30 Ways to Thrift Your Dream Wedding

From dollar store decorations to saving big bucks at the bridal salon with a little known hack, you really can create a beautiful wedding on a small budget. Here are 30 savvy ways to save money on your big day.

August 27, 2019

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Shop Bridal Outlets

Just like regular apparel stores, some bridal salons have outlets, too. This is a great way to score a new, never-worn dress for a fraction of the original cost. Typically there’s nothing wrong with the dresses, but the style may have been discontinued or the line is last season. Also, look for nonprofits in your area such as Brides for a Cause. This organization takes used wedding dresses from brides and brand-new dresses donated by local stores and sells them at a deep, deep discount.

Buy a Sample Dress

My wedding was Art Deco-themed and I had my heart set on a beaded gown. But beading is $$$$ and I was on a strict budget. I scored a designer dress with head-to-toe beading using this little hack the bridal salons don’t tell you about: I bought a sample dress. A sample dress is the dress you try on to find your size. And if you like it, the bridal salon orders a new gown. But after so many seasons, or if a style is discontinued, salons will sell the samples. After a trip to the dry cleaners and alterations on minor snags in the tulle, my dress was as good as new for a fourth of the cost of a brand new gown.

Rent Your Wedding Dress

If your style is less heirloom and more trendy, consider renting your dress instead. Rent the Runway is a great way to wear top designer clothes for a fraction of the full retail cost. The site’s had a cult following for years for renting wedding guest outfits, but now the brand has a bridal shop with outfits for every occasion, from white rompers for the bachelorette party to little white dresses for the dress rehearsal to full-length gowns for the big day.

Score Deals on Poshmark

I stressed and stressed about my wedding shoes for a long time until my second bridal fitting appointment where I learned that the traditional hemline for a floor-length wedding dress is actually even longer than floor length. Translation: No one will see your shoes anyway so don’t spend too much on them. I scored these gorgeous (and designer!) vintage silk T-straps on Poshmark for just $25.

Shop Secondhand Jewelry

One of the best pieces of advice I received when planning my wedding was to assemble a backup kit with Tide sticks, safety pins and even extra jewelry should something break. I scored several brooches, barrettes and baubles from a vintage shop in Seattle for a fraction of the cost of brand new items from a bridal shop.

What to Put in Your Backup Kit: 25 Wedding Day Must-Haves

Sell Your Wedding Outfit

My wife’s wedding suit is a gorgeous navy blue that she’ll be able to wear to other events in the future. My cathedral length veil? Yeah, not so much. If you already have enough wedding keepsakes and you know you won’t wear pieces from your wedding outfit again, sell them to other brides and grooms. Sites such as Nearly Newlywed, Still White and Poshmark are great for selling bridal shoes, jewelry, veils and even wedding dresses. It’s a great way to make some money back on expensive purchases and you’ll know those pieces get another life in someone else’s big day.

Shop Secondhand on Etsy

Etsy isn’t just for handmade items. Tons of sellers on Etsy sell vintage and secondhand wares. It’s like a virtual vintage shop. We had a postcard station at our reception where guests could write us well wishes and I scored this antique stamp box to display stamps.

Search Facebook Marketplace

A lot of brides will sell their used wedding decor on Facebook Marketplace post-wedding. It’s a great way to nab bulk vases, signs, frames and so much more. I scored this vintage map that another bride used in her wedding for just $10.

Savvy Furniture Rentals

Furniture is one of those hidden costs with venue decor that can really sneak up on you. I’m not talking about ceremony and table chairs. I mean the miscellaneous stuff, such as a sweetheart table, food buffet, table for the guestbook, etc. Unless you have an unlimited budget, buying new isn’t an option. And even furniture rental prices can be steep. When you reach out to furniture and event rental vendors, always ask about bundle deals. I rented several pieces from the same company and was able to save on rental fees per piece. Alternatively, if you live in the area you’re getting married and you have the extra garage space, you could buy vintage pieces and resell them on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace after the wedding.

Shop Estate Sales

If you want true vintage pieces — not vintage-inspired — for your wedding decor, check out estate sales. They’re great for finding quality antiques such as real Jadeite china, milk glass, brass decor and even heirloom silver. I’ll admit, estate sales used to bum me out. It’s just so sad seeing someone’s life displayed for the picking. But a fellow writer and editor at HGTV helped me see it in another light: you’re giving these items a second chance and a new life.

