When planning a small wedding, it’s understandable that you want to stick to a modest budget without sacrificing quality. And, though wedding costs can quickly add up – from decorations, to venue, to food – there are ways to balance your spending so the money you do spend is spent on important parts of the wedding, and not expenses that will quickly be forgotten or thrown away.
I’ve put together this guide on what to skip and what to savor to help you decide which parts of your wedding are most important to spend money on, and which parts you can go without, DIY, or order for cheaper in order to save money in the long run.
SKIP: Expensive invitations
There is an abundance of options when it comes to invitations for a small wedding. There is no reason to spend hundreds on special paper and printing for invitations that your guests will likely toss out as soon as they mark your date in their calendar. Instead, you can DIY your invitations using a photo printing program from a drugstore, complete with envelopes from a craft store, or even send invites via email or phone. Professional language and a few dollars spent to make sure the invites look good (if they are digital or on paper) will go a long way in ensuring your invites don’t seem cheap or quickly thrown together.
SAVOR: A great photographer
If there is a must when it comes to quality, it is a great photographer. Don’t be afraid to spend a good portion of your budget on a highly-rated and recommended photographer, as photos will be how you remember your special day for the rest of your lives. Skipping out on an experienced and professional photographer will make it difficult to capture beautiful wedding memories, which are a must regardless of the size or extravagance of your wedding.
SKIP: An expensive indoor venue
If you are planning a small wedding, one of the easiest ways to cut down on costs without looking tacky is to use an inexpensive outdoor venue such as a beach or mountainside instead of renting a large indoor venue that can cost thousands. For many outdoor wedding sites, such as a beach, the only thing you need to purchase is a permit. This will allow you to have a beautiful, natural wedding without spending a cent on a building rental. Not to mention, outdoor photos often turn out better than those taken indoors, regardless of venue.
SAVOR: Tasty, high-quality snacks
Instead of serving a large, low-quality/inexpensive meal, opt instead for a smaller assortment of high-quality snacks such as fruits, desserts, and cheeses to keep your guests satisfied without breaking the bank. (Keep in mind that, if you decide to serve snacks instead of a full meal, you should let your guests know ahead of time or host your wedding reception at a time that is not traditionally mealtime.) This will allow you to feed guests more expensive foods without using a large portion of your budget on a buffet or large dinner.
Of course, what to skip and what to savor ultimately boils down to your priority list. If you haven’t done our “Setting your priorities” activity, connect with me as I’m creating a FREE simple course/activity for how to set your priorities and stick with them throughout your planning. This activity will help you to determine what to skip and what to savor according to your vision.
UPDATE: Planning a "Simple" Backyard Wedding
Backyard weddings were popular even BEFORE Covid-19 forced many couples to scale-back their larger celebrations due to venue closures and capacity restrictions. As simple as they may seem, there are some logistics, preparations, and details you need to consider before your (or your family's home) become the site to hot and event. Isabella Caprario wrote and excellent article for Porch.com titled "The Ultimate Guide to Planning a Backyard Wedding". I encourage you to to consider all the elements before committing your abode to a venue. We've done many weddings either at a vacation rental property, backyards at private homes, or even family ranches. So, with careful consideration and preparation, it can be done!
Their story: “We met on New Years Eve at a bar! I (Kristi) was DONE dating, but said “yes” anyway. We started our business 2 years ago and it's been a crazy journey. He has 4 kids (29-17) and mine are 7 & 9. Wow! His grandkids are friends of my kids - oh well! It's fun anyway. We wanted to do a Mexico destination, but travel warnings are scaring our parents/siblings. So, we figured: we live here, and let's celebrate in Colorado instead. We can still make it a destination wedding in Vail!"
Wedding details: We started working with Kristi well before she had a date and location in mind. It was important for them to have easy logistics and not have their family trek up on the mountain via a gondola. It was important for them to have family, great food, fun in an informal but nice environment. The entire clan of about #25 guests stayed in a cluster of townhomes in Lion Square Village at Vail. We convoyed out to the ceremony site on Vail Pass, exchanged vows, celebrated with hubby and ate dessert first at the site, then returned to the townhome where a private chef had prepared an amazing meal.
