Planning a Beautiful Wedding Reception on a Budget: It Begins and Ends with Family and Friends

by Sally Matheny

Planning a Beautiful Wedding Reception on a Budget
(Pixabay Photo)
Are you planning a wedding reception? 

The average cost for an American wedding reception is around $15,000—just for the reception. 

For many couples, that amount can start marriages off with huge debts. Or it will deplete the savings of numerous parents. I’ve heard of parents maxing out credit cards and running retirement accounts dry. It’s not necessary to do this. Nor is it wise.  

I’m here to tell you it is possible to plan a beautiful wedding reception, even if you’re working within, what many consider, a frugal budget. Granted, it takes a bit more work, but sometimes that extra effort brings an even sweeter satisfaction. Expect a few challenges, but the overall experience can definitely be enjoyable—if everything is approached with the right attitude.

One thing my daughters and I know for certain is a beautiful wedding reception begins and ends with family and friends.

Are you planning a reception? Perhaps you’ll have a relative or friend offer financial assistance. That would be awesome, wouldn’t it? 

But if not, fear not. If you have a loving family or a handful of caring friends, you’re well on your way to creating a lovely wedding reception. In this post, I’ll share just a few of the ways we saved money. There are too many to write about in one post so if you’d like the entire list, say so in the comments and I’ll email it to you

Something Old, Something New

Pinterest is one of our favorite spots for inspiration! After you decide on the color scheme and theme of your wedding, then share with your loved ones about the items for which you're searching.

Our oldest, Daughter M, wanted a reception with a blend of shabby-chic, vintage, and music-themed décor. It was like a treasure hunt once we told everyone the items we were looking for such as old books with solid colored covers to use as centerpieces. People checked library and estate sales as well as second-hand shops. One friend loaned us some of his old book collection. 

My daughter also liked the idea of using three, distressed doors as a backdrop for the cake table. We asked an avid antique-collecting aunt if she knew where we could find some old doors. She did. She had three in storage that she planned to make a porch swing out of one day. We wiped them down and they made a beautiful backdrop.

Make something old into something new.

Gifted with a crafty hand, my daughter enjoyed adding little touches here and there. She found old sheet music in our attic. She lined an old, wooden silverware case with it. The case made a lovely piece for collecting the couple’s greeting cards. 

Hearts were punched from the sheet music as well. The flower girl sprinkled the music hearts down the aisle and more were scattered on the reception tables.

Daughter M has a knack for creating something new out of something old. If you want to save money decorating for your reception, this is one way to do it!  

If you’re not crafty, or lack the time, share within your circle of friends what you have in mind. Many people take great delight in treasure hunting and in creating beautiful things.

I enlisted the help of friends who could sew, build, bake, serve, arrange flowers, decorate, set up, and break down! 

Let me just mention here it's important not to take anyone for granted. If you are able, offer to pay for goods and services—even if it’s from your best friend or Mama. Their time and labor are saving you from an even greater expense. Remember to be gracious and grateful.

Something Borrowed, Something Blue

Our second daughter, Daughter E, is still in the planning stages of an English-garden themed reception. Her fiancé’s grandmother has a lovely collection of cobalt blue-and-white vases, teapots, and bowls. E. asked if she might borrow some of them for centerpieces.

The grandmother kindly offered pieces she had, but again, we had the fun of hunting down additional pieces. While we wanted inexpensive pieces, we did not desire cheap-looking ones. We were pleasantly surprised at finding some beautiful, blue-and-white pieces at thrift shops and at Ross and Marshall’s. The brightly colored flowers Daughter E has chosen will look beautiful in them.

Speaking of flowers…

Flowers have the potential of uprooting a chunk of your budget. Here are several ideas that helped us in floral decor.

Check out what flowers are in season and focus on those first. We ordered in bulk from SAM’s Warehouse. We were very pleased with the quality. I advise ordering SAM's hydrangeas one day earlier than their suggestion for them to fully open by wedding day. The baby's breath and the white carnations from Sam's were beautiful and less expensive than the florists.

We also used fresh greenery and flowers from backyards and even bought some beautiful and inexpensive flowers from grocery stores. We borrowed ferns from kind neighbors. People are generally pleased to showcase the products of their green thumbs at weddings!

For flowers out of season, consider the real touch silk flowers that look and feel like real flowers. It was important to us to find flowers that looked as close to the real thing as possible. Those cost a little more but Michael’s and Hobby Lobby run regular 50 -60% off sales in their floral departments. Plus, you can keep and use the flowers in your home afterwards.

God's Blessings are Beautiful 
We were blessed with creative friends and family who volunteered (er…agreed when asked) to help with arranging bouquets and corsages for the wedding, and centerpieces for the reception. 

If you need help, there are tutorials on YouTube. Florists do a wonderful job but if you’re looking for ways to save money, and you’re not wanting something elaborate, you (and your talented friends) can do this!

God even blessed us through the kindness of strangers. One generous woman, we met just a few months before Daughter E's wedding, offered to loan us tablecloths and linen napkins from her daughter’s wedding. Another woman offered to serve at the reception, and we were just in the initial stage of our friendship. God is good and His blessings overflow.

And a Silver Sixpence in Your Shoe

It’s the end of the stanza in the Old English rhyme. “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a silver sixpence in your shoe.” That sixpence didn’t have much value but the tradition was supposed to bring brides luck. Placing a sixpence in the bride’s shoe was supposed to garner financial fortune.

But you don’t need a superstitious tradition. All you need is what the good Lord has blessed you with—the love of friends and family. Hopefully, you have a few with creative talents. But if not, they’ll still be there to celebrate with you at your wedding. And they’ll be there to encourage you and your spouse in the years ahead.

And that kind of love, makes you rich.

Remember to comment below if you want me to email you a longer list of ways we saved money when planning our daughters’ weddings and receptions. I’ll even share some links to resources I discovered after hours of researching for the best prices. Hopefully, that'll save you time and money. Did I mention this list is a sweet freebie? :)


  1. I agree. Wedding's don't have to be outrageously expensive. For my daughter, she went with simple, timeless elegance. The church was a beautiful historic building that didn't require elaborate decoration other than long stem rose bouquets on the pews which we made ourselves using Sam's flowers. She held her reception at our house, a Victorian home, so it didn't require much decorating, either. For the front porch we found some fun vintage decorations at a local thrift store. Since neither of them liked cake, they opted instead for DQ ice cream cakes which were considerably cheaper.

    The only problem we ran into was that UPS accidentally delivered the flowers to a neighbor. So we had a couple of hours frantically calling and driving around trying to find them since they have to keep refrigerated. But we found them and they were lovely.

    1. Sharon, that sounds like a gorgeous wedding! The DQ ice cream cake sounds like a deliciously fun alternative! Thank you for sharing your family wedding story with us.


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