Does this sound dramatic? When my wife and I said “I do” and drove off to our honeymoon, we sighed with relief. It felt like we’d just survived wedding-planning jiu-jitsu during a zombie apocalypse. Wait … yeah, that does sound a bit dramatic. But it’s how we felt. 

When Liv and I got engaged in October 2019, we had no idea what was coming in 2020. The pandemic made wedding planning involve discussions about temp-scanning the foreheads of our guests and not hosting a super-spreader party. Navigating pandemic regulations became a headache for both of us.

Olivia and I now laugh about it, because that headache enabled us to see and say no to a lot of the fluff in our wedding desires—especially the ones that did not contribute to the true meaning of marriage. In essence, we stumbled upon having a cheap wedding, spending time on the parts of our upcoming marriage that mattered more than the wedding. 

Planning a cheap wedding

There are countless pieces to think about when considering wedding costs. But just how we didn’t let a pandemic stop us from tying the knot, don’t let the cost of a wedding stop you. Here are 3 tips to consider when trying to plan a cheap wedding. 

Tip #1: Consider your guest list.

I know, I’m going straight to the heart with this one. The guest list was a huge consideration on our budget because it determined how big of a venue we needed to book, how much food we needed to have, and the little details that add up to accommodate everyone. Basically, the more guests, the more money it would cost. 

However, there were many variables to consider as we determined our list: 

  • Could we have a potluck buffet to lower the cost for food?
  • Would an outside wedding allow us to accommodate everyone?
  • Could we have the ceremony and reception at a free location (like a church)?
  • Would a weekday wedding lower venue rates?
  • Could a less-fancy baker (e.g., a grocery store) make the cake at a lower cost?

For Olivia and me, it was an issue of public health, so we had to have a smaller guest list. Together, we made several loving calls to uninvited guests to communicate our decision to have a smaller wedding, and we sent out small, low-cost wedding souvenirs to celebrate the day. 

The guest list tends to be a hot topic so I’ll be honest. Originally, I was tossing in a much longer list of family, friends, and co-workers. However, we both made difficult decisions through hard conversations with each other. The key in considering the guest list was making sure we made decisions in unity, and that the most important person (Jesus) was invited through prayer and honored in our new devotion to one another as a husband and wife (Ephesians 5:21-28). 

Tip #2: Cash in on your community. 

Cashing in on your community sounds a little weird, but we saved so much money from accepting help rather than hiring professional wedding coordinators.

Sure, it may be easier to book a package deal of servers, professional ushers, and more, but with our limit on how many people could be in the venue during the pandemic, we had to think wisely. We asked ourselves:

  • Can a friend DJ using a cell phone and aux?
  • Would a few friends be willing to serve as ushers?
  • How might our parents want to help?
  • Can a friend or relative make our wedding cake and desserts?
  • If not our own pastor, would a local pastor be willing to officiate at no cost or a small fee?
  • Can a few friends and family members decorate?

Next to modifying our guest list, having community help saved the most amount of money. To each person that helped, we sent a thank-you note with a small, Visa gift card tucked inside for appreciation. Reflecting on all they did makes us remember the treasures we find serving and receiving from the relationships that matter most (Hebrews 10:24-25). 

Tip #3: Save dollars in the details.

We quickly found that we were okay with low-cost wedding purchases here and there, but those little expenses pile up and that happens fast. By the time the pandemic regulations truly sunk into all of the planning, we realized we had to cut traditional wedding norms like having people on the dance floor. At that point, we were dedicated to only including the things we needed or extremely desired. When that happened, we found even more ways to keep dollars in our pockets. It was all in the details:

  • Sign up for wedding vendor email blasts to spot relevant discounts and giveaways.
  • Rent your tux and/or dress to lower attire costs. 
  • Get a suit instead of a tux for around the same price and longer use. 
  • Send out virtual invitations to tech savvy friends and family to lower printing costs.
  • Get a smaller wedding cake.
  • Rent a nicer car/use your own for the bride and groom send-off.  
Build a Christian marriage with the Preparing for Marriage study guide.

Remembering what matters

Grooms are commonly known for not caring about the wedding details, but I cared. Liv and I shared the desire to have a special venue, to celebrate with the people that have a place in our hearts, and, of course, be surrounded with delicious food. We originally booked our ceremony and reception to be at a beautiful historic mansion. We had a list of ideas ready to launch into reality. 

But when the pandemic pushed the capabilities of that reality, we remembered what mattered: our unity in Christ. The wedding was a very small part of that. Throwing a bunch of money at wedding details doesn’t make our marriages any stronger. But making decisions that honor God in unity despite the challenges, gives something beautiful to our marriages. 

The ultimate question we asked ourselves was, Should we still get married? Should we wait until the pandemic is over? If you’re reading this article, you’re maybe asking yourself a similar question. Whether it’s a budget or pandemic regulations, remembering what matters and aligning your marriage steps with those values will tell you exactly which decisions to make. 

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Ashford Sonii is a writer for FamilyLife. He enjoys ministry, learning, and communicating practical life applications of God’s Word within marriage, family, and how to walk with Jesus. Ashford and his wife Olivia currently live in North Carolina with their twin girls, Ivey & Oakley.