Budget Wedding – I Don't Know Where to Start!

posted 1 year ago in Reception
Post # 2
1463 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: September 2021 - Australia

Congratulations ony our engagement!


As a person who has planned many large events for work (but not weddings) my experience is about 70-95% attendance.

You generally are expected to provide your numbers to your venue 1 month (roughly) ahead of the date and are charged accordingly, so it is sensible to give a RSVP date well in advance of when that number is expected and follow up with your guests if they don’t respond.

Usually in your RSVP follow up, you’d ay something like ‘we require a response from you to finalize our catering numbers. If we haven’t heard from you by x date, you will be marked as not attending’. I’ve seen one RSVP card that said ‘if you don’t rsvp by x date, please bring a chair and a sandwich’ – which makes it very clear that catering will be provided based on RSVPs only!

I would say with respect to the other aspects, your hire company, venue coordinator etc can help you figure out the right amount of alcohol, tent size, etc.

One of the great thing with our venue is that we don’t need to coordinate different vendors. The venue will fit maximum number of guests, and they are a restaurant/winery so they are the ones to manage food and beverage options. They also have a tent option and told us how much it would be to fit a group of our size, so we don’t need to go find all of this information by ourselves.

Post # 3
333 posts
Helper bee

We started with a budget, a loose guest list and then just started researching everything. You won’t get it all done straight away. We are 1 year into wedding planning and have the big things booked but we still have just under a year to go so the small things aren’t done yet. Start looking on Pinterest and deciding what sort of things you both like and you can see what sort of prices you’ll get.

Post # 4
1932 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: September 2020

I would definitely vote to start with some Pinterest boards given how much time you have. You have a lot of time to really enjoy the process and look at all of your options.

Post # 5
1649 posts
Bumble bee

Depends how budget you want to go – one of my friends got married with about 2 months notice, getting her family & church to help with dressmaking, flowers, food etc and it was super-cheap.  And great fun!

Start off by setting a budget and working out what your priorities are – for us, one of our priorities was a good photographer.  For someone else, it might be flowers or entertainment or bride & groom clothing.  Then work out how to cut your budget in the less-important areas. 

And remember that in most countries, all you need to get married is an officiant, a couple of witnesses and some paperwork, which is usually cheap.  Everything else is optional.  So don’t feel obliged to have everything you see on Pinterest or in those ‘must have’ Bridal mag articles!


Post # 6
221 posts
Helper bee

The biggest thing that will determine how much you’re going to spend is how many people you invite. So step one should be a rough idea of how small or large your guest list is. Depending on type of wedding and location either food/drink or venue is usually the biggest chunk of money and a lot of places have contracts that tie those things together. I had a year to plan my first wedding and those two things were done first and booked pretty shortly after engagement. The rest fell into place as we went. Photography is also another area that can really sky rocket price and for us came in right behind Food/venue. But of course you’ll have to sit down and figure out your priorities and what compromises you’re willing to make and where to focus your money. 

Post # 7
3105 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: October 2017

View original reply
@finally20:  I believe the very FIRST thing you should do is set the budget and then work backwards from there. Knowing how much money you are willing to spend will dictate everything from guest list to venue to photographer. Look at your finances. Set a firm budget. Then start to do your research with a spreadsheet calculator in tow. No need to look on Pinterest and save pictures of $100,000 weddings when your budget is $20,000. That’s a recipe for disaster. Congrats on your engagement! And happy planning!!

Post # 8
2803 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: May 2015 - St Peter\'s Church, East Maitland, and Bella Vista, Newcastle

First, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that having a backyard wedding at home (or someone’s home!) is going to be cheaper, because a lot of the time it isn’t.  By the time you hire a tent, tables and chairs, a dance floor, all the cutlery and crockery, a bathroom trailer (because the house’s bathrooms are very likely to not be sufficient) and so on, it would have been cheaper and far, far less hassle and stress to rent a venue which provides all those things.  You’ve got loads of time, which is awesome, so you can start looking around to see what you can make work.  

