Weddings today tend to be extravagant affairs that take months, if not a year or more, to plan — at significant cost. Planning an inexpensive wedding quickly is doable but requires significant organization. Handling more of the details and preparation of the wedding yourself will reduce costs, since much of the wedding expense goes to time and labor charged by vendors.
Locate and secure your officiant and your ceremony and reception sites. Note that you will often save money by having both events at the same place. Most well-known sites will be booked, so contact smaller venues: They may offer discounted rates for reserving so close to your wedding date. Be flexible with dates and times to get the most inexpensive option. Also consider venues that are free of charge, such as a public park or a family member's backyard.
Shop for and purchase your wedding dress, bridesmaid's dresses and attire for the groom and groomsmen. Most wedding boutiques require at least six months' lead time, so go to larger stores where you can purchase dresses off the rack and have them altered. Determine what the groom and groomsmen will wear, then visit a formal-wear shop. Many stores offer deals on tuxedos if they are all purchased from the same place; often, the groom's tux will be free.
Design and purchase wedding invitations, which need to go out at least six weeks before your wedding. Visit a local print shop that can print the invitations quickly or purchase them from an online printer. Check the turnaround time — some places require more time to print invitations. To further cut costs, purchase a wedding invitation kit from a local crafts shop. Design the invitations on your home computer and print them out on the card stock included with the kit.
Choose the menu for the wedding. Meet with caterer to determine if their prices are within your budget. Serving light finger foods will be cheaper than serving a full meal. Also consider asking family members and friends who cook well to help prepare the food you will serve.
Order your wedding cake. Many bakeries have a standard wedding cakes to choose from that will be far less expensive than a custom cake. Another option: Order a smaller custom cake to cut and display for guests and sheet cakes to cut in a back room and serve your guests. Cupcakes are yet another less-expensive option.
Choose the decor and flowers. Visit local florists and pick out the flowers you want to use. To keep expenses low, consider purchasing fresh flowers the day before your wedding and creating your own bouquets. Most florists have petals that are thrown away. Ask if you can purchase those to scatter around your reception tables. Also consider buying inexpensive photo frames, painting them in your wedding colors, putting in photos of the two of you together and using them as centerpieces.
Consider hiring a wedding planner, if your budget allows. He or she will be able to secure venues you may not know about on short notice and have vendor contacts who can offer lower rates. At the very least, purchase a wedding-planning book to keep track of all the details and things you need to do.