How I Planned A Gorgeous Wedding For Less Than $5,000

We planned a wedding for less than $5,000.00. For real. But, in order to really get your money’s worth, you’ll have to let go of those fairytale horse-drawn carriage weddings, escorted by a thousand white doves and decide why you’re actually getting married in the first place (it helps with the whole ‘letting go’ theme).

My fiancé and I were both college graduates working toward paying off my loans and were also responsible for paying for our own wedding — something we hadn’t really prepared for until the day after he asked me to be his wife. We decided we weren’t going to plan our wedding based off of what we ‘should’ do, but how we actually wanted things to be on our wedding day. And five grand later, we had an incredible ‘us’ wedding and were married by the end of the day.

1. You need to realize that you CAN do whatever you want for your wedding. There is no rule book, no standard that says you must have a sit down 12 course meal to make it a wedding. This is the chance you get to really portray what you and your significant other are all about. For us, that meant mason jars, blue, brunch, coffee, and lots of untraditional things. Make a budget….a realistic one. This will affect everything.

Screen Shot 2014-10-01 at 4.56.21 PM

2. Food: you CAN create an awesome reception without spending a ridiculous amount of money on food. Since we’ve always been breakfast people and many of our dates centered around Friday morning breakfasts, we figured that would suite us the best. I talked to everyone from included caterers in venues to family friends.

Finally, we heard of a caterer and set up a meeting. He explained the package, the price, and we said that was impossible based on our budget…so right then, he pulled out a paper and started figuring an entire menu based off of us buying prepared trays and dishes…let’s just say our food budget was $2,000.00 and we were WAY under. All our hot food was taken care of. We were responsible for all the ‘cold’ items: yogurt, granola, mini bagels, desserts, ham etc. but we hit up Sam’s and saved a bunch. If you find a good caterer who really wants to help, they’ll give you more options that what packages they say they offer….DO NOT go for the included caterers with locations if you’re trying to save money.

Screen Shot 2014-10-01 at 4.57.37 PM

3. Stationary: RSVP cards, invitations, information cards, menus, programs….everything. it can cost you SO MUCH MONEY which we didn’t have and which I didn’t want to spend on something I could figure out, so, I came across this site which solved all of my paper needs. I literally got everything from that website..for free. Go to staples, buy 60 lb cardstock, print everything at home and bring it back to staples to have it cut for 10 bucks. DONE

4. Location: I must have called 20 venues only to find that just the rental of the space was half of our entire budget. ridiculous. SO I started asking around and found 1. our ceremony site: Where my fiancé used to work and where we had premarital counseling — cost us 75 bucks for the wedding coordinator and 2. our reception site was FREE. that was incredible.

I called them and they literally said their building belonged to God so it was between us and God what we decided to donate. WINNER. So instead of renting tents and spending $1500 just on shelter, we found both locations at an unbeatable price. it IS possible. Don’t pay 10 grand just for a space — there are a ton of places that would love to have you super cheap without the strings attached.

5. Things to rent: surprise! we didn’t rent ANYTHING. we got all our plates, silverware, cups (mason jars), tables, chairs, chaffing dishes, serving utensils, table cloths..etc. for free. Luckily my friend’s mom rents out all of her supplies for FREE so we didn’t have to worry about any of that budget wise. The little things I needed (extras) I hit up the thrift store for and saved a TON of money. You will have to do a lot more work coordinating when to pick things up, where they go, setting up, cleaning up etc. but, once again….it was free. We asked the church before we committed about tables and chairs and they had both: free. Most churches will have everything from tables to chairs to coffee things, super convenient. so start talking to people! they really want to help you, you just have to ask around.

6. Flowers: My sister’s boyfriend’s mother is a florist and is wonderful. She wouldn’t let us pay her, but only pay for the flowers. We had a $250.00 budget to work with and we stretched that as thin as possible as we bought flowers from Trader Joe’s and Produce Junction. She did an incredible job making the wedding come alive with flowers everywhere. Those of you girls who have been envisioning your wedding for 20+ years may have issues with doing flowers like this because flexibility is necessary. We didn’t know what flowers we were having until Friday night. We also had flowers for each girl/parents/grandparents, but we kept it pretty simple on the tables: mason jars everywhere filled with all different kinds of flowers. So if you know someone who is crafty enough to put together some flowers, trust them to do what they do and let go…they’re only flowers.

