5 Strategies for Planning a Wedding With a Budget of $2,500

  • I canceled my $30,000 fall 2020 wedding due to the pandemic and had one for $2,500 in 2021 instead.
  • To do this, I focused on just two must-haves, shortened my guest list, and looked for good deals.
  • Don’t rush to make decisions, you’ll need to negotiate and research a lot to pull this off.
  • Read more from Personal Finance Insider.

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Right after I got engaged in 2019, I felt a lingering sense of dread about planning a wedding. Most of that negative emotion buzzed around seeing how much it was going to cost to host a celebration for 175 people.

After deciding to get married in October 2020 with a set budget of $30,000, the pandemic entered all of our lives and we quickly pulled the plug on that game plan (and luckily recouped all our deposits). 

Once the idea of having a big and expensive wedding was shelved, I felt more at ease thinking about planning a different kind of party — one that didn’t drain my savings account and still incorporated the things I cared the most about.

In March of 2021, my partner and I got married. The best part? We spent less than $2,500 on the entire event. If you’re looking to throw a memorable wedding but don’t have the funds to support it, here’s how you can plan a celebration that’s more affordable and still as special.

1. Pick 2 must-haves

Whether you’re planning a wedding on a $30,000 or $2,500 budget, it’s important to start out by figuring out what you actually care about for your big day.

Rather than going through a checklist of what everyone else has at your wedding, decide on the two things that matter the most to you and your partner. If it’s live music and a big cake, or the perfect dress and personalized party favors, write those things down at the top of your list. 

Then, when you move on to budgeting for each item, prioritize finding ways to afford these two must-haves before you care about anything else.

That way, you can bump less important and costly items off your spend list once you sort out the things that matter the most to you.

2. Write out all your expenses and work backward 

Write down all the things you need to have at this wedding, and your two must-haves. Then, take your $2,500 budget and work backward. If you want a live band for $500 and a big cake ($250), you now have $1,750 to spend on the rest of your items (food, drinks, a venue location, outfits, etc.)

Once you know what you’re working with and what you need to spend money on, you can plug different vendors into your wedding planning budget who fit your numbers — not the other way around.

3. Find inexpensive alternatives

While $2,500 might not seem like a lot of money to work with, it can go a long way if you are strategic. Find a venue that doesn’t charge you too much to host the celebration like a park, a local community center, a local cafe or bar. You can also source food from local restaurants instead of a full-fledged caterer, and hire photographers, florists, and entertainment from gig sites, like GigSalad or Thumbtack. These sites are useful for finding talented vendors for a less expensive price. 

Rather than search for wedding vendors, who might just offer set packages and services that match a larger wedding budget, work with other event vendors who might be more open to customizing a plan for you.

If extravagant flower arrangements or a 10-tiered wedding cake isn’t a must-have for you, consider hiring people who are more junior at their craft (college students with side hustles) or those just starting out. 

4. Adjust your guest list

One challenge you might have with a $2,500 budget is cutting back the amount of people you can invite. Based on the venue, caterer, and drink provider, you might have to pay a per person fee, which can add up fast.

Once you know how much it will cost per person, then you can work backward with your budget to see, based on other expenses, how many people you can invite. 

If you can’t find a venue or food and drink providers who won’t charge you per person, consider scaling back your guest list to accommodate just immediate family and loved ones. Then, offer the rest of your guests access to watch your wedding virtually.

5. Don’t rush to make decisions

When you’re planning a wedding on a $2,500 budget, it’s going to feel like you’re playing a game of Tetris. You’ll try to see how many different vendors and services you can afford without spending a penny more.

This will require research, negotiation, and ditching items on your list that don’t mean a lot to you (for me, this was flowers).

In the end, your wedding might look different than how you imagined, but it’ll be a memorable celebration that doesn’t put you into debt. I can truly say “I Do” to that!