The Ultimate Guide to Having a Cheap & Beautiful Bohemian Wedding
Updated: Jan 15
How to have a bohemian wedding | Boho wedding ideas on a budget
So what makes a bohemian wedding "bohemian" anyway? Staying true to yourself, and your tastes regardless of what others may think. Bucking typical wedding traditions and doing whatever you like, however you like. Giving your guests a beautifully unique experience they'll talk about for years.
As Laren Stover, author of Bohemian Manifesto: A Field Guide to Living on the Edge puts it:
“Bohemians also get married in cemeteries, in the woods, on a barge, in ruins. It will not be a location that is strange or familiar to them, or perhaps a place where they have had lunch or visited while traveling.”
“Friends will read Sappho, ancient Egyptian love poetry translated by Ezra pound, Rumi and ancient Chinese poetry. The wedding gown may be an antique corset worn with tulle wrapped around an underskirt of aluminum foil, with the groom and a kilt and the flower girl and ring bearer and angel wings. Or the bride May wear an Indian Rose silk skirt with a gold Paisley Motif; the groom will wear a safari outfit for this one. Outfits made of felt, elaborate brocade and denim also figure in wedding ceremonies. Men may be bridesmaids and women may be best men. Brides and grooms of any sex may wear a tuxedo or down. This includes nightgowns, something vintage and satin. Music will be provided by the guest and/or bride and groom, groom and groom, Etc.”
I can say with experience and confidence that you don't have to spend a fortune to have a great wedding! All you have to do is set your budget, and work around it by being creative and frugal.
FIRST THINGS FIRST 1.Forget everything you know about how a wedding should be and make your own rules. Realize that wedding traditions are handy for keeping order in a wedding, and can prevent chaos in planning but they're not law and you are free to do away with any or all the traditions you want! 2. If you do a search online for anything for yourself or for your wedding, never ever use the words "bridal", "wedding", "bride", "groom", etc. Why? Because those are the magic words that make everything more expensive. 3. Don't worry about what other people are going to think about your wedding no matter how offbeat it is. It's your wedding. Not theirs. 4. Don't lose yourself in following wedding trends like the latest DIY projects and color schemes. This can result in your wedding looking like everyone else's and you're not everyone else. You guys are unique human beings so let your special day show it! 5. Don't forget your fiance in the planning phase! If he has input or ideas, listen to him and compromise if you're both not on the same page. It's his wedding too!!
EARLY PLANNING $ SAVING TIPS 1. Make your guest list and then narrow it down to the bare minimum amount of guests like family and close friends only. The fewer guests you have, the less you'll need to spend on invitations, food, and rentals like chairs and tables. Fewer guests also mean you can seek out a smaller, more affordable venue. 2. Don't buy a wedding dress or any wedding decor unless you're 100% sure you know what you want your theme to be. I learned this the hard way and ended up wasting a lot of money on decor and invitations I didn't even use because I changed my theme and color scheme three times before I settled and finalized it. 3. "Save the Dates" are cute but they're kind of a waste of money. In the age of all this fancy technology and social media networking, it's perfectly ok to announce your engagement and give a heads up about your wedding date online. If you want to make the message special and memorable, have a photographer friend take some nice photos of you and your fiance to send along with the message. 4. It has become quite normal and acceptable to send wedding invitations online, so if you're on a teeny weeny budget, this is something you can scratch off your list completely. Designing invitations is fun and if you DIY, it can be very low cost; but the price to mail all of those invitations can get pretty out of hand. Not to mention obtaining all of those addresses is a total pain. So if you insist on doing invitations, try to hand deliver as many as possible to cut down on postage costs.
THE WEDDING PARTY I honestly feel that it's not very fair to make a lady pay for a dress she's only going to wear once... especially one that 5 other girls in her life have. Or for a guy to pay $150 for a suit he has to return waaaaaay too early Monday morning. Plus, the look of a wedding party wearing matching outfits might look a little too rigid for the free-spirited nature of a bohemian wedding. By letting your wedding party pick out their own outfits that match the theme of your wedding, you can save everyone a lot of money. Create a guideline with images for inspiration, websites, and store locations to help your party understand the look you're going for and where to buy their outfits.
