How to Plan a Wedding on a Budget

I have a love-hate relationship with Pinterest when it comes to planning an event. I love how it can help me keep ideas organized and give me inspiration. I hate how it can throw me heart-first into the comparison game. (A game no one wins.)

If you’ve scrolled through while planning your wedding, or looked at any magazines or anyone else’s social media during wedding season, maybe you know what I’m talking about.

But here’s the deal. When it comes to your wedding, I want you to make it about you, your future spouse and your budget! Not someone else’s Pinterest board, photoshopped ads or Instagram feed!

And when it comes to planning a wedding on a budget, hear this loud and clear: You can make your wedding one of the most memorable and special days of your life—without making payments on it for years to come. Let’s find out how!

How to Plan a Wedding on a Budget

  1. Figure out your wedding budget. If you’re planning a wedding on a budget, first you’ll need, well . . . a wedding budget. That means you need to figure out how much you have to spend so you can plan how to spend it. Feel free to use the EveryDollar Wedding Budget Template to help you with this part! 
  2. Pick your most important wedding items. You’ll notice our template has a spot to write down your top three nonnegotiables. These are the three most important things you want to spend money on for your wedding. You’ll want to talk—as a couple—and nail these down. Make sure these three things get covered before the stuff you don’t care as much about!
  3. Plan how to spend your wedding budget. Once you know what you’ve got to work with, and what’s most important, you can start planning your wedding on a budget! This is where you write down how much you plan to spend on each wedding vendor and item.
  4. Spend your wedding budget (and not a penny more). Now, it’s the really fun part: You get to start booking vendors and paying for items you need for the big day.

Use clever tips to save money on all the wedding costs as you go, remember what’s important (and what isn’t), and commit to staying in your budget—even when that $6,000 Beatles cover band would be the coolest thing ever but you’ve only got $1,500 for music at your reception. If you can’t move the money from one area of the wedding budget to cover the band—you can’t afford it. Instead, book a DJ and ask them to play plenty of Beatles songs.

Okay, those are your steps for how to plan a wedding on a budget. Now, let’s look at the numbers.

Average Wedding Costs

Here’s a quick rundown of some national averages on some common wedding costs. I used these numbers and did extra research online to come up with the example wedding budgets in the next section.

First off, the average wedding total these days is $30,000 for the ceremony and reception.1 Here are some averages on individual vendors and items:





Flowers, lighting and décor


Food for average guest list of 117


Groom’s attire


Hair and makeup


Marriage license


Music at reception












Wedding bands


Wedding dress


Many sources are from The Knot.2 Any numbers with an asterisk are from WeddingWire, U.S. Marriage Laws, or a combo of WeddingWire and The Knot.3,4

Now, let’s see those sample weddings on a budget!

Wedding on a $500 Budget

Truth be told, you can have a wedding for just the cost of a marriage license. In the county in Tennessee where I live, that’s $40 for a couple who took premarital counseling.5 (As if you needed another good reason to go to premarital counseling!)

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But most people spend at least some money on the celebrating. To start our example budgets, let’s look at how a couple could plan a cheap wedding if they’ve got just $500 for their big day.

Cake: $55 for sheet cakes; $50 for plates, napkins and forks

Drinks: $15 for punch ingredients; $10 for cups

Flowers, lighting and décor: $25 for a bouquet for the bride

Groom’s attire: a suit he already owns

Marriage license: $40

Officiant: $25 gift card

Photography: $100 for a student photographer

Stationery: $30

Venue: free (backyard, your church, a park)

Wedding bands: $30 his-and-her silicone wedding bands

Wedding dress: $120

I got several of the numbers above from Costco (hello, well-priced and tasty sheet cakes!) and found wedding bands on Amazon. I also saw several dreamy dresses on ModCloth (which was running a 35% off sale when I was on their site) that meet this couple’s $120 dress budget without sacrificing style!

They can print and mail their invitations to a select few people who will cherish them forever. Otherwise, they can save cash by doing online invites. This isn’t “cheap” in the bad sense of the word. It’s clever.

For hair and makeup, they can call in a favor to a friend, and they can ask an uncle to record the wedding on his iPhone for free. This wedding on a $500 budget will be a sweet, simple sharing of vows (and dessert) in front of family and friends.

Wedding on a $2,000 Budget

Cake: $55 for sheet cakes; $50 for plates, napkins and forks

Drinks: $300 for bottles of wine, cups and water

Flowers, lighting and décor: $100 for artificial bouquets

Groom’s attire: $100 for a suit

Marriage license: $40

Music: $60 for a speaker rental

Officiant: $25 gift card

Photography: $500

Stationery: $200

Venue: $100

Wedding bands: $350

Wedding dress: $120

You’ll notice several of these numbers are similar to the $500 wedding budget. But this example couple wanted to toast the day with wine, so they got some Winking Owl from Aldi (and cake from Costco). Such a cost-effective way to celebrate a wedding on a budget!

