I Have Almost No Wedding Budget—Here’s How I’m Planning My Dream Day

Wedding planning on a budget can be a crazy stressful experience but it doesn’t have to be. My fiance and I decided to have fun putting together our big day despite the fact that we’re really tight on cash. Here’s how we’re planning the wedding of our dreams without starting off our marriage in debt.

  1. I’m prioritizing like crazy. You probably already have a vision in your head of what your perfect wedding day will look like (and if you’re like me, a Pinterest board to match). When you picture the big event, what are the main things you immediately think of? For me, it’s twinkling lights, wildflowers, and lots of our favorite songs. Those are the must-haves. Once my fiance and I identified a handful of components that will make the day truly ours, we were able to start figuring out which aspects we were comfortable compromising on.
  2. I’m trying to be as flexible as possible. There are a lot of things you can be flexible about once you identify your top must-haves. I know that I’ll drive myself crazy if I try to micromanage every part of the day, so I’m choosing to go with the flow wherever I can. Things like colors, locations, and even dress details are less important to me, so I can afford to work within my budget and not skimp on my dream day.
  3. I’m DIYing everything I possibly can. If I don’t absolutely need a professional to do something, you can bet that my maid of honor and I will be handling it by our badass selves. That means that makeup, decorations, flower arrangements, and more will be handled by yours truly and I won’t be paying someone else to do it. Plus, I get to make sure that everything has a personal touch.
  4. I’m using my network. I know people who can handle almost every detail of my wedding, and you probably do too. Musician friends with their own sound equipment? Say hello to our DJs! Ex-husband who used to be a pastry chef? I already know that he can make gorgeous cakes. If you have family or friends who might be willing to donate their services in lieu of a wedding gift, it can stretch your budget big time.
  5. I’m dress shopping on a budget. Online marketplaces and consignment shops are full of gently used wedding dresses for sale. I have no qualms about getting a pre-owned dress (as long as it’s in great shape, obvs) and bringing it to a local seamstress or tailor. I have a huge amount of flexibility since I just need to find a dress that just vaguely fits what I’m looking for. I get to have a totally unique dress that’s literally tailor-made for my body at a fraction of the cost.
  6. Two words: pizza party. I want to feed my guests but I also don’t want to deal with caterers, seating arrangements and the like. Our style as a couple is more laid-back than fancy, so we’re ordering pizza and asking invitees for their favorite toppings. Getting a ton of pizza (or chicken wings, tacos, or whatever tickles your taste buds) from a local family restaurant is a heck of a lot less expensive per person than if we went with an upscale catering company. An added bonus: less time spent sitting at a stuffy table and more time on the dance floor!
  7. We’re making our own playlists for the day. You know how I said great dancing tunes are on my list of must-haves? It still isn’t going to break my budget. My fiance and I are creating three playlists: ceremony/important songs, dancing songs, and slow songs. Our DJs can take it from there. Besides, I really don’t want a repeat of the moment at my first wedding when a mixup meant my bridesmaids and I had to walk into the reception venue to “She’s So Heavy” instead of “All You Need Is Love.”
  8. I’m getting thrifty with decorations. Y’all, people on the internet are practically begging for someone to take their wedding decorations off their hands. Especially if you’re going for a vintage or rustic aesthetic, newer doesn’t always equal better. We’re saving some major cash by giving gently-used wedding decor a second time to shine. Plus, recycling, you know?
  9. We’re stocking the bar sensibly. We want everyone to have the option to unwind (responsibly), but stocking a bar can get astronomically pricey, and fast. Since we’re skipping the hotel ballroom in favor of a local farm, ours will be an old-fashioned BYOB-style shindig. I’m fine picking up the tab for a couple of kegs and a case or two of wine. Other than that, our guests are welcome to bring their adult beverage of choice.
  10. Most importantly, I’m not stressing. My dream wedding is really just one that doesn’t put me through a year and a half of stress leading up to the date. This is just a single day in a lifetime of days my soon-to-be husband and I will have together. It’s a time to celebrate our love with our favorite people, and when it comes down to it, I’m going to remember how the day felt, not whether my bouquet contained exactly the right type of flowers.
Whitney is a freelance writer from New England. She's a professional content creator, lifestyle blogger, and news junkie. Follow her on Twitter if you're not turned off by snark and political takes.