wedding bouquet on table

How to Have a Cheap Wedding Reception (That Looks Expensive!)

Getting married is something almost every little girl dreams of.

From a young age, she lines up her stuffed animals, puts a blanket on her head as a veil, and plops some costume jewelry on her finger for a ring.

As she grows up, her wishes and ideas for her wedding day change with her tastes. She imagines who will be in her bridal party and what kind of dress she’ll wear. She may picture her cake and plan her menu.

Then, the day comes when the man of her dreams pops the big question and the real planning begins.

If this is you, congrats!

Now, the panic sets in. The average wedding costs about $30,000.

Forty-three percent of couples pay at least a part of their own wedding. Twelve percent for it entirely on their own.

Where will you come up with that money?

If you’re wondering how to have a cheap wedding without making it look cheap, keep reading. We’ve got 10 tips to help every frugal couple plan the wedding reception of their dreams.

1. Hold the Reception at Home or Outdoors

Renting out an event hall or even a church is very expensive. A more cost-effective option is to hold the reception at your home or the home of a family member.

If this isn’t possible, consider having your reception at a local park. Even community or rec centers are cheaper than a traditional event hall.

2. Keep It Small

wedding reception wood beams

Photo credit: Sweet Ice Cream Photography via

If you’re worried about space constraints, invite fewer people. You don’t need to invite everybody you’ve ever met.

Your parents and your fiance’s parents may give you a guilt trip for not inviting your third cousin, twice removed. Gently remind them that you’re paying for this on your own, therefore, you have to be selective with the list.

Don’t feel you have to invite anyone you don’t want to!

It may sound harsh, but this is your day. If you want a small, intimate gathering — that happens to save you money at the same time — go for it!

3. Cater it Yourself

Most caterers or event halls charge by the head. If you keep it small, you’ll save a lot on your food budget.

But, to get the most bang for your buck, ask your friends or family to make a dish in lieu of a gift.

You definitely don’t want it turning into a pot-luck. But if your Aunt Susan makes a mean lasagne, have her make a few pans and serve it buffet style!

4. Stock the Bar Yourself

wedding bar bottles

photo credit: Ibrahim Boran via

Another massive chunk of a wedding reception budget goes to alcohol. Even serving beer and wine only can run you into the thousands.

Instead, buy the booze yourself. If you belong to a wine club, it’s one way to get rid of all those bottles you never tried.

You may want to have a friend or family member be your bartender though. Don’t let your guests serve themselves. That will only lead to disaster after a couple of hours.

5. Shop Around for Entertainment

Wedding DJs are pricey. In fact, just saying the word “wedding,” causes vendors’ prices to skyrocket.

If you know someone who’s in a band, maybe they’ll give you a discount. Companies like Alive Network offer a variety of wedding entertainment. Some companies will even package some services together to save you even more.

6. Don’t Overdo the Decorations

You may have attended a wedding recently that had 24K gold chandeliers, silk panels lining the walls, and ice sculptures.

You don’t need all that to have a fancy wedding.

You can find a luxurious fabric at a craft store for your tablecloths and seat covers. You only need to cut it to size and hem the edges. Buy another type of fabric as the chairs’ bows or accents and voila!

You just saved yourself a couple hundred bucks.

You can also print out your own place cards if you have a seating chart. At your bridal shower or bachelorette party, have your girlfriends help make your card box.

7. Skip the Elaborate Centerpieces

Piggy-backing off the decorations, the same goes for the centerpieces.

You can buy affordable flower petals to sprinkle on the table. Use some different-sized candles or photos of you and your betrothed for the center of the tables.

8. Much Ado About Dessert

If you know someone who’s a baker, find out how much they’ll charge for your wedding cake. Some grocery store bakeries also have lovely wedding cakes for much less than a traditional bakery.

You can even forego the cake altogether and make cupcakes instead. It’s a fun activity to make the night before with your bridal party.

9. The Photo Finish

There are two schools of thought on the photographer.

Many people who get married say this is at the top of the list of things to splurge on. Others say it isn’t worth it unless you find a really fantastic photographer.

If you want to splurge — by all means.

But, if you don’t think you can spend thousands (Yes, with an “s”) on photography, you have options.

The first is to buy disposable cameras and add them to your homemade centerpieces. Have your guests snap your wedding photos! It’s a fun way to get the perspective of your guests.

The second option is to approach someone who’s an up-and-comer. This could be someone at your local community college or a friend who will give you a great discount if they can add your photos to their portfolio.

The third option is to rent a photo booth. These companies are popping up everywhere and relatively inexpensive.

The average cost is about $150-200 per hour. So, if you have the booth for even two hours, it’s still a huge savings over a photog. The downside is that you won’t get photos of your first dance or other moments you want to capture in pictures.

10. Don’t Get Married on a Saturday

Seriously. Get married any other day of the week. Fridays are getting a little up there price-wise, but it’s still cheaper than Saturday.

Why are Saturday weddings so expensive?

Supply and demand. Eighty percent of weddings happen on Saturdays during the peak time between May and October. That drives the cost of everything up.

Another upside to having your wedding on any day not named Saturday is that you’ll likely more regrets on your RSVPs. Which means you’ll save even more money than you expected.

How to Have a Cheap Wedding?

Plan! Yes, it’s that simple.

Research as much as you can when it comes to vendors. Do as much of the decorating, cooking, and baking that you can.

Remember, this day is all about you and your brand-new spouse! It doesn’t matter what your old sorority sister posts on Instagram or what castle your cousin rented out for his wedding.

Focus on what matters — celebrating your marriage with the people you love and care about the most. Everything else will fall into place.

In the end, you’ll be the one with the most beautiful wedding of all.

Now that you know how to have a cheap wedding, check out our blog for more money-saving tips. Like how to buy a cheap mattress for all that newlywed magic-making!

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