Broke-Ass Tag: budget weddings


Jane B. Writes DisclaimerA Real Wedding that Eschews Tradition || Photo: Timony SiobhanCredit: Timony Siobhan

Don’t let anybody tell you that if you have a minute budget, you’d be better off getting married in city hall (unless, of course, that’s something you want to do). If you’ve always wanted to have a wedding, you can have a wedding. More importantly, there is absolutely no reason that you can’t have a gorgeous and memorable wedding no matter your budget. Here are some of our favorite tips for creating a wedding that really pops — even if you’re on a super tiny budget.

Gorgeous Photos

Even if you don’t have the budget to hire a professional photographer for your wedding, we’re willing to bet you have a friend who is good with a camera (or, at the very least, photography apps and filters). Ask this person to take your photos … and encourage everybody else to take their own photos as well. Set up a site where people can upload their photos (even a simple Dropbox folder is sufficient) so that people can share pictures among themselves as well as with the bride and groom.

While you’re at it, try using some fun props to add some flair to your photos. For example, instead of running through a tunnel of bubbles after your wedding, why not have your guests hold up sparklers? Wedding Sparklers are great because they create fantastic lighting effects for your photos and they’re affordable. Using sparklers for weddings adds a creative touch to the end of the wedding night that often resembles a fairy tale.

The Dress

There are many ways to have a gorgeous and memorable wedding dress without having to spend a fortune on one that has been specifically designed for you (why is this a trend for wedding dresses anyway?). Save yourself a ton of money by wearing a family member’s wedding dress (if they kept it). You can have it altered to fit you for far less that you’d spend on a brand new dress.

You can also eschew the entire wedding gown tradition altogether. Who says you have to have a fluffy white dress? Spend some time looking through second-hand and vintage shops to find a dress you truly love. You might raise a few eyebrows, but what matters is that you love what you’re wearing.

While you’re at it, skip the tux for the groom. Deck him out in a vintage (or, at least, vintage-looking) suit instead!

And, of course, don’t force your bridesmaids and groomsmen to buy specific wedding attire either. It’s perfectly acceptable to ask them to stick to a color scheme or style guideline, but let them pick their own dresses and suits. The look will definitely be one to remember.

Choosing a Venue

The type of venue you choose is going to depend largely upon the size of your guest list. Keep in mind, though, that if you want to have a big wedding, you’ll likely need to have it outdoors if you’re trying to save money. This isn’t a big deal to many, but if you’d rather be inside consider limiting your wedding to your close friends and family.

There is also something to be said for plain and minimal spaces. Remember: any space can be dressed up with twinkly lights (which you can borrow from your and your friends’ holiday decorations) and paper lanterns. You don’t have to use a bunch of crepe paper and wedding-specific decorations (like those weird folding bells). Keeping the decorations simple also adds elegance to the space. Even school gymnasiums look better when someone strings up the white twinkly lights.


All hail Costco veggie and snack trays. They’re huge and extremely affordable. Setting up a buffet of crudités and other snackables is a great way to feed your guests and encourage them to mingle at the same time. Plus, when you take this approach, you can offer a wide variety of food. Planning a sit-down dinner is fraught with potential disaster: You risk offending the vegans, vegetarians, Paleo people, the gluten-free and your great aunt who swears that nobody with any taste would ever eat [insert exact food you love here].

One of the best ways you can tie all of these tips together is to have your wedding at home (or a close friend or relative’s home). Hold the ceremony inside and the reception outside. Grill out or set it up as a picnic. You’ll save so much money you might even have enough left in your budget for a small honeymoon! And, of course, remember: The wedding is just one day. It’s better to approach it like a big party for everyone you love because somehow that feels less stressful. Perfection is overrated. And subjective.

  • 7/8

    Affiliate Disclaimer New

    Destination Wedding Survival Kit

    Destination Wedding Survival Kit Bag, $2.45 by Etsy seller PaperArtScissors

    Think destination weddings are anti-BAB? Think again! Our editor Christen’s first wedding was a destination shindig in Hawaii. BAB founder Dana originally considered heading south of the border. And can we all just take a minute to ogle this gorgeous Cabo wedding? Many a Broke-Ass has opted to jet away from their stomping grounds for their nuptials. Read on for the top 5 destination wedding myths — and how Broke-Ass couples can make destinations work on a budget! 

    Myth #1: Destination Weddings Are Big, Expensive, and Complicated

    Truth: Maybe. Maybe not. Destination weddings, exactly like local weddings, can be as big, expensive, and complicated as you want them to be. Or not. Your choices determine the size and expense. In fact, all said and done, some carefully planned destination weddings come in *under* the average wedding cost for a few reasons. First, a lot of the expenses are bundled through the venue and/or destination planning service, saving you some moolah on a la carte services. Second, couples are less likely to plan extravagant decor because a) the view from the destination *is* the “decor”, and b) no one wants to schlep unnecessary stuff cross-country or overseas. Third, while not all couples may want to do it this way, it’s possible to bundle your wedding and honeymoon, saving on some flight and transportation costs. Fourth, exchange rates. ‘Nuff said. And last, while it can be a plus and a minus — and there are always exceptions to the rule — typically fewer people will attend a destination wedding due to the added travel expenses. And fewer guests = happier budgets.

