How to Plan a Budget Micro Wedding

If you’ve started to do any sort of wedding planning, and are a budget conscious individual, then chances are you’ve heard that the average wedding these days costs about $35,000. Yes, you could literally put a down payment on a house, pay off student loans, or take an epic trip around the world with the amount that some people choose to spend on a single party.

And yes, some of those people even say it was worth every penny. But if you’re reading this, then chances are that number makes you feel a little (or a lot) sick to your stomach.

The beauty of a micro wedding is that you don’t have to opt for a smaller budget (we’ve seen couples funnel the extra funds toward anything from hosting their guests in private cabins, to having a seven course plated meal), but it sure does make it easier to be save some serious change if that’s your goal.

Here, we’re walking you through exactly how to plan a budget micro wedding that still lives up to your every expectation, without leaving you thousands in debt.

Set a Budget

Much like a traditional wedding, it’s important to set a budget for your micro wedding. This is especially true when you’re specifically trying to keep your budget low (think under 5k).

Setting a budget goal looks different for each couple, as does the idea of throwing a wedding on a budget. You might be trying to stay under 10k, while another couple considers $2,000 to be their ideal number. Regardless of what your specific budget may be, discuss it with your partner, decide on a number, and then stick to it.

After you’ve decided on a budget, go through each area of your event and decide how much you’re willing to spend within the specific categories. Having these numbers pre-planned and on hand will prevent you from straying too far.

Your categories should include:

  • Venue
  • Ceremony
  • Food/Drink
  • Photographer
  • Decor
  • Entertainment (DJ, band, dance floor, etc)
  • Rentals (chairs, tables, tableware, etc)
  • Staff
  • Misc. (permits, insurance, etc)

If you have a loose idea of what your wedding will look like, you might be able to eliminate some of these categories right away (or, you might need to add some – like travel expenses or accommodations).

Make a Guest List

This is an important step when planning a budget micro wedding, and while it might not be fun, it’s crucial that you do this right after finalizing your budget.

Micro wedding usually have between 10-50 people, but it’s important to remember that fewer people means less expenses. If throwing your wedding on a very small budget is a priority, then do your best to keep your guest list to the bare minimum.

Some couples have found that this actually makes it easier to explain to people why they didn’t make the cut. Oftentimes people are more receptive to the fact that a couple is trying to save money on their wedding, and thus have decided to only invite a small handful of people.

Either way, when you’re making your guest list, take into consideration the people that you absolutely MUST have there. This might be immediate family, oldest friends, etc. Be sure to take into account spouses if you need to, and make the decision of whether you’d like children to attend or not.

Pick a Venue

When planning any micro wedding, the venue can easily be one of the most unique and memorable elements. Hosting a smaller group of people opens up possibilities that aren’t available to larger parties and luckily, this doesn’t change when planning a budget micro wedding!

Depending on your budget, you can choose to allocate more money towards the venue, and choose somewhere like a restaurant, Airbnb, or event space, or you can go fully budget friendly and host a backyard micro wedding. If your backyard doesn’t work, consider asking relatives or friends if you can use theirs instead.

A large house or park is also a great free alternative (just make sure to check that you don’t need permits or permission to use public spaces!).

Lakefront wedding table set with candles
Photo Courtesy of Wedding Spot Blog

You shouldn’t discount traditional wedding venues either. You might have to do some research, but it is possible to find some seriously gorgeous micro wedding venues.

This can sometimes end up being an even more budget friendly option because venues that cater to micro weddings will often offer packages that include dining, drinks, and decor, which can end up being cheaper than trying to piece all of those elements together yourself.

Pick Your Time Strategically

When it comes to a venue, timing is everything and can easily make or break your budget. If you’ve got your heart set on a more traditional venue, then consider having a winter wedding. Off season prices are usually thousands less than their on season counterparts.

Another option is to have your wedding on a weekday, or on Friday/Sunday. Saturday weddings are easily the most expensive, so if you’re looking for the budget friendly option, this is the way to go. And since you’re hosting far fewer guests, it’s more likely that they’ll be able to adjust their schedules to accommodate a less traditional wedding date.

If you’re willing to really step outside the box, consider doing a morning wedding! This time of day is also a surefire way to secure a much cheaper rate, and some venues offer a delicious brunch wedding option (and who doesn’t love brunch?!).

Stop Saying ‘Wedding’

Just classifying something as a ‘wedding’ item means that companies can attach a hefty premium for no other reason than the fact that people expect it, and will pay it. While this is incredibly unfortunate, it’s also an easy thing to work around.

One couple, who planned a $1,600 micro wedding in Laguna Beach, realized that simply omitting the word ‘wedding’ when asking for a price estimate meant they could get the same item for a fraction of the price.

