How I Got Married on a Budget (And YOU Can Too!)

Married on a Budget

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Tips and Tricks For Getting Married on a Budget

Your wedding day is the day you’ve been dreaming of your whole life. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of planning without considering your budget. Keep reading to hear my tried and true tips for getting married on a budget!

My Story

I was incredibly lucky to reconnect with my old high school boyfriend, Tim, during a time when we both needed a shoulder to cry on and hope for the future. After not speaking for 16 years, we hit it off immediately and soon it was obvious that we wanted to spend our lives together.

Between the two of us, we had 4 kids and a pretty tight budget. With it not being the first marriage for either of us, we didn’t feel the need to go all out. But that didn’t stop us from having our dream wedding!

For several reasons (budget included), we opted to check off one of my travel bucket list destinations and elope in Charleston, South Carolina. I can honestly say that even if budget wasn’t a factor, I would redo our wedding the same exact way!

It was perfectly intimate, in a beautiful location, and one of the absolute best days of my life!

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Things to Consider When Getting Married on a Budget

Location

Location plays an important role in your wedding day. You want to choose a location that is not only beautiful but also holds special meaning to you and your partner.

It can get pricey if you want to have a destination wedding in the Caribbean or host your entire family in an Irish castle wedding. To save money, you may want to scale it down a bit and stay closer to home.

Tim and I looked into several locations within driving distance. This would save us a huge chunk of cash in travel expenses. Charleston has always been at the top of my bucket list, and what better reason to visit such a beautiful city than to get married!

Married on a budget

If traveling out of town is not in your price range, check with city parks, historical sites or museums in your area. They may be willing to reserve a spot for your wedding for little to no money.

Another inexpensive option is to get married at your local courthouse. This saves you on venue costs because most courthouse weddings only charge for the marriage license.

Guest List

According to the popular wedding planning site The Knot, Tim and I were ahead of the trends in 2015, because eloping now seems to be an up and coming craze.

The Knot reports that a survey done by Helzberg Diamonds showed that 91 percent of millennials would consider eloping. Not only that, it appears that 3 out of 5 that have already been married would elope if they had a chance at a do-over!

If you are looking for a way to keep costs low, eloping is the answer! Whether you choose to have a handful of guests or have a private ceremony with just the two of you, you’ll save tons of money with this option!

If eloping is not your style, try to keep your guest list short. Invite family and close friends, but don’t feel obligated to send an invitation to your mom’s fifth cousin twice removed, or your husband’s third-grade teacher.

Small and intimate is the way to go!

Dress

What is the number one thing you dreamed of when you were a little girl? I would guess that it was probably walking down the aisle in a gorgeous white wedding dress.

If you are anything like me, you picked out your dream dress when you were 11 years old from a Bride’s Magazine issue and carried that around with you into adulthood. No? Ok, moving on.

I had a vision in my head of marrying Tim in a gorgeous floor-length lace gown. I even purchased one for $100 and planned to have it altered to fit me perfectly.

Lace Wedding Dress
Photo by Katy Duclos on Unsplash

Unfortunately for me, the seamstress destroyed the dress. And I didn’t find out until 3 days before the wedding!

I had no choice but to search for a suitable alternative that wouldn’t cost a fortune. This is probably the most shocking aspect of my entire wedding. I found my perfect dress for $8 on the rack at Ross. Crazy, right?

Search for sales, look online at secondhand wedding dresses, and definitely visit bargain stores. Your perfect dress may just be sitting there waiting for you!

If you want a vintage feel to your wedding, check out your local antique markets. I have found several vintage wedding dresses in great condition on my thrifting adventures!

Food

Because it was just Tim and me, we saved a ton of money not having to cater a large wedding. After our ceremony, we found a little seafood restaurant on the beach and enjoyed a wedding meal of scallops and fried fish.

It was perfect!

There are several ways to save money on food for your wedding. If you plan on eloping, that’s an obvious savings. Just find a nice restaurant you both love for a private meal. Or (even better) order takeout and hide away in a hotel room just enjoying each other’s company. If you will be having guests at your reception, look into local restaurants that offer catering at a reasonable rate.

If any of your friends or family have a knack for cooking, enlist their help with the food prep. That could even be their gift to you! Two birds, one stone!

Cake

There’s nothing better than a traditional wedding cake, cut by the bride and groom and smashed into each other’s faces. Nothing says that cake has to cost you an arm and a leg.

Look into local cooking schools that may offer discounts for cakes made by students. Also, check grocery stores. Some of the best cakes I’ve had were made at stores like Walmart and Publix. I would not have been ashamed to have either of them prepare my cake!

