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The Ultimate Guide to Stress-Free Wedding Planning on a Budget

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Wedding planning doesn’t have to be stressful, overwhelming, and expensive. In this post, you’ll find the best tactics for planning a wedding on a budget you can afford– all without the stress and overwhelm!

Jessica Bishop Headshot

Congratulations — you’re engaged! While the media might lead you to believe that wedding planning is stressful, overwhelming, and expensive, it certainly doesn’t have to be. In this post, you’ll find the best tactics for planning a wedding on a budget you can afford– all without the stress and overwhelm! Yes, that’s right– stress-free wedding planning is possible!

There are more resources than ever out there to help you plan a wedding. There are so many books, websites, and apps to check out that you may feel inundated by the abundance of information and unsure where to start. This is before you even start to consider the unsolicited wedding advice from family and friends! How do you sift through the sea of wedding resources to find the best stress-free wedding planning secrets?

To help you get started along your wedding planning journey, just follow the list of tips below. This simple 6 step process will ensure you get from engagement to the altar in a clear and organized manner while also sticking to your budget!

The Budget-Savvy Wedding Planner & Organizer

Getting Started

First thing’s first, you’ll want to get yourself organized. This is likely the first time you’ve planned such a big event, so having a handy wedding planning guide book is key to tackling everything on the to-do list. Make sure to pick up a good wedding planner book to keep yourself on track.

The best wedding planners and organizers typically include things like a wedding planning timeline and checklist, an outline of tasks to be completed or questions to ask vendors. This is especially important because they often incorporate a task list that you need to tackle month-by-month throughout your engagement. Knowing what you need to do and when is half the battle when it comes to making a plan!

Try to find a book that has room enough for you to make notes, fill in worksheets, or record your findings. (We’re a little partial to The Budget-Savvy Wedding Planner & Organizer, as you might imagine. But hundreds of positive reviews speak for themselves!! ?) If you can’t find anything at the bookstore you love, consider making your own. You can easily create your own DIY wedding planning binder using a 3-ring binder that you can add to throughout the process. There are lots of great printable wedding planning templates online that you can download and use for free!

The important thing is to find a system that works for you! Your wedding organizer should be a place where you can keep all the various information associated with your wedding plans for easy and convenient access.

20 questions of wedding planning game

Defining Your Wedding Vision

After you’ve gotten started with your wedding organizational system, it’s time to figure out what type of wedding you want. Sit down with your partner and discuss the who, what, where, when, why, and how of weddings. (Try our 20 questions of wedding planning to get this convo rolling!)

  • Who: Discuss a potential guest list. Try to come up with a rough figure of the number of people you’d like to attend.
  • What: Discuss what type of wedding you want to have. Formal or casual? Rustic or modern?
  • Where: Discuss the location of your ideal wedding. Would it be in the town where you currently live or a destination wedding? Or would you like to be married at a specific place that has special meaning to you? Would you prefer an indoor or outdoor event?
  • When: Consider what might be the ideal time of year for you to get married. Do you have a favorite season? Is there a special date on which you’d like to plan to tie the knot?
  • Why: Ask each other why throwing a wedding is important to you. Why are you going through the effort of planning an event to celebrate your marriage?
  • How: Chat about how you want to feel on your wedding day. Excited and energetic with a large raucous dance party? Or sentimental and romantic with a calm and intimate dinner party?

And then the final how: How are we going to pay for this thing?!

Calculate a Realistic Wedding Budget

Setting a wedding budget before you begin is key to planning a wedding you can actually afford. Though major media reports might share supposed average wedding costs throughout the country, don’t let those numbers sway you.

It’s important to calculate an appropriate wedding budget based on your personal financial situation. Focus on figuring out the amount that feels most comfortable, practical and achievable for you and your partner. This ensures you can plan a wedding that is authentic to who you are and what you value as a couple.

