Chynna Wilson had a simple vision for her wedding day — a good location, delicious food and an open bar, but on a small budget. 

The couple did not want a traditional wedding at a hotel or golf course, which can be pricey. Instead, they booked a restaurant for their September 2023 wedding.

"Basically, everything was already at the restaurant and we didn't have to organize anything that way," Wilson said. The restaurant had a minimum spend for the bar and food, which the couple knew they would easily meet with their guest list. They also hired a photographer, an officiant and a DJ.

The Toronto-based restaurant didn't need much in terms of decorations, she recalled. Wilson topped up the tables with $2 Ikea bud vases and grocery store flowers which she purchased the day before the event. 

Wedding planner Valary Chrisman says many couples are defining their ideal wedding around what's important to them — culture, background, faith and traditions that matter.

"Definitely, there is an impetus to save money," Chrisman, the founder of Vivid and Vogue, said. "At the same time, there's an equal impetus for a lot of personalization."

While a ceremony and reception are the essence of a wedding celebration, Chrisman said details boil down to the budget and flexibility of the couple. And sometimes, it takes creativity when working with a small budget. 

"If you're willing to be creative about guest count and time of day and what you're serving, that's the best way to save costs," she said. One such idea is hosting a daytime wedding, Chrisman added. 

While traditional weddings call for multi-course meals, couples can opt for lunches and brunches, which tend to be lighter — and less expensive — than traditional, sit-down dinners. Alcohol offerings can also be easily negotiated when hosting a daytime wedding.

Rajbir Grewal, a Vancouver-based wedding planner and founder of Lux Affairs, said forgoing a cocktail hour, placing wine bottles on each table instead of having table service, and offering cash bars can all help lower the cost of drinks.

For decorations, she added, picking a venue that doesn't need a facelift helps save on costs.

"You can save massive on the decor, florals and design budget by having a venue that's beautiful on its own," Grewal said. 

Chrisman suggests couples working with small budgets can opt for do-it-yourself decorations when choosing venues such as a backyard or city hall. However, she warned that backyard weddings can easily go over budget.

"Backyard weddings are not an affordable alternative if you're actually planning on creating structure — tents, renting and catering," Chrisman said. "That's a big myth."

For Wilson's wedding, she cut costs on her dress, the rings and wedding cake. She found her dress online for about $400, the rings came from a mall storefront, and instead of a traditional cake, they opted for the restaurant's dessert offering. 

"That was a big cost saver," Wilson said. 

Chrisman said forgoing wedding favours and elaborate wedding signage can help save costs as well. Guests often abandon personalized favours with the couple's names, initials or wedding dates, making them a wasted expense for the couple, she added.

"You can remove things that aren't absolutely necessary to the success of your wedding and save that money to put to work something that really does matter to you," Chrisman suggested.

Costs for the bridal party and groomsmen can also add up, not just for the couple but also for those standing in the wedding.

"If you're a couple where the expenses associated with having a wedding party fall on you, it's important to consider those costs as part of your budget because they can be quite high," Chrisman warned.

"It's important for both sides to consider the financial implications of that role," she added.

Desmond Nwaerondu, a certified financial planner with Sun Life, said when his clients are planning to have a wedding, he suggests they look at the bigger picture.

"If their goal is to have a wedding, buy a house, buy a car," Nwaerondu said, "we always say, 'You can spend this much on a wedding, but then this is how much you have left towards that down payment on your house.'"

He added: "Find ways to do what you dreamt of on a budget and don't go into debt to get married because ultimately, it is just one day of your life and you've got a long life to live together."

For Wilson, it was her dream wedding on a budget — a mission accomplished. 

She had always imagined her favourite song playing when the officiant announced Wilson and her partner as husband and wife and they went for their first kiss.

"I wanted, 'You Make My Dreams Come True' by Hall and Oates to start playing, and we made that happen," she said. "That made my day." 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 13, 2024.