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Planning your wedding on a budget!

Updated: Mar 2

indoor wedding ceremony set up at the farm a gathering place

It’s no secret when it comes to planning a wedding that most of us are on a budget! Join a wedding facebook group or look at your feed and you’ll likely see someone posting about wedding planning and being faced with the challenge of how they’re going to afford everything. One of the biggest dilemmas we see as wedding photographers are couples not only trying to figure this out but also how to have ‘their version' of a nice wedding on a budget! I say their version because some couples desire a small mountain top elopement while others envision a grand celebration where they invite all of their closest family, friends, and their plus ones. Sounds simple enough, but for many, once they start crunching the numbers they soon feel like they have to sacrifice one thing or another (or multiple) in or order to afford everything.

As someone whose been through that process, I can totally empathize about not knowing exactly where to put the majority of the budget and/or where we could have been be more budget savvy. Based on the frequency that we see couples trying to figure this all out, we thought it would be helpful to put together an article on this popular subject. We wanted to provide the best possible information from a wide range of local wedding professionals so we collaborated with 8 different companies based here in WNC! We reached out to some of the best pros we know in order to get their budget savvy secrets and some of their most popular tips to help you as you plan your wedding! In this article you will hear from an array of awesome wedding vendors including Carolina Love Events, Flawless: Asheville Airbrush Makeup Artistry + Hair Design, Heartistree Studios, Plain With Sprinkles, Stargazers Designs, Cakin It Up, Erica Batstone with The Farm a Gathering Place, Longleaf Vineyard, and lastly we’ll share some of our professional advice when it comes to being budget savvy on your photography and other parts of your wedding! We will also provide a personal intro for each of these amazing folks who took the time to provide everyone with this great information!

Nikki and Pankti - Carolina Love Events

Full Service Coordination for Weddings & Events, Floral Design, & Vintage Rentals

I’m not sure if there is a more in demand boss babe when it comes to weddings in Asheville! We work with Nikki and her team more than just about anybody every year and the experience is always the same! AWESOME!

  • Cut down the guest list - an obvious one, but not one people consider at first

  • No favors for wedding guests - it's a small cost at times, but still a cost. Guests will enjoy themselves at your wedding, no need to spend extra costs on wedding favors.

  • Consider having a beer and wine only bar - between us, we don't love the idea of a cash bar at weddings when guests have traveled far to be there for your big day, but you can save a lot by cutting liquor out of the bar menu.

  • Consider creative dessert alternatives to a formal wedding cake - there are more dessert options for guests if you do an assortment of small desserts like cookies, donuts, etc. and you can still get a small cake if you'd like to do a formal cake cutting.

  • Skip the bridal party - let it be about you and your significant other - this will cut costs on bridesmaids bouquets/groomsmen boutonnieres, bridal party gifts, extra hair and makeup costs, etc.

  • Consider a hometown wedding instead of a destination wedding - this will eliminate the need to book hotel blocks/guest accommodations (and pay a possible attrition rate), book guest transportation, etc. This will also save on personal travel costs for you as well.

  • Don't spend too much money on your wedding day attire - while it's important to find something you feel comfortable and beautiful in on your big day, consider finding something to wear (including accessories, shoes, etc.) within budget.


Kristi - Stargazers Designs

Full Service Floral Design and Artistry ranging from traditional to contemporary

If beautiful floral arrangements, second to none service, and an awesome personality to match are things you’re looking for, look no further than Stargazers!

“I always suggest to my brides that they repurpose the bridesmaids bouquets and use them as table centerpieces for the ceremony."

"The best way to keep on budget is talk to your florist about different options or types that are cheaper but have similar look to what you envision.”

white bridal bouquets

Sabrina - Cakin it up

Edible Elegance for Any Occasion

We love that Sabrina’s cakes not only look amazing but they taste just as good!

Keep it simple

Simplicity in design and flavors can keep your costs down. A subtle texture to the buttercream decorated with fresh flowers that coordinate with your bouquet can create a memorable look for your wedding.

Forego delivery

Consider having the tiers for your cake on multiple cake stands at varying heights for a more modern look. This can eliminate the costs for delivery by not having to have the cake artist deliver and assemble your cake. You or someone in your party would feel more comfortable transporting the cakes in multiple boxes versus a tiered cake that could topple over in transport if not handled properly.

