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Frugal Wedding Planning Tips

While posting some of our creative ideas from our son’s wedding last year, I thought it might be nice to just step back and offer some of the wedding planning tips that I’ve discovered. Now that I’ve walked through this twice, I’ve learned a lot. And I think making the world a better place includes sharing what we’ve learned so that others can benefit from our experience. If you find yourself needing to plan a wedding, let me share how we saved big on wedding expenses and created smooth events with these savvy wedding planning tips.

Budget

Establish a budget. Make it as loose or as firm as it needs to be. Determine who is paying for which parts of the wedding.

A large part of the budget planning will be determining the size of your wedding. You may think you want a small and intimate wedding until you start making your guest lists and find out there are 300 people you simply MUST have there! Be sure that the bride and groom and each family is comfortable with the size and scope of the guest list. Consider whether those who want to include more guests are willing to pay any additional expenses a larger guest list would incur.

Consider using an expense tracker or budget template. It’s easy to find free ones online. I loved this one from Template.net because it gave suggested percentages. The detailed list ensures that you’ve thought of everything when planning your budget.

Don’t like that breakdown? Here’s another wedding budget breakdown from the Knot based on real weddings. You can see the categories vary, but the percentage totals aren’t really that different.

Once you have the budget in place, break down the cost based on percentages. I used the percentages from Template.net as my guide.

Prioritize

Now if you’re on a tight budget, you might start to panic at those projected totals in the &15,000 wedding budget breakdown. That’s where prioritizing becomes necessary.

First of all, we didn’t really have wedding rings included in our total wedding budget. That was the groom’s private expense in each case.

Your wedding dress and ceremony flowers could each cost $1500 on their own without dressing the groom or decorating the reception. And your photography may kick the $1500 allottment to the curb. But you’ll be able to stay on budget if you’re willing to let go of the unimportant to embrace the important.

One of my brides wanted the full wedding dress experience and made that a priority. Plus she was willing to make sacrifices in wedding invitations so that she could afford the photographer she wanted. The other bride cared more about her venue and reception than she did about the wedding attire and flowers.

Creating a budget wedding you love is about prioritizing the elements that are most important to you.

Decorating Your Wedding Spaces

One way we saved money and stress with our first wedding was to use an all-included venue, Price Creek Event Center in Amana, Iowa. For our first experience with weddings this was especially helpful. Their wedding planner helped us think through all our details. The event center had a chapel and a reception area, an extensive bar, and wonderful dinner options. Included in the cost was all the table and chairs, linens and dinnerware. Since Price Creek Event Center was already beautiful, we had little to decorate.

But not all venues are such a great deal. Be sure to shop around for venues that can have vast price differences. And find out which services and items are included in the cost.

Our second bride preferred an outdoor option so we went with a beautiful facility at a local recreation center. The venue had a low price tag, but they really did nickle-and-dime you for every single thing. Like chairs for the ceremony being $2 each.

One thing we did to make this work was to keep a short guest list of less than 100. If you want to spend more on the reception and stay in budget, this is one key way to do it.

Also we borrowed. From our church we were able to borrow a few things like napkins and silverware to keep the cost down. Remember someone has to clean all these items so borrowing or buying linens and tableware will mean time spent washing these after the wedding.

Finally, we shopped for bargains. Facebook Marketplace is a pretty good option for purchasing floral decorations and signs.

Wedding planning tips: Budgeting stationary

Save the dates:

For one wedding we used engagement photos and created our own on Vistaprint. For the other we skipped these entirely because there was only six months between the proposal and the wedding.

Clearance Print-your-own Wedding Invitations from Hobby Lobby:

For the first wedding, I spotted some clearance wedding invitations similar to my daughter’s style. Two boxes were all we needed, and I think I spent less than $10. Since my daughter’s wedding got cancelled twice due to COVID, we saved a ton here by using the wedding invitations for one round of invitations and the RSVP cards for another. More about RSVP cards in a minute.

Wedding stationary on Canva:

These we created ourselves and had printed at a locally. Since the brides were willing to use a basic cardstock, we saved a lot of money here!

