How To Have a Great Wedding for Under $5,000

I grew up a Disney child. As such, I dreamed of Prince Charming, the big ballgown and the happily ever-after. In my late teens, this became the Kardashian/MTV/reality-TV era where people try to go bigger and better. Bring on the Say Yes to the Dress and other wedding-related TV shows and most girls start to fantasize about their big day.

budget wedding

You watch these shows and the budgets are insane. 10k. 15k. 50k!!!! Pretty sure that’s a down payment for a house right there. No judgement on those who have and can afford large weddings, but what about those of us with more modest budgets?

Can you have your personal fairytale on a budget?

I think so.

Why?

Because I did!

In 2012, my husband and I got married in Scotland for less than $5,000. In 2013, when he finally arrived in Canada, we had a Welcome-to-Canada party that almost mimicked a wedding. Fifty people, a tent, professional photos and I even wore my wedding dress. SO… I’m going to do this post in two parts, to show that you can have either a destination wedding or a hometown wedding on a budget. I’ve lived it!

First things first, TECHNICALLY this welcome to Canada party wasn’t our wedding, but really, the only thing that was missing was someone to marry us. We’d already done it. Everything else is exactly how I wanted our party on this side of the pond to be. If you factor in the cost of someone to marry us, we would still have come in under budget.

budget wedding

Venue – Free!

We held the party in my parent’s backyard. If your childhood home isn’t as spacious, reach out to your friends and family and see if anyone is willing to host your event. You’d be surprised how many people want to help celebrate your big day. If you are holding it at someone else’s home, make sure you have a plan in place for set up and clean up to make it as stress-free as possible on your host.

Local community halls can also be very budget friendly.

Food $780

This was the tricky part – we made all of our food. I do mean ALL OF IT. It was a bbq, so the bulk of the cost went on meat for the grill. David made pulled pork, we prepared an enormous amount of potato salad and all the trimmings to go with it. Cooking for a lot of people can be overwhelming, so it’s not the time to try new dishes unless you have time to test them.

Be honest with yourself and prepare food that you’re comfortable with. As long as it’s wholesome, hearty and tasty, people don’t care how it’s presented. You could stretch this budget into catering, but if you’re really tight for cash (as we were), you can keep people well-fed on a budget.

budget wedding

Alcohol $950

Who are we kidding, alcohol was always going to be the biggest expense. We certainly weren’t popping the champagne, but just under a thousand dollars got us PLENTY of liquor. So much so that many of the bottles still grace my liquor cabinet. We used funds from the food budget (I never separated that damn Wal-Mart receipt!) to buy mason jars. We added a strip of blackboard paint to the side so guests could write their name on the jars, then take them home as their gift. We made cute jar covers with polka dots for the gals and moustaches for the guys. These were just circles cut out and mod-podged onto the lid. Definitely not dishwasher friendly lids, but they were cute.

budget weddingPhotographer $500

How did we get a photographer for under $500, you ask? Well, it pays to have a very talented family friend. How can you get a photographer on a budget if you don’t have a family friend? Reach out to your network, or connect with photography students from local colleges. It’s great portfolio experience for them, and you’re probably covering their rent with a budget like $500. Just make sure you see samples of their work to ensure you will be happy with the end product.

Event photo tip: Make up a Pinterest board of photos that you like. This will help your photographer get an idea of what you’d like to emulate.

Clothing $100

Truth time. I already had my wedding dress. It cost me $5o from Banana Republic. I never intended for it to be a wedding dress, but when we got engaged, I found that I loved it so much. This $100 went towards red shoes for each David and I. Yes, I wanted us to have matching shoes for the party!

Makeup/Hair $150

If you’ve got super talented friends (or are talented yourself) in this department, you can save yourself some money. If you’re having a small wedding, you probably don’t need to book the appointment as wedding hair – that will cost you more.

budget wedding

Decor / Lighting $250

Let Pinterest be your budget saviour, here! We made strings of paper hearts to weave through the branches. Fairy lights were in all the bushes. We hung wine bottles from the trees, wrapped in twine and with flowers in them as hanging vases. This way I only had to buy a couple of bouquets of flowers and disperse them around the garden.