They decided on lovely artificial bouquets from Amazon for the whole bridal party. They used their church for the ceremony and reception (for only a $100 cleaning fee) and rented a speaker to run their own reception playlist through. Together, it’s still way cheaper than renting a pricey venue.

I found a deal online for 120 invitations and envelopes for just $125. The couple could buy stamps to send these out but then request people RSVP by text or online only (instead of sending a separate RSVP card with another stamped envelope). 

Also, heads up for you thrifty wedding ring shoppers: If you want something simple, Costco offers quality wedding bands in yellow gold, white gold, platinum or tantalum. You could always upgrade in a few years for a meaningful anniversary gift.

Wedding on a $6,000 Budget

Drinks: $350 for coffee, juice, water and cups

Flowers, lighting and décor: $200 for simple, fresh bouquets for the bride and bridesmaids

Food: $260 for a brunch bar with assorted pastries and fruit (plus plates and napkins)

Groom’s attire: $100 for a suit

Marriage license: $40

Music: $1,500 for a DJ

Officiant: $50 gift card

Photography: $2,600

Stationery: $200

Venue: free at the couple’s church

Videography: $150 for a college student to film and edit the ceremony only

Wedding bands: $350

Wedding dress: $200

This couple is skipping the cake tradition and heading to Sam’s Club for fruit trays and mini pastries, getting those to-go coffee boxes (creamer and cups included) from Whole Foods, and buying simple but elegant wedding bands and bouquets at Costco. They’re also buying the groom’s suit online and the bride’s dress at David’s Bridal. (That place has tons of gorgeous dresses for under $200.)

You can probably see the couple values photography and having a dance party with a professional DJ, since both of those numbers are higher. But that’s the point of planning a wedding on a budget—you put your money where you want to spend it.

Wedding on a $15,000 Budget

Cake: $510

Drinks: $2,300

Flowers, lighting and décor: $200 for simple artificial bouquets, corsages and boutonnieres

Food: $1,500 for a food truck

Groom’s attire: $100 for a suit

Hair and makeup: $100 for the bride

Marriage license: $40

Music: $1,500 for a DJ

Officiant: $50 gift card

Photography: $2,600

Stationery: $200

Venue: $5,000

Wedding bands: $400

Wedding dress: $500

You can probably tell this couple values the party aspect of the reception: They’re spending the national average on cake and drinks, getting a fun food truck (which I saw can go for around $12 a person here in the Nashville area), and using that DJ to get people dancing.

They also want to book a venue, though not the priciest one, so they’re probably driving away from the city. And they want a super pro photographer to capture these once-in-a-lifetime memories.

But the invitations are coming from a discount online store like Ann’s Bridal Bargains, and Amazon is the go-to spot for simple artificial flowers for the bridal party and groomsmen.

Wedding on a $30,000 Budget

Drinks: $2,300

Flowers, lighting and décor: $3,900

Food: $7,500

Groom’s attire: $290

Hair and makeup: $250

Marriage license: $40

Officiant: $70 gift card

Photography: $1,000

Stationery: $560

Venue: $11,200

Wedding bands: $990

Wedding dress: $1,900

This couple’s wedding day values are eating well and looking good. They’re finding a cheaper photographer than the national average, they’re plugging their own playlist into the venue’s sound system for the dancing portion of their reception, and they don’t care about the cake tradition (so they’re skipping it completely).

But that’s because their nonnegotiables are the venue (which they want decked out in flowers and décor), their attire (including hair and makeup), and the food and beverages. These days, catering costs come to about $75 a guest—and the average guest list includes 117 people.6 But this couple got their guest list down to 100 to save on food while still getting the full-catered experience they want.

By talking through what was most important, and what didn’t matter at all, they were able to cover some big-ticket wedding costs without busting their $30,000 budget.

A Beautiful Wedding on a Budget Is Possible!

Don’t forget: Your wedding is about you and your partner and your marriage. And that will last much longer than one day of celebration. Through all of the wedding planning hoopla, remember not to lose sight of what truly matters.

Spending a ton of money on your wedding day won’t prove your love for one another—and it can leave you with an empty bank account. Never go into debt or take out a loan for your wedding you’ll be paying off months or years after your big day. It’s not worth having that weight strapped around you and your spouse as you step into your new life together.

It’s completely possible to throw a budget-friendly wedding that’s beautiful, stylish and affordable. And it starts with having a wedding budget and a personal monthly budget so you can be the one in control of how you spend your money. (By the way, EveryDollar’s the budgeting app my family uses every month. And you can start your free account with them right now.)

Congrats on your future! Cheers to the gorgeous, debt-free, budget-friendly wedding of your dreams—and cheers to a long life of love together.