How to Pay for a Wedding with “No Money”

A bride and groom at their wedding outside, holding the cake.

OK—it’s pretty much impossible to have a wedding without spending a dime. (At the very least, you’ll need to pay for a marriage license!) However, you can plan a wedding that costs almost “no money” by limiting your out-of-pocket costs to the max.

The key concept to having a frugal wedding is utilizing your resources, be it friends, family, or the local community. And if you organize things right, you won’t feel like you’re sacrificing your special day. Whether you’re short on cash or just don’t believe in splurging thousands of dollars on a one-day celebration, you’ll find the following tips very useful.

Host Your Wedding at Home

A budget wedding ceremony in a backyard decorated with white chairs and balloons.

The venue generally takes up the majority of any wedding budget. So if you forgo renting an event space, you automatically cut your spending in half. Instead, host it at your home, or ask a friend or family member if they’re willing to lend you their backyard (or even indoor area) for a day. Alternatively, opt for having a ceremony at the town hall and invite only a few people, and then host your reception at a public park or beach.

Keep in mind that an at-home party doesn’t mean it’ll be completely free. Depending on the number of guests, you might need to rent certain items such as dining tables, lighting, speakers, and possibly a generator. Rentals for a backyard wedding can add up if you’re not careful.

Borrow or Buy Decor off Community Classifieds

As with the venue, feel free to ask your close pals if you can borrow any furniture, decor, or other accessories from them. No luck? Try searching garage sales, Craigslist, or another community classifieds site for cheap options. Sometimes, you’ll find people giving stuff away for free! This can be very useful with wedding decor, as many post-wed couples will sell theirs for pennies on the dollar.

Trim the Guest List

Vintage chairs at an outdoor wedding ceremony.

This is probably common sense: more guests means more money. Think about it—for every person you invite, you’ll need to account for another invite, more food, more drinks, and even extra furniture.

Barter with Your Community for Services

Take advantage of your talented friends, but offer something in return. If anyone can contribute to your wedding in any way, ask them for their services in lieu of a wedding present. Or, offer your skills to help them out in return. For example, know someone who makes amazing baked goods? Ask them to prepare a simple cake for the big day. Got someone that knows their way around a DSLR camera? Propose to them a position as the official photographer, and offer (for example) babysitting or dog walking in return.

You can also barter within the community. Whether you’re looking for a makeup artist, photographer, or even a violin player, you can find someone who is looking for either exposure or experience and is willing to offer their services at a very low cost or even for free. This isn’t a guarantee, but it doesn’t hurt to inquire at local schools or post a classified ad in your area—you could get lucky!

Print Your Own Invitations

A wedding invitation suite

Instead of going to a professional stationer, consider purchasing your wedding invitations from an online print shop such as VistaPrint or Minted. If you have a printer at home, all you need is some cardstock, envelopes, and stamps to do it yourself! Alternatively, if you really don’t want to spend any money on them, consider sending e-vites.

Use Your Phone and Streaming Services for Music

There’s no need to hire live entertainment or a DJ—especially if you’re having a small wedding. If you have a phone and some speakers, as well as a good taste for music, you’re set! So, come up with a playlist yourself or select from one of the premade ones on streaming services such as Spotify or Pandora. Just make sure you sign up for an upgrade beforehand so your party doesn’t get interrupted with ads!

Cake it Simple

A simple wedding cake decorated with flowers.

Wedding cakes are pricey, and at the end of the day, red velvet is red velvet. Instead of ordering from a specialist baker, just buy the cake at the grocery store or your favorite patisserie. To make things look a bit more special, you can add a bit of your own decor on top. Another low-cost idea is opting for cupcakes, which look festive on a multi-tiered cake stand.

Ask Guests to BYOB

A potluck-style party can help you save a lot of money on food and drinks. Have some (or all) of your guests responsible for bringing a certain dish or drink. If you’re having a really small wedding and skills in the kitchen, you can also meet up the day before and prepare some of the dishes at home.

Alternatively, look for a local restaurant that sells catering-volume dishes and either serve everything buffet style or arrange the food onto plates yourself. This takes down the per-dish cost to a very small amount, and you don’t need to pay service costs.

Be Your Own Makeup Artist (Or Ask a Friend!)

A bride getting her makeup applied.

Do your own hair and makeup if you can. Kate Middleton did—so you can, too! Ask a friend to help if you’re unsure of your skills, or visit a cosmetics counter at a department store for a (potentially) “free makeover.” In addition, beauty schools can also be a great resource as the students in training offer their services for a very low price.

Try Your Luck with Giveaways and Contests

Be on the lookout for any contests from local businesses and wedding vendors, and fill out every form you can find. If you’re attending a wedding fair, this is a must (and you might come home with your prize that same day!). You might think your chances of getting something for free or at a discount are slim, but it doesn’t hurt to try.

Request Cash Instead of Registry Items

To offset any spending you may have incurred, ask your guests to contribute a cash donation or supplement your honeymoon fund. A gift registry isn’t necessary if you really don’t need new things.

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