Simply put, weddings can be very costly. In fact, as of 2011, couples could expect the average wedding to cost $27,800, according to a survey conducted by The Knot. However, while planning a wedding for $400 may be a big challenge, it's not impossible. If you are overly strict with your budget, have a bit of creativity and add plenty of do-it-yourself touches, you can create a small wedding with memories that will last a lifetime. (See References 1, 2, 3 and 4.)
Make a list of the most important elements of your wedding. For $400 you can't have everything, but if you determine what is most important to you, this will help to eliminate any unnecessary spending. Rank items in order of importance such as photography, cake, venue, music and so on. (See Reference 1.)
Put together a guest list, but be selective. Having 400 people at a $400 wedding is unreasonable, but keeping your list to 50 or 75 is much more practical. (See Reference 1.)
Determine what you can get for free. For instance, you might ask a creative friend to take your photos, ask to use a relative's land for your reception, or ask a minister to officiate at an outdoor reception so you don't have to pay to use a church or venue. (See References 1, 2 and 3.)
Break down your budget. Once you have a list of all of the things that you will need in order of importance, and the items that you can get for free, divide your $400 into the remaining categories. For instance, you may want to spend $50 on a wedding dress that you find in the newspaper or at a thrift store. Another option is to purchase a white sheet cake to serve as a wedding cake for less than $50. (See References 1, 2 and 3.)
Set aside an extra $20 for any overspending. (See Reference 2.)
Do it yourself. While there are some things you'll have to pay full price for, such as a wedding license, there are plenty of things you can do yourself to stick to your budget. For example, consider making CDs for your wedding music, collecting wildflowers or daisies from a field for your bouquet and decorations, and sewing items such as a ring pillow and garter. (See Reference 1 and 2.)
Leave your guests with a little something. Just because you are having an inexpensive wedding, it doesn't mean you should forgo thanking your guests. Wedding favors can be as simple as giving your guests a small bag of candy. It's the thought that counts!