Unexpected ways to save money on your wedding

money-saving wedding ideas

This week, my husband and I celebrated six years of marriage. So, I thought it might be fun to look back at our celebration—and for you dear readers—to share some of the unconventional ways we kept our wedding costs in check. These budget-friendly ideas could help you, your friends, or your family save quite a bit.

You might be wondering, what would a journalist know about weddings?

Well, I’m actually certified as a wedding and event planner. (Random, right?) Shortly before we got married, I was pondering a career change. I thought an education in event planning might expand my marketability and help me plan my own wedding. Turns out, I never left journalism, but I have helped plenty of friends plan their weddings.

My interest in all things “wedding” began long before I was engaged. One of the first special reports I ever filed as a journalist was titled “The High Cost of Getting Hitched.” It looked at the increasingly bloated wedding budgets of modern couples, comparing their experiences to that of a couple who had just celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. Keep in mind, that was back in 2006 when the national average sat around $27,000. Now, love birds in America are spending a whopping $33K on average. Yikes!

What can you do to keep expenses in check, aside from cutting the guest list? Try these strategies!

5 money-saving wedding ideas

1. Go faux with your flowers, or visit a farmer’s market

I’ll be the first to admit, I have expensive taste. I wanted those full, lush centerpieces you see in bridal magazines. However, floral centerpieces are insanely expensive. So I worked with my mother to collect beautiful faux blooms, candelabra bases, mercury glass votives and vase options from our local craft stores and Amazon. We would wait for a great sale (Hobby Lobby routinely offers 50 percent off floral) and scoop up everything we could. The trick is looking for items with height and choosing big blooms.

Faux flowers will allow you to prepare your own table arrangements in advance. You’ll be able to perfect the look and—trust me—no one will know the difference! The most challenging thing will be transporting your beautiful displays. Enlist the help of a few friends with large vehicles and you’ll be set.

Another great option for brides who are getting married in flower-friendly seasons is the local farmer’s market. I helped a friend craft her bridal and bridesmaid bouquets this way. You can save a lot, but it does take some planning and an army of help (I wouldn’t recommend this to high-stress brides). First, scope out what will be available by visiting the market in the weeks leading up to your wedding. Talk with the vendors about the logistics. Some may allow you to pre-order and will set your flowers aside, others may even put together arrangements for you.

think beyond the bridal shop

2. Think beyond the bridal shop

Sure, your first stop after getting engaged will likely be a bridal shop. But don’t limit yourself! More labels than ever are offering affordable dresses for brides and bridesmaids. For instance, BHLDN (Anthropologie’s bridal line), Nordstrom, ASOS and H&M all have wedding attire. You may find hidden gems in a place you wouldn’t expect. I found gorgeous dresses for my bridal party for just $25 in the clearance section of a Nordstrom Rack in the Chicago area! What looks like a pearl necklace, was actually part of the dress. They were similar to a much higher cost dress I was considering. The low price allowed me to give my gals their dress as a gift. They were thrilled they didn’t have to spend a cent on wedding attire. My advice? Take your friends on a shopping trip, then be sure to visit a wide range of stores.

3. Do your own makeup

You want to look beautiful on your wedding day, but you also want to look like you. As your wedding approaches, visit a few beauty store counters. Not only will you find experts well-versed in the latest products, you will also have the opportunity to test those products and get free advice. If you watch carefully and ask questions, you should be able to recreate the look yourself. Still feeling clumsy with makeup? There are plenty of YouTube tutorials to help.

4. DIY your printables

DIY printablesWhy spend a small fortune on elaborate invitations, when there are so many DIY kits available? It is very easy to print your own invites, programs, place cards and more. We used a kit from Michael’s for our invites and jazzed them up by adding a few faux pearls we picked up in the scrapbook section. My husband designed our ceremony programs. We printed them on our home computer and bound them with decorative, rope-like twine for a nautical feel. Etsy is another great choice for DIYers. You can even find beautiful wedding options on Amazon or at Walmart.

5. Enlist a family DJ

Before you pull out your wallet to book a band, consider how much you could save by choosing a DJ instead. Better yet, do you have a musically-inclined family member or friend? Do you know someone with a decent sound system? We used a friend for the music at our ceremony and happened to have a DJ in the family. That move saved us a bundle! However, you can also go it alone. It’s fairly easy to program a wedding march and playlists for your reception. Find an outgoing friend to serve as your master of ceremonies and get practicing. You will definitely want to do a dry run ahead of time to test things out.

Other ways we saved:

  • Non-floral decor: Think candelabras, mercury glass votives and shells. All of our decor was DIY.
  • Purchase or make your own overlays: I wanted that custom table look, but it’s so expensive! Instead, my very patient mom browsed the internet and found these beautiful overlays. Shockingly, buying is almost always cheaper than renting. You could also browse fabric stores to find affordable, yet beautiful material to lay on top of rented linens.
  • Injecting personal touches: We used a life ring for our guestbook, painted wood lighthouses gold to hold the table numbers, and decorated areas using framed photos we already had at home.
  • Signature drink, wine & beer, rather than open bar
  • Wedding shoes you’ll wear again 
  • Smaller cake with a sheet cake to serve guests


We got married in beautiful Door County, Wisconsin. You can read more about my love for the peninsula here. The ceremony was in Sturgeon Bay, with the reception at Horseshoe Bay Golf Club in Egg Harbor. If you’re thinking about a Door County wedding and have questions about vendors, feel free to shoot me an email ([email protected]) or ask a question in the comments below.

We were extremely happy with all of the services we used. I’ll list them at the end of this post.

Here are a few more photos from our big day, taken by the supremely talented Kim Klein. Klein is based in the Green Bay, Wis. area. She doesn’t shoot weddings anymore, but does fantastic portrait photography. She especially likes working with kids.

Our Vendors:

Jerry’s Flowers (Sister Bay)| Door County Trolley | Pink Bakery (Egg Harbor) | Kim Klein Photography | Horseshoe Bay Golf Club

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