How to Plan a Simple (Affordable) Wedding From Start to Finish

How to Plan a Simple (Affordable) Wedding From Start to Finish

So you want to have a simple wedding… great! Me too! I’m currently trying to plan my own simple and inexpensive wedding. Here you’ll find a 21-Step Guide from start to finish for planning your own SIMPLE and AFFORDABLE wedding — basically everything I’ve learned in the past year.

I’m not a wedding planner or a wedding vendor, but a simple engaged folk just like you! I was supposed to get married in 2020 in Quebec, Canada to my Canadian common-law partner, but a global pandemic had other plans…

Many couples are in a really tight space financially, emotionally, and logistically because of this whole thing and my heart goes out to them.

In these times, more and more people are looking to plan a SIMPLE and AFFORDABLE wedding (not to mention eco-friendly) and I really hope that I can help. Down with the wedding hype! Long live the simple wedding! 🙂 Even the best intentions don’t always go as planned, but we can try, right?

What is a Simple Wedding?

When I say a “simple wedding” I mean one with fewer moving pieces, that strips down the traditional 3-ring circus of a timeline, and that holds the celebration of love front and center… above all the little details and lofty event expectations. This usually coincides with having a budget-friendly and eco-friendly wedding as well.

First, take a deep breath, relax, and remember that any wedding etiquette or wedding “necessities” you have heard about or read about are completely made up. You can do whatever you want for your wedding, with a bit of bravery and backbone, regardless of so-called traditions and expectations. If whatever you want includes having a simple, minimal-fuss (but NOT a less-good wedding)… then let us continue!

If a simple wedding like this sounds good to you, Great! As I plan my own backyard wedding in Canada, I’ve been doing a TON of research and compiling all that I’ve learned together on this blog to refer back to, including this 21-part article and guide you are currently reading– as a one-stop-shop extended checklist for how to plan a simple wedding from start to finish.

Sifting through the excess and wedding industry “must-haves” hasn’t been easy but this is what I’ve come up with.

No two weddings are alike and no two couples are alike, so this isn’t a one-size-fit-all guide by any means. But I do hope it brings you some comfort and guidance as you go through it. The bottom line is not to stress out, and to simplify and cut back whenever you’re in doubt.

It can be so tempting to give into the overwhelming pull of Pinterest boards and the suggestions of our friends and family in times of stress. Even the most level-headed people can get crazy when planning a wedding and unexpectedly fall into the mania, buying things that they don’t need and getting stressed out beyond what is normal for them. Many couples express feeling like the worst versions of themselves during their wedding-planning process, fighting more than usual and getting angry quickly. What an awful way to feel while planning something that’s supposed to celebrate your LOVE.

Your Attitude for Planning a Simple Wedding

I’m going to recommend removing emotion from your planning process as much as possible and trying to be practical. Hahah! I know. This isn’t easy, but if you don’t at least try, you’re probably doomed to months of unnecessary stress.

Approach your wedding planning in the most stoic way possible and you’ll be most true to what is real and authentic to you, and what you and your partner truly care about. You can control these things. Stoic philosophy tells us that we don’t have to feel angry or stressed during this process if we choose not to be, as crazy as that might sound.

A wedding is about the start of a marriage after all, not the decorations. I look to famous stoics such as Marcus Aurelius, who said “Choose not to be harmed — and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed — and you haven’t been.” Choose not to be harmed by family, friends, society, the sometimes-dumb process of wedding planning, and you won’t be. Easier said than done, but we can try 🙂

Go through this guide and use whatever tips are useful to you. You can use it as a checklist or as a step-by-step process. Good luck!


Decisions to Make at the Start

Before reading this or getting started on your planning, close your eyes and imagine yourself on your wedding day. What do you want it to feel like? Who do you see there? 

I hope I can convey before anything that the “look” of your wedding is far less important than how you as a couple and your guests “feel” on your wedding day. Too many times I’ve heard stories of stressful planning, stressful wedding days, etc… all because of timelines and details that didn’t go as planned. 

I just wish I could ask everyone to chill out, to plan a S I M P L E wedding that’s not reliant on all the little extra details that don’t make an impact one way or another on how people actually feel.

