Every newly engaged couple is looking for creative wedding reception ideas that work within their budget.
What could be more fun than a wedding? You get to promise to spend the rest of your life with your best friend. All your friends and family are there to celebrate with you. The dress, flowers and decorations are all gorgeous because you spent top dollar on everything. The dance floor is hopping, and everyone is having the time of their lives.
But as the dust from the wedding settles after your honeymoon and as you’re beginning to settle into your new life together, you’re quickly going to realize one thing that isn’t quite as wonderful. Your bank account has taken a serious hit.
It doesn’t have to be like that.
There are plenty of amazing and creative wedding reception ideas to use when you are on a budget.
Sticking to a specific dollar figure doesn’t have to mean giving up on the things you want or settling for less. It just requires a little bit of prioritizing, extra planning and creative thinking to come up with unique ideas for your wedding on a budget.
No matter the size of your budget, you’ll inevitably want to avoid common mistakes like not allocating funds correctly or not being realistic about what the actual costs will be. Here’s a great article that covers the biggest wedding budgeting mistakes to avoid.
To help you have the wedding of your dreams while still keeping things affordable, we’ve put together a list of 10 of our favorite budget tips for your wedding.
Let’s dig in…
1. Focus Your Budget on the Must-Haves and Spend on Those
Creating a budget is the critical starting point for planning your wedding. If you drop money on a band, cake, high-priced photographer and then try to pull your finances together halfway through, it’s going to be much harder than if you had begun with a budget. It’ll be even more challenging to keep your spending down if you don’t have a budget at all.
The best way to create a budget is to start planning before you even spend a penny. Sit down with your future spouse and decide how much you have to spend. Talk with both of your families and ask them what they’re willing to contribute. Get a solid understanding of your wedding reception budget.
Once you know this, decide what your priorities are. Think about what the absolute must-haves are. For example, maybe there’s a DJ you have dreamed of having at your wedding or a wedding photo booth you think would make the day fun.
From there, you’ll have to decide how you want to spread out your remaining money over the items leftover. To do this, it might be helpful to do a little window shopping and get an idea of how much things usually cost. You can use this to inform your decisions about how much you’re willing to spend on any one particular item.
2. Stretch Your Engagement Out Longer So You Can Find Cheaper Rates
Once you’ve gotten that gorgeous ring, it’s hard to resist the urge to dive right into making wedding plans and booking the nearest date. But there are actually a lot of benefits to waiting. By having an engagement that lasts a year or two, you’ll be doing your wedding budget a favor.
A lot of categories on your list, including the venue, the florist and the caterer might cost more if you’re trying to book them in a hurry. Most likely, their schedules are full and it’s difficult to squeeze another wedding reception in on short notice. They might even charge you extra.
By waiting a little longer, you can book things like a venue far in advance, possibly taking advantage of any discounts that come with such an advance reservation. You’ll also have your pick of dates, allowing you to pick whatever you want, including the more inexpensive options that might already be gone if you try to book too close to the day of your wedding.
This will also allow you the time to find a venue that you really want. The danger of trying to plan a wedding quickly is that you might be rushed into choosing a venue you don’t love, just because it’s the only one available.
You can also use this time to save. If your engagement was something of a surprise and you didn’t have a lot saved up, getting married right away can be difficult. But by waiting several years, you can watch your savings grow, giving you more to spend on the wedding in the long run.
3. Find an Awesome, Unexpected and Cheap Wedding Venue
If you’re looking for one of the easiest ways to cut down on your spending, look no further than your venue. The cost of booking a wedding reception spot can be astronomical. If you’re not careful, this can take a huge chunk out of your wedding budget.
Of course, if you have your heart set on a certain place, you should go for it. But be aware that if you’re spending more on a venue, you’ll need to trim every other category of your wedding spending.
Instead, look for other ways to find a wedding location:
- Do any of your friends or family members have a gorgeous backyard?
- Does anyone you know own a lake house they might be willing to let you use?
- Are there any beautiful churches nearby that would make a beautiful venue?
- Are there any parks in the area that might be great reception locations?
- What about beaches or shorelines nearby that would be relatively inexpensive?
If you’re willing to get a little creative with your thinking, there are plenty of underrated spots that get passed over but would make beautiful wedding locations.
4. Schedule a Non-Summer Wedding to Save Money
When you picture a wedding, you might instantly imagine a summer wedding or perhaps a spring wedding. But that doesn’t have to be the case. Lots of couples throw gorgeous weddings in the fall and winter months.
