10 Steps to a Successful Low Budget DIY Wedding


Are you planning your own wedding? I set out a basic guideline for your own wedding planning 101.  I geared it to a low budget, affordable DIY wedding since that’s what I had to go through.  Just remember, it’s going to be a beautiful, fun wedding day whether or not you have the programs printed or not! Just enjoy the company of your loved ones!

1. Guest list. 

First thing when starting your wedding planning is your guest list! In order to find out how much money you HAVE to spend vs how much money you can spend depends all on your guest list.  And don’t say ‘Oh we’re just going to have a few family and friends for our intimate wedding.’ because it’s never a few, and unless planned in advance, it’ll never be an intimate wedding.

– Make a list. (Family. Bridal party. Bestest friends. Friends. I-bump-into-them-often. Co-workers/Business relations.)
-Start counting how many family members will be attending.
-Start counting the bridal party and the bestest friends.
– Don’t go through Facebook to make your list. Make your list from your head!
-Give your friend list to your partner and see if they know of them or have met them during the last year or two.
– Make sure to count all the plus ones.
-My rule was, if I haven’t heard of or met this person within the 6 years we have been dating, we can move them to the maybe-invite-when-we-have-space list.  Vice-versa for my friends.

2.  Budget.

Talk amongst yourselves to see how much you want to spend.  Don’t look at how much things costs at the moment, but just write down how much you’d be comfortable spending (without going into debt).

-I know average wedding is about $27K, but there are $3000 weddings as well. >>20 Real Weddings Under $8K <<
-Don’t let magazines brainwash you into spending out of your comfort zone.
-Use a wedding budget calculator. >>Download<<
-Ask parents for help on top of your budget.

3. Venue & Food

Now this is the biggest chunk of your budget.  Finding a venue and caterer with flexible policies at a low rental rate is very challenging.  Some venues only allow a certain caterer, and some venues have nothing to provide you but the space.

-Look into backyards, churches, public parks, gardens etc.
-Have finger foods, food trucks, or even just cocktail hours and desserts.
-Have a wedding after lunch, to keep it light.
-Have a full ceremony, and then have a separate intimate reception with family members and friends.
-Make your own cake and cupcakes, or ask a friend!

4. Attire

Finding a wedding dress might be the most fun part of the wedding planning.  For a low budget wedding, this might become a little stressful, finding a dress within budget.  It’s so easy to go over budget in wedding attire.  You feel like you need a dress, shoes, veil, garter, jewelry etc etc.  But look through wedding blogs and magazines.  A lot of brides are finding alternatives to accessorize themselves, and so can you.

-Get a vintage dress, a cute mini dress, wedding dress off the rack or even used wedding dresses.
– Make your own veil, or wear a birdcage veil instead.
-Skip it all and have some beautiful fresh flowers in your hair.
– Wear hand me down jewelry, or very minimal jewelry.
– Ask a friend if you can borrow their bracelet and earrings.
-Be bold and wear a bright red heels that you already own.
-Make your own garter.  Do you think the guy who catches it frames it and keeps it displayed?  They don’t know the difference.

Find a list of bridal boutiques in Atlanta >> here <<

5. Stationery

Save-the-dates, invitations, RSVP, thank you cards, menu, program, guestbook, name cards, seating arrangement chart.  WOW I thought there was only invitations!

– You don’t have to do all of them.
– Do a Facebook private invite Save The Date.
– Print your own invitations or at a local printing place.
-If you’re not very artsy, buy one of those ready made templates on Etsy and take it to a printing store.  If you don’t know where to look contact me! I’ll get you a quote at my printing place.
– Think of doing postcard invitations to save on stamp fee.  Also, think of just handing them out to your close friends.  This way you don’t have to spend much on stamps.
– Do an email RSVP.  Most likely, half of them you’re going to have to contact directly anyways.  I did mine one by one.
– Print your thank you cards as well, or buy a bulk online that already says thank you.  Again, think of postcards.  Postcard stamps are cheaper when done in bulk.
– Menu. Optional.  You can keep them excited guessing what the food will be.  Or you can just print them, cut it and leave them on each plates.
– Program. You can skip this as well, or print them yourself.  I had a program, but I think our MC took care of all the events.
– Name Cards.  This one is optional as well.  Your guests are going to be sitting wherever anyways within that table.
– Seating arrangement.  This one is optional as well, as long as you have someone finding their name on the list for the table number.  I printed out two sets of seating arrangement with names and their table number, had two friends help people seat themselves.

6. Decorations

One thing to remember is that just because it’s handmade by you, it doesn’t mean it’s the cheapest.  Sometimes it’s just easier and cheaper to buy them in bulk.

