49 Ways to Slash Your Wedding Budget

Want to create your dream wedding without breaking the bank? We asked real brides to share their best cost-cutting secrets—from crafty cocktail parties to a totally genius use for pashminas

Updated 01/11/13

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Whether it means getting crafty with your besties or doubling your décor as favors, a few adjustments here and there can make your wedding day a lot less expensive. So what are you waiting for? Pin this post to your wedding inspirations board and get ready to save!

01 of 49

Buy, Don't Rent

John Lawton

"When I got a quote for more than $500 to rent linens, I went on Ebay and purchased what I needed for less than $250. And we're going to resell them after the honeymoon!" —Brittani P., Jacksonville, Fla.

02 of 49

Find a Smart Substitute

Yasu + Junko

"Instead of a bouquet, I carried my favorite book wrapped in something borrowed—a friend's blue-embroidered handkerchief. I called it my 'book-quet.'"—Emily L., Los Angeles

03 of 49

Get Intimate

Spencer Higgins

"For the rehearsal dinner, we threw a casual outdoor barbecue for just our families, the officiant, and the bridal party. Keeping it low-key and super-small meant we had more to spend on the wedding itself." —Shannon M., New York City

04 of 49

Bail on the Ballroom

Yasu + Junko

"Get creative with your wedding venue. We married on a 1920s theater stage, then had a reception upstairs. Everyone raved about how different and fun it was. And it only cost us a few hundred bucks to rent the whole thing." —Samantha S., Harrisburg, Pa.

05 of 49

Make Yourself Beautiful

Yasu + Junko

"Instead of hiring a makeup artist, I'm going to go to a department store for a free makeover, then use what I learn to do it myself." —Emily C., Sterling, Ill.

06 of 49

Get Married by a Pal

Yasu + Junko

"A friend from high school officiated at our wedding. He got ordained through the Universal Life Church for free!" —Swan C., New York City

07 of 49

Shop at Home

Aaron Dyer

"We're having a nautical wedding, so we're using a bunch of décor that we already own, like lanterns, seashells, driftwood, and model ships." —Mandy C., West Palm Beach, Fla.

08 of 49

Try the Barter System

Yasu + Junko

"The church where we married let us use its wedding ministry for free in return for my volunteering at other weddings. The ministry did everything—decorating, flowers, catering, and coordinating. We saved thousands of dollars, and the day was so much less stressful for everyone." —Bekah S., Fairbanks, Alaska

09 of 49

Cut It Out

Spencer Higgins

"Every week, I clip coupons for decor and DIY supplies at Michaels and Hobby Lobby­. We still have a year of deals to go!" —Lindsay C., Martinez, Ga.

10 of 49

Skimp on Stamps

Patricia Heal

"We chose postcards for our save-the-dates. It saved us money on postage and envelopes!" —Kelly N., Omaha, Neb.

11 of 49

Go Local

Patricia Heal

"We went to our farmer's market the morning of the wedding and bought all the flowers we needed to make our bouquets and centerpieces. It was so much more affordable than going through a florist." —Hannah I., Seattle

12 of 49

Pay with Plastic

Yasu + Junko

"We've been saving credit card points for two and a half years. Our honeymoon is practically paid for." —Alexis J., Forest Hills, N.Y.

13 of 49

Aim Low

Spencer Higgins

"I set a spending limit for every item, then tried to come in a little bit under for each purchase. Saving a couple hundred on a dress here and a DJ there really adds up!" —Alyssa D., Moorhead, Minn.

14 of 49

Choose an Off-Day

Aaron Dyer

"Having your wedding on a Friday night is so much cheaper than doing it on a Saturday." —Rachel P., New York City

15 of 49

Get Crafty

Patricia Heal

"My husband and I made fourteen tissue pomanders by hand to decorate the aisle at our wedding ceremony. It took a lot of time and effort, but it saved us a ton. And it looked amazing!" —Laurie M., Margate, N.J.

