Any tips on how to have a really fun wedding on a $4k budget!?

posted 3 years ago in Reception
Post # 3
652 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: October 2013

@Lyssie:  We had our wedding ceremony outside in the garden of a Children’s museum.  During our venue hunt, we found that for some reason, non-profit locations had limitations on the profit they could earn from renting out their space.  Check out non-profit museums, galleries, etc., in your area, and see if they rent space out!  You might be surprised what you will find.  We got our ceremony site for $500–chairs included!

Also, my God Daughter was recently married, and was on a strict budget.  During her “cocktail” hour, she had a popcorn bar.  It was something for the guests to munch on, but was REALLY super cheap–and fun for people! She had both plain and kettle corn, and had fixin’s, such has nuts, parmasean cheese, garlic, m&ms, etc., for folks to dress up their popcorn.  It was a really big hit!

Shop Craigslist for decor–brides are anxious to unload their stuff after the wedding.  I bought my charger plates there for $0.75 each (normally $2 each at Michaels!)

Good luck–your wedding will be wonderful. 🙂

Post # 4
1785 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: August 2012

you are off to a great start! 

I would look in to local parks and pavilions some of them have really great rates (we have one in my home town that is only $250 for the whole day) They usually have some sort of shelter, picnic talbes, bathrooms etc so you don’t have to worry about renting a tent/table/chairs etc. Our wedding was at a girl scout camp which had a great kitchen set up allready there, chairs and tables were all included and the place was beautiful. Think creative when you are looking for venues. 

The second hand dress idea is a good one but also don’t forgt that there are many places which sell wedding dresses under different names. The one that comes to mind is Macys in late spring. When I worked there all of the white and off white prom dresses were ALWAYS on clearance. some of them would make great wedding dresses. 

Invitations are usually a huge cost. If you have a printer at home I suggest they have a huge selection of paper/envelopes etc, you can get some cute stamps and a fancy edge cutter and make something beautiful for less than half of ordering them custom made. OR use something like vistaprint with a 50% off coupon that they sometimes have. Also if you can hand deliver any of them it will likely save you about $1 in postage, which adds up fast. 

Post # 5
632 posts
Busy bee

@Lyssie:  Ok, here comes the marathon reply:

You mentioned you wanted lights in the outdoor area… You can buy these really cheap (or something similar) –  The price is great and you can sell them afterwards (which I would recommend doing with most or all of your wedding stuff). Also, sidenote – target has really cheap and nice boxes of thank-you cards (50 count). They are the cheapest place for thank-you cards that I’ve found them so far. Just bought some today, actually – $14 for 50 of them, and they are a nice design!

For DJ’s, I’d ask around your friends and friends-of-friends. Or try craigslist, but know that if you hire a company you will probably pay way more than someone independent and/or starting out. And also, just because a DJ has a company name behind him, doesn’t mean they’re actually any good – and vice versa. Check references if you can.

I don’t think it’s rude to ask a photographer friend for a discounted package, just be honest with her and let her know she can decline if she wants (don’t pressure her). Also, I would ask her directly about if she wants her husband there or not, let her decide if he will be a distraction or not.

For the tent, I’d recommend talking to tent rental companies and finding out if they ever run out of stock during the month your wedding is in. If not, and if they are able to do short notice rentals, then decide a day or two before the wedding based on the weather forecast. 

For invitations, I like other PP’s suggestions to print your own invites. There are a bunch of free printables online (see: or    You can also take the file to a print shop and they can print it for you. If you order from minted or wedding paper divas it will be waayy more expensive. I’m printing my invites at a print shop for literally $40 or $50, and it would cost $200+ from wedding paper divas. If you do it at home it may be cheaper than a print shop, depending on ink costs. Whatever design you choose, make sure it fits within the standard dimensions and thicknesses that a regular stamp will cover… extra postage can be a bitch! Also, I’d recommend printing just a 5×7 (or similar) invite without all the extra paper (RSVP card, blah blah blah) because that adds up so fast! Put “RSVP at” so people can get more info and RSVP online. It’s really common and totally acceptable. I think it’s actually pretty old-school to have to mail in an RSVP these days.