Screen Shot 2014-10-01 at 4.53.59 PM

7. Photography/Videography: This is a HUGE expense for most weddings. We talked to some photographers who charge a minimum of $2500….nope, not happening. So, after talking to the wonderful friend of mine, she referred Sarah Brookhart, a fellow college grad and incredible photographer. She had never done an engagement shoot or photographed a wedding, but once we looked at her blog photos she had previously taken, we were definitely willing to take the risk. She did both our engagement photos and wedding for a FRACTION of the price (because it was her first time) and she brought in an additional shooter for the wedding…if you’ve seen any of her photos so far, you can see why we went with her: amazing. SO, don’t feel like you have to go with someone who calls themselves a ‘professional.’ we got professional (if not better) photos for a super reasonable price, if you look at their previous shoots you can tell if you like their style or not. If you’re still not sure, get them for engagement photos and if you like those, book them for the wedding.

As for videography, we had friends who wanted to expand their portfolios and wanted to do our video as a gift which was fine by us! they did a wonderful job and definitely captured the essence of the day in a highlight reel.

8. Dress/Alterations: I found my dress by accident at David’s bridal the first time I’d ever tried on dresses. I got it off the rack and walked out of the store with the dress that day. HOWEVER, I did not get my alterations there. Why? Because I found out about a wonderful little old woman who works out of her basement and took my dress to her — WORD OF MOUTH PEOPLE! The first time she had me try it on and literally started cutting my dress. CUTTING. I stopped breathing to make sure I wouldn’t throw her off (Thank God I had seen this done on Say Yes To The Dress or I would have really freaked out) but she hemmed the dress right there…with massive scissors. She had my dress for 3 weeks, fixed EVERYTHING and charged me a whopping 40 bucks. Incredible. Also, something I found out after I bought my dress — buying dresses off the rack (esp. at David’s Bridal) is way safer and better than ordering it because you can see everything right there and some places are notorious for getting your dress in and there being all kinds of things wrong with it.

8. Hair/Makeup: My sister is a magnificent hairdresser so she took care of that part and her friend did my makeup — didn’t charge me, but I did tip her because she did a great job ( aka threw money at her and ran out of the room since she wouldn’t take it). make sure you get both a hair and makeup trial so you don’t have to worry about looking like a clown or a hooker when you walk down the aisle. Get someone you trust to do your hair or just a friend who knows how to work a curling iron and bobby pins.

9.Decorations: this is really where the DIY comes in. everything from the escort cards (got the string and tags from Hobby Lobby and keys from etsy) to the wooden centerpieces/video booth (all made by my fiancé’s uncle) and the table runners (hobby lobby) was mainly inspired by pintrest. I came to LOVE Hobby Lobby and make weekly trips there to stock up on crafty things. They always have 40 percent off so things like the burlap for 26 tables: got it for around 25 bucks. This part takes the most time, but if you like doing crafts, it’s perfectly productive and fun :) I got a recipe for chalk paint, painted frames, printed out table numbers(for free online) and got our candles and lanterns for super cheap at Ikea. We also had favor bags which i just printed out little labels with our monogram on it (weddingchicks.com), printed them on address labels and put them on bag. This stuff is so easy, it just takes time and a little imagination. if you suck at DIY things, have a crafting party and get some of your friends to help.

10. Desserts: all homemade. my fiancé’s mom made ALL the coffeecakes from scratch, a bunch of friends and I made what felt like thousands of cookies, and the rest came from wonderful people wanting to help us pull our wedding off…they were great and they filled our dessert table…FILLED. We didn’t go with the typical wedding cake (we don’t really like cake anyway) and got creative with a dessert buffet which we still hear about to this day.

So, it can be done and look wonderful, you just have to 1. be organized, 2. ask people for help and 3. not give in to what people are telling you you NEED to have because honestly, at the end of the day, you’re just as married as those couples spending 30 grand on their wedding, you just walk away with everything paid for instead of a stack of bills and a melting ice sculpture. TC mark

image –Shutterstock