Consider all the different people who may be contributing, as well as what you can save to add to the wedding fund over the course of your engagement. Add in any personal savings you’re willing to donate to the cause. This should give you a good foundation for your total wedding budget as you begin to get quotes and make plans for the big day. If anything, you may want to determine a maximum figure that you’re absolutely not willing to go over under any circumstances.

If for some reason your final figure doesn’t measure up to the type of wedding you want to have, then you may need to consider a longer engagement in order to save up. It’s all about determining what matters most to you and your partner, which leads to the next point.

Decide on Your Wedding Priorities

Once you’ve got a rough budget set, a great way to plan for how to allocate those funds is to outline your top wedding priorities. Consider what matters most to you and your partner, and distribute your budget accordingly.

Basically, it’s likely that you’ll spend more of your budget on the areas that matter most to you, and less on the areas you find of less importance. It’s important to consider guest experience when outlining your priorities as well. While you may want your dream designer wedding dress, that only impacts your experience. It’s a better idea to put those funds towards something that impacts your guests, such as a comfortable and enjoyable venue.

If you and your partner are foodies but don’t care for cake, you may opt to splurge on catering from one of your favorite restaurants and serve inexpensive doughnuts from Krispy Kreme in lieu of a tiered wedding cake. Or if you’re the party-all-night types, you may choose to spend a large portion of your budget on the wedding entertainment and less on the floral decor.

Each couple’s priorities are unique, so be sure to discuss with your partner. An easy way to do this is to each decide your top 3 priorities and then compare them. Budgeting for your wedding is a great first exercise in marital compromise!  See where you overlap, and be willing to negotiate on dividing the budget to satisfy both sides.

wedding photography - wedding photographer

Book the Big Things First

Typically, you’ll end up booking high-priority items first, such as your wedding venue and the photographer. Other common early bookings include entertainment and catering. Each of these items contributes to the experience of the day, so they should be higher up on the to-do list.

It’s also true that good quality vendors tend to book up well in advance. Save yourself from wedding disappointments and distress by booking your priority vendors early in the process. Knowing you’ve gotten your top choices secured in advance will give you a sense of peace and calm, and allow you to tackle the lower priority items at a more leisurely pace.

Getting your bigger investments taken care of upfront will also give you the opportunity to get creative, do DIY projects, or seek out alternatives to keep the rest of your items in plan and on budget.

Get Creative to Cut Costs

One great way to cut costs for your wedding is to do some DIY (do-it-yourself) projects. Whether that’s going full-on Martha Stewart and DIYing your wedding flowers or just a simple project like creating your own reception playlist, taking these tasks on yourself will reduce the number of professionals you need to hire and pay for.

There are many ways to save money on your wedding beyond just DIY. You can strategically choose an off-peak wedding date. Or you could select in-season flowers for your bouquets and centerpieces. There are many money-saving wedding hacks to take advantage of even if you’re not the crafty type.

Another great way to save on wedding reception costs is to limit your bar choices to just wine and beer. Hosting a full open bar is a quick way to rack up costs. Find a venue that will let you BYOB your wedding booze. This is also a huge help to the budget since you’ll have more control over the cost, quality, and quantities of your beverages.

Some other creative cost-saving strategies are to consider renting items for your wedding vs buying new. There’s also a growing trend of brides purchasing used wedding dresses online. Buying a pre-owned dress from a former bride online can come at a savings of over 50%!

No matter your priorities or your budget amount, you can find ways to cut back with the help of these small switches and substitutes. The great thing is that these low-priority items aren’t as important to you, so they’re definitely not worth stressing over!

Fail to Plan, or you Plan to Fail

In closing, the best way to avoid wedding planning overwhelm and stress is to have a fully outlined plan. Get yourself organized, put a plan in place, and stick to the plan. This plan works if you work it! Happy wedding planning!

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Jessica Bishop Headshot

Jessica Bishop is the founder of TheBudgetSavvyBride.com, and author of the best-selling book,The Budget-Savvy Wedding Planner & Organizer. Jessica's expert wedding advice and money-saving tips have been featured by Good Morning America, COSMOPOLITAN, Glamour, and more.