Weddings have become a show, a minute-by-minute circus of “must-do” events on a timeline. It wasn’t always like this. A reception used to just be a party in many parts of the U.S., without the strict timeline and photo-ops. To have an amazing wedding, let’s keep it simple with the bare essentials which are, in my opinion:

  1. A ceremony that isn’t too long
  2. Food
  3. Drinks
  4. Entertainment

Everything else is gravy. Decide what are your personal must-haves and let everything else fall by the wayside. Once you have thought about, discussed with your partner, exactly how you want your wedding to feel, you’re ready to begin planning. 


21-Step Guide to Planning a Simple & Affordable Wedding

STEP #1: Make a Budget

Obvious, right? But a lot of people don’t bother to do it. They just say “I want to make the cheapest choices possible!” and go ahead with wedding planning without ever opening up Excel or jotting down a list of budget items on paper. 

Yet, if you don’t make a budget before you start researching (and buying!), you are definitely going to spend more money than you wanted to in certain categories. This is just a simple economic reality. Even if you don’t end up following your budget exactly (no one ever does), it will serve as an important guideline and help you say no to things when you inevitably have moments of wedding planning insanity.

Someone at some point is going to suggest that you buy something for your wedding that is way too expensive… it’s GOING to happen! And a budget helps you say “Sorry, but this just isn’t in my plans. We have to say no to this.” 

First, come up with a final number that you’re comfortable spending on your wedding. A number that, if you go over, you will have a mental breakdown. Ask your partner to do the same. Show each other your numbers, and compromise on one number. Make a pact that you will under no circumstances go over this number. This is a solemn vow and your first challenge in this new life together as a married couple! 

Next, talk to your family members who will have any say in the planning, if there is anyone. If anyone is giving you money to help with the planning, talk to them. Have a frank, honest conversation about money. Tell them the number that you and your partner came up with and let them know that going over this number will cause terrible things to happen. Just kidding, but do tell them that this is your number and you’re not going over it. 

Once everyone is on the same page, you can start to think about the guest list. Your guest list and budget are completely tied together, one cannot exist without the other. How many people you invite will impact your budget. To effectively pull off a low-stress simple wedding, you’re going to want to keep your guest list as small as possible.

Continue to work on your budget, itemizing the things you’ll want at your wedding, while you create your guest list (more information in the next step). You have to do extensive research in order to make a realistic budget.

You have to know how much things cost, or an educated estimate of how much things cost, in order to make a good budget. If you have a wedding planner, they’ll help you with this, but I’m guessing that most people planning a simple wedding are going to be doing this themselves. So get online, pick up the phone, and start researching to get an idea, a range, of how much all of the elements that you want are going to cost. 

Sample Wedding Budget for a Simple Wedding

Here’s a sample budget that you can copy into an Excel sheet and change to fit your own simple wedding. We did one tab with our budget and one tab with our guest list/RSVP list. 

ItemPlanned expenditureActual expenditureDifferenceWho paid?
EQUIPMENT and FURNITURE



Small tables



Music equipment



Throw pillows



Blankets



Chairs



Hay blankets



Hay stacks



Carpets



Tent rental



Lawn games








DECORATION



Lights



Candles



Table cloths



Miscellaneous








FOOD and DRINKS



Catering



Alcohol



Cutlery



Late night snack



Wine glasses



Coffee percolator



Coffee cups



FRIDAY NIGHT



Dinner



Alcohol 








CLOTHES



Wedding dress








TOTAL 



The items listed above are random just examples. You’ll have to come up with the things that matter and don’t matter to the two of you for your own wedding, and then find a way to create a realistic budget for those things. The key word being realistic.

Many couples make a budget, underestimating what things will actually cost, and end up very disappointed or very in debt. For a simple wedding budget, keep an open mind. Be open to “party” instead of “wedding” when it comes to certain budget items (be it food, alcohol, decor, whatever). For a smaller budget, and for a less stressful wedding, something has to give. 

And that might mean cutting down the guest list, which we’ll look at next.


STEP #2: Make a Guest List

Your guest list, the number of guests that you invite, will influence the cost of your wedding more than anything. It’s really important to get this right, and from the beginning. You can’t un-invite people from your wedding.

