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How to Make Your Wedding Look Expensive (On a Budget)

How to Make Your Wedding Look Expensive on a Budget

You can throw a sophisticated and elaborate wedding without overspending. Rather than tacking on to your already high wedding budget, let us help you find ways to make your wedding look more expensive than it actually is.

25 Easy Ways to Make Your Affordable Wedding Look Expensive

Just because you’re on a budget doesn’t mean you need to go rustic and casual with your wedding. There are plenty of ways to design an opulent and elegant wedding without breaking the bank. We came up with 25 wedding ideas that feel super luxurious but actually won’t cost you a ton of money. From simple substitutions to budget options, we’ve got plenty of solutions for planning your dream wedding on a budget. 

1) Reuse Your Florals From the Ceremony to Reception

The cost of flowers can quickly add up and it’s an expense that most brides aren’t willing to forgo. So to get that lush look that you’ve always been dreaming of, make double use of your flowers! You’ll have flower arrangements lining your wedding arch, along the aisle to the altar, and even in your bridesmaids’ hands. Ask your florist and your venue if they can help you reuse your ceremony flower arrangements in your reception space.

Some examples: you can use your bridesmaid bouquets as centerpieces, the arch as the backdrop for your sweetheart table, and the arrangements from the aisle around the dance floor.

Simple Wedding Table

2) Buy Used Wedding Decor: Check Facebook Marketplace & Ask Recent Newlyweds

Everyone wants a custom wedding with the perfect decor but a lot of those items never get used again. Check Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, or wedding decor resale sites to see if anyone is selling the same decor you’ve been looking for. You can also check with your wedding vendors, especially your venue, to see if they have any donated decor from previous weddings. 

3) Go for a Minimalistic Wedding: Less Is More

Minimalism never goes out of style for a reason. You always have the option of going with simple table centerpieces, white accents, and affordable greenery. Not only will your wedding look sleek, stylish, and timeless, but you’ll also need to purchase less decor.

4) The Venue Will Ultimately Set the Vibe

If you’re worried about making your wedding look expensive & elegant - put the most emphasis on making sure your venue fits your vision. If it does, it’ll save you a lot of money on decorating. A venue that fits your aesthetic will already have its own decor, color scheme, and more. All you’ll need to do is add a few finishing touches to customize the space.

Beautiful Outdoor Wedding Venue

5) Set the Tone of Your Wedding with Lighting

Sometimes we forget how important lighting can be. Luckily, it’s also something you can change without spending a fortune. Lighting is an inexpensive way to change the mood of your venue. Dim the lights, light some candles (if your venue allows them), and add some string lights to create a romantic vibe. You can also talk to your DJ or venue about uplighting for the walls or other fun options they may offer.

Wedding Ceremony Lighting

6) Use Wedding Escort Cards & Table Numbers

It might not be the first thing on your list, but trust us, having escort cards and table numbers for your reception dinner will elevate your guests’ experience. You can make escort cards super cheaply by designing and printing them out yourself. You can even use a pre-designed template from Etsy or Canva and then have them printed by an affordable printing company. Table numbers are often easy to buy second hand or borrow from your venue.

7) Print Off Personalized Drink or Dinner Menus

Dinner menus may seem unnecessary but we promise your guests will appreciate them. Plus, they’re another way you can add detail to your tables. For drinks, you can design a cute menu with your signature drinks and you’ll only need to print one or two to display at the bar.

Wedding Signature Drinks Menu

8) Save On Florals By Including Greenery

Greenery is trending and this is good news for your wedding budget. Add in cheaper greenery options to your decor and you won’t need a huge volume of the more expensive florals. Consider using greenery as a garland for your wedding arch, as your table centerpieces, and even filler for your bridal bouquet.

Wedding Greenery

9) Use Real Candles: Tapered Candlesticks, Candleholders, etc.

Candles are inexpensive table decor and they create a warm and romantic lighting effect. You can thrift interesting candle holders for cheap. This is especially perfect if you’re going for a vintage or boho wedding vibe. Just remember to ask your venue if they allow open flames if you are planning on lighting them. If not, you can order fake ones in bulk for a reasonable price and reuse them as decor for your home (or gift them to guests for their homes).

Wedding Table Numbers

10) Serve Plated Dinners Instead of a Buffet

This might sound crazy, but sometimes plated dinner is cheaper than buffet service. Caterers can calculate the amount of food they need to prepare easier when it’s one plate per person. Plus, being served individual plates by a server has a much more expensive feel. Price out your options to see what fits in your budget. If plated dinner is affordable enough, opt for that.

11) Borrow Vintage Items From Your Home & Your Friends

You can borrow items from your home (or from friends and family) to use as wedding decor. Vintage trinkets, mismatched colored glasses, delicate baskets, and porcelain dishes are all gorgeous items that you can use in your wedding to elevate the decor. Just remember, things break and get lost at weddings so don’t use anything you won’t be able to live without.

Vintage Wedding Table Decor

12) Stick to Your Theme Throughout the Wedding

Continuity is classy. Decide on a vague theme and make sure you stick to it throughout the wedding ceremony and reception spaces. Everything will look more coordinated if you make sure there’s similar style decor throughout the wedding.

