If you are one of those girls who grew up fancifully perfecting every little detail of your dream wedding day down to the customized favors and chair covers, it’s likely that your daydreams conveniently left out any thought of cost or budget.
But if the time has finally come when you’ve met that special someone and you’re finally ready to make your dream wedding a reality, the hard cold reality of what type of wedding your bank account will allow can sometimes be a bit deflating.
But, don’t worry! Even though the cost of weddings these days is skyrocketing for many (especially in major metropolitan areas like Chicago), there are tons of ways to save on costs and still have the wedding you’ve always wanted – on a budget.
Here are 10 ways you can stick to your budget for your wedding day in Chicago. All it takes is a little extra effort, some creativity, and careful planning – but you’ll soon be on your way to having the perfect DIY Chicago wedding on a budget.
1. Opt for a suburban Chicago venue
Chicago is one of the most expensive cities to get married in but it is also one of the best cities for weddings! The bustling city has an amazing skyline, not to mention miles of incredible lakefront along lovely Lake Michigan.
But, renting space in the city proper can easily eat up your entire wedding budget. A suburban venue just outside the city dramatically cuts down the cost, saving you money to spend on all of the other important aspects of the day. And luckily the Chicagoland area is chock full of suburban venues that easily rival downtown spots – so think about what type of venue you’re looking for and do some research in a 50 mile radius of the city.
In addition to plenty of hotels and golf clubs, the suburbs are particularly great for outdoor or rustic weddings. Some great options to consider include:
Byron Colby Barn
This is a picturesque setting for anyone looking for a rustic wedding. Located in Grayslake, IL, the area includes a gazebo with a sandy beach backdrop makes for a serene ceremony location. The barn itself boasts lovely wood beams, a stone silo, and a beautiful staircase leading to a fun loft. The Byron Colby Barn was also voted one of the best venues for a budget wedding by Chicago Magazine.
This unique venue located in Woodstock, IL is tailor-made for the bride who wants an outdoorsy wedding surrounded by stunning nature. The property includes miles of lush greenery, a small lake with a beautiful fountain at its center, and a brick path leading to a lovely white gazebo for the perfect outdoor ceremony. The Concorde Center’s main hall is a rehabbed barn with a beautiful interior including wood ceiling and chandeliers, an indoor fireplace, and double doors leading out to a large deck with an outdoor fireplace.
Illinois State Beach
Twenty years down the line, would you like to look at your wedding day picture against a stunning Michigan skyline and arresting clear blue water? If yes, The Illinois State Beach would be the perfect venue without the pocket-pinch.
2. Choose a venue that lets you bring your own alcohol
In-house bars at many wedding venues make tons off high alcohol prices, so it’s always a great idea to look for venues that allow you to bring your own booze (BYOB). Not only can you customize your bar to include your favorite spirits or match your theme, but you’ll likely save yourself $1,000+.
Floating World Gallery in Lincoln Park is one such venue you can consider. The gorgeous loft area can be totally customized to suit your wedding theme, and the wedding package includes access to a patio and the rooftop Japanese garden beside the glass brick reception room.
Aeree Loft (Room 1520), Byron Colby Barn, and Four Rivers are some of the other beautiful wedding venues that you’ll save on alcohol at.
3. Skip the wedding favors – have a photo booth instead
Save major bucks and introduce a creative time-filler for your guests by opting for a photo booth at your reception. And in all honesty no one really cares so much for those scented candles with your initials on them. Photo booth provide a fun element at your wedding where guests can take a break, and at the end of the day they walk away with unlimited photo strip souvenirs that they actually like.
Plus, many companies offer a photo strip scrapbook option, which can replace the traditional sign-in book. When guests pile in to snap photos together, an extra copy of the photos are creatively placed in a handmade scrapbook during the course of your wedding, and best of all, guests can leave fun messages next to their images. What an amazing keepsake!
4. Make your own wedding invitations
Couples often spend anywhere between $300 and $900 on wedding invitations for a guest list of 100. If you go down the DIY route, you will not only save more than two-third of the cost but you can also customize them to give your invitations an individual touch.
If you are creatively-challenged, the best option for you is to go for a scroll invitation with golden ribbons at the ends. You can use glitter pens in silver to write on a black background or gold on red.
