How to Plan a Wedding Without Breaking the Bank — 5 Wedding Expert-Based Tips
Jessica Bishop is the founder of The Budget Savvy Bride, a website she started in 2008 when she was newly engaged. She also happened to be a recent grad who’d just gotten laid off in the middle of a recession, and she needed a way to keep track of her wedding planning ideas.
After losing her job, she thought, “How am I going to pull off this dream day that I've been dreaming of my entire life and still stick to this budget?”
Although there were plenty of helpful resources online, there weren’t many for couples who didn’t have a wedding budget of tens of thousands of dollars, so she created it herself.
“I started The Budget Savvy Bride really to keep track of my own ideas and inspiration along the way, and then fast forward, it turned into this really amazing resource,” she says in an interview on Weddings Unveiled with Leah Longbrake.
Rather than continue to make it about her journey, Jessica paid it forward and shares what she learned to help couples save money while planning a memorable day.
On an episode of the Weddings Unveiled podcast, Jessica shared top resources for engaged couples, as well as five easy ways to save money on a dream wedding.
Teaching couples to get clear on what matters
It’s been 13 years since Jessica’s been running and growing The Budget Savvy Bride (TBSB), helping newly engaged people everywhere create a dream wedding without the matching price tag.
In December 2020, she launched and added a new product to the mix: The Bouquet Toss, a podcast she co-hosts about wedding planning.
There, she and co-host Sari Weinerman, who edits the Real Weddings section of TBSB (more on that soon!), dig deep into the history of all the wedding traditions and trends we’ve heard are musts and have-to’s — but we have no idea why.
Acknowledging that many of these traditions are “weird, wacky, dark, archaic and outdated,” Jessica says, “We really like to get into the history of it so we can help couples decide if that actually feels authentic to them.”
The podcast’s intent isn’t to discourage excited almost-married folks from partaking in and enjoying these traditions — but she hopes it empowers people to plan a wedding day that reflects who they are and doesn’t just blindly follow tradition.
Jessica knows from personal experience how important it is to stay true to yourself as you plan an event that’s supposed to be about you but winds up being about everyone else.
However, traditions or no traditions, there’s no right or wrong way to plan a wedding. And that’s the beauty of it. “The thing we really try to encourage with the podcast, especially, is just getting really clear with yourself and your partner on what actually matters to you guys, and then figuring out how to make it work.”
Wedding planning tools: Budget Savvy Bride resources
When it comes to wedding planning resources, the more the merrier, right? Here are three from TBSB that will lower your stress levels (guaranteed)!
👰 Real weddings: align inspiration with your budget
Picture this: You’re on Pinterest creating board after board about your wedding, from theme colors to bridesmaid dresses, to DIY centerpieces, to reception inspiration and beyond. Then you realize these dream weddings cost upwards of $50,000 — and that’s nowhere near your budget.
*Deletes all boards*
That’s why TBSB’s Real Weddings section is a goldmine. Couples can use this feature to filter through a variety of weddings to find ones that match their budget, whether it’s $5,000, $10,000 or $20,000.
“We spent so much time rebuilding this feature to make it easier for couples to browse our real weddings, so you can go in and say, ‘I want to look at weddings that were $10,000 and happened in California,’” explains Jessica.
Each featured wedding also explains costs, including their biggest splurge, ways they saved money and more, “so you can really learn from other couples who've gone before you and see an actual budget breakdown of what they spent.”
While there are tons of wedding planning and inspiration resources available to help you plan your dream wedding, few of them offer this level of transparency into the reality of expenses awaiting new brides. “And that's what we’ve really tried to do at The Budget Savvy Bride.”
👰 Free printables for all your paper needs
Whether you want save-the-dates, wedding invitations, RSVP cards, programs, place cards, table numbers or anything else, TBSB offers free (!) wedding printables that are part of various collections.
Jessica made this incredibly simple for grooms- and brides-to-be: When you find the printables you love, you can download and use them as templates, then customize them in Canva to match your wedding — all for free.
“We're really trying to just enhance and provide more and more valuable resources to couples to help them get that beautiful look for less.”
👰 A planning guide to preserve sanity
Most people realize quickly that wedding planning isn’t as cut-and-dry as they thought (hoped?), so Jessica’s The Budget-Savvy Wedding Planner & Organizer is a helpful resource to consider to keep track of all the moving parts.
