Weddings aren’t always affordable. A wedding ceremony and reception averages $28,000 in 2022. That’s the equivalent of almost 3 years of in-state college tuition or 28 brand-new iPhones.
Photo by @endlessautumnphotography
Not sure about you, but most of us don’t have that kind of money just lying around. So what are you supposed to do if you’re planning a wedding on a budget?
Don’t worry - you don’t have to postpone. It’s totally possible to plan a wedding without spending five figures. You can even make it happen for as little as $1,000. (Seriously.) Don’t worry if math gives you a headache. With this guide to planning a wedding on a budget of $1,000 or less, you’ll have a blueprint for your budget-friendly wedding day - down to the last rose petal.
The Average Wedding Expenses: A Breakdown
Time to talk numbers. Where does all the money go in a typical wedding ceremony and reception? Common wedding expenses include:
- Venue rental - $10,700 average
- Marriage license - $60 average, varies by state
- Officiant - $300 average
- Invitations - $530 average
- Photographer - $2,500 average
- Catering - $75 per person average
- Cake - $500 average
- DJ or Live Band - $1,400 to $4,300
- Attire - $2,150 average
- Flowers - $2,300 average
- Hair and makeup - $250 average
You can view a full breakdown of expenses in our blog post: “How to Plan a Wedding on a Small Budget.”
Don’t get discouraged, though. While these numbers are, admittedly, a lot, you can definitely have most of the elements of a traditional wedding for a $1,000 budget. You just need to be creative - and a little bit flexible.
Photo by @megancaryphotography
Maximize Your Savings with a Micro Wedding
As a general rule of thumb, the bigger your wedding, the more expensive it’s going to be. After all, for every guest you invite, you’re going to need:
- An Invitation - $3 to $8.
- A Chair - Between $1.50 and $6.00 for a rental
- A Plate of Food - Average $75 per plate from a caterer.
- A Slice of Cake - Cake cutting fees average between $2 to $5 (No, seriously.)
If you’re keeping up with your calculator, that’s an average of about $87.75 per guest. You can easily spend your entire $1,000 budget just on feeding your guests. But before you take up intermittent fasting, there’s another solution - the micro wedding.
Micro weddings are basically just weddings with smaller guest lists, making them perfect for budget-friendly ceremonies.
A true micro wedding consists of 50 guests or less, but you can make it even smaller. Accounting for average wedding expenses, you can save around $877.50 just by taking 10 people off your guest list.
Photo by @kevyndixonphotography
And while this is a budget-saving tip, hosting a micro wedding can actually make your day feel more special and intimate. You’re not going to invite your old college acquaintances or a laundry list of third cousins whose names you can’t even remember. Your wedding will only be filled with your closest family, friends, and loved ones. Sounds like a recipe for a special wedding day to us.
How to Budget for a Wedding under $1,000:
1. Find a Budget-Friendly or Free Venue
Of all the expenses at your wedding, the venue is the biggest by far. The average couple spends nearly $10,000 on their venue alone!
That’s… a little tough to swing when your entire wedding budget is only a tenth of that. They don’t exactly rent out 1/10th of a barn.
The easiest option is to find wedding venues that are budget-friendly or, better yet, free. Take city hall, for instance. The venue itself is free, and the officiant is right there! Plus, city hall can have some stunning architecture, depending on your location.
Other awesome free or low-cost locations include:
- Your House or Backyard - (Free, if you don’t count your mortgage.)
- A Family Member’s House or Farm - (Free, unless Aunt Carol charges you a rental fee.)
- Your Local Church - (Average $200 for couples who grew up in or are regulars of a church.)
- A National Park - (Usually between $50 and $200.)
- A Public Beach - (Depends. Some beaches allow weddings for free on a first-come-first-serve basis. But some places, like California, offer Beach Wedding Permits ranging between $100-$150.)
- Your College or University - (Depends, but some colleges allow alumni to use their event spaces for free!)