Figure out how much you think you can save per month, multiply that by however many months there are between now and your rough date and that will give you your budget.  If other people offer money, that’s nice, but don’t count on it until it’s in your bank account (way too many stories in here where people have backed out of giving money at the last minute, when things have been booked and deposits paid).


There are loads of ways to save money, but the fastest one is to cut your guest list.  Generally the biggest proportion of a wedding budget goes on food and drink – so fewer people = less food and drink = savings.  If you really want to invite 300 people but serving them all a full meal is going to blow your budget, you can do a “cake and punch” reception – these are probably better described as afternoon tea and are shorter and not over a meal time.  So you might do a 2pm ceremony then straight into the reception and then everything winds up around 5pm.  The general etiquette is that if your reception takes place over a mealtime, you have to serve a full meal.  If you really want to do a full meal, there are cheaper options – BBQ and Mexican are often available at lower cost than traditional wedding catering.  While it might seem like a nice idea to do a potluck wedding, I would avoid that unless it’s for a small number (like, under 50) because it’s too hard to ensure everything stays at a safe temperature and you run a massive risk of food poisoning.  Likewise self-catering – you don’t want to spend your wedding day cooking and the stress is not something you want to have on a day you should be enjoying to the max.  

Bar – we just had beer, wine and soft drink.  Zero complaints from anyone and I certainly wouldn’t have the slightest issue if I went to a wedding and was offered that.  Signature drinks are a nice touch if you want to do that too, but don’t let anyone bully you into a full open bar unless that’s what you want.


Work out what the three most important things are for you, and get your fiancé to do the same.  For me it was food, photography and having a church ceremony.  For my husband, it was food, beer and the wedding not being too formal.  That’s generally a good starting point.  

I got a sample dress – that saved me $900 ($1400 reduced to $500).  My husband and his groomsmen wore suits they already owned, I got my bridesmaids’ dresses from lightinthebox which was way cheaper than getting similar dresses locally.  No-one sees your shoes, so you don’t need crazy expensive Louboutins or anything!

Post # 9
1615 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: June 2019 - City, State

Start by reading the book A Practical Wedding! 

Post # 10
53 posts
Worker bee

All the people that RSVP yes should be turning up. If they don’t that’s poor etiquette, just the same as anyone turning up but telling you that they wouldn’t be coming. Chase for RSVPs, not everyone will RSVP on time. 


If hiring a tent, ask the supplier what size you should get. You know your crowd better than I but my general rule is 20% won’t come (I am inviting 150 but expecting 120 to RSVP yes). 


How much food and alcohol depends on the event – is it a day event, an evening event, how do you want people to be looked after? We are doing canapés, 3 course meal + extra accompaniments during dinner and cake (in addition to plated dessert) because we are having a lot of alcohol and personally I hate when people don’t provide much food or drink for big events. 


Beer and wine should suffice for most of you have good variety. Spirits and cocktails are a lovely touch but definitely not needed. Signature cocktails will cost you more and imho are a waste. Open bars are fantastic! Imho I’m not a fan of paying for alcohol at a wedding, to me it’s tacky. 



Post # 11
4905 posts
Honey bee

You start with your budget.  You can’t plan anything until you know exactly how much money you have to work with.

Then you need to decide one of two things – are you going to let guest list determine what kind of wedding you have on that budget or are going to let the type of wedding you want with that budget determine your guest list?

You ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS plan for 100% attendance. So if you want to invite 200 people, you plan and budget for food and drink for 200.  Then when hard numbers are due to your caterer a week before the wedding you adjust the number down to your actual RSVP counts.  Your vendors should know precisely the amounts to provide or the size tent you need, etc. based on the rough number you provide (the number you invite) and the hard number you give shortly before the event (the number who confirmed yes).