We upended galvanized troughs as tables and had candles all over for when the sun set. Most of this budget went to buying more fairy lights. You can honestly get super creative on a budget here and enlist your friends to help you make the decor, but make sure to provide some wine!

budget wedding

Rentals (Total = $1,430)

20′ X 30′ Tent  $930

20 Chairs $100

BBQ Grill $220

Banquet Tables $25

Ice buckets / trough $90

Unless you’re using every stick of furniture in your house as chairs, you’ll likely need to rent some chairs. We also chose to have our event outdoors – a miracle in Canada – so a tent was required. We jazzed it up with string lights to make it cozy.

Given how many people we were cooking for, a 6ft BBQ grill was required, as were a few extra tables for all the food.

budget wedding

Music FREE! 

iPod playlist my friends! We also had a friend play our first dance on his guitar. It was very person and memorable.

——————————

GRAND TOTAL $4,160

Everyone’s different. There are line items that you could easily pull back on or expand, but I hope this shows that you can have your dream wedding on a budget.

Having a budget wedding requires a lot of prep work, especially if you’re getting creative with the decor and you’re preparing food. Call in for reinforcements to help make it a more enjoyable day.

At the end of it all, I’m so glad we had the event that we did. It was small, 50 people, but intimate. We had time to talk to everyone. We got to enjoy our food, unlike some weddings where the bride and groom are running around like headless chickens. We danced with each other, family and friends. We laughed, we roasted marshmallows and we had fun with sparklers!

All in all, budget or otherwise, it was one of the better days of my life, thanks in huge part to the great guy I got to share it with.

budget wedding

Do you think you could manage a wedding on a budget? What are some creative ways you’ve saved money on big events?

All the photos in this post, except the first one, were taken by Alana Wilner Photography.

Next week I’ll share details on how to have a destination wedding for under $5,000!

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23 Responses to How To Have a Great Wedding for Under $5,000

  1. Fredy February 16, 2016 at 3:38 am #

    This is great blog! It gives the idea of wedding under budget which is the most important part of any wedding. Thank you for sharing this article and keep sharing such type of blogs.

    • Victoria Smith February 16, 2016 at 8:29 am #

      Thanks! I definitely don’t believe you have to blow your life savings to have the dream wedding. You can have just as special an event on a budget.

  2. Cindy Hoffman February 18, 2016 at 2:21 am #

    Nice budgeting there Victoria, Controlling the budget at that level is just amazing and I really love the idea of taking advantage of anything that you can find, including the a family member photographer. And how you controlled that liquor budget from reaching $1500, I am yet to know 😉 Thanks for sharing this, really enjoyed it and challenged me also.

    Cindy

    • Victoria Smith February 18, 2016 at 7:36 am #

      Thanks, Cindy. I’ll admit it wasn’t the highest quality liquor, but a signature mixed drink does wonders to stretch the budget. Sangria was invented for the budget conscious! We also found that because it was a BBQ style, most people went for beer or bottled drinks, which saved a lot of money.

  3. Fred J.Driks June 6, 2016 at 2:08 am #

    Hey Victoria,

    Great blog!!

    Before reading this blog, I am sure that I will never believe in a wedding that costs only $5,000.But your blog proved that a great wedding is possible under such a low price.

    The idea of making strings of paper hearts to weave through the branches and hanging wine bottles from the trees, wrapped in twine and with flowers in them as hanging vases is just mesmerizing.

    Thank you so much for sharing this article as it gives me the idea of wedding under budget.
    Fred J.Driks recently posted…Storybook Wedding with Glamping TentsMy Profile

    • Victoria Smith June 6, 2016 at 11:28 am #

      Thanks, Fred! $5,000 is definitely tricky if you want to have the huge, fairytale weddings with a hundred or more people, that’s pretty hard, but if you want close friends and family, it’s totally doable!

