Budget savvy bride: Spending under $1k on entire wedding


250 guests & a Wedding under $1k… it can be done!!!

Thanks for reading my article :)! We had a lot of people we wanted to invite & 4 months to pull it all together. Most of all, we wanted everyone to have fun, & we wanted to enjoy planning our wedding instead of stressing about paying for it. The catch? We had less than $1k to make everything happen. The average cost for a wedding in Oregon is around $18k, we had less than 1/10th of that!

I’ve always wanted to buy a house & have a small wedding; instead of having an expensive wedding that only lasts one day. Still, I wanted my wedding to be nice & for our guests to enjoy it. We had about $1k to spend on our wedding & I'd love to share my money-saving tips with you readers :). 

Dress & Shoes: $120

Prom dresses are bridal-ish too, check out Prom shops & websites!

I found my wedding dress at Deb. I wasn’t looking for my dress there, but I was shopping with my friend at the mall & I knew that was the dress I wanted. It was technically a prom dress, but it looked wedding-ish to me. It was $120 & fit me perfectly! Usually stores have a wider selection of color than their website.

Keep in mind that you’ll have to pay for alterations in addition to your dress price (unless it fits you perfectly as-is). Something I wasn’t even anticipating when I went into the bridal dress shops. I found a dress on clearance for $200 but I would need to spend an additional $250 for alterations. That's more than the dress itself! I'm glad I went with the Deb's dress :)

Make sure you really do want your dress before you buy it. So many brides purchase multiple dresses because they buy a dress based on what their friends/family/salesperson says, try it on again & don’t like it. My advice? Don’t rush! Don’t be afraid to go back to the store alone, or with another person.  If you feel pressure, go back later. You may save yourself a few hundred bucks!

By going with a Prom dress instead of a Wedding dress & getting a dress that already fit me, I saved $330!

Here are some other Prom dress websites:

PromGirl white prom dresses

PromdressShop white/ivory


Re-use your shoes, they fit, they're comfy & no extra money spent!

Unless you have a short dress, no one will notice your shoes. I personally love it when brides wear non-wedding shoes under their dress! My advice? Use shoes you already own! I found my shoes at a consignment store & bought them just because I liked them about a year before my wedding. They were wedges & had little sunflowers on them, which matched my theme. You don’t have to have plain white or ivory shoes; you can have fun & add a little color. Also, using your own shoes means you won’t have to worry about blisters or sore feet from new shoes!

Save the Dates & Invites: $130

Make your own invites/save the dates, or get DIY ones!

We created our own Save The Dates using our engagement pictures & Adobe Photoshop, however there are free programs you can find online for editing, such as Picasa. We got to create our Save the Dates exactly how we wanted them. Our local print shop was having a huge sale for 10 cents a print… so all our Save The Dates cost us only $25. This sale was HUGE, it would normally cost $80 to print those pics, it was a great deal!

We had a little bit of a financial crisis at this point, so we weren’t able to send out our Save The Dates. We created a “Facebook event” & typed in the wedding details & emailed them to everyone so our guests would know the date/location & time.

We still wanted to send our guests a “real” invite, partly because some people didn’t have Facebook or email & partly because it was likely guests wouldn’t print out the Facebook invite & get lost. We wouldn’t want that! So we got creative again & made invites using Photoshop. Office Depot had a $2 for 200 post cards sale, we bought 2 packages & that covered all our invites. So $4 for all invites. We used my husband’s dad’s office to print the invites & reimbursed them for the ink. I think it cost $20 in ink, but I could be wrong.

We printed our invites on perforated post card sheets (same size as a normal piece of paper, but easy to tear apart). We didn’t have to deal with cutting paper, this was a huge timesaver & we didn't have to buy a papercutter! Also, postcards save you $ because you don’t have to buy envelopes & you save around 16 cents/ea just in postage. However, our invites were double sided & we wanted to send out our Save the Dates along with the invites, so they wouldn’t be wasted. We had to buy envelopes & pay postage, which cost us $80. I hand stamped the envelopes so they weren’t so plain, with ink & stamps I already had (check out sales at your local craft store, JoAnne’s always has promotions).

Other places to check out:

Adobe has a free 30 day trial so you can try it out Photoshop or any design program yourself

Etsy has great custom & homemade items

Flowers & Vases: $50

Try flowers that never die! I have always loved getting flowers, but they never lasted. Even with the greatest of quality and care, after a few weeks they went from vase to the trash. I love sunflowers, and was ecstatic to find very realistic looking sunflower bundles for $1 at the Dollar Tree.  I bought flowers for my 3 bridesmaids bouquets & my bouquet plus extra flowers for decoration & best of all, they’d never die. Cost? $30!


I also bought vases at the Dollar Store to put the extra flowers in for decor. Vases similar to those, at Target were around $4/ea. I bought 15, so I saved $45. Plus, I get to keep the vases, or could resell them.


I also bought $5 worth of ribbon at Wal-Mart. My sister in law had experience with flowers & wrapped the flowers in ribbon she owned. She did an amazing job & it was almost free for me, since she had her own supplies (aside from the flowers). I did spend the $5 on ribbon that was never used.