Do you really want to spare yourself even having to think about all of that? Do away with the wedding party altogether. This saves you the mental and emotional energy of (literally) picking out your favorite people to stand beside you. No one can get offended for being left out if everyone gets left out! This will also save you money on bridesmaids bouquets, groomsmen boutonnieres, and gifts. The same goes for the flower girl and ring bearer. They're cute but you don't have to have them if you don't want them! I didn't have either at my wedding and I don't regret it one bit. the best man and maid of honor kept our rings until it was time to exchange them.
THE GROOM So, how should a bohemian groom dress? However he wants! But if you need a little guidance here goes: If you're going for a casual look, think typical Johnny Depp style - a vest over a dress shirt with slacks or jeans. He probably already has those clothes in his closet, so you might not even need to spend a dime! Up the "boho style" and have him wear a collarless shirt or even an Indian kurta, or dashiki. Expressive accessories like a hat, jewelry, and unique ties can make a groom really shine up and stand out!
If you're going for a more formal look, find a suit and tie in a unique color and/or pattern that really expresses his personality. You guys might be able to buy a suit cheaper than you can rent one, so be sure to price compare before settling.
Vintage suits are always a winner and you can find them in great condition at pretty much any thrift store. You can have a dirt cheap thrift store suit tailored to fit better for a very low cost. If you're wanting a formal look but a full suit is going to be too costly, just buy a cool blazer made from perhaps velvet or brocade and have him wear a dress shirt and slacks he already owns.
If you order anything online, always go by measurement and not size. Asian products are rapidly taking over online marketplaces and it's getting harder and harder to tell what's what. Even if it's a quality product, their sizes run VERY small so always check their measurement chart and product reviews.
THE BRIDE What does a bride put the most effort into for herself? Her dress! So, keep this in mind: Simply put - any dress is a wedding dress - a sundress, prom dress, costume dress, anything you like. Your dress doesn't even have to be white, ivory, cream or whatever version of white you can think of. It can be whatever color, pattern, or length you want. Try to avoid traditional bridal shops as the prices are usually way too high and it's very unlikely you'll find anything uniquely bohemian there anyway. You might, however, find some luck in regular formalwear shops that sell prom and pageant dresses. You can find tons of fun and colorful options there. You can also find amazing affordable colorful dresses online if you use the keywords "pageant dress", "quinceanera", "prom dress" or "ball gown" in your search. When I was getting married just 10 years ago, you could safely buy dresses online without a single worry but unfortunately, poorly reproduced knock-offs are plaguing the internet now. So, if you shop online for a discounted dress, be sure to read site reviews first. AND if a price looks too good to be true then it is too good to be true and you could end up with some awful piece of trash like this:
To score a great cheap dress, check your local thrift shops first. I come across cheap vintage wedding gowns, and like-new prom dresses all the time. Also, check department stores like JCPenney and Dillard's and online sites like eBay, Etsy, and Amazon. 1970s Gunne Sax dresses make great bohemian wedding dresses!! You can boho glam up any regular dress with amazing low-cost accessories like massive necklaces, belts, sashes, vests, shawls, body chains and anything you can possibly think of.
Also consider customizing a cheap plain dress by beading it, dyeing it or even embroidering it yourself. Are you handy with a sewing machine? Make your own dress or upcycle one to become whatever you desire! There's no rule saying you have to wear uncomfortable heels or fancy strappy thingies. You can wear boots, flats, sandals or even go barefoot if you want. New shoes can eat into a budget big time so if you're not finding what you want, ask a friend if you can borrow some cool shoes or buy them off her cheap.
Do your own hair and makeup. Look up ideas on Pinterest or Instagram and practice the look a couple times before the big day so you can do it effortlessly. If you're not big into that kind of stuff but you still want to get all gussied up on your special day, ask a trusted friend or family member to do your hair and makeup for you.
CEREMONY & RECEPTION LOCATION Wedding venues are often the most costly expense for a wedding. You can reduce your cost by holding your wedding and reception in the same location so you're not spending money renting two venues. Keep in mind that special event venues will charge you extra just because you're having a wedding verses, say, a birthday or anniversary party so you might want to seek out a venue that's not a total wedding hot-spot, like perhaps a cute little chapel on the outskirts of town. Also consider having your wedding and reception in a totally unique place that isn't advertised as a special events venue but might let you rent space for a low fee like a library, pub during the day, carnival, campsite, or warehouse. You can even make your wedding super special and get married where you guys first met, or at your favorite hang out spot. You can cut the cost all together by seeking out free places to get hitched like in the woods, your grandparents farm, a family friend's beach house or a wealthy cousin's backyard.
