If you've spent 5 minutes on Pinterest, you've seen what some very lucky and very well off husbands and wives have managed to put together, no doubt with an equally high priced wedding planner, that have made you and just about every other soon to be bride absolutely envious or maybe you are the type who barely cares about this thing called a wedding and would prefer to do it as cheaply as possible, but you don't quite want to just call it a day and head to the courthouse (although, if you do, problem solved). Now if you are the first type of future bride as much as it hurts, you are going to have to let go of the idea of hiring members of the Philidelphia Orchestra to play you down the aisle and leave behind lofty notions of lobster and cavier for a 100. When you feel thing pang of the realities of your budget, remind yourself over and over AND over again, that your wedding should first and foremost be about your union with your future husband, and everything else is just extra icing on the cake.
Be unique and ditch real flowers by creating centerpieces out of non-living material. Origami a set, dollar store vases with tea lights or old bottles and candles, use vintage, borrowed, or thrifted pieces to create whimsical centerpieces. If the real thing is still your thing, save dramatically by ordering flowers wholesale or literally go to your local super market grocery store/Costco/Sam's club floral section, buy some pre-made floral arrangements, wrap them in decorative DIY floral tape and trim down the rest, and dunk them in dollar store glass vases for cheap. They only need to last a day or two anyway.
Rent some speakers, and hook up your iPod for your own playlist. I would recommend however, still having someone designated to work the iPod, cut the music when need be, or start it when need be so you don't have to and can focus on your guests. You can ask a local schools or colleges for up and coming musicians who will play for free or cheap for the experience or for a gig. You can hit up Craigslist in search of wedding bands (make sure you do your homework and make sure they are legit).
3. Bridesmaids dresses/Groomsman's attire
Go off the res, and ask your groomsmen to just wear a black or navy suit, or your girls to wear (whatever color) dress of their choosing rather than go through the long process of going through a bridal shop (trust me, this will instantly make your girls happy to actually wear something they like/feel comfortable in). Of course you get final approval! Or go with them to your local department store, thrift store, or store of your choice to guide them in picking something that looks cohesive.
4. Bridal/Grooms wear
Brides try renting a gorgeous designer white gown for the day from Renttherunway.com (you can also rent the bridemaids dresses) Grooms can rent their attire at local stores or just wear a nice suit or outfit they already have. Have a good friend design your dress as a gift for you, re-purpose your mom's wedding dress via a seamstress into something new for your day. Go down to the department store and search out a white dress.
Many popular restaurants and chain restaurants actually cater. Why not get Chik-fil-a for 100 or a taco buffet for 50 or who doesn't like a bit of KFC value pack meals for all. Your guests will be hungry and will eat what you serve up. Don't focus so much on having to serve the same plain boring braised chicken and veg dishes that your four cousins did. Everyone does that. Step out and go for that comfort food option. You can also enlist a few of your chef-y friends to make some main dishes or the desserts and only use catering for part of the meal. Drinks/Alcohol you can pick up at Sam's/Costco/Grocery store for cheap.
Search your local area for areas that allow events in public spaces for cheap or for free. You may have to have them on an off day that's not a weekend, so that is something to consider. Or have a pop up wedding. Show up with your guests someplace meaningful or in a creative space and simply have a short sweet to the point wedding, no chairs, no decor, and then head to your house or another more budget friendly rental for the reception. Remember to ask EVERYONE you can from your boss to your next door neighbor if anyone has land, a house, a space that you can borrow for free. It never hurts to ask, and don't be ashamed to say you are on a budget. People will be willing to work with you.
Borrow it, or find it at Claire's or seek out replicas of your favorite pieces. Unless your photographer is so close you can hear them breathing, no one will really know the difference or care if your jewels are real or fake. Plus if you borrow your jewels, that takes care of your 'something borrowed."
DIY, ask a friend, hit up the make-up counter for a free make-over. DIY your hair or have a friend do it or rock a wig (it's hidden under a veil most of the time anyway).
Have guests take photos on their phones to send to a website of your choice. Ask everyone you know if they know someone who is good at photography or will give you massive discount. Craigslist or photography schools for up and coming students looking for experience.
9. Gifts for Guests
Hit up the dollar store, give each guests your favorite candy bar, or buy some dollar store frames and put your favorite quote inside, or find something themey for the date or season or simply look in the dollar store wedding section for some cheap gifts.
10. Additional Tips
Become the queen of asking for help and accepting it. Your financial situation is what it is and there is no shame in that. Do not underestimate family and friend's willingness to help you whether its through their free labor for the day or items they will lend you, or friends they know who can help you. Be frank and honest with family especially about your situation so they can stop insisting you need to have 500 guests if you truly cannot afford to do so.
Instead of a bunch of little things that quickly add up to cost, focus on that one big ticket item you want...maybe you want a professional make-up artist, or a designer gown...but save up for those with the knowledge that you will have to definitely get creative or beg, borrow, DIY, or ditch most other items on your list to make it happen.
Learn to DIY. Pinterest, youtube, friends who've done their own weddings, the DIY network...learning to make something yourself will not only make your wedding much more personal but will save you money. Just make absolutely sure you enlist a lot of help or you a lot double the time you think you'll need to complete a task just in case things go wrong or you run out of supplies last minute.
Scratch a fellow businesses back. Again with the 'it doesn't hurt to ask.' Offer free advertisements and passing out of business cards to a company, friend, or business if they'll let you use their services at steep discount or for free.