Tim and I simply ordered a couple of cupcakes from a bakery in town. Since we chose St. Patrick’s Day to be married, we had the baker put cute shamrocks on our cupcakes. It was the perfect touch.

Frugal Wedding Cupcakes

Officiant

Who is going to perform your ceremony? There are so many options for officiants, and most of them aren’t outrageously priced. Some couples choose to ask a family member or friend who is ordained to perform their ceremony.

Other couples simply hire the local Justice of the Peace to marry them. You don’t have to be married in the courthouse to consider this option. (Although, courthouse weddings have always been so cute to me. Kind of old-fashioned.)

Since Tim and I didn’t know the area, we searched online for officiants in and around Charleston, and we were blessed to find one who fit our plans perfectly.

As a result of scanning the interwebs for the perfect officiant, I found Melanie. Melanie is the owner of My Weddings YOUR Way.

Let me tell you, finding her was a huge blessing! Not only has she consistently ranked in the top 5% of officiants on Wedding Wire, the testimonials from her clients are extremely convincing.

With her signature “Three Questions” strategy, she made our ceremony intimate and memorable in the best ways. We laughed so much at each other’s answers; it was beautiful.

Melanie doesn’t only do Charleston weddings, she will also travel. If you’re looking for a reasonably priced, unique wedding officiant, get in touch with her today!

You will be glad you did!

Photography

If there is one area that you are willing to not skimp on, I would say it should be the photography. This is the biggest day of your life, and having photos to look back on it is priceless.

If your budget absolutely won’t cover the cost of photography, check with local photography students who may be willing to give you a discounted rate in exchange for building their portfolio.

You could also ask for this service to be a gift from family and friends. I know I would rather contribute to something special that the couple would cherish forever than spend money on a gift they probably don’t even really need!

It’s Good to Have Friends

I was so blessed to have a friend who happens to be a photographer in the Charleston area. Sarah at Willow Oak Photography was the icing on the cake on our wedding day!

To start, Sarah took individual photos of Tim, then she came up to my room and we had a mini-session while I was getting ready. She captured what would be a very important memory for me that I cherish every day.

My mom was back in Texas, but she insisted she needed to see me before the wedding. As we were video chatting online, Sarah caught the tenderness between a mother and daughter hundreds of miles apart, but together in spirit.

Missing Mom

I lost my mom the following year and that photo captured our connection so perfectly, that when I look at it I feel like she is still with me. I will forever be indebted to Sarah for such a meaningful gift.

She photographed our ceremony and even did a photo session on the grounds of the park we chose as our wedding spot. She caught us laughing and crying, and spilling our hearts out to each other. Having these photos helped our family feel as though they were at our wedding witnessing this beautiful day with us.

How to Get Married on a Budget Summary

  • Your dream wedding doesn’t have to drain your bank account
  • Choose a locale that is cheap or free such as a city park or courthouse
  • Keep your guest list short
  • Consider eloping- it’s all the rage according to The Knot!
  • Check bargain stores and antique markets for your dress
  • Ask family and friends to cater as a gift
  • Check with local cooking schools, or go with a grocery store cake. They taste delicious for the fraction of the cost
  • Have an ordained family member or friend officiate or hire the Justice of the Peace
  • The one area to splurge in is Photography. Don’t skimp on the memories. You’ll cherish the photos for the rest of your life.
  • For an easy and inexpensive way to keep all of your plans in one place, try out this Wedding Planner and Organizer!

Because our family and friends weren’t at the wedding, I made the video below so that they could share our special day with us.

Related: For expert tips on keeping your marriage (or any other relationship you value) stong, check out this post on how to build strong relationships.

I hope you find these tips for getting married on a budget to be helpful!

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14 thoughts on “How I Got Married on a Budget (And YOU Can Too!)”

    1. lol! I couldn’t imagine doing it any other way. Not only did it save us a ton of money, but we have family all over the country and that would have been crazy trying to get them all in one place! Of course, some were offended by our choice, but I stand by it, 100%!

  1. This is so beautiful! What a lovely wedding day! I was totally budget conscious on my big day too. We have a whole life to live afterwards and I didn’t want to start it in debt. BEST DECISION EVER! Many of our friends who opted for the over the top weddings are still paying it off while we’re paying off our mortgage.

  2. Great advice. Weddings are so expensive and depending on where you live the price tag can be shocking. Eloping definitely cuts down on the bill. And photography should never be skimped on.

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