So think about this long and hard, and early on… and BEFORE you start talking to people about your wedding! Because people may end up inviting themselves in that case…

Start brainstorming a guest list with this group of people (your partner and close family members). You all have to come to an agreement on a guest list or you won’t be able to finalize the budget.

A LOT goes into making a guest list. The first tip I can give is to make ONE GUEST LIST… meaning, no B-List. If you make a B-List, and later people find out that they were on the B-List, this isn’t going to be pretty. You also don’t want to be managing two RSVP lists for an A and a B list. Just make it easy on yourself and go with one list.

A good tip I heard from a wedding planner when trying to decide who to invite to your wedding is to ask yourself: Would I be disappointed if I weren’t invited to their wedding? If the answer is “no” you can remove them from your guest list. 

Another important tip is to budget as if ALL of your guests are going to RSVP “yes.” Assume that 100 percent of your guests are coming and plan for those numbers in your budget. This will give you some leeway and it’s always better to be conservative to avoid going over budget.

Deciding who to invite is tricky and uncomfortable for most couples planning weddings. For a simple wedding, you have some freedom of later telling people “Oh, we just had a simple backyard wedding with our immediate family members and our closest local friends.” For some, this route will work out fine. For others, it’s more complicated and feelings are bound to get hurt

In my experience, you can’t please everyone. I have an enormous extended family and so we made the decision to do immediate family only, with the exception of one of my aunts (and her partner) because she’s my godmother (and she’s going to do our handfasting ceremony).

You’re going to have to realize hurt feelings are inevitable, unfortunately, and just proceed. Some people will have their feelings hurt… It sucks, but saying yes to everyone is no reason for you to throw a 300-person three-ring circus of a wedding when you’re TRYING your best to keep it simple and budget-friendly. The important people in your life will be understanding and you can go on living your life. 

For inviting plus-ones, I tend to be in the party of “invite them.” It’s pretty lame being invited to a wedding and not being able to bring a guest. This is up to you and really depends from family to family, friendship to friendship, and what you can accommodate in your budget. But I personally wouldn’t like being invited to a wedding… spending money to attend that wedding (gift, plane ticket, hotel, time off work, etc.) and not being able to spend it with a date.

Finally, it’s also your decision whether or not you want to invite kids. Totally up to you! Don’t let others pressure you, and don’t feel bad putting “This is an 18+ wedding” (or 21+… whatever it may be). 


STEP #3: Find a Venue

Look for a venue that has a natural charm and beauty and won’t require much decoration. This will keep costs down and be better for the environment. Also, keep your ceremony and reception in one place (simplify, simplify, simplify!). 

Keep it simple by holding your wedding in your backyard if you can. You’ll have to have a tent contingency plan in case of rain. If your own backyard or the backyard of someone you know isn’t an option, consider one of the following less expensive, low key options:

  1. A park in your community: These are rented out by the local government, usually for incredibly cheap prices.
  2. A community center: Again, CHEAPER than the average venue.
  3. Have a camping wedding! Rent a campground and have your guests set up tents or car camp.
  4. A school or library: Get creative and look for spaces like this that aren’t “wedding venues.”

Avoid private venues that are sort of set up to do weddings. These tend to be much more expensive. Some charge absolutely exorbitant fees just to rent the place. Also avoid all-inclusive venues if you’re trying to save money. All-inclusive places usually require you to use their own pre-approved vendors, which means you won’t be able to shop around for the best price. 

Go for public places owned by the local government, or off-beat venues that don’t usually hold weddings. Ask around, be open-minded, and visit some places before committing to anything.

Also, read the contract word-for-word before signing it. Make sure you understand the agreement that you’re getting yourself into and don’t find yourself surprised with hidden fees, or with rules that you’re not cool with.


STEP #4: Send Only Digital Correspondence

I know that I may be in the minority on this but I can’t stress enough how much you should JUST SKIP the paper save-the-dates and invitations. Going all-digital is better for the environment, easier, cheaper, and less stressful. Besides keeping the post office in business, I can’t think of a reason for us to still be sending paper invitations for weddings.

Here’s what we did for our wedding: Once we had a date set (it was about 6 months before our wedding), we created a Gmail account just for wedding stuff (with a cutesy name… I guess this could be your wedding hashtag, if you’re into that kind of thing!). Then we gathered the email addresses of all of our guests, BCC’d all of them and sent our invitation!! That’s it! And the invitation linked to our wedding website, which we could keep updated with important information. SO easy!!