Alternatives to cake

Cupcakes, cheesecake and flourless chocolate tortes can save you money. Having a display of cupcakes with a small cutting cake, or multiple cheesecakes and chocolate tortes with various toppings could give you more servings at a lesser cost over all.

“My goal as a cake artist is to give you the cake of your dreams. The cake of your dreams can be delicious and beautiful without having to break the bank. At the tasting, we will discuss what is most important to you. And best of all, you will get to sample some delicious cake!”

boldy colorful wedding cake
bride receiving airbrush make up

Brittney - Flawless: Asheville Airbrush Makeup Artistry & Hair Design

Fun stat, 100% of our JCM brides that work with Flawless looking amazing on their wedding day!!

“When choosing hair and makeup services for your wedding day here are 3 tips to help you save on this super important investment! While many people have a budget for your wedding we do understand there may be expenses you want to cut off the list, hair and makeup shouldn't be one of them!”

Let me tell you why!

  • First, You will actually save yourself more money by hiring a professional team that will ensure you look and feel your best throughout your whole day, rather than having a friend do it or you stressing over doing it yourself. Only to find out when you get the pictures back that you didn't like your makeup, your hair had fallen and now you have to see it in every picture!

  • Second, when choosing hair and makeup for your wedding day choose a skilled team that can provide both services this often saves you time and money to book through the same company.

  • Third, choose Airbrush makeup for your wedding day, the longevity far surpasses traditional foundation and you can save by not having to pay the artist to stay additional time for touch ups by choosing airbrush (if you cry or sweat its not going anywhere)

“All that to say, our best advice to you is, when budgeting for your wedding day make sure you choose a reputable company it will save you!”

“Interesting fact: Did you know that the #1 thing a bride worries about for her wedding day is..... If her hair and makeup artist will show up!”

bride and groom holding hands in a green row of trees

Erin - Plain With Sprinkles Events

Full Service Wedding & Event Planning

How amazing is Erin? We shot in Asheville for 2 years before getting to team up with Erin and after just one wedding, she instantly became one of our favorite planners!

Erin's top tips:

*Skip favors! At the end of the night you will end up with 60 of the same favor going home with you to sit in your living room for the next year or two before you Marie Kondo it. Rarely do all the favors get picked up on the way out - guests don't need them since they had a great party. Use this part of your budget to level up your Desserts or Music budget!

*You don't HAVE to have flower centerpieces. Do legos? Ribbon Wands? Floating candles and greenery at the bottom?

*Live plants are a great centerpiece as they can double as gifts for your wedding party / family (or for your home!) It's better for the environment too. A lot of times they are a lot more affordable if you are DIY'ing your decorations! Remember to support local nurseries!

*Keep the ceremony simple! You don't need a gushing backdrop or arbor. You two are the centerpiece and show stopper for the ceremony. Adding more to it just takes a little more attention away from you.

*Keep the bar simple! It helps cutting down in variety and numbers. Maybe opt for choosing: simpler beer, fun local beer, red wine, 2 white wines, and a champagne or rose. If you are doing liquor, then 1 or 2 specialty cocktails or do 3 favorite liquors and their mixers! You really don't need a full bar for a wedding anymore.

*IF you need the permission, you also don't need liquor at weddings. I would say about 60% or more of my weddings this year have been beer and wine only! Liquor can be expensive when you start adding in all the mixers, garnishes, glassware, etc. (And your guests get a little sloppier faster than a beer and wine wedding!)

Tips on rentals:

*Linens - just go for poly! You don't need anything more and no one will notice!

*You can totally skip glassware and china - just make sure to get bio-degradable disposables!

*Before you buy like 100 of something like candles - ask your planner or venue of someone who may have these for rental items. You will save a ton of money, won't have decor all over your house before and after the wedding, and you will be working to stop contributing waste in the industry/world. Rarely do people actually get around to re-selling their decor items after the wedding before donating or throwing it all away.

groom and his groom's party jumping in the air

Jenny - Heartistree Studios

Asheville Wedding Videographers with over 15 years of experience handcrafting heartfelt cinematic short films so you can relive those special moments forever

Jenny and Bryan are the first folks we recommend when someone asks for a videographer recommendation and we could list a hundred reasons why, but it’s easier to sum it up by saying they are amazing souls who are excellent at what they do!

My biggest tip is to create a value based wedding budget sheet which revolves around your deeply ingrained values versus your wants and needs.

