Is it possible to plan a wedding for under $5,000?
Yes, it is possible to plan a wedding for under $5,000. Some of the ways to drastically lower your costs are by inviting fewer guests, choosing a non-traditional wedding venue, doing some DIY with your food and decor, and getting married outside of peak wedding season.
Here is what we cover in this article:
- Reducing the size of your guest list
- Finding a non-traditional wedding venue
- Getting married in the off-season
- Making some of your own decorations
- Non-traditional catering ideas
- Finding wedding vendors who will work with your budget
- Saving money on your wedding dress
- Doing DIY desserts or cakes
- Flower alternatives
- Keeping your wedding party small
- Providing your own music playlists
- Staying organized and on budget with a planning binder
- Ditch the favors
- Get help from your family or friends
- Paper invitation alternatives
- Do your own hair/makeup
- Have a destination wedding for under $5,000
- $5,000 wedding budget breakdown
1. Reduce Your Guest List
The number one way that you can save a lot of money on your wedding is by reducing your guest list.
Downsizing your guest list lowers your cost in so many ways (like food, alcohol, venue options, decorations, invitations, favors, and more).
Going by averages, you could save about $13,750 for every 50 people that you can remove from your guest list. We triple-checked those numbers and they are very accurate.
Only invite your closest family members and friends.
Check out our micro wedding planning article for more small wedding ideas.
If others ask why they were not invited, just let them know that you prefer a small, private gathering.
Don’t be afraid to tell people that you are having a smaller wedding to save money.
If you need ideas, check out how these 8 couples reduced their wedding guest list.
2. Choose A Non-Traditional Wedding Venue (Typically Less Expensive)
Choosing a “non-wedding” venue can save you a ton of money on your wedding day.
As you have probably noticed, anytime that you add the word wedding to something, it typically comes with a higher price tag.
Consider getting married at a location that is not labeled “wedding venue” and it could save you thousands of dollars.
Plus choosing a non-traditional venue can open up opportunities to include some fun non-traditional ceremony ideas.
Here are a few alternative ideas to consider when looking for a place to get married:
- A local park or beach. You might have to pay for a permit, but many times these can be obtained for close to nothing.
- Backyards can be an amazing location for a dream wedding. Maybe you have a friend or family member that has a space you could use. Check out our backyard wedding planning tips.
- A restaurant or bar is a great option for smaller weddings. We have personally photographed and planned weddings in many different bars and restaurants. They were some of our favorite events.
- Consider getting married in a mansion or historic home. Many of these locations will offer discounted rates for events.
- A winery or brewery is another awesome idea for a wedding. Not only will it save you money, but the photo opportunities will also be so fun and unique.
- Look into a bed and breakfast. Many locations will provide you with a place for the wedding and rooms for your wedding party and family.
- Many art galleries and museums have great rates for weddings.
- Don’t forget to check out local community centers and event spaces. These can be affordable options for weddings with a larger guest count.
- Public gardens (or a botanical garden) would be a beautiful location for your wedding.
- Contact your college or a local university. We have planned and photographed multiple weddings at locations like this.
3. Get Married In The Off-Season
Having your wedding reception between June-October at 5:00 pm or 6:00 pm on a Saturday night is the most expensive time of the year to be married.
This is true not only for the wedding venue but also for the catering, photographer, DJ, and other entertainment.
Consider getting married on a Friday or Sunday to save some serious cash on wedding packages.
A morning or afternoon wedding reception could also save you money.
Plus you could consider a winter wedding when many venues and wedding vendors are less expensive.
So there you go!
Get married on a Sunday afternoon in the winter for the biggest savings.
We have actually planned and photographed a few Sunday brunch weddings and they were so amazing!
4. DIY Your Decorations
If you or any of your friends and family members are crafty, you could save a lot of money on your big day by doing some DIY wedding decor.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Design and print your own wedding invitations and save the dates, or go completely digital to save even more money.
- Make your own centerpieces by arranging candles, flowers, and other decorative items in vases, baskets, or other containers.
- Design and print your own table numbers, programs, and other signage. You can design these items for free in a program like Canva.
- Make your own bouquets and boutonnieres using fresh flowers or artificial florals.
- Create a beautiful ceremony backdrop using fabric and string lights.
- Design your own wedding arch or alter using materials like flowers, branches, or balloons.
- Make your own wedding favors like small bags of cookies or candies.
5. Provide Your Own Food (Or Look Into Non-Traditional Catering Ideas)
Thinking outside the box when it comes to feeding your wedding guests can save you lots of money.
Like lots of money.
We are talking about thousands of dollars.
We talked to dozens of couples who went with non-traditional wedding catering and here are a few ideas that were a huge hit with guests:
- A pasta bar from Olive Garden with multiple noodle/sauce combinations, meatballs, salad, and breadsticks.
