The average cost of a wedding, according to a 2021 study from the Knot, is $28,000 — up from $19,000 in 2020, when the pandemic scaled back many celebrations. But for many people, spending that much on a party to honor the legal commitment to a life partner can feel unnecessary — not to mention impossible. It’s why some are getting creative in finding ways to save significantly while still having their special day.
Nashville-based bride Laken Fitch did just that, sharing on TikTok her own budget-wedding journey, focused on cutting costs with flowers and the cake.
“We actually got both at Sam's Club,” Fitch, who describes herself as a “frugal girly,” tells Yahoo Life. “Our two-tier wedding cake was only $39. We just added a few fake flowers on top to make it all come together. Our flowers for my boutique, the boutonnières, the wedding arch and some of the centerpieces were only $200. We, of course, put the arrangements together ourselves, but it [was] a fun bonding moment.”
For Fitch, choosing to minimize costs where possible was about being unable to justify the massive price tag that can come with so many weddings.
“I always thought I would elope, so even having a wedding was a big deal,” she notes. “My main motivating factor was saving for a downpayment for a house and just reminding myself that it is for one day. We are getting married to get married, not for a wedding."
Kiara Brokenbrough felt the same way about her wedding day. In April, the Los Angeles-based content creator went viral for her money-saving wedding hacks, which included wearing a $47 wedding dress from Shein. She tells Yahoo Life that she only spent $500 in total on her wedding day by utilizing resources they already had.
“I spent $67 on chairs, $230 on the arch and $100 for Joel’s tux,” she explains of some of the other costs. “Our wedding ceremony was nontraditional. My mother and her husband are ordained ministers, so they officiated our wedding. We only invited our immediate families and three friends each — less than 40 people total.”
Brokenbrough, who also posted a YouTube video detailing her wedding day, added that in lieu of a traditional party, she had family and friends meet up at a restaurant to celebrate.
“My husband and I had financial goals at the time, and we wanted to get married but keep those goals,” she explains. “Going into debt was counterproductive to the goals that we have set for ourselves. I prioritized not spending more money than I should by keeping a perspective of this wedding is one day, for a few hours.”
While micro-weddings are one way to cut costs significantly, there are other approaches, too. Libby Sarver of Details Wedding Planning, says that there are simple measures one can take in order to lower the budget.
“Start with reducing the guest list,” she says. “While it's easy to look at a budget and subtract a meal from the cost based on a total number of guests, a lot of couples don't realize that a guest is also a chair, a spot at a table, with another linen, another centerpiece, more bartenders and servers, an additional welcome bag... the list continues. To a point, less guests, less cost.”
Portland-based wedding planner Elisabeth Kramer, author of Modern Etiquette Wedding Planner, adds that one way to save money is to reduce waste. That can include being part of a group that agrees to pass along things like decorations, linens and other reusable items to the next wedding — meaning that the fee for these items is only paid once, and can be split amongst multiple parties.
“These are things that are often tossed at the end of the night or just stuffed into the back of a car and end up in the back of a garage and won’t see the light of day for another 30 years,” Kramer points out. “That's always very effective. And of course it makes my heart sing because we're not throwing quite so much in a landfill.”
At the end of the day, Wisconsin-based wedding planner Meredith Bartel says it’s important to first step back and decide what factors of the wedding are most important to you — which may be different from the priorities of other couples.
“Decide on just one or two features to really splurge on — and then trim costs everywhere else,” she says. “Consider what you want to remember about your wedding day, or what you may want your guests to remember most, and prioritize that experience. Great dinner? Great music? Immersive decor and florals? Make sure your budget works cohesively with your plans — any ‘non-priority’ items should fall to the background, and compliment the high priority parts of your day. Guests won’t care if the cupcakes came from Costco, because they’ll remember how you WOW’d them with your hanging florals.”
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