I’ve been watching the show “Cheapest Weddings” lately on Netflix and it has really inspired me. One of the main things holding my long-term boyfriend and I back from tying the knot has been the expense (the other is the time it takes to plan a wedding, which we still don’t have). But watching the endearing Australia-based show has made me feel quite silly for thinking one can’t throw a wedding on a budget. A teeny, tiny budget. Couples on this show throw weddings for under $5,000, under $2,000, and even under $700. Yes, you read that last number correctly. Women who’ve always envisioned a tailor-made, designer wedding dress can’t fathom this because the dress alone would cost three times the budget. But if you can let go of some of your childhood fantasies—or at least rework them—you can throw a wedding that barely impacts your finances. Here are clever ways to throw a dirt-cheap wedding.
Hire a photographer-in-training
There are plenty of talented wedding photographers who just don’t have many clients under their belt yet. They’re willing to photograph your wedding on the cheap for the chance to build their portfolio.
Hire a makeup-artist-in-training
Just as you’re looking into a novice photographer, you can find a makeup artist who is still building her reputation. Wedding makeup can be astronomically expensive, so you want to save on this cost if you can.
Make your own cake
Nobody remembers the cake. Barely anyone even eats the cake. It’s symbolic more than anything. So rather than shelling out between $400 and $1,200 for a wedding cake, make your own. If you can make one cake, then you can make a wedding cake, because it’s just several cakes of various sizes stacked on top of each other.
Buy your dress at a thrift shop
Yes, thrift shops carry wedding dresses! And they’re usually untapped commodities because nobody goes to a thrift shop looking for them. Get the dress for $40, and have someone tailor it to fit you for a couple hundred.
Get your dress on eBay
If you absolutely must have a new and designer dress, look on eBay. Again, for a couple hundred dollars you can have someone tailor it to fit you.
Pick your friend’s flowers
Do you know someone with a gorgeous rose garden? Or a few friends with nice flower gardens? Ask them to let you pick their flowers—they can give you this instead of a gift, and you can make your bouquet and centerpieces for free.
Use plastic flowers
If you don’t have friends with flower gardens, just go plastic. Everyone is so tanked by the time they sit down to eat they don’t notice whether the centerpieces are real or fake. And if they do notice, they don’t care.
Get a fake red carpet
Nobody pays attention to the ground they literally walk on, so don’t invest in pricey red carpets for your grand entrance. Some red felt will do just fine.
Have it BYOB
Not only will people not mind, they may prefer it because it means they can have exactly what they want to drink at your wedding. Everybody can get themselves drunk for around $10, rather than you getting everyone drunk for $1,000.
Have it at a lawn bowling venue
You don’t have to have it at a lawn bowling venue, but this just gives you an idea of the many pretty and spacious venues out there that won’t cost that much. You just need room to seat everyone and a nice setting. If you do that somewhere that doesn’t typically host weddings, you’ll get a much lower price.
Get help instead of gifts
Rather than have people give you gifts, have them give you help. You can assign your guests tasks, like picking up the food from the catering company (saving you on the delivery fee) and setting the tables (rather than hiring staff to do this).
Get a celebrant in the family
Celebrants and officiaries can cost you quite a bit. But you probably already know somebody who is licensed to marry you, and you just don’t realize it! So ask around.
Set it up yourself
You’ll have to be hands-on if you want to save money. If you’re willing to dedicate a full day to setting up your reception area, you can save hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars on staff.
Get your shoes online
Nobody notices your shoes, so stop shopping for them at upscale brick and mortar shops. There are plenty of gorgeous wedding-ready shoes on the Internet for barely $30.
Re-sell everything! You can re-sell your chairs, your tablecloths, your wine glasses, and just about everything. That way, you’ll at least get part of your money back.