Planning a wedding on a budget is not as difficult as you might think. Terrence and I knew from the moment we were engaged that we didn’t want to spend a lot on our wedding. We sat down and created a budget right away, and came up with a number that would ensure that we’d be able pay for everything out of pocket. With a little less than 8 months to plan, $12,000 was the price that we came up with, and we vowed to stick to it.
Well, wonder of wonder, we did! For the most part. I’ll be honest with you all. There were some things that I decided to splurge on at the last minute, but they aren’t things that would have been missed if I wouldn’t have purchased them. They just made the day even more special to me, and as the bride, I think I get a pass on that, right?
Okay, so back to the specifics. How were we able to have a beautiful wedding for 100 people for $12,000, and how can you do it for that or even less? The answer is simple: time and planning. Let me be clear about two things before I even start. You are going to spend a lot more time doing research for your wedding than folks who have an unlimited budget. Just accept that, and you’ll save yourself a lot of sadness and disappointment. Secondly, be honest and upfront with every wedding vendor that you talk to about your budget. There’s nothing wrong with having a spending limit. You shouldn’t be embarrassed or ashamed about it at all. Besides, you wouldn’t want to do business with a vendor who made you feel bad about a budget, or who pushes you to spend more than you have anyway, would you? Alrighty, now that we’ve got those things out of the way, let’s get to the business of having a wedding for $12,000 or less.
We checked out a few places before landing on our lovely venue. My husband checked out Yelp for options, and we did a lot of research online before we went to visit anywhere. Our first choice was a hall in the park, but it was booked for our date. We considered doing a morning wedding with a breakfast reception, but that wasn’t even available. It ended up being a blessing, really, because the venue we ended up with was perfect for us.
The biggest cost saver for us was the fact that our venue catered the wedding. Many venues that don’t cater have a preferred caterer list, and often, they are quite expensive. Now, we did have to forgo a menu tasting (our venue just doesn’t do that), but we felt confident thanks to all of the reviews we read that the food was going to be great. Don’t be nervous about looking at parks and on review sites like Yelp for your venue. You can also consider having your wedding on a day other than Saturday, or Saturday mornign rather than evening. Some venues will offer a discount for “off” times. SUPER SAVER TIP: If you are going to have children at the wedding, ask what the kids price is. Most of the times, it’s a fraction of the cost of a grown up guest.
Food and Cake
The venue provided the food for our wedding, so it only ended up costing us about $20/person. You can find a caterer that is willing to do even less than that. Again, just tell them what your budget is (even if it’s just $7 or $8/person), and ask them what they can do. They are professionals, and if they can work with you, they will. If not, no worries. Just keep looking!
We found our cake maker on Yelp, too. She had RAVE reviews, and she was a fraction of the cost of everyone else that we had looked at. The cake was delicious, it was beautiful, and it was happy. Look at places outside of bakeries, and look for places that specialize in cakes but don’t necessarily advertise “wedding” cakes. You might be able to get a big discount there.
This was where we hit paydirt! Check out how we saved BIG on wedding flowers: https://mamaknowsitall.com/2013/07/how-to-save-money-on-flowers-for-your-wedding.html
Wedding Attire (Dresses and Tuxedos)
I had $500 to spend on a wedding dress. The dress that I purchased cost HALF of that. Well, I actually ended up using the whole budget because I found a lovely couture dress that I loved when my bridesmaids were trying on their dresses. A couple of months later, I decided it didn’t fit the style of our wedding, so I went to a bridal consigment shop her in the Bay Area and found a lovely, brand new dress, for $250, that suited me much better.
What I discovered in my search is that $500 is a perfectly good amount for a gorgeous dress. Even for brides who want something more upscale and dramatic than I wanted can find a great deal if they are willing to take the time and look. Every one of the dress shops that I went in had sample dresses, and last year’s stock for sale. David’s Bridal, Alfred Angelo and other big named retailers have racks and racks filled with dresses starting at $99. It is possible to find the dress of your dreams at a price you can afford! SUPER SAVER TIP: My six bridesmaids only spent $38 apiece on dresses that retailed for $150 – $170 each. You know how? I entered every single wedding contest I could find, and the contest I won was for 5 FREE bridesmaids dresses! Enter contests, y’all. Someone has to win! Why not you!