This goes for just about any service or item that you’re looking in to. If you’re looking into cakes, desserts, or florals, just leave out the mention of it being for your wedding and you’ll almost certainly pay less. If you’re considering a hotel or restaurant for your reception, tell them that you’re looking to hold a gathering there, otherwise, they may force you to go through their wedding department, which undoubtedly means that you’ll forced to meet and pay minimum requirements (as well as the wedding premium).

This strategy is much easier to pull off when you’re hosting a micro wedding, since hosting a 20 person dinner looks very different than slyly packing 100 people into a hotel bar and pretending it’s not a massive wedding party.

DIY Invites

Traditional wedding invites can quickly add up in cost. With inserts, RSVP cards, stamps, and all the other add ons, you could easily spend hundred of dollars, even if you’re only sending out a handful of invites.

One way to save money is to design your own invites, and keep them simple. Companies like Minted and Magnet Street make it incredibly easy to design and print your own invites, while also staying within a specific budget. Sites like these also run sales often, so if you’re a savvy shopper, then you can catch some great deals.

Another idea is to think of fun, but cheap invites that your guests will remember. One couple we read about got a Crumbl cookie for each of their guests, and delivered or mailed them. Shockingly, this is very similar in price to mailing traditional invitations, and easily accomplished with a micro wedding guest list. If you’re a great baker, another budget friendly option would be to create your own treats and use those.

If you’re really wanted to save money in this area, then consider texting, calling, or emailing your guests to let them know they’re invited. It might not be the fanciest option, but it’s free, and chances are the people on your list (aka the people closest to you) won’t judge.

Switch Up the Menu

One of the absolute best parts of hosting a micro wedding is the freedom and ability to get really creative with the food, and to serve food that’s actually delicious. No over baked chicken or bland fish here. If you’re a foodie, this is a good place to allocate some extra funds. Even if you’re working with a shoestring budget, you can still make magic happen.

If you’re going for decadent, then look into hiring a local caterer. Try looking for someone who is newer on the scene (but still well reviewed) because they might have slightly cheaper prices as they’re trying to make a name for themselves.

Taco bar set with tortillas and toppings
Photo Courtesy of Ryan Bernal Photography

Another option is hiring a food truck to come and cater your event. You can also look into having a local restaurant or your favorite chain cater (because how stoked would your guests be to have tacos for dinner?!).

An even cheaper option would be to have a potluck. Ask each guest to bring their favorite dish and serve them buffet or family style. If you’re not quite ready to have over the food reigns to everyone else, consider doing a ‘bar’ meal where you provide all of the ingredients and guests get to put together their ideal plate. You could do a sandwich bar, taco bar, pasta bar, or even a breakfast for dinner bar.

Get Creative With Dessert

There are many things about a micro wedding that mimic a traditional wedding – that’s the beauty of it. But one thing that you definitely don’t need? An elaborate three-tier wedding cake to feed your 30 guests (which will run you at least $500). If you’re set on having some sort of actual cake at your wedding, find a bakery that will do a single tier to your liking, which will likely be plenty to feed your guests a small slice.

You can also consider getting creative with your dessert options and providing a dessert of your choice. Some popular favorites include:

  • Gourmet donuts
  • Cookies
  • Cupcakes
  • Mini pies
  • Bundt cakes
  • Mini cakes

You might also have a local bakery that specializes in a regional dessert. Be sure to ask if they offer a discount on bulk orders when calling. Just ordering the amount of desserts for your low guest count is a great way to save some money.

Stock Your Own Bar

Providing alcohol for a wedding can be one of the highest costs, especially if you plan to have an open bar. Luckily, holding a micro wedding means that stocking your own bar is not only possible, it’s actually a much more budget savvy move.

First, decide what you want to offer your guests. Some couples choose just wine and beer, while others want to offer hard liquor or specialty cocktails. Wine and beer will end up being cheaper as a whole, so take that into consideration if your budget is lower.

The next step is to find a discount liquor store near you and check to see what specials they have. Some stores will have sales on certain brands, or discounts on bulk orders, so you’ll save extra money if you can score one of these.

man grabbing beer from hot tub
Photo Courtesy of Lightwell Photo

The final step is to decide how you want to present your offerings. We saw one couple who hosted a backyard micro wedding and simply opted to fill their hot tub with ice, wine, champagne, and beer. Another option is to create a ‘serve yourself’ display that allows your guests to create their own drinks.

A final, but more pricy option would be to hire an outside bartender. This is a nice option for the couple who wants to ‘set it and forget it’ when it comes to drinks for their event. Just make sure you factor this person’s time and an appropriate tip into your budget.

If you’re a couple who prefers liquor not be a part of your celebration, then consider having a fun soda or lemonade bar with a variety of delicious mix-ins like fruit, soda, and ice tea.

