My fiance and I had no choice but to keep our wedding on a budget (around $3,000 total), but we still wanted a big wedding (150 guests) with amazing food in a beautiful setting. Since we live in Vermont and our wedding is in Ohio (where are families live), we've had to be decisive with our vendor decisions and put some of the work into our families' hands. We have saved a ton of money by looking beyond the typical wedding vendors, staying local as much as possible, DIYing as much as we can, and involving our family and friends (and friends of friends!). Here's what we are doing to save:
Site: We wanted our wedding to be in a beautiful outdoor setting and around $500. We looked into a YMCA summer camp in our town where they have a refinished barn with a large field and a trail to a pond...and it was $550! And, a hayride for our guests is included!
There is a small kitchen with warming racks, a microwave, and a three bay sink. There are enough tables and chairs for all of our 150 guests.
Ceremony & Programs: The ceremony, officiated by my good friends mother (no cost), will be just a short walk across the field from the barn.
We will have a local rental company deliver enough chairs to a spot over looking this part of the pond. They will come and pick them up too all for $1.50 a chair. For family members who are not mobile enough to walk, the camp will provide a hay ride!
As for programs, we didn't want to waste more paper, but we wanted our guests to know the standard program things...names, readings, etc. Then we though of this old frame with nothing in it...
At first we were going to by chalkboard spray paint on a board that we would nail to the back. Instead we found out they make marker board paneling for 8.99! We had the people at Lowe's cut it to size, bought 4 dry erase markers for $3.99, and voila! A giant, standing program we can lean against a tree for the ceremony!
For ceremony decorations, we don't think we need to do much since the lake and field are beautiful on its own. One thing I worry about, however, are the bugs! Since we garden, I researched plants that repel bugs and found a few: Lavender, Lemon Balm, Thyme and Fever Few. I got some seed packets at my garden supply store, and planted them in my seed trays. The seed packets varied in cost, but the total purchase was around $9.00.
These babies are already starting to pop! Once they get larger, I'll transplant them into larger pots we have laying around the house and I'll bring them with me to Ohio for the wedding. They will be beautiful, fragrant, and repulsive to mosquitos!
Flowers: We found a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) in Cincinnati who has flower shares. In CSAs, you purchase a share of the crop before the season begins and you get a portion of what they reap. This farm allows you to buy 250 stems for $50. I talked with the farmer and we were able to by 2 shares to cut 500 stems the day before the wedding. They will be fresh, beautiful, organic, and local. My bridesmaids and I will cut them on Friday and they will arrange them the morning before the wedding. A friend, as a gift, will make our bouquets (6 in total), boutonnieres, and corsages.
The vases were purchased at a thrift store for under $15. They are all clear and between 10 and 15 inches. Though they do not match, it goes with the rustic feel we are going for.
Clothes: After months and months of searching, I was able to find a wedding dress at David's Bridal for $249! It is beautiful and perfect and I look fantastic in it! It doesn't need any alterations either, so I really lucked out! I can't show a picture until after the wedding though...don't want soon-to-be to see it. The shoes will be from Mohop, handmade wooden shoes with interchangeable ribbons for anytime, any day use...beautiful! I waited until my size popped up on their Etsy site for half price. I got the perfect pair for $89!
The groom will be wearing a new 3-piece pin striped suit we bought for him for $99 on Amazon. It will need some tailoring, but that should be under $50. His white button up shirt (Van Heusen) and black, shiny, leather shoes (Bass) were found at two outlet stores by our house. Together, the cost was $55. I also made his tie from some green rayon I purchased for $5/yd.
The brides maids will be picking out a knee lengthed black dress of their choosing (every girl needs an excuse to get a new black dress) and the groomsmen will be wearing black pants with a white button up shirt, something all of them have.
Invitations: Using as little resources as possible was an important factor in our invitation choices. We decided early on to make our own invites and used an image of two birds sitting on a tree branch. Our local book store sells beautiful, colored handmade computer paper at $16 for 25 sheets.
