How To Pay For Your Wedding With No Money
Weddings cost an average of $28,000, but they don’t have to. Here are some inexpensive wedding ideas to consider and tips on budget wedding planning.
April 27, 2022
The average wedding cost in the United States is around $28,000 — and that doesn’t even include the engagement ring.
Marriage is really about commitment and love, so it’s unfortunate that weddings can cost so much. So, how can couples with lower incomes celebrate their joyous day without going into debt?
This guide explores how to pay for a wedding with no money or on a limited budget. You’ll learn a few inexpensive wedding ideas and get some helpful tips on how to celebrate your special day on the cheap.
How do people pay for weddings?
Couples usually pay for their weddings with a variety of funding sources. On average, couples pay for around 60% of their wedding costs out-of-pocket, while family members pick up the remaining 40%.
Of course, there are millions of couples who receive no support from their parents and have to pay for 100% of their wedding costs.
Unfortunately, many couples go into debt just to pay for their weddings. In the United States, around 28% of newlyweds reported going into debt (or increasing debt) to pay for their special day.
How to pay for a wedding with no money
If you’re like the 64% of Americans who are living paycheck to paycheck, how can you possibly expect to save for a wedding?
The solution is to think outside the box.
The average wedding costs $28,000 — but, on average, weddings are also large, fancy events with hundreds of guests.
If you tone things down, focus on a small guest list and get creative with the venue and food/drinks, you can drastically reduce the cost of getting married.
If you want to spend no money, one great option is a courthouse wedding.
In this elopement-style wedding, couples head to the local county courthouse to be married in a no-frills, quick proceeding.
The cost of a courthouse wedding is often just the marriage license cost, which can be as little as $10 in some states (and up to $115 or so in others). Compared to the average wedding cost, that’s quite a bargain.
If you still want to have a formal marriage ceremony with guests, you can utilize inexpensive wedding ideas to get creative.
Inexpensive wedding ideas
We’ve discussed how to pay for a wedding with no money, but how about weddings with a small budget? Here are some ideas.
Small weddings at complimentary venues
The wedding venue is often one of the largest expenses. Venues can cost between $3,000 and $12,000 or more, with an average right around $5,000.
If you can eliminate this cost in particular, you’ll have a huge head start on a fun, low-cost wedding. Some options might include:
Weddings on a family member’s property
Weddings on a friend’s property
Weddings at your own home
Outdoor weddings at public parks (check if you need a permit)
Outdoor weddings on public land (check if you need a permit)
Some of these venues may require a smaller guest list, but others (like parks) could potentially accommodate a larger crowd.
Weddings at city hall
You can get married at a local city or county hall, often for as little as $20-$50. You’ll have to pay for a marriage license, and the cost of the wedding proceedings — but it’s usually quite affordable.
Do note that you can have the wedding at a city hall, but you generally cannot have a reception. Some couples choose to get married at city hall, then have a small reception afterward at their own home.
Certain states now recognize “virtual weddings” which are conducted online. There are some private companies operating in the space that can perform low-cost virtual wedding ceremonies. Just be sure to research the laws in your state, as they can vary.
Weddings officiated by a friend or family member
Instead of using a traditional wedding officiant or priest, you can opt to be married by a friend or family member (in some states). The individual must generally obtain a license or permit, but, in some states, this is as easy as filling out a 10-minute form online.
This approach can save you money, and can also lead to a more intimate, personal wedding ceremony.
Elopement is an impromptu wedding where a couple decides to get married in the spur of the moment. Often, couples elope on their own — meaning no family or friends are invited, or even told of the wedding.
Elopement is an intimate, fun and low-cost way to get married. But it’s not necessarily for everyone.
Tips for budget-friendly weddings
In addition to the inexpensive wedding ideas above, here are some general tips to save money on your special day:
Rent suits & dresses: Buying the bridal gown and a fancy suit or tuxedo can cost a lot — and you’re unlikely to ever wear the pieces again. Renting can be a great and cost-effective alternative.
Self-cater: Food is another major expense for weddings, particularly larger ones. If you can self-cater by cooking your own food (or keeping things very simple), you can save a lot. You could also host a potluck reception, where everyone brings a dish to share.
Hire a food truck: Instead of paying for a full-blown catering service, a cheaper alternative might be hiring a food truck to come out to the venue. Food trucks generally charge a flat fee, plus a certain amount per meal, but it’s often significantly cheaper than traditional catering.
Buy your own alcohol: If the venue allows it, bringing your own alcohol can save you a lot of money. Head to Costco or Sam’s Club to stock up on discounted drinks, or opt to serve beer and wine only.
Utilize your resources: It takes a village. Reach out to friends, family and connections to utilize the resources available to you. That could mean finding a friend who is willing to DJ or an aunt who can host the wedding at her farm.
Consider a morning wedding: Many weddings take place in the early afternoon, with an evening reception to follow. This tradition can get costly, as you’re expected to feed guests dinner and provide alcohol. A morning wedding, followed by a light brunch, could be a cheaper alternative.
Buy used decor: The majority of people who get married spend a lot on decorations that they don’t ever use again. Keep an eye out on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, etc. for couples selling their lightly-used wedding decor.
Ask for cash gifts: Wedding gifts are traditional. But, for a couple with limited funds, a particularly useful gift could be cash to help pay for the wedding (or the honeymoon). It’s completely appropriate to ask for financial gifts for your wedding.
Identify your priorities: What is important to you as a couple? Try to let go of society’s expectations, and focus on what you truly want on your special day.
Focus on the marriage, not the wedding
To wrap up: You don’t have to spend a fortune on your wedding day to have it be extra special.
After all, getting married is about the marriage, not the wedding.
By utilizing cheap wedding ideas and the tips discussed above, you can enjoy your big day without the burden of sky-high costs.
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