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Wedding Piggy Bank

Tis the Season! Wedding Season that is!

With statistics showing 80% of all weddings taking place between May and October every year. And what better occasion to either practice AMAZING budgeting skills, or watch how easily it can be to BUST your budget, than a wedding.

In a recent poll from The Knot, the average wedding in 2021 from across the United States cost $28,000 (number of guests, time of year, and location not specified). Oh, and these numbers did not include engagement ring costs, or honeymoon.

Now for some people when they hear that only one day could cost them on average almost $30,000, they often ask, is it worth it? And I would agree with those who ask that question. That is a lot of money to spend on “just one day”. BUT I also disagree in the fact that you should NOT forgo a wedding just because you don’t think “it’s worth it”.

Weddings are meant to be a fun, enjoyable experience with your family, friends, and loved ones. It’s a day to always remember, and a day to cherish for a life time.

Maybe I’m getting sentimental because my own wedding anniversary was just here on the 16th of June (love you hunny!), and yes, I fall within one of those 80 percenters. But I will still to this day, say it was one of the best days of my life, I would not change one thing about it, and that I had the BEST time.

So, I say, YES, HAVE THE BIG WEDDING! But do it in a reasonable, and comfortable way that is not going to break the bank, or leave you (or loved ones) in debt because of it.

And I know from planning my own wedding, how that can feel like you are being “cheap” or “cutting corners” on a day that means so much to you. But there are ways you can still have a wedding on a budget, but have it be in disguise that no one will ever know!

How to get started

The wedding business did not become an over 300-BILLION-dollar industry just because flowers smell good and look pretty.

Realize going into planning, that they know weddings are going to be emotional for you. And that you are going to want everything to be “perfect”. They play on the psychology and use it to their advantage. That’s why going into planning, you have to have a plan. Kind of like “having a meeting before the meeting” idea (office humor anyone?).

Before you start looking for the “dress of your dreams”, or taste testing your menu, sit down with your to-be-spouse, and if any family member(s) are helping contribute to the expenses. Have a “family budget meeting” with them.

Set what the preferred end budget expense should be, and what major elements you would like to include in your day. Think of all types of vendors you could want or need, all little items you think you “have to have”. Write them down. Because if you don’t, these are the things you will think about later and blow your budget on.

Then set some realistic expectations for the dollar amount you have to spend on your day. Figure out your timeline for your wedding, and start adding a line item in your monthly budget to start saving for your wedding (cough cough…..sinking fund).

Time of year/day of week matters

Remember how I said 80% of weddings fall between May – October? Well getting married on one of these “off season months” could save you a lot with your vendors/venues. First off, you’re more than likely going to have more date options, and they sometimes give discounts during this slow time, because discounted work is still better than no work/business.

Day of week affects pricing also. Saturday is of course going to be the most popular, and in turn cost more. Consider a Friday or Sunday for again, better date options/availability, and also pricing.

Do I say “I do” to a Wedding Planner?

First and foremost, you do not need a wedding planner. I repeat, YOU DO NOT NEED A WEDDING PLANNER. What you need is a hand dandy, trusted notebook (and sometimes excel if you want a digital copy of things). If you want to get super fancy, they sell wedding organizers online for like $20 – 35. Again, something I don’t think is necessary if you keep good notes, and organize your notebook in sections, but if it helps you feel like you’re on track, it’s still cheaper than a wedding planner, so have at it.

The key here is what I already said, keep good notes. You need to keep notes of who you talked to (vendors and venues) and their estimated quotes they give you. You need to keep track of dates they have available, what all their services include for each specific package/price, and it never hurts to ask if they have any types of discount pricing.

If you start to feel overwhelmed with details, ask a friend or a loved one to sit down and talk through details with you. More often than not, someone in your close circle has been married before, knows the feelings you’re having right now, and can help you talk through them.

Also, if you feel you need a wedding planner to “make sure everything goes just right and perfect” the day of the wedding, ask a trusted family member not part of the wedding party, or even maybe an organized co-worker that you are friends with to be “point person” that day. Chances are they will say yes and feel a bit honored you trust them this much. Then when working with vendors, give them their name and phone number to contact. Discuss with your friend/family member prior to the day what your goals and expectations are and how you would like them to handle something if something were to come up during the ceremony/reception.

And remember, you are the only one who will know if something “does not go off as planned”. To everyone else, it will be as how you planned it. Example, we were not planned to cut our cake until after dinner/before first dances, etc. When we got to the reception area, my “in charge day of co-worker” notified me the cake was starting to lean a bit sideways and did not think it would last another 1-1.5 hours in the 89* heat (yes, it was miserably hot out in full tuxes and ball gown). So, we told the DJ after we made our entrance to notify everyone that we were cutting the cake and to head that way. We cut the cake, smiled for pictures, and then went to our seats. No one knew besides me and a few people. And it did not ruin the day. A fallen cake, cut 1.5 hours later would have been a possible way to ruin the day I would think.

