The wedding planning process can be overwhelming. You have millions of decisions to make. Venue, photographer, caterer, decorations, DJ, and most importantly picking the family and friends you want to be part of your celebration. After picking the musts for your wedding it’s very likely you won’t have money left for decorations. A wedding is an expensive event no matter how DIY you get. It can quickly become an over budget wedding.

I’ve captured over 250 weddings and I can tell you details don’t necessarily mean you will have a beautiful wedding. I’ve seen every kind of wedding from backyard to ballroom. It’s easy to slowly being persuaded into having a wedding that’s not what you wanted. The wedding industry is an expert and selling you on things you might not necessarily need for your wedding vision. Family members are very talented at pushing their own agenda. Lots of the brides and grooms work hard on researching budget friendly wedding ideas, so they don’t have to ask for money from their family. The more money borrowed the more likely you will lose say in how the day is planned.

Don’t worry there are many things you can do to save money on your wedding day. A great wedding only needs a few things to be memorable… family, friends, and good music. Remember all those expensive wedding ideas you stress over are not as important as you might think they are. The memories and photos will always be more important than the costly wedding decorations. Below are ten cheap wedding ideas that will help you plan a beautiful wedding without going broke.


cheap wedding ideas

Cheap Wedding Ideas


Natural light

This is number one because it’s budget friendly and little planning needs to be done. Beginning with hair and makeup to the reception you should think of light. For getting ready photos I recommend brides get ready near a window with available light. Everyone, and I mean everyone, looks better in natural light. It’s important to take into consideration the light for all aspects of your day. If you plan to have a summer wedding you wouldn’t want to schedule the ceremony at high noon. High noon has harsh light and guests will be uncomfortable due to the summer heat. Consider choosing a venue or scouting spots on the property to avoid harsh light during the important parts of your big day. Harsh shadows can be easily avoided by taking advantage of the shade. Be sure to consult with your wedding photographer on how to utilize the natural light throughout your wedding day.


cheap wedding ideas


The Uncle Bob phenomenon is getting out of control in these technological times. Once upon a time it was one family member trying to be the unofficial wedding photographer. Unfortunately, now it seems every guest with a smart phone thinks they need to capture your entire wedding day. Even grandma with her 5-megapixel camera is out of control. Family and friends end up with not so great images and you end up with no candid moments because everyone has a device in front of their face. Ask any wedding photographer and they will agree guests with cameras are a big problem. No one wants to put their Smartphone down at a wedding not even the parents. I’m astonished how many parents are taking photos during the ceremony instead of enjoying the moment. I would highly recommend an unplugged ceremony. You definitely will have to tell your guests and parents multiple times. I recommend putting it on any announcements including your website, a sign at the entrance of the ceremony, and having the officiant mention it one more time before the ceremony begins. You can check out my other advice post about unplugged weddings: HERE


wedding planning advice

Rethink The Ceremony Setup

Things don’t have to be traditional. Most ceremonies don’t last more than 15 minutes, so spending tons of time on decorating the ceremony space might not be needed. Visually the most interesting weddings I’ve captured involved a nontraditional ceremony setup.

Blankets on the ground, mismatched chairs, or having guests create a circle around the bride and groom. There are many ways to rethink the ceremony space to create a more intimate and visually appealing ceremony. Having a family member or friend be the officiant makes for better photos because you will want the officiant in most of your ceremony photos.

Also, you want to be able to see the reaction of your family in real time and the photos. That’s why I recommend having the officiant tell guests to remove their sunglasses during the ceremony. Don’t forget to tell the bridal party to remove their sunglasses. A new trend I’ve seen going viral is to have grandma be the flower girl, which would make for great photo opportunities and let’s her be part of the ceremony.


cheap wedding planning

Confetti and Sparklers

At the end of the ceremony confetti or flowers makes for great reaction shots. It gives guests something to do and hopefully keeps some of them from pulling out their smart phones. Be sure to have the officiant remind guests to go crazy with the confetti as you walk down the aisle.