One of the best reasons for doing this? You’ll save a fair amount of cash. If you choose a traditional wedding venue, most are going to be more expensive during the summer months, which are more popular for weddings.
You’re more likely to get your pick of dates in the winter or fall, as many venues are booked solid every summer for the next three years. Also, if you do choose to go with a winter wedding, you won’t interfere with people’s vacations. You could even hold a weekday wedding to cut your costs down even further.
This doesn’t have to be a sacrifice, either. Off-season weddings give you all kinds of opportunities you couldn’t have summer weddings:
- Imagine taking your pictures against the backdrop of a light snowfall.
- Imagine the gorgeous indoor venues you could book.
- Imagine the lovely fall color scheme you could pick.
Another advantage of an off-season wedding is your honeymoon will likely be cheaper as well. Everyone goes on vacation in the summer, meaning tickets and bookings are apt to be more expensive and popular tourist destinations are likely to be more crowded. Besides, how much more special would a trip to the Caribbean be in the middle of winter, as you escape from the snow and ice to a tropical paradise?
DIY Printable Photo Booth Props
5. Limit the Wedding Guest List to People Closest to You
This is another item that might be easy to overlook, but it’s another good place to save a little extra money. There are two families' worth of extended families to account for. You both have second cousins and first cousins once removed, and all these family members have significant others who they want to bring. You both have childhood friends whom you haven’t spoken to in years, but you still feel like you should invite. And of course, there are all your current friends.
Unfortunately, this means the guest list can grow at a frighteningly fast rate. And while maybe you don’t mind inviting all these people, it can really hurt your budget. All of these people need a table. All of them are going to need to eat, and most will have a drink. That adds up much faster than you might expect.
Because of this, one of the best ways to save money at your wedding reception is to limit the guest list. Decide on a number and try your best to keep the number of guests at or below that number. You will have more fun celebrating with people you love the most, not with people you haven’t seen for years.
Also worth mentioning, a larger guest list means more logistical headaches and more potential family drama! Don’t sweat it… by limiting your guest list, it will help you worry less on your wedding day so you can have the wedding reception you’ve always dreamed of.
6. Choose Nontraditional Wedding Foods and Prep Methods
The easiest way to save money on food would be to go homemade. If you are friends with a chef or someone who’s a fantastic cook, this might be an option for you. However, don’t worry if this isn’t you. There are still plenty of other great ways to save.
If you’re looking to save money from the food and beverage budget, the first thing to do is limit your bar. Perhaps set a price limit at the bar. Then once the tab runs beyond that, the bar shuts down. Or it might stay open, but people will have to pay for their own drinks at that point. They’ll be having so much fun, they won’t mind.
Another idea is to think about the food you're serving. While it might be trendy and sophisticated to serve fancier, more expensive food like lobster or salmon, why not try serving comfort foods like sliders or mac and cheese? Better yet, why not make the meal a brunch and serve breakfast food?
These foods are sure to be crowd pleasers, and they’ll also help you keep your budget intact. Besides, it’s way easier to have fun when you’re eating grilled cheese than it is when you’re eating lobster anyway.
7. Create Your Own Custom Playlist on Spotify for the Tunes
This is a GREAT idea to keep your wedding reception within budget.
With all the things a wedding reception requires you to spend money on, music and entertainment can contribute to driving costs up. Sure you need music to dance to, but if your budget is really tight, a professional DJ or a brass quartet might not be in your range.
Instead, enlist the help of your friends or family members who always seem to have a fantastic playlist at the ready.
Borrow a set of good speakers from a friend or uncle and a queue up your Spotify account or laptop loaded with good music. It may not be professional, but if it sounds good and doesn’t strain your budget, it can be a great option to provide the tunes.
You can even create separate playlists for the different parts of your reception…one for cocktail hour, one for dinner, one for the party, etc. With every song being curated by you and your friends, it will add a really personal touch.
8. Make the Flowers Part of the Background, Not a Highlight
Everyone knows flowers are an essential traditional wedding decoration. The bride and bridesmaids carry them, they probably adorn the edges of the aisle, and they might even be part of the table centerpieces at the reception.
But there’s some good news for you. Minimalist is fashionable. So why not apply this to your wedding as well? Not every single surface needs to be covered with flowers. Not only will it look stylish to back off on the flowers, but it’ll also save you money. Maybe consider smaller bouquets. Or make the table centerpieces out of something cheaper. The odds are people will be having so much fun they won’t even notice.