    Lisa’s Bonus Pro Tip: Always budget for the total number of invited guests, on the off-chance that every person accepts the invitation. Some stats cite around a 75% attendance rate, so don’t invite 200 if you can only afford 20. Trust me on this: Surprise extra money is better than surprise no money.

    Myth #2: Destination Weddings are Generic and Boring

    Truth: No way, Jose! Unless you are generic and boring (in which case, rock on with ya mediocre self anyway!), your wedding will not be generic or boring, no matter where you tie the knot. Destination weddings got a bad rap around the same time that banquet halls started to lose favor — after opting to make it easy on couples (and themselves) by offering plug-and-play template-style weddings that all looked the same. The result was that couples didn’t have much control over the details, but on the flip side those weddings also rang in for less than today’s average price tag.

    Today, most wedding venues and vendors understand that many couples want to be involved in choosing personalized elements, and offer more variety. Ask about custom options if there are some things you have your heart set on. If that still doesn’t suit you, though, you can always piece together your wedding a la carte with the help of a destination wedding planner, a travel agent, a friend who lives near the destination, or just Google and a healthy appetite for adventure. Does this look boring to you? Or this? 😉

    Myth #3: My Family And Friends Will Hate Me

    Correction: They will love you for giving them an excuse to finally take a vacation! Kidding aside, while plenty of guests are thrilled to travel for a wedding, destination wedding invitations aren’t always received happily because they usually require some additional expenses on the part of guests. If the majority of your family isn’t into travel, then you might end up with more of an elopement … not that there’s anything wrong with that! On the other hand, if your family is very close-knit and loves a good group vacation, it could be the perfect choice. Whichever the case, out of courtesy you should discuss your ideas for a destination wedding with those whom you want most to attend, whether that’s parents, besties or just you and your bae. And always give family, wedding party members and guests as much notice as possible for destination weddings requiring out-of-state travel so they can arrange for travel, accommodations and time off work, as needed.

    Lisa’s Bonus Pro Tips: No, you absolutely do not have to pay for guests’ travel. If you can afford it, it’s a generous gesture for close relatives or for VIP guests that you know are super strapped for cash. And if you find that most guests can’t attend, spend a little extra on a kickass videographer and share the video with friends and family at a low-key reception at home after the wedding. Also consider setting up a private Facebook group for your guests and keeping them apprised of any mega fare sales — Virgin America often has amazing deals, but check out sites like Hotwire, CheapOAir and Southwest Vacations on the regular, too.

    Myth #4: All Destination Weddings Are On Beaches

    Truth: Beach, please. Beaches are rad and all (just got back from one, myself!), but the whole point of a destination wedding is that you get to choose any destination. Otherwise, you’d just get married in your backyard or local church / temple / courthouse, amirite? Somebody somewhere determined that a “destination wedding” is one that occurs at least 100 miles from your hometown, but hey, some rules are meant to be broken. I tend to think of most non-traditional venues as mini destination weddings as well, since they’re typically centered around the venue and might require a bit of extra travel time for guests.

    Some other destination types to consider (in your own city or state – or halfway across the globe!):

    Myth #5: Destination Weddings Are Easier

    Yeah, I know I just got done saying the opposite like three paragraphs ago, but the reality is that there’s no one-size-fits-all destination wedding. Some are easier, some are more complicated. One rule of thumb is that the more popular travel destinations are likely to have it down to a fine science if you stick with seasoned venues, meaning less work on your part. The further off the beaten path, the more you’ll be piecing things together on your own. Overall, though, destination weddings almost always mean long-distance communications in the planning phases, faith in the venue or wedding planner who is helping you to make arrangements from a distance and possibly packing up more than you’re used to taking with you on a typical vacation. (At the very least, you may have to think about making special arrangements for your gown — or seek out a travel-friendly and pack-able dress.) But then, the trade-offs are that you get a built-in honeymoon, sometimes for less than the cost of a local wedding and you’re married in some awesome, exotic or unusual location!

    A word of caution for you type-A couples out there: Proceed carefully if you think you want a destination wedding. Because you are relying on far-flung communication and likely won’t be able to visit the venue often before your nuptials, there is a lot of letting go of control involved. If the thought of just trusting someone else (think hair without the trial, cake and food without tasting, etc.) gives you the heebie-jeebies, you might want to reconsider.

    The ease in destination wedding planning really comes from a couple’s ability to simplify and let go. And if there’s anything that destination weddings can offer over local weddings, it’s an excuse to not sweat the small stuff.

    Got another destination wedding tip or opinion? Let me know in the comments!

    – Party on!


    Planning a wedding in Northeast Ohio? Here’s where you can find me for wedding planning assistance.

  • 12/1

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  • 5/7

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  • 4/9

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