How to Get Married Without Going Broke

Did you know that the average wedding in 2012 cost $30,000? You read that right – thirty thousand dollars. I got married in 2008 for a grand total of $5,000 (including a 1-week vacation to Cuba). This is not as good as my friend Kerry’s $239 wedding, but I still think we did pretty well, considering what the average wedding cost.

Wedding on a Budget.

Get Married Without Going Broke

How to Get Married Without Going Broke

One thing my husband and I decided before the wedding was that we would pay cash for everything. We would not go into debt to get married. We paid for the wedding (and honeymoon!) by ourselves and and did not go a single cent into debt to get married – which we are so proud of ourselves for.

If you’re looking for ways to save money on your upcoming wedding, please, let me teach you how to get married without going broke.

The Date

  • Don’t get married on a Saturday. It’s the most expensive day of the week.
  • Get married during the off-season (November – April is cheapest).

The Invites

  • Make your own invitations. Instead of including an RSVP card, ask guests to RSVP by phone or email.
  • Don’t invite every single person you know. Cut your guest list back as much as possible – only invite those that are closest to you.

The Location

  • Have a backyard wedding. It’s cheaper, less formal, and more familiar.
  • Have the ceremony and reception at the same place to save money (and time) on travelling.

The Dress

Wedding Dress

  • Buy used. Most dresses have only been worn once and with some dry-cleaning and alterations (if necessary), you can save a bundle.
  • Rent your wedding dress. It’s not like you’re going to wear it again, anyway.
  • Shop sample sales for a wedding dress. These dresses are only used in the stores as samples and will cost much less than brand new.

The Decor

  • Shop Ebay, Craigslist, Kijiji, consignment shops and yard sales. Buy used wedding decor whenever possible.
  • Borrow decor items from your friends and family.
  • Use something other than flowers in centerpieces. Flowers are expensive.
  • If you must buy flowers, make sure to only buy flowers that are in season.

The Food

Wedding Snacks

  • Have a buffet dinner instead of serving multiple courses by the plate.
  • Have your ceremony in the morning and serve lunch afterwards, instead of dinner.
  • Have cupcakes instead of a wedding cake. They are cheaper to have made (make them yourself to save even more money).
  • Skip the champagne toast. Rarely does anyone drink the champagne.
  • Buy your own booze (if your venue allows it, or you are having a backyard wedding). Return the bottles to get cash back.

The Photographer

  • Hire a student photographer that has a good portfolio. Check references.
  • Book your photographer early. Many offer discounts for booking in advance.

The Entertainment

  • Hire a DJ instead of a band. They are much cheaper. Plus, you only have to feed one person, as opposed to a group.
  • If you must hire a band, hire students. Oftentimes, they are very talented and will cost you much less than an established group.

Please don’t spend $30,000 on a wedding. You don’t have to. There are a ton of ways that you can get married without spending copious amounts of money – and you can have an enjoyable, memorable (in a good way!) wedding to talk about for years.

Please share your money saving tips for weddings in the comments!


  1. Robin

    Do you have any tips on getting married abroad.

  2. Angela Aucoin

    They are pretty cheap – I remember checking into a destination wedding in Cuba – it’s just a matter of calling the resorts and checking into what they do and do not offer – they do weddings ALL the time, and have package deals incorporated into a week-long trip.

  3. kim

    My wedding was under $100.00 Las Vegas! And we have been married 27 years

  4. Melissa

    Another tip is to skip the DJ all together. We filled up an ipod with our favorite tunes and rented some good speakers and a proper docking station for the day – created a playlist and let play. It was fun to put together, we got to keep the songs we needed to buy and it cost under $100. Everyone was dancing all night, it was great. For used dresses try The Bride Project – it is amazing and the proceeds go to charity! http://www.thebridesproject.com/ Congrats to all you brides to be out there!

    • Joe

      Be careful doing this. You must pay SOCAN, I think that’s the organisation (the Canadian ASCAP), to play music at any event. You can’t just buy songs or bring CDs and play music. You could face hefty fine.

      • Valerey

        True about SOCAN however I highly doubt they are looking to take down backyard weddings. That’s not something to worry about unless you are a business making money off the music…

  5. Kris

    When we got married 11 years ago, we went “cheap” too, which is a lot easier to do here in a rural area than in a city, I imagine…I had my dress made, which cost around $500 including the fabric; my shoes came from Walmart, my husband’s from Payless (he still wears them to fancy occasions to this day); centerpieces I made myself with stuff from Dollarama; invitations came from a mail-order catalogue; flowers were under $300 for myself, my 2 attendants, 2 mom corsages and all the men’s boutonnieres (we didn’t bother decorating the church); we didn’t decorate the hall at all; the cake was just over $100 made by a local bakery rather than a specialty wedding cake maker; the DJ was a friend of my brother’s who was no longer working as a DJ, so he borrowed a friend’s equipment and did our reception for a case of beer; guest favours were small pots of honey from a local apiary ($1 each), which I decorated with flowers from Dollarama; the hall was a community centre attached to an arena and was only $107 (which we would have gotten back if the bar had made over a set amount of money); we bought and prepared the food for the midnight lunch ourselves; the wine on the tables was homemade by my aunt and was her gift to us; the photographer was my boss (I was working as a newspaper reporter at the time) and he did it for free (I paid for the film…yes, that’s how long ago I got married!); my parents paid for the supper, which was the most expensive thing, so saved us about half the cost of our wedding.

