No Frills Can Be Harder Than You Thought

What is the most important part of a no frills wedding?

Most places you will find are either massive, too expensive, or won’t allow me to bring anything in that isn’t from an approved caterer. (Tip: search for self catered venues. Here is a luxurious one.)

If you are looking for a place under $500, which isn’t too difficult, it can be a stretch to meet the first three criteria. If your budget is more like $1000, but isn’t set because you’ve just got engaged you can make some preliminary you have more time to find something suitable.

Most venues cater to the people who want ridiculously extravagant weddings, this is what makes them money. As a venue you only have 365 opportunities a year. And that is unrealistic. Since most people get married on Friday and Saturday they only have 104. Plus the small Sunday weddings that don’t bring in as much. If you want a place that is indoors you will also have to find one that offers chairs and tables. Or you will have to rent them elsewhere.

This is the no frills version, and when done right it can be a blast.

That’s it.


That said, I find places like restaurants and wine bars that have a back room are also great, especially places that put effort into their ambiance. Some theaters have nice rooms, or arts centers, museums, and the like. I would try that depending on what kind of feel you’re going for.

My suggestion would be to look at your local bridal magazines every city over a hundred thousand has one!

More ideas that will give you a beautiful nifty, and unforgeable backdrop are things publicly funded, University museums. These venues are fantastic, and also really cheap compared to several other venues, especially for brides on a budget. I have seen absolutely breathtaking weddings for a little over $1000 and that was for ceremony, reception, set-up/tear down, centerpieces, decorations, and complete use of the facility for the wedding party for 9 hours. Of course $1000 isn’t pocket change, but comparable venues were charging $3000-5000 for much less.

Cute “Free” Printable Invitations

If you are looking for “free” invitations for your wedding there are a number of different options out there that are worth your time. I said “free” in quotes because you will still need to print them which does cost some money.

A wedding invitation suite.

Also you can find the matching:

It Isn’t the Wedding It’s The Time and Location

Wedding costs are so incredibly specific to your area that unless you read about someone’s experience who got married in the same town/city as you, you won’t really be able to glean that much from their experience.

That being said if you get married in Los Angeles (Santa Monica) you can do it for under 5k. In Beverly Hills that will get your guest catered, maybe. The three biggest components that shaved off money for me were:

  • Number of guests: this was easily the biggest factor, and also allows some of your other cost-saving measures to be feasible. If you host ~35 people at your wedding.
  • Timing: Get married on a Monday. This alone could accounted for 50% of our savings. Because it was during a weekday, your reception venue may give you a discount, and your photographer might give you a rebate was well since it is a dead time for them. Talk to the photographer about it. I once spoke with a photographer who said that she gets non-weekend/non-Friday weddings about once every two YEARS, which was why the discount was so worth it for her. She is a very successful and well-known photographer in my area.
  • Venue: Because there were only a few dozen people, you are able to get married anywhere, even on a beach for free. Make sure that you contact city officials and have them confirm that you gathering is allowed, in most cases the cost is nothing since you won’t need a permit. Find a party company and rent chairs and tables from them to be set up at the venue, again a Monday wedding will save you big.
  • Decorations/party favors: Spend the time making the decorations that you will need for the reception by hand, or ordering things from places that don’t normally do wedding business (which brought down prices dramatically). For example, you can order pens to give away in bulk from an unsuspecting company stationery supply company. Instead of a guestbook considers something a little niftier. For example you can purchase blank jigsaw puzzles online, then lay them out at the reception location, your guests can draw and sign. Then together on our 1 year anniversary you can re-assemble the puzzle.

There’s more, but those are the big ones.

Nifty Frugal Weddings That Look Great

A wedding can be expensive, and one under 10K is almost impossible to plan if you use the old standards.

The main and most effective way to save money is a smaller guest list. That multiplier will cost you more than any individual item ever would.

Decide what you REALLY want and care about. Think really hard on this, and then focus your attention there. Decide what you don’t care about and don’t waste your money on these things. Frugal is an objective term; my recent wedding cost enough that likely no one here would call it frugal but to me I think it was; each thing we spent money on was carefully thought about and decided to be necessary for what we wanted. If you really want a formal sit down dinner of high quality food then do it; you won’t be happy with pizza or a potluck. But maybe you don’t need fancy cocktails before dinner and can cut those out. Same thing with an open bar: we decided it was a priority so even though it costs more we went for it.

At the same time maybe you don’t care about any of those items and cut them all: I know someone who has a Sunday morning wedding with a nice light brunch after and no alcohol: it was cheaper than a standard wedding and still nice and everyone had a good time.

Don’t get sucked into “traditions” that you don’t care about. I recommend this book that we read, called “a practical wedding” by Meg Keene, it explains how all the “traditions” that people will get bent out of shape about actually are not long standing traditions but recent things designed to take your money. If it’s something you want then do it and don’t feel any shame about it, but if you don’t care about it then don’t waste a bunch of money and ignore anyone who complains.

I recommend focusing on WHEN things need to be done as a guide for possible frugality too. Remember that with a wedding everything will cost you either time or money and you need to pick. Meaning that if you want it cheaper it will mean more time and work for you, and if you want it easier and faster then it costs more money. So anything that can be done well in advance and will still be fine come the big day (like making decorations or things like that) I recommend taking advantage of as you can save money without too much extra stress and get this done when you actually have available time. I tried/recommend avoiding anything that requires your personal time in the week before the wedding as you will already be super busy and stressed in the days right close to the big day; it might save you some money to do your own flowers but the bride and groom shouldn’t be up until 4am the night before the wedding day making arrangements. This is the reason that we did a huge amount of DIY decorations/favors/etc (including pies for the dessert that we made and cooked and then froze until the wedding!) but you can hired someone to do the flowers and other perishable things (you will just have to pay).

There are different kinds of expenses when you do an outdoor DIY wedding on private property like that. We had our wedding at my grandma’s home in the country, and we had to rent a big tent (in case it rained) with all the furnishings, audio equipment, a generator, and washrooms. The tent, lights, tables, chairs and linen rentals were one of our biggest expenses.

It was beautiful and I loved it. But it’s not necessarily cheaper than an inexpensive venue.

I read on here about one couple that used plates from goodwill and just donated them back after they were done with them. Apparently they were cheaper than renting or buying and also more eco friendly than disposable.

Also, my buddy bought a whole bunch of goodwill stuff as decorations. He bought used chandeliers and spray painted them silver and hung them from trees outside to provide lights for the reception. They had the wedding at her parents farm. They looked really cool and it turned out to be a very effective and stylish. They were about 20 feet up so the metallic spray paint looked fine.