DECOR When it comes to your wedding decor, ignore trends, stay true to yourself and do whatever you want - that's the most bohemian thing you can do! As a bohemian, your home is probably already full of things you can use to decorate with including saris, ribbon, scarves, scrap fabric, and vintage bed sheets. What you already have in your home is freeeeeee! If you don't already have anything to decorate with, ask around for bohemian decor, or go thrift shopping.
Used glass bottles and jars, bud vases, vintage books, and old brass doo-dads are cheap thrift store finds and will make great bohemian centerpieces and decor! If something doesn't match your color scheme, you can always paint it!
So what else makes cheap beautiful bohemian decor?
Small framed art or maybe tiny canvases featuring your artwork.
Tons of candles
Ceramic figurines (Spray Paint them one solid color to match your color scheme if you don't like them)
Scrap fabric bunting
Thrifted woven baskets
If you see some decor that you really like online or in stores, try making it yourself and have friends help you. Get started on your projects a month or so before the wedding so you're not up until 2am the day of your wedding making paper cranes.
But, like a said before, do whatever you want! If you want to decorate with nothing but purple candles, have a fire extinguisher on hand and light em' up baby!
Fresh flowers can be one of the big dollar items on any wedding decor list because fresh flowers are beautiful and hard to resist. But, if you don't have the money for them or you're just not into them, remember that there is no law stating you must have flowers at your wedding. You can do away with them all together if you want! If you do want flowers, recruit people who are boss at arranging flowers to make your bouquets, boutonnieres and other decor. Have friends and family hit up supermarkets and grocery stores for fresh flowers the day before the wedding. Our local Walmart always has gorgeous fresh flowers and the Albertson's grocery store here always marks down their older flowers for quick sale instead of just tossing them out. I've taken advantage of these deals myself and $30 worth of flowers was more than enough for the centerpieces at an event I hosted a few years ago.
If you decide to go the professional florist route, make sure to pick out flowers that are easy to obtain and are in season. For my wedding, we chose carnations and lots of green fillers. We took the altarpieces to the reception site, took them apart and put the flowers in bud vases for the centerpieces! You can also use your bridesmaids bouquets and your own as centerpieces and decor by placing them upright in vases. Super tight budget? Go for silk flowers and even dried flowers instead. You can also make wonderfully whimsical flowers from tissue paper, sheet music, or old book pages. Check out Pinterest HERE to get ideas and tutorials for paper flower crafts.
Are you wanting something more original than flowers? You can make affordable, beautiful centerpieces, bouquets, and boutonnieres from:
Old brooches and jewelry
Fruits and veggies
Origami (I'm love that idea, had to mention it again)
Shed deer antlers
Fresh tree leaves and sticks
Folding fans and soooo much more!!!
FOOD Lack of food or food options is one of my biggest wedding pet peeves. I'm like, 'you made us sit through that long ceremony and now you're not even going to feed us??? If you're struggling to come up with affordable food options, don't knock the potluck! Potluck-ing can look a little messy and too casual for a wedding if not handled with grace, but there's a way to fix all of that:
Make a menu and ask friends and family who are good cooks to make a dish. Ask your "caterers" to bring their food in a nice clean serving dish that match the colors of your wedding. Provide them with one if they don't have anything. You can find super nice disposable serving trays and platters at the Dollar Tree for, you guessed it... $1! If you're wanting to be a little greener, check flea markets and thrift stores for cheap serving dishes. Let your cooks keep the dishes as a 'thank you' for doing you such a huge favor. Have extra dishes on-hand just in case someone missed the part about bringing their food in a nice dish. Crumply aluminum casserole trays aren't very cute.
Another way to feed your guests on the cheap is to stick with a single type of food. Handmade pizza cooked on the spot in a brick oven would be super cool if you're having a small wedding.
But if you're expecting a lot of guests, consider these unique affordable ideas:
A build-your-own taco or burrito
Grilled hamburgers with veggie burger options
A Charcuterie board on every table (these can double as your centerpieces!)
Loaded baked potatoes
Soup, salad, and breadsticks
Different types of pasta
A simple dinner like chicken with veggies and rice pilaf
Build your own ramen bowls
Classic crackers, nuts, cheeses, meats, fruits and veggies
LET THEM EAT CAKE! OR PIE... or cookies... or cobbler. Whatev - it's your wedding.