16 of 49

Dress Differently

Spencer Higgins

"I bought a gorgeous off-white bridesmaids' gown with a full A-line skirt instead of a traditional wedding dress. It only cost $350!" —Rebecca K., Miami

17 of 49

Hire a Wedding Planner

Spencer Higgins

"Yes, we paid extra at the outset, but our planner more than made up for it by helping us negotiate better deals. Plus, nothing curbs the urge to spend like running all your purchases by a professional." —Morgan M., Richmond, Va.

18 of 49

Shop Outside the Box

Patricia Heal

"I bought two beautiful lovebirds for less than four dollars and used them as cake toppers." —Gia L., West Hartford, Conn.

19 of 49

Involve Your Guests

Jack Miskell

"I wanted to make a brooch bouquet for my walk down the aisle, but buying the seventy-five pieces I needed would have been expensive. So I asked my loved ones to help with the hunt. Soon I had brooches pouring in—some from personal collections, some from thrift stores, some from department-store sales. The best part? Now guests are buzzing in anticipation of seeing the finished bouquet." —Lauren C., New York City

20 of 49

Go to Bridal Shows

John Lawton

"Vendors often offer great specials and giveaways at shows. I was able to save $500 on our florist and $100 on our wedding photographer." —Allison V., Tulsa, Okla.

21 of 49

Do Double Duty

Yasu + Junko

"My mom bought a bunch of colored pashminas in bulk for about $4 each. We used them as chair coverings and as party favors for guests." —Vivian S., Norfolk, Va.

22 of 49

Plan Destination I Do's

Aaron Dyer

"I have a large extended family, so having a huge local wedding in Wisconsin would've been pricey. Most of them aren't big on traveling, so we decided to marry in Bald Head Island, North Carolina, instead. We're saving a bundle!" —Brooke B., Madison, Wis.

23 of 49

Choose à la Carte

Yasu + Junko

"Don't feel pressured to buy a photography package. They often include a lot of extras you may not want. Instead, ask your photographer to quote you a lower price based only on the options that are most important to you." —Emily W., New York City

24 of 49

Plant Some Memories

Patricia Heal

"In keeping with our antique-garden theme, I potted cheap flowers in clay pots and used them to brighten up the reception tables. After the wedding, we decided to plant the perennials in our yard. Now we have colorful mementos in our garden that we can enjoy for years to come." —Nancy C., Lafayette, Ind.

25 of 49

Skip the Tulle

Robert Mitra

"I'm wearing fabric flowers in my hair. I found someone online to make them custom for me at a quarter of the price of a new veil!" —Jennifer M., Brooklyn

26 of 49

Make it Personal

Aaron Dyer

"I put pictures of me and my fiancé in Mason jars we got from friends and family, dressed them up with twine, and used them as centerpieces. The cost? Practically nothing." —Amanda P., Vassar, Mich.

27 of 49

Capture the Moment

Aaron Dyer

"Instead of hiring a videographer, we signed up with a company that sends you cameras for each table, so your guests can shoot your wedding video. Luckily, two members of our bridal party are film students." —Shelly P., Lawrence, Kans.

28 of 49

Restrict Your List

Aaron Dyer

"I have lots of acquaintances but only a few very close friends. Booking the Stone Mill at the New York Botanical Gardens—which has a capacity of a hundred and twenty—gave me an excuse to keep my guest list really small." —Rachel J., New York City

29 of 49

Get Graphic

Patricia Heal

"I designed our wedding invitations using Adobe Illustrator. Then I sent them to CatPrint.com to be printed—it's awesome and super-cheap." —Amanda S., Brooklyn

30 of 49

Bribe Your BFFs

Aaron Dyer

"To entice friends to help with my DIY projects, I threw several girly cocktail parties. It made tying ribbons on bottles of bubbles and arranging flowers a blast." —Sarah W., Manistee, Mich.