I’ve been to lots of weddings where the guests don’t remember to throw the confetti or only a few guests throw it, which is a bummer in terms of photos. You can find lots of wonderful biodegradable options on ETSY. Larger confetti is great because it takes longer to reach the ground. Confetti visually enhances photos taken on on the dance floor.

I recommend handing out more confetti half way through the dancing. Another visually creative idea that might just be one of the most pinned ideas on Pinterest is the sparkler exit. The only problem with the sparkler exit idea is that it’s at the end of the reception when guests and family are the most intoxicated, which can make things a little more difficult to manage. I suggest doing a sparkler first dance. It brings all the guests to the dance floor and make for a beautiful backdrop for your first dance. If your sold on the sparkler exit idea I would recommend having your wedding planner or a sober guest coordinate with your photographer and guests.


top 10 cheap wedding ideas

First Looks

The first look is a great opportunity. It’s a very emotional part of the wedding day. By doing a first look you can squeeze in more formal photos before the ceremony. Skipping out on the traditional route allows you to enjoy more or a least some of the cocktail hour. Couples wanting to go the traditional route can choose to do something special and still keep true to the tradition of not seeing each other. You can choose to read vows to each other by being separated by a wall, doorway, or nature (tree). This can be just as emotional as seeing each other and still provide photo possibilities. If you don’t like the idea of either of these first look options there’s also the possibility of setting up a first look with your father or mother. Some of the most emotional photos I’ve even taken are father and daughter first look moments. Be sure to read my post about the father daughter first look I won’t forget.


money saving wedding planning advice

Ask Wedding Photographer For Advice

Wedding photographers have different approaches to capturing a wedding. You obviously hired this person to capture similar images you’ve seen on their website, so why not listen to their advice when it comes to putting together the timeline. A natural light photographer like me will more than likely want a ten minute window during the last part of sunset because that’s when the light makes for stunning photos. If your photographer prefers using flash he or she will have different opinions on when things can be scheduled. Some of the best wedding images I’ve seen taken are of wedding photographers weddings. The reason for this is because they know how to pick out locations and put together their timeline to accommodate the photographers style. Think of it as a creative collaboration between the photographer and you. If you don’t keep your photographer in the loop the creativity on your wedding day could suffer. The more you collaborate with them the better the photos will be.


Guest Activities

Having guest activities during the cocktail hour gives your photographer options for capturing guests candidly. Corn hole, jenga, and horse shoes are great group games. Giving guests games to play also creates icebreakers for uncomfortable guests. Bonfires with smore’s are great for guests wanting to take a break from the dance floor. This year I had a bride and groom that didn’t have a cake and shared a smore instead.


Airbnb versus Hotels

Unfortunately, most hotel rooms aren’t visually appealing for photos. They all look the same and can have multiple sources of light. The mixture of lighting source isn’t ideal for your getting ready photos.

I recommend getting ready at home, a family members house or an Airbnb. Getting ready in a space that has meaning to you makes for better photos because there’s the little details that you wouldn’t see in a hotel room. A private home or Airbnb listing will more than likely have more space to work with and be better decorated. There’s usually only one natural light source in a hotel room and can be difficult to take advantage of. On the other hand a home or Airbnb space usually has amble room. If the hair/makeup artist takes up a good chunk of space with poor lighting. It’s easier to find a more photogenic spot in an Airbib or private home.


inexpensive wedding ideas

Candles and String Lights

Candles and string lights are great. Not much needs to be said here. I think everyone would agree candles make for romantic lighting. A dance floor lit with twinkle lights makes for fantastic photos. In terms of photography there’s always more creative opportunities when string lights, candles, or custom lighting are used.


affordable wedding ideas

Outdoor Venues

Outdoor venues usually need less decorations because the beauty of the venue provides the ambient decor. The wedding decorations you select can be based on the scenery of the venue, which can help cut back on the time deciding on decorations. An example of this would be a venue with a woodsy backdrop. The table decorations could be potted plants that also serve as guest gifts. Also, venues with outdoor spaces provide better light opportunities for your wedding photos. Taking advantage of the shady areas during harsh light and the sunset light during sunset.


cheap wedding ideas