How to Plan a Wedding Without Breaking the Bank

A wedding is the celebration of two people ready to ask God to give them the grace they need to fulfill His mission in their lives. Of course, many of us don’t realize that in the beginning, and we are so excited by all the glitz and glamor and the social media pressure to have all the things and spend all the money to make this day the end all be all. It takes so much self-control and firm decisions to stay strong and stay on budget. If you are planning a wedding, I suggest that you decide up-front what you can afford or what your families plan to contribute. Whether it’s $500 or $50,000, it is very wise for the couple to follow a budget. This will help to discern what is important to the couple. Traditionally, the bride’s family pays for the wedding and the groom’s family pays for the rehearsal dinner. 

When I was engaged, I knew what I wanted: to be a stay-at-home mom to a big, debt-free Catholic family. I wanted a lifestyle that allowed me to stay home with however many kids God sent me. And so, our wedding and honeymoon were very simple: we spent a week at a friend’s beach house and had a great time. My husband Rob’s dad offered us some money as a wedding gift to use for our wedding or honeymoon, and he said we could use it any way we pleased. We put this gift toward a down payment on a townhouse. 

The average wedding in Maryland costs $33,800. This is fine if you have the money, aren’t in debt, won’t go into debt, and are living within your means. Each couple must decide what is important to them. For some it is the clothes, others the food, maybe the venue, the flowers, the location, or music. All these add up, so it is important to decide what is your favorite and give and take on the others and follow a budget. We have been very creative in how we pay for our daughters’ weddings. Both my daughters had a budget-friendly wedding. 

Our daughters were each given $5,000 (I know we are horrible) to do with as they wanted and decide together with their fiancé what was important to them. One daughter decided she wanted a small wedding and spent more on a dress. The other had to have a big wedding because her fiancé's family was so large, and she found a dress on eBay for $100. It is all about finding different wants vs. needs. We all had a blast, and many hands volunteered to make each of the weddings incredibly special. We know that God and family come first, and that marriage is a lifetime—not a one-day party that costs thousands of dollars and puts people into debt. 

Some of our best wedding tips are:

When buying formal wear, it is cheaper to buy a tux than rent one. Many buy suits instead of tuxes and wear them again. We even found some tuxes at Goodwill in great shape. Even wedding dresses can be inexpensive when buying new or used. Look around before being sucked into a really expensive dress. I got my mother of the bride and groom dresses at a thrift store and consignment shop, and even borrowed one from a friend. We found bridesmaid dresses on Amazon for under $50 that were very nice. If you are smart, you can search for deals before buying at full price; it all adds up fast.

Food: Everyone loves a good meal! For my first daughter, we made all the appetizers and hired a friend and her two daughters to serve. We asked some relatives to pitch in and make some family favorites. Everyone loves Aunt Shari’s cheese cubes and Nana Helen’s crab dip! My daughter even asked a friend to make a cupcake tower. We ordered main dishes from an Italian restaurant, and everything was fantastic. My second daughter had a much larger crowd. We made three appetizer tables with fruit tray, veggie tray, cheese and crackers, seven-layer dip and chips, and her favorite California tortilla queso. We ordered the main meal from a local caterer and added our own salad and bread to help cut down from the fancy main dishes. 

Music is another tricky money consumer. My first daughter used an iPod with a playlist she and her husband made. We hooked it up to speakers, her brother hit the button when needed, and it was just right. My other daughter got a DJ and it worked out just as well. Some people want live music, others hire a DJ, and some just have background music. This all depends on if you want dancing and how your venue is set up. 

Deciding on a venue can depend on where you live and if you want a place close to the church, or if you are going all out-destination wedding. They all have their pluses and minuses. Of course, the perfect situation is having a church with a very nice inexpensive hall attached to it. It seemed that prior to Covid many of the wedding receptions we went to were around 30 min away. It is hard to find an inexpensive place close by, so many of the couples had to pick one a short distance away to make do. Both of my daughters were extremely blessed. I know God provides when needed; sometimes we must remember to invite HIM to the wedding. Shoot, His first miracle was at a wedding. My first daughter had her reception at the neighborhood clubhouse. The kind man running it charged us just $200 and called it a family party instead of a wedding reception since it was just about 70 of us. I am pretty sure he felt sorry for us since he knew she was the oldest of 12 kids at the time. My other daughter was truly blessed because we searched everywhere local for a place big enough, but they were very pricey and not that nice. When mentioning this to some friends at church, one lady who worked in the Catholic school office where my daughter taught said to just ask the principal, since Sister would probably be happy to let her use the school hall. Bingo: not only did she offer the hall but chairs, tables, tablecloths, and use of the big kitchen as well, for FREE. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” (Mt 7:7-8)

Many times, the season decides the flowers. My first daughter was married in August, and she ordered all different purple flowers from a wholesale company in California. We got some talented friends together and put together some beautiful bouquets for the tables and the bridal party. My second daughter wanted simple white roses; her wedding was in December after Christmas, so the church was full of beautiful flowers. We just picked up flowers at the local grocery store and put them together. 

Transportation: this wasn’t a money concern for us because we have a 15-passenger van and most of our driving was local. My oldest daughter’s in-laws rented her a limo from a friend, and she got to drive first class! 

Photography is another very important part of the wedding event. My oldest daughter found a photographer that she really liked. Instead of buying his whole wedding package that was too much for her budget, she asked his hourly rate and found that more reasonable. She paid him for two hours and had family and friends take photos of the rest of the day. Hey, today’s phones take better photos than most cameras these days! My second daughter found an amazing woman who took photos as a side hobby and hired her. She was a dream come true and did a fantastic job of capturing all the fun. 

The last two smaller fees my daughters had were alcohol and wedding guest favors. My oldest daughter did beer, wine, and one signature drink. Since we aren’t big drinkers, she could take back what we didn’t open. My second daughter just did beer and wine and her in-laws paid for it. They also took back what wasn’t used. My oldest daughter did small picture frames as favors; they had names on them for the place setting. My other daughter had cups with the wedding date on them. Both were very cute!

Other small fees you need to remember when adding up your budget are invitations, hair and makeup, wedding party gifts, wedding bands, rental fees, priest fee, marriage license, and any other tips you need for servers or drivers. So many small things add up, so be prepared. 

Make sure you and your fiancé don’t forget that marriage is a sacrament and to call on the graces God has for you to help each other become saints. The wedding is just a day; a day to celebrate and ask God to bless these two people in their future with Christ as the center of their relationship.  

For more tips and tricks on saving money, follow me on Facebook (Sam Lancaster Fatzinger) and Instagram (samjmj), or visit FATZFAM.COM and For a free download on how we pay for weddings, click here.

Written by the Holy Rukus