And it’s way more convenient for your guests, because if they’re looking for information about your wedding, they can just do a quick search in their email inboxes and find your invite. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve needed to find hotel information or transport information about someone’s wedding, but I couldn’t find their paper invite/save-the-date with their wedding website address on it! So frustrating!

We designed the email together, kept it really simple but personalized… And that’s it! Our wedding website captured the RSVPs for us. And we could send out email reminders to RSVP, or with updated information. No need to deal with paper and RSVP cards in the mail… meh!


STEP #5: Ask for Gifts of Service

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t HAVE TO HAVE a wedding gift registry. You could instead ask your friends and family for HELP. Are you DIY-ing and/or planning a lot of your own wedding? In that case, you could use this opportunity to ask for assistance instead of presents.

Think about what your family members and friends’ strengths are. Can anyone cook or bake? Would any younger family members be willing to wait, clean up, or bartend for you? Could you ask a crew of friends to help you set up the ceremony or reception space? 

Think of the many little things you could outsource to willing friends and family members and ask for these “gifts of service” instead of actual gifts.


STEP #6: D-I-Y Your Flowers 

Flowers are great! And expensive! Keep it simple and DIY them if you can. This can be both budget-friendly and eco-friendly. Real flowers can be surprisingly not eco-friendly at all (despite being biodegradable) if they’re grown using dangerous pesticides and need to be transported from thousands of miles away, as many of them do.  

Flowers are also something that SO FEW guests will care about, and so not a reason to stress out. You have some options to simplify the flower process:

  1. Use sola wood flowers, which are eco-friendly and handmade flowers made from a root. These are so beautiful and much cheaper than real flowers. You can buy them online from Oh You’re Lovely, a small, ethical company that I adore and that sells gorgeous sola wood flowers. You can leave them white or dye them any color that you want. I’m seriously obsessed with these flowers. And there are a ton of tutorials on YouTube about how to dye them, stem them, and create bouquets.

For a 20% discount off your order, use my promo code: Wayfaring20! (Please note that this deal is limited to one per customer)

  1. Use local, seasonal, and/or wildflowers. If you’re not picky on color and species, just task someone who you trust with picking up local blooms from the grocery store the day before your wedding (and taking good care of them — don’t put them in a fridge with fruit because they’ll wilt!). 
  1. Buy dried flowers in advance and make your own bouquet. You can also find dried flowers on Oh You’re Lovely + greenery if you’re stuck. 
Sola wood flowers — Learn more on my blog post here

STEP #7: Simplify Your Ceremony Timeline

Somehow North American weddings (and maybe weddings elsewhere as well?) have evolved to the point of being these fully coordinated minute-by-minute events packed with things you “have to do” and basically putting on a big show. I don’t like this for a simple wedding. 

So for example, most ceremony timelines look something like this:

  • Processional (groom, certain family members, wedding party)
  • Processional (bride)
  • Welcome Remarks/Opening prayer
  • Reading #1
  • Reading #2
  • Ritual: Celebration of the Hands/Sand Ceremony, etc.
  • Marriage Address (words about what “marriage” means)
  • Vow Exchange
  • Ring exchange
  • Declaration of Marriage
  • Signing of legal paperwork
  • Recessional 

You could simplify it by cutting out parts you don’t want to do and maybe ending up with something like this: 

  • Processional (couple together)
  • Welcome Remarks/Opening prayer
  • Vow Exchange
  • Ring exchange
  • Declaration of Marriage
  • Signing of legal paperwork
  • Recessional 

You can simplify it even more than that if you want. Don’t have a processional at all, skip the long and personal vows… whatever you want! It’s a good idea to keep your ceremony to under 45 minutes, at least in the North American setting, because people get antsy, bored, and hungry (depending on the time of day your wedding is being held). I think a 30-minute wedding ceremony is probably the perfect amount of time to aim for.

At my sister-in-law’s wedding in Quebec, Canada, they had a “welcome cocktail” as guests arrived which I just thought was the most genius idea ever. This made it so that people had something to do (drink and chat) while waiting for the inevitable late-arrivers. And it made the atmosphere really festive and joyous right from the get-go. Everyone was in the BEST mood by the time the ceremony was ready to begin. 