We included one insert with directions on one side and RSVP information on the other. Our RSVPs offer a choice of calling a free voice mail we set up over at eVoice or going to our "wedsite" and clicking on RSVP. The insert paper was $5 a ream and the envelopes were $9.00 for 250. We also purchased clear address labels for another $5.
Total: $35 for 100 invitations...that's $0.35 each!
Food: We cook almost all our meals from scratch, including our bread. We even work a few hours a week at a local farm so we can get some delicious local veggies in the summer. Food is important to us and we wanted it to be a highlight at our wedding. We lucked out! My step-father's good friend is a cook and his son is attending culinary school. He wants to be a caterer and wants to practice on us! Though it is a buffet, we are getting a cheese and fruit spread for the cocktail hour and salad, garlic knots, risotto, two types of lasagna (red and white), two different vegetable blends, stuffed shells, and pasta with meatballs for dinner! Since he is just starting out, it will all be at cost...$9.00 a person. When we went for the tasting, we about fell out of our chairs with every bite it was so good! He is even getting most of his ingredients from local farmers at our request.
Dessert: We will have cake! It will be small, vanilla with raspberry filling and a cream frosting. Two little birds will sit atop. They will both be a gift from a friend.
Since the cake will be small, we have asked our bridal party if they would make 30-50 servings of any dessert of their choosing. In their enthusiasm, they told more people who are now asking us if they can make something too! It will truly be a community event! To host all the desserts, we have made 9 serving trays out of thrift store plates and glasses. With the glue, the total cost was around $20. We also purchased 72 little bride and groom food picks to put in the top of cupcakes or brownies. With the paint to color the hair and ties, the price was about $18.
Photography: Craigslist says it all! Newcomer searching for opportunity; will work for free! We found an amazing art student who has photographed weddings before, but is still just starting out. She is willing to shoot our wedding, provide an assistant, edit our photos, and hand us a disc of pictures without cost! We will compile the photos into an album...we can make an 80 page book at Blurb.com for $36.
Guest Book: Again, we didn't want to waste more paper on something that would be used or looked at very little, if ever. What we really wanted was a photo booth where guests could get their pictures taken and leave us a copy with a note of well wishes and whatnot. To us, that sounded like it would be fun and personal, not to mention something we would cherish for a long time. But photo booths are expensive, so we nixed the idea UNTIL we met our photographer. I mentioned that our photographer is bringing an assistant. Well this assistant will set up a photo booth in a section of the barn for guests to come and get their pictures taken. It was perfect, but we needed a way for the guests to leave us messages. In comes the marker board again:
When Lowe's cut the board for our giant program, there was a lot left over, so we had them cut it into smaller pieces. There are four 16x12 rectangles that we will leave at the photo booth with the markers. Our hope is that guests will write a message and pose with it in anyway they see fit. We will insert the photos into our photo album after the wedding so it will be a part of our pictures instead of another book.
Decorations: This is where the DIY comes in! Since we have a small bird theme going on, we made birds from fabric I already owned and was collecting dust. We will hang them on trees or put them around the tables.
I also found a great tutorial on this website for table tents. They will be placed at each table and display the table number, the menu, ways to make us kiss (story, song or toast), and how we supported the local economy. The cost of this paper was $15. (note: they are not yet done)
Candles and lights will be displayed around the hall for ambiance. They were purchased after the Christmas season (sales!) for a huge discount. In total, we spent $30 on lighting.
Around the hall, we would like to display photographs of our landscape in New England. Since we can nail things to the wall, we are going to blow up 10 photos and hang them around the barn. At Snapfish, each print is $3, so in total, we would spend $30.
Music: We can't afford a DJ, but we love music...and so do our friends. We asked all of our closest friends and family to burn us a CD of songs which we will compile into an evening of romance, dancing, and the YMCA! We'll borrow a PA and some speakers from the groom's brother's band.
Fun: Sure dancing is fun, and watching a couple shove cake in their faces is entertaining, but we wanted more! Since we have the large field, we decided to ask people to bring their games like Cornhole, Bocce and Croquet. We'll also have a football and some cards so there is something for everybody.
Total Budget Savy Cost:
Guest Book: $0
I'd say we are doing pretty good!