Besides the fact that it’s jam-packed with good advice, the author says from the first chapter it gets couples to think about setting the foundation for their wedding planning.
She asks, “What do you want your wedding day to look like? What do you want it to feel like?” Right away, this book helps couples find clarity around creating a shared vision that feels authentic.
“Everybody's preferences and personal styles are so different, and your wedding day should reflect what matters to you and your partner,” explains Jessica. And in just the first chapter, she helps couples decide what they want for their wedding, which lets them base all of the decisions they make on a shared vision.
5 budget-saving tips to plan a dream wedding
There are ways to save on every aspect of your wedding, “But you want to make sure you're making sacrifices in the areas that aren't as high of a priority to you,” because you'll want to spend more money on the important areas.
For example, if you want to splurge and book a live band, you’ll have to cut back on something you don’t feel passionate about — because a large focus of the mission of TBSB is, “We don't believe in taking on debt for a wedding.”
Here are five tips to help you plan your (affordable) dream wedding on a budget.
1. Get ruthless with the guest list
Being ruthless is easier said than done, but look at it this way: Every additional guest you invite adds exponentially to your costs.
“We're talking an extra invitation, program, chair, meal and drinks. Plus, for every eight to 10 guests, you're adding a table, linen and the centerpiece.” See how quickly adding additional people to your guest list can add up?
If you need a starting point to create or trim your guest list, try this: Imagine you can only invite 50 people, for example. Who would make the cut? Who are the VIPs?
2. Be strategic about your wedding date
It’s more common to plan for a weekend wedding, but if you and your partner are comfortable getting married during the week, Jessica says you’ll likely score big savings.
In fact, even choosing a Friday or Sunday versus a Saturday can save you money, “Especially when it comes to your venue and certain vendors who are most often booked on those peak Saturday dates and prime wedding seasons, like fall or spring,” explains Jessica.
Depending on where you live, rates could differ, but “Being smart with your wedding date choice can definitely save you money on all sorts of aspects of your day.”
3. Long live the rental revolution
Wedding rentals are growing in popularity beyond tuxedos, and it saves couples heaps of money on things they were likely planning to use once.
Coining the term Bridal Rental Revolution, Jessica says a great way to save money on your wedding is to consider alternatives for traditional wedding services and pieces — down to dresses and veils.
Companies like Something Borrowed Blooms offer rentable silk wedding flower arrangements that Jessica says are more than “70% less than the cost of using fresh flowers arranged by a traditional florist.” Plus, you can find boutonnieres, mother's corsages, bridal and bridesmaids’ bouquets, centerpieces and much more.
Remember: Not everything from your wedding will be a keepsake, so save the large investments for the aspects you prioritize.
4. Celebrate your nuptials with a small event
The COVID-19 pandemic left many engaged couples scrambling to figure out how to plan a wedding amid absolute uncertainty. To avoid making concrete plans that could fall apart at a moment’s notice, many people focused on planning smaller events.
“I know a lot of couples still want that big, fun celebration with all the people they love,” says Jessica, “and that could come into play maybe on your one-year anniversary if you wanted to plan an anniversary party.”
In the meantime, couples can have an intimate and meaningful ceremony with just close friends and loved ones, then celebrate their happily ever after later with a larger celebration.
It’s a win-win: Not only do you save money on your wedding, but you also get more time to plan and save money for the upcoming party.
5. Budget the booze
Thinking of an open bar for your wedding? If that’s what you want to splurge on, more power to you. But if it’s not high on your priority list, booze can get pretty pricey — that’s why cutting back is so cost-efficient.
If you can find a venue that lets you purchase and supply alcohol for your guests, Jessica says you can easily save 70% or 80%, depending on what you buy.
However, If your venue prefers you to buy an in-house bar package, you can save money by only offering beer or wine, a signature drink or even big batches of cocktails (like sangria!).
This article is based on an episode of Weddings Unveiled, hosted by producer Leah Longbrake. Leah interviews wedding and event experts who bring you honest advice and creative ideas about how to make your wedding the best day ever. Listen below and catch future episodes: subscribe in your preferred podcast app.