Hope it did help. These tips were gathered over a period of time from different sources (, Martha Stewart, Trash to Treasure Christmas, self and friends who all had weddings). (11/19/2009)

By caeridwen

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November 2, 20100 found this helpful

Frugal ideas pertaining to any and all aspects of the wedding, from the ceremony to the reception and everything in between. These are tips from the ThriftyFun community.

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November 13, 20090 found this helpful

I'm planning a wedding around Howard County, MD and would like any advice you can give on an inexpensive wedding.

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September 17, 20090 found this helpful

The frugal Bride's mother has pulled off another wedding on a budget! I surpassed the $600.00 wedding for my son and Daughter-in-law, but less than $1000. . .

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