The average cost of a wedding in the US is roughly $30,000, according to The Knot, so is it even possible to plan a wedding for around $1,000?
Yes, it is!
Do you have to get a little creative and scrappy to make it work?
Yes, you do!
Are you up for the challenge?
If you’re reading this, I think you are!
My mom and stepdad had one of the most fun weddings I have ever been a part of and it cost them less than $1,000.
I have photographed over 500 weddings and picked up many great money-saving tips from the couples I have worked with. I am going to share those with you below.
Here are 25 practical tips and ideas for keeping your wedding budget under $1,000:
Saving big on your wedding venue
The three areas of your wedding that will make or break your wedding budget are the venue, the guest count, and the food bill (the guest count and catering cost go hand in hand).
The easiest way to save money on your wedding budget is to get it for free, and the easiest way to get it for free is to use your own backyard or the backyard of a family member or friend.
My wife and I got married in her parent’s backyard, and it was amazing! If I had to plan my wedding all over again, I would not even consider changing the location.
My mom and stepdad got married in their backyard, and it was an incredible wedding.
Total cost of those two venues: $0
Your local Capitol building or City Hall is another location to consider.
Here in PA, you can get married inside the state Capitol (which is gorgeous), and all you have to pay is $200 for Capitol State Police to keep the building open. They will also rent you chairs for $1 per chair. So you can have a gorgeous wedding ceremony venue with 50 guests for $250!
Local parks are another cheap option to consider. Many parks have sections you can rent for under $100 (this includes an area with tables/benches to have dinner). Remember that most of these locations will close at sunset, so you would need to clear out by around 8:30 PM in the summer months.
If your goal is to plan your entire wedding for around $1,000, you are going to want to consider a potluck for your food.
My mom and stepdad did a potluck for their wedding, and it was some of the best food I have ever had at a wedding (and I have been to over 500 weddings).
I have photographed over 25 weddings where the families and friends of the couple provided all of the food.
Reach out to everyone attending the wedding and ask who would be willing to bring a dish.
If you want to provide the food for your guests, here are 50 ideas to do wedding food on a budget.
Total cost to you: $0
Wedding Dress and/or Suits
To go the $0 route with wedding attire, wear something nice that you already own. It does not have to be a white dress or a tux.
You could also consider borrowing something nice from a friend.
You can also check out local thrift stores or places like Facebook Marketplace to get great deals on dresses or suits.
Here are 11 ways to save money on a wedding dress.
If you are planning a wedding for $1,000, skip the mailed invitations and send out digital invitations instead.
You can design these invitations for free using Canva. They already have free templates to use, and all you have to do is plug in your information.
Total cost to you: $0
Hair and Makeup
An easy way to save on hair and makeup is to do your own or have a friend or family member do it for you.
There are so many easy-to-follow DIY tutorials on YouTube. Just search for the style you are looking for.
I recommend checking out these tips on YouTube if you are doing your own makeup.
Total cost to you: $0-$30 (either using makeup you already have or purchasing a few products)
As a wedding photographer, I never want to see a couple leave photos out of their wedding plans. The average price for a wedding photographer in the United States is around $2,500, but that does not mean you can’t get great photos with a smaller budget.
The first idea to consider is asking a family member or friend with some photography experience to photograph your ceremony and posed photos.
I photographed my brother-in-law’s wedding and my cousin’s wedding for free.
When I photographed my cousin’s wedding, I had not even considered being a wedding photographer. I just took photos for fun as a hobby.
You can also consider crowd-sourcing your wedding photos from guests. Everyone has a phone nowadays that take amazing photos.
If you want a few professional portraits of you and your partner, your wedding party, and your family, I recommend hiring a family portrait photographer for an hour or two. A great place to find these photographers is to ask in local community Facebook groups (just say what you are looking for and give them your budget).
For $100-$200, you can find a photographer who will come for an hour or two and get the photos you need. Then, you could crowd-source the rest of your photos.
Have a friend or family member marry you to save money on an officiant.
They can get ordained very easily by filling out this form.
I have photographed over 100 weddings where someone close to the couple married them. It adds another touch of personalization to the wedding day.
Cost to you: Typically $0
To keep your flower budget low, I recommend going the DIY Route.
My wife and I bought $36 worth of roses (2 dozen), a bug bunch of baby’s breath, and a bunch of eucalyptus and made a beautiful bridal bouquet, four bridesmaids bouquets, and four boutonieers from those flowers.