So you have to be honest with yourself about what is most important to you and your budget and prioritize accordingly.  If having a “ballin’ wedding” with a full dinner and dancing is most important to you, but you only have a budget of $1000, you might only be able to invite 20 people to that type of wedding on that budget.  If it’s really important to you to be able to have all of your extended family and friends there and you want 200 people, then that budget might only be able to get you a cake and punch reception during a non-meal time.

So stop worrying about final details like signature cocktails for now. That’s stuff you worry about much later as you finalize details with your vendor. 

For now, you need to sit down with your fiance(e) and hammer out the big stuff:  exactly how much money do you have to work with, who are your VIPs that must be there (is that a list of 10 or a list of 100?), and what are the most important elements of the wedding to each of you (then prioritize them and rank them).  Once you know that, then start looking for venues and vendors within your budget that meets those needs.  You may end up finding out that your expectations of what things cost was unrealistic and you need to readjust or cut things out, which is why its important ahead of time to decide the exact budget and your priorities (especially since it sounds like you might be planning a DIY backyard wedding since you mention renting a tent – which just as a warning may cost more than an all inclusive venue because DIY means you’re paying for everything a la carte and it’s all on you to provide so explore all of your options).

Post # 12
1652 posts
Bumble bee


I had a huge, glamorous, 400 person wedding on a budget and people still think my wedding cost us a fortune. And it truly did not at all. 

first thing you need to do is make a rough guest list. Figure out who you want to invite and draw it up. The number of people will Decide where you can have it and how much it will cost.

Then you need to decide what kind of wedding you want. Indoor, outdoor, country club, music hall. Then start looking for places that hold the amount of people you have in mind.

We had our reception in the lobby of an art museum and it was awesome. It was only $700 for the entire night. Another good tip is to hire an outside caterer if you can. That alone saved us thousands. The guy we found did our food (which was incredible), our cake, and our flowers and he gave us an amazing deal on each. The place I went to had their own liquor license so that was honestly the most expensive thing since it was per person. We ended up getting top shelf for $11 a person. This was also back in 2012. But for my sisters wedding we had to buy our own and it was wayyyyyyy cheaper. She had beer, wine, and 4 signature drinks and we made up a little menu and everything. 

Shop around and enjoy this time!! It was one of my favorite times in my life! 

Post # 13
2 posts
  • Wedding: June 2019

I had a low budget intimate 20 people wedding in Iceland for under 30K. (Yes it’s possible!) It was planned by this amazing designer couple from New York (i think they live in Scanadanivia now)- I can’t recommend them enough! (https://www.mydreamywedding.com/) If you’re willing to travel your guests to Europe I’d say give them a call. They worked around our small budget and turned every small thing into an unforgettable moment! We were really impressed by what they did with the money we spent… We had so much fun and our guests said that was the best they’ve ever been, which is super flattering!! I’d not go with a big planning company if your budget is low. I found that small startups like the one we hired tend to work much harder and is more flexible with budget. They are also more unique and creative comparing to the package offers we found. Good luck!!

Post # 14
561 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: June 2021

Since you have some time before the wedding, I highly recommend the book “a practical wedding.” It helps you come up with a plan and the way it is written so so engaging and real. It also talks a bit about the history of weddings and how traditions have changed which I thought was interesting…a lot of the stuff we stress about because “it’s how weddings are done” are actually pretty recent additions. 

Post # 15
24 posts

just planned budget wedding. 

save $ by using church for both reception and ceremony, the venue eats a lot of cost 1800

food, catering is $$$, but Olive Garden will set it up and drop it off with everything you need!  For 40 people, 700

flowers grocery store 100

cske, used H-E-B saved money, 50 slices and 6″ cake to freeze $60!

bagpioer 150 (normally 300)

DJ friend 150 (normally 1000)  you can do own playlist and set up to church sound system 

Photo video are $$$ but found someone for 800. Save money by doing just ceremony and reception, not extra fluff 

we didn’t do invitations or favors (people throw them away)  didn’t do rehearsal dinner or breakfast send off


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