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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!