Ok, so it’s not actually possible to have a 100% free wedding. Even if it’s just the two of you in jeans and flip flops with no party, dress or flowers, you’ll still have to pay for a marriage license which varies by state (typically $35-$65). But if you are reading this, then you’re probably looking for some seriously creative ways to slash your wedding expenses which, in this day and age, is no easy task. But with some patience, resourcefulness, willingness to think outside the box and sidestep expectation and convention, you can absolutely pull off the unthinkable. Here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing.

MASTER GIVEAWAYS, COUPONS AND OTHER HIDDEN GEMS

1.Join blog giveaways.  There are thousands of blog giveaways daily, and most of them require a very simple “Facebook like” or a Re-tweet to enter. Spend ten minutes a day joining a handful of contests, and chances are if you join enough giveaways (especially of small up and coming blogs), you are bound to win something. Browse: Sweepstakes AdvantageBlog GiveawaysOnly For Her

2.Search for free stuff online.  Be patient, but you’ll be sure to find some great décor items. Military brides can get a free wedding dress through Brides Across America – see guidelines and events hereBrowse: Freecycle.org,  Totally Free Stuff, Craigslist free section for your area

3.Visit your local dollar store, flea market or yard sale.  You never know what treasures for your wedding you will find! Inspiration: 50 Hot Yard Sale and Flea Market Finds (and how to use them in your wedding)

4.Stay on top of Flash Sale sites.  Flash sale sites, wedding or non-wedding related, will have a variety of items for up to 80% off. Flash sales can last anywhere from 1 day to a week, so be sure to mark your calendar if you know of one happening. Browse: 100 Layer Cake Pop Up ShopGilt

5.Keep an eye on Ebay. You never know when someone will put up something fabulous and inexpensive on Ebay.

6.Get to know Etsy. A marketplace for handcrafted goods. Browse: His and her wedding bands for $49.99

7.Use coupons: Michael’s, Joann’s Fabrics, Bed Bath & Beyond aways have fantastic deals. They will be your best friend should you pursue the DIY route.

8. Register for Walmart or Costco gift cards. If you use it to buy alcohol, you can return the liquor you don’t drink at Costco.

9.Use Swagbucks Earn virtual currency for watching videos and playing games and redeem them for gift cards. (If you like ideas like this, check out our post on 8 ways to make some extra cash for your wedding)

 

DOWNSIZE AND SKIP

10.Slash the guest list. Big time. The less people you have to feed and entertain, the less money you will have to spend.

11.Skip the wedding party. Keep things intimate and forego the bridesmaids dresses, tuxedo rentals, gifts and bouquets. There are a lot of meaningful ways to include and honor your close family and friends in the ceremony.

12.Skip the favors. Your guests will understand.

 

TRADE, BARTER OR BUY USED

13.Get on the wedding forums. You might be able to split décor items with another local bride, buy used items at a huge discount or find a vendor who had a cancellation. Networking will go a long way. Browse: Reddit, WeddingWire, TheKnot

14. Ask a friend to become an ordained minister and officiate your ceremony.  It’s a simple process, and can be done online. Browse:  American Marriage Ministries, $19.99

15. Ask friends and family for wedding help in lieu of gifts. They can pitch in on decor, beverages, invitations or just about anything you might need help with.

16. Barter for services. Perhaps offer a few hours of tutoring services to a friend who happens to be an amazing violinist.

17.Crowd-source your photos. We all have a friend or two who is into photography, so ask them to bring their fancy cameras and snap away. Ask them to drop the photos into a free Dropbox account, or create a unique hashtag and ask your guests to Instagram the photos.

18.Buy used, and then sell them afterwards. Most of these items have only been worn once and are in great condition. Browse: Recycle Your WeddingPoshmarkTradesyPreownedWedding Dresses

 

DECOR IDEAS

19.Ask a local florist if you can use their leftover/discarded flower petals. 

Flower petals make for wonderful and colorful decorations – from scattering them down the aisle or around a table, to filling up vases with them – the options are endless.

20.Choose a single stem bouquet. Select a single large bloom with a long stem and wrap the stem with some leftover ribbon from your Christmas stash. Inspiration:  Single stem bouquetsVideo DIY Cymbidium Single Stem Bouquet Browse: Flower Pricing Chart

21.Mix & match tables, Chairs, and linens. Be eclectic with your style and mix and match tables, chairs, and linens. Use your own, and borrow some! Inspiration: Eclectic Wedding Decor: Mix and Match Style

22.Save on plates, cups and napkins. If you borrow a few sets of plates and silverware from friends, you can go for a mix and match eclectic tabletop style.  Or, if you are willing to go plastic, Amazon has paper and plastic plates as well as silverware in a variety of styles and colors. Browse: 25 Plastic Plates and 25 Salad Plates, $27.50; Looks Like Silver Disposable Flatwear for 40, $14.69

23.Use nature for decor ideas.  Pick lemons, limes or oranges for table centerpieces; or twigs, branches, dried leaves, stones for decor.

