We Can’t Afford a Wedding: 7 Best Options

Weddings are expensive. Or rather, they can be. When my partner and I wanted to tie the knot, we couldn’t afford a wedding (or not the whole shebang that other couples plan and have).

With my best friend’s help, we got creative so that our wedding could cost as little as possible. You may wonder what’s the point then? If you can’t have a fairy tale wedding, why get married?

I believe that the day is about my partner and I, and just because we worked on a budget, doesn’t mean the day was any less special. In fact, it was more special because I didn’t have to worry about decision-overload or having endless options to choose from.

If you are in the same boat with no or a very limited wedding budget, here are the best options to make your special day extra special.

What Are Your Best Options When You Can’t Afford a Wedding?

If you can’t afford a wedding, there are various options to make the wedding ceremony work for your budget (no matter how limited it is). You can restrict the number of guests and choose a micro wedding, minimony, Zoom wedding, or elopement. Cut venue costs by using free/affordable venues like your backyard, a field, a farm, a botanical garden, a local or national park, a museum, or the beach. Ask your guests to take photos and videos of the special day, design the wedding invite yourself and email it, and make a playlist you can play via your laptop and speakers. Choose a naked or minimalist wedding cake, bake wedding cupcakes, and ask your guests to donate to a charity of your choice in lieu of wedding party favors.

7 Best Options When You Can’t Afford a Wedding

There are so many elements that go into planning a “traditional” wedding, from booking the photographer, venue, caterer, band and sending out invitations, choosing a theme and getting the decorations to choosing a dress and tux, finding a church and minister, and so much more.

Here are your best options to cut costs and have an affordable wedding:

Option 1: Micro Wedding, Minimony, Zoom Wedding, or Elopement

If you can’t afford the whole fancy-shmancy to-do, opt for a micro wedding, minimony, or elopement to decrease costs and work within your budget:

  • Micro wedding: a wedding ceremony with a maximum of 50 guests (immediate family and close friends only)
  • Minimony: a wedding ceremony with your loved ones only or just a moment of commitment between you and your partner; can have an optional sequel wedding planned for months afterward when you have saved up to afford a slightly more elaborate wedding
  • Zoom Wedding: a wedding ceremony where you and your partner and potentially a few loved ones are at the same venue while the rests of your guests attend the wedding via a video-conferencing platform like Zoom
  • Elopement: with you and your partner and a witness; usually spur of the moment, but can be planned too

Option 2: Affordable Venues

Hiring a wedding or reception venue is a big expense. Luckily, there are cheaper options available; however, you should check state, local, and country laws and find out if you need to apply for a permit or get permission.

Affordable venues you can considered for an “unaffordable” wedding are:

  • Your backyard or a friend’s backyard
  • Local public parks
  • National parks
  • National forests
  • National monuments
  • The beach
  • City Hall
  • The courthouse
  • Museums
  • Gardens and greenhouses
  • Schools and colleges
  • Farms and ranches
  • Warehouses and lofts
  • A field

Option 3: Photographer and Videographer Alternative

A professional photographer and videographer are pricey. But you have free resources at your disposal.

Pretty much everyone these days has a smartphone, so rope in your guests or a few of them to take wedding photos and videos. They can then share these to a private page on Facebook or a cloud drive.

Option 4: Free Invitations

The design and printing costs of wedding invitations is another aspect you can cut out.

You or a trusted friend can design invitations on a free online graphic design tool (and you don’t need a degree in design to use Canva, for example). Once ready, you can download the invitations and email them, or you can share them via a messaging app.

Option 5: Affordable Entertainment

While a live band and DJ helps engage your guests and entertain them, you can rather create a playlist (or two) on Spotify or another digital music service.

Play your playlist via your laptop and speakers – that you can hire or borrow from a friend or family member.

Option 6: Wedding Favor Savers

You may believe (like I first did) that wedding party favors are a must. You probably got a little thank you gift at every wedding you’ve attended, right?

But the truth is that wedding favors AREN’T a must. If you have the budget for them, great. If not, then also great.

There are great wedding party favor items you can buy for less than $1 each, or you can rather request your guests to donate any amount to a charity of your choice. That way, you can give back too.

Option 7: Go Minimalist on the Wedding Cake

You don’t need to have a wedding cake, but this is something that’s so traditional that you may not see how you can’t have one.

Your wedding cake doesn’t need to be elaborative and cost you an arm and a leg.

There are stunning minimalist cake ideas or naked cake ideas where the bare minimum on a cake can be stunning. Or opt for cupcakes with white buttercream icing and edible pearls and glitter.

With online tutorials on how to pipe buttercream frosting flowers and more, you, your mom, or a friend can make a visually pleasing cake (and one that tastes yummy too!).

Affordable Wedding Ideas FAQs

What can I do instead of a traditional wedding if I’m tight on cash?

If you don’t have a big budget for a wedding, there are various options that are affordable. You can have a backyard wedding, combine the wedding and honeymoon, elope, or get married at the courthouse and have a small reception ceremony.

How do I plan a low-budget wedding?

When you plan a wedding on a small budget, carefully choose your guests and limit the guests to those you love, host the ceremony at your house or a friend’s, buy wedding decorations and the dress on Black Friday, use everyday items and spruce them up for your decorations, don’t hire a caterer and opt for a BBQ, and get your friend ordained to perform the ceremony.

The Final Word

My partner and I opted for a weekday minimony with our parents and best friends present. The Redwoods in Muir Woods was a beautiful (affordable) wedding spot, our loved ones took photos of our special day, and we had a BBQ reception at my parent’s place.

So you can have a special day, work with your budget, say your “I dos,” and not feel like you are missing out on something. Your wedding day is about you and your partner making a formal commitment to each other, after all.