Have a concept in mind before you start shopping

Let’s jump back now to the planning piece of the wedding details. I like to tell people have an idea of what the feel of the wedding that you want will be. Is it country chic, eloquent and formal, or clean lines and modern? This will help you envision what type of venues to look at, dresses to steer towards, and how you can possibly decorate for the reception.

Where should I shop?

Check out Facebook. See if there are any local Wedding Resale pages you can join. Items on these sites range from wedding décor, signage, center piece items, to even wedding dresses. Some worn, some never worn besides when they tried them on and either changed their mind, or the wedding changed/did not happen.

If you are making decorations, center pieces, never underestimate the power of your local dollar store. They often have candle votives, various size and shaped vases, and other items you could potentially use vs. heading to your chain craft store.

I also read about a couple who recently were featured on Good Morning America because of their “Wedding on a Budget” story, and she shared she bought her dress online from the website Shein for $45! Again, it all goes back to your taste, and what you are looking for, but there are deals out there, you just have to be open to finding them.

Also, don’t forget to shop your family and friends…

Have family members and friends gift you their talent(s)

Do you have any family members that perhaps are in the wedding industry themselves? Or do they have any specialized talents? Some examples of how we had family and friends “gift us their talents” for our wedding saved us several hundreds of dollars.

My college roommate and her husband like to make YouTube videos on the side. Hello wedding video!

One of my high school friends loves to paint. She created a canvas with our names, wedding date and picture for our guests to sign which now hangs in the entry way of our home.

My best friend does design work and made our wedding invites. All we had to do was pay for printing from a print shop which was way cheaper than doing them online.

All of these were HUGE savings!

Again, your family members or friends may feel honored in this unique way to celebrate your special day with them. Not only did it help us save money – which of course is a HUGE benefit, but I personally felt lucky that I have people in my life that wanted to do those things for us, and to show us their love for us through their talents. Plus, if they do this as a side business, it’s additional marketing for them as you tell people of their services!

Remember roses are red and violets are blue, but what’s the best flower option for you?

Flowers can add up….and FAST. So how do you still have a beautiful bouquet without blowing your budget? There are a few routes you can go with this direction.

Silk flowers are usually less expensive than real flowers, especially if you want something out of season from a florist. It’ll take some time and creativity, but you can usually make your bouquets, boutonnieres, etc. for a fraction of the price.

If you really want real flowers, I suggest looking into Sam’s Club or Costco. You can usually buy bulk flowers for a lower price, sometimes as low as $1 a flower. Again, you’ll have to create the various items yourself, but in the long run you are saving more than you would with using a florist. They also have some pre-made bouquets available as well, which average about $10 a bouquet…can’t beat that.

Which ever direction you go, fake, bulk, or through a florist, limit your flowers to wedding party only. Skip on flower arrangements for tables, decorations, etc. These items will eat away at your budget and fast.

Now, let’s talk reception

This is where the majority of your budget will be going. Between linens and centerpieces, to guest gifts, caterer, DJ, bar, etc. etc. The list could go on, but it all starts with the venue.


Remember when shopping for the venue, make sure to ask some important questions that could impact your budget.

  • Can I bring in my own alcohol?

  • Can I bring in my own caterer/food items?

  • How many tables/chairs are provided through the venue? Or do I need to rent my own?

  • Are linens included?

  • What do tables look like, can you get away with little or no linens?

  • Do you have any décor that can be used (free of charge – or cost per items)?

  • Is it a flat fee for room rental?

    • Or do you also charge a per person cost on top of room rental?

  • If a barn or outside facility, are there restrooms/handwashing stations?

    • Does the venue supply these rentals or do you need to rent these additional items?

Also, don’t be afraid to look for a family member or friend that has a lot of open land/barn you could use. But be aware of a lot of additional elbow grease, set up/clean up and lots of logistics that come into play for this option. I am not saying it is a bad option, and could be cheaper for you in the long run. But beware of all the preparation time and possible costs that could come with that as well.


You can spend more here than you would actually think. Be smart about your centerpieces. At the end of the day, people are either going to take them home (and later throw them out), you will throw them out at the end of the night, or they will sit in your basement for years later.

A great place to shop for these items is that wedding resale page I mentioned earlier. You can usually get items others have used at a discounted price vs. paying full price for them. Also, keep this site in mind for your resale items!

Think of ways you could potentially make your centerpieces? Or what could you collect over the months to use as your centerpieces that are cost effective?

For our centerpieces, I started collecting glass bottles of various sizes and colors. I asked family and friends to save any wine/liquor bottles, and even went to a couple of restaurants around town and asked them to do the same for me. Then one weekend my then fiancé and I filled the bath tub up with water (multiple, multiple times) and peeled labels off bottles. I bought some twinkle lights, votive candles from the dollar store and added some greenery I bought in bulk cases and boom, unique centerpieces I didn’t mind throwing away at the end of the day.

I also went to a summer wedding where the couple bought wide, but short vases. Filled them with water, then sliced limes, lemons and oranges to float in them with a floating candle. It was so pretty, simple and smelled great. Bonus, it helped keep bugs away. They said they just bought big crates of each fruit and was super cheap.


