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To offer our brides-to-be a lay of the land on wedding planning and budgeting, we’ve created a three-part series filled with helpful information to make your experience more enjoyable. In Part I we’ll dive into wedding planning under the 10K mark – seems impossible, right?
Look out for Part III on more extravagant wedding planning tips, coming soon!
Read More: How to Plan the Wedding of your Dreams, Part II: Under $30,000

Realistic Wedding Planning Advice for Brides on a Budget

It’s no secret that the cost of getting married is getting higher and higher, making it feel as if achieving your dream, Pinterest-worthy wedding is far out of reach.

However, just because you have a tighter budget for your wedding, doesn’t mean you need to make tons of sacrifices or go into debt. Because contrary to what you may have heard, planning a beautiful wedding under $10,000 is completely attainable.

The Average Cost of Weddings

According to Wedding Wire, the average cost of a wedding in Canada is a whopping $29,450. As you pick your jaw up off the floor, keep in mind that down in the U.S, the cost is even higher – $44,000!

So how is all this money being spent?

Wedding costs that eat up the most of your budget typically include:

  • Venue
  • Open bar
  • Photography and videography
  • Catering
  • Flowers

Fortunately, there are tons of ways to cut costs on all these major expenses without sacrificing your vision.

How to Have an Amazing Wedding Without Overspending or Sacrificing the Things You Want

After you have determined your budget and are ready to jump into the planning process, come up with a list of things that are absolutely necessary (open bar, videography, decorations, your dream dress, etc.) and the little things you’d love to have but can live without (favours, calligraphy, certain types of flowers, etc.).

This will help establish your priorities so you can better allocate your budget.

And for the key elements of any wedding that you absolutely cannot live without, here are some tips for reducing the financial blow.

Areas Where You Can Cut Costs

Your Venue

Average cost: $22,500

Your venue is usually the biggest expense of any wedding and can set you back anywhere between $10,000 and $30,000.

Furthermore, most venues will charge significantly higher rates and require a minimum of 100 to 125 guests for weddings taking place during the most popular times to get married (Saturdays from May to October).

But this doesn’t mean you need to need to pay an arm and a leg to have both an amazing venue and a spring or summer wedding on a weekend. The key is to think outside of the box when researching venues and look for locations that aren’t necessarily marketed as wedding venues. That’s because the venues that don’t often host weddings typically won’t charge as much as traditional venues.

This can include parks, university campuses, art galleries, restaurants, farms, and wineries.

Another option is to host a backyard wedding at yours’ or a family member’s home or book an Airbnb or other vacation rental. Just make sure you confirm with the owner of the property that they are okay with you hosting an event before booking. You will also need to make sure there are enough parking and bathroom facilities for your guests.

Music

Average cost: $1,750

You don’t actually need to spend a lot of money to hire a band or DJ in order to get everyone out on the dancefloor at the end of the night. Sign up for a premium Spotify (or other music streaming service) account and build your perfect wedding playlist. Then purchase or rent a large speaker that connects to Bluetooth and assign someone from your wedding party to take care of the music. Not only will this save you money, but it will also ensure you have complete control over what music is played.

Food

Average cost: $70 per person

Instead of a fancy, traditional meal, opt for something more casual like a barbeque buffet.

Another great way to save on food costs is to ask caterers if they have a self-service option. This means they would provide just the food, with no setup or serving staff for a reduced price.

Photography

Average cost: $2,679

When it comes to photography, experience does not necessarily mean talent. So, don’t be afraid to hire an up and coming photographer – or photography student – that doesn’t have a lot of experience. Base your decision around the strength of their skills and portfolio, rather than the number of weddings they have shot.

Because lots of talented photographers will offer lower rates if they have less experience than other established wedding photographers.

Invitations

Average cost: $386

Traditional paper invitations can provide a beautiful keepsake for your guests. But let’s face it, more often than not, they eventually end up in the trash.

Instead, opt for digital invitations sent out via email through a service like Paperless Post. Such a service will help you design and customize a beautiful invitation and Save the Date card and keep track of your responses, but for a significantly lower cost.

Flowers

Average cost: $3,000

Flowers are often at the top of a bride’s wish list when planning a wedding but can end up being one of the biggest expenses.

Rather than spending thousands of dollars on bouquets and other floral décor and arrangements, consider the idea of faux flowers. Faux flowers can look just as real as actual flowers and are much more cost-effective. Plus, going with faux flowers will ensure you get the exact flowers you want, without having to worry about them not being in season.

Faux flowers will also allow you to set up your decorations in advance without having to worry about wilting.

Guest List

Average Number of Guests: 167

When devising your guest list, it can be incredibly difficult to keep your guest count low, especially if there is pressure from your families to invite certain people.

But it’s important to keep in mind that the more people you invite means the more money you spend on food, alcohol, invitations, etc. Keeping your guest list to around 50-75 will help ease the stress on your bank account.

But how do you go about picking and choosing who to keep and who to cut from your guest list?

If you have not seen someone in at least two years or more, and do not have contact with them on a regular basis, keep them off the guest list. This even goes for extended family. You and your second cousin may have been close as kids, but if you have little to no relationship as adults, you don’t need to feel obligated to invite them to your wedding.

Other ways you can reduce your guest list is to only allow plus ones for spouses and long-term partners and keep your wedding an adult only (no kids) affair.

Wedding Cake

Average cost: $600

While a beautifully decorated multi-tiered cake is something many brides dream of having, they are also incredibly expensive and unnecessary.

Remember that by the end of the night, the cake is going to be eaten and guests will likely forget what it even looked like once it’s in their stomachs.

But that doesn’t mean you have to forgo cake altogether. Instead, get one or more non-tiered, simply decorated cakes – and don’t make any mention of a wedding to avoid the dreaded wedding markup!

Doing away with the traditional, over the top-tiered cake, will also give you the option to pick multiple cakes in different flavours to please all of your guests for a fraction of the price.

Areas to Splurge On

When planning a wedding on a smaller budget, the focus tends to be on how you can save as much money as possible. But there are some areas where you shouldn’t try to pinch pennies.

Your Wedding Dress

Every bride dreams of looking like the most beautiful version of herself on her wedding day. It is your big day after all, and you should feel confident and stunning in whatever you choose to wear.

While it’s perfectly fine to set a budget for your wedding dress, don’t make this your sole priority when choosing a gown. And most importantly, do not buy a dress just because it’s inexpensive. Make sure you absolutely love it and it makes you feel beautiful.

Because those pictures will last forever. And if you are not 100% happy with your dress, it will cloud your memories of your big day.

Dress Alterations

If you love your wedding dress but some things just feel a bit off, do not settle. With alterations, so much can be done to transform a dress into your perfect gown. However, depending on the scope of what you want done, they can get expensive. But at the end of the day, it will be so worth it to ensure your gown looks perfect on your wedding day.

Videography

While your memories from your wedding will last a lifetime, having a videographer present will ensure they are preserved forever. In the months and years following your wedding, you will be glad to have captured all the little details on film that you will come to forget over time.

If you’re the type of bride that has been dreaming of her wedding her entire life and has multiple Pinterest boards filled with ideas, planning a wedding on a budget can be stressful and feel like you’re missing out on the wedding of your dreams. But in reality, with a little research and creativity, you don’t have to sacrifice much to have a perfect wedding.

Just remember to focus on the big things like food and drink, venue, and music, because most guests don’t care about fancy invitations, ornate ceremony programs, and over the top flower arrangements. At the end of the day, your guests won’t remember the little things, but rather the big picture, and how happy you and your new spouse were on such a special day.