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Guide to Planning a Wedding on a Budget

Guide to Planning a Wedding on a Budget
Jacqueline DeMarco
Jacqueline DeMarcoUpdated February 28, 2023
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Editor’s note: Lantern by SoFi seeks to provide content that is objective, independent and accurate. Writers are separate from our business operation and do not receive direct compensation from advertisers or partners. Read more about our Editorial Guidelines and How We Make Money.
Along with all the joy a wedding brings there is often a hefty price tag. A wedding can cost tens of thousands of dollars. No wonder then that so many couples are looking to keep costs in check. Here’s how to plan a wedding on a budget—and still have the perfect big day. 

Understanding the Average Cost of a Wedding 

The average cost of an engagement ring is the first big expense you’ll face as a couple. Then, after the excitement of getting engaged, you’ll need to look carefully at wedding costs in order to plan a wedding on a budget. According to The Knot 2021 Real Weddings Study, the average cost of a wedding in 2021 was $34,000. A smaller wedding, with fewer than 50 guests is about $15,000, while weddings with more than 100 guests average around $38,000. 

Tips for Planning a Wedding on a Small Budget 

Not sure where to begin when your budget is on the smaller side? Read on to learn how to plan a wedding on a small budget.

1. Create a Budget for Your Wedding 

The two of you should sit down and discuss what kind of wedding you want and how much you can realistically spend. Figure out what you have in savings, how much more you can save between now and your wedding day, and what your families might be able to contribute. Create a spending limit to help guide you. If you’re planning to save money to help pay for wedding expenses, come up with a goal amount and a plan for how you’ll achieve it. 

2. Categorize Your Budget 

Next, determine what your wedding will consist of, which will directly affect the cost. You can decide which things are most important to you and how much you want to spend on each. Some common wedding expenses include:
  • Ceremony and reception space
  • Food and the wedding cake
  • Photography and videography 
  • Flowers
  • Decor
  • Wedding attire
  • Professional hair and makeup
  • Wedding rings
  • Wedding planner
Once you have the full list, you can go over it to see where you might be able to cut back. 

3. Get Creative With Your Wedding Food 

One of the reasons wedding planning on a budget can be challenging is that feeding a lot of guests a big dinner with appetizers, entrees, and desserts can add up fast. The average catering cost for a wedding is $75 per guest.  You can save by skipping the full meal and serving hors d'oeuvres instead. And rather than an expensive open bar with mixed drinks, serve wine and beer, which will reduce your costs. 

4. Select Inexpensive Vendors 

Shop around for vendors to see who can offer you the best rates. You can do this with reception venues, florists to help lower the cost of flowers for a wedding, photographers, and so on. Also, instead of hiring a band, which can run you about $4,300, get a DJ to reduce costs. Or ask one of your friends to DJ for you. 

5. DIY Wedding Decorations 

Planning a wedding on a budget can require getting a little crafty. Enlist some creative friends and family members and make DIY wedding decorations like centerpieces, place cards, and signs instead of paying for them. Brides-to-be can also consider doing their own hair and makeup to save money. 

6. Using a Used Wedding Dress 

One of the expenses brides worry about is how expensive their wedding dress will be. The average cost of a wedding dress is $1,800, according to The Knot. Since most wedding dresses are worn only once, why not buy someone else’s gently worn wedding dress? It’s an eco-friendly option as well as a cost-saving one. You can find used wedding dresses at local consignment boutiques or you can look for them online. It’s possible to rent a used wedding dress for up to 80% less than the price of a brand-new dress. 

7. Reduce the Guest List 

Figuring out how to plan a wedding on a budget gets a lot easier when you scale back your guest list. A wedding with fewer than 50 guests can dramatically reduce the price you’ll pay for all of the following:
  • Venue
  • Table and chair rentals
  • Place settings
  • Flower arrangements
  • Food
  • Wedding cake
  • Alcohol
  • Wedding invites, thank you cards, and postage

Financing a Wedding

Since a wedding can be a major expense, couples may want to consider one of the following financing options before they start planning.

Credit Cards 

You can put the costs of your wedding on credit cards, which can be an easy and convenient way to pay for these expenses. You can use a rewards credit card and earn cash back or points you can redeem. Credit cards have high interest rates, though, so unless you can pay off what you owe before the billing cycle ends, you will end up paying interest on your wedding expenses. Another option is to look for a new credit card with a 0% APR introductory offer. If you pay the balance before the introductory period ends, you won’t owe any interest. However, after that period, the interest rate will kick in, and it’s likely to be very high. 

Personal Loans 

You can borrow money for your wedding with a personal loan. In this case, a bank, online lender, or credit union lends you a lump sum that you repay with interest in installments over time. The higher your credit score, the lower the interest rate you might get. Once you’re approved for a personal loan, you may expect to receive funds quickly, typically within one to five days.  Personal loans are flexible and can be used for almost any purpose. Some lenders offer personal loans for weddings designed to help couples pay for their big day. There are even personal loans for engagement rings that you might want to explore. Whatever type of personal loan you get, just be sure to make your payments on time to avoid possible fees and damage to your credit score. 

The Takeaway

Weddings are expensive, but creating a budget and determining where you can cut back can help you save money. Things like reducing your guest list, getting creative with your wedding menu, and making your own flower arrangements can dramatically reduce wedding costs and still allow you to enjoy your dream day. 

3 Personal Loan Tips

  1. Personal loan interest rates vary from lender to lender, but generally depend on your credit score. With one online application, Lantern by SoFi makes it easy to find and compare the personal loan interest rates that you qualify for.
  2. If the interest rates you’re being offered seem too high, try lowering the loan amount. Generally, the larger the loan, the greater the risk for lenders, who likely charge a higher interest rate for the increased risk level.
  3. Read lender reviews before taking out a personal loan. You’ll get a sense of how long it can take to receive the funds and how good the customer service is.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can you plan a wedding on a budget?
How do people afford weddings?
What is a reasonable budget for a wedding?
Photo credit: iStock/Dmitriy_Shipilov

About the Author

Jacqueline DeMarco

Jacqueline DeMarco

Jacqueline DeMarco is a personal finance writer and editor based in Southern California. While she spends the bulk of her time writing about complex financial issues, she also tackles a variety of subjects ranging from food to fashion to travel. Her work can be found across dozens of publications such as Credit Karma, LendingTree, Northwestern Mutual, The Everygirl, and Apartment Therapy.
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