Do none of these venue options strike your fancy? Try scoping out budget-friendly wedding venues on a site like Peerspace.
Photo by @quetzalweddingphoto
This might be a little tough to swing on such a tight budget since Peerspace wedding venues average $130 — $220 per hour. But if you only need the space for an hour or two, it can help you upgrade your ceremony or reception without totally overhauling your budget.
2. Choose Your Officiant Wisely
To get married, technically all you need is a marriage license, which ranges between $40-$100 by state. There’s not really a way around this expense, so you'll need to budget around what your state charges. Your wedding officiant on the other hand? Now, there’s an option to save there.
The fees for professional wedding officiants vary, depending on their experience level, what they bring to your ceremony, and whether they’re a religious officiant or a civil one. Either way, the average officiant’s fees total around $300.
Photo by @ZakJokelaWeddingPhoto
That’s not great to hear when your wedding budget holds on by shoestrings and chewing gum. But here’s the thing - you don’t need a ton of experience to officiate a wedding. In fact, you might not need any at all.
Some states don’t require a wedding officiant to be ordained to conduct a ceremony. So you could have a close friend or family member conduct your ceremony. If your state does require an officiant to be ordained, don’t fret. It’s also possible to get ordained online for free or for a small fee - often between $29-$60.
Photo by @noblephotoco
Non-denominational or interfaith organizations that can help you get ordained include:
- American Marriage Ministries
- Universal Life Church Ministries
- Rose Ministries
Imagine how awesome it would be for your best friend to help you say “I do,” or for your brother to sign your marriage certificate. Not only can it make for a sweet and touching ceremony, but it’s also perfect for a budget-friendly wedding day.
While you don’t normally need to pay a family member or a friend who conducts your ceremony, it’s a nice gesture to offer something in return for all their hard work. Let’s go with a $50 gift or tip to say thanks.
3. Send E-Vites over Invites
Ready for some major sticker shock? Professionally designed wedding invitations cost an average of $530. If you’re not keen on spending half your budget on invitations alone, we’ve got another solution: the e-vite.
With digital apps like Canva, it’s easy to design and customize templates for pro-quality invitations without the price tag. You can send them out via email - so no postage fees here. You can even track RSVPs online with services like:
- Online RSVP
- With Joy
Free. No, seriously. While many of these services offer premium upgrades, they’re not necessary to send out awesome e-vites. If you play your cards right, you can come out totally free on this wedding expense!
4. DIY Your Wedding Cake
A cake from a bakery can cost upwards of $500. But box cake mix? That goes for around $2 per box (and that’s in 2022!) Sounds like a good reason to roll your sleeves up and bake your own cake to us.
Let’s crunch numbers here. To make a 3-layer round 9x13 cake, we’ll need three box mixes. Three box mixes x $2 each = $6 for your cake, plus miscellaneous ingredients like eggs or oil. But what about frosting?
For a three-layer cake, you’ll need about 3½ to 4 cups of icing. One Wilton box icing kit goes for $6.89 these days and makes 2 cups of icing. Let’s grab three of those since there’s no such thing as too much frosting. 3 Wilton royal icing box kits at $6.89 x 3 = $20.67.
So, we’re currently hovering around $27 for our cake. Let’s splurge and add a couple jars of food coloring (currently $2.69 per 1 oz jar from Wilton) and a beginner piping set to make pretty frosting roses. (Wilton 12-piece piping tip & decorating bag set, currently $10.99.)
Photo by @griceldasphotography
Approximately $43.04 for cake ingredients & supplies. Now, all you need to do is hone your icing skills with a little help from Youtube or baking TikTok.
5. …Or Branch out Your Baking Skills
Alternatively, if cake intimidates you, you could try a dessert bar at your wedding instead. They’re great for variety if you’re not a cake fan. They can also be super budget-friendly alongside or instead of your wedding cake.