Jazz it up with ribbons and readymade paper or ribbon flowers. Blick on State Street has a good assortment of craft materials, and if you want a class or two on creativity Michael’s on South Canal Street offers valuable in-store classes and free demonstrations.
5. Make your own ceremony and reception décor
A sizeable part of a wedding budget often goes to decorating a venue. Instead of opting for expensive professional help (especially if your venue is large), request friends and family pool in and help you with the décor.
You can spend thousands on lavish centerpieces, or you can exercise your creative side and come up with great DIY centerpieces like this display of candles, flowers, and glasses. Just visit your local craft store, or better yet, buy in bulk online, for clear votive and hurricane vases, some unscented white candles, and supermarket or even synthetic flowers, and voila!
You can use a veil with tiny mirrors and place them in the periphery of a candle chandelier to create a brilliant flickering light décor. Or use floating candles in glasses filled with colored water for a simple but impactful centerpiece at every table. There are tons of fun DIY ideas worth perusing on the Big Wedding Tiny Budget blog.
6. Do your own flowers
If you are a flowers kind of person, you’ll want to use them abundantly in your décor, especially if you’re having a spring or summer wedding. But, opting for synthetic or store-bought flowers can be much cheaper than using a designer florist.
Many higher-end synthetic flowers look very real, so your guests will be none the wiser. Or, if you’re not fully sold on fake flowers, opt for a hybrid – use synthetic flowers in your venue décor or for the petals sprinkled down the aisle; or instead of having real flowers that will wilt in your hair, design a less-expensive and long lasting bunch of fake ones that will look just as lovely in your updo.
Or, just buy store-bought flowers from Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, or the local farmer’s market. If you buy them the day before, you can keep them in the fridge to preserve the petals overnight. Wildflowers look particularly good in simple bunches tied together with a satin ribbon for an easy but still lovely look.
7. Bake your own wedding cake
Designer wedding cakes cost a fortune. A DIY wedding cake will save you a good number of hundreds – so get baking. Again, call on family and friends to help, or use the baking as a fun opportunity to bond with your bridesmaids while getting them to help out.
Instead of experimenting and going for something designer-like, opt for a personal touch. Tiers of beautiful homemade cupcakes are an excellent alternative to baking a cake to show off as well as enough sheet cake to go around, and you can decorate the tiers with overflowing flowers for a stunning centerpiece.
There are tons of great tutorials on designing cakes with a wow factor. You might also want to check out Style Me Pretty for an awesome post on cake recipes and baking tips, or the Etsy blog for this super wedding cake tutorial.
8. Ditch the typical rehearsal dinner for an outdoor picnic on the cheap
Not only will an outdoor picnic help you minimize the cost of a dinner for a large group, but it is a more intimate affair for a rehearsal dinner. Families and friends will get together to talk, laugh, and share stories – which makes for a much more joyous picture than some lavish banquet hall dinner with white napkins and planned seating.
Some picnic destinations you can consider are Millenium Park, North Ave. Beach, Promontory Point, Humboldt Park, and Lincoln Park. Check to make sure you can bring a compact grill or alcohol, and pack up easy finger foods like potato salad, mixed fruit, a meat and cheese platter, and something sweet.
9. Buy vintage, handmade, or costume jewelry
Once you have decided on your wedding dress and your bridesmaids’ attire, bring it all together with some unique jewelry without spending hundreds. Go to a craft store and buy some awesome beads and other supplies and host a party with your girls to design their own jewelry to keep.
Or hunt the local market or thrift store for vintage treasures. With enough time, you can even custom order handmade jewelry or peruse the many online shops for tons of vintage and handmade jewelry at affordable rates at etsy.com.
10. Get married on an “off” day
Choosing an off-season day to get married can definitely save you on venue costs. Many venues offer discounted rates for Friday and Sunday weddings because Saturdays are most popular. Plus, you won’t have to deal with giving up the weekend you wanted to get married on because another couple has already booked.
A Sunday morning wedding makes for a lovely low-key option, and serving brunch is cheaper than a 3-course dinner. Or if your guest list is limited and most of your guests live in the same city, you can go for a weekday wedding and save a ton.
Nobody wants to start married life in debt, but your wedding is also one day you’ll want to cherish and remember forever. Just remember that it isn’t money that wows people, but ideas and special touches – and smart ideas don’t cost a lot!