It's me, Suki! Assistant editor at Offbeat Wed and self-proclaimed princess of ballin' on a budget. I feel like I've earned this title after my partner and I planned an offbeat wedding on a 5k budget. And all without sacrificing the quality of our celebration! I strongly believe you can have a beautiful and meaningful wedding on any budget. And because I don't gate keep, I'm going to sharing my money saving tips to help you plan the wedding you want, whether your budget is 2k or 20k.
Ready to learn my genius money saving tips for your wedding?
Your wallet will thank you.
Tip #1: Make a list of your priorities
Write down all your wedding must haves. I'm talking about the non-negotiables! Perhaps that's a 10 tier cake. A spiral aisle to walk down. A giant 20-sided die that guests can run around in like a human hamster ball. Maybe it's something as simple as having an arch or having a pagan officiant. If you can't imagine the wedding without this item or experience, put it on the list. The Offbeat Wedding Spreadsheets are great for helping you determine what is necessary and what isn't!
It also helps to ask yourself what the goal of your wedding is (aside from getting married, of course). My partner and I determined our goal was “To make everyone feel like they’ve learned a little bit more about us” and “To make everyone feel like they’ve taken part in something.”
Tip #2: Turn to your community
After you put together your list of must-haves, think of all your available resources. Did we know a free venue we could use? Could we borrow chairs from church? Do we have any family or friends who would be happy to gift us their baking skills? In fact, one of the ways we saved on food was by skipping the cake and having our loved ones gift us with their baked goods! It was actually quite a heartfelt experience sharing our favorite family treats with our wedding guests. Don't discount the power of gifts and acts of service from the heart. They can create a much more memorable experience than money can buy.
Don't be afraid to ask your friends and family for help. You never know what meaningful (and FREE) resources they're willing to offer. We saved money on decor, DIY materials, and more by simply asking!
Once we confirmed these resources were available to us, we’d take them off the must-have list. Then, whatever is left on that list is what you will need to put your money towards. Seeing the remaining items will help you with determining and setting a wedding budget.
Tip #3: Be intentional when creating your guest list
You've probably heard people say “Limit your guest list to save money!” But a better tip I've heard is to invite people who, if you ran into them on the street after years of not seeing each other, you'd be delighted to see. This helped us be more thoughtful when planning our guest list instead of inviting people we felt obligated to have!
Creating an intentional guest list is one of the ways you can save on food and other wedding expenses. If our parents wanted to invite anyone who didn't make it into our initial guest list, we asked them to pay for their guests meal, chair, and any other expenses that would incur with an extra head count.
Ah, everyone's favorite divided topic. Some folks will say “Limit the plus 1s” while others insist it's not fair to the guests. My partner and I decided that if a guest was married, engaged, living with their partner, or traveling from far away and unlikely to know anyone else at the wedding, they were given a plus one.
Tip #4: Consider a non-traditional venue
During wedding planning my partner and I played a game called “Could this be a wedding venue?” We loved looking at places that wouldn't typically be seen as a wedding venue, like coffee shops, bookstores, even black box theaters, and visualizing our wedding there. We've seen offbeat weddings take place in co-working spaces, bars, and restaurants! Offbeat Wed has a ginormous list of thought starters for nontraditional wedding venues!
Tip #5: Have a limited bar
Offer a limited selection of drinks, such as beer, wine, and a signature cocktail, instead of a full bar. We made two big batch signature cocktails for guests to self-serve out of giant drink dispensers.
Pro tip: When it comes to mixed batch cocktails, using a mid-shelf liquor is fine (like Svedka vodka instead of Grey Goose).
Don't worry that you're not providing enough options! You're not the Hard Rock Cafe. Guests will drink whatever you serve because it's FREE ALCOHOL.
One thing we wished we did differently with the bar…
We should have gone for more mid-range wines and beers. The majority of our guests went for standard stuff like Corona, Bud Light, White Claw (everyone LOVED the Claw) and ended up skipping the fancier stuff like froofy wines and craft beers. Remember that your personal favorites might not be everyone's taste, so it's cheaper to stick to middle of the road stuff.
Another genius money saving tip for your wedding bar:
Check to see if your liquor store will accept returns on unopened bottles and boxes. Let your bartender know this is your plan so they are only opening stuff they need instead of opening a bunch of stuff that won’t get used.
Tip #6: Don't be afraid to tell vendors your budget
I'm not a fan of the term “negotiating with vendors.” However, it's always a great idea to share your budget with them!
Instead of saying “We want this package at a cheaper price.,” be upfront and say “We have a budget of X amount per person. What can you do within that scope?” The right vendor will help you come up with a package that might work better for your budget. Don’t be afraid to ask your vendor what is possible. You’d be surprised at how innovative they can be!
Here's my script for finding the right vendor for your budget:
I'll give you a real example…
For wedding photography we had a budget of $1000 (our wedding was in 2019). We understood that most professional photographers would not work for less than $1000. We managed to find a pro we loved who was enthusiastic about our vision and willing to work with that price range for 2.5 hours instead of her usual base package of 8 hours. That meant she would only be documenting the ceremony, and that was totally ok with us! We decided it was more important to capture the ceremony and skip the photos of people eating and dancing.
Honestly, finding a photographer who would do this required a lot of research. Some photographers said no, but kindly forwarded us to someone who they thought could help us. Again, the right vendor for you will help you create a custom package that matches your needs. The Offbeat Wed Vendor Guide is full of wedding vendors who are totally understanding and helpful when it comes to talking budgets, no matter the size.
Tip #7: Send digital invitations
Instead of traditional paper invitations, consider sending digital invitations to save on printing and postage costs. We sent e-vites through Joy, a free wedding website and app that comes with the e-vite feature and has an RSVP tracker. The e-vite linked guests to our wedding website which had all the important details they needed. Which brings us to…
Tip #8: Have a wedding website
Creating a wedding website is one of many ways to save on wedding invitations, especially if you're on a budget. Think about it: The more information you try to stuff into your printed wedding invitation suite, the more paper it requires, which ultimately racks up the cost. A digital invitation that links to a wedding website saves trees and money! Or if your heart is set on sending physical invitations you can create a one-page invite with a QR code or link to your website.
Pro tip: We created 2 print invitations in total. One for an older relative who wasn’t so tech-savvy and the other to use in our photographer’s flat lay! And because our photographer rocks, it looks like we had a very pricey invitation suite. Got 'em!
You can have a beautiful wedding on any budget.
Think of the best wedding you've ever been to. What was special about it? I bet it wasn't the decor or the favors or the open bar. The reason we love weddings and continue to celebrate them is because of how they make us feel. So whenever you feel lost in the chaos of wedding planning, take yourself back to Tip #1. What is the goal of your wedding? If you're inviting people, how do you want them to feel?