Ah, the wedding cake. Fun to imagine, fun to eat but not always fun to pay for. Hey, no problem! We've got ways around that:
Make your own cake or have a well-seasoned baker friend make a cake for you. Do not let someone make your cake who has no proof that they can make a good cake or the results can be disastrous! Buy a tierd cake from a supermarket bakery, ask them to only add icing and decorate it yourself with fresh flowers, sprinkles, fondant, edible paints, etc. This is also great to do with cupcakes!
And why's it gotta be cake anyway? There's no rule saying you must have a wedding cake. Don't get me wrong, cake is awesome but so are cookies, cupcakes, éclairs, pie, macaroons, and brownies! Wedding donuts? Yes, please!
DRINKS At my wedding, we hired two beer-brewing friends to make our beer. I don't remember the cost but we got "friends prices". I once went to a wedding reception that was overflowing with gallons upon gallons of mead the bride and groom made themselves
Here are some other great low-cost boozy ideas:
Look into making your own beer and wine, but make sure to give yourself enough time as wine takes about 4 weeks and beer around 2 weeks to make.
BYOB! Along with having beer brewed for our wedding, we also allowed guests to bring their own booze! Do buy a little bit of booze to share with guests who were unable to bring their own.
Hard liquor. There are about 64 shots in a half gallon bottle of liquor so a little bit can go a long way. Buy good liquor (doesn't have to be top-shelf) stock your own little bar with mix-ins like cola and fruit juices, and have it manned by a someone who an expert at mixing drinks (or at least can read drink recipes).
Do without. If you're not into booze, then don't have it. No big deal! If you have the kind of friends who wouldn't attend your wedding because there will be no booze... then you should find new friends...
MUSIC & ENTERTAINMENT I'm just going to be honest here, The Wedding March and Canon In D are super unoriginal and so boring - unless, maybe someone is playing it on an accordion or sitar. Any music is wedding music, so have fun picking out your favorite tunes for your wedding ceremony. Pick songs that are meaningful to you and your fiancé, even if that means walking down the aisle to "Fat Bottom Girls" by Queen. Both me and my husband loathe traditional wedding music so we quickly agreed that it was a "no go". At our wedding, the moms wear seated to "Here Comes the Sun", the wedding party came into Rufus Wainwright's cover of "Across the Universe", and I came down the aisle to Sarah Mclachlan's cover of "Blackbird." After, the ceremony we all danced back down the aisle to ELO's "Mr. Blue Sky". BUT I had completely forgotten about music for the reception! I had borrowed sound equipment and speakers from my brother in law and it was all manned by our friend... but I forgot the actual MUSIC! I called my music-loving friend/ wedding usher/ex-bandmate, and asked him to help. So our reception music was three mix tapes, expertly crafted at the VERY last minute and it consisted of amazing music ranging from Michael Jackson to Johnny Cash. If you're looking to have music for free at your wedding, ask a friend to act as DJ with their phone, laptop, or tablet. Obtain a good wireless speaker system or use a stereo interconnect cable so you can plug into a guitar amp or speakers and rock out!
Are you desiring live music instead? Ask musical friends and family members! No, I'm not talking about your 14-year-old brother's garage band he just formed last month. I mean your concert pianist aunt, or your harp playing grandpa.
If you don't know of anyone, finding good cheap musicians and bands isn't as scary as it sounds. If you live in a big city check out the street and subway performers. You get to pretty much audition them without them knowing it (tip, please!). You can keep music costs way down by hiring a soloist or duo. Keep in mind that the bigger the band, the more they'll have to charge. Make sure to hire a local band so you don't have to pay extra for travel and lodging fees. Also consider offering more than just music for entertaining your guest. It is a bohemian wedding after all, so give them something to really talk about! Give guests paper and color pencils to draw pictures as gifts, set up a photo booth, or even lawn games if your wedding is outdoors. Hire a local belly dancer, a hula hooper, a fire spinner, or even a magician to make your reception a truly awesome experience for everyone! Always ask around to see if anyone "knows a guy" first so they can hopefully hook you up with friend's prices. Some performers will work for tips and people are usually feeling pretty generous at weddings so that could work out great.
I'll add wedding favors under entertainment so I don't have to start a new section just for that. So... wedding favors. Can't afford them? Don't buy them! Your awesome wedding is going to be a great enough treat for them! I honestly can't think of a time when I was excited about the favors a wedding anyway. Well, there was that one time when it was chocolate made by a family friend.
But if you'd like to send your guests home with something to remember your special day by, here are some super affordable and unique ideas:
Coffee or tea samples