Just have a ceremony rehearsal the day before or morning of, make sure you, your partner, your officiant, and anyone else involved is comfortable with it. And that’s that! 


STEP #8: Simplify Your Reception Timeline

Here’s a controversial statement: I think it’s okay to just let a wedding reception be a party.

People will say things like “This isn’t a birthday party, it’s a wedding!” And you know what, birthday parties are a whole lot less stressful and often more fun! I don’t think that a wedding needs to be a complicated beast and I don’t think a simple wedding is any less good or fun than a wedding with a complicated timeline. 

So instead of micro-planning every second of your wedding reception, you could do something a little simpler, more original, and more interesting in my opinion. So a typical North American wedding timeline (following the ceremony) these days might look something like this:

  • Cocktail hour (which you miss because you’re taking photos)
  • Grand entrance of the wedding party and couple
  • First dance
  • Welcome toasts
  • Dinner
  • Wedding party toasts
  • Parents dances
  • Bouquet/Garter tosses
  • Cake cutting
  • Grand exit

…With I guess dancing and partying in there somewhere. And you’d have your DJ or your coordinator making sure everything runs smoothly and stays on schedule so that all of these moments happen and so that your photographer gets pictures of all of it. If this sounds good to you, then great, go for it. But it’s not going to be simple. It requires a lot of thought and work and coordination. And frankly, I think it’s a little bit played out and boring. It’s expected. People say that they want their weddings to be unique, but then most of them follow a timeline that looks very similar to this one. 

I think that we as North Americans like this strict timeline because it’s comforting. We know what to do and what to expect. But can you imagine switching it up a bit, having more time to just do what you want during your wedding day without having to perform a specific task, like cake cutting?

What I’m proposing, for example, is something that looks like this:

  • Cocktail hour (with no posed photos! Everyone just enjoys cocktail hour and the photographer takes photos!)
  • Some kind of announcement that dinner is served (buffet style or something simple)
  • Everyone eats
  • Have toasts if you want
  • Serve dessert
  • Party all night

STEP #9: Ask Someone You Know to Officiate

An officiant can sometimes cost hundreds of dollars.

And so often I’ve been to weddings where it seemed like the officiant had never even met the couple before. At one of our friend’s weddings, the processional was so beautiful that we were almost crying and then the spell was broken by the welcome speech of the preacher who spoke so abstractly and said nothing remotely representative of the friend we knew or her partner. It felt so impersonal and forced… which is too bad, and a real missed opportunity for a sweet moment.

Instead, you can ask someone who knows you and loves you to officiate your wedding. If you’re getting officially married, and this isn’t a celebration of marriage or a blessing ceremony of some kind, that person will need to get some sort of local license to perform weddings (which can be done online in many states and I think in Canadian provinces too).

Then you simply write the wedding script that you want and go over it with your officiant. The sky’s the limit for writing your own wedding script if you’re not doing a traditional religious ceremony. I have some sample scripts available for you to use here.


STEP #10: Get a Day-of Coordinator

I think that, even if you’re having a very simple wedding, it would be wise to hire someone, or ask a friend, to act as a day-of wedding coordinator.

This will simplify the process of setup, breakdown, and everything in between on your wedding day and take the pressure off your shoulders.

People are bound to have all sorts of last-minute questions on your wedding day, regarding decor, setup, the ceremony, catering, photography… the list goes on, no matter how simple you’ve tried to make it. And if you have a day-of coordinator to field these questions for you, you’re going to be able to just focus on relaxing and enjoying the time with your friends and family members. 

Ask a responsible Type-A person in your life if they’d like to take on this job. Maybe this can be their wedding gift to you. You’ll just have to have a few meetings with them before the wedding day and go over the details of what needs to happen.


STEP #11: Simplify the Food Situation

Food is the biggest budget-buster for many couples. To keep things simple, you’re going to want to find a way to keep your per-head cost down.

You can do that by looking into family-owned restaurants that don’t necessarily specialize in catering. Look into Mexican, Italian, and Mediterranean restaurants which often have good per-person deals. There may be a restaurant that you love and frequent often that’ll offer you a good deal. Buffet meals can save you a lot of money.