24.Use items from around the house as decor.   Decorate your tables with frames containing pictures or your favorite love quotes, spray paint old jars white, bring an old armoire out for a dessert table. Your options are endless! Inspiration: Handheld Wedding Frame DIY

25.Collect jars. From mason jars to jam jars to apothecary jars – these all serve as beautiful decor for your table or dessert bar!

TOTALLY FREE STUFF

26.Find a free location for your ceremony.  Perhaps a public park with  lots of tables and benches?  Or a beach where you can lay blankets down on the sand. How about asking a friend/relative to use their home or backyard?

27.Electronic Invitations.  Unless you want to hand deliver printed invitations, you will have to pay for postage. So consider sending a beautifully designed electronic invitation for your wedding invitations and Save the Date cards.Browse: GreenvelopeEvite or Paperless Post

28.Sign up for a free wedding website. Create an official page for your big day for no cost. Browse:  Wedding Window and Wedding Wire

29. Find free printables online. You can download table cards, escort cards, menu cards, and even print free wedding invitations. Browse: Print with my PicIdojour Free Printables, Wedding Chicks

30.Make friends with a bartender. Ask a local bar to set aside empty bottles, which you can wash, remove the labels and turn into vases or water containers.

31.DIY hair and makeup. YouTube has no shortage of hair and makeup how to’s – with enough practice, you can be a makeup pro! Inspiration: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n0ea0kYcCbc

32.Stock up on free samples. Pay a visit to cosmetic counters at department stores and stock up on free samples. Bare Essentials will make you a free trial size foundation, Nordstroms has Sample Saturdays.

33.Visit a bridal shop and look at longer length veils. Most of them have tears/holes and ask if you can have it (if it’s old, they’ll usually want to get rid of it). In return, tell them you will write a great review about the shop. You can cut and tailor the veil to a shorter length to suit your wedding look.

34.Borrow a dress or jewelry from a family member or friend. After all, you do need something borrowed right?

35.Let bridesmaids wear their own dresses and the boys their own suits. Everyone has a little black dress, or have them wear any solid color cocktail dress they have in their closet! Inspiration: Ideas for Mix and Matched Bridesmaid DressesPrinted Bridesmaid Dresses

 

DO IT MAKE IT GROW IT YOURSELF

36.Grow your own flowers.  If you have the will, time, and space.  Send out save the dates and request your guests to send you a small package of flower seeds. Grow them and by the time of your wedding you will have a nice collection of flowers to use!

37.Become a DIY Queen. You can make just about anything from veils to bouquets to favors. Yes, you’ll have to spend on materials and you’ll need to invest a decent amount of time, but in the end, DIY projects are personal, creative and cheap! Inspiration: Emmaline BrideIntimate WeddingsThe Broke Ass Bride

38.Make Your Own Food. This will cost a bit of money, but if you recruit a few extra hands and stick to things that are in season you can make an assortment of small snacks very inexpensively. Family style pasta dishes, stand up weddings with heavy passed appetizers, or a light buffet will work beautifully. You can even make your own cake, dessert or candy table.

39.Bust out those holiday lights. Add a little ambiance and light up your reception.

40. Make paper bouquets, lanterns or pinwheels out of crafting paper. Craft paper is extremely inexpensive and it adds a pop of color to your decor! Inspiration: Paper PinwheelsJust Artifacts for $1 paper lanterns

41.Make items serve two purposes. The escort card could also be given away as wedding favors. Ceremony flowers can be reused as centerpieces.

42.Make Sangria. You don’t have to forgo alcohol completely. Even a “two-buck-chuck” will taste good when mixed with juice, sugar and lots of fruit! And your cocktails will look pretty too!

43.Make your own wedding playlist on your iPod or MP3 player. Borrow CDs from friends, or sign up for a free Spotify premium account for 30 days (after that it is $9.99 per month). You can find virtually every song, create your own playlists and on the big day, play them in offline mode without needing a wireless connection.

 

UNCONVENTIONAL IDEAS (also called borderline wedding faux-pas)

44.BYOB Food and Beverages. This might go against wedding etiquette (and this is a hotly debated topic), but if you really want free food and drinks, why not ask guests to bring a dish, appetizer or beverage in lieu of wedding gifts?

45.Exchange services for advertising at wedding. Some people do go out and find sponsors – from the dress to the cake to the flowers in exchange for advertisements – either on their invitations, favors, as little cards on guests’ plates or signs at the wedding. It’s not for everyone, but many a resourceful couples do go this route.

46.Go Get Funding. Yes, there is a website, GoGetFunding.com, where couples can raise money for their dream weddings. You’ll have to reward your sponsors and those who pledge somehow, but hey – it’s worth a shot!

47.Find an alcohol sponsor.  Beverage companies are always promoting new drinks at bars and clubs.  Negotiate by saying you will be serving their product exclusively.