Tips For Planning A Budget-Friendly Small Wedding

Long guest list, grand ballroom, and an endless number of dollar signs not your thing? We don't blame you!

Vibrant lesbian wedding at Porta Asbury Park

Porta - Asbury Park | Cassie Castellaw

If you're not ready for a just-the-two-of-you elopement but you'd love to save some serious cash, a small wedding is just what the doctor ordered.

Here are 5 ways to keep your wedding—and the final bill!—on the smaller side:


1. Aim for a short guest list.

We've said it before and we'll say it again: The cost of a wedding is pretty much based on guest count. (Read that sentence again and let it soak in.) The number of attendees will determine not only the size of your venue, but also how much food and alcohol you'll have to provide—which, by the way, just happen to be two of the biggest wedding expenses.

Reining in the guest list is the best way to cut costs. So what's a small wedding? Some think it's under 100 guests, but if you want a really intimate (and cost-effective!) event, we recommend 10 to 50 people.

Once you start paring down your list, you'll likely realize it's harder to do than you thought! To make it easier, ask yourself "Have I talked to this person in the last two months?" More often than not, this one simple question will ensure that only your nearest and dearest are a part of your Big Day.

Sweet boho wedding at Reptacular Animals Ranch in Southern CA

Reptacular Animals Ranch | Kaitie Brainerd Photography

2. Rethink "traditional".

Why not take advantage of your pared-down guest list and plan your celebration at an otherwise off-limits location? This could be a scenic overlook in a national park, you and your SO's favorite brunch spot, or the cozy backyard of a family member. In general, these types of locations only require a permit, a private room rental, or a thumb's-up from your relative, and tend to be less expensive than a typical large-scale wedding venue.

Also, since your short guest list includes only your closest family and friends—most if not all of whom are likely to attend—you have more freedom to choose an off-peak day or time to host your celebration. Consider a Sunday brunch wedding complete with a stacked waffle "cake" and bottomless mimosas!

TIP: Many venues offer spaces for intimate weddings that they don't necessarily advertise, so it doesn't hurt to ask about all your options!

3. Focus on the stuff you care about—and ditch the rest.

If dancing isn't your thing, then don't hire a DJ. Want a bonfire for roasting s'mores instead of an extra-fancy wedding cake? Roast away! Obsessed with food trucks? Forget the pricey caterer! White washes you out? Strut down that aisle in a colorful dress you scored at your fave consignment shop. Get where we're going with this? You do you, boo.

Forgoing some big-ticket items will not only help trim down your to-do list, it'll also trim down that budget of yours and make your wedding more personal.

Wedding guests enjoy a DIY S'mores bar and fire pit for roasting!

Deer Park Villa | Manali Anne Photography

4. Don't be afraid to ask for help.

When it comes to small, budget-friendly weddings, remember that DIY doesn't mean you have to do-it-ALL-yourself. Your friends and family can be your personal saviors! Enlist retired aunts for centerpiece prep, ask your talented cousin to do your makeup, and see if your BFF who loves to bake will whip up some wedding cookie favors. Then set up a super casual cocktail party to thank your squad for their contributions. A "divide and conquer" approach will keep things affordable and take some of the DIY stress off your shoulders.

5. Stay true to yourselves.

At one point or another during the wedding planning process, you'll likely experience some pushback once you explain your small wedding plans to non-like-minded folks. Flak may come from relatives who feel scorned cuz they didn't receive an invite, or from acquaintances that are shocked you're planning such an inexpensive affair.

Never fear, m'dear! If anyone gives you a hard time, we recommend some variation of the following phrase: "We're so excited to get married in a way that feels right for us, but thanks for your opinion."

Bottom line: Invite who you want, break traditions, keep things simple, and don't second-guess yourself.

After all, a debt-free wedding is an awesome way to start out married life!


There's more budget-friendly goodness where this came from...


Venue Photo: Casa del Mar


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Some clients may have paid to be placed in our editorial and some of these links may be affiliate; however, we never include a venue, vendor, or product unless they have a proper place here. This is part of our Core Values. We create our website first and foremost to be good for the couples using it to plan their Big Day. We won't stray from that for a few advertising dollars. #scoutshonor