Photo by @ryannwinnphotography
Fun options for a dessert bar include:
- Donuts - (Pillsbury Box Donut Mix, Approximately $2.42 Each.)
- Brownies - (Betty Crocker Milk Chocolate Brownie Mix - Approximately $1.74 Each.)
- Cookies - (Pillsbury Sugar Cookie Baking Mix - Approximately $2.37 Each.)
Don’t be afraid to ask for help here, either. If you have a brother or sister that knows their way around the kitchen, by all means, delegate. If they’re up for the task, what else is family for?
Depends on if you want to bake yourself or outsource to your baking-savvy family. But let’s estimate 3 brownie box mixes - since you can never have enough goodies. That’s approximately $5.22 if you’re keeping track.
6. Make Your Wedding a Potluck
Alas, humans cannot live on cake alone (I’ve tried.) But feeding a crowd can add up fast - even if you’re doing all the cooking yourself. So how do you make this budget-friendly? Try making your wedding into a potluck!
Your guests can bring their own dishes and create a buffet of options that everyone can choose from. Plus, you don’t have to worry about choosing a menu that picky eaters will approve of. They’re doing it themselves, so it’s all good.
Photo by @julietmaceyphotography
Well, it varies - depending on how many dishes you’d like to bring and what you want to serve. However, you could easily just provide dessert and call it a day, making this wedding element free to you.
7. Rent a Wedding Dress
A new wedding gown averages $1,800 from a bridal salon. But no one says you have to buy a wedding dress. May we introduce rental gowns?
Photo by @ryannwinnphotography
Rental gowns can start for as little as $50, depending on the style. Try looking around sites like:
- Rent the Runway
- Style Lend
- Primavera Couture
The same goes for a groom’s suit - where you can find plenty of suit rentals at local shops, or via sites like:
- The Black Tux
- Generation Tux
- Stitch and Tie
- National Tuxedo Rental
This depends on the styles you choose. But according to Brides.com, wedding dress rentals average between $50-$600. Let’s budget $180 for a dress.
What about tux rentals? According to YeahWeddings, a rental tux averages about $135 in 2022. So, the running total for your wardrobe is approximately $315.
8. Channel Your Inner Influencer for Hair & Makeup
“May your day be as flawless as your makeup.” -Unknown
Beauty isn’t just a pain - it can also be expensive. Professional hair and makeup artists can cost $250 or more. For a $1,000 budget wedding, doing your own hair and makeup is likely your best bet.
Photo by @julietmaceyphotography
Lucky for you, there’s no shortage of bridal makeup and hair tutorials on Youtube and TikTok. It’s a good chance to put your influencer skills to the test. Just start early and spend plenty of time perfecting your look beforehand.
Free, assuming you’ve already got all your hair & makeup supplies on hand.
9. DIY Your Floral Arrangements
Ok, you’ve got your dress sorted. But what are you going to carry down the aisle? The cost of wedding flowers from a florist averages $2,300. But there’s a budget-friendly solution for those that don’t want to sacrifice style - artificial flowers.
Faux flowers can look just as good as real ones. Individual foam roses can be 4 times cheaper than their real counterparts. And they come with bonus perks, like not wilting.
You can DIY your floral arrangements and have them ready for the ceremony ahead of time. If you want to get creative, you can even recycle floral arrangements from your ceremony and use them in your reception - like putting bridesmaid bouquets in vases and using them as table centerpieces. Plus, you can keep your bridal bouquet afterward! Win, win, triple win.
This depends on how many floral arrangements and decorations you want for your wedding. But Ling’s Moment has DIY wedding flower packages that have everything you need to make tons of gorgeous floral arrangements, including flowers, greenery, and DIY tools. No trips to the craft store for you. Plus, you can save 40-50% compared to premade faux floral arrangements.
