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Tying the knot? 13 ways to upcycle and thrift your way down the aisle

What we'll cover

  • Fun ways to add charm without adding cost

  • Resources for finding inexpensive options

  • Strategies for saving

A wedding is one of the most exciting events you can organize — it can also be one of the most expensive. So, we’ll let you in on a little secret if you’re trying to keep costs low: Get a little thrifty. Unleash your creativity (and stay on budget) with these simple hacks:

1. Thrift your wedding outfit

When you say yes to the thrift store dress (or suit), you can score a huge money-saving discount. Wedding outfits are usually worn once, which means you can find options you love that are in great condition. Even if you can’t find your dream outfit, consider thrifting your accessories, whether it’s your veil, a faux fur stole, shoes or something blue. Your bridal party may also welcome the opportunity to find a great deal to look sharp while supporting their best friend on your special day.

If you're new to thrifting (or it's been a while since you explored secondhand), you may be surprised to know just how far it has come. The days of Saturday thrift-store hopping are no longer the only way to save big. Online thrifting allows you to shop at your own pace, search for the best deals and get a little picky about finding the perfect piece.

2. Arrange your own flowers

Between bouquets, boutonnieres, crowns and centerpieces, live blossoms can be a costly wedding expense. Thankfully, you don’t have to hire a florist to get the job done. If you or a crafty friend is up for the challenge, ordering fresh flowers and arranging them on your own can cut costs significantly. You can also buy a mix of artificial flowers, foliage or greenery to create a gorgeous custom look. Exploring creative alternatives like potted plants, antique clocks or vases can also be an opportunity to showcase your unique style.

 3. Decorate with ribbon and fabric

Thrifted materials have no creative limits. Secondhand ribbon and fabric can be used to cover chairs, embellish invitations, tie bouquets, deck out your getaway car or add a bit of texture to your wedding favors. Whether you are looking for a few small touches or larger statement pieces such as a photo backdrop, secondhand materials can help you achieve a high-end look on a low-cost budget.

guest book that says Mr. & Mrs. being signed with crayons

4. Design your own guest book

Add your own flair to the usual guest book tradition by swapping it out with a canvas or picture frame. Set out thrifted craft supplies for friends and family to sign their congratulations. Think outside the box. You may already have a treasured family item (such as grandma's crocheted doilies) that you can frame and memorialize with wishes from your closest friends. You and your betrothed will head off with a new, treasured piece of wall art for your home.

5. Set the mood

Whether you’re taking the backyard wedding route or hosting an outdoor reception, you’ll probably need extra lighting when the sun goes down. Scour locally and online for string lights in bulk or vintage lamps with oodles of character. Light up the night by draping Edison or twinkle lights between trees, on a fence, bundled in large vases or woven through table centerpieces. Resources such as the Buy Nothing Project can help you locate people looking to share or give away items they no longer need. You may even find a fellow DIY-wedding extraordinaire in your neighborhood with whom you can share, trade and gift materials that you've each gathered for your big day.

6. Get creative with thrifted containers

Add a romantic touch to the ceremony and reception by filling unique glass containers with candles, sand or flowers. Search your local thrift stores or online marketplace for old lanterns and vintage vases you can use to embellish centerpieces and line the wedding aisle. Collect empty wine bottles with your friends that you can fill with Baby’s Breath for a rustic look. With a soft candle glow, you’ll set the perfect “I do” mood.

7. Buy second-hand furniture

When the ceremony ends, guests often like to find a place to sit while you slip away to take photos. Instead of renting furniture from the venue, ask if you can bring in your own. Search for local deals on secondhand antique couches or chic patio furniture that you can use for cocktail hour or an outdoor photo-booth. After you've set up a photo-op for you and your guests, you can move your new pieces into your home sweet home (or resell later on via Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist ).

tables with linens – plant, seashell, and candles populate as centerpieces

8. Organize themed table décor

Bring character to each reception table by including a variety of decorations. You can use affordable shells or mix and match table linens with objects that showcase your favorite travel spots or milestones as a couple. Whether you decide to have different themes for each table (such as cities of the world), or an overarching theme (such as bohemian or botanical), a theme can take the pressure off having perfectly matched décor while still allowing your photos to pop.

 9. Mix and match glassware

Plates, cups and silverware are must-haves for a dinner reception, but they often come with high price tags. Scour your local thrift store and online marketplaces for mix and match options to add your own look to the finished tables. Start early and gather pieces as you go. Eclectic finds like vintage china and colorful glass goblets will give your mismatch an intentional look and feel. Local finds along with Ebay or Mercari are great places to start your collection.

10. Add structure with frames

Picture frames are a simple and fun way to personalize your venue. From wooden to crystal, you’ll have no lack of variety to choose from. Repurpose used frames with paint colors that match your theme and fill them with photos of you and your spouse through the ages. (Don’t leave out the baby pictures!) Frames are also a great way to step up your table number game and complement your centerpieces.

Wedding arch that gets filled with fabric and flowers

11. DIY the wedding arch

Decorating your wedding arch yourself can save money and add sentimental value to the ceremony. Whether you decide to purchase a structure or build from scratch, you can embellish it according to your personal style with flowers, fabric and seasonal elements like pinecones, faux evergreen or paint. Think outside the box to get creative and put your own spin on things.

12. Put your records on

DJs help get the party started, but so can a classic record player. Secondhand records are a great way to find classic hits that will spin all night.  You’ll save money on hiring a professional and have full control over what song comes on next. If you want to take a more modern approach, create a curated playlist with a streaming service and find a trusted friend to act as your master of ceremonies to keep speeches, first dances and cake cutting on track.

13. Find small favors

Give your guests a small memento to remember your big day. Local postcards, vintage tea cups upcycled into candles, or unique objects filled with candy are all thoughtful, low-cost ways to thank your guests for celebrating and sharing your special day with you.

Thrifting your wedding day details provides many opportunities to add personality and style to your event and can help you throw the party of a lifetime on your budget. That way, you and your beloved can walk into a bright financial future together.

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