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The wedding of your dreams -- cheap

Glamorous or low-key, the ceremony can be what you want. I'll show you how to get married without breaking the bank.

By Donna_Freedman Mar 19, 2012 12:58PM

Image: Newlywed couple (© Purestock/SuperStock)"You're getting married? Congratulations!"

That sure sounds better than, "You're getting married? Have fun spending almost 27 grand for a half-day party!"

Yep, I said 27 grand -- and that's without the honeymoon.

According to a study from, the average U.S. couple spent $26,984 getting hitched. But maybe you can't afford that much. Or maybe you'd rather put some of that cash toward a different goal: student loans, a down payment on a house, a retirement account.

Frugal Cool can help. (Post continues after video.)

Through the first week of May I'll write nearly weekly posts about ways to save on wedding planning, from the jewelry to the honeymoon. You can pick and choose the tips that will help you create a day that's both memorable and affordable.

What works for you?

My sources will be both wedding planners and ordinary people who married on a budget and survived. For example, Sara Morgan of the bridal site Tailored suggests using the word "party" when shopping for a venue.

"As soon as you say the word 'wedding' to a vendor, the price tag goes up," Morgan says. She suggests you book the place for a "party" and discuss details once you've locked in the price.

I'll also talk with people like Kelly Bejelly, who described her $3,700 nuptials in a post at her blog, A Girl Worth Saving. "Exactly what I wanted: low-key with good food, friends and family."

Ideally the conversation will also include voices from readers, whether they're event specialists themselves or civilians who got married with a reasonable budget.

"Reasonable" means what's right for your circumstances. I'm notsaying you have to marry at City Hall in your street clothes -- unless, of course, that's the kind of wedding you want.

Instead, I'll be suggesting ways to make the day meaningful without breaking the newly established bank. You and your betrothed will be able to think about what's truly important to you, vs. buying into the white satin hoo-raw that is the wedding industry.

It's essential that you think outside that particular box. After all, who designed the box and is itching to sell you its contents?

Been there, wed that

And if you've long dreamed of a glamorous affair? You can still have it. We're talking about ways to cut corners that no one will notice have been cut, or that don't really matter. (Hint: People got married for centuries without lighting a unity candle.)


I'll serve up money-saving tips from folks who've been there and wed that, beautifully. These veterans will share ways to save thousands on a gown, or how to reduce costs at a beautiful venue by sharing rented lighting with another couple getting married on the same day.

That's where the readers come in: If you have wedding tips to offer, leave them below (and on subsequent posts) or e-mail them to me at The next wedding-themed post will run on Friday, March 30.

Your tried-and-true ideas will help other brides and grooms come in under budget. What a wedding gift that would be.

More on MSN Money:

Mar 19, 2012 7:10PM
NOW you write the article!! !LOL... A few years back DD1 got married and we had quite the affair BUT it's what she and DW  wanted. Let us not forget..."happy wife...happy life"! On the flip side I recently rented a unit to some great kids who put themselves thru college with NO student loans...IMHO no small accomplishment. Anyway while chatting with them they told me about the special day they got an open meadow... at a State Park (7) ....that's right seven people in attendance. They declared "it was wonderful...everything they wanted"....So it would seem one size doesn't fit all...
Mar 20, 2012 6:37AM

Our daughter got married in August.  The wedding was paid for in cash and under 5000.  She married on a Monday at a resort in Virginia Beach.  On the ocean.  Huge savings.  Made her centerpieces and - I love this one- bought 5 small cakes at Wal-Mart and displayed them on a swinging circle rack.  Cost of 68.00 vs. hundreds for a wedding cake.  The display was elegant and beautiful.  Lots of other creative ideas as well.  It was a hit.  Everyone loved the food and had a great time.

Her oldest sister saw their dad standing on the deck smiling.  It was quite a day!

Mar 20, 2012 1:28PM
Shop around, don't scrimp on things that really matter (like photos), and whatever you can -- do it yourself! I did my own favors, centerpieces, invitations, programs and flowers (to name just a few things). I bought dozens of roses wholesale, trimmed them and cut off the thorns, and did the arrangements and bouquets using special tape that's available at craft stores. Craft stores are a bride's best friend. I also got a bag of inexpensive rose petals to spread over the tables, which really dressed up the cheaper plain white tablecloths. Not spending a lot on the little things allowed us to spend more on the DJ, limo, cake, dinner and drinks. But even for those, we looked for deals, got quotes and let the vendors duke it out for the business. Lots of guests said it must've been expensive, but it was about 1/3 of the "average" cost, including the honeymoon cruise. Best of all, we paid for it all with cash.
Mar 20, 2012 12:25AM
I was once in the wedding party for a friend whose wedding cost six figures. I was happy for her that she was getting married. But during the wedding, I couldn't help thinking that I could live for years on what she and her fiance were spending on one day.
Apr 7, 2014 12:02PM
My daughter's wedding was wonderful and appeared to be expensive.  The wedding cake was made by a friend who, at the reception, said it was a gift. Another friend gifted the limos (just 2).  The venue for the reception was so beautiful and we had a smorgasbord which included a dessert smorgasbord.  Looked like I paid a mint but I didn't. The dinner was the same cost as the chicken dinner but everyone got to have seconds on whatever they liked the most.  The menu consisted of shells and sauce, woth meatballs or sausage, chicken caesar salad with huge pieces of delicious, moist chicken breasts, ham which was not deli ham. The desserts were small (2-bite) cream puffs, eclairs, two kinds of cake (carrot and white and chocolate).  We had a DJ, a photographer and videographer.  All of this came to under $5k and I paid for everything with cash.  My daughter's dress, shoes and jewelry came to $850 total and that's including the alterations to her dress with an extra $25 for an extra piece to the veil.  We were a very happy mother and daughter.  I am the ultimate bargain shopper and always looking for deals and low prices.  So there is a way to have the wedding you want without going to the poor house.
Mar 22, 2012 12:14AM
Great ideas! Thank you for sharing them.
Try booking your wedding and/or reception at you or your spouse's college. Colleges LOVE it when alumni come back to have weddings at their institutions and will often reward you with very reasonable rates and/or free venues if you pay for the college to cater the food.

If you need to do a Saturday wedding to accommodate travel plans, try for a late-morning wedding with a lunch reception -- much cheaper than dinner.

Find a way to curtail alcohol spending -- have only one hour of open bar or offer selected wines only for dinner.

Make your own invitations and programs and save the date cards, and print them at home on cardstock or take it to a local Kinkos. Even if you pay a little to make copies it will be way less than the ordering type of invite.

Look for any way to do things that isn't labeled "wedding" -- if you want something printed with your name/dates for the wedding, try a shop that prints pens for local businesses. They have catalogs full of items (mugs, pens, etc) that can be printed with your names and dates, and will be much cheaper than any similar wedding associated company.
Mar 21, 2012 10:55PM
I planned my entire wedding five years ago on  $5k budget including our wedding attire, a sit-down meal, flowers, entertainment, and beautiful venues for the ceremony and the reception.  A few years ago I helped my friend plan her wedding for under $10K just north of Boston (a very expensive area to do anything). There are MANY ways to avoid paying the wedding premium and still have a gorgeous wedding that everyone remembers!
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Donna Freedman's Frugal Nation blog is for readers who want to live cheaply -- whether due to necessity or a lifestyle choice. It explores living sustainably and making life more meaningful at the same time.


Donna Freedman

Donna Freedman, a writer based in Anchorage, Alaska, writes the Frugal Nation blog for MSN Money. She won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. Donna also writes about the frugal life for her own site, Surviving and Thriving.