13) Pick a Unique Napkin Fold or Napkin Rings

You might not have even thought about how you want your napkins folded yet. It probably won’t cost you anything at all to have a specific napkin fold at your wedding. Consider a fold that allows you to tuck the dinner menu into it or something uncommon that people will think is special. If you happen to find napkin rings for an affordable price, those are another great way to make your napkins a significant part of your decor.

Wedding Napkin Fold

14) Improve the Ambiance With Live Music

Generally, hiring a band is much more expensive than hiring a DJ. However, if you hire a solo act, especially if it’s just for cocktail hour, you can have the upscale feel of live music with a much smaller price tag. A harpist, saxophonist, acoustic guitar player, vocalist, or any solo musician will improve the ambiance of your wedding.

15) Choose Satin Bridesmaid Dresses in a Timeless Color

Satin is a silky smooth and shiny fabric that looks luxurious. Your bridal party will look immaculate in satin bridesmaid dresses with hardly any price difference. Since this fabric is still catching on as a bridesmaid dress option, it will look like you went above and beyond to choose an upgraded option. Choose a color like black, taupe, or burgundy for a truly timeless look.

Black Satin Bridesmaid Dresses

Dylan Satin Bridesmaid Dress in Black

16) Make Dinner Look More Expensive With Garnishes

A little garnish can go a long way. Your caterer probably already has a plan to keep your dishes looking classy but you can always ask for options. Small edible flowers and seasonal fresh herbs will make your dinner plates stand out and they’re affordable to buy in bulk. 

17) Don’t Skip the Chargers

Chargers are probably one of the most seemingly useless items on your wedding decor checklist. A charger is a big decorative dish that doesn’t get used for any food. So why spend money on them? The charger holds the place for your actual dinner plate, so as your guests walk up to their seats there will be a full place setting in front of them instead of just a napkin and silverware. You can borrow chargers from your venue for little to no cost or purchase them pre-owned and your tables will look much more expensive and customized.

Wedding Table Chargers

18) Vary the Height and Size of Your Centerpieces

Having different levels of centerpieces will create a layered look in your dining room. This bit of detail will make a huge difference in the look of the reception room. Ask your florist what your options are for creating depth. If the floral options are too expensive, you can create the same effect with candle sticks, vases, and other decor additions.

19) Cut the Guest List Down

We’re sorry to your college roommate from summer semester and your 3rd cousin on your step dad’s side but realistically not everyone can come to your wedding. You’ll save a ton of money by narrowing down your guest list and you can use those funds for a more indulgent wedding. Plus, a smaller crowd will make your wedding feel more exclusive.

20) Choose Black Tie Attire for The Groomsmen (or Everyone)

You can spend months planning all the most perfect wedding decor at the most perfect venue only to realize that your wedding party doesn’t match the backdrop. Consider having your groomsmen wear tuxedos or at least a more formal black suit and tie option. Better yet, choose a black tie or formal dress code so that everyone at the wedding looks sophisticated.

Black Tie Groomsmen Tuxedos

21) Substitute the Salad Course for a Unique Appetizer

An amuse bouche is a small yet creative bite of food to get you prepared for a nice meal. It sounds fancy, looks fancy, and feels fancy but doesn’t need to be expensive. Talk to your caterer about creative options to substitute for the pre-dinner salad course. They might be able to swap out the salad free of charge.

22) Add Gold Accents to Your Wedding Decor

Gold is the eternal symbol of wealth and gold accents are still trending in wedding decor. Consider adding pops of gold for added opulence throughout your wedding.

Wedding Decor Gold Accents

23) Ditch the Expensive Cake for a Dessert Bar

We love seeing the work bakers put into huge custom-made tiered wedding cakes -- but they cost a lot of money. If you need an alternate idea, we highly recommend a dessert bar instead. Your guests will love having a range of sweet treats to choose from and you’ll love seeing how much more you can get for your money. You can even get a smaller cake made for decoration and for the cake cutting ceremony if you don’t want to skip it completely.

24) Use Natural Elements: Fruit, Feathers, Driftwood, etc.

The greatest things on the planet come straight from nature and they don’t have to cost you a dime. Fill in your table centerpieces, bouquets, and display tables with some natural elements. Fresh fruits, eucalyptus leaves, pine cones, driftwood, feathers, and palm fronds are all creative additions to your decor that can be found or purchased for a reasonable price.

Wedding Decor With Berries and Greenery

25) Serve Late Night Food as a Favor Alternative

We’re sure you’ve seen the trendy post-wedding exit bars that have been a hit the past few years. You might think of an exit bar as extravagant but you might even save money if you choose to do a late night snack instead of buying wedding favors for everyone. Many favors never get used. Consider a hot pretzel bar, bags of fresh popped popcorn, or a mini hotdog stand to make sure your guests have a snack for the ride home.

Start Planning Your Elevated Wedding on a Budget

Now that you have some inspiration, it’s time to get started planning your wedding! Keep your budget in mind throughout your decision making process. Use some of our wedding hacks from this blog to save money without sacrificing style.

Ready to get serious about wedding planning? Download our wedding planning organizer then check out the ultimate wedding planning checklist on our blog.

Wedding Planning Checklist and Timeline

Wedding Planning Timeline: Proposal to the Wedding

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