How to Plan a Wedding on a Budget, According to a Financial Expert

Getting married is an exciting time — until you start wedding planning on a budget and crunching all those big scary numbers. Suddenly, that gorgeous floral arrangement you envisioned as a centerpiece looks like nothing but huge dollar signs. The photographer may feel like a big ticket item, and even those generic chairs and linens are starting to feel like a huge financial burden.

If you're worried about overspending when it comes to the big day, first just take a minute to breathe and recognize that your wedding day is meant to symbolize a special life moment for you and your partner. If you're on a tight budget, it may take some clever planning, but that doesn't mean you have to necessarily knock the notion of your dream wedding out for good.

Below, we spoke with a financial advisor to learn how to budget for a wedding and plan a memorable yet cost-effective event.

Wedding Planning on a Budget? Here's How

Set a Clear Budget

According to financial advisor Julia K. Pham, determining a wedding budget is crucial because it'll affect every decision and purchase you make thereafter.

"Start by considering whether you want a large or a more intimate wedding, and whether you want to go the more traditional route with a ceremony and reception, or if you prefer something like an elopement," she says. "Those factors will largely influence how much you will spend."

You should also take into account your overall life budget. What can you afford to stock away without jeopardizing other long-term goals, like retirement and debt repayment? "Consider creating a separate high-yield savings account and automating any savings directly from your paycheck so you aren't tempted to spend the money elsewhere," recommends Pham. "The best savings plans are ones that happen automatically, so you don't have to think twice about it."

Prioritize What's Important To You

"Wedding costs can snowball very quickly, so it's important for you and your partner to sit down and prioritize what is important to each person," says Pham. Maybe you both prefer a formal sit-down dinner versus a more relaxed buffet. In this case, Pham says you can consider trimming down in other areas like skipping a photo booth or cutting down the flower budget.

Limit the Guest List

A smaller guest list can help cut costs on several areas of your wedding. Yes, that may mean cutting your long distance, once-removed Aunt Mary from the guest list, but ultimately, less people means less spending on food, beverages, invitations, tables (and thus, centerpieces), and possibly a smaller, more budget-friendly venue. It'll also make for a more intimate gathering, which can enhance the emotional experience for you, your partner, and your guests.

Choose an Off-Peak Date

To save on a wedding venue, Pham recommends having your wedding outside of the peak wedding season, which extends from late spring and continues through early fall. This can offer savings on the seasonality of food and certain florals in addition to the venue itself.

Also, double check that your desired wedding date doesn't fall near any major holidays that would create a higher demand for venues. "For example, many holiday parties and/or corporate events are thrown in December, so may want to avoid certain days during that month to avoid competing with those events," she adds. Finally, more often than not, many venues offer better rates during the week versus the weekend, so this is another consideration if you're flexible.

Opt for Digital Invitations

Paper invitations are traditional and all, but they can be costly, especially if you choose high-quality paper, intricate designs, or additional elements like embossing or foil. A better choice for those on a budget? Digital invitations. They're more cost-effective since you're not having to pay for printing and postage, and aside from cutting costs, they're more eco-friendly. They also make it easier for you to track RSVPs and send out event reminders and notices to your guests.

DIY the Details

To cut down on wedding costs, consider DIYing certain details like floral arrangements, wedding signage, and name cards. "I recently attended a wedding where the bride used mismatched bud vases and different kinds of wildflowers that she purchased to create an eclectic and whimsical aesthetic," says Pham. "There are also plenty of artists on Etsy that can offer customization for a reasonable cost."

Consider Other Music Options

Live bands can be pricier than DJs, but there are some workarounds if you really have your heart set on a band. Perhaps you can hire a DJ for one part of the event, such as the reception, and utilize instrumentalists for the ceremony.

"If you plan to hire a band or instrumentalists, ask if they would be okay with trimming the quartet to a trio to save some money, or maybe even having a single instrumentalist," suggests Pham. Also, ask your DJ if they bundle other services like lighting or photo booths, which can also help save you from the hassle of managing multiple vendors.

Say Yes to the Dress — Fast

Pham recommends shopping for a wedding dress as early as possible to avoid rush delivery fees and alteration costs. "If there is a particular wedding dress designer that would typically be out of your budget, consider purchasing a preowned wedding dress, which could save hundreds, maybe even thousands," she adds. "Also, you don't have to limit yourself to white or an evening gown, and can find a dress that matches your style or aesthetic without the markup of a traditional gown."

Michelle Rostamian is a freelance beauty writer who has contributed to PS, Byrdie, and HYPEBAE.