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My big fat $5,000 dream wedding


  It is possible to have the wedding of your dreams on a shoestring budget. However, I'm a firm believer that you only get out of something what you put into it. This wedding was no exception. I work night shift, so my large amount of free internet downtown helped out. I probably spent close to 40 hours a week searching the internet high and low for deals, second hand used items, and freebies. I entered 236 contest, and won 3 of them! The prizes were large, but any prize is a good prize when you paying for EVERYTHING, with no help available.

  The Dress:

   Like most girls, my very first purchase was my dress.  I went to the normal affordable dress stores like David's bridal and scoured Bravobride and for what seemed like months. (Ok, so really it was only like 2 weeks, but you know.) I fell in lust with a dress at a bridal boutique in Cincinnati, OH. Of course it carried a major pricetag of almost $1,300. So I got online and printed out the picture of the dress and started my challange to recreate it.  Luckily enough own fo the first stores I went into, I found one that was really similar to the silhouette that was on the clearance rack. It was marked down from $1400 to $660. I was still squimish about the price, I mean, that would be over 1/10 of my budget. The salesperson said that if I just bought the floormodel with the little dirt on the bottom that they sell it 50% off, and it was my size. So I snatched it up for $360.  A few months later I found my jacket and  hairflower, and veil on etsy for a fraction of the store prices. (Which ladies, if you've never been-visit! Next to PW, its my ultra favorite new site for everything fabulous.)  On I entered a contest from a website that was listed in the free section. KristenKuen sponsored it and I was the winner of one of her amazing belts for free. I hunted down earrings from a PW bride and she sold them to me after her wedding. And here is my lovely ensemble:

Grand total: $680

 The Place:

    Next order of business was the place. Chris is Catholic, and it was very important to him that we get married in a catholic church. We'll to that I had to go through RCIA classes that lasted 6 months. I got really close with the deacon and priest because I was with them for class once a week. The parish had a super outdated website, so I offered a deal to them. If they gave me the church for free, i'd redo the website. We'll then they through in the undercroft for only $100. Remember guys, use your skills to your advantage! A lot of people will trade services for services.  So venue total: $100



        I was total freaked out by the cost of photography! OMG, are you serious! This part took a lot of effort on my part, but it totally paid off in the end. I went to every bridal show imaginable, trust me, its worth it. You get a bundle of deals and free stuff there. At one called The Wedding Mafia, they had an auction. I signed up for probably 10 things at super low rediculous bids, not thinking I'd really get anything. At the end of the night, they give out the doorprizes and annouce the auction winners. My friend that I took with me won a FREE dress! I was so bummed, she wasnt even engaged, but whatever. When they announced the auction, I got the $50 giftcard to Jerry's Cheesecakes for only $5. We used them at the rehearsal dinner. AND an engagement session from Micheal Bambino, for only $50!!! He charges like $500 usually. And they turned out great

  On one of my nightly search of all my wedding classified boards, I stumbeled across an advertisement for a free wedding photographer. She was starting up her portfolio and wanted to shoot a wedding for free. I emailed her, and she was super sweet. Honestly I was still really nervous, I mean, I wanted cheap, but its my wedding, and I also wanted them to be gorgeous. So to calm my nerves, she took a second set of epics for us. They were great, so I "booked" her:

   I made a clear, detailed list of exactly what pics I wanted for the wedding and gave it to her. That way, I got all the inspiration shots I loved. She did an amazing job on the wedding photos. To thank her I got a personalized camera strap with her name embroidered on it from etsy and a Gcard for dinner. WAY better than anyone in my price range could have done. I HIGHLY recommend scouting out new photographers, looking up photogs that typically only do family photos, and colloege students. Have them do a cheaper sample "trial", them book them at a low price if you like their work. It will save you hundreds.

  She gave me a CD with edit pics of over 1400 photos! I then waited till shutterfly had a sale and got 4 parents albums and 1 for us for only $180.  I got my bpics done for only $90 from too

Grand total for all photography: $340


   My DJ was awful, so I really cant rave about how I found her for cheap. She didnt even have our first dance song. GRRR.