Check out the DIY White & Sage Kit. It’s a clean, neutral palette that’s perfect for any season – and it comes at a slight discount compared to other kits at $279.99. If you don’t want to make the recommended floral arrangements, you can just follow a DIY tutorial and do your own thing with the flowers.
10. Make Your Own Music Playlist
“Music is a higher revelation than all Wisdom & Philosophy.” -Ludwig van Beethoven
Problem is, those higher revelations aren’t always affordable. A wedding DJ can cost $1,400, while a live band costs an average of $2,400.
Luckily, you can score a Bluetooth speaker rental for as little as $40. Just make a playlist of your favorite songs, then let it play as you dance the night away.
Or, if you have a talented family member or friend with guitar, piano, or violin skills - how cute would it be for them to play for your first dance? Even if they’re a little off-key, it could still be a sweet and special moment.
Photo by @julietmaceyphotography
Approximately $40 for a Bluetooth Speaker rental. Oh, and if you don’t already have it, let’s throw in a month of Spotify Premium for $10. You don’t want ads interrupting your dances.
11. Recruit a Student Photographer
Your wedding photos are how you’ll remember your special day. But those memories can cost an average of $2,400 if a pro photographer captures them.
So how do you get wedding pics on a $1,000 wedding budget? Try asking around at a local college or university to see if any student photographers would be interested in building their portfolios at your ceremony. Student photographers charge far less than their professional counterparts since they’re still gaining experience. And, you’ll be helping someone start their career!
Photo by @alybarnettphotography
Another option? Just ask your guests to snap photos with their phones. We live in an age where everyone is glued to their phones, so you might as well put it to good use!
According to Fix the Photo, most student photographers charge between $50-120 an hour. On the other hand, your friends and family’s smartphones are free. So, the total cost for this element depends on how you want to play things.
We’ll estimate $100 for two hours with a student photographer on the low end.
12. Budget for Miscellaneous Expenses
“If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something.” -Steven Wright.
Ok, here’s the thing. While you can plan your wedding budget down to a “T,” Murphy’s Law can still rear its head and throw off your plans. Miscellaneous expenses you might encounter at a wedding include:
- Table & Chair Rentals
- Delivery Fees
- Cleanup Fees
- Transportation Costs
Photo by @karleemikkelsonphotography
While you can minimize potential expenses by DIYing everything and relying on friends and family, you never know what might crop up. Let’s set aside a small amount to account for potential emergencies and oversights.
Experts often recommend setting aside 10% of your budget for miscellaneous expenses. So, let’s put $100 in the piggy bank.
Conclusion - Your $1,000 wedding budget:
Ok, so what’s our grand total for this wedding day and ceremony? To recap our budget, we have:
- Venue - Free in Your Backyard
- Marriage License - Average $60, but Depends on Your State.
- Officiant - $50 to Tip a Family Member or Friend.
- Invitations - Free with Online Invitations.
- Wedding Cake - Around $43.04 for a DIY Wedding Cake.
- Other Sweets - $5.22 for DIY Brownies.
- Wedding Food - Free for a Potluck Dinner.
- Music - $50 for a Bluetooth Speaker Rental and Your Spotify Premium Subscription.
- Attire - $315 for Wedding Dress & Tux Rental.
- Flowers - $279.99 for Ling’s White & Sage DIY Flower Kit.
- Hair & Makeup - Free with Supplies On-Hand.
- Photography - $100 for a Low-End Student Photographer.
- Miscellaneous Expenses - $100 Because You Never Know.
Drumroll, please. Our overall budget comes in at… $1,002.26.
Ok, time for a teeny disclaimer. This is just an example budget with approximate expenses. Your mileage may vary.
That said, it’s totally possible to plan a wedding for $1,000 or less with a little time and effort and a lot of creativity and flexibility. And since you saved the equivalent of 27 new iPhones on your wedding day, maybe you can splurge on a post-honeymoon treat afterward!
Photo by @savannahmichellephotography