- DIY pulled pork, baked potatoes, veggies, and homemade dinner rolls.
- A taco bar from a local restaurant with chicken and ground beef.
- DIY pulled pork, rigatoni, cheesy potatoes, and salad.
- Party subs from a local deli, fruit/veggie trays, and deli trays from the local grocery store.
- My family provided a huge buffet with chicken, beef kabobs, rice, pasta, salad, and desserts. So many of our guests said it was the best wedding food they ever had.
- We had Olive Garden cater our wedding. We did a create-your-own pasta bar that cost $12 per person (including breadsticks and salad). Then we hired a few staff to help serve and clean up off of Thumbtack. We paid a little less than $900 for 50 people (for everything).
Check out this new article that we just posted:
6. Spend More Time Researching And Comparing Wedding Vendors
The wedding industry is very competitive.
There are so many great wedding vendors out there but many of them go unnoticed because they do not advertise on sites like The Knot or Weddingwire.
You can find these vendors by doing a little research.
If you have a bigger vendor pool to choose from, you are more likely to find one that fits within your budget.
Here are a couple of places to look for vendors besides going to places like The Knot or Weddingwire:
Instagram is a great place to look for wedding vendors.
Search for the hashtag of the vendor you are looking for and combine it with a few different cities in your area.
Example: #PhiladelphiaWeddingPhotographer or #SanFranciscoWeddingFlorist
Don’t forget to do those same searches with a few different cities/towns in your area.
I love Instagram for vendor research because you can instantly see a bunch of their work.
Search Facebook for local wedding planning groups (like “New York City Wedding Planning”) and then click on the group tab.
Join a bunch of these groups. Almost every area has at least one group and many cities/areas have multiple groups that you can join.
Jump into those groups and do searches on whatever vendors you are looking for.
You can also make your own post in those groups and let the vendors come to you. They will respond to your post with website links that you can check out.
I recommend putting your maximum budget for that vendor in your post. That way you know you can afford them if they are responding.
Don’t be shy about telling vendors that you are working with a small budget.
Example Facebook group post:
“Hey there! I am looking for a wedding photographer who is available on June 25. My budget is $1500. If you are available and can work with our budget, I would love to hear from you!”
7. Choose A Non-Wedding Dress
Purchasing a wedding dress from a bridal shop is wonderful if it works with your budget, but if you are working with limited funds, there are plenty of other options that look amazing.
We asked some of our previous brides where they purchased their dresses and we wanted to share some of their ideas with you:
- I purchased my dress from Amazon for $98 and I absolutely loved it. I also bought my veil from Amazon for $18.
- My mom and I went to a few local thrift shops and found a beautiful used dress for $160.
- I found mine on Lulus for $20 (Poshmark)
- SHEIN on Amazon has amazing dresses that are really affordable. It’s where we got my sister’s dress.
- Azazie is a great place to find an affordable dress. I bought a Bahama dress from them for $349.
- I bought my dress on Etsy for $170. They have so many great choices. You can put in the maximum amount that you want to spend to easily filter out the expensive dresses.
8. DIY Your Desserts Or Wedding Cake
This idea has been really popular lately.
I photographed at least 10 weddings last year that had homemade cakes, cupcakes, dessert bars, or cookie tables.
If you don’t know how to bake, maybe you could ask a family member or friend to help.
Or maybe they know someone who bakes cakes/desserts/cookies on the side, which could also lower your cost quite a bit.
Costco is a great place to check out for bulk desserts if you want to save money without doing it yourself.
9. Use Silk Flowers Or Other Floral Options
Using fake flowers can save you a lot of money (50%-70% less than real flowers) and still look amazing.
If you really want real flowers, you could do a mix.
Maybe do your bouquet with real flowers (you make it yourself), and then use silk flowers for the centerpieces and bridesmaids’ bouquets.
10. Keep Your Wedding Party Small
Keeping your wedding party small is an easy way to keep your costs lower.
You could save a lot of money by only having a maid of honor and the best man (or two maids of honor/two best men).
Each member of your wedding party will cost you an average of $100-$150 when you factor in flowers, gifts, and transportation costs.
By downsizing your wedding party from 16 to 2, you are saving about $1400-$2100
11. Provide Your Own Wedding Music
One way to save money on your wedding day is to make your own music playlist.
You can rent a sound system from places like Guitar Center for around $150-$200.
If you want to have someone make announcements for wedding party intros, special dances, and things like that, ask some of your family or friends if they could help.
Before you rent a sound system, ask your wedding venue if they own or have access to one. We have planned weddings at venues that had them.
For lots of wedding song ideas, check out these articles:
- Our favorite wedding reception dance songs
- Free wedding song checklist and hundreds of music ideas
- Best songs for the first dance
- Mother-son dance songs
- Father-daughter dance songs
12. Use A Digital Or Printable Wedding Planner To Stay On Budget And Organized
Sometimes saving money is easy as long as you stay organized.