31 of 49

Do a Photo-Strip Search

Patricia Heal

"I got my photo booth on Groupon and saved half of the original cost!" —Alissa R., Pittsburgh

32 of 49

Go to School

Yasu + Junko

"Hire recent graduates from a local culinary institute to cater your wedding. They'll be grateful for the experience and charge way less than an established caterer." —Thea K., Chicago

33 of 49

Pick a Public Place

Aaron Dyer

"My fiancé and I booked our ceremony and reception at a state park—it was only $160 for the whole day. And since it's such a pretty location, we barely need any décor." —Ashley N., DeFuniak Springs, Fla.

34 of 49

Ride the Bus

Aaron Dyer

"Instead of blowing our entire budget renting limos or shuttles, we found a charter company that leases yellow school buses for events. It's way cheaper and so much more fun!"—Ashley W., New York City

35 of 49

Pick Blooms Online

Aaron Dyer

"I ordered my flowers in bulk from Fiftyflowers.com and put them together with my family. The site also has premade bouquets and centerpieces."—Chetna K., Houston

36 of 49

Say No to Rentals

John Lawton

"Booking a venue with tables, chairs, and china meant we didn't have to rent anything. We ended up saving $900!" —Cassandra R., Farmington, N.M.

37 of 49

Get Inked

Yasu + Junko

"Letterpressed envelopes are expensive, so I had a rubber stamp with my return address on it custom-made. I still use it for thank-you notes and holiday cards." —Denise S., Port Chester, N.Y.

38 of 49

Leave a Message

Dasha Wright

"When I ordered our engagement-photo album online, I had extra pages put in, so we could use it as our wedding guestbook." —Tiffany G., Boswell, Pa.

39 of 49

Drink More

Aaron Dyer

"I'm saving wine bottles and using them as vases and candle holders." —Stephani R., San Diego

40 of 49

Learn a New Trick

Yasu + Junko

"I taught myself calligraphy in just a few hours, using a kit I found on Amazon. The invitation and save-the-date envelopes we sent out looked great, and the tutorial and all the materials only cost me $25." —Jess S., Vancouver, Wash.

41 of 49

Forget the Favors

Aaron Dyer

"We were more worried about showing our guests a good time than giving them gifts. Trust me, no one missed the little goodie bags of chocolate at the end of the night." —Kate H., Washington, D.C.

42 of 49

Raise the Bar

Liza Jernow/Plum Reps

"We had the bartender offer wine, beer, and two signature cocktails. It was less expensive than a full open bar, and guests couldn't stop talking about how fun the drinks were." —Erika T. , Napa, Calif.

43 of 49

Check Out Etsy

Patricia Heal

"I had a vision of hand-painted signs for the bride-and-groom chairs. I found exactly what I wanted on Etsy for about $30, and the quality was amazing. You can find just about anything there if you're patient and have the time to look." —Melisa M., New York City

44 of 49

Be Morning People

Yasu + Junko

"We had a late-morning wedding, which saved us a ton of money. The reception ended at four p.m., and then we threw an after-party at someone's house at six-thirty!" —Sarah M., Dartmouth, Mass.

45 of 49

Borrow for Your Big Day

Thomas Iannaccone

"I'm wearing the veil my mother wore at her wedding. I saw one just like it for $800." —Natalie I., Tampa, Fla.

46 of 49

Do a Dessert Table

Patricia Heal

"We created a homemade dessert buffet instead of ordering a wedding cake. My husband and I asked all of the ladies from his family to make their signature dessert, and we put their names next to each one. Everyone loved the variety, and it saved us a lot of cash." —Kristin S., Irvine, Calif.

47 of 49

Be Good to Your Feet

Yasu + Junko

"If you're wearing a long dress, choose affordable, comfortable shoes, rather than killing yourself (and your wallet) in expensive five-inch stilettos. No one can really see them anyway." —Jacqui G., New York City

48 of 49

Negotiate Nicely

Yasu + Junko

"We found an amazing venue that was beyond our budget. We told the sales director how much we loved it and what we could spend. He knocked down the price dramatically." —Katie A., Enfield, Conn.

49 of 49

Hit the Town

Yasu + Junko

"Instead of having a formal after-party, we're going to hit some bars with our friends post-wedding to celebrate. It's less pricey and feels more adventurous!" —Chelsea A., Plainfield, Ill.

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