Some couples, depending on their family and friends, choose to cater their own weddings (which I’ve written a full guide on how to do here) or do a potluck style wedding. I’ve also written a complete guide on how to have a bbq-style wedding which you should check out.

This can be simple if you have a dedicated friend or family member who will orchestrate it for you, and plan the meals (if this isn’t your thing). If you don’t have some dedicated people to help you with this, then self-catering or a potluck can actually be a lot more stressful. 

Whatever food you decide to go with, make sure that you have the following, whether it’s tasked to specific family and friends, or you hire someone:

  • A food set-up crew to help the caterers
  • A food service crew to replenish food as necessary and to serve food buffet-style (don’t let guests serve themselves unless you want to run out of food — yes, this actually happened at our friends’ wedding!! GAH!)
  • A food clean-up crew to bus tables, take out the trash, replace trash bags, etc.

Try to go with eco-friendly dishware, cup, and utensil options and not disposable plastic. 


STEP #12: Keep the Decor Simple and DIY

The good news is that simple, minimalistic (AKA affordable) decor actually looks really beautiful and classy. It doesn’t cost a lot of money to have a very chic setup at your wedding. For example:

If you’re getting married outside or in a tent, consider stringing simple fairy lights that you can find for quite cheap online. In lieu of flowers, you could simply decorate with greenery and garlands.

If you’re going to have centerpieces, keep it very simple with candles and perhaps single flowers in bottles, or tall cylindrical vases filled with water and floating candles. You know what I’m talking about! Simple DIY centerpieces such as this are all over Pinterest. Many of the elements can be thrifted or found at dollar stores.

Some other cheap and simple decor items to consider might be: candles; sola wood flowers; painter drop sheets (for backdrops); fruit (a clear cylindrical vase filled with lemons and you’re done!); muslin; plastic animals or figurines spray-painted with metallic spray paint.

Keep in mind that your time is money. If you hate crafting, don’t take on an ambitious project for yourself that’s going to make you miserable. Ask friends and family members to help and outsource as much as possible the things you don’t want to do. I’m sure there are people who would love to help if you let them.

There are also specific challenges to keep it mind depending on the type of venue you have:
For outdoor weddings, you don’t need to do much. They’re lovely as they are, which is also good news for the environment. Fewer decorations means less waste. Some small things you could add are an arch for the ceremony decorated with greenery and maybe sola wood flowers and a Persian-style rug liner for the aisle or a smaller rug to get married on.


STEP #13: Don’t Use a DJ for The Music

I’ve written before on this blog about how a DJ is indeed VALUABLE and worth the money BUT not if you’re trying to keep things simple!

If you don’t plan on having a wedding that requires a lot of “elements” with coordinated music (like cues for first dances, cake cutting, bouquet tosses, etc.), then you don’t really need a DJ.

You can simply create a playlist and plug in your device to some rented speakers, and you’re good to go! Check out my article on wedding DJs for more details on this particular issue.


STEP #14: Stock Your Own Bar

This is a good way to save money on your wedding! Check with your venue to see if you can bring in your own alcohol. Using their options will almost always be more expensive.

There are tons of ways to set up your own bar and stock your own alcohol. You have tons of choices and ultimately you’ll have to choose what you think works best for you and your crowd. Decide on the “look” that you want and be practical about the amount of work it’s going to take to build it or create it.

You can go really simple by just having some foldable tables set up with tablecloths and big steel buckets full of ice and booze (ideally kept under a tent if you’re outside). Or you can get really creative and build a bar out of recycled pallets, hay bales, wine barrels… the possibilities are endless!

Just don’t underestimate the amount of work and time that can go into these sort of DIY projects. Be practical about your expectations before beginning to keep it as simple as possible.

Cash bar vs. Open Bar

I know it’s a hotly debated topic, but I’m of the mind that a cash bar sucks. You can minimize how much it sucks by letting people know ahead of time to bring cash and that you’re planning on charging for alcohol (and making it CLEAR on the correspondence that you send them).

I understand that for some people, the motivation to have a cash bar is less because of the money, and more because they don’t want their relatives getting sloppy drunk on free booze. That is inevitable for certain guests, cash bar or not, but here is how to help minimize that particular problem with an open bar:

Limit open bar options to beer and wine. Or limit options to beer, wine, and one signature drink that is low in hard liquor (a batched drink that’s easy to just pour and serve).

