A quick look around Pinterest shows thousands of unique ideas, creative crafts and ingenious ways to give your wedding a personal touch while also saving money.
But while designing your own floral arrangements and creating a one-of-a-kind wedding playlist can be fun, it’s not going to save you as much money as you think. When you factor in the time it takes, most DIY-only weddings are just trading labor for capital.
If you’re really looking to save, think big. Here are some of the best ways to put together a frugal wedding, using a mix of outside sources and DIY actions.
Buy a used dress, or make your own
The average bride spends more than $1,300 on a wedding dress. Marketing consultant LaTisha Styles, who spent $5,000 total on her wedding, wanted a designer dress with a bargain price.
She found her dress through Brides Against Breast Cancer, a nonprofit that sells used wedding dresses and donates the proceeds to breast cancer research. Styles paid $575 for a used dress that retailed for $2,000. Neither she nor her guests could tell it had been worn before.
“To me, it was as if it were brand new,” she says.
Local consignment stores often carry wedding dresses as well. You can also go the online route through sites such as Tradesy, OnceWed or eBay. Try on a few dresses in the store to see what style you like and which designer captures your aesthetic. Then look online until you find that dream gown.
If you’re not attached to the idea of a traditional wedding gown, consider the eveningwear section of a department store, or visit Rent the Runway. An off-white prom dress can easily double as a wedding dress, with an average price tag of just a few hundred dollars.
Some brides also opt to make their own dress, which is a true DIY route. If you have experience sewing, or a handy relative, you can save thousands by making your own dress. Plus, you won’t have to worry about going through several rounds of alterations, or the stress of gown shopping.
Have a destination wedding
When considering a wedding locale, sometimes it pays to go away—far away. Naudia Vanelli and her husband paid $6,000 total for their cruise ship wedding and honeymoon.
Not only did they skip the hassle of finding a separate caterer, DJ and reception venue, they also saved thousands of dollars. After the ceremony was over, the couple and some close family members embarked on the cruise, which doubled as their honeymoon.
Destination weddings also have the benefit of featuring a smaller guest list. Wedding website The Knot says about 50% of your guest list is likely to attend a destination wedding, compared to 70% to 80% for a local wedding. The smaller the guest list, the cheaper your wedding will be.
One true DIY tip: Make homemade “welcome” gift bags for all of your destination wedding guests, which can be there to greet them when they enter their hotel room. If you’re the crafty type who enjoys baking, a simple offering with pretty tissue-paper flowers and a few homemade cookies or brownies (as long as you make sure they can travel well) should cost less than filling a bag with store-bought goodies.
Find a unique venue – maybe even your own home
The average venue makes up 19% of a couple’s wedding budget, according to wedding planning site Wedding Wire. If you’re trying to save on your wedding day, the easiest way is to find an inexpensive venue.
Public parks and gardens, university chapels and local libraries often have beautiful spaces for much less than you’d pay for a banquet hall. Some Airbnb hosts also rent out spaces for weddings, and these homes can double as lodging for family and friends before and after the wedding.
A good rule of thumb: Look for venues that don’t usually host weddings. They’ll have better deals and won’t charge you the wedding premium. When you find a venue, see if they have rules about which vendors you can use. A cheap venue can quickly turn extravagant if they make you hire a pricey caterer.
For a true DIY experience, you can host the wedding at your own place, or the home of a generous friend or family member. You won’t have to worry about alcohol restrictions, caterer costs or serious decorating. You’ll also have plenty of time to set up and tear down after the wedding, and keeping leftovers will be a cinch.
Hair and makeup DIY
Do you have a good friend or family member who is very talented when it comes to makeup and hairstyling? One of the best gifts this person may be able to give you is doing your hair and makeup before the wedding (and possibly that of your bridesmaids as well). If you know this person well enough, you will know, before you ask, whether he or she will be willing to give of themselves in this way – in all likelihood, they will be honored to be asked.
A wedding need not be pricey to be fabulous. Blending some DIY tricks with other money-saving tips can help you create the wedding of your dreams without digging too deep into your savings account.