How to plan a summer wedding on a budget

An easy DIY arrangement made with silk flowers.


Strolling down the moonlit beach, soft sand molding between your toes. A candle-light rooftop dinner for two. A banner flashing on the scoreboard at the Rockies game. Everybody has a story to tell about that important, life-altering moment when he or she asked four of the most important words you will ever hear. The question is popped, and you said “Yes!”

Many couples are venturing into the marriage realm together after having clearly established their lives as a single entity. The couple may already live together and now want to pay for the wedding themselves. While every girl dreams of her fairy tale wedding, the cost heavily factors in to throwing a celebration of love on your own.

Believe me, weddings don’t come cheap. They aren’t as easy as Hollywood would like you to believe. Weddings are a business and if you are looking to have a summer ceremony, prices double.

This is not to discourage you. You can have a fantastic and beautiful wedding while staying on a strict budget. I am here to offer you five clear ways to cut costs and still have the wedding of your dreams.

Location, Location, Location

Weddings do not have to be in a grand ballroom. These ceremonies and receptions are very elegant, but just to rent the space can cost anywhere between three and ten thousand dollars. To shave expenses, opt for a backyard ceremony in either a close friend or relative’s yard. This also offers a more home-grown, comfortable atmosphere and ambience than a venue picked from a magazine.

With a backyard ceremony, you also have more control over decorations and set-up. Venues will offer you a six-to-eight hour time-slot but that includes the set-up and tear-down after your event. The flexibility of venues comes into question when many limit what decorations are allowed. Some will even limit having tape or tacky glue on the walls.

In your own backyard, you have free reign and more time to prepare. If you want to set up everything the night before, you have that option. With some venues, you aren’t the only ceremony they have slotted for the day and everything is on a timeline. For a more relaxing experience, select a healthier, more relaxed environment; for guests and for yourself.

The Bridal Gown

One of the most important elements to a woman on her wedding day is her dress. The gown is something she (and, hopefully, everyone else) will never forget, and it must compliment her personality and style. Consider the location of the ceremony. If selecting a summer, outdoor wedding, look for a dress that is lighter weight and not dragging along the ground extensively.

Dresses are stunning, but do not come on the low end of the budget unless you know where to shop. If you must choose a big name shop, such a David’s Bridal, start searching early for your ideal dress and watch for sales. Their gowns can be as cheap as $100, but can reach up to $1500.

I suggest checking out bridal boutiques and consignment shops such as Green Bride and The Altar. Both Denver shops offer discounted bridal dresses for as low as 75 percent off.

Music and Photography

Hiring a DJ seems like the simple solution when considering the reception and wedding music. Unfortunately, this is a cost that quickly adds up. On the low end of the spectrum, a couple is still looking at spending $100 per hour for a professional DJ.

For a less pricey option, rent a sound system. You can easily hook up a computer or laptop with individually created playlists to the speakers. Companies such as Multimedia Audio Visual will rent you the necessary materials for $50 to $200. This is a perfectly viable option for the weddings of the digital age.

You have complete control over the played music and create playlists for the ceremony, reception, and events throughout the day. A bonus to this option: if you hear a song (even the night before) you can easily upload it to a playlist.

The photographer is another element to your day, and for someone like me, pictures are essential. Start searching ahead of time and you will find many deals offered by photographers. Fortunately, I found an  undeniable deal through Blue Rock Photography and received 50 percent off my order, which brought the total down to $1000.

Other alternatives to having a professional quality shooter are student organizations such as Yellow Paddle Photography. The photographers are trained by professionals and trying to build their portfolios before starting their own business, and because they aren’t established yet, the costs are much lower.

Perhaps having hundreds of high quality photos isn’t the thing that matters most to you at your wedding. Many couples choose  to place  special wedding disposable cameras on the tables for guests to use and capture rare moments and funny shots. This option is less expensive, but also consider how difficult it is to find a place to develop so many rolls of film. The world is going digital and you may be better off relying on friends and family to capture those unforgettable moments and share them online.


The decorations of a wedding are essential but if you aren’t careful, the costs quickly accumulate. This is especially apparent when dealing with floral shops. Buying real flowers might make everything very  pretty, but it is wasteful and expensive. I highly recommend going with silk flowers. You can buy them months in advance and at half the cost.

Buy wholesale. I suggest, but  the Internet has hundreds of alternatives. With a backyard wedding, you are already in a lush environment, and using floral decoration just offers an opportunity to complement the yard with flowers in your specific wedding colors.

Spending $150 at will get you enough flowers to create four flower poms to hang in the trees and extra buds to cover ceremony decorations, such as the petals for the flower girl and additions to decorate chairs.

Be a bargain hunter. To add a simple decoration to the ceremony chairs, try buying wholesale tin pails from PartyCity for $20. The pails hang on the tops of the chairs and are an easy way to bring in your wedding colors.

To create centerpieces for tables and the dance floor, shop 50 percent-off sales at Hobby Lobby and Michaels Purchase silk flowers and several vases in various shapes and sizes. The cost will float just under $200. The arrangements in the vases can be very simple but will still appear realistic.


Food and beverages are one of the most expensive parts in throwing a wedding bash. If catered, you are easily looking at $30 to $60 per person. I suggest opting for a morning ceremony followed by a reception. Morning ceremonies don’t include alcohol costs and guests won’t be expecting a heavy meal. Try serving small appetizers or  offering coffee and wedding cake only. For 80 people, King Soopers and Costco will supply a wedding cake for roughly $300. Other bakeries in Denver charge about $100 more.

If you absolutely must have an evening ceremony and traditional meal at the reception, be prepared to spend at least $500 on alcohol alone. Purchasing 10 bottles of Cupcake wine and two cases of beer at Tipsy’s Liquor World would total $140. This is a partial order of what you will need to serve 80 guests. If each adult guest decides on one beer and one 5 oz serving of wine, the minimum order is three cases of beer and 16 bottles of 750ml wine. But often at these types of events, guests like to indulge and will want to go back for seconds and even thirds when their pocket books can stay tucked away.

Preparing the food yourselves or having a family friend do it is always an option, but will be very time-consuming and stressful. Save yourself the headache and have someone cater your wedding if you plan to have a big meal. Many caterers will include all the tableware and centerpieces, but this service does not come without fees. Many caterers will charge $30 to $50 per person. That totals $2400 to $4000. This does not bode well for budget conscious brides.

These are just five ways you can reduce the costs of a wedding. There is always something you can spend extra on and increase costs but having a budget will be your best friend during the sometimes unruly waters towards matrimonial bliss. The most important thing to remember is no matter what happens that day, what the decorations look like, what the food tastes like, is that the day is about you and your fiancé(e), and it will be perfect.

Tags: , ,

About Caitlin Johnson

I am a senior at Metropolitan State College of Denver with aspirations to write for a travel magazine or become a novelist in the future. Currently, I am a manager with King Soopers as I pay my way through school. I am busily planning my June wedding and working on my first novel. I am a very happy person and my mantra is: "Live with a story to tell".

No comments yet.

Add your response