Check Out Deals at Costco

Before you commit to outdoor rentals such as tents and card tables, compare prices and see if buying is actually cheaper. You can score gorgeous, professional-grade bistro lights from Costco for less than $50. And after the wedding, you can re-hang them around your patio.

SEE MORE: 21 Essentials for a High-Style Backyard Wedding

And Costco Florals

Yes, Costco does florals for special occasions. I really wish I had known about this when I was planning my wedding. They have amazing grower’s choice deals such as 18 mini arrangements for $99. Excuse me while I pick my jaw up off the floor. And it’s not just bouquets and centerpieces. They have boutonnieres, floral table runners and even gorgeous, greenery-only arrangements, too.

Use Thrift Store Vases

No matter what style or theme you’re going for, glass hurricane vases are good to have on hand when decorating a space. Most wedding venues have strict rules about open flames, so tall glass vases are a great way to have that romantic “tons of candles” look without setting the building on fire. I scored about 10 vases from my local Goodwill for $1 each.

Do Your Own Flowers

Cut the florist cost completely and make your own arrangements and bouquets. Check out wholesale sites such as Fifty Flowers for bulk deals on trendy flowers and greenery. Or buy bouquets from the grocery store and rearrange the flowers into your own centerpieces and bouquets. Whole Foods also has a great selection of flowers and greenery.

SEE MORE: 63 Gorgeous DIY Wedding Centerpieces

Cut Florist Costs With Faux Foliage

There’s always that one thing you have to have for your wedding decor, and for me, it was wooly, romantic lamb’s ear — my favorite plant. Bringing that Pinterest board to life was a bit harder than I thought because a) I got married in late summer instead of spring when lamb’s ear is more readily available and b) florist prices are always crazy expensive. I got the look I wanted without breaking the bank by mixing in faux foliage. The important things that were photographed (like my bouquet) featured the real thing, but areas where guests wouldn’t notice as much or weren’t in direct eye line had faux leaves. I nabbed a bunch of faux sprigs from TJ Maxx, but you can also find faux foliage at your local craft store. Tip: make faux blooms look like the real thing by mixing them in with real grocery store greenery and filler flower.

Skip the Flowers Altogether

Cut the cost of flowers altogether and create table centerpieces with candles or something on theme. Stacked books or cigar boxes are great for a vintage-inspired wedding. Skip the bouquet, too, and hold something else. If it’s an outdoor wedding, hold lanterns with votives from the dollar store. Or hold vintage suitcases from the thrift store for a travel-themed wedding. You’ll save a ton plus you can resell the items on Facebook Marketplace after the wedding.

Use Dollar Store Candles

Don’t for a second think you need expensive candles or votive holders. The plain ones from the dollar store will be just fine. And if you don’t want plain, clear glass, check out this easy hack to get the mercury glass look.

SEE MORE: 38 DIY Dollar Store Wedding Decor Hacks

Mix in Dollar Store Decor

I love vintage-inspired weddings with tons of heirloom silver decor, but buying or renting silver pieces is insanely expensive. For table centerpieces at our reception, I used faux silver trays from the dollar store. Yes, really. Each tray cost me $1. Mixed in with high-end brass frames and real glass Art Deco vases, it looked legit.

SEE MORE: 38 DIY Dollar Store Wedding Decor Hacks

Use Thrift Store Frames

Picture frames are so useful at weddings and a great way to display mementos, menus and event information. But pretty frames are expensive. Instead of buying new, browse your local thrift store. I scored these awesome vintage, hinged frames from my local Goodwill that we used to display the drink and spirits menu at our reception bar.

SEE MORE: 25 Lovely Ideas for a Vintage-Inspired Wedding

Head to the Salvage Yard

Those trendy, industrial-chic venues can be insanely expensive — even with a mid-week discount. But you can get the look for less just by going thrifting. Head to your local salvage yard or antique store and look for big pieces like an old door, window or vintage tin squares. These items can create an industrial vignette that will give any space rustic-chic vibes.

SEE MORE: 45 One-of-a-Kind Wedding Arbors, Altars + Aisles

Spray It Gold

I am a firm believer that gold spray paint can turn anything luxe, from glass wine bottles to plastic serving tiers. Brass lanterns are super trendy in wedding decor right now but they’re $$$$. Get the look for less by spray painting dollar store picture frames and gluing into a lantern shape. Tip: we've tested a lot of gold spray paint here at HGTV. Our top pick? Rustoleum's Imagine in Metallic Gold.

