I am engaged to be married next year. This is a second wedding for both of us, so we are really on a budget since we are paying for everything ourselves. Here is some advice I can offer from what I have done:
Check craigslist or eBay for wedding decorations. I bought some reception decor at a fraction of what I would have paid for it new. Many people get married and then want to get rid of their decorations and will sell them for less then half of what they originally cost.
Ask your friends or family if they know of anyone who would be willing to make food or cater for a reduced rate. I have a friend who knows a co-worker with a side business of catering. She needs the extra income and we also worked out a deal with us buying all the food and her cooking it and bringing it to the reception for a set price.
If you need alterations done, ask friends and family for a trusted person they know of that can do alterations. Why pay a bridal shop a high price when you can find a trusted recommended individual that can alter clothes for less?
Wedding cakes/cupcakes, again, ask family and friends for recommendations for a person that has a side business of making cakes. Make sure they have taste tested the person's cakes to ensure they are delicious. We have decided to go with cupcakes since they are easier to eat. And a person who makes cupcakes is usually willing to give you a discount if you buy a certain amount.
If you have someone who is crafty in the family, ask them to help you make flowers/decorations for the wedding. Generally, most people don't mind helping out their loved ones because they are making something for a special day. Some flower arrangements are very pricey.
Buy a basket from the dollar store, and decorate it with ribbon for the flower girl. You can invest $2-3 and have a nice basket made. Also, you can usually find small bags of flower petals for cheap. You could use white no matter what the wedding colors are since white is a popular color in weddings.
See if you could offer your services in exchange for using a church or reception location. My best friend is getting married next year as well, and they are going to update the flowers and landscaping of their reception location for a reduced rate to rent the building. Maybe a church could use some extra help or volunteer for an event in order to use the building for free or a reduced amount.
Make your own invitations. That can save a ton of money right there. If you know how to use Microsoft Word, or any typing program, it's fairly simple. Microsoft programs offer tons of clip art to use. Or you can always scan your own pictures and use them as well. One idea is to scan a picture of the engaged couple, and change the image to a translucent (lighter image), and then put the text over the picture. That makes a beautiful wedding invitation!
That's just some ideas I have tried to utilize. Good luck with a wedding if you are on a budget like myself!
You have very good advice on this subject. The only thing I would add is to try to keep your emotions out of your plans. What I mean is sometimes we spend money because the sales people play into our sentiments. We start feeling that if we don't have a certain thing everyone else will be disappointed. This day is about you and your future husband. Good luck have a great day!
Good for you! Sounds like you've really got your head together, you know the wedding is only one day of a life you'll be sharing, hopefully for many years. My daughter and her husband followed some of these tips. They also printed origami patterns from the internet to use as favors. Since my son-in-law's family is well-known in their community, neighbors and friends willingly pitched in where they could to help make it a very special day.
My son-in-law's fellow music majors (at college) formed a quartet for the wedding music. They used a boombox for the reception, but kept the volume low enough so folks could hear each other. Another friend both donated and roasted a whole hog, which my daughter and son-in-law shredded and soaked in BBQ sauce for pulled-pork sandwiches. Those are only a couple of our real-life examples.