It took less than 1 hour to put all of those together. You can check out our DIY tutorial here.
You can also consider using no flowers. I have photographed many weddings where flowers were not a part of the day.
You can get 25 more ways to save big on flowers here.
Just like we recommended with your food budget, a great way to save a bunch of money on your wedding cake/desserts is to go the DIY route or with a potluck.
Ask friends and family members to bring a batch of their favorite cookies (known in my area as a Pittsburgh Cookie Table).
Bake cakes yourself (or have them made by family members). We have seen this done at many of the weddings that we photographed.
If you want to buy cheap desserts (like the Sam’s Club mini cheesecake bites that cost 28 cents per serving), check out our article on budget dessert table ideas.
For our wedding, we borrowed a small video camera (you could also use a phone), bought a $20 tripod, and recorded our ceremony, special dances, and toasts.
My brother-in-law also walked around the reception with the camera and asked people to leave us a special message.
I took all of the footage and edited it myself in iMovie.
You could also ask friends and family to take short clips throughout your wedding day and send you the files.
The total cost was $20, and the results were awesome!
For our wedding, we borrowed a small sound system from a friend and made our own playlist that we ran from my phone.
Ask your friends/family if they know anyone with a small portable sound system.
You could also rent a small sound system (I have seen them online for $150-$200). Just search your area for “small sound system rental in your town” on Google.
I photographed another wedding where they did the same thing (playlist on their phone and borrowed sound system), and it was one of the most fun dance floors I have ever photographed.
Ask a friend or family member to play acoustic guitar or keyboard for your ceremony music.
My wife’s uncle played the keyboard for our entire ceremony, and it was so great to add a personal touch like that to our wedding day.
Total cost to you: $0-$200
You can save big on decorations by going the DIY route.
Hit up places like Dollar Tree, garage sales, Facebook Marketplace, or ask family friends what they have at home (or use items from your home).
I photographed a wedding where the couple decorated each table with books from home (the bride was an English teacher) and wine bottles. They also bought little LED string light kits and placed them in the middle of the table. It looked fantastic and cost next to nothing.
Total cost: $0-$50
If you are having a backyard wedding, it’s easy to save money on alcohol.
If you are having a rehearsal the day/night before, consider having a stock-the-bar party.
This is where people attending the party bring their choice (or your choice) of alcohol. This could be a bottle of wine, a 12-pack of beer or White Claw, a bottle of liquor, a mixer, etc.
Then you use all of that alcohol for the wedding the following day.
If you purchase your own alcohol, I recommend buying it at Costco or Walmart and only serving beer and wine.
You can also buy bottled water and soda from Costco/Walmart.
Total cost you: $0-$250
Miscellaneous Wedding Items
There are always going to be little expenses that come up.
I recommend setting aside about $100-$200 to pay for whatever comes up.
A Practical $1,000 Wedding Budget Breakdown
Here is a real breakdown of how to have a wedding for under $1,000:
- Get married in your own backyard or the backyard of a family member: $0
- Have your wedding at local park or City Hall: $50-200
- Do a potluck dinner: $0
- Have a family member marry you: $0
- DIY flowers: Under $50
- Dress (something you already own or a white non-wedding dress from one of the stores listed up above): $0-$50
- Suit or slacks/dress shirt (something you already own): $0
- Digital e-Invitations/Save-the-dates (using a free Canva account): $0
- Wedding website to reach RSVPs: $0
- DIY hair and makeup: $0-$30
- Photography: $0-$200
- Cake/desserts (DIY or Sam’s Club/Costco): $0-$50
- Music/entertainment: $0-$200
- Decor: $0-$50
- Alcohol/non-alcoholic drinks: $0-$250
- Misc. expenses: $100-$200
- Marriage license: $30-$90 (depending on where you are located)
Total cost: $100-$1,300
Weddings do not have to be expensive.
I can say this because I got married on a tight budget. And it was an amazing wedding.
I have also photographed many “low-budget” weddings that were beautiful celebrations.
Some of my favorite weddings were where family and friends provided the venue, food, and entertainment.
Don’t go into debt to impress others with how your wedding looks.
And if you really do dream of a wedding that costs a lot more money, consider starting a side hustle with your partner during the wedding planning process.
There are so many ways to pay for a wedding that does not involve credit cards and debt.
Check out this article for a few ideas.