Shop around for this if you’re able to, and think of outside of the box ideas. Caterers don’t always want to do the same thing over and over again. See if they have a unique spin, or menu idea. Sometimes these changes can be better pricing depending on what you do.

The type of meat you choose will raise food costs too. Be aware of what protein(s) you are serving as that can affect your budget. Talk options with your caterer. Get lots of ideas before settling on the “normal”.

Also, remember a buffet is always going to be cheaper than a plated meal per person. And from my own experience both personally, and working at a wedding/event venue during college, food usually stays warmer because it’s constantly being replenished vs. held in a hot box, put on trays and then carried to the specific tables.


Same as the buffet, a Beer and Wine bar will always be cheaper than a full bar. Alcohol is one of the largest up-charges in the industry and where you can spend a good portion of your budget, especially if it is an open bar. If you want something besides just beer and wine, consider adding one or two signature drinks (Bride and Groom drinks) for your guests to choose from to your beer and wine bar. FYI – this still includes sodas, water, etc.

If you want a full bar, don’t go all out and do top shelf. Majority of the time the liquor is getting mixed with something anyways, and a lot of times drinks get put down after a few sips and are forgotten about.

Consider doing drink tickets if you really want to keep an eye on budget. Allot each person 2 tickets, and once they are used, it turns to a cash bar. OR you can have an open bar until a certain time, and then turn it into a cash bar for the rest of the night.


Ever heard of a “DJ in a Box”? It is a music system which comes with hundreds of songs from all kinds of genres for you to choose from. You can create your own playlists from the options available, choose from playlists already created based off event suggestions, or a combination of both! It comes with the computer system with pre-downloaded songs and speaker so you can set up anywhere. Depending on your rental company, these can range from under one hundred dollars to a couple hundred dollars.

Or, some people are skipping the preloaded portion of the music system, creating their own play lists from music off their phones or Spotify, and renting just a sound system they can hook the phone up to. Designate a “DJ” from your family or friend group, and have them take requests or make special announcements. This way if you don’t want the “Chicken Dance” played at your wedding, have no fear because you picked all the songs!


Do yourself a favor when it comes to favors and stick to something cost efficient and useful. A lot of guests usually don’t take their favors with them if they do not have a use for them, or if they are big and bulky. Which means you are left with a lot left over favors, and out a lot of money at the same time.

I often suggest a favor that be used at the reception, or easily thrown in their bag to take home with them. My go to suggestion for this is to make a small “pre-teaser” dessert. And cookie bars work GREAT for this. They are easy to make in large batches, majority of people like cookie bars (and able to eat them with various diets/allergies), and they are very economical to make. The most you’ll spend is the time it takes to make and wrap them.

Things that don’t need to make the cut...

Yes, they may look magical on Pinterest, but these are the things that no one is going to notice if they never make it to your wedding, or if you splurge and buy the pre-made structures or items.


You do not need to tell how you know your wedding party; a lot of people already know why your sister is your maid of honor. Also, it’s not like they need to plan for intermission; the timing or agenda of how your wedding ceremony will play out is not a reason to spend money on paper and printing costs to just be left on church pews, or venue chairs.

Menu cards

If you are doing a buffet, talk to your caterer ahead of time and ask them to include menu cards for you. These are usually free of charge and they typically print them on nice card stock and in a pretty font. If you do go with the plated meal route, guests can always ask a server what the meal is if they did not pick their option. If they did pick their food option, usually you coordinate this with the venue so their servers know how to place these options.

Fancy Signage

Everyone knows the bar is the bar, the photo booth is the photo booth, and the dessert table is the dessert table (you get the picture). You don’t need signage telling everyone what everything at your wedding is. Unless you want to call out something specific, like tribute to those who can’t be there that day, or specific ingredients for allergies, or even the bride and groom specialty drink, I say skip the signage and save yourself the dollars you’d spend on these. And if you do want to do something like this, buy a nice frame (average $5 max) and print something in a nice font matching your color scheme and put it in the frame(s).

Seating Charts

Print your own and make it simple. Again, look at Pinterest for inspiration, but don’t get married to the over cost items that are used literally once. For ours, we used sticker paper I found online, and empty spray-painted wine bottles. Each wine bottle got a table number and everyone sitting at that table was listed on that sticker sheet. Then we took crates we had from home (we store our blankets in these in the living room) and stacked the wine bottles around and in the crates. At the end of the night, I threw the recycled wine-bottles away, and took my crates home. Most I spent was on the spray paint and sticker paper.

All said, you can still have the wedding of your dreams…

Mostly because you will be marrying the person of your dreams, but also because you can have a nice wedding, that is affordable, and has “Pinterest feel” without the expense.

Remember, you don’t have to pay whole sale, name-brand, or full price for everything. Shop around, think outside of the box, and remember, it is for only one day. I know it’s hard because you will want it all to be perfect, but be reasonable with your wants are as well.

If you are realistic with what you want, and can afford, you will have the wedding of your dreams. You don’t have to cut things out entirely, or sacrifice something, but you can have a discounted wedding and no one even needs to know.

Tis the Season! Wedding Season that is!

July 1, 2022

Lindsey Curry

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