Less Florals

The average cost of wedding flowers in 2019 was $2,000. And those Pinterest posts that you saw with tables, aisles, and just about every other available surface covered in gorgeous arrangements? Yeah, those people payed WAY more. Flowers can easily break the bank if you’re trying to plan a micro wedding on a budget, but they don’t have to.

table set in the woods
Photo Courtesy of Saint Hubert’s Lodge

One way to save money on florals is to pare down to the absolute bare minimum. This could look like a bridal bouquet and an arrangement for the tables. Since you’re hosting far fewer guests, then chances are you’ve got only a handful of tables to decorate (or one long table if you’re going for a banquet style meal).

Another idea is to use fake flowers. Honestly, nobody will even notice (or likely care) and they’ll look just as stunning. Stores like Michaels and Hobby Lobby carry a wide variety of fake flowers that will fit any theme or budget.

Like we stated before, when contacting any shop about supplying flowers for your wedding, leave the word ‘wedding’ out of your conversation. This will ensure that you won’t be paying the premium that goes along with wedding branding.

Hold a Creative Reception

One big perk of hosting a micro wedding is the fact that you don’t have to follow the usual script when it comes to your reception. Your reception can be quirky, low key, unique, or just made up of sharing a simple meal together.

So use this opportunity to think about what you and your partner actually want to do during this time. What are your priorities? Pick and choose which traditional elements you’d like to keep, and which you’ll do without. Then, build your perfect reception around that. You could even ditch your ‘venue’ and head out to a restaurant or bar to party on the town.

low table set in backyard for a picnic with couches in the background
Photo Courtesy of Danielle Riley Photography

Getting creative also means looking for every opportunity to save money. Look for places you could DIY instead of buy. This couple threw an incredible backyard wedding for only $2,000, and they used a sheet of plywood from Home Depot set on cinder blocks for their table (and it looks stunning!). Another couple simply built their own backyard dance floor, rather than renting one.

Nix the DJ

Unless you have someone close to you that is willing to DJ your event, this is a great way to same money. Rather than hiring a DJ, consider putting together a great playlist, and just renting or borrowing a sound system to play your music. This gives you more control over what’s being played, and when.

You can also make it fun for your guests, and take song requests beforehand to include in your playlist.

Shop Strategically

If you’re a planner, then consider taking advantage of yearly sales at some of the more popular stores (My Wedding Favors, Paper Warehouse, and Hobby Lobby) that sell decor, gifts, and more. Buying these items on sale will help cut costs overall, even if you need to buy them months in advance,

You can also buy many wedding decorations and extras used on sites like Craigslist, OfferUp, and Facebook market places. Many couples have their used wedding pieces up for dirt cheap, and this is a great money saving route, especially if you’re looking to buy things like candles, holders, centerpieces, etc.

When it comes to buying your attire, then think outside the box to help save money. Many budget savvy couples look to non-wedding locations to find wedding worthy attire without the hefty price tag. If you’re willing to do some searching, you can usually find incredible gowns and suits for a fraction of what you’d pay in a bridal store. Men should also consider renting a tux, rather than buying, and women can actually think about doing the same through sites like Rent the Runway.

For vendors, don’t just settle with the first vendor you talk to. Shop around and compare prices, then if you truly love one vendor but they’re not the cheapest, let them know you’d like to do business with them, but have another company offering a lower price. Chances are they’ll price match to earn your business.

Skip the Extras

The list of extras that people feel the need to include in their wedding is about a mile long these days. But if you’re looking to throw a wedding on a budget, cutting out these unnecessary additions will save you a ton.

Some extras that you can nix include:

  • Guest favors
  • Bridal party gifts
  • Mother/Father of the bride/groom gifts
  • Extra tableware – this includes chargers, fancy linens, etc.
  • Hair/makeup

If you’re truly committed to saving cash, you could also consider doing away with the extras parties and dinners as well. Think of the money you’ll save if you forego an engagement party, bridal shower, bachelor/bachelorette party, and rehearsal dinner.

Enlist Your People

One of the best parts of throwing a micro wedding is the fact that the only people involved are the people who are closest to you. This also means that you can easily reach out to them for help with planning and implementing your big day. Chances are, these are the people who will be more than happy to contribute towards this special occasion.

This might look like having them help with set up (especially if you’re throwing a house or backyard wedding), clean up, and communication with vendors on the day of. It could also look like taking advantage of their talents and knowledge. If you have a friend or relative who has a specific skill or talent to offer, this could be done in place of a gift. Maybe you have a cousin who is an incredible baker, and would be willing to creative a delicious dessert for the event, or a friend who’s a photographer and would be willing to takes photos during the ceremony.

These people might also have materials that you can put to good use, rather than buying them yourself. We’ve seen one couple who used everyones dining room chairs for their ceremony seating, and another couple who borrowed cozy blankets from friends to supply to guests during the autumn wedding. You should also use them to widen your network of possible vendors. Don’t be afraid to reach out and see if anyone has recommendations for small, affordable, and talented businesses who would be willing to work with you.

So there you have it friends, planning a micro wedding on a budget isn’t just possible, it’s actually quite easy if you’re willing to invest a little bit of time, effort, and creativity!

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