  6. Jeannie

    We doubled the bridesmaids bouquets as flowers for the head table. WE got lovely cut stem bunches and bought vases and spread them out on the table. They were lovely and weren’t a waste of flowers for about just pictures. My bouquet we laid in the middle of the table. At the end of the night we gave them away. It was perfect. Our wedding was about 8,000. We had a friend make cupcakes, a friend was dj, my dress was 500. It was perfect.

  7. Elizabeth

    I would also like to know more details on having a destination wedding for a large group. Thanks

  8. Adrianne

    Also, call in favours! My girlfriend made our cake and cupcakes as her gift, my mom made all the wine, we used a venue close to home and since we were using our property to advertise for them, we got a deal, local small-town caterer (food was FANTASTIC!), my aunt made all the sweets for the midnight buffet, fake flowers, home-made photo centrepieces, etc, etc, etc. In all we spent about $8000, but between money gifts and the proceeds from our stag, we came out ahead.

  9. Poor Fat Chick

    One piece of advice is sit down with your partner in advance and discuss what you want for your wedding (and what they want) come up with a budget and prepare to compromise. I say this because I witnessed a friend’s relationship break down before they were even married. All because of the wedding. She wanted a lavish wedding costing upwards of $50,000.00, he (my friend) wanted to keep it simple and cheap if possible. She wanted to take out a loan for the wedding, he refused. She wouldn’t compromise on anything and wanted to have the best of everything (she was turning into a bridezilla at this point) and wouldn’t listen to anything my friend wanted for his wedding.
    They ended up breaking up about 3 months before the wedding day.. it was very sad to witness

  10. CMB

    We did our own centre pieces with bouquets purchased at Costco (only $15 ea/table) and nice-looking rectangular vases from the dollar store ($2 ea). Costco also does bridal bouquets and flowers for the entire wedding party (cream coloured roses, 3 yrs ago it was about $50 for bridal and $25ea for bridesmaids bouquets). They were beautiful, and WAY cheaper than any florist out there. We also did our own decor, shop Michael’s 50% off coupons for DIY invitations, bolts of tule, etc. We just took our invitations to the printers (it was less than $30 to print them all in colour). Instead of getting a bar package, we paid per drink for all of our guests. It cut our bar tab in half (as they assume each person will drink about 10 drinks in addition to table wine, when in reality the average is closer to 4).

  11. Christa

    my friends went cheap too. They had the wedding in the grrom’s mother;s backyard. her bil played in a band so the band played free, instead of flower centerpieses they had baskets of plants scattered around yard, they used citronella candles on the tables, they only had a best man and maid of honour, pretty sure she made her own food, variety of friends took turns playing bartender. Sister also had a few disposible cameras on each table so professioal photographer could be let go early.

    • Shane Hayes

      be careful “playing bartender”….if anything happened because you over serve someone you could face some serious issues legally….also, bartenders need to have their smart serve certificate….

      I would recommend hiring a bartender to alleviate this being your problem…if you have a contract and they overserve that is their problem not yours…

  12. Emily

    I actually made money at my wedding. The amount I received in gifts exceeded the amount I spent.

  13. Shane Hayes

    We just got married on july 6th…we went cheap where we could and ended up making back a bit more than we spent….

    it came to about 15000 for a gorgeous wedding at a golf club….

    definitely use vendors you know to get good deals…..and keep it SMALL….we had 70 people including us….then fed 4 vendors….

    I bought a sample sale dress, and with the savings I got a gorgeous short white dress as well for the reception….this will be used again on our “big” honeymoon in December (we rented a cottage this past week for a mini honeymoon which came to $1600 dollars for the cottage, boat, and spending money)…

    DO NOT USE CREDIT….we paid cash for everything…we worked very hard to be able to do this! if you CAN’T afford it, don’t do it….

    5 years ago we talked about getting married but decided buying a house was a better investment….we went from a 40 year mortgage to a 25 year mortgage in the past 5 years…..have almost completely paid off our debts……and have no extra debt from the wedding….and our house value has gone up about 30,000 in 5 years…so hopefully we’ll be able to get something bigger in a year or so….

    be smart, think about priorities….