Keeping alcohol costs down

I wrote an entire article on the cost of stocking an open bar which you should definitely go read. Basically…

To keep the costs down for your open bar, you should start stocking early. Every time there’s a sale at your local liquor store, pick up some booze and store it in your house (or somewhere safe). Ask your friends and family to keep their eyes out for deals and to let you know about it. That way, you’ll slowly accumulate cheap booze over the course of time, and save TONS of money!

How much alcohol should you buy?

How to figure out your alcohol distribution can be tough! There are plenty of alcohol calculators available online, which is handy, but also knowing your crowd is important. If you have really big drinkers, this will throw off any sort of calculation you use. It’s better in the end to have too much than not enough. If you don’t drink it all the night of your wedding, you can take it home and drink it, or give it away. It won’t go to waste.

A typical number and a good rule of thumb in general is 1 drink per person per hour. So if you have 100 guests at your wedding, and your wedding is 7 hours long, you’d need 700 servings of alcohol. The guests who don’t drink a lot will balance out those who do.

Here are some estimates for serving sizes:

Bottle of liquor (1.5 ounces per drink) = 18 servings
Wine bottle = 4 servings
Beer = 1 serving

What kind of alcohol should you buy?

As mentioned, you have to know your crowd! Are people you’re inviting more gin drinkers? Beer drinkers? Would a keg be appropriate? Will you need more white wine than red? If you’re not sure, a good tip is to put a question on your RSVP (which you can add on a lot of the online RSVP websites such as Joy) about alcohol. We asked our guests, for example, “What drink will get you on the dance floor?” And this should give you a better idea of what kind of alcohol to have in a higher number.

To hire bartenders or not?

This will depend on your event. I’ve been to a backyard wedding where the bar was stocked with just wine and beer and it was self-serve. So guests just grabbed whatever they wanted out of ice-filled buckets. This has the advantage of being nice and easy, but you’re still going to need to appoint someone to keep an eye on supplies and replenish as needed.

And know that there will be some guests who get a little crazy when they see a bar like this and who might go way beyond their limit! Something about needing to ask a bartender for a drink makes people somehow act a bit more appropriately (although no, not always).

Bartenders will obviously also be an extra cost. At another outdoor wedding we went to, there were a couple of bartenders hired to work earlier in the evening. They were very busy making 4-5 signature cocktails (which is way too many in my opinion) and then after that, they left. The bar stayed open as a self-serve of whatever was left (beer, wine, hard liquor) and the party got crazy! This is a good option to contain the madness early in the night and then let the hardcore partiers go crazy later on.


STEP #15: Save Money on Your Wedding Dress

It used to be that your choices were pretty limited when it came to a wedding dress. These days, your possibilities are ENDLESS and if you only have a tiny budget, you can still find a beautiful dress with a bit of research.

I have personally tried on and reviewed wedding dresses from affordable companies such as ASOS, Blushfashion, Lulus Bridal, Amazon, Modcloth, and Nordstrom all under $300. So if you’re feeling stuck looking for affordable dresses, go check out my reviews here.

Please, no matter what, don’t feel pressured by anyone into having to have the “Say Yes to the Dress” experience of twirling on a platform in a dress boutique while being pressured into a dress or… whatever other sort of dress experience you may not want to have. If this sounds awesome to you, then go for it. But if it doesn’t, don’t feel obliged. Politely decline and go elsewhere Here are some options for how to save money on your wedding dress.

Buy a secondhand dress

This should be at the top of your list to check out. A secondhand, “used” wedding dress has really only been “used” for about 5-8 hours tops. It’s crazy that we wear these dresses once and that’s it.

For a more environmentally-friendly, and budget-friendly, option, check out second hand wedding dresses being sold by brides on sites such as Nearly Newlywed. Here you can find designer wedding dresses for sometimes as much as 80 percent off their original price!

Buy a bridesmaid’s dress

Have you ever noticed how bridesmaid dresses cost a fraction of what brides pay for their dresses? Sometimes not even for good reason. A simple wedding dress can sometimes cost 6 or 7 times more than a bridesmaid dress that looks very similar to it, just a different color!

