Low Cost/Low Waste Wedding

—by Nicole Infinity

We recently threw ourselves a wedding. With 60 folks, we managed to keep to our $500 budget, and produce just a handful of garbage. Included in this article are most of the things we did to keep the cost and waste low. Use these ideas as jumping off points and remember that the things you want to do or have at your wedding can probably be created using reused, borrowed, or thrift store items. If you don’t have crafty skills, ask for help from a friend or relative who does. Some of the best wedding presents you receive will be the time of the folks you care about. Even using a few of these suggestions will reduce costs and waste.

Invitations and thank yous

For invitations, postcards are cheaper than card invitations to create and mail. We created postcards at www.snapfish.com. It was quick and easy. If you wait for online coupons, the deals are quite stellar.

To save money and time, we did not send “save the date cards.” We just sent our invitations several months in advance. To save more money, you could do only online invitations through email or a social networking site. Some of our family and friends do not use computers, so we opted for the mail version.

Our thank yous were also postcards. We set out a variety of postcards, and had our guests choose and write their addresses on the postcards. This saves a lot of time after the wedding, looking up and writing down addresses. For cheap postcards and cards check out Half Price Books and local shops.

Food and Drinks

We ordered food from a few local restaurants, including Foxy Falafel, True Thai, and Mesa Pizza. These were chosen based on price and their vegan, gluten free, and diabetes-conscious options. We did not have any meat at the wedding as we are both vegetarian. However, there are a plethora of local restaurants with good prices and great veggie and meat options, including the ones we used. We also purchased some snacky things from Hampden Park Co-op. We fed about 60 people, so food was still a large part of our budget.

For desserts, we asked friends and family who are bakers to bring some homemade tasty things. Cupcakes, cookies, and fruit were the options for folks and it all turned out well. People were eager to help and support.

For food waste, we placed a five gallon bucket near the sink.

We avoided the added cost of adult beverages by not having any. There is a new trend here: no-alcohol weddings. Having been to a few now, I can see why. There were no intoxicated people at our wedding, it ended earlier, and was significantly less expensive.
We ordered a couple cases of Virgil’s Root Beer and Black Cherry Soda from Hampden. One of the tastiest soda companies for sure, based on a root beer tasting we had a while back. They are caffeine-free and use real sugar. The packing is recyclable. We had water and lemonade for folks who are not keen on soda.

For plates, cups, silverware, and napkins we used the real stuff: ceramic, glass, metal, and cloth. This required everything in our community house, what some friends brought over, and purchasing a few things from Savers. A large stack of dishes and a load of laundry, but everyone had a place to put their food and there was no waste from paper plates, plastic cups, paper napkins, and plastic silverware.


Location costs for the ceremony and reception usually come in second only to food and drinks. We were able to use a small green
space near our house for the ceremony, and our yard and house for the reception. We were advised that as long as
we kept the ceremony short, it would not bother anyone if we used a local green space. So, short and sweet it was. We were lucky to be able to use these areas, but other folks might be willing to offer their spaces to you for your wedding. I have heard of many youngsters getting married in parents’ backyards, at a friend’s house, or in a local garden space.

Our dresses were a hurdle for sure, but my lady friend wore one we had made for her years ago and mine was under $10 at Savers. I added some fabric embellishments, and it was all good. We were also able to make pins for ourselves out of the other’s dress fabric. Lots of people are wearing more casual, comfortable, or everyday wedding garb. The savings here can be substantial.
We had friends fulfill a few vital roles for us. For the ceremony leader, we paid for one of our friends to become ordained and file the paperwork with the county. We asked others to sing and play the ukulele to begin the ceremony. Another of our friends took photographs during the ceremony and reception. We were pleased to be able to include these folks as we did not have bridesmaids or bridesmen.


For reception activities we created a sandwich board to post the schedule, played music through small speakers and an old iPod, had a first dance, hula hoops, sidewalk chalk, bubbles, handmade reusable bunting and yarn chains, and had cut quilt squares for our guests to write and draw on for a future wedding quilt.

[Nicole Infinity works in public education, makes art, and enjoys community living with her lady friend.]