How to Have a Free Wedding

Updated on September 27, 2013

You want a meaningful and a beautiful wedding.The only way to have that is to spend $2,000 on your wedding gown, at least $10,000 on the food for your 200 guests, $5,000 on the venue, $5,000 on the flowers and decorations, $1,000 on the three-tiered cake... The list simply does not end. Half-way through your wedding preparations, you both sit down and figure out where you both are in your budget. After happily clicking the calculator keys for an eternity, you finally have the amount. Alas! You are already $5,000 way over your budget. How did this happen?

It must have been the exotic belly dancers, booked to entertain the guests at the reception, or the fireworks display, arranged secretly by the groom as a surprise for his bride... This sets off a heated conversation filled with pin-pointing. Every single cent from the purchases thereafter are inspected thoroughly and can easily set off another round of the blaming game and accusations.

Then comes The Day itself. We expect a calm bride, instead, we are treated to a sight of a bridezilla walking down the aisle. The meaningful and beautiful wedding is gone, replaced by the apocalyptic ambiance of a wedding fraught with arguments and debt.

Bridezilla | Source

I Am No Bridezilla!

Wait a minute! I do not want that wedding and neither do you. Let me just tell you that if a meaningful and beautiful wedding is what you want, then you can have that without ever opening your purse.

I am also on the first stages of planning my own wedding with the low to zero cost in mind. Let us be open to the fact that it is definitely possible. Others have done it and so we can, as well. But before we can talk about the how, let us first understand the wedding debt trend.

Wedding E-Card
Wedding E-Card | Source

Till Debt Do Us Part

A bank can offer a really high line of credit. They are happy to do this because they want you to borrow more. It is simple, really. The more you borrow, the more the bank earns (from the processing fees down to the interests you have to pay). A wedding founded on debt is doomed to a lifetime of monthly repayments, and this is exactly the worst way to start a life together.

This usually means you get to spend tens of thousands of dollars which are really not yours in the first place. The average American wedding expenditure averages around $27,000. Imagine spending all that in a one-day event.

This reminds me of a Shania Twain song, Ka-Ching, about how we spend money that we do not possess. As a result, we create this mess and how do we get out of it?

"When you're broke go and get a loan
Take out another mortgage on your home
Consolidate so you can afford
To go and spend some more when
You get bored"

Till Debt Do Us Part
Till Debt Do Us Part | Source

It is especially vital nowadays not to follow the trend which is impracticality and spending beyond your own means. Modern day marriages are often disposable. "Till death do us part" has now become "Till debt do us part."

Not Really Free

I have a confession to make. A wedding cannot be entirely free. You would have to pay for the wedding papers and registrar. As for a Catholic couple like us, we cannot skip the church ceremony so we factor the fees for that as well. For other Christians, you would also have to pay for the officiating minister's time.

However, you can still have the rest free-- if you follow what's written here....

Tip #1. Have an Intimate Wedding

This is probably the best tip I can give you to start off your wedding preparations. Let us get back to what a wedding really is. It is a ceremony where two people are ritually or legally united as one. I also initially wanted a grand wedding, but after realizing how it could affect us, crippling us financially for at least the first few years of our life together as husband and wife, I knew I had to redefine my wants and stick to the needs.

I am also trying to get my head around the fact that this wedding is not a 'me' wedding. Instead of an 'us' wedding, it has become just the bride's. We are fixated by the material details and impressing people you probably do not even know that well. By slashing down the number of attendees, this will help to really lower your wedding cost.

How low can you go? Ask yourself that. How many people should be in your wedding? 300? 200? What? Are you planning to invite your whole clan and village to your ceremony? I am sure you can do better than that. 100? That is still the whole clan, inclusive of 50 or so friends you have not even talked to or seen for years except on Facebook.

How about 20? 10? 6? 4? 0? You did not misread it. Many couples really have done weddings with no guests before. However, that is too much. I personally will not go that far. Twenty-five is a perfect number for me so I will stick along that number, give or take five. Let us analyze the 25 guests who are coming to my own wedding:

  • 4 (Parents- his and mine)
  • 4 (Siblings- his and mine)
  • 2 (Grannies- his and mine)
  • 2 (Grandpas- mine)
  • 1 (Sibling's wife- his)
  • 2 (Siblings' kids- his)
  • 5 (Closest friends- his)
  • 5 (Closest friends- mine)

Intimate Wedding
Intimate Wedding | Source

A wedding should be about you both being united as one and the closest people in your lives should be there to see it. It makes a ceremony even more meaningful, when the people witnessing it really give a darn about you both. Ask yourself: who are the people who have always been and will always be part of our lives? THEY are the perfect guests in your wedding.