Ayva’s dress was a little more expensive than I had planned on spending because I waited until the last minute to purchase it. Like, 2 weeks before the wedding last minute. We ended up spending about $100 for the dress. Her shoes were found on clearance at a department store for $15, so at least we made up some of the financial loss there. SUPER SAVER TIP: You may be tempted to purchase a $20 dress that you see online. If it comes from another country, don’t do it! Just give the stores in your area a look see, even if you think they’re out of your price range. Be honest with the salesperson, and you just might be surprised!
We didn’t save on the tuxes at all. If you have more than 5 men in your wedding, your hubby to be may be eligible for a free tux. We only needed 3 tuxes in addition to Terrence’s, so he paid full price for it.
Save the Dates, invitations, thank you cards…trust me, those things add up! There are ways to save on them, though. You can go the “print them yourself” route by either designing them on your computer, or purchasing a stationary kit. The good thing about designing them yourself is that you can be sure no one else will have anything like it. The internet offers a gazillion suggestions on how to create your own wedding stationary. If you don’t need a bunch of fancy graphics, you can get kits from places like Michaels, Jo-Anns, or Amazon for super cheap. SUPER SAVER TIP: Michaels and Joann’s often offer 40-50% coupons off of regularly priced items. You could end up getting your stationary kit for $10 or less! Also, once you start browsing wedding stuff on Amazon, they’ll start sending you discounts and offers.
If you’re not a DIY type bride, check out Wedding Paper Divas. I used them for everything from my save the dates (disclosure: I received them as payment for a blog post), to my invitations and thank you cards. There were so many different styles to choose from! We waited until we received a 50% off special in our email to order, and ended up spending less than $150 total for invitations and response cards. SUPER SAVER TIP: Once you sign up to receive emails from Wedding Paper Divas, they’ll send you offers, everything from discounts to free products. Our guestbook was FREE when they sent us a code!
Here’s more about our Save The Dates: https://mamaknowsitall.com/2013/05/weddingsavethedates.html
Wedding Party Gifts
Since my bridesmaids were incurring expense by traveling across the country for my wedding, I wanted to make sure my gifts to them showed how much I appreciated them. I purchased personalized makeup bags for each of the ladies, and filled them with items that I had been stocking up on during sales. They had luscious lip gloss, luxurious lotion, earrings made by a local artist, and a handwritten note of gratitude. In addition to that, I took care of their wedding jewelry (purchasing the materials, and my jewelry designer sister made them). The earrings were one of the splurges that made that final wedding week, so I won’t tell you how much they cost, but the rest of the gifts without the earrings (even the embroidered makeup cases), cost about $22/bridesmaid.
You can check out Etsy for lovely jewelry sets for wedding parties. I saw a few rings and earring sets that were sold in a bundle of 5 (one for each of your bridesmaids) for $20 – $45. The makeup cases with my bridesmaids names on them were only $12/each from Personal Creations. Even if you don’t fill them with a bunch of stuff, it would still make a very considerate gift.
Favors don’t have to be crazy expensive at all! We made adorable magnets for our guests, and it cost $100 for 100 people. Take a look at how to make them, and find out the exact items that we purchased in this post: https://mamaknowsitall.com/2013/09/diy-wedding-favor-magnets.html
My friend Christine and her husband and brother-in-law gave us the most amazing gift ever. They took our engagement photos and wedding pictures for us! The pictures were beautiful, and it saved us at least $1500. If you have a friend that takes great photos, ask them. The engagement photos aren’t a necessity, but if you have a friend with a good camera, ask them if they’d take a couple of hours to get some good shots for you. Now, Christine and her husband went above and beyond for our engagement photos (2 gorgeous locations over the course of nearly 6 hours), but yours don’t have to be elaborate if it’s not an option.
I’ll say this, though.If there is one place NOT to skimp, it’s on your wedding photographs. Don’t do favors, skip alcohol, whatever you have to do. Make sure you have beautiful pictures.
DJ / Band
We found our DJ on Craigslist. Seriously. Initially, I was going to have my cousin play music with a dj setup, but Terrence saw an ad for a DJ company and they had a very inexpensive, but perfect for us, package. I’m really glad we used them, too. Not only did they do the music for the wedding and the reception, but they also gave us a great deal on uplighting to make the venue look even more beautiful. One of our Pastors from church is an amazing performer as well, and he served as the MC, helping to keep things moving.
Look in your circles and see who has talents around you. Go to them humbly and let them know what you need. You’ll be surprised how many folks would be willing to help you!
Okay, not sure if I missed anything. I’ll come back and add to this post if I think of anything else. If you have any questions about anything, leave a comment, and I’ll answer! Oh, one thing…don’t forget to have fun! It’s your WEDDING, girl!