Saying “I do!” to a thrifty wedding: Decorating with style on a budget

Words and photos by Vermont Goodwill shopper Jennie Lutton

We have always been a thrifty family. The treasure hunt of garage sales and thrift shops has always been a thrill for me. My kids learned the fun of the game of secondhand early on. Their favorite weekend activity was shopping for sales with a few dollars in their pockets to find a new favorite toy.

When Goodwill came to town it moved the fun to a whole new level! I truly do the majority of my clothes shopping at Goodwill and both my now-grown kids love the stores as well. For many years as they were teens and young adults the rule was “if you go to Goodwill with Mom she’ll foot the bill.” It sure was an affordable way to encourage them to spend time with me!

When my daughter Lida planned her 2018 wedding she knew she wanted a fabulous wedding but had a tight budget. Goodwill to the rescue!

Here are a few things that made the biggest impact in terms of wedding décor from Goodwill (South Burlington and Williston, Vermont locations):

Vases and Floral Arrangements

We knew that we needed to have the feeling of abundance without spending a lot of money. Because flowers are expensive we planned a year ahead and dried A LOT of hydrangeas. Anyone with a bush that we asked was more than happy to share what they had. They were very easy to dry and looked fabulous! We then bought dozens of clear glass vases in all shapes and sizes to fill with the dried flowers.


We collected tons of old white string lights. Again, having a lot of them gave the wedding décor a wonderful feeling of abundance.

cake trays at a wedding thrifted

Photo booth display

Many weddings have a photo booth area. It is for guests to pose for photos with fun props. Most came from Goodwill finds. My husband built the basic structure, but the frames, wallpaper and fabric all came from Goodwill. This was a highlight of the event!

Table Settings

We collected tea cups and saucers and turned them into candles. Each table had one or two and we encouraged people to take them home. I even found the cloth napkins at the thrift shop! There were plenty as they were from a hotel changing up their linens.

Lastly, and the most impactful was our use of mismatched china. We bought plates, but could also have easily added silverware and glassware if we had planned early enough. With most pieces costing $1 it was just as affordable as renting or even some paperware! The table setting certainly wowed the guests!

And more!

Other finds included the fake birch tree that we used for favors, many Mason jars, shepard’s hooks to hang things outside, the craft paper and doilies we used to wrap the silverware, many frames (including those for seating and table numbering), tablecloths galore (mostly used for the cake table, etc.).

We thrifted the old suitcases used to collect cards (we lined it with map fabric!) as well as the globe that was the guest book. Most of the cake stands were also thrifted as well as the mirrored tray for the cake knife. We also got the awesome mini birch bark canoe at Goodwill.

My daughter even thrifted some of her bridesmaid gifts as she made DIY terrarium kits. The containers were from Goodwill as were some of the decorative items to put inside each creation.

Happily Ever After 

One last fun thing: After the wedding, I was able to save a tablecloth, a set of dishes, a vase of flowers, and such. I packed it all away and saved it as a first anniversary gift for the bride and groom. This would not have been possible with rented items.

Having a DIY wedding was so much fun! I loved every minute of helping put it together as did others who participated. It made the entire event so much more personal and meaningful.

A happy married couple

Thanks, Jennie! Congrats, Lida and Nathan! Jennie found us on Instagram @GoodwillNNE — message us if you’d like to connect and tell us about your Goodwill finds. 

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