SEE MORE: 38 DIY Dollar Store Wedding Decor Hacks

Upcycle It

With a little imagination, you can easily turn low-cost or free items into chic wedding decor. Would you believe these stunning chair swags were made from just a few plastic dollar store tablecloths?

SEE MORE: 38 DIY Dollar Store Wedding Decor Hacks

Fake Your Cake

Wedding cake is so expensive. Slice price can easily get up to $15 depending on tiers, designs and flavors. That’s just madness. So, some couples have started faking their cake display. Yes, really. You can ask your baker to make the bottom tiers out of foam and cover them with fondant! It looks totally real. The top tier that you cut for the cake cutting is real, but the rest of the cake is cut from plain sheet cakes out of sight. Sound crazy? You’ll save so much by not ordering multiple decorated tiers.

Or DIY It: 3 Trendy + Easy Ways to Dress Up a Plain White Wedding Cake

Mix and Match Silverware

Instead of spending a fortune on silverware rentals, head to your local thrift store and pick out different designs. You’ll need to polish them to bring them back to life, but you’ll save a ton. This not-so-matchy look is perfect for outdoor receptions and bohemian-inspired weddings.

Mix and Match Plates

Same goes for plates. I’ll be the first to admit my gorgeous Art Deco plate rentals were super extra. If you want the vintage look but don’t have a big budget, head to the thrift store and collect vintage plates in different patterns and designs. You can also use vintage saucers for cake plates. A good rule of thumb for the coordinated-yet-mismatched look is to always have a theme. Pick a color that unifies different styles and patterns and the mismatch will look intentional.

SEE MORE: Love Wins: Wow Guests With a Rainbow-Themed Vintage Table Setting

Use Plastic Chargers

This is one of the oldest tricks in the book and one I still use at dinner parties and, yes, even my own wedding. If you want a more formal table setting with multiple plates and silverware, you need chargers. But chargers can be even more expensive than plates. Plastic chargers, however, are super cheap. You don’t even have to rent them anymore. You can find metallic gold and silver chargers at the dollar store or party store. I promise they won’t stick out or look cheap in photos. And your guests won’t care either. Remember: People don’t pick up or eat off of chargers. I saved so much money by going with plastic chargers and I put that money toward gorgeous Art Deco dinner plates and salad plates.

SEE MORE: 38 DIY Dollar Store Wedding Decor Hacks

Embellish Plain Napkins

Instead of paying to have your initials stamped onto paper napkins or breaking the bank over rental fees, dress up plain, store-bought white dinner napkins. You could use a bit of velvet to tie the napkin or tie-dye for a summer reception. And if you really want monogrammed napkins, try a bit of DIY embroidery to add those initials yourself. It will take time if you have a long guest list, but will save you a lot of cash to put toward something else.

MAKE IT: DIY Wedding: 1 Napkin, 3 Ways

Buy Secondhand Linen

Every couple has that one thing they won’t cut back on. Maybe it’s expensive flowers. Maybe it’s four different cake flavors. But if you are absolutely hellbent on having real linen for your tablecloths, be warned: the rental cost for linen is insane. Instead, scour thrift stores, Craigslist and other re-sell sites for authentic linens. I guarantee it will be a fraction of the cost of renting. Plus, you can sell the linens to a party planner or another couple on Facebook Marketplace after the wedding.

Buy Favors in Bulk

Wedding favors can get pricey fast. $3 per bottle opener may not seem like much, but when you’re buying for 100 people that’s $300! Be sure to compare prices and always buy in bulk if you can for a better deal. One of my all-time favorite wedding favor hacks is to take regular matchbooks from the dollar store and cover them with stickers or temporary tattoos so they look like the really expensive, custom-ordered ones. No one will ever know! If you don’t have time to DIY your favors, check out some of the best deals we found on Amazon below.

SEE MORE: 15 Wedding Favors You Can Buy in Bulk on Amazon

Use Dollar Store Bubbles

If you’re doing a bubble send-off, do not waste your money on full bottles of bubbles from the kids’ aisle. The send-off happens so fast that guests won’t need that much. Plus those big bottles are expensive. Instead, head to the party store or the dollar store and stock up on the tiny, clear plastic bottles. They’re plain and not particularly exciting to look at, but you can embellish them with metallic paint like we did here. Snag more dollar store wedding decor ideas below.

MORE: 88 DIY Wedding Favors Your Guests Will Love

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