    AND, a wedding doesn’t make a marriage…we already had that, we just wanted a big party 😉

  14. Becky

    For us it was more important to share the day with our families in a small way than with everyone (including those your parents want) in a big way. We decided that because my family (about 40 people) has a Christmas party every year in a community hall, we would attach our wedding to the event as a surprise. We let the main organizer of the event in on the secret, and so paid for Xmas centre pieces, a cake (local bakery, slab cake), the JP, a non-traditional wedding dress(about $100, and I’ve worn it several times since), and nice suit that was already owned. We knew there would be lots of cameras there as there are tons of kids and ‘Santa’ always shows up. My mum is a hairdresser, so she did my hair and I did my own make up. We also paid for the rental of the hall, it was only $50 and so didn’t break the bank. We were lucky the kids got some musical instruments as gifts that year and so put on a talent show for us. I know that sharing your wedding with Christmas wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but we had such a great time and it was extra special to us.

  15. Evelyn Guillen

    Hello everyone I just got marry one week ago I spend about. $4,000 dollars no credit for a very beautiful wedding with purple and silver theme all venues in canada were about $100 per plate without bar plus everything else hallway , lines etc so I researched crossing the boarder in Niagara Falls , buffalo side Seneca niagara casino hotel provided me with a $60 per person package with bar and gourmet course entry either steak , chicken or salmon I had abou 40 people including my wedding party , my mom bought me my beautiful dress from Davis bridal on sale in buffalo cut taxes too, my sister paid for dj and my brother paid for cake , my Center pieces bought them on Kiji for $60 total of 10 purple and white ready just to put on table , also bought some accessories with coupons at michaels , hotel provided beautiful mirror silver candles and put them underneath my centrepieces , they provided beautiful linens , I also had my ceremony there and the game ivory chair covers I provided purple sahes for ceremony everything look perfect , they raised head tables and provided with a beautiful pillars to decorate ceremony and reception and we put centrepieces in top , white glove banquet service for the dinner until 1:00 am . My wedding looked like I spend over $10000 and I got about 3,000 in cash money as gifts and they also gave me two free nights in the hotel on a corner suite value at $300 per night …. So yes I got marry in one of the worlds nature wonders at a very low price but high class all my guest were pleaded . A lot of research saves you money but it was worth it there is places for cheaper at other locations but also goes with quality. Hope it helps somebody.

  16. amy

    We were married 20 years ago. My dress was worn by my grandmother for her wedding in 1936 and required minor alterations.(cost $300) Selected appropriate bridesmaids gowns from a country type store. The men all wore basic suits of the same color and style. We were married in a college chapel with reception in their hall. Flowers were a wedding present. Another friend’s mother made our cake as a gift. One sister-in-law did my hair and make-up. My other sister-in-law and her husband took care of the photos and video. Alcohol was not permitted so we bought sparkling grape juice.

    We didn’t need to skimp on the food and we still had it in August. The whole thing was less than $10k including transportation and niagara falls/baseball honeymoon.

  17. manuela

    My dauther just got married and only paid under 300 for the photographer. The photographer is 17 years old and she is saving to go to school in Australia. The girl was awesome you can find her on facebook at sierra’s photographer. There you can see some of her pictures.

  18. Andrea

    You can go with fresh flowers if you do it right. I went with full bouquets in vintage crystal vases for centre pieces. I collected as many vases from family members as I could and put a small piece of tape on the bottom with their initials and the rest I shopped. Round at second hand stores and garage sales. I ended up only spending $20 on vases. The flowers I purchased at the farmers market. I talked to the vendor and made a bulk order with him and managed to get a great deal. I paid at total of $250 for all the flowers for my entire wedding. This includes my bouquet, 3 bridesmaids bouquets, the corsages for the guys, and about 25 full bouquets on the tables. The flowers were not cheaper flowers either. I had roses, lilies, gerber daisies, and orchids.

  19. Ruth Cooke

    Good post!

    I did a post last week on this very topic, if folks want some suggestions to even outdo Kerry (Squawkfox for those who don’t know), whose posts on this topic are also great)!

    The one thing you mentioned that I didn’t was having a morning wedding–I wish we’d thought of that last year when my son was getting married–sandwiches would have been so much easier than the supper buffet we prepared!

    I absolutely agree with your last paragraph–save your thirty grand for something more lasting, like the down payment on your house, or to help offset the costs of raising your first child. (Kerry has an eye-opening post on that, too…)

  20. Robin B

    I got married in my livingroom, in a borrowed white dress (I had bought a blue one for 9.99), my son was my best man, my brother gave me away. We only spent 300, and that included all the food-which we made ourselves. I wouldn’t have changed it for nothing in the world. 12 years later we are going great & strong.

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