A Big Wedding On A Tight Budget: Surprise Them

April 12, 2018

With careful planning you can have friends and family there, have a big reception and avoid many of the costs of a big wedding. Just make it a surprise!

You want a big wedding and you want everyone to be there, but you just do not have the money to spend on the frills and trinkets of the modern wedding and reception. Here is a way to have the wedding without having to meet other people’s expectations and without spending thousands. It is low cost, however memorable.

A Surprise Wedding

Gather friends and family together on some pretext and have an extra guest show up, the preacher or registrar, or whoever conducts the ceremony. Calmly announce that it is a lovely day and as all the people you love are in one place you are going to get married there and then! If people want to give presents they can do so later and you can have a fun IOU scheme if they want to sign up for something.

Who Knows

There have to be a few people in the know, so figure out your circle of trust carefully. You and your fiancée are in there, and your parents need to be, if only to avoid twenty years of reminders that you did not tell them. When you tell them is another matter, you can leave it until the week before if it would be safer.


While people will travel for a wedding they might not see the urgency of coming to a party, so make it a special occasion by a little white lie. Pretend it is a surprise party for someone else. This could be one of the people in the circle of trust and they might show up with the preacher. Depending on who you want to invite this may not be necessary, but it adds some suspense in that everyone is expecting something — they just expect something different. Make your list and inform everyone by word of mouth, keep it simple and secretive.


You can get married at a beach, a park, a place by the river, a hired hall, or your home. Choose your location carefully, as this will last in your memory for the rest of your life. Things to bear in mind are whether the place is public and you might have interruptions from strolling dogs or flying Frisbees. Weather is a big factor if you opt for an outside venue. You want somewhere pleasant, easy to get to and either free or low cost. Decorations with balloons and Christmas lights are inexpensive and effective.

Food And Drink

This is a bring-along. Your guests are going to bring the food and drink, but you ought to supply champagne and a cake. You can make the cake for far less than it would cost to buy, and save some cash, but the champagne is a must. You might consider hiring champagne glasses, because you ought to have a toast and it would be a nice touch. You can supply extra drink too, but check the rules of the location on glass bottles and alcohol.

Flowers And Photographs

Everyone has digital cameras now and some people have very good digital cameras. Encourage your guests to bring their camera and to use it freely. A video camera might record some of the reactions when you announce your very imminent wedding. You can gather up all the pictures later. If you want a formal shot you could always go a photography studio after the event. Wedding flowers, or some kind of botanical decoration, would be nice, but you can avoid the roses and lilies and still come up with something attractive.


Use battery power and discs, as low key or fancy as you wish.

Thank You Cards

If you can incorporate a photo from your wedding into a thank you card it would be a very nice way of appreciating your guests efforts and unwitting cooperation and cards can easily be made at home.

The Costs

  • A dress that is attractive, but not necessarily a wedding dress
  • A bunch of flowers for the bride to hold
  • Champagne
  • Thank you cards
  • The ring. It does not have to be a 4 carat diamond ring. Stay within your budget and do not forget it

The Savings

Everything else, from the invitations to the table decorations to the gifts for bridesmaids to the expensive dress and hair stylist. If you are buying your own decor for your wedding, make sure to buy in large quantities since this will often yield discounts. You can start with buying bulk lace table runners and other table settings that would suit your theme to save on the overall cost.

The Big Bonus

It will be a wedding that everyone will remember because nobody knew it was going to happen!


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Andi Perullo de Ledesma

I am Andi Perullo de Ledesma, a Chinese Medicine Doctor and Travel Photojournalist in Charlotte, NC. I am also wife to Lucas and mother to Joaquín. Follow us as we explore life and the world one beautiful adventure at a time.

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