Anyone who’s done the research knows: weddings are expensive. However, the truth of the matter is, while weddings can be expensive, they don’t have to be. You just have to know a few tricks to find affordable quality, without necessarily going for “cheap.”
Savvy Vs. Cheap
If your goal is to have the cheapest wedding possible, find a park that doesn’t require a permit, and find your vendors on Craigslist. If you dig around long enough, you’ll find someone willing to photograph your wedding for a hundred bucks and an officiant who will marry you for $75. Just remember that if a deal is too good to be true, it probably is.
Instead, your goal should be to find experienced professional vendors and quality venues who are flexible and willing to work with your budget.
Day and Time
Big wedding venues and vendors take their Saturdays very seriously. After all, there’s a limited amount of them. Fridays are second with Sundays coming in third. If you plan your wedding Monday through Thursday, you’ll find discounts––steep ones.
Another more affordable option is to take the morning or early afternoon slot on a weekend, rather than the coveted evening slot. Added bonus: you get to eat brunch and drink Bloody Marys at your reception. (Sounding better and better, am I right?)
The first options that come up on Google are generally the most expensive. These are companies/individuals that put big bucks into promotion, and expect big paychecks to accompany their big weddings—this isn’t what you want. Most of the vendors and venues who specialize in smaller weddings don’t dump this kinda money into advertisement, so you need to search a bit harder to find them. Try social media, ask friends/co-workers for suggestions, and once you find a vendor you like, ask them if they have referrals for other small-wedding professionals.
Many vendors and venues work exclusively with massive weddings. For this reason, most don’t have fixed prices for small events. So when you start requesting quotes, always mention that you’re planning an intimate microwedding and not a high-budget blowout. Some vendors won’t be interested in working with you, but if you search, you’ll find many others who are willing to be flexible with their rates. Remember: you’re not just asking for a cheaper price, you’re asking for a smaller package.
The wedding officiant is the person who leads your ceremony. Many officiants go beyond this, working as premarital counselors, marriage coaches, etc. If you’re on a budget, and doing a small wedding, this isn’t what you want.
Instead, find someone who offers simple officiating services at an affordable price. A good tip would be to look for younger people with a more contemporary approach. When you reach out, explain that you’re looking for a short, sweet, and simple ceremony that runs 10-20 minutes in length.
Also note that rehearsals generally aren’t needed for microweddings, so if you don’t plan to do one, let your officiant know upfront since most charge extra to attend rehearsals.
Want to really save cash? Consider having your friend officiate!
It’s perfectly legal if the proper measures are taken. Checkout my article: “How to Have Your Friend Perform Your Wedding Ceremony”
The photographers that dominate wedding websites make their bread and butter on big weddings with big price tags. These aren’t the ones you need. If you know anyone in the area, try asking around. You may be surprised how many friends and coworkers know a wedding photographer.
Another option is social media; every photographer these days is on Instagram, where you can easily search by locations and hashtags to find styles that appeal to you. Once you find a photographer you like, let them know you’re having a microwedding and inquire about a simple photography package. The primary photos you need are: the ceremony, group/family shots, and a short portrait session with the bride and groom. Realistically, this shouldn’t require more than one or two hours of photography.
Don’t ask a photographer friend/family member who’s not experienced with weddings to do it. I know it’s tempting, but weddings are different than other styles of photography, and getting someone with experience will pay off.
Food & Catering
Many traditional catering services have minimum guest counts that prohibit them from working with smaller weddings. But have no fear––there are a ton of other ways to feed your party!
One of my favorite options is to hire a food truck to come to your reception. This is both affordable and fun—and if you’ve been to a food truck lately, you know there are a lot of quality options.
Depending on your group size and reception venue, you may also be able to cook your own food. However, keep in mind that many venues restrict food not made in a commercial kitchen. You can also consider take-out style catering from local restaurants, catering from fast-casual joints such as Chipotle, or have your reception in the event space at a local restaurant.
Florists do amazing things, I won’t deny that. But at the end of the day, if you’re on a budget, forgoing a professionally-crafted bouquet is a good way to save $200. Consider dried-flower bouquets on Etsy or artificial bouquets on Amazon (much more beautiful than they sound). Another option is to simply pick up a bouquet from a local grocery store, cut it, and wrap it with ribbon yourself. There are lots of DIY guides online to help you with this! The boutonniere (for the groom) can also be outsourced or gotten at a local florist, since they only run about $15.
If you’re set on a specific wedding bouquet, simply email a local florist with a few photos/colors/flower ideas and explain you’re on a budget—many are happy to put something small together around in the $75-$100 range.
When you search for wedding venues, you’ll find a bunch of places designed for full-production mega-weddings. If you’re planning a more intimate wedding, these guys are unlikely to be your friend. In fact, even venues that are made for small weddings tend to be quite expensive.
The good news is: whether your planning a simple elopement style ceremony, or a contemporary microwedding, there are plenty of great venue options out there for small weddings that are budget-friendly and awesome—you just have to know where to look!
Consider restaurants with patios or event rooms, public parks, mountain overlooks, city-run event spaces, rental homes with big back yards, boats, ghost towns, art galleries…
I could go on and on so I did: “Where to Have Your Microwedding”
And Don’t Forget
You can always come out my way and let me do the planning for you…
“Everything-You-Need Packages for Your Colorado Small Wedding”
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