  4. Hazel Owens June 9, 2016 at 10:32 am #

    Wow. I don’t think I’d ever be able to give up so much for a wedding, but good on you for doing what you wanted! Making your own food in particular would have been pretty difficult for my wedding day; there was so much else going on that catering was well worth it. However, for people on a budget, making everything yourself can be a great idea if you can manage it. Thanks for sharing!

    • Victoria Smith June 9, 2016 at 10:57 am #

      Oh for sure. This kind of budget isn’t for everybody, but it can be done. All depends on your overall budget and your priorities. We wanted to keep our money for our honeymoon and for future travel. Other people would rather spend it on the experience of the event itself, which is totally understandable.

  5. Morgan September 1, 2016 at 9:24 am #

    Beautiful wedding! These are excellent tips! Keeping a close watch on how many people you invite is also really important; the expenses per guest can add up fast. Nice pointers! Thanks for the advice!

    • Victoria Smith September 4, 2016 at 7:05 pm #

      Thanks so much! Yes, the number of guests is always the kicker. We preferred small and intimate, but there’s no wrong way to have your wedding as long as you’re happy with the choices.

  6. Kaitlyn November 2, 2016 at 12:46 pm #

    Wow! It’s awesome you were able to have an under $5000 wedding. Having connections and a free venue definitely helps! I really like the bottle decor – such a neat up-cycle!

    • Victoria Smith November 8, 2016 at 8:43 pm #

      A good ‘ol backyard wedding 🙂

  7. May January 15, 2017 at 3:57 pm #

    I am about to hold up a wedding party for my friend. Before reading this, I am sure that I dont know what I really want to go with. Thank you so much for sharing this article as it gives me the idea of wedding under budget.
    Please keep it up.

    • Victoria Smith January 16, 2017 at 9:16 am #

      Hi May,
      No worries! I hope it shows that it is possible! I’m sure you’ll pull of an incredible event for your friend.
      V

  8. Selene January 19, 2017 at 11:25 am #

    Wow, awesome tips on how to stay on budget. There are certainly areas such as music that you could completely cut back on and manage to do for free. Areas such as catering are worth splurging on in an event like this. Overall great post, thanks for sharing!

    • Victoria Smith January 20, 2017 at 6:05 pm #

      All depends on what your priorities are. Luckily my husband was trained as a chef, so we were able to make our own tasty treats in advance 🙂

  9. Richard prickel May 9, 2017 at 4:19 am #

    Hello,

    Amazing Tips!

    Thank you for sharing this tips and guides. Me and my wife are planning to have a simple wedding on a budget.

    And we are having fun while planning all this. We are so excited. Thank you for sharing this! Love your blog.

    Although, nowadays everyone is confused about how to plan a wedding, what kind of functions should be performed and what type of destination it should be.

    And I must say that food/catering is certainly one of the most important parts that you definitely want to pay attention to.

    Keep posting!
    Blessings to u guys 🙂 🙂

    • Victoria Smith May 9, 2017 at 6:29 am #

      Oh thanks!

      Congrats on your upcoming wedding. Budget certainly doesn’t mean that it won’t be special or lack memories for the future. Food is definitely a big part of it, so if you can crack that… you’re set!

      Best wishes.

  10. Selene June 9, 2017 at 1:03 pm #

    Wow, great post! Definitely some very helpful info and tips. Doing your hair and makeup yourself is certainly an easy way to save some money. I also liked the idea of having bbq food. Thanks for sharing!

    • Victoria Smith June 10, 2017 at 1:11 pm #

      Thanks! Yeah… it was definitely an experience learning to do my own hair and makeup, which I did for our destination wedding in the UK. The BBQ was actually a blast. It made it easier for serving, less stressful, and it’s hard to go wrong with BBQ food!

  11. iza September 11, 2017 at 3:54 pm #

    Very good a creative soluction!

  12. Groove Collective October 10, 2017 at 2:15 am #

    Lovely! I am convinced that a wedding does not have to be luxurious to be beautiful.
    It’s about bride and groom and a lovely day with your loved ones. Great Ideas!

  13. Marisol Lalata June 2, 2018 at 8:57 am #

    It’s arduous to search out educated folks on this matter, however you sound like you understand what you’re speaking about! Thanks

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