Instead of looking for a wedding dress, shop the ivory and cream-colored bridesmaid dresses at a shop that you like. It’s a simple thing, but sometimes dropping the “bride” label and the high “wedding expectations” label brings everyone, everything, and prices down to Earth again.

Buy a vintage dress

Search for vintage clothing stores in your hometown and cities nearby and stop in. You may be surprised by the gems you can find. And often at a very low price compared to conventional clothing stores and bridal dress shops. Romantic, Victorian, and 1920’s fashions are all amazing possibilities you may come across.

These are just a few of the many ways that you can save money on your wedding dress. I would also recommend dresses I have previously bought and reviewed that all cost me either under $300 (Blushfashion Boutique) or under $100 (Lulus Bridal).

Cocomelody, although I haven’t yet tried on their dresses at the time of writing this article, also has really reasonably priced dresses well under the crazy “average” price spent on wedding dresses, which popular wedding sites estimate being $1,000 to $2,000 US!


STEP #16: Don’t Have a Wedding Party

A really easy way to reduce stress is to cut the wedding party, meaning (traditionally) no bridesmaids, groomsmen, flower girls, ring bearers, etc. You won’t have to worry about outfits, organized bachelorette parties, and all that stuff. Your friends may even thank you because they’ll save a BUNCH OF MONEY.

OR if you want, you could still have pre-parties (like the bachelor/bachelorette, but just skip the whole bridesmaid and groomsmen thing).

If you definitely want a wedding party, however, have one but keep all the extras and details MINIMAL. For example, let them all choose their own outfits. This is also of course much more eco-friendly and cost-effective for all involved!


STEP #17: Limit Your Photography & Videography

This will be hard for some folks. But a wedding photographer and videographer that cost you a total of 3, 4, sometimes 5 thousand dollars just isn’t going to cut it for a simple and inexpensive wedding.

So I suggest one of two options: Either you (1) hire a photographer and/or videographer for just an hour or two of your big day, which should only run you a few hundred dollars — depending on the quality and experience of the person you hire; or (2) you ask an amateur to capture your event, such as a friend or relative, which will either be very cheap or free (a “wedding gift” to you, if you will!).


STEP #18: Buy Inexpensive Wedding Rings

This is a big one. You can’t start off your life together in RING DEBT. That’s nuts, I’m sorry. Talk about the cost of engagement and wedding rings together. Don’t shy away from this topic. You have to talk numbers with your partner.

It may seem unromantic, but actually there’s nothing more romantic in my opinion than financial transparency and honesty.

Don’t listen to anyone who tells you that you need to spend X amount of your salary on a ring — that lie was literally invented by diamond companies. I’ve written quite extensively on rings and how to choose one that is affordable and ethical which you can read more about here.


STEP #19: Plan a Simple Honeymoon

Right now, as I write this post, there’s very little travel happening in the world. But I imagine that at some point that’ll change and we’ll be back to planning honeymoons.

Instead of luxurious and expensive honeymoon, consider traveling within your own area or country. If you’re in the States, consider taking a road trip to the national parks. You can camp and keep costs way down, while experiencing some of the most gorgeous scenery in the world!


STEP #20: Let People Help You

We often feel like we’re imposing on our friends and family when we ask them for help with our weddings, when in reality — People LOVE to help with weddings! They like to feel helpful and they love you, so it’s actually nice to be asked for help.

Just keep in mind that you shouldn’t abuse anyone’s kindness and ask for too much help from one person. Spread the love and ask people for help in areas that you know they’re strong in and comfortable with.


STEP #21: Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

Finally, remember to shut off the outside world… don’t spend too much time on Pinterest and looking through comments in online wedding forums. It’ll make you crazy as you compare your plans with those of other couples.

Explore A LOT at the beginning of your journey, and then shut it all off. Stick with your original decisions and trust your gut. You and your partner are unique individuals and no one, no matter what, can have the same exact wedding that you will have.

HAPPY WEDDING PLANNING! Send me an email and please let me know how it goes for you 🙂

Brittany

Brittany is a writer, teacher, and a graduate student at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. She started the website Wayfaring Weddings as a way to share her research on affordable, eco-friendly, and less stressful approaches to wedding planning.