When Jeff and I decided to get married, we knew we would have to pay for most the wedding expenses ourselves. We didn't want to be in debt for the next 20 years, so we decided to make a budget, where we could pay for everything in cash.
After figuring up our guestlist, we started the budget. Things were adding up quickly, and we had to make some cuts, talking carefully about what was most important to us and what style we wanted, without sacrificing our budget. We came up with a 5K budget. No exceptions!
This is how we pulled it off
Buy a knockoff dress- I always loved maggie sottero dresses. The incredible designs, gorgeous fits, and comfort. When I went to try on dresses for the first time, I grabbed as many Maggie's as I could carry, and started trying them on. I loved EVERY SINGLE ONE! Of course, looking at the price tag, even a Jovi on sale was out of my budget. $900.00 is truly an incredible deal for a dress like this, but it just wasn't in my budget. This is when I found out about Peridress.com The site that makes knock off dresses, for a fraction of the price. There were mixed reviews, but I took the plunge. For the month after I ordered the dress, while I was waiting for it to arrive, I cried myself to sleep. Worrying if it would be a disaster. When my dress finally arrived. It was perfect! It only needed a couple minor alterations!
Dress Estimate: $900.00 Dress Actual: $169.00!
Find a beautiful venue (For FREE!)- When I first started researching venues, my hope of a 5K wedding was crushed. $2500 dollars for a thursday wedding!? How were we going to pull that off? So I started looking outside the box. We went to public parks, secluded trails, and searched for about 4 months. Until we found the PERFECT place. It was a public park with TONS of room and no restrictions. We went to to city to reserve it, NO CHARGE! We were so happy!
Venue Estimate: $2500.00 Venue Actual: $0!!
Hire Students and Freelancers- When researching photographers, we found that they ranged anywhere from $500 dollars for the day, to well over $5000. I searched craigslist.org events section, to see if I could find a good deal. I found a woman doing engagement sessions for free. We booked a session with her, and it turned out great! She was so much fun to work with, making us feel relaxed and she took some incredible pictures. We told her we would love for her to shoot our wedding. She was flattered and took on the job, doing it at no cost! We also found a DOC on craiglist, she was just opening her business and offered her services to us free!
Photography estimate: $500-$5000 Photography actual: $0!!
DOC Estimate: $300-$800 for the day DOC actual: $0!!
Cater it yourself- We only looked into one catering company before we decided it wasn't in our budget. The least expensive option was $10 per head for one entree. And our families LOVE to eat, they are all from the south, so a little piece of meat on a big plate wasn't going to do the trick. I have 5 chefs in my family, and Jeff has an aunt that was formally a caterer. We definately used our rescources in this category. We bought most of our food from Sams Club, and friends and family helped make it all. We did buy 500 wings from Buffalo wild wings, the manager gave us the Boneless thursday deal and we saved $300!
Catering Estimate: $1500.00 Catering Actual: $1000.00
BYOB- If you have a venue that allows you to bring your own alcohol, definately take advantage of that! In our case, bringing our own alcohol was the only option, since it was a public park (make sure your park permit comes with a liqour permit). We talked to a few liqour stores in town, and one offered us an incredible deal. She gave us 2 dollars off each bottle of champagne, and 3 dollars off each bottle of wine. Saving us almost $100 dollars!
Alcohol estimate: Well over $1000.00 Alcohol Actual: $350.00
Call in favors...for your favors...- Jeff has a friend that owns a cigar and smoke shop. When thinking about our favors, he absolutely wanted to have a cigar bar (it was a huge hit!) He called in a favor, and Richard gave us an incredible deal! We bought 50 cigars for 250.00! These cigars normally retail at $10 dollars a piece!
Cigar Bar Estimate: $500.00 Cigar Bar Actual: $250.00
DIY your decor- On a small budget, it sometimes seems you need to skip on the details. DH and I wanted a totally personalized wedding, and we didn't have the money to spend to get everyone made for us. So we spent weeks upon weeks, DIYing our custom decor. We made our table numbers, Monogram Aisle Runner, Alter trees, sand ceremony vases, and every other little custom detail.
Decor Estimate: Well over $1000.00 Decor actual: Under $200.00
DIY your flowers- I spoke to one pro florist before saying NO WAY! For 5 bouquets, 12 centerpieces, and 3 boutonierres, it was going to be $800 dollars. We ended up ordering our flowers from Samsclub.com and I was very pleased. I DIYed all the flowers with the help of my girls the thursday night before the wedding. We even had extras to decorate other tables and my girls even plucked some heads off the stems and threw them in the lake around the aisle, it was gorgeous.
Floral Estimate: $800.00 Floral Actual: $150.00
Out of home businesses- I've never been a fan of the huge corporate business with no personality and the chain line routine. When looking for a bakery, I was very displeased with price, and customer service. That's when I found Jessica at Fun Time Cakes. She makes a killer cake! She listened to what we wanted, and made a 100% custom cake that I am still receiving comments about. She even came to our event and cut and served the cake to our guests.
Cake Estimate: $600.00 Cake Actual: $225.00
Skip the Limo- No one in our wedding party was dying to ride in a limo to the wedding. So we skipped it. My dad drove me to the ceremony in his classic Model T that he built from the ground up. Not only was it free, but it meant the world to me that he rushed and got the car done in time for the wedding. All of our guests Gasped with surprise when we pulled around the corner in that baby :)
Transportation Estimate: $600.00 Transportation actual: $0!!
Great deals on invites- I definately didn't have time to DIY invites, but I still couldn't afford REXcraft ones either. YoungBride on PW sent me the link to an awesome website, Theamericanwedding.com I ordered all my invites, envelopes, and rsvp cards for under $200.00!
Invite Estimate: $500.00 Invite Actual: $175.00
Rent your tuxes from Al's- We rented our tuxedos from Al's formal wear. With two groomsmen and a father rental, DH's tux was only 7 dollars!
Tuxedo rental estimate: $150.00 Tuxedo Rental Actual: $7.00
- Coupons- Michaels, hobby lobby, and JoAnns always have coupons, lots of PW girls post them in the forums. Use these! It may not seem like a lot saving $2 dollars one item at hobby lobby, but the savings add up fast!
Share with a PWer- We were originally going to rent our table linens from a company in town. For all our round linens it was going to be 141.00 Steep I thought, especially if we had to pay damage fees on them. Well Dirty was buying some black table linens for her wedding and wanted someone to share and split the cost. So we did! They only cost me $90 dollars! And we are sharing them with other PW girls as well. If you are buying a large ticket item like linens, cake topper, or anything else, ask to share with someone!
Table Linen estimate: $141.00 Table linen actual: $90.00
You CAN splurge on something- With all this talk about budget and saving money, we sometimes forget it IS ok to get something you really really want. For us, it was a custom cake topper. Total, we spent $90 on it, way more that I wanted to spend. But it was the ONE thing we really wanted to have, and since we did so well on our budget I figured, why not!? It was my number one favorite piece of decor in the entire wedding, and now it is sitting in our china cabinet with our other collections to keep forever! This IS a once in a lifetime event, so don't forget to make it your own.
The above only shows bout 3K of our 5K budget, the remainder was spent on tips to vendors, chair and table rental, and misc.
I could say so much more, but I won't :) Just remember, whether you are having a 1 million dollar wedding, a 25K, 5K, or getting married at the courthouse, it will still be the most beautiful, perfect day of your life.