9. Skip the Professional Photographer or Look for Other Options
Hiring a wedding photographer is expensive, and it might not be something you want to spend thousands of dollars on. Instead, there are plenty of other great ways to document your wedding.
A wedding photographer might not be something you want to forego altogether. After all, pictures are important. They help you remember the day long after it’s passed. But that doesn’t mean you have to break your budget to get a good photographer.
Do you have any friends or distant cousins who are trying to break into the photography business? Or a local college with a fantastic photography program? By asking them to photograph your wedding, you could save a lot of money, and you could be doing them a huge favor by giving them the opportunity to get some real experience. Plus, it’s more fun this way.
Of course, you’ll want to make sure your photographer has a high-quality camera, and you should certainly see some examples of their work before you hire them. But this is one of our top budget tips for a fun wedding.
Someone you know can capture cool and meaningful behind-the-scenes moments they will understand because they are familiar with you and your guests. To complement these photos, you might ask your friends to take candid shots of the reception with their phones as well and upload them to social media with a creative hashtag.
To crowdsource the photos from your wedding guests, a virtual photo booth could be just the thing you need! Give your attendees a fun photo booth experience that will also compile all of your guests photos in real-time into an online event photo gallery.
Take a look at this feature on Bryanna & Quinton to see how much fun they had with their virtual wedding photo booth!
LISTEN: The Pixilated Podcast | Episode 37 | 5 Budget Friendly Alternatives to a Traditional Wedding Photographer
10. Set Up a Photo Booth or Selfie Station to Capture the Event
Did you know you could get a professional quality photo booth for less than half of the price of typical photo booth rentals? How, you ask?
You go the self-service, DIY route and order a self-service photo booth! DIY photo booths rentals can offer the same quality and fun experience as a staffed service, but DIY photo booth prices start at $319 per day instead of upwards of $1000 for a mere 4 hours.
That said, there are a few photo booth providers that offer different variations of the self-serve photo booth. Before making any final decisions we suggest comparing the DIY photo booth companies and doing a little research on how to choose the right photo booth provider to fit your taste and budget.
Pixilated has offered wedding photo booth rentals for weddings since 2012. By eliminating the staff and making the photo booth available to order by mail, Pixilated is able to service the entire United States for a fraction of the cost of most local photo booth companies. It is incredibly easy to set up, roundtrip shipping is 100% free, and there is absolutely no technical expertise needed!
So why not set up a photo booth? This could double in purpose as a great way for your guests to have fun during the reception, and also as a great way to capture the wedding in lieu of a professional photographer…sounds like more savings to me! Plus, there’s no better way to capture the fun spirit of the occasion.
No one cares how much or little you spent on a wedding reception when they are having a blast. Providing fun ways for people to spend the lull between the ceremony and the reception is a great way to keep the entire atmosphere fun and light-hearted.
Photo booths are a great way for your guests to relax, have a few laughs and let their hair down a little bit — you’ll catch some silly and candid moments during the reception that other photography means could miss. These photos will make great memories and also make great favors to give to each of your guests with their “thank you.” After the wedding, you could even make scrapbooks of these photo booth memories and share them with your wedding party, or just make one for your coffee table at home. Aside from those mentioned, there are loads of reasons to have a photo booth at your reception.
If you’re considering a budget-friendly photo booth for your wedding, consider booking self-service photo booth! Our booths are DIY and don’t require an attendant. At Pixilated you can select your date and book your photo booth online, then have it shipped to wherever you are in the USA! You can DIY your backdrop or order one of our backdrop options, it’s all up to you!
Plus, to save on photo booth props consider the do-it-yourself route. Pixilated offers a variety of printable photo booth props available for download. All you have to do is download them, print them, and cut them out. Super easy and super fun…but most importantly super budget friendly!
To make things easy, Pixilated offers a few different wedding photo booth bundles that come prepackaged with an assortment of our wedding favorites. Besides that we wrote a blog post about everything you need to know about renting a photo booth and we created a super easy photo booth checklist.
Time to Start Planning for Your Wedding Reception
Lots of people believe that to have a beautiful reception where everyone has a great time, they need to spend a lot of money. But that’s just not true. By following these tips and creatively imagining more ideas of your own, you can create your perfect wedding — and you can do it without breaking your budget.
Here are some additional tips for planning a low-cost wedding reception.
How are you saving money at your wedding? Do you have any amazing tips we missed?
Be sure to share them in the comments below. Happy planning!