At the top write your 5 biggest values as a couple and when you consider each expense, see how it fits into your values and beliefs.

I’ve heard about this concept of budgeting for personal finances from influencers such as Jenna Kutcher of the Goal Digger Podcast and I think a similar approach should be extended to wedding budgeting - and virtually any budgeting task you have for that matter. This is simply because thinking in terms of what you value and how you’ll feel years from now and not just in the here and now and taking a big picture perspective is sure to bring long lasting fulfillment versus just thinking of the immediate needs.

When you picture your family ten years from now, do you envision looking through the photos, watching a video of all the moments or talking about your favorite moment when the DJ shocked everyone playing “the humpty dance” and you turned it up on the dance floor?!

When it comes to decorative items, how can you make the most impact and invest in items that could continue to provide value in your home for years to come? Think about whether your decor items are significant like if they symbolize family who have passed on or other items that could have long term value in your home or become a family heirloom. This ensures your values are involved and not just picking decor that will only serve the occasion.

Beyond that thinking in terms of values, how will the choices you make on what to invest in for your wedding line up with the impact you have on the world and your values about that? Just consider the macro and not just the micro, and make investments that can continue to provide value over time!

Now back to the main question, how to save money at your wedding AND not skip out on the important essentials. My biggest tip is to hire your videographer at a shorter contracted time, say for 4 hours, especially if you are hiring two shooter/videographers as you will be amazed at the amount of incredible footage they can get and how full and complete a film with only 4 hours of coverage can look. A typical wedding video package might be 8 hrs of coverage, so you’re essentially cutting the time in half and this will lower the price significantly if you can find the right team who will work with you on this request. Personally, we jump at that opportunity because we know it’s not only going to save you money but it’s going to make the editing process that much more succinct, and the editor can give more energy to the story editing versus looking through a larger amount of footage for the gems and golden moments. Plus, they will likely be able to deliver your video much sooner. Most importantly, we know how much footage is needed to craft a good film, and to be honest, no matter how awesome your dance floor is, it’s very clear that the highest quality moments are going to happen usually between the first look and ceremony up until the reception events and often that will fit right into a 4 or maybe even 5 hour window.

By cutting down on coverage time you’ll save hundreds of dollars, and end up with a film that flows beautifully and most likely, will be finished quicker and you won’t feel like you skipped out on anything. If having a video to look back on moving images of your wedding moments with your children and grandchildren fits into your value system, this is one way to save money + memories forever.

two brides smiling at each other

Erica - The Farm a Gathering Place -

Wedding Coordinator at The Farm, easily one of the most popular venues in WNC!

We love working with Erica because of her exceptional customer service, her fun demeanor, and her attention to detail. She gives 110% of herself at every wedding and is always their to help whether your the bride and groom or a fellow vendor. She’s also a heck of a live drummer.

Erica's tips:

1) Re-purpose florals from ceremony to reception i.e. use bridesmaid's bouquets at the bars, centerpieces, etc. Large arrangements can be moved to a hearth and small hanging arrangements on hooks or chairs can be moved to high top tables.

2) Buy bulk flowers and have a bouquet building party with your gals the night before!

3) Provide enough liquor to feature 2 signature cocktails through cocktail hour and continue to provide beer and wine for evening rather than having a full bar all night long.


Wendy - Longleaf Vineyard

Owner of hands down one of the most beautiful venues in the The Asheville area!

When we first connected with Wendy 4 years ago, she was planning and coordinating under her previous company, Weddings by Wendy! Every time we’ve sought advice, feedback, or guidance about our business or the wedding industry in general, Wendy has always been supportive, knowledgeable, and frankly always has always had the right answer! We’ve learned so much from her in the last few years and if there’s any expert’s advice in this industry we would take, Wendy would be at the top of that list!

*Search for a venue where you can have your ceremony as well as reception. The ceremony fee will be bundled into the venue fee for a cost savings. Know exactly what’s included in the ceremony portion of the “bundled package” and be sure there are no hidden ceremony fees (i.e. chairs, audio equipment).

**Be fully informed of what is included in your venue rental fee. Ask whether all service charges and taxes are included in the package you are being presented. These are fees that often sneak up on you and can easily add 15-20% to the original quoted rental fee. Do yourself a favor and know this before touring a venue…it will save you time and energy and won’t break your budget.