To create the look our brides wanted, we did a little looking at sample wedding stationary and chose design styles and layouts they liked. Then we shopped for similar clipart to purchase on Etsy. (You can also purchase entire wedding stationary templates or order printed stationary from Etsy creatives.)

With the clipart purchased, we headed to Canva. We chose two fonts that paired well together. Euphoria Script with Playfair Display SC for the first wedding. Callem and Montserrat with occasional Playfair Display SC for the second. You’ll want to keep the same fonts and clipart for all the pieces of stationary that you use for your event including invitations, programs and signage.

Wedding Invitations on Canva:

Following the layout style the second bride had selected, we created our own version using the fonts and the clipart.

Printed wedding invitations and RSVP cards

RSVP Cards:

We saved lots of money by only sending RSVP cards to guests we knew would prefer them. Everyone else followed the RSVP link that we had printed on the invitations.

Wedding Programs:

I designed the programs for each of the weddings.

A wedding program fan lying out on a dusty rose table runner sprinkled with eucalyptus and rose petals.

For our hot July wedding, we took a tip from Simply 2 Moms and let our programs double as fans by adding a handle. You can see how we made these and use the free template on my post DIY Wedding Program Fans.

Thank You Cards:

Although it can be pretty and cohesive to print out Canva designed thank yous, we found that there were large batch notecards available in similar styles from Amazon. Our daughter-in-law chose this minimal eucalyptus design from Calendars and More. A package of 100 is available for $48.99. My daughter chose these T&M Quality Designs Watercolor Gratitude Cards. It was a package of 100 for $24.97 and we were very impressed with the quality. Beautiful!

Table Numbers and Menus:

Don’t forget that you can also save money by printing your own Table Numbers and Table Menus using your Etsy clipart on Canva.

Printed wedding menu and reserved seating tent card.

Wedding planning tips: Seating chart

There are pros and cons to having a seating chart that I won’t get into here. But if you decide to assign seating, you may like the design that we used in The Game Themed Wedding. If your wedding isn’t game-themed, you can still may find Michael’s Cork Form Board to be useful in your own design. For our daughter’s wedding we used a cork board that we covered in beautiful fabric.

Seating Chart Hack – Sticky Note Method

An opened manilla folder with couples names printed on sticky notes and arranged in columns.

Especially useful to anyone arranging seating for any event, is the sticky note method. I use this for every event I plan. Write each couple attending on their own sticky note. On a board, or in our case a file folder, list your tables across the top. Place the sticky notes under the table heading.

I love this method because it’s a very visual, hands-on way to arrange your guests. You are free to move couples from table to table until you feel like you’ve arrived on the best seating options for everyone!

Wedding planning tips: Budgeting flowers

For our first wedding, we found a small business florist who did amazing fresh florals for a very reasonable price.

Our second bride cared very little about flowers and was more interested in saving money in this department. We were greatly impressed with our experience using Something Borrowed Blooms. As you might guess from their name, you get to rent and return your wedding flowers! They had several flower themes to choose from with everything you need for the wedding party flowers, wedding arch flowers and more. These flowers were beautiful and oh, so affordable!

Unfortunately, at the time of this posting, there appears to be something wrong with their website so I’m unable to safely provide the link. But there are other websites that now do this as well like Wedding Flowers for Rent and Vivian Grace Creations.

Wedding planning tips: Budgeting music

Both girls were able to work around music expenses because of our musical family. For one wedding we hauled in our nice electric piano and had our son play. (He’s a lovely wedding pianist!) For both receptions we borrowed or rented sound equipment and used guests as DJs. If you go this route, you do need to have a Master of Ceremonies or DJ who enjoys this role and can make the party fun. You’ll regret not using someone with natural talent for this position. We had the right man for the job each time.

Planning the Main Event

Of course, there are still many more details that will need to be worked out regarding the program of your ceremony and reception. A fun wedding is one that is smooth and well-planned. Be sure to check out our Game Themed Wedding if that interests you! The ceremony was traditional, but the reception featured elements from puzzles, cards and Mario Kart.

And believe it or not, plenty of planning can relieve the stress of set up. Learn how to prep for set up and quickly coach your volunteers in my post Organizing Quick Reception Set Up.

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