We talk to a lot of couples who go way over budget because they don’t have a system for staying on top of their wedding finances.
Wedding planners are your answer.
I recommend making a wedding planner binder so you can keep everything related to wedding planning in one place (budget, contacts, ideas, etc.).
We put together an amazing printable wedding planner that will keep you 100% organized.
We have a few printable planner worksheets that you can download for free. Grab the free planner worksheets here.
13. Don’t Worry About Wedding Favors
If you don’t feel like making your own wedding favors feel free to skip them altogether.
Honestly, your guests will not care at all.
If you are having a wedding with 100 guests, removing favors from your wedding will save you around $400-$600.
14. Get Help From Family And Friends
Having your family and friends help with some of the wedding to-dos could save you a lot of money.
Here are a few things that you could get help with:
- Ask a family member or friend to be your officiant.
- Have someone you know take some photos on your wedding day. Maybe have them take some getting-ready photos and some dancing photos at the reception. This way you would only need to hire a photographer for the ceremony and posed portraits.
- Ask friends and family to help with food. I have been to a few weddings that were family-style potluck dinners and they were amazing!
- See if any of your friends and family would make some bouquets and centerpieces with you.
- Ask friends and family if they know someone who could serve as your day or coordinator.
15. Use Online/Digital Invitations And Save-The-Dates
Digital wedding invitations and save-the-date cards are becoming really popular.
If you go this route, you can save $400-$1500 for every 100 guests.
You could always make a few paper invitations to send to parents and grandparents.
16. Do Your Own Hair And/Or Makeup
If you don’t mind doing your own hair and makeup (or having a bridesmaid do it), this would be an easy way to cut costs for the wedding day.
17. Have An Amazing Destination Wedding
We have planned and photographed quite a few destination weddings that were absolutely amazing!
For $5,000 or less, you could take some of your closest family and friends to the beach and have a gorgeous destination wedding ceremony near the water.
Rent a beach house for the week so you can have your rehearsal dinner, reception dinner, and next-day brunch all in the privacy of your own place.
We planned a wedding last summer where the couple rented a beach house in the Outer Banks (North Carolina) for around $5,000. It slept 16 people and came with a pool.
They got married right there on the beach.
Check the area you are considering to see if you need a permit.
In the Outer Banks, the couple did not need a permit as long as the guest count was less than 49 people.
Even if you need a permit for your area, chances are it will be pretty cheap.
If your family and friends are paying their own way, this would open up your options to almost anywhere you want to go.
$5000 Wedding Budget Breakdown
Now that you have seen the many ways that you can cut costs on your wedding day, let’s see it all in action.
Here is an actual less-than-$5,000 budget breakdown from a couple we gave wedding planning advice to in Pennsylvania:
- Guest count: 46 guests
- Wedding party: 1 maid of honor and 1 best man
- Location: Parent’s backyard in Lancaster, PA
- Food: BBQ chicken, pulled pork, mac & cheese, potatoes, rolls, salad – $625
- Servers: 3 staff members to help serve and clean up (hired off of Thumbtack) – $180 for 3 hours
- Alcohol: Purchased from Costco – $200
- Other drinks: $60
- Officiant: Friend
- Marriage license: $60
- Rings: Purchased on Etsy – $200 for the set
- Wedding dress: Lulus – $110
- Veil: Amazon – $25
- Shoes and jewelry: Amazon and Etsy – $50
- Suit: Men’s Wearhouse – $150
- Flowers: Costco and Wegmans (made our own bouquet and arrangments) – $150 total
- Desserts: Costco, Wegmans, and homemade – $120
- Table and chair rentals: $180
- Tent: $1,000 (We did not even need it but got it in case)
- Photographer: We hired a local portrait photographer to take a few ceremony photos, family photos, and portraits of the two of us – $500
- Sound system: Borrowed from a friend but we also rented a few things from Guitar Center – $150
- Invitations: I designed them myself in Canva and sent digital versions – $0
- Dishes, linens, and silverware: $120
- Table numbers, menu signs, and bar signs: I designed these in Canva for free and printed them at Walmart – $35 for prints and frames
Total cost: $3,915
Something to consider…
We looked into booking our wedding ceremony at PA Capitol Building ($250 for security and chairs) for our wedding ceremony and then booking an event hall for the reception ($1,800).
If we would’ve gone this route, we could’ve removed the tent from our budget.
Our final total would’ve still been under $5,000 ($4,965 to be exact).
Additional Wedding Planning Tips and Ideas
Here are a few more articles to check out:
- Cheap (but delicious) food ideas to keep your wedding budget in check
- Wedding day essentials that you might want for your wedding day
- Planning a wedding from start to finish
- How to pay for your own wedding
- Things to do shortly after getting engaged
- Planning tips for having an amazing backyard wedding
- Free printable wedding planner