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How to Plan a Wedding for Less Than $5,000

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Working with an extra tight budget? Don’t miss these tips for planning a wedding for less than $5,000!


According to The Knot Real Weddings Survey, the average cost of a wedding in the United States in 2019 was $28,000. Even in 2020, when COVID-19 forced most couples to downsize their nuptial plans, the average cost was still $19,000.

But you don’t have to spend as much as it would take to buy a small car to enjoy an elegant wedding–and working together to budget for your wedding might be the first step you and your spouse make toward a financially stable future. Find out how to plan a wedding for less than $5,000 using some of the tips below.

1. Minimize Your Guest List

One of the biggest contributors to the cost of your wedding is how many people you invite. More people equals a bigger—and potentially pricier—venue. Large guest lists can also increase food costs. According to The Knot, for example, the average price of catering is $70 per person. The difference in food costs between 20 guests and 100 guests could thus be more than $5,000.

2. Rethink Your Venue

Looking for how to plan a wedding for less than $5,000 with 200 guests? You don’t have to cut your guest list to the bare bones to pull off a budget wedding. The Knot’s survey indicates that venue cost can account for half or more of a wedding budget on average. So, if you can get a venue that accommodates your guests at a fraction of the cost, you could save a ton of money.

Start by considering free options, which might include a loved one’s backyard or land. This tends to work best for smaller ceremonies. Otherwise, you may need to invest a lot of money in extra chairs, tables, and other amenities. Don’t be afraid to seek out non-traditional wedding venues as a way to cut your costs.

Options for those with larger guest lists could include: 

  • Churches and associated fellowship halls
  • Local clubs and halls
  • Local parks where you can reserve space or pavilions
  • Public land, such as national parks, where you can reserve event space

Typically, if you’re a member of a church or local social club, you could get a space for free or a much lower cost for a wedding.

3. Opt for a DJ Instead of a Band

According to The Knot’s 2019 survey, the average cost for a live band was $3,700. Compare that to the average cost of a DJ, which was $1,200, and you can see the potential for savings. Families with large playlists and their own stereo systems could save even more by DIYing the reception music.

4. Get Creative with Food and Beverages

Along with the venue, food and beverages can be the most expensive line items for any wedding. Here are a few tips for saving on catering and refreshments:

  • Opt for a venue that lets you choose your own catering or bring in your own food. Venues that require you use in-house catering don’t provide you with a lot of wiggle room on budgeting.
  • Consider food truck catering options, especially if you’re having an outdoor or casual event. Food truck catering typically costs much less than traditional wedding catering.  
  • Skip the alcohol. You don’t have to serve alcohol at your reception. That’s especially true if you have a daytime wedding.
  • Don’t have an open bar. If you do want to serve adult beverages, limit the open bar. Offer each guest one free drink. If they want more, they’ll have to pay for their own.

5. Say Yes to a Different Type of Dress

A brand-new wedding gown at a bridal boutique can be thousands of dollars. You can save a bundle by thrifting your wedding dress via a second-hand shop such as OnceWed or StillWhite. Another option is to eschew the dress and black-tie altogether and opt for a themed wedding and clothing that are unique and comfortable for you. 

6. Book Your Event Outside of Peak Season

You can save money on all types of wedding services by having your event outside of peak season. It’s basic supply and demand–if not as many brides and grooms are looking to say “I do,” you’re more likely to find venues and vendors willing to negotiate prices to get your business. 

And that’s not only true for seasons. You could also get a deal if you’re willing to have a mid-morning or early afternoon ceremony instead of an early evening affair. Consider getting hitched at 11 am, for example, and following it up with a backyard BBQ-style reception.

7. DIY Decor and Flowers

If you’re looking for how to throw an elegant wedding on a budget, you may not want to dump the flowers and decor altogether. But you can put the creativity of yourself and your loved ones to work. Dollar stores offer plenty of vases, floral craft materials, candles, glassware, and other items that can be used to create fun table pieces and other decor. And you can get fresh-cut flowers and/or balloons in bulk and within budget to create your own decor. 

8. Call in Favors From Friends and Family

Save money by asking loved ones to pitch in. They might even offer services or help as your wedding gift. Your sibling who’s good with a camera, your aunt/uncle, the secret baker, and your BFF with a knack for arranging flowers can all help you bring your wedding vision to life without breaking the bank.

9. Make Smart Stationery Decisions

Finally, make smart purchases when it comes to ‘save the dates’ and wedding invitations. You could print them yourself, but you’ll still have to invest in paper, ink, and postage, which can add up faster than you might realize. Before you do that work, look into inexpensive online stationery providers that print and mail budget-friendly options for you.

You *can* plan a wedding on a $5,000 budget

If you’re keen on keeping to a $5,000 budget for your wedding, it’s totally possible. View the real $5k weddings on The Budget Savvy Bride to get inspiration from other couples who’ve planned a $5,000 wedding. Even if you can get your wedding budget below the $5,000 mark, you can pick up a side hustle to make a little extra money to pay for your big day.

DISCLAIMER. The information provided in this article does not, and is not intended to be, legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only. 

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Working with an extra tight budget? Don't miss these tips for planning a wedding for less than $5,000!
Working with an extra tight budget? Don't miss these tips for planning a wedding for less than $5,000!
Working with an extra tight budget? Don't miss these tips for planning a wedding for less than $5,000!