You can definitely have your ceremony in a park or outdoor area. There are lots of nice ones – try to find one with a nice view, or by the water, or with a tree’d or hiking area nearby, those make for really cool pictures!! You can rent these park spaces (or sometimes they are free!) from municipalities/cities or regional districts or park boards, etc. You have to look around online and/or call a bunch of places but I’m sure you’ll find something great!

Have you considered looking at white bridesmaid dresses for a wedding dress? I saw a few others who did that here on weddingbee. Also, check out carabridal on etsy. I see so many people raving about them, and I’m pretty sure they have stuff in your price range. 

And about your family members being miffed that they’re not invited, just let them know graciously that you’re on an *extremely* small budget and you are opting to have a small wedding and can’t invite everyone that you would like to.

Also, in terms of other people’s comments about your wedding, just try to ignore everyone’s opinions as best you can. Stick to your guns and don’t feel guilty about having the wedding YOU want.

And if you’re thinking of catering, try approaching your favourite small restaurant or somewhere where you really like the food and see if they cater. It can be really really cheap to go this route. We have a favourite indian restaurant that was our #2 choice for catering our wedding (our favourite mexican restaurant is our #1 choice) – both were able to cater really, really cheaply. As long as you don’t need a lot of fancy displays/waiters/etc, it can be very affordable. If you want to take the food up a notch from the appy’s you mentioned, you could offer pakoras, samosas, and those sort of appy’s, as they are a bit exotic but still very easy for a restaurant to make in large quantities… Just an example of course but it might end up being the same price as what you had in mind!

And finally, remember that less is more! You don’t need 90% of the stuff the wedding industry tells you that you’ll need, especially when it comes to decor. 

Good luck!!


Post # 6
800 posts
Busy bee

Check out the lights at The Christmas Tree Shop. They’re usually $1 for a box of christmas lights, white or colored, 100ct I think? Usually come out around Oct/Nov. Fi and I would get them to decorate our dorm rooms in college. Laughing Sometimes they also had specialty lights for $2-$4 in different shapes. 


Depending on what the venue you use it, you could also buy some discounted/clearance sheer fabric/netting as well as some of those flower pom balls or paper lanterns (both relatively inexpensive) as extra decoration. 



You could have a small cake for cutting, and have friends and family help you bake cupcakes for the wedding. A fun idea might be to make it a cupcake topping bar, where your guests can assemble their own cupcakes and toppings. You could have two flavors of cupcakes, two different frostings, and different toppings like sprinkles, caramel, chopped nuts, etc … Here’s a blogpost as inspiration:


Another fun idea might be to have a small cotton candy machine. My SIL got this one + Floss sugar & 50 cones for under $50 for my niece’s birthday. A little bit of sugar goes a long way, so the floss sugar deal that’s suggested should definitely be enough for 50 guests. 


Would you want to do any sort of grilling/barbeque? This budget bride did a backyard wedding for under $4000, and she had some yummy ideas for food at her backyard wedding: She made bleu cheese burgers by mixing bleu cheese dressing with the ground meat before shaping into patties and freezing. You could buy ground beef (as well as bread, and other stuff) in bulk from Costco/Sam’s Club/BJ’s. If you wanted to do sausage, but small appetizer sized, you could cut it up and serve with a piece of apple, or cheese.


You could have a chip and dip bar – regular chips and tortilla chips and different kinds of dip like guacamole, salsa, french onion, etc .. which you can get in bulk too. Costco has the Tostitos Artisan Recipe Roasted Garlic and Black Bean tortilla chips which are so yummy! And how about spring rolls? You can get those in the freezer section of a bulk warehouse too. =D If you wanted a couple of platters that look a little fancier, you could get one of those shrimp cocktail platters from Costco. It looks like the sticker says $37.99


And they also have this large tub of marinated mozzarella balls (olive oil and herbs), and they often have small tomatoes like grape tomatoes. You could make little skewers with mozzarella balls and tomatoes and drizzle a little balsamic vinegar over for a little extra flavor.


