Adventures in Wedding Planning: How to Say “I Don’t” to Stay on Budget

The surprise of the engagement, the excitement, the hugs and “Congratulations” all lead to one thing. . . planning the wedding!

For those of you who are in that spot right now, first of all, CONGRATULATIONS! I was in your shoes two years ago, Christmas morning, when my boyfriend popped the long-awaited question!

I, like many of you I am sure, was off to the races to plan my dream day! We needed to make decisions: a date, a venue, music, colors, photographer!! As I started to look into all of the above, and of course ask for more information, the question I found myself saying most often was “That costs how much?!”

I am living, married proof, that you can have the day/night of your dreams without depleting your life savings!

My tips to wedded bliss (and a kick butt party) without breaking the bank:

1. Use the calendar to your advantage when selecting a date! Of course, your date will depend on the availability of your venue. When my husband and I began planning we decided to look at a few, moderately priced venues; however, when you take those reasonable prices and multiply them by the estimated number of guests, reasonable may not be the word that would first pop into your head. Ask what their peak seasons are? Most venues will charge more per person in the Spring and Summer seasons, while reducing their prices in the off-season! Are certain days of week the less expensive than others? Having your wedding on a Friday evening or Sunday afternoon, can save you a pretty penny! We decided to book our wedding for a Friday evening, one of the last Friday’s in March (just a week shy of prices skyrocketing for the peak wedding season)!

2. The cake – Did you know that most bakeries charge approximately $5-$7 per slice of cake? And any wedding venue will tell you, most of the cake goes into the dumpster. Your guests are there to enjoy the evening, eat, dance and, sure a sweet treat is nice but plan wisely. If having a decorative cake is a must, go for it! BUT make it a smaller cake, and order the rest in sheet cakes! This will cut down on your cost significantly. Now, not everyone is going to eat their slice of cake – have the caterer cut the sheet cakes and place on a coffee/dessert table. Now, only those who really are craving that sweet butter-cream and who are willing to break off the dance floor will, grab a piece at their leisure. What this mean? Your cake order does not need to be dependent on the number of guests! Let’s say you are planning for 200 guests – have the bakery have enough slices for 150 – You’ve just saved on 50 slices of cake! Below is a photo of our wedding cake. Big enough to cut and makes for a good photo, but obviously not big enough to feed our 150 guests. At $6 per slice, this cake served 50 people; the additional guests were served from sheet cakes (made from the same baker) at around $2.50 per slice. And no one would even know the difference!


3. Invitations – Paper stores, wedding planners, etc. are going to charge you an arm and a leg for invitations! To ensure all your limbs are intact, you can select the design of your choice form a vendor on sites such as Many designers will work with you on a design and provide you with a file for a moderate fee. Provide that file to a print shop and voila! beautifully designed, simply printed invitations for under $200! Printing on a regular card stock, ensuring it will fit in a normal mailing envelope will also ensure you will only need to use 1 stamp when mailing!

4. Where do the gifts go? OH YES! You need a card box; but wait…how much to purchase a card box? When researching, I found card boxes anywhere from $100 – $300! This is one item you can easily make on your own. What did I do? I purchased 3 boxes, each in a different size, layered them on top of one another making sure I cut a hold in each of them for the cards to fall through. Once the boxes were secured together, I covered them in matching fabrics and added a few details … all of which I purchased a JoAnn Fabrics for under $25!


5. Centerpieces – Your florist will show you some of the most grand and beautiful flower arrangements … and, if that is your style, be prepared to sell your car! Tall centerpieces are a budget killer and the problem: your guests can’t see each other from across the table! I selected small, low centerpieces of fresh-cut gerbera daisies. To add a bit of elegance to the table, I included tea light candles in Do-it-myself candle holders. To liven up about 200 $1 clear candle holders, I wrapped them in rubber bands, all in different patterns, and sprayed them with glass frosting spray purchased at a local craft store. Once the rubber bands were removed, we had elegantly frosted glass candle holders with just enough clear space (from the design of the rubber bands) to see the flickering of the candle light.


6. The Guest Book – Each person you invite to your wedding means something to you . . . so document it! And no, I don’t mean going out and buying a $50 guest book with an expensive Mont Blanc pen. Trust me, a book that simply has names listed won’t mean much to you after the wedding is over! My suggestion: gather some of your favorite photos of you and your fiance and create a photo book on any photo website (, to name a couple). Make sure you leave some pages blank! As your guests walk in, they will be able to flip through all of your cherished memories and leave a note in any of the space you have allotted for signatures, notes, quotes, blessings, etc. Now you have a photo album with messages from all of your guests that you WILL be sure to pull off the shelf every now and then!


So there you have it! As you embark on your own Adventure in Wedding Planning, I hope that this post has helped sparked some simple, money-saving, ideas!

Of course, I don’t have all the answers, but my husband and I were able to throw one heck of a party on a budget!



Written By: Amanda Keefe