9 Smart Sources for Wedding Essentials

Getting married in the near future? Chances are that your planning is already in high gear. According to a recent CNN report, the average couple spends around a jaw-dropping $30,000 on the big day. That's a lot of cash. Save yourself some money by looking for decor and other must-have items in these unexpected places.

1. Dollar Store

You'll find a bunch of treasures on the cheap at your local dollar store. Many carry everything from votive candles to favor boxes at just a dollar a pop (or package). The Dollar Tree, for example, even stocks wedding-specific items like plastic champagne flutes, silver-toned frames (great for labeling tables!), mini bubble containers, fabric rose petals, centerpiece vases, and more.

2. Thrift Store

If you're supplying your own table settings, try something different by heading to your local thrift shop. I love this DIY painted wedding cutlery project. You just need to collect a good number of forks, knives, and spoons in a variety of styles. They'll mix and match beautifully and may cost mere pennies each. Clean them up, spritz on some metal primer, paint with gloss enamel, and let dry.

3. Pet Store

Decorative glass stones too pricey? Head to your pet supply store and check out the aquarium section for similar stones on the cheap. You may even want to pick up a few basic fish bowls to use for your centerpieces.

4. Roadside

Or maybe you're looking for that unique personal accent to find its way to you. Check around to see when your town's spring cleanup weekend is and browse while you drive around. We've come across wooden pallets this way — which are good for a number of decor projects, like this clever schedule sign. Who knows what treasures you'll stumble upon! I recently spied a worn wooden bench waiting for trash pickup on a neighbor's lawn. With a little paint, it would have made a nice photo prop for the big day.

5. Your Attic

We've all heard the whole "something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue" superstition. What better place to find sentimental items (for free) than in your parents' or grandparents' attic? Get permission to go hunting around, of course. You may discover anything from funky chairs to set up at the head table, to old beloved jewelry that would look amazing with your wedding dress. And you thought all that old junk was only good collecting dust.

6. Nature

Step outdoors to get some nature-inspired decor for your wedding — for free. One of my friends had a small wedding and picked a bunch of wildflowers the morning of on her family's farm. They made colorfully frugal centerpieces. Another friend chose to do a sand unity ceremony using sand from her favorite beach that she had collected on a recent vacation. Gather pine cones to dress up your rustic tablescape or even freshly fallen leaves for a festive fall garland.

7. Grocery Store

Or forget flowers entirely! You can pick up some super cool centerpiece items in the produce section of your neighborhood grocery store. Arrange citrus fruits in tall vases, fill with water, and top with a floating tea candle for a no-fuss arrangement. Or scoop out the tops of apples for crunchy decor your guests won't soon forget. A sprig of rosemary makes a wonderful addition to place cards as well.

8. Home Improvement Store

Stores like Home Depot stock arbors that would make the perfect backdrop while reciting your vows — and later transition to your garden. They also carry a number of supplies for DIY projects, like spray paint, staples, galvanized planters (centerpieces), etc. One of my favorite finds? The canvas paint drop cloths! They make awesomely inexpensive tablecloths that are neutral enough to go with many shades of wedding decor.

9. Craigslist, eBay, etc.

Few people know this, but I actually bought my wedding dress (new with tags) on eBay from a woman who had changed her dream dress at the last minute. It was hundreds under the price I had seen at the store only a week or so earlier.

Before I logged onto eBay, I had combed Craigslist and found a variety of dresses I seriously considered. You end up getting it altered anyway, right? Stalk your local yard sale groups and other sales forums to find all sorts of deals on last-minute wedding supplies. If you have a specific need, try writing an "ISO" (in search of) posting for faster results. (See also: 7 Smart Ways to Save on a Wedding Dress)

What are some other unexpected places to find frugal wedding buys? Share with us in the comments!

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