Check out Stop & Shop’s platters. They also have a shrimp cocktail platter, the large shrimp is 51-60ct per lb @ $15.99 per lb, so that might be cheaper than Costco. They also have a very pretty brie and strawberries platter that’s $20. I ordered it for an event in college, and it wasn’t a small wheel of brie, it was pretty big and came with a good amount of strawberries. 



Costco also makes cakes, so if you didn’t want to go through the hassle of baking cupcakes, you could have a dessert bar and just buy cookies and cakes from Costco. They’re pretty big, so you could just cut them up small. They have cream puffs that are pretty good in the ice cream/frozen dessert section too. Here’s a blog that shows you how to transform grocery store cakes into wedding looking cakes:

Have you thought about the drinks you would be serving yet? If you had lemonade, a quick and easy way to make it look nice could be to toss a couple of thin slices of lemons in the punch bowl or beverage dispenser. ^_^


If you need any serveware, Dollar Tree has them as well as some decorating supplies. In terms of tableware, such as napkins, utensils, plates, cups, you can get them in bulk from a bulk warehouse such as Costco (again, lol) –> they have the nice one that look like real silverware, but they’re actually plastic.

If you wanted to add cute personal touches, here are some pictures as inspiration. There’s plenty of DIY, budget friendly stuff you can do for your wedding: 

(You can find glasses for $1 The Christmas Tree Shop or Dollar Tree –> candles for $1 too)

Using lights to make a pretty backdrop. Smile

Hang up some clotheslines and put your pictures up!

 Cake in a jar as a favor!




Post # 7
87 posts
Worker bee

How about asking guests to bring a homemade dessert (and the recipe) for a potluck dessert bar? You could even have a mini-cookbook as your favor!

Post # 8
766 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: October 2014

@Lyssie:  For your invitation, save the dates, programs, etc (anything using paper) just download GIMP and go to  You can make your own, buy the paper you want and have them printed and cut at kinkos.  Just choose a normal size like 5 X 7 or 5.5 X 8.5 so you know you can find appropriately sized envelopes.

Post # 9
263 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: July 2014

I’m sure you can do it.  We originally set our budget around 5 -7K for 50 people and we’re now at about 10-11K with the guest list in the 40s.  Mind you much of that can be recovered with the sale of everything I have bought for the wedding and will resell.   The reason for the bump was because I started to get very upset with the work involved and the idea of how much work the day of would be was making me want to call it off (we’ll be serving food now with paid servers) and with all the work going in I wanted a videographer to be there…. and then we fell in love with a couple details that added up.

Post # 9
219 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: December 2014 - Temple Beth Am/Love is Blind

I totally get where you’re coming from, we set a $6k (in total it’ll probably be about $10k, with everything that others are gifting us) budget and it really takes a lot of time and research to stick to it.  

1. For invitations check out Vista Print, they have coupon code deals all the time and we got all of our invites for $35!  

2. I actually got my dress on the TJMaxx website (I know, that sounds crazy) and it was only $169 with free shipping, but I know a lot of department stores also have affordable and pretty options.

3. The guest list is inevitably the absolute worst part and we are still working on that, but we have limited to close family members (siblings, parents, grandparents, aunts/uncles, cousins) and very very close friends, which brought us to about 75.  

4. We actually looked at getting platters from our local supermarket, because we were going to have the wedding in a backyard and those were pretty well priced and delicious, they also had lovely cakes.  

You’re definitely on the right track! It’s just going to take a lot of time and energy!

Post # 10
1473 posts
Bumble bee

To asnwer some of your questions…

1. I think it’s rude to ask for a discount for the photography. It’s wrong to ask for a gift. If you’re close friends, she might offer a discount but I wouldn’t outright ask for one.

2. Get a tent! Yes! You can’t count on the weather. I went to a wedding WITH tents where it rained and it was miserable and cold. I can’t imagine if there had been no tents… you can’t make your guests sit in the rain. You need to have a backup.


3. You could have the ceremony in the reception space. I think that’s probably most common for people who don’t get married in a church. It may just require some setup and take down in between, depending how big the yard is. The outdoor wedding I was at where it rained, they ended up having the ceremony in a church afterall because of the rain. (Again, have a backup for the ceremony).