Their story: like so many of our clients, Ali and Michale met online. "We wanted a small wedding in the mountains because we didn't want to plan a large, elaborate wedding. We wanted our families with us when we "eloped". We both love the mountains and are big hikers, so it seemed like a wonderful place to get married."
Wedding details: Looking back at our initial contact with the couple for their Ceremony Site Report, there top priorities were having good food, an outdoors ceremony site accessible to family members, and a great house to have a small reception. We designed just that for their wedding day!
The bride loves coral, so what better way to incorporate color than with flowers and cake! The bride held a colorful & garden style bouquet in mostly coral & peach with purple & fuchsia and blue accents, created with dahlias, garden roses and other seasonal blooms with accents of mixed green succulents.
The wedding day started with getting ready at a vacation home located in the stunning Shock Hill area of Breckenridge and a private "first-look" (with just the couple). We all caravanned out to the ceremony site, Sapphire Point Overlook. After the ceremony in which the groom's brother performed, we shot some fun photos before heading back to the vacation home where a private chef (Jen with the Happy Cuisiniere) was waiting with appetizers and drinks!
Their story: "After meeting online, our first date was at a park to introduce our three dogs. The rest is history! We love the Colorado lifestyle and all the outdoor recreation it affords and feel very fortunate to now call this beautiful state home." From day one, Ashley and Michael were on the same page about wanting an intimate mountaintop ceremony with those closest to them in attendance. We are happy to have found this gorgeous couple to help pull it all together for them!
Wedding details: they rented at a large vacation home near Keystone, Colorado, overlooking Lake Dillon and hired a private chef to cook a celebration dinner for their small party of 12 guests. Her bouquet details: a rustic, voluptuous, garden style bouquet in pink, coral, peach, cream hues with accents of blue created with a mix of locally grown garden roses and other seasonal blooms and mixed foliage. Stems finished in rustic “burlap & lace” style.
Their story: "We met on a blind date via mutual work friends. We have quite frankly a true love story. We both were married before and both in a place in life that we were comfortable with just ourselves. One blind date changed our future. We are each other's equal and enjoy how we each compliment our daily lives. We chose a small intimate wedding because we want to take in the moment that we become a spouse to each other rather than the "big hoopla" of getting married."
Wedding details: Planning a "rogue style" microwedding at the Maroon Bells takes special consideration. Our couple rented a nearby vacation home and drove in to the scenic area after the gates open at 5:00 pm (otherwise, visitors have to take a shuttle). They walked to a spot they liked, and their family-only guests (10 in total) stood around them as they exchanged vows. We celebrated after the wedding with photos. A private chef greeted them back at the vacation house where they celebrated with cheers and cake: raspberry mousse for the top tier, and chocolate buttercream for the bottom tier.
A surprise engagement AND wedding!
Their story: This was one of the most unique weddings we have planned - a surprise engagement followed the next day by a surprise wedding. What?! Yes - the groom and both his/her families were all conspiring a destination surprise wedding trip to Colorado, but the bride did not know a thing about it!
About the Couple: Brittany and Greg met six years ago in Fort Collins, having been introduced by mutual friends. "We hit it off right away, and after just a few dates...we knew we had something special." They decided to do a small wedding because it was always their vision to have a wedding with just our closest family members. "We wanted our special day to be exactly that...special! And by doing a small wedding, it allows us to really enjoy the moment with our closest loved ones, without all the additional stress that larger weddings can potentially bring with them."
Wedding details: Brittany and Greg were planning a micro-wedding of less than 12 guests. One of our favorite spots for this is in Rocky Mountain National Park. They rented a vacation home near Allenspark, Colorado where they returned after their wedding for scrumptious dinner prepared by a private chef. Because they enjoy spending time in Hawaii, their style, aqua color and inspiration is based on the sea, yet with a Colorado vibe. We designed a wild-looking bouquet with a couple of her favorites: succulents and lilies.
By Wendee Vezzetti
Mother, student, planner, gardener, mountain biker, entrepreneur, librarian, hiker, snowboarder, reader, dork, chocoholic, trail runner and creative.