-Lighting does everything.  This is probably the only thing that you need. Get lots of candles! Christmas lights does wonders too.
– There’s nothing wrong with silk flowers, paper flowers and no flowers.
-Think of minimum decorations.  Keep it romantic, artsy, rustic and vintage!  Sometimes weddings with minimum decorations say more than too many things going on.
-Tissue pompoms, paper flowers, ribbon tassels, buntings, balloons, etc

7. Photography

If you’re going to splurge on one thing, it should be photography.  It’s what you keep for the rest of your life, and it’s what remains.

– If you have a friend or family member that’s really good at photos, ask them.  Try to have at least 2 photographers.
– Ask all your friends with DSLR camera to take photos and send them all to you.
– If you’re hiring a photographer, compromise by cutting down the hours.
– Save all the facebook, iPhone, Instagram photos and make a collage.

8. Favors

Favors can be optional but it can also be as simple as a printout of a photo of you two.  Just something small, something thoughtful.  You can skip the individual favor by making a candy station and asking your guests to take some candy on the way home.  Make them a love song CD. Print out a poem.  Make them a paper crane with their names on it, so on.

9. Music

If you know someone who can play an instrument, or DJ, please ask them for help.  Otherwise make a playlist on your laptop and play it all night.  Have a friend help you with the volume and the songs when you walk in.

10. Drinks

-Keep the alcohol minimum, or none at all.
– If you do a day wedding, chances are you don’t need heavy liquor.
– Buy your own alcohol.  Go find a liquor store that you can buy bulk at a discount pricing, and ask if you can return the rest if it’s not open.
– Do a cash bar.
– Do a minimum open bar and the rest cash bar.


Also check out these posts:

+100 ways on how to save money on your wedding

+10 Things Not to do Before the Wedding



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5 E | 07.21.13 at 11:02 am |

Some of these are great, especially the stationery section! So many tips… And I liked the favors section, too–I always think of them as optional little extras that most people end up throwing away, but I really like the idea of making it something slightly useful and/or meaningful. I tossed the weird little tiny clogs I got from a wedding I went to last summer, but I would actually enjoy listening to a CD (even if it’s not my taste) on the ride home.

But I WISH people would stop suggesting cash bars. They’re tacky and always uncomfortable. I know I never go to a wedding with more than a few dollars for a cab in my purse, which would leave me in the awkward position of either bumming money or bumming a ride home from any friends I may have there, OR wandering out of your wedding to find an ATM. Nobody likes any of those choices! (I realize not drinking is also an option. But your reception is a party, and that’s not the kind of party I personally enjoy.) Just have fewer choices and SERVE YOUR GUESTS. I know I’d be perfectly happy at a wedding with only one red wine, one white wine, and maybe one specially chosen local beer. It’s not a huge amount of choice, but I would feel taken care of like a guest. I would be a lot less happy at a wedding with a full bar where I can choose any (badly made) drink I want, but that I have to pay $7 for. If I wanted that, I would have stayed home and gone to a bar.

6 Chloe | 07.22.13 at 9:00 am |

Hi E! Situations like the ones you have mentioned could be avoided if the couple announced in advance that they will be hosting a cash bar only. This post is suggestions for low-budget couples, for couples who may not be able to afford to have ANY alchy in their party! 🙂

7 S | 07.30.13 at 10:00 am |

You realize that a wedding is not about you or your alcoholic needs. It’s about the bride and groom and THEIR SPECIAL DAY. I am doing a cash bar at my wedding because we are on such a low budget that we feel the guests can pay for their own alcoholic drinks or not drink at all. A bartender is required at most venues that serve alcohol which is at least $100/hr + tips and a security guard is required adding another $125. Plus the price of alcohol that is being served. A cash bar makes it easy enough to only have to pay for the security guard, and everyone has their choices on what they would like to drink. A reception may be a celebration, but it’s not a place to get wasted and act like an idiot.. like a birthday party.. or a house party.. If you would really stay home from a family or friends wedding because you have to pay for your own drink, you don’t deserve to be invited anyways.

8 Chloe | 07.31.13 at 8:15 am |

Hi S!
My point exactly. They’re invited to celebrate the union of the couple! Alcohol does take up a big percentage of your budget. I had alcohol in my wedding only because the venue was very flexible, and I could bring my own.
xoxo Chloe

9 E | 07.31.13 at 8:40 am |

I agree, it’s not about my *alcoholic* needs. (Thanks for that, by the way.) It’s about celebrating a marriage with friends and family. I would never stay home from a dear friend’s wedding just because I knew there was a cash bar. I’ve been to dry weddings, cash bar weddings, and full-service bar weddings. When I go to a wedding, I’m not expecting a free place to get *schwasted.* (But once again, thanks.) But there’s a lot of expense involved in weddings on both sides – attending a wedding out of town often costs several hundred dollars, and all but one of the weddings I’ve ever attended have been out of town. As a bride, I want my guests to feel valued after they’ve made that effort to come to what is ostensibly a party I’m throwing for them. My point is just this: it taints the experience to have to pay for anything at your friend’s party. So I personally think it’s better to explore the other options, like severely limited free options that you bring yourself, before you resort to making your guests into customers.

