Love is in the air! The pandemic may have slowed down some aspects of life, but according to my Instagram feed, there is no shortage of engagements. Planning a wedding is a labor of love and, more often than not, financial stress. How do you put on a wedding for less than $10,000, while keeping your sanity?

According to a 2019 survey from The Knot, the average wedding in Indiana costs $23,000.  What’s even more surprising is how often newlyweds take on debt to finance their wedding. To all the newly engaged couples out there, I am here to tell you that it is possible to plan an exceptional wedding for less than half the average cost!

Location, Location, Location

It’s no shock that the largest line item in a wedding budget is the venue, coming in at an average of $10,500, according to The Knot. If you are trying to beat the average cost, you’ll have to consider not-so-average alternatives. Exchanging vows at a conservatory or in a greenhouse will knock out your venue and décor expenses in one fell swoop. Locally, the Garfield Park Conservatory wedding fees range from $300 to $950. Are you digging the floral vibes? Look into whether your local nursery or garden store has ventured into the events industry. Your findings might surprise you. 

Another non-traditional option is to book a rental property through websites like Airbnb or VRBO. Theoretically, you can host the rehearsal dinner, wedding, and reception at the same location, all while providing a place for guests to stay. This method eliminates transportation costs as well as set-up and tear down time constraints. Not having to work off an event space’s limited catering menu is the icing on the cake. With properties of all sizes, there are options for every couple.

If you’ve always dreamt of an outdoor wedding, look no further than your favorite public park. Parks are budget-friendly and have beautiful, natural landscapes for all of your wedding photo desires. Many parks are equipped with pavilions or existing shelters that are ideal for the reception. Be sure to contact the Parks Department to determine availability, fees, and permits. 

The Menu

If you book your wedding at a traditional venue, odds are they have a list of catering options and drink packages. Prices vary, and it will be easy to determine the affordable options. Perhaps you decide to splurge on the venue and cut costs at dinner. This will likely consist of a combination of the following: no passed appetizers, a buffet-style dinner or less common cuts of meat, and bite-sized desserts instead of the big cake. 

If the reception location doesn’t have a shortlist of caterers, you have another big opportunity to reduce food and alcohol expenses. The menu is entirely up to you. A BYOB (bring your own beer) venue, such as an Airbnb property, provides the perfect excuse to set up a cooler with cold beer, fill up a pitcher with your signature cocktail, and set aside some crowd-pleasing wines. If you don’t have a membership to your local wholesale consumer goods store, now is the time to sign up!

Learn and Save

The wedding industry exists so that brides and grooms don’t have to lift a finger on their special day. With enough time and energy, you can do most services yourself, and that almost always cuts costs. Here are a few examples:

  • Create a custom invitation.  There are countless templates available on sites like Etsy these days. Pop in your favorite engagement photo and send it off to the printer.
  • Be your own DJ. Rent a speaker and prepare a playlist on Apple Music or Spotify. That way, you know all your favorite songs will make the cut!
  •  Bake your wedding cake. If quarantine taught us anything, it was how to bake.
  • Craft faux bouquets.  I’m not crazy – this is a thing! Realistic bouquets made from silk or paper are trending.
  •  Keep hair and beauty in-house.  What’s more fun and useful than testing different looks? 

This is the era where anything and everything can be learned online.  I’ll leave you with one word:  YouTube.

In need of more inspiration? There is a bustling community of more than 65,000 people sharing ideas, experiences, and tips on Reddit’s r/WeddingsUnder10k community.


Getting married shouldn’t mean taking on new debt. The secret to getting rich is living below your means. This principle applies to every aspect of life, including wedding planning. Start marriage off on the right foot by defining your budget and sticking to it. It’s possible to throw an above-average party at below-average costs!  

Kate Arndt, CFP®, is a Financial Planner with Bedel Financial Consulting, Inc., a wealth management firm located in Indianapolis. For more information, visit their website or email Kate.

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