Post # 11
821 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: July 2015

I just wanted to comment on the photography piece. In my opinion, I think it would be very rude to ask for a discounted package and “have it be her wedding gift to you”. No one is required to give you a gift for your wedding, especially someone who is not a guest, but a vendor. Also, it was very nice of you to paint her a picture, but that was your choice and shouldn’t influence the gift that she may or may not give to you. 


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Post # 12
5208 posts
Bee Keeper

Lyssie:  I think you’ve got some great advice from pp. My only contribution is to say that what your guests will remember is the food and entertainment, so that is where most of your reception budget should go. Of all the weddings I’ve gone to, I don’t remember the decor from any of them. 

Post # 13
110 posts
Blushing bee
  • Wedding: December 2014

2 ideas:

1. David’s Bridal: subscribe to their emails…. they have great discounts from time to time. 

2.Potted plants: Depending on the season, they can be really cheap. Besides, they’re eco-friendly and can be used as favors. You can even have some sort of contest/trivia/activity to see who gets them. 


Post # 14
904 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: January 1975


Tips for a Fun Wedding:

1. Food

2. Drink/Alcohol

3. Music (iPod)

You’re all set. The rest is just background fluff. We’re doing our Wedding on half your budget (same amt of guests – 50). Your expectations seem realistic for staying in budget, as long as you’re strict with it. You’ll be able to pull it off with that amount, and everyone will have a good time! They’re there to see the marriage between you & your FI, just make sure to feed them so they do t pass out. And congrats on your recent engagment!!!!

Post # 15
149 posts
Blushing bee
  • Wedding: July 2012 - Baker Park

Lyssie: Hi. It can be done. We stuck to a $5,000 budget for 120 guests. Here’s how we did it (we got married in MD):

We had our wedding on a Sunday during the day so that fact that it wasn’t a Saturday wedding helped.

We had the ceremony in a local park under a beautiful weeping willow, next to a gorgeous bell tower for FREE. We just had to fill out paperwork with the city.

We made our own invites (I used Michael’s coupons to get kits for $10 each), save-the-dates (Vistaprint), and wedding favors (we gave out personalized coasters that my girlfriends and I made). 

We found a photographer on Craigslist. She was looking to build her portfolio and we were her first wedding. She charged us $350 and was with us for the entire day. She even got photos of me getting ready. We were really pleased with her work. 

I contacted a local cosmetology school and got them to do hair and makeup for the entire wedding party for next to nothing (we did have to drive out to the school on the morning of the wedding, but they were super excited and opened on a Sunday for us).

I had my bridesmaids carry parasols instead of flowers. The parasols were like $6.00 each and looked really pretty.

My husband’s tux was free because they had a special where if you had five people rent a tux, the groom’s tux was free. My gown was free (through a program called Brides Across America – for military members and their spouses).

Because we were having a Sunday reception from 12-4pm, we got an EXCELLENT deal for our venue. We had our reception at an art gallery and they charged us $850 TOTAL for the venue. The rental rate included tables, chairs, linens, decorations – they even used flowers from their garden for our centerpieces (the roses in their garden matched our wedding colors).

I was able to work out a deal with our favorite restaurant. A Peruvian place that we LOVE. They charged us $10 a head and provided rotisserie chicken, mac & cheese, salad, rolls, cookies soda and water. Perfect for a lunch reception. We also purchased our own alcohol and had a specialty drink, “cupid’s cocktail.” I contacted our local community college and found two servers who worked in the cafeteria who were looking to make a little extra money…they served the food and cut the cake. Speaking of cake…we got our cake from a grocery store. They did an AMAZING job.

There were tons of other things we did to save money. Our goal was to pay everything in cash and not enter our marriage with any wedding debt. We did just that and had a beautiful, fun wedding. Think outside the box, stick to your budget, remember it’s YOUR day (don’t try to please anyone – do it your way).  Good luck!


  • This reply was modified 1 year, 3 months ago by  AGIJAY.
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