I’m sorry if it sounds like I’m judging your choice. I’m sure it was the best, maybe only, choice for you, your FI, and your budget. It sounds like your venue wouldn’t allow you to hire your own bartender, for instance, or to bring your own alcohol. And at that point, I’m sure the only option was a cash bar. Maybe having drinks at your reception wasn’t even very important to you – maybe you don’t drink much, or maybe you live in fear of *that one guest* who gets sloshed and ruins everything. I just wanted to advocate for the guests and for true hospitality. I just think it’s borderline rude to expect your guests to spend money on gas or airfare, hotels, clothes, every other meal besides the one you serve them, AND a wedding gift for you, and then ask them to pay for part of their dinner, too.

10 Rachel | 08.14.13 at 11:45 am |

I agree with E. I want my guests to have a good time and not worry about cash. I’m on a budget (which is vanishing before my eyes) and can’t afford to host a full bar all night so I searched around until I found a venue where I could bring my own alcohol. Finding the right venue is key to controlling reception costs.

11 Claire | 08.16.13 at 5:16 pm |

The cheapest thing to do is just do a reception, not a dinner. Some people think it’s really skimpy to do that, but you can have far more guests at a far smaller cost. The part of the country I live in, you aren’t expected to feed everyone a three course meal, just a light meal or dessert. Also, my husband and I don’t drink so we didn’t serve alcohol.

In the end, we invited 300 guests and the food was less than $5.00 a person. Go ahead and do what would make you and your guests feel most comfortable, but my wedding only cost 7k, and I could have cut corners more and saved more money if I’d needed to.

However, we didn’t really have expectations for people to travel long distances to attend. Anyone living out of state (except siblings) were not at all obligated to come, they just sent a card to congratulate us and that is fine!

12 10 Steps to a Successful Low Budget DIY Wedding--Good tips! I read through them and I will definitely be employing some of them to reduce costs for my wedding. @ wish-upon-a-weddingwish-upon-a-wedding | 09.16.13 at 5:17 am |

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13 Glitters | 12.02.13 at 12:42 pm |

As an older non-traditional second time around on a very skimpy budget bride I have decided to ask any guest that feels the NEED to bring a gift to the bridal shower to bring a bottle of alcohol that I will be saving for the wedding party. I am in need of nothing for setting up our household and only desire to throw a great party for my guests. I have discussed the idea with our friends and they love the idea, they see it as getting themselves a great gift.

14 Pamela | 05.06.14 at 1:14 pm |

My fiancée and I are having two ceremonies and still coming out much less expensive than some of the least expensive weddings. We saved on stationary by doing paperless post (free, and environmentally friendly). We’re saving on attire by having my dresses (yes, two dresses) and his tux made by a tailor ($500 total, including material – and both of my dresses are silk). We’re saving on the reception by working with the venue to trim down all accoutrements we don’t need ($810 for reception 1 – including alcohol – $750 for reception 2 – including alcohol). We’re saving on flowers by doing origami bouquets (cost of paper only). We’re saving on favors by making homemade chocolates ($4/50 pieces) and giving them in origami gift boxes (cost of paper only). We’re saving on a DJ by making a playlist and plugging it into the speakers at the reception venue (free). We’re saving on a photographer by using someone who’s trying to break into wedding photography (I asked the venue for recommendations) for wedding 1 and having a friend do it for wedding 2 ($300 and free, respectively). I think that’s about it. Seriously, why spend the cost of a car or the down payment on a house on a wedding? It’s not the wedding that makes the marriage!

15 Robin | 05.22.14 at 11:34 am |

Never, and I mean never, do a cash bar! You may as well not have alcohol. It is very uncouth. You should treat your guests as guests!

16 A | 05.26.14 at 8:43 pm |

Hey E, Rachel and Robin! I have an Idea. Since the Bride and Groom on a very tight budget has already fed everyone and you think it’s so tacky to have a cash bar…. Why don’t you offer to pay for the “open bar” and see how much comes out of your pocket then!!! Selfish….

17 Natalie | 06.08.14 at 11:38 pm |

I think the appropriateness of a cash bar comes down to this:

If drinking alcohol is a regular activity in the bride and groom’s life, then it is tacky to have a cash bar. If the couple often goes out to bars or restaurants with friends, if they are craft beer enthusiasts or wine lovers, if they regularly entertain at their home and drinking is involved, it only makes sense that the reception (aka party!) would reflect their regular lifestyle.

If drinking is not a part of the couple’s life, or something they only do on certain/special occasions, it makes sense that they would have a cash bar or no alcohol at all.

I know that in my circle it would be considered very tacky to have a cash bar. Like me, many of my friends are having low-budget weddings, and are managing to keep costs low and still have alcohol by serving only beer and wine and by having a few serve-yourself kegs. As someone else mentioned, the key to keeping costs low in general is to find a venue that allows flexibility surrounding alcohol, food, and decorations.

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