Venue: $100

We got married at a local church, and because we regularly attended, it only cost us $100… that included everything; the tables & chairs & use of the venue & officiate. We even got a day-of wedding coordinator. This was awesome! Our wedding had been planned to be in their outdoor amphitheater, a beautifully landscaped area, however, due to the weather (oh, Oregon & your rain…) we moved the ceremony & reception inside. Luckily, we were able to take photographs outside.

We did find that it was also very inexpensive to reserve an area of our local park & rent things from my local community center (right around $100/150 for about 4 hours). My husband & I loved our church, so we went with the church as our venue.

Ask your venue if they have an indoor location in case of bad weather. With rain, you never really know…

Gifts for bridesmaids: $25

To help my bridesmaids, I let them chose their own dresses, with the condition that they be black with white. Two of my three bridesmaids already owned black & white dresses. The third one wanted a new dress anyway, so she picked one she liked & would wear again. Technically, she did spend $20 (Ross is an amazing store), however she wanted a new dress anyways & she’ll wear it over & over again. Same with the groomsmen, they wore what they already had.

We all did our own makeup & hair on the wedding day too. We’ve all done our own hair & makeup for the majority of our lives & we were all confident we could do that on the wedding day. One of my bridesmaid’s mom helped her, so there was no cost involved for us. My mom is great with makeup & did some finishing touches for me, but other than that, we got ready ourselves, but together.

Since all my bridesmaids had mix & match dresses, I bought them each a matching necklace so it would tie them all together. Kohl's has amazing sales, often you can find 15% to 60% off their items, or buy 1 get 1 sales. Price? $25 for 3 necklaces.

Photography: $150


Friends & Craigslist photographers are your friend :)

I know the one place you shouldn’t skimp out on is the photography. One of my best friends is a very good photographer & she offered to photograph my wedding as her gift to us. I realize not everyone knows a photographer & for you brides, I can not recommend craigslist enough!

My friend photographer had a baby just a month before my wedding & I didn’t want to put too much pressure on her. She & I agreed a 2nd photographer was the best option. Where did I turn to? Craigslist! I posted an ad on craigslist & got TONS of responses. One response was from a photography student at the local University whose work was phenomenal. He only charged us $150.

Although I spent next to nothing in photography & this is a “budget” article, I will say the little splurge on your wedding you will want & remember is your photographer. You can find a great discount on a craigslist photographer, but it can be a gamble. I’ve seen great work come from craigslist photographers & I’ve also heard lots of complaints. They’re going to be newer to the wedding field, so keep that in mind & meet with them first (ask to see an entire wedding they’ve photographed).

In addition to the wedding, see if your photography package includes an engagement set. This is good to do because it gives you a chance to work with the photographer before your wedding. Some photographers include this for free, others charge $100 or $200 or more just for this. We did a DIY route & took our own engagement photos. We set my camera up on a tripod & used the remote (you can use your camera’s timer instead). We had a date day at the park & had fun & took pictures. If your engagement photo shoot isn’t included with your photographer, you could always ask a friend to photograph the two of you. Total cost: $0.

Cake & Dr. Pepper Reception $105

My groom & I love Dr. Pepper. It is our soda of choice & all our friends & family know it. We wanted to incorporate Dr. Pepper into our wedding & rented a soda fountain. It was fun, unique & cost us around $25 (including the soda)! We alternatively provided diet Dr. Pepper & water & tea for our guests.

Mmm, cake! I love chocolate cake, he doesn’t. He loves white cake, me… not so much. We wanted to provide options for our guests (maybe, as well as for ourselves) & we opted for Costco cakes. We got 4 sheet cakes that were beautifully decorated, 2 chocolate & 2 white cake. It cost around $50 for all 4.

We also bought 300 paper plates & 300 forks & 300 napkins & 300 cups (yup, the Dollar Store again!)… it cost us around $30.

Rings: $50

My groom & I have small fingers, he a 7 & my size a 4.5. For our ceremony, we exchanged our promise rings. They fit us perfectly & it meant a lot to exchange them with each other. We had planned to get our wedding bands during our honeymoon. We thought it would be more romantic & fun since we went out of the country for our honeymoon. However, nothing there fit us. I currently wear my engagement ring as my wedding band, it fits me so well & I love it & my fingers are really small so wearing 2 rings would bother them. We’ll upgrade my husband’s ring later (already found one on Etsy for $50) but for now he wears the promise ring. We already had them, so that was free, but I'll put $50 since we already plan on getting him a new ring.

Jewelry & Tiara: $20

Bridal shows are the way to go! I got the tiara pictured below (well, my mom bought it for me) for $20! They have insane sales on things... the pricetag said $80.