"Why Wasn't I Invited?"

Now, how to tell the other 75 that they are not invited... That is the dilemma and you just have to be blunt-but-loving when explaining it to them. First off, do not go about calling people that they have not been invited. If they ask, then you answer.

Ariel from lists out some of the blunt-but-loving reasons you can use to explain your situation. Read the whole article here.

Now you have a good excuse!

Tip #2. Have a Free Wedding Reception Venue

A wedding reception area can easily cost you $5,000. How about we enumerate the free ones here?

CHURCH-- Sometimes, it is possible to have the reception free in the church grounds if you are a parishioner. A small donation would be at your own discretion.

BACKYARD-- This is the first location people think of to be as economical as possible when it comes to their wedding. If you have a nice enough, good-sized backyard for the number of guests you have, then you might as well take that. Another alternative is to ask a friend (or a friend's friend's friend) who owns the perfect backyard to allow you to have your wedding reception there.

What is good about a backyard wedding? First off, you can customize it the way you want. If you are opting for a jungle-themed wedding, just prop in some plants and voila! Your own paradise. Second and more important reason why this works is that it is free.

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PARK-- There are many parks that allows gatherings without any fee. There will be no privacy but a lake in one side and a beautifully-maintained garden in the other are nice compromises. A picnic-themed wedding is a great idea. Browse through the photos below and see how other couples have used this theme to make their weddings charmingly memorable.

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BEACH-- There are beaches which are open to the public. Try to find a nice, secluded-enough spot to hold your reception in.

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UNUSUAL LOCATION-- If you would like to hold your reception in the place where you both met, say, the airport, then prepare to convince the airport big shots and perhaps have the media get wind of your plans as well. Businesses want good advertisement. A wedding will boost their PR.

Tip #3. Have Free Food!

A potluck wedding may not seem to be mainstream but people who are budget conscious do this. Other couples have also done this for generations and is embedded in many cultures.

You probably want to ask, "isn't it rude to ask your guests to bring food?" Well, if your guests are the ones closest to you, they most likely would not mind. In fact, they would be willing to help any way they could. In lieu of a wedding gift, perhaps you can ask each to bring a certain type of food or drinks to be shared by all after the ceremony. For instance, one guest would be tasked to bring a case or two of Coca-Cola, while another, pork on skewers to be grilled afterwards. One positive thing about this is the fact that each puts so much heart into making/buying the food-- and you would be able to taste it!

Caterers could easily cost you $10,000 for a 200-head party.


If your mother-in-law knows how to bake delicious home made cakes, just ask her to make one for your wedding. It may not be the cake in the magazines but it would be perfect for your wedding.

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Just dig in and stuff your face, ladies! These cakes look fantastic!

Tip #4. Have a Free Wedding Dress

If you think that the wedding dress is a have-to-have, and you simply do not want to purchase or rent one, you may want to find if there are some organizations that accept donated wedding dresses to be given to brides who are financially unstable.

You may also want to check these websites out:,

Another way is to approach friends or relatives (or their friend's friend's friend) who have recently tied the knot. If they are willing to lend you their dress, then you do not have to spend $1,000 to walk down the aisle.

Tip #5. Have A Free Photographer

A professional photographer can easily cost you around $800 - $3,000. Now that is a waste of good money. As photographers run their own business, you may want to approach them and strike a bargain: cover your wedding and they can use it as a platform to advertise their business. That is a win-win situation there.

If that does not work out, try to look for a budding photographer in your family or perhaps, that friend of yours who is brilliant when it comes to taking photos... Exploit these talents lah! You will be more comfortable and confident striking pose upon pose when you know the person behind the camera. No fees at all.

Before the big day, try out different angles and lighting and explain it to your friend/relative how you want some of your shots to look like. This gives them the idea of what photos you are aiming for.