***Have a realistic guest list in mind before you begin the planning process and avoid guest list “bloat”! Lowering your guest list is the easiest way to reduce your wedding budget. My recommendation has always been…”envision 10 years in the future…who on your guest list will still be in your lives?” I think you’ll be surprised how many guests you can easily remove from your list.

fun bridal party portrait in front of a vintage bus

Joe & Jenny - JCM Photography

No special intros for us, just some ideas on some of the easiest ways to keep your budget in check when it comes to photography and your wedding in general!

Photography budgeting tips

1) Sometimes you don’t need as many hours as you think you do when it comes to wedding photography coverage. While most of our couples do opt for 8 or more hours of wedding day coverage, many only need anywhere from 4-6 hours. At the end of this year we will have shot nearly 300 weddings in the Asheville area in 4 years and in almost every wedding where we provide 8 hours or more coverage, we end up dedicating 3-4 hours to dance floor reception photos. In that time (or our careers in their entirety for that matter), we’ve yet to have a couple state that dance floor reception photos are on their “top 3” list. So potentially 37.5-50% of your wedding day could be spent covering something that’s not that important to you. By figuring out if you want the entire reception covered vs all of it, you can potentially save A LOT!

2) Similar to the above tip, think about how much of the getting ready process you want captured. Most of our couples desire the tail end of getting ready which can generally take 30-60 minutes. This can be a good way to save an hour or two by starting your photography coverage near the tail end of getting ready vs the whole process, especially if you have a large bridal party as hair and make up can take a while.

3) Cut out the fluff in your wedding package. By that we mean don’t worry about adding on extra prints, albums, or canvases to your package right away. This can be a way to save hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars, especially if your photographers offer an online gallery with access to digital files. Most of the couples that purchase a physical print album with their package don’t even order them until close to a year after their wedding in our experience. With it being more of a long term process, don’t worry about spending that money up front, instead put more of your photography budget towards the actual photography coverage.

Overall wedding budgeting tips

1) The simplest way to save on your big day, is to invite your most important friends and family and cut out a lot of the extra guests. According to weddingwire, the average cost of catering for a wedding in the US is $40 per person for a plated dinner, and $27 per plate for buffet style catering. In a foodie town like Asheville, it can easily be MUCH more. If you plan to have a 200 person wedding at $40 per plate you’re looking at $8,000. Cut that guest list in half and you just saved $4000 dollars to budget elsewhere on your big day. From our personal experience with our wedding, our guest list kept growing and growing and before we knew it we ended up with over a 150 people at our wedding some of which we definitely are not that close with at the present time, actually I would say most. Our catering bill ate up most of our budget (pun intended) and you know where we cut costs ironically? Photography (we weren’t pros or even considering it at the time), and you know whose photos turned out terrible? These guys! 8 years later, we regret not investing more in an awesome photographer because even though our plethora of guests had an awesome meal, we don’t have many visuals to remember from our day. Which one do you think will mean more to you in 10 years? 15 years? 20 years? I know this may seem counterintuitive to some of the advice above, but consider a destination wedding. Having your wedding across the country or even out of the country for that matter can be an effective way to cut down on your guest list. If you’re having trouble with the above and telling people “Hey sorry you’re not invitied.” You’ll find if the travel plans are quite substantial, a lot of folks will say they can’t make it. If you’re from a small hometown where everybody knows everybody and everybody is family, you could easily end up with 400-600 people at your wedding. Do the math on that catering bill.

2) Consider getting married at a non peak time. I can’t speak for every venue and every vendor but generally some will have quite the reduced rate for certain times of the year. Speaking from personal experience, we offer winter specials because it’s a little slower. However during super popular times of the year like October, you may find that some venues and vendors actually charge much more due to demand. We actually had a couple last year that told us they were in love with the idea of an October wedding but they ultimately decided to go with the first weekend in November because it was literally half the cost for their venue just by moving it a week later.

3) Lastly, it’s not for everyone, but consider an elopement!

groom kissing bride on the cheek by a brick wall

Our vision for this blog is that couples currently in the thick of planning, those recently engaged, and wedding vendors can use it as a resource! It’s a collaboration that we are so excited to be a part of and one that we all hope can help when it comes to budgeting for your wedding! Thank you to all of the amazing pros who contributed to this effort and thank you all as always for following along!

Follow the links below to learn more about all of the wedding pros who contributed to this article:

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