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The Cost of Having a Small Wedding

Have you decided on having a small wedding? Something intimate with only your immediate family and maybe a few friends present? This is our plan, so I did a bit of research to find out how much it costs to have a small wedding.

The average cost of a small wedding is $8,550. This is based on a guest list of 50 people* and cutting costs usually associated with a larger wedding. Prices will vary depending on where the wedding is held and which elements are included, which can be determined in the cost breakdown below.

*The number of guests considered to make up a “small wedding” (Source)

Take a look at my cost breakdown for having a small wedding below and decide which elements you can cut down on even more, or which you’d like to pay more for.

A “small wedding” is a wedding with up to 50 people according to Martha Stewart Weddings. So if you’re planning on having fewer guests, costs should go down even more.

You can also save on the venue fee by hosting your wedding at your home or on the private property of a friend or family member. I talk about how to host an outdoor wedding and the costs associated with it in another post.

Cost Breakdown of Having a Small Wedding

  • Food: $1,750 ($35 per person which factors in serving and delivery costs)
  • Ceremony and reception site (with chair and table rentals): $4,000 (with a smaller guest list, you have many unconventional options. Ask around local museums, small town tourist attractions, farms, community centers, campsites, and more!)
  • Attire: $500 (to learn more, check out my post on how to save money on your wedding dress and on dresses that are affordable and eco-friendly)
  • Bar: $750 (based on having a limited bar and buying the alcohol yourselves – For more details on open bar costs, check out my post on open bars at weddings)
  • Music: $250 for speaker rental equipment (couple makes their own playlist, no DJ or band)
  • Flowers and other decor: $0
  • Invitations and save-the-dates: $0 (send them through email)
  • Make-up and hair: $0 (use what you already own and do it yourself)
  • Photography: $1,000 (basic package from a new photographer)
  • Miscellaneous: $300 (for items not listed such as favors and gifts, and wiggle room if some items are more expensive than intended)

TOTAL: $8,550

How to Save Money on a Small Wedding

If you want a small and simple wedding, chances are you’re also looking to get married as cheaply as possible! There are hundreds of ways to avoid spending money that you don’t have to, but it begins with your mindset.

Start from the point of: I am not going to include elements in my wedding that I don’t want just for the sake of tradition or making others happy.

If you have this mindset, and don’t waiver from it, you’ll have a better shot at keeping your costs down and ending up with what you want. You don’t have to be mean about it. You can just calmly and politely tell your friends and family that you don’t want to spend X amount of dollars on one day and that you’re cutting costs wherever you can.

Here are 10 more tips on how to save money on your small wedding:

1. DIY your food and decor, but recognize that DIY doesn’t always mean cheaper! Really think about the cost of each DIY item and the cost of your time as well.

2. Get married in your own backyard, on a local beach, in a public park, or rent a cheap local hall, community center, or other location that isn’t a tradition “wedding venue.” It could save you thousands of dollars.

3. Buy secondhand wedding attire or check out affordable (and eco-friendly) wedding dress options instead of spending $1,000+ on a designer gown you’ll only wear once.

4. Have a camping celebration instead of a hotel wedding. Camping weddings are becoming more and more popular and are beautiful and casual. Older guests have the option of staying in comfortable trailers or nearby hotels.

5. Have a potluck or BBQ meal instead of a fancy caterer. If your guest list is small, you can coordinate a lovely potluck event and your friends and family will be happy to help. Ask them to make a dish in lieu of a wedding gift.

6. Minimize or cut the wedding party all together. If your guest list is small, is there really a need to have bridesmaids and groomsmen? Why make tiers of our friends and family anyway? Cut it out and save money on gifts, attire, bouquets, etc…

7. Don’t hire a DJ or a band. If your wedding is small, you may not even have a big party on the dance floor. And a DJ could make things awkward, even. Instead, create your own playlist and even consider allowing certain guests whom you trust to control the music.

8. Skip the flowers and decor, especially if you’re getting married outside. The venue that you choose should be lovely enough without a bunch of extra decoration required.

9. Have a self-serve limited bar. Serve only beer and wine that you’ve bought yourself cheaply (wholesale) and put it out in a few large metal ice buckets for guests to serve themselves. You could ask a friend or family member to be in charge of checking in every half hour or so to make sure it’s fully stocked. You’ll save money and hassle not hiring a bartender, and not serving hard alcohol.

10. Don’t bother with paper invitations or save-the-dates. It’s a small group. Send an email or even consider writing a personalized email to each guest, since there aren’t too many! You’ll save hundreds.

Cost of Activities at a Small Wedding: Dancing, Games, and More

A small and intimate weddings is a perfect opportunity to spend more quality time with your wedding guests than you would otherwise get to if you were having a wedding if 150+ people.

A small wedding allows you to be more creative in many ways. Of course, you don’t have to do anything super creative or unique of course. A small dinner with 50 guests or less is perfectly fine. You don’t even need to have dancing if you don’t want to.

Organizing a lawn game tournament, if you’re hosting your small wedding outside, could be a fun way to bring your guests together who don’t know each other. Remember to not make activities like this a requirement, but something guests can do if they want!

If you do want to include some elements that are fun and unique and work well with a smaller crown, this is a good list to review. Here are some options and costs of activities that you might want to include in your small wedding:

Bocce: A favorite of fancy people and older folks! It’s a classic.

Giant Jenga: Fun for the adults AND kids at your wedding. You can make it even more interesting by taking a Sharpie marker (in whatever color best fits your theme) and writing interesting conversation prompts on each Jenga piece! OR even better: Writing a piece of trivia about you as a couple on each piece.

Giant Connect Four: One of my favorite games as a kid, now available in giant size for special events! What a time to be alive. This particular one on Amazon has a wooden frame so it looks classier than the giant plastic versions.

Strike ball: I just learned to play this last summer with my family and it’s awesome. Your guests might get a little tooo competitive, but whatever brings them together and gets them interacting, right?

Champagne pong: If you and/or some of your guests love beer pong (or you think you’re reading to introduce your grandma to beer pong), but you want it to be classy and up to wedding standards, consider having champagne pong using wide-rimmed champagne glasses. You can DIY this or buy a pre-made version on Amazon.

Corn hole: Such a fun yard game that everyone can play! And drink relaxingly while playing! You can DIY this, or get a pre-made version on Amazon. I recommend personalizing the wooden boards by painting your names on them. Something like “Joe + Jane, [Wedding Date]” – It will be cute and turn the game into a photo opportunity.

Potato sack race: An age-old game and good time! You might be surprised to learn that Amazon sells potato sacks for this very purpose! Consider playing this and maybe even doing a three-legged race!

Nerf archery arrows with a target: This is something my (adult) family plays together every Christmas (we’re weirdos). It’s awesome. Consider setting up a target, perhaps made out of hay, and having an archery competition with Nerf bow and arrows. It sounds dorky but it gets super competitive. And again, would work well with drinking and conversation in an outdoor wedding.

Cocktail party centerpiece conversation questions or trivia: Instead of a sit-down dinner, you may want to just have a cocktail party. I suggest including some high boy tables around your venue or yard so that people can put down their drinks and appetizer plates, and chat comfortably.

You could even include a little activity on these tables for guests, such as a centerpiece that has a jar of interesting ice breaker question cards! Guests will use these as fun conversation starters and prompts!

If you prefer, these could be conversation questions related to how they know you as a couple, or trivia questions about you as a couple. It’s a cute fun little touch.


Brittany is a writer and teacher 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.