Planning a stunning wedding ceremony on a budget

When we first started planning, we thought we were having a tiny ceremony with immediate family only, so ceremony and reception venues weren’t a big issue. That changed when we determined that we wanted to have an actual guest list.

We met at Indiana University, but our families lived on separate sides of the state. So we decided to meet in the middle and get married right where met in one of my favorite places in the world, Bloomington, Indiana. Luckily, IU has an absolutely beautiful little chapel right in the heart of campus.

I loved Beck Chapel for all four years of my college career, so I instantly knew that’s where I wanted to get married. But choosing a ceremony venue isn’t always so simple. I didn’t really consider anywhere else, but if I had there would have been a huge list of things to consider, not the least of which being price. Here are some tips for planning your ceremony without breaking the bank:

1. Get married at your church – This one is obvious. If you belong to a church or other place of worship, you can usually have your wedding there with no facility charge or only a nominal donation.

2. If your guest list is small, your venue should be too – We only invited 50 people to our wedding, but I didn’t want to walk down the aisle in a big empty chapel. Beck Chapel has a 65-person capacity. This is a deterrent for many brides who consider having a ceremony there, but it was perfect for us. We filled the chapel without inviting 300 people.

3. Choose a venue that doesn’t need additional decoration – Beck Chapel’s interior is adorned with ornate wood, and a gorgeous candelabra stands at the front of the altar. I loved its beautiful simplicity, and I didn’t think it was necessary to add flowers or other decorations. Wedding venues are often stark and bare until you add thousands of dollars of flowers and decoration. Beck Chapel was perfect just as it was. Skipping the decorations saved us a TON.

4. Find an all inclusive venue – We paid $300 to get married at Beck Chapel (a pretty big amount of money for a ceremony venue considering many people pay nothing), but that fee included the organ, organist, and a curator who organized our ceremony. The fact that we didn’t have to pay for flowers or a musician offset the high price of the venue. When you’re shopping for ceremony venues, find out what’s included with each and figure that into your final decision. Of course, if you’re like me, and you absolutely fall in love with one place over all others, then shuffle around your budget so you can afford to get married there.

5. If you’re on a really tight budget, don’t rule out getting married at home – My sister opted to have her wedding at my parents’ house. A wedding at home doesn’t have to be like the extravagant affairs you see on “Bravo” with millions of dollars in catering and decorations. There’s something very intimate about a wedding at home, and it can be the perfect solution for a private, affordable ceremony. Canopy and chair rentals are cost-effective considering the fact that your ceremony venue will double as a reception venue.

Come back next week for tips on planning an elegant reception without spending a fortune!

6 thoughts on “Planning a stunning wedding ceremony on a budget

  1. R.A.

    Your wedding story sounds like mine!

    My husband and I met at school (Mich. State Univ) but he was from Northern MI and my family was from Southeast MI. So we got married at the Alumni Chapel on MSU’s campus in the middle.

    We didn’t look at any other venues really because getting married there meant a lot to us and just made sense, as that’s where we met and attended school.

  2. Karen

    Thanks for the comment R.A.! We felt the same way … it was so meaningful to get married there. Especially since we’d moved away a year before the wedding, so we got to come back to our college town for a weekend. We had our portraits taken in the downtown area of our college town, so we have a reminder of our college town that we can keep forever. :)

  3. Abby

    We had a great time with our bash. We skipped wedding favors (we were going to just rebag some Ghiradelli squares from Sam’s where they were cheap but in the end it was too much hassle and really, can you remember most of the favors you have received?) and got the hall for free. It was the in-law’s community clubhouse. Church is also a good idea. Seattle’s Parks & Recreation centers were going to be our second choice (since we’re not religious) and were something like $750, including deposit for 3-4. So definitely check out your city’s departments.

    We did a buffet of food (cold cuts, cheese, various crackers, veggies, fruit and makings for sandwiches) and people gushed about it. (I was kind of shocked people were that enthusiastic, but our guests apparently love making their own sandwiches.) We got it all at Sam’s Club with MyPoints but it ran right around $200 for 80-people’s worth of food and cheap silverware (so we can resell it).

    Craigslist is another great resource for all things wedding. I got 100 cloth napkins for $25. Not linen but my MIL starched & ironed them for us and they looked fabulous. Our centerpieces were just cobalt blue vases (from thrift stores) stuffed with tulle, which were surprisingly pretty.

  4. Pingback: Wedding Wednesday: Planning an elegant reception without spending a fortune « Living Well on Less

  5. Shannon


    I am contemplating a wedding @ Beck Chapel. May I ask where you held your reception?



  6. Lorrye

    Hi Karen,

    I just now discovered Beck Chapel….it’s beautiful !! I am wondering, approx.
    what dates would it look the most beautiful for vivid autumn leaves?? Late
    Sept.? Or early/mid October? How does it look in November? Just thinking
    of outdoor photos. When did you get married there? Thanks!

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