Wedding Crafts: An Inexpensive Reception


When my cousin and her fiance decided to move the date of their wedding up three months, all of a sudden the whole game plan changed.  Her father had been diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer, and it was important to them that they have the wedding before he began intensive chemotherapy.  Instead of having the wedding and reception in Florida, they would have the wedding in her hometown and the reception in my parents’ backyard.

She asked her sister and me to do the flowers for the wedding and the decorations for the reception.  Money was a big concern since they were losing 3 months of saving time.  We put our thinking caps on and came up with one majorly cheap (I say that with love in my heart) wedding reception!
These are a few of the money-saving strategies that worked the best for us:

1) Be flexible! – I am not saying you have to totally scrap all your childhood dreams of the perfect wedding, but if you are a slave to a certain picture of your wedding you will end up spending more.

2) Shop your own stuff – Most of the materials for the table decorations came from my house or from my mom.

3) Get a little help from your friends – People buy decorations for weddings and then it sits in the basement for a decade. If you ask around, you might be able to borrow some great stuff, and your friends will just be happy to get it out of the house for awhile.

4) Put up a wanted ad – It may amount to nothing, but it never hurts to ask. I put up a wanted ad for white Christmas lights on Freecycle and got multiple results the first day!

5) Shop the sales – We got all the flowers for the wedding from Hobby Lobby during one of their 50% off floral sales.

6) Use coupons – Most big chain craft stores post weekly coupons in the paper or online for up to 40% off an item. For my wedding, my mom made weekly trips to Hobby Lobby to purchase 1 package of votives in candleholders until we had enough.

7) Use everything – Pretend you are a Native American who hunted down a buffalo. Every part of that craft supply can be useful, you just have to put your thinking cap on.

8) Steal shamelessly – No, I am not advocating shoplifting. Steal IDEAS! Take the time to surf the web or flip through all those beautiful wedding magazines for ideas.

9) Delegate – If you have a family like mine (and you should count yourself blessed if you do), they want to help in whatever way they can. Give them jobs! Let a brother be the DJ, put an aunt in charge of dealing with the caterer, ask your cousin to be a ceremony musician.

10) Keep things in perspective – It was easy for us to keep priorities straight for this wedding. My uncle was able to dance at his daughter’s wedding, and that was more important than what the cake table looked like. But even for “normal” weddings, decide what is important to you. Would you rather have impeccable centerpieces, or do you want to make sure your guests have a great time?


I found the inspiration for the guest table centerpieces at the Every Day with Rachael Ray website. 
The idea was simple and made out of inexpensive materials. We just needed to dress it up a little for the wedding.  The glassware came out of my mother’s and my kitchen cabinets.  The votives were leftover from my wedding (the ones she visited Hobby Lobby every week to buy).  The chargers were also leftover from my wedding (originally less than $2 at HobLob).  My cousin and I just spray painted some twigs that I had, who knows why, a pretty silver to replace the flowers from the inspiration photo.  Total cost of the centerpieces:  NADA!
For the table decorations that flanked these centerpieces, we used wineglasses filled with glass marbles (both borrowed from friends), mirror tiles left from my cousin’s wedding, and more of the infamous votives.  Free, free, and free.
The head table was decorated with the bouquets from the wedding.  The vases are pilsner glasses and bud vases, also from my house.
These pictures show examples of the “use everything” motto.  After making the bride’s and the bridesmaids’ bouquets, there were a few silk flowers left.  I ripped the petals off the stems and we used them to scatter on the tables at the reception. 
The flowers from the bouquets came on ridiculously long and thick stems.  Really thick.  Cutting them with floral shears was a pain!  Instead of throwing them away, we used them as stakes to hang the baby food jar lanterns that I made.
And, finally, some more borrowing from friends.  The lights in the grapevines were borrowed from friends and from my mom’s Christmas stockpile.
The big, white tent was not free, but the lights were.  We borrowed yards and yards of white tulle and white lights from a friend who was married two weekends earlier.  I am not usually a fan of tulle, but when the sun went down, all those gauzy white lights were kinda magical.
I never did get a final cost for the wedding decorations, but it wasn’t much.  I would never be a person to tell a girl that she can’t have what she really wants for her wedding or that she should lower her expectations for how beautiful it will be.  I do think that with some creativity and a little extra elbow grease, you can throw a gorgeous wedding for much less than you would think!
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  1. says

    These tips are great! It's so nice to get them from someone who's been there. I just clicked over to see the Class Reunion centerpice. Heather from CROQZine emailed me about it. It's fabulous! I would love to link to it if you didn't mind.

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