    My name is Amanda, and I am a vistaholic! AHH, I love that site. Think im lying, check this out: . I got our Save the dates and everything else practically free with just paying for shipping. Vistaprint is a MUST for a budget bride.  For my invites, we found an invitation outlet called Land of Oz. They have all the regular invites, but they charge you 20% off the list price. We're a little different, so we picked up these babies for only $1 each. All envelopes were included. Then we got personalized stamps from with 3 discount codes for 21 cents each.  For our RSVP's we decided to use a free website called, it worked really well.  For everything for 250 people (102 sets) bc we didnt have kids, just single/couples:

Grand stationary total including stamps: $164


  All my decor was the longest and hardest search. I just bought stuff here and there. Word of advice- pick a theme before you start buying, otherwise you'll have a house full of crap that you'll just have to resell! It took me probably the duration of my engagement to find stuff. You just have to look everywhere. Almost everything was second hand, or dollarstore stuff, done up in a way you couldnt tell. Like here are my $8.25 centerpeices:

 I made a list of all the big expenses that I needed and waited it out until cyber Monday. (unless, I found them unpassable-do-not-miss-this cheap.) So I got all my linens $5 each, napkins, runner,  sashes, etc 1/2 off clearance prices. It was a godsend. My basket total was $1,844.20 before they took off the clearance, then my 50% off cyber coupon so it eneded up being $48-something. Under $500! I also got my uplights on that day for 40%, lanterns from asian ideas on sale, etc. Then I found a lady on craislist that rented chair covers for $1 each! woohoo. Here are some pics to see how it turned out:

(tons more in bio)

Decor total: everything included around $1390

 The food and drink:

    I lucked out because a lot of my stuff was gifted as presents to us. For example, my cousins asked me what I wanted since we didnt register. One works at a hotel, so I said a cheap room- her and her sister went in and gave us 2 nights in the regularly $375 bridal suite for free!! Then my other cousin makes wedding cakes on the side, so I asked her to make Chris' batman groomscake and she gifted our wedding cake. Im telling you- hit up your resources with family. A lot of people will give you great stuff as a gift and it really helps out. Heres my cake, with my second hand topper and DIY cakestand:

The food was my biggest source of frustration. I didnt have a caterer until 3 weeks before the wedding because I couldnt find one I could afford. 251 people, even the cheap places would have cost me close to $2,000.  Then one night we were eating out with some friends at this Italian restraunt called Pompilios. On a whim, I asked if they catered. Yep, and they were dirt cheap for giant pans of pasta. Chris' mom bought all the salad, we picked up the condiments at Sams club, my MOH's mom picked up the garlic bread loaves on her way to the wedding, then gifted it to us as our gift (which was like $120). We feed everyone fetacini alfredo and pasta penne meat sauce dirt cheap.  For the alcohol I knew I wanted an open bar. But how without the cost? I went to Party Source and got 13 handles of vodka and tons of Andre Spumante champagne.  We had to buy the bear through the church, but to cut the cost we offered a Vodka bar with Jello shots. All the big handles of Smiranoff had a $40 coupon with the purchase of 6 with mail in rebate. So I ended up getting $120 back. The bar served the champagne, and no one knew it was only $4 bottle. It was really good. This was the only pic of the vodkabar, IDK why?


Grand total for vodka bar and all food: $1460ish tips included


   This was my splurge, but I HAD TO have it. And it really did make the wedding great. The photobooth was a BLAST! I still hunted for a deal and found for $850 guestbook and extra time included. Everyone had a wonderful time in it. Highly recommend:

 some of us girls

and I did the candy buffett. All jars are from yard sales, the dollar store, and goodwill.

Favors $916

  There were many other ways we cut corners too. Instead of renting an extremely expensive Limo, we went to enterprise, used my AAA card, and got a 14 person passanger van for $100. All the gifts I got through etsy and after christmas sales. I did some DIY projects, but im not very crafty, so most I bought off people that already had their weddings. I got engaged in June, which is when everyone else gets married, so the boards were saturated with For Sale stuff other brides couldnt sell. You can come down on the price to balance out the shipping costs.

Also, PRE SELL all your stuff!!!!! I can not stress this enough. I knew that around my wedding, everyone else would be having theirs, so everyone else would also be trying to sell stuff. However, Nov-April is slim pickings. So I presold everything with a 10% deposit to hold until after the wedding.  It was great, because the day after the wedding, it was all sold almost. I just packed and shipped it all and made over $1000 off all the stuff I sold. A lot of the items I was able to sell for just a little less than what I paid, and even broke even on some things. 

I know theres a ton more stuff Im forgetting, but you can check it out in my bio. Feel free to ask with any questions. The PW girls are great, and I'd love to help as much as they've helped me.

My big fat wedding total: $5,620 plus about $550 odds and ends/other stuff -$1,000 sold items= $5,220


Last Updated: August 4, 2013 at 1:30 am
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