Now for my jewelry, that cost me $20. I actually helped host a jewerly show... all I did was open my home up to my friends. I got to choose who could come, so no random strangers were at my house. Because I opened up my house & the jeweler sold to those ladies, I got anything I wanted 30% off PLUS I got credit for jewerly. Chances are, you know someone who sells something, like Avon or Tupperware. Well, there are people who sell jewelry. Its an awesome company & they have great, high quality products with affordable prices. Allergic or sensitive to metals? 2 of my bridesmaids are extremly sensitive to metal & this didn't affect them at all. You can find a local seller through their website: Premier Designs.

Ask friends to help ya out!

Some of my friends are VERY crafty, they helped me with DIY. One of my friends offered to make me a veil, another friend made my garder belt & she did an AMAZING job! It doesn't hurt to ask... if your friend has a talent, just ask if they could help you. Now, don't make them do everything, but its a lifesaver with their help. Plus, it made things much more special :).


Don't buy tons of books/magazines, just ask for them!

Chances are, you have a friend who got married who got lots of wedding magazines & no longer needs them, or who could loan you some of hers. Or try craigslist! Post an ad asking for old wedding magazines or books & you'd be suprised at how many people are willing to help out. It is fun to get a few, but not necessary. Also check out your local library. My library offers a wide variety of magazines to the public. Get a wedding planning book, some places offer them for free. I got mine free when I signed up for StateFarm insurance at one of those bridal fairs I've been asking you to go to :). I got another one from my friend who was recently married.


Turn to your online community!

I found a wedding community on WeddingBee.com, there is A TON of advice in the blogs & postings. There's DIY sections & lots of creative ideas there. Chances are, if you need help, there are quite a few ladies there that have been there, made that & will help you create your vision. They're also great for emotional support, weddings can be stressul & its great to have a place to turn to. Especially for those who don't have a lot of friends/family that can help or relate to your wedding. I think that may save you the most.

Also, here at ProjectWedding is a LOT of advice too, so stick around :).


Have fun!!!!

We did a dance entrance to make our wedding more unique!

Incorporate things you love into your wedding. We danced into our wedding. Why? Because we thought it was awesome & we also love how Jim & Pam get married. This was completely free & it was fun & everyone loved it! Do you love dancing? You could do that! Or you could do a choreographed dance at your reception. Fun things that are free that give your wedding a different feel & you get to express yourself too :). 

If you don’t need it, don’t get it!

We went without favors because, most people don’t even notice, & the rest don’t always take them. I’ve been to quite a few weddings & most of them had TONS of favors leftover. Money that could have been spent elsewhere, or saved.

If you want it, book it!

If you know the vendor you want, book them & get the pricing in the contract. I had one photographer I was very interested in for my wedding, she had photographed a friend of mine's wedding & it was awesome. I checked her pricing later, & it went up about $700. I ended up going with a friend & loved her work. I just know pricing usually goes up, so book early (be sure you want them thou)!

Look around for savings!

Bridal Fairs! Go to Bridal fairs & enter in the contests they have. I won engagement pics, a value of $75 (I already had mine done, so I had them chose someone else).  I also won a few hundred dollars off a certain DJ, but we had an ipod as our DJ. They had giveaways & prizes & if you went with certain vendors there, they gave you a really big discount!

Compare with others! If you get a price quote from someone, don’t stop there. Look around/ call around/ visit other vendors to see how much they’re charging.

Negotiate! Feel free to negotiate pricing with your vendors! Worst thing that could happen is they say “no” :).

Thrift stores! Goodwill, Ebay, Garage Sales, Salvation Army. We found our toasting glasses at a yard sale for 50 cents... new they're around 20-40. I've seen tons of wedding things at thrift stores. Check em out!

Coupons! Retailmenot is a great website that gives coupon codes to stores. I use this site all the time, & its saved me hundreds.

Got sweet skills? Share 'em!

Barter! Seriously, if you have a skill that you could share with others, ask your vendor if they would consider doing a partial trade. I offer that to clients (I'm also a photographer) & its awesome because its a win-win!

Wedding Budget Recap:

Dress: 120 (try Prom shops)

Invites: 130 (DIY & Postcards)

Flowers: 50 (try fake ones)

Venue: 100 (church/parks)

Bridesmaid gifts: 25

Photography: 150 (Craigslist)

Cake & Dr. Pepper: 105 (Dessert Reception)

Rings: 50 (Use your engagment ring)

Jewelry: 20 (host a jewelry party)

TOTAL: $ 755

Thanks again for reading & I hope I helped give you some new ideas & saved you some $$ or saved you time, but hopefully a little of both :)

Last Updated: July 18, 2010 at 7:55 pm
Log in or Sign up to post a comment
1375011489 small thumb 3b82fa3826572d356c6e8cbbfafe4a2e
1375010582 small thumb e52b842707b4ce1653928029d0d2cb52
1375011047 small thumb 594f8cebfc1b087dfaf2f870d8028628
Missing profile
1375011091 small thumb 5714e5c91c8d23353299ace072a414fe
1375011379 small thumb e7f9ffcc51d10b590d92ef9cc0fc96c6
1375010017 small thumb 936a5c0a902e9dc188452958cff406d6
Missing profile

Find Your Wedding Vendors

Featured Vendors Near You

Chat About It