Tip #6. Have a Free DJ

The question is: do you need a DJ? They cost around $500. Disc Jockeys play music; music you can find on iTunes. There you have it, fellow brides! Your iPod is the answer. Just hook em up to a loudspeaker and ask another guest to serve as a DJ in your wedding.

If you do not have an iPod, just use the reliable laptop. Download tons of wedding-appropriate songs beforehand and let them play out on your special day.


If you want to learn the basics of how to DJ your own wedding with an iPod, read A Practical Wedding's article here.

Tip #7. Have a Free Bouquet

One way is to harvest newly-bloomed flowers from your own backyard or someone else's. However, if it is winter and flowers are nearly non-existent, try the toilet. The secret to having a free bouquet is... the tissue paper.

Here is a video tutorial on how to transform that toilet or Japanese crepe paper into a beautiful bouquet.

This is a bouquet that you can keep days, weeks or months before the wedding. If you prefer another design or color, you can always change it up without spending anything.

Tip #8. Have Free Wedding Invitations

There are tons of free DIY crafts online that demonstrate how to create incredibly cheap wedding invitations. There are also printable and customizable ones. The only thing you have to spend on is the paper and ink.

But if what you want is a free one, you might want to call up the guests you have in mind by phone or better yet, go house to house and invite them personally. If you do this, you can properly explain and ask for their help when it comes to the potluck aspect of the wedding.

Final Words

Right now, I am scaring the fiancé.

He is worried that we might going to end up asking friends and family to bring their own food. Well, what is wrong with that? Everyone's family and at least at one point in our lives, we all ate the delicious dishes created by our family and WE LOVED EVERY SINGLE BITE.

If we can all remember that a wedding is not supposed to be only about the brides, but about how two souls are united by the holy sacrament of matrimony, then it would be easier to stick with the needs and not the wants.

Congratulations for getting engaged! Now go plan that free wedding!


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    • profile image

      Mary 2 months ago

      I went to a wonderful second wedding that was virtually free! It was a flash mob wedding in a public arboretum. A close friend got ordained online and performed the ceremony. The bride wore a beautiful dress that she could wear again. The reception was at an affordable restaurant, and in lieu of gifts, everyone was asked to pay for their own lunch. A couple dozen people, super meaningful, and one of the best weddings I've ever been to :)

    • profile image

      Emma 4 months ago

      Loved the ideas am going to use at least 5 of them! And F the one person who made rude comments because he makes money off weddings

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      Ryanne 6 months ago

      While I don't completely love all of these ideas, I did find a few ideas that I might consider.

      But I'm really commenting because most of these COMMENTS are DISGUSTING. For no good reason. There's a way to express dislike or disagreement without being a jerk.

      How many articles have all of you guys written to help people out? This person is trying to help people. Then has to deal with this nonsense. I get it, everyone knows they run the risk of "critics" when they're writings are made public. But why? Just because you can?

      If you're not interested in any of this, then don't use the ideas.

      If you're appalled by being asked to help out or chip-in in any way for someone's wedding, then don't go to the wedding.

      It doesn't hurt to ask for help. No one is being forced into anything.

      Bottom line, someone put out effort to be HELPFUL and a lot of people just put out effort to be HURTFUL. Think about that.

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      Sue 7 months ago

      It was once customary for wedding guest to bring food to your reception, especially cake.. hence wedding cake. Only those with money had food made etc.

      My aunt had a beautiful pot luck wedding, no one complained and we all pitched in to make her day extra special. She used her fathers gun club hall, my uncle played music and another uncle took pics. It was nice and we had a lot of fun.

      I am pretty sure by the comments, those were made by people who are business to make money from weddings.

      Always do what is in budget and best for you. True friends and family will not mind pitching in.

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      heather 9 months ago

      oh my lord....why is every on here so damn cranky?? didn't your momma ever tell you "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all"?

    • profile image

      Mackenzie 14 months ago

      I am a recently engaged bride and I am trying my best to save as much money on this wedding as possible! And I agree with a lot of the points made in this post with the exception of the comment about the photographer. As a photographer and a friend to many photographers if you think that paying a decent photographer is a waste of good money then have your guests take pictures. It's more than slightly insulting to say that someone's hard work and time is a waste of good money. And it's also rediculous to say that they will do your wedding for free in exchange for "free advertisement" unless, like you stated, this is some sort of student or family member this generally is not a good idea.

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      Alee 16 months ago

      I found this article discouraging! While I am aiming for an extremely low cost wedding and I am blessed to have a free venue I simply cannot snub people in order to save a few extra bucks. My aunts and uncles and cousins are the reasons I became who I am today. If it wasn't for my upbringing I wouldn't be marrying my fiancée. I would elope and exclude everyone before inviting only 25 people in total. Anyone who is remotely close with extended relatives and whose parents may come from slightly larger families than the current cultural norm (my sister and her fiancée had 56 guests out of Just their parents siblings and spouses!) will understand where I am coming from..

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      Sherry 17 months ago

      I absolutely love some of these ideas. Obviously, I'm one of those people who thinks it is absolutely ridiculous to spend thousands of dollars on a wedding to showboat. Take that money and use for a nice down payment on a house.

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      Nicole 18 months ago

      Burst out laughing at the "free photography for exposure" part. I'm a working musician and can't tell you how many times people tried to get me to perform at a private event in exchange for "exposure". Thanks for the laugh. :)

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      Nisha 20 months ago

      I don't know why everyone is upset.. it's simple if it's not something you're comfortable with doing then don't! I'm planning my wedding right now and we're on a tight budget.. so tight that I actually didn't want to invite anyone! Now I'm not comfortable with asking people for help so I didn't but they know our situation and they have all offered to help including cooking food etc! So you're right when inviting only a small number of people that are close to you they definitely understand.. and are willing to help in any way so you can still have a beautiful day.

    • profile image

      Anonymous 21 months ago

      What a waste of my morning it was reading this!

      As someone who works in the wedding industry - yes, you're absolutely right that weddings can be expensive! And you know what - some people can afford it, and they're completely happy with what they chose, so insinuating that those people are in the wrong just because YOU don't want to pay is downright rude.

      The worst part - asking a photographer to do their job for free?? What on earth benefit would they get from photographing your glorified family dinner??

      There are legitimate, helpful suggestions available out there for people trying to keep their wedding costs down, but this is certainly not one of them.

      And on a side note - if you ask your guests to bring their own food, ask your mother in law to make the cake, ask a friend to be a DJ, ask a photographer to work for free - the wedding might be free FOR YOU, but you're bludging off everyone else who IS paying for your wedding...!

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      Gerry 21 months ago

      Titles should be "How to have a free wedding by exploiting those around you!"

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      Photographer 21 months ago

      If you are going to exploit a photographer friend, do keep in mind u will lose this friend for life and ur cheap reputation will spread through ur other friends like wild fire. This article title should be changed to, How to lose friends and relatives in a wedding.

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      Paul 21 months ago

      Hey cheapo writer, you missed out this ending point for your cheapo article!

      If the wedding photos are not well taken, don't worry. You can host another wedding because everything is free & cheap. You can host the weddings again & again until you get the right photos by free photographers & the right moments.

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      WARREN 21 months ago

      This isn't being conservative, this is just being cheap. Did you write this for free? The content seriously seems so.

      If you can't afford a decent wedding - seriously, just register and be done with it - no need anything else.

      Please, don't be a scrooge mcduck and stinge on a wedding.

      No one works for exposure either.

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      Marc 21 months ago

      Wow, hate this article and condemn you for writing this article, cheapskate. Possibly the worst advice ever to exploit a photographer, like alright can you decorate my wedding with materials using expensive tools to create certain designs, but I won't pay you for it it'll be good exposure? Cool, I'm sure you'll be able to eat and pay for a mortgage off that. Delete this article

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      Paul 21 months ago

      What an embarrassing article.

      "Please come to our wedding .. oh, can you bring your own food and maybe take a few photos?"

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      Ugh 21 months ago

      This is abhorrent.

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      PM 21 months ago

      This is the ONLY way you will have a wedding you did not sign up for. What is the use of having professionals around you when you exploit people? Stop 'giving tips' to people to get 'free' services. Cheaper? Yes. Free? HA YOU BE CRAZY!

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      AnneS 21 months ago

      Also known as, "How to have a wedding that looks like Walmart." So much bad advice in this article. If you want a free wedding, don't hire anyone, don't buy anything, don't rent anything. Go to the courthouse and get a license. THAT is a free weeding. THAT easy. THIS is a scam. Don't dupe industry professionals and budding professionals out there with this.

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      Shelley 21 months ago

      I completely disagree about the photographer. I went that way and hired a friend of mine who had actually shot one wedding before, and I have lived to regret it every. single. day.

      Why would you go through all the trouble of shelling out however much you spend and NOT investing in proper, professional photography so that you can have beautiful images to remember the day forever?

      Biggest regret of my life. Don't listen to that advice!

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      Lexa 21 months ago

      look, it's kinda ok to be frugal as long as you don't end up EXPLOITING other people! There's a huge difference! To expect somebody to bake you a free wedding cake or take your photos for free... that's not just misguided, it's selfish and unacceptable. Careful not to estrange all your family & friends in return for this "free" wedding. ( If you want to keep it cheap, there's nothing wrong with a city hall wedding with just your closest kin and friends, skip the goddamn reception altogether!)

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      JL 21 months ago

      Lucky I don't have a cheapskate friend like you. Free slave i.e. DJ / Photographer for you? No thanks. Know the difference between a FAVOUR and a PROFESSION

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      JWS 21 months ago

      Would you work for free? Irresponsible article.

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      Drake 21 months ago

      So, let's turn the tables around and ask you to provide free legal consultation work for every professional cases that you might work on in the future, because, huge criminal law cases are great for exposure and also, those people must be really poor misguided souls and you believe that they all deserve a second chance, so you should be obliged to do it for free.

      That's already exploitation as you so happily put in your article.

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      Madonna 21 months ago

      If you don't work for free, you don't expect others to do it for no exchange. It is criminal. I feel embarrassed and sorry for your self-entitlement issue.

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      Leo 21 months ago

      You are downright cheap about exploiting people! How about you being on the receiving end?

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      Lyanne 21 months ago

      Photographer point absolutely ridiculous. How about if you ever run your own car mechanic shop or bakery or whatever "business", I ask you for free repairs and free cakes? Don't worry, I'll advertise my car around and take pictures of your cakes to be uploaded on Instagram. But remember to make those services free, okay? Cuz, you know, I don't wanna, like, WASTE GOOD MONEY for your profession.

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      Ryan 21 months ago

      Is this article for real? If that's the case why don't we all give up on our current socio-economic system and adopt a barter system?

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      ELIZABETH 21 months ago

      Cheapo writer writes cheapo article.

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      Jason 21 months ago

      A professional lawyer can easily cost you thousand of dollars or more. Now that is a waste of good money. As lawyers run their own business, you may want to approach them and strike a bargain: Take on your case and they can use it as a platform to advertise their business. That is a win-win situation there.

      If that does not work out, try to look for a budding lawyer in your family or perhaps, that friend of yours who is brilliant when it comes to winning arguments... Exploit these talents lah! You will be more comfortable and confident standing at the podium when you know the person representing you. No fees at all.

      Before the court hearing, try out different statements and explain it to your friend/relative how you want to be represented. This gives them the idea of the duration of the jail term you are aiming for when you're being such a cheapo.

      Doesn't sound so witty now huh?

    • profile image

      Dumbass 21 months ago

      Did the writer do the article for free? The quality of the article seems to make evident.

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      Robin 22 months ago

      It's never worth it to be cheap with your photographer. The lasting memory of your special day is NOT the time to pinch pennies. If you do have an intimate wedding with only a few friends, don't make them spend their time as an employee!

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      Cheryl 23 months ago

      There is a big difference in conserving and being downright cheap!!! Some of these suggestions are just plain cheap. I help at friends weddings all the time and I'm feeling a bit used by these people who can't "afford" anything so I volunteer then notice them sporting a new Apple watch. When my daughters wedding rolled around none of these cheapskates were around offering their help.

    • kbdressman profile image

      kbdressman 2 years ago from Harlem, New York

      As a bride that's getting married at the end of the month, you are spot on about how quickly a wedding gets expensive! It definitely helps when you have friends and family that can pitch in and help. Even if a bride doesn't follow all these suggestions, I'd definitely recommend sitting down and prioritizing the various